God’s Plan for Man—Part 4

The Kingdom of Christ

THE kingdom of Christ is a very prominent topic of the Bible. It is often referred to as the kingdom of God, which is appropriate, because it is God who provided for his Son to set up the kingdom on the earth. It is also referred to as the kingdom of heaven, which emphasizes that this world government of promise is not of human planning and origin, but is established and empowered by the God of heaven.—Dan. 2:44

Some of the promises and prophecies of the Bible pertaining to the kingdom refer to its rulers, while others pertain to its subjects, those who have an opportunity to be blessed through the administration of its righteous laws. Jesus Christ will be the great king, or ruler, in that kingdom.—Zech. 9:9,10; Rev. 19:16; John 18:37

Associated with Jesus as rulers in his kingdom will be those who, during the Gospel Age, have denied themselves and faithfully taken up their cross to follow him, willingly drinking of his cup of suffering. These are spoken of in the Scriptures as those who suffer and die with Jesus and as being raised from the dead to live and reign with him.—Rev. 20:4

Jesus and his followers will not rule as human kings but as divine, and they will be invisible to human eyes. (Col. 1:13-15) The assurance is given the followers of Jesus that they shall be like him.—I John 3:1-3; II Pet. 1:4

One of the illustrations the Bible gives of the change of nature from human to divine is being “born again.” Jesus explained to Nicodemus that those who are born again are invisible and powerful, like the wind. (John 3:6-8) The birth from human to spirit nature takes place in the resurrection; and when Jesus was raised from the dead he was able to go and come invisibly, appearing to his disciples only when he wished to do so.

In the kingdom of Christ these invisible and powerful kings, or rulers, will be represented on the earth and among men by the faithful servants of God who suffered and died for righteousness’ sake prior to the first advent of Jesus. These are the ones to whom the Bible refers as the “fathers,” and the promise is that they are to be made “princes in all the earth.”—Ps. 45:16

The Apostle Paul explains that these faithful servants of God in ancient times will be brought forth from death perfect, in what he describes as a “better resurrection.” (Heb. 11:35,39,40) Paul mentions the names of a few of these worthy ones, but the Scriptures indicate that there are many more who proved their loyalty to God in former ages, and will be used in the kingdom. Jesus also referred to the Ancient Worthies and to their place in his kingdom.—Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:28,29

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Questions:

Mention different ways in which the messianic kingdom is described in the Bible, and explain.

Who will be the subjects in the kingdom, and who will be the great king?

Who will be associated with Jesus as kings in his kingdom? Will Jesus and his joint-heirs rule in the earth as humans? Explain.

What is one illustration the Bible gives of the change from human to spirit nature?

Who will serve as the human and visible representatives of the spiritual rulers in Christ’s kingdom?

Will the Ancient Worthies be imperfect when they are raised from the dead?


Reference Material:

“The Divine Plan of the Ages,” Volume I, pages 288-292; “The Battle of Armageddon,” Volume IV, page 625, 1,2


Summary of Important Thoughts

There will be rulers and subjects in the kingdom of Christ. The principal rulers will be spiritual and invisible to men, but they will have human representatives.


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Subjects of Kingdom Blessed

With the exception of those who, during the time they lived, proved worthy to be among either the spiritual or earthly rulers in the kingdom, the subjects of Christ’s kingdom will be the people of the whole world, including those who have died. Their blessings will consist of all the good things which properly belong to humans who desire to be in harmony with the righteous laws of their Creator. (Ps. 145:16) These blessings are fittingly referred to in one of the promises of the Bible as a “feast.”—Isa. 25:6

There are many heretofore unobtainable blessings for which the human race has yearned and struggled. One of these is peace. The people of all nations have longed for a time when there would be no more wars, and God has promised that through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom, peace will be established—universal and eternal peace.—Ps. 46:9,10; Isa. 2:3,4; 9:7

Throughout the ages there has always been a great deal of uncertainty with many concerning their economic needs. While in America Social Security has eased these tensions to some extent, the problem is far from solved on a global basis. Only Christ’s kingdom will bring the real solution. Under the laws of that kingdom, equitable and happy conditions will exist for all.—Mic. 4:4; Ps. 72:11-13; Isa. 65:21,22

Another contributing cause of human unhappiness has been the wide conflict of opinion with respect to God and religion. In every age this has led to bitter hatred and persecution. In many countries today, efforts are being made to solve this problem, but at best these lead only to surface agreements of unity. However, through the administration of Christ’s kingdom this problem will be completely and eternally solved.

