Two questions have been put into my hand, one as to preaching repentance, and the other as to preaching the kingdom.
Nobody questions as to whether people ought to repent; and as to the kingdom, Paul says to the elders from Ephesus in Acts 20: “Ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God”; and you will find it elsewhere as well.
You have it in John 3, which is often overlooked, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
I have no doubt it is an important point, too. Other things were preached, but it was testified by the prophet that God was going to set up a kingdom. When the Lord came, He, in a certain sense, preached nothing else.
As to that point, at least, John Baptist and the Lord exercised the same ministry. It was testified then, and ought to be so still.
Another thing has come out—the gospel of our salvation—a thing that was not promised or spoken of before the cross; while there were the prophecies that Christ should come, the grace that should be brought had not appeared. There was a testimony to its appearing from Adam on, but the importance of the statement of the kingdom lies in this, that it is not simply persons must have a change in them in order to be happy, but that God was setting up something. God did not own the world at all, but was setting up a kingdom, into which a man could not enter, if he was not born again.
Nowadays, Christianity is so reduced to the idea of being safe—leading people to look into their own hearts to see if they are—that the object of testimony is gone.
It has come down to this, a certain few outward things, and then there is nothing positive and substantial at all.
But there were two testimonies; the Lord’s own upon which He was condemned (He was not condemned on the testimony brought against Him, for the two false witnesses did not agree), and which before Pilate was that He was a King—“Thou sayest that I am,” that was the “good confession” that He witnessed; and the other testimony was that God was setting up a kingdom.
There are other things, the church, and so on—one of the great mischiefs done is the confounding of the kingdom and the church of God—but still, the kingdom is there as the subject of preaching.
In Matthew you get things brought out more in order, and there you get the rejection of Christ, and upon that, three things are substituted for what He was down here—founded though upon His work—the kingdom of heaven in chapter 13, the church in chapter 16, and the coming in glory, i.e., the transfiguration, in chapter 17.
These are very distinct. You could not call the kingdom “the bride,” or “the body of Christ”; there would be no sense in it. The setting up of a kingdom is seen in the authority of a king, and he has his subjects; but in the idea of a body, or of a bride, you can’t talk of a king. If you do, you lose the whole idea.
The kingdom had been spoken of, and the Messiah was to come, but the church never at all. That was hidden from ages and from generations, but is now revealed. We have now the key to it.
We may understand certain things, but it is declared that there was no kind of revelation of the church in the smallest degree, until Christ had come and died.
It would have upset all that God had revealed, for the wall of partition was not taken down before.
But the kingdom was testified of; only, when the King came in Person—Christ—He was rejected, and so the personal thing was not set up, for the King was gone away to heaven.
He was rejected and taken up to heaven, nor does He sit upon His throne yet, but He says, “To him that overcometh will I give to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne,” as had been said to Him, “Sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool.”
And presently in the Revelation it says, “We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” And so He will reign, but those who are faithful to Christ own Him now as the true King, of course. There are other and better things for those who have believed, but His kingdom will be set up openly.
Say, as when Charles II was not in the country, those who were loyal owned him as the king, though he was in France. So now, the King is sitting at the right hand of God, until His enemies be made His footstool.
When the time comes He will leave His Father’s throne, and His kingdom will be set up.
Meanwhile you get the parables of Matthew 13, giving the state of the kingdom during the absence of the King.
It does not look a bit like a kingdom to the natural eye now for it is not yet manifest.
The devil is able to sow tares—not in the church but in the world. It is clearly said, “the field is the world,” and there the tares are sown; that is the devil’s work, and he has done it plentifully. In the last three parables you get God’s intention about it.
He took the world for the sake of the treasure; then, He is seen seeking goodly pearls; and lastly you come to that which has a certain analogy to the thought of the tares; they take a net and cast it into the sea, and it gathers of every kind; they put the good into vessels and cast the bad away. All that is the kingdom, while the King is no longer here.
The actual establishment of the kingdom in power is yet to come, but meanwhile, let Him at least gather those who are to reign with Him.
It is not yet the setting up of the kingdom, save in a mysterious way; but when He comes we shall be with Him upon thrones, for we are made kings and priests unto God and His Father.
In Revelation 4 it is said that the elders have twenty-four “seats”; the translators were afraid to say “thrones,” it looked strange to put twenty-four symbols of saints on thrones, and so they put the word ‘seats’ instead, but it really is “thrones.”
Well, if you want the kingdom in its manifestation in glory (which is not the highest thing), you get that in chapter 17.
In all three gospels, it is the next week that the Lord takes the three disciples up and shews them Moses and Elias in the same glory with Himself upon the mount.
He had said, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” and thereupon the account of the transfiguration follows.
Now refer to 2 Peter 1:16: “For we have not followed .cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” There we get Peter’s account of Matthew 17. The “Son of man coming in his kingdom” is “the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Three disciples went up, but they are not allowed to tell it until after He had been raised from the dead.
