People of The Living God

John 17


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Lorraine Scullin

        H.G.Wells, in his Outline of History has this to say:

        "Remarkable is the enormous prominence given by Jesus to the teaching of what He called the Kingdom of Heaven, and its comparative insignificance in the procedure and teaching of many of the Christian churches.

        "This doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven which was the MAIN TEACHING OF JESUS and which plays so small a part in the Christian creeds is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed human thought."

        Here are two extremely surprising statements concerning the ministry and message of Jesus Christ, which have been written by one who made little claim to authority in religious matters.

        It is a fact that those having unbiased minds and no preconceived religious ideas are often able to SEE plainly what Jesus Christ actually taught men.  It is apparent to such people that He actually came to give men THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN and the keys of that kingdom with which they might possess its full power and authority.

        Yet one of the most astounding erroneous religious teachings of our time is that this kingdom of heaven was a material affair of political character, having its place of central authority in Jerusalem; and that this kingdom was presented to men by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, but because men refused it, He withdrew the offer and would not again set up His kingdom until He returns to earth at the end of time.  We are asked to believe that the Kingdom of God has now been postponed!  We are led to infer from such a theory that in some way a miscalculation was made so that the Kingdom of God had to be deferred until Christ's second coming at the last day.  (Such is the teaching of the footnotes in the popular Scofield Bible!)

        At this point it would be wise to consider the following questions:  How can a physical kingdom be set up when the world with all its elements shall be DISSOLVED at His coming?  Since there will be no reconditioned earth, no burned-over, rejuvenated planet for men to dwell in, where could this throne of gold and this earthly realm possibly be located?  How can there be any more days after THE LAST DAY?  How can there be any TIME after "time shall be no longer"?  "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.  Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"  (II Peter 3:10-12).  "And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer." (Rev.10:6).

        The Kingdom of God was never POSTPONED.  This realm was given to men when Jesus Christ came to this world nearly two thousand years ago, and the Lord has NEVER withdrawn, deferred, or modified it in any way.

        Jesus Christ began His earthly ministry with this declaration:  "The Kingdom of God is at hand," i.e. WITHIN THE REACH OF MEN, NOW (Mark 1:15; Matthew 4:17).  He constantly reiterated these words throughout His ministry:  "I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities for THEREUNTO am I sent" (Luke 4:43).  He stated that the kingdom was before all else in importance:  "Seek ye FIRST the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31).  Furthermore, He demonstrated that this kingdom was in their midst: "If I cast out devils (which He did often) then the Kingdom of God IS COME unto you" (Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20).  Even some of the very last words He spoke to men were concerning the Kingdom of God.  "To whom also He showed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).

        As a matter of fact, this Kingdom message was the only gospel He preached:  "Jesus went about all the cities and villages preaching the GOSPEL of the KINGDOM (Matt.9:35; 4:23; Mark 1:14,15; Luke 8:1).  This was the reason men were to be converted – that they might ENTER the Kingdom of God and be filled with its power.  "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God"  (John 3:3,5).

        There were also many other voices which declared this same gospel: "In those days came John … saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt.3:1,2).  The twelve were commanded to preach this message: (Matt.10:5-8; Luke 9:2).  This good news of the Kingdom – "it is come nigh unto you" – was given by the seventy (Luke 10:1,9,11).  And this was the theme of Paul's gospel to the end of his ministry.  "Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him"  (Acts 28:31).

        All of these witnesses announced the immediate presence of this kingdom, and demonstrated its power, then, within the reach of men.  As those who had taken hold of this mighty kingdom, they were able to "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils" (Matt.10:8).  They also were given the authority to exercise a power that heaven alone can give to men: "whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them" (John 20:23).  Other evidence that the power of the kingdom was operating within them is stated in Philip's experience as a missionary: "the Spirit of the Lord caught away (transported) Philip" (Acts 8:39).