God’s promises assure us that he will write his law in the hearts of the people and that all shall truly know him.—Jer. 31:31-34

We are also assured that the Lord will turn a pure message of truth to the people, upon the basis of which all will serve him unitedly. (Zeph. 3:9) We are informed that then the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa. 11:9

All these blessings, wonderful as they are, would be of no permanent value if the people continued to become ill and die; so the Scriptures assure us that the problem of sickness and death will also be solved. This plague upon the human race will be destroyed.—Isa. 33:24; 25:8; I Cor. 15:25,26

The blessings of Christ’s kingdom will be extended to those who are dead, for they will be awakened from the sleep of death. (Dan. 12:2; John 5:28,29) The entire dead world of mankind has been ransomed by the death of Jesus, and we are promised that the ransomed of the Lord are to return from death. (Isa. 35:10) This will include the wicked as well as the righteous.—Acts 24:15

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Questions:

Who will be the subjects of Christ’s kingdom, and what blessings will they receive? How does the Bible symbolize these blessings?

Quote scriptures to prove that Christ’s kingdom will give peace to all mankind.

Will the subjects of Christ’s kingdom need to have any fears concerning their food, clothing, and shelter?

Will religious controversy continue during the thousand years of Christ’s kingdom? Quote some of the texts of the Bible on this question.

Will Christ’s kingdom remove the plague of sickness and death?

Will those who have died have an opportunity to enjoy the blessings of Christ’s kingdom?


Reference Material:

The Divine Plan of the Ages,” Volume I, pages 111-114


Summary of Important Thoughts

The blessings of Christ’s kingdom will be so all-comprehensive and satisfying that the Bible likens them to a feast of fat things which the Lord will make for all people.


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God Tests His People

It is the will of God that all his intelligent creatures shall enjoy everlasting life. Humans are now dying, not because they were created to die, but because of sin. None will be granted everlasting life until he has proved worthy by obedience to divine law.

Our first parents had the test of obedience placed before them. (Gen. 2:16,17) They failed to pass this test, so they were sentenced to death. (Gen. 3:17-19) Through the law of heredity the penalty of death passed on to Adam’s posterity, the entire human race became a dying race.—Rom. 5:12

However, through Christ, God’s love had made provision for the release of mankind from the original death penalty and for each member of the human race individually to have an opportunity to prove worthy of everlasting life. (John 3:16) Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the people, but that all might have an opportunity to live.—John 3:17

This opportunity will be given to the world in general during a future period of time described in the Bible as a day of judgment. (Acts 17:31) This day, or period of judgment or testing, will be a time of enlightenment, when the people will learn righteousness.—Isa. 26:9; Ps. 96:10-13

With the exception of the generation living at the beginning of this future period of testing, it will be necessary for mankind to be awakened from the sleep of death in order to be enlightened concerning the divine will for them. The impartation of this knowledge to the world of mankind is represented in the Bible as being accomplished by the opening of books, and those who obey the things written in these books are said to have their names enrolled in the “book of life.”—Rev. 20:12

Christ will be the great judge during the world’s judgment day. He is described in the Bible as “that prophet” or teacher and, we are informed, those who will not obey that prophet will be destroyed. (Acts 3:23) This destruction of the willfully wicked is described in the Bible as the “second death,” which is symbolized by a “lake of fire.”—Rev. 20:14,15

Jesus made a promise of the resurrection of the dead in which he spoke of the righteous—those who have “done good”—coming forth to life, and the unrighteous—those who have “done evil”—coming forth to judgment. (John 5:28,29, RSV) One group of the righteous will be made up of the faithful servants of God, from Abel to the first advent of Jesus. These will come forth in “a better resurrection.” (Heb. 11:35) The faithful of the present age will also come forth to life—even to immortal life—in “the first resurrection.”—I Cor. 15:53; Rom. 2:7; Rev. 20:6

