Not Far from the Kingdom

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heaven.” —Matthew 6:10

THE kingdom of God is a subject in which Christians have been interested for centuries. Because nearly two thousand years have passed since the first announcement by Jesus, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17), the questions naturally arise, “When will this kingdom be established?” and, “What is causing the delay in the setting up of God’s kingdom?”

Although many sermons have been preached on the subject, no answer has been found, and the thought most generally held forth places the kingdom of God far down into the distant future, long after the lifetimes of the hearers. But for an accurate response to these questions, we must turn to the Word of God itself. There we do find the reason for the apparent delay in the establishment of that wonderful government for which Jesus taught us to pray, and also when we can expect its rule upon earth to begin.

We, who believe in the Bible as the sure Word of God, have faith and assurance that this promised kingdom of God is certain to come in God’s due time. And the Scriptures reveal that it is not only near at hand, but it will be the means by which mankind will find the only solution to all their social, economic, and political problems.

The urgent need for a righteous world government—Christ’s kingdom—is obvious as we look about us and recognize the growing frictions and strife which is rampant, the nations vying against each other for social, economic, and political superiority, and the constant threat of a third world war. We realize the wisdom of the Lord’s words, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.” (Luke 11:17) Truly, today, we see the house of man, with Satan as its prince, divided in every conceivable way. The state of division is caused by selfishness, greed, envy, and the hard-heartedness of man toward his fellows. We conclude that man in his present condition cannot gain the happiness, peace, and unity which he so much desires. For no matter how noble the efforts of some, there are others motivated solely by selfishness who are ready to disrupt the best-laid plans to provide mankind’s necessities.

But this is not a new circumstance; selfishness and strife has been the way of man down through the long ages ever since the temptation by Satan, and the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. So it is that Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world [or arrangement of things]” (John 18:36), for he will be the Prince of Peace and Righteousness. Believing it is only through divine intervention that man will gain peace on earth and the true security for which all long, we continue to look forward to Christ’s coming kingdom, when all mankind will turn to the Lord. Because he will take away their stony (selfish) hearts, and give them (sympathetic and caring) hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:26), his kingdom will succeed where all present kingdoms fail.

It is not very difficult for us to believe the record of history concerning past events. However, believing something prophesied to occur in the future is a different matter, and takes great confidence in the prophet. This confidence, if it is based upon the Word of God, is what the Christian calls faith. And our faith can be strengthened by reading a prophecy in Luke 21:20-24, written nearly two thousand years ago, and which foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation in 70 A.D. An additional indication is given in this passage concerning the reestablishment of Jewish polity at a later time. In these texts we discover not only a record of history, but events occurring at the present time, and also the event for which we earnestly pray, “Thy kingdom come.”

Concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and Israel as a nation, we read the words of Jesus: “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. … For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. … They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-24) These texts, although prophetic when written, are completed history to us today. Israel was indeed trodden down of the Gentiles for nearly two thousand years of dispersion and statelessness. But, on May 4th, 1948, the Jewish National Council proclaimed the reestablishment of the Jewish state of Israel! Realizing that these events did occur just as they were prophesied, strengthens our faith in events still future which were also foretold in this same prophecy.

Continuing, Jesus gives a preview concerning his second presence, saying, There shall be “upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity [Greek, no way out]; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” (vss. 25,26) We can easily recognize this as a description of events happening in our very day. How true it is that no matter how hard man works to solve his problems, there are just no solutions—“no way out.” Our problems have escalated to the point where “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved” (Matt. 24:22), as the prospect of a nuclear holocaust looms as a very real possibility of destroying all flesh. Certainly, men’s hearts are failing them for fear. Thank God for the assurance that “for the elects’ sake those days shall be shortened.”—Matt. 24:22

As recorded in Luke 21:29-31 and Matthew 24:32,33, immediately following this graphic description of our day, Jesus spoke a parable of the fig tree, and all the trees. “Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth [their leaves], ye see and know of your own selves that summer is nigh at hand.” Students of the Bible recognize the symbol of a fig tree as picturing the nation of Israel. (Jer. 24:5-7) The ‘other trees’ in the parable could illustrate the many newly emerging nations, ‘shooting forth’, or being created, especially on the continent of Africa, as well as other parts of the earth. Since Israel once again became a nation, we have seen this prophecy dramatically fulfilled. The Lord tells us, “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” (Matt. 24:31) As confirmation of the surety of this prophecy, Jesus stated positively, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away!”