        Many people in Jerusalem were so convinced of the power of this kingdom (they had seen the loaves and fishes multiplied into the thousands, they had witnessed the miracles of healing) that they tried to make Jesus Christ their material ruler, by physical force.  "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.  When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone" (John 6:14,15).  They wanted a political ruler, a king according to THEIR OWN IDEAS, a dictator who would make Rome pay for the indignities which they had suffered at her hands and who would make all their enemies, ecclesiastical and political, feel the iron heel of authority and force.  That is why an ivory throne, a palatial center of power in Jerusalem, legions in uniform, tactical strength, swords, and outward display had such appeal.  These things bolster human confidence.  They supply a framework for security.  They are VISIBLE props.

        When Jesus Christ firmly declared, "My kingdom is NOT of this world" (John 18:36), these opportunists in material hopes lost interest in the kingdom He had to offer.  Of no value in their sight were things eternal, invisible and of the Spirit; for the mercenary, commercial spirit of Babylon dominated even their religion.  They were concerned wholly with that which they could SEE, TOUCH, and MANIPULATE: those things which stimulated the ego of man, irrespective of their transitory and disintegrating character.  When these devotees of physical power and its display realized that Jesus Christ would NOT CONFORM to their political and religious ideas and plans, they rejected Him and set about trying to kill Him.

        Even His disciples were well imbued with this materialistic concept of His kingdom.  The mother of James and John asked Jesus to give her sons the two positions of highest rank in the kind of kingdom which she supposed Christ had come to establish.  "Then came to Him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping Him, and desiring a certain thing of Him.  And He said unto her, What wilt thou?  She saith unto Him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.  But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask.  Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?  They say unto Him, We are able.  And He saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father.  And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren" (Matthew 20:20-24).  James and John themselves desired these positions.  So engrossed were they over this matter of power and prestige that they could not understand what Christ was saying concerning His coming death.  So steeped were they in materialism that almost in the very shadow of the cross their greatest concern was for this place of superiority over their brethren.  And because of this human ambition Christ's words with regard to His impending crucifixion fell upon deaf ears and upon minds as yet unconditioned to spiritual things.

        Nor were the two sons of Zebedee alone in this hope for an earthly kingdom.  Peter was evidently still trusting in carnal weapons when Judas betrayed Christ in the garden, for at this time he struck off the ear of the High priest's servant with a sword.  He was still expecting a revival of material power to Israel, a restoration of the kingdom as it was known in Solomon's day; so his weapons matched his materialistic hopes.  Jesus said, "If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight"  (John 18:36).

        A little later on Peter was to put away forever his sword of steel; and there was instead to be wielded through him by the power of the Holy Ghost, words of prophecy, SHARPER than any two-edged sword, cutting and exposing men's thoughts so nakedly that great fear would fall upon all those who should hear and NONE would dare to join himself to the company where Peter prophesied.  Through this man would also come words of judgment, by the power of the Spirit, that would bring instant death upon the liars in the congregation.  (The occasion of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, Acts 5:1-16).

        Later, from this man's very shadow would flow such power that even those who lay stretched upon beds in the streets would be healed as he passed by them.  Here is power beyond any known in the material universe.  No hydrogen bomb, or dozens of such bombs, will ever be able to break down the gates of the realm of death and return the dead to the land of the living.  Yet by this same servant, Peter, words were to be spoken through the mighty gifts of the Holy Ghost that would bring men back from the grave, "Peter … kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise.  And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.  And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive" (Acts 9:40,41).  How futile swords would be, or even atom bombs, in such a kingdom in which Peter was ministering.

        And the spirit of the materialists of Christ's day still moves men today.  They propagate doctrines which multitudes accept WITHOUT QUESTION.  They boldly declare that Jesus Christ is not king today, that His kingdom is a material one which has been set aside until another age.  By such inventions they make the words of Jesus Christ a complete untruth – which cannot be, from Him who is "the truth.'  He plainly declared to Pilate, who asked, "Art thou a king?" …. "To this end was I born and FOR THIS CAUSE came I into the world" (John 18:37).

        If there is no king, there must of necessity be no kingdom.  The logic of this is plain.  And by the same token, if there is no kingdom, then there is no gospel, for it is the gospel of the kingdom which Christ preached.  And it is this same gospel of the kingdom which must be "preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.  THEN shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14).