The Ancient Worthies, who will not come into the future judgment, will be the earthly representatives of the Christ in the work of judging the world. (Ps. 45:16; Matt. 8:11) The faithful followers of Jesus during the present age will come forth in the resurrection to be associated with Jesus as co-judges of the world of mankind, and these will be represented on earth by the Ancient Worthies.—I Cor. 6:2

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Questions:

What is the condition upon which any of God’s intelligent creatures may enjoy everlasting life? How has this been demonstrated throughout the earth since the days of Eden?

What provision has God made to give life to the condemned and dying world?

When will the world in general be given an opportunity to learn and obey the will of God?

How will those who have died throughout the ages be given a knowledge of the truth?

How is the impartation of knowledge to the world illustrated in the Book of Revelation?

Who will be the great judge of the world, and what will happen to those who disobey him?

What did Jesus say about the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous?

What part will the followers of Jesus have in the future work of judgment? Who will then be the human representatives of Christ and his true church?


Reference Material:

“The Divine Plan of the Ages,” Volume I, pages 143-147


Summary of Important Thoughts

No one will have eternal life until proved worthy of it. Some have proved worthy in this life, and the remainder will be given a future test.


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The First Resurrection

The Apostle Paul wrote that, unless there is a resurrection of the dead, even Christians perish in death. (I Cor. 15:16-18) This means that all hope of life beyond the grave depends upon the dead being restored to life in the resurrection. But all the dead are not to be resurrected at the same time, nor will all be restored to the same plane of life. In the resurrection some will be given spiritual bodies, and some, human bodies.—I Cor. 15:38,40-42

Those who receive a spiritual body in the resurrection will inherit a heavenly home. (I Pet. 1:3-5) These are the footstep-followers of Jesus, who, inspired by the heavenly promises of the Bible, set their affections on things above, and “run” for “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”—Col. 3:1-3; Phil. 3:10-14; Heb. 12:1

The followers of Jesus, together with him, are described by the Apostle Paul as “the firstfruits” of the resurrection. (I Cor. 15:23) We know that the faithful followers of the Master are included in the firstfruits class because the Apostle James and the Apostle John testify to this effect.—James 1:18; Rev. 14:4

One of the divine purposes in exalting the faithful followers of the Master to the spiritual plane of life is that they might reign with Christ in his thousand-year kingdom. In this connection they are said to be brought forth from death in “the first resurrection.—Rev. 20:6

The little flock, who will thus receive this exalted position in the kingdom, will be raised up to the highest plane of spiritual life, to which the Bible refers as “the divine nature.” (Luke 12:32; II Pet. 1:4) They are to receive immortality. (Rom. 2:7; I Cor. 15:54) Humans do not, by nature, possess immortality; but, as the Scriptures so clearly set forth, it is bestowed upon the faithful followers of Jesus as a reward when they are brought forth in the first resurrection.

The Bible refers to this highest of all planes of existence as the “crown” of life and of righteousness. (Rev. 2:10; II Tim. 4:8) The way that leads to this high exaltation with Jesus is one of sacrifice and suffering. It is a way that is not pleasant to the flesh, but the end will be glorious for all those who are faithful—faithful even unto death.

God’s grace and strength is especially bestowed upon those who walk in the narrow way of sacrifice. The Bible assures us that the same mighty power which raised Jesus from the dead is employed on behalf of all his faithful followers. This is true during the present time, when they are laying down their lives in sacrifice; and it will also be true, as it was with Jesus, that divine power will raise them up in the resurrection, high above every other creature in the universe.—Eph. 1:16-23

The plan of God for the faithful followers of the Master is truly wonderful and inspiring. Let us give thanks that our loving Heavenly Father has called us to this “heavenly calling.” Let us endeavor to be faithful day by day.—Heb. 3:1; Luke 9:23

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Questions:

Perhaps you have not realized that the Bible refers to a special resurrection of the true followers of Jesus. If not, these questions will be of special interest to you.