And so in this prophecy we find the answer to one of our questions: we are not far from the kingdom! What a reassuring promise he gives in just a few short words. How thrilling it is to see these promised signs today, and to know that the kingdom is indeed near at hand!

But, perhaps a more important question for each of us individually to answer is, “How near am I from the kingdom?—not chronologically speaking, but in attitude, appreciation, and love toward God and the brethren. The Lord Jesus gave us a lesson along this line, in his conversation with a scribe who evidently had a true desire to know something of the divine will. (Mark 12:28-34) “One of the scribes came, and … asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?” From Moses’ day to Jesus’ day, this question was often discussed among the Jews. In order that the scribe would understand his answer, Jesus quoted from the Word of Jehovah to Moses: “Hear O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”—Deut. 6:4

In God’s arrangement, he designed that mankind be ruled by love—love for Jehovah; and love for fellow man. It is well to keep these two paramount commandments in mind. Love is indeed the greatest of all attributes. (I Cor. 13:13) It is a reflection of godlikeness, because God is love. It embodies all the principles which constitute the character of God—righteousness, faithfulness, longsuffering, patience. Therefore, it stands related to all things in the universe.

Our love for God may be more difficult to measure than our love for man. But, if we cannot love our brethren with whom we are closely associated in our daily lives, how can we love God, whom we have not seen!

The scribe with whom Jesus was speaking replied to him a way which indicated he understood the Master’s words. He said, “Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices!” (vss. 32,33) “And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God!” (vs. 34) Can our Lord say of us, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God?

The Apostle John learned from the Master that “whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. … We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”—I John 4:15-21

Love is the most powerful tie that binds a bride and a bride-groom. John the Baptist pictured Jesus as a “bridegroom,” and himself as the “friend of the bridegroom.” (John 3:29) And again, in II Corinthians 11:2, Paul describes the church of Christ as a “chaste virgin,” espoused to one husband, to Christ. In Revelation 21:2, the saints of God, his called-out ones, the church, are designated the “new Jerusalem … prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

So, if we are to be part of this bride of Christ, our love for our prospective bridegroom must be cherished, cultivated, and must grow into an all-consuming love. Where he goes, we will go; his work will be our work; his will (which is God’s will—“Lo I come to do thy will, O my God”) becomes our will.

This singleness of motivation—love—takes a lifetime to develop fully. It is like fine needlework, sewn into an intricate pattern on a beautiful piece of cloth, taking patience and infinite care in tracing the pleasingly delicate designs. “Hearken O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord and worship thou him. … The king’s daughter is all glorious within [she has a beautiful character], her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework. … They shall enter into the king’s palace.”—Ps. 45:10-15

The purpose for the selection and development of this bride of Christ is expressed by John, the Revelator: “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”—Rev. 21:1-4

The church, the bride, will be the companion of Christ, assisting in the establishment of the kingdom for which we pray, and which will bring peace between God and man, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. Together the Spirit [our Lord Jesus] and the bride [his church] will say, “Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”—Rev. 22:17

And so, in the Scriptures we also find the answer to our second question: “What is causing the seeming delay in the setting up of God’s kingdom?” It is because the call, development, and testing of this called-out class, the bride of Christ, has quietly and steadily been taking place. For nearly two thousand years this has been the particular concern of our Heavenly Father—to find a suitable bride for his Son! Those who have been “chosen” for this wonderful honor must also be proven “faithful.” (Rev. 17:14) We realize from the signs all about us that this special call is drawing to a close, and the time for God’s kingdom to be established and to rule upon earth is nearing. We hear the words of the Apostle Peter resounding in our ears: “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved [and God’s kingdom of righteousness is not far from us] what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?”—II Pet. 3:11

May each of us prove faithful to the Lord, the truth, and to our brethren, glorifying God by continuing to proclaim the Gospel of that kingdom for which our Lord taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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