If you look at Luke 9 it comes out even clearer, with a blessed testimony to the Lord’s grace.
But in Matthew 16 Peter had said He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, i.e., the King, of course, and the Lord charges them to tell no man that, but began to shew them that He must suffer, and be killed, and rise again the third day; and adds, that we must take up our cross and suffer with Him.
Six days after, He takes them up into the mountain; and of that, Peter tells us that it was the “power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Luke there is a difference. The cloud which came was, according to Peter, the excellent glory, and then the Father’s voice came out of the excellent glory, and Moses and Elias go into it. Now that is not the kingdom, it is the better part, the Father’s house. There was the revelation of the kingdom; and then glorified saints with and like Christ; and lastly those living on the earth.
The kingdom is set up in glory, in this vision of it, after the declaration that He could not be received as Christ. He ought to have been, but that was all over, and the Son of man must suffer. When ultimately He does come, and the kingdom is set up openly, He will gather out of it all things that do offend; and the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. That is, I get the upper or heavenly part of the kingdom, separated like Luke’s cloud; and the Son of man setting this earth right in the power of the kingdom.
When the Jews were taken captive to Babylon, the great fact that took place then was, that God’s throne went away from the earth. He had had a throne—sitting between the cherubim, and when the Jews’ captivity took place, that was over. (When I say God’s throne went away, I am not speaking of providence, there is providence in a sparrow that falls; that is another thing.) But when the Lord came He said, “The kingdom of God is in the midst of you”; here it is, if you will have it, but they rejected Him the King.
When Babylon—the golden head—was set up, God’s throne was taken from the earth. Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem. God had been there in the cloud of glory between the cherubim, but that arises, goes to Mount Olives, and finally went away. Then the thrones of the four beasts were set up; and ever since that, it has been the government of the last beast. In His providence God has been working (I do not now speak of that or forget it), but all the beasts had already been brought out before the Lord Jesus Christ appeared on the earth.
The Roman beast was then ruling in Jerusalem, and was joined with the Jews against Christ. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together” (as Herod and Pontius Pilate) “against the Lord, and against his anointed.” They joined hands to reject God’s King, and Christ testified to Pilate, that He Himself was God’s King. So it has come about that the establishment of the kingdom in power is put off until the Lord comes again. When next He comes He will be “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Meanwhile, between Babylon and Infidelity all is now going on to judgment, as rapidly as ever it can. The will of man and the power of the beast are gathering strength every moment. But when Christ comes and establishes His kingdom, He will put down everything else; and He will have, if you look at Psalms 2 and 8, a much wider dominion than anything Jewish. Those who repent when they see Him will be reigned over, but we shall reign with Him, because we own Him when He is not seen, and we get more than that, for we shall be with Him and like Him. The kingdom had been lost sight of, but it has begun to be preached again within my memory; meanwhile, God is gathering the joint heirs, and when all are gathered, the kingdom will come and the scene around us will be brought directly under the judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Peter you have a “more sure word of prophecy,” but it is literally “the word of prophecy confirmed” i.e., they had seen Christ in the glory, and that confirmed the prophetic word. And, he says, ye do well to take heed unto it, “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place,” which shews what all around us is going on to.
If you have got a heavenly Christ, it is much better to be drawn up to Him there than to be driven out of the things that disappoint here.
The world itself has become afraid as to what is coming. All is going on to the judgment of the beast—France, Italy, Spain, and, I am afraid, we must bring in England, too.
But for us, Christians, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is the bright and morning star, and when the Sun of Righteousness arises, it will be judgment on the earth.
If you look at the end of Malachi, you will find it is not the gospel that is there spoken of at all, but He discerns between the righteous and the wicked, for the day cometh that will burn as an oven; and the rising of the Sun of Righteousness is Christ appearing in this world, and putting down the wicked under the soles of His people’s feet.
Before that, we get the morning star—a heavenly Christ— that weans us out of this world; and that is our own proper portion, and when He appears afterwards we shall appear with Him.
Our privilege is that of complete, thorough association with the Lord Jesus Christ—the First Born amongst many brethren, and He takes nothing for Himself that He does not bring us into.
If He is a Son, we are sons;
If He comes in glory, we come;
If He makes peace—My peace I give unto you;
Has He joy? He would have it fulfilled in us;
The words God gave to Him, He has given us;
And, He has declared the Father’s name, “that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” All this is to bring us into the same thing with Himself.
The coming of the Lord is still preached, and wherever this is set out, it is still the kingdom. Sinners need surely to know what forgiveness is, but it is well that there should be positive testimony to the coming of the Lord. God is not slack concerning His promises as some men count slackness, and the Lord will come. We cannot tell the moment, but He will not come while there is a joint heir to be gathered in. When He does come, as we saw in Luke, we shall go into the cloud where the Father is.
I trust I have made the kingdom plain.