Why would Christians perish in death if there were no resurrection of the dead? Will all who are raised from the dead be given the same kind of bodies?

How does the Bible describe the home to be inherited by Christians?

How do we know that the followers of the Master are included in the firstfruits of the resurrection?

What is one of the purposes of God in exalting Christians to a spiritual plane of life in the first resurrection?

How does the Bible describe the plane of life to which Christians are exalted? Why is it called a crown of life?

How can we be sure that if we are faithful we can attain to this high plane of life with Jesus?


Reference Material:

“The Atonement between God and Man,” Volume V, pages 394-396


Summary of Important Thoughts

Only those who are brought forth in the first resurrection are to receive glory and honor and immortality.


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The Better Resurrection

The kingdom of God, or the kingdom of Christ, as discussed in the Bible, consists of both rulers and subjects. The Bible reveals that the chief rulers in the kingdom are Jesus and his church, his faithful footstep-followers. These will be on the divine plane of life, invisible to human eyes. However, these spiritual rulers will be represented here on earth by perfect humans, raised from the dead in what the Bible describes as a “better resurrection.”—Heb. 11:35

Those who receive this blessing of the better resurrection are the faithful servants of God who proved their absolute devotion to God and to his principles of righteousness prior to the first advent of Jesus. (Heb. 11) The first of these was righteous Abel, and the last was John the Baptist, who Jesus said would not be in the kingdom of heaven, meaning the spiritual or heavenly phase of the kingdom.—Matt. 11:11

Jesus told the people of Israel of his day that they would see and sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets. (Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:28,29) This implies that the people of Jesus’ day will have been raised from the dead, and that the Ancient Worthies, who will be the earthly representatives of the spiritual phase of the kingdom, will also have been raised from the dead, having proved their worthiness of this exalted position in the kingdom by their loyalty to God in the severe tests to which they were subjected.

The Bible indicates the Ancient Worthies will be raised to perfection, made perfect. However, this better resurrection of the earthly representatives of the kingdom must await the completion of the spiritual class and their resurrection to “glory and honor and immortality,” this being the “better thing” which the followers of the Master will receive.—Heb. 11:39,40; Rom. 2:7

In another promise of the better resurrection of those who will serve as the human representatives of Christ throughout the thousand years of his reign, we are informed that they will shine “as the stars forever and ever.” This is in contrast with the much brighter shining of those who will be the spiritual rulers in the kingdom, which will be “as the brightness of the firmament,” or “as the sun.”—Dan. 12:3; Matt. 13:43

The shining of both these classes is symbolic of the fact that through the spiritual and earthly phases of the kingdom the knowledge of the Lord will be caused to fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa. 11:9

During the forty years of Moses’ service as a deliverer and lawgiver, the people’s contacts with him were largely through “counselors.” Later, during the period of the judges, they were ruled through judges whom the Lord raised up to them. These circumstances are employed by the Lord to illustrate his future use of the Ancient Worthies, whom he will raise up in the better resurrection to be judges and counselors. (Isa. 1:26) These will surely be wonderful servants of the people.

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Questions:

The faithful servants of God of past ages are to be restored to life on the earth and to be the human executives of a new world government under Christ. The answers to the following questions will reveal this important truth of the divine plan.

Who will be the invisible rulers in the kingdom of God?

Who, on the earth, will represent the spiritual rulers in Christ’s kingdom, and how is their resurrection described?

What is implied by Jesus’ statement that the Ancient Worthies will be seen here on earth in the kingdom?

What did Paul mean concerning the Ancient Worthies in his statement that they would be made perfect?

What is implied by the promise that the Ancient Worthies will “shine” when raised from the dead?

What did the Prophet Isaiah mean by the promise that judges and counselors would be raised up in the kingdom?


Reference Material:

“The Divine Plan of the Ages,” Volume I, pages 288-292


Summary of Important Thoughts

There will be two parts in the ruling phase of the kingdom of Christ—the spiritual and the earthly. The earthly rulers will be the Ancient Worthies, and the spiritual, Jesus and his faithful followers.

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