Chapter 1, Part 3
The Kingdom is the Ultimate Goal of Christ's Salvation
At meetings, the author often asks the audience 'What is God?" The most common answer besides "God is Spirit' is "God is love". Yes, God is love, but what is this love like? Most readers still do not know. In order to let us know the special character of God's love, the Holy Spirit has used a special word in the Old Testament. The noun form of this word was used 247 times in the Old Testament. It is used 31 times more than the verb "love" in the Old Testament. Psalm 136 gives a detailed narrative of its eternal nature and its accomplishments. First it brings up the relationship between its eternal nature and creation (verses 1-9). Then it describes in detail its eternal nature towards the salvation experience of Israelites out of Egypt (verses 10-22}. Finally, it ends with its eternal nature on the concern for all nations (verses 23 -26). This word is truly amazing!
About half of the time this word is found in the Psalms. Moreover, the Psalms repeatedly declare that it is "good" (Pss.69:16), ''wondrous'' (Pss. 17:7), "better than life" (Pss. 63:3), "great above the heavens" (Pss. 108:4), "the earth is full of it" (Pss. 29:64), and "everlasting" (Pss. 136). Therefore the importance of this word on the nature of God can be seen. Unfortunately, there are no equivalent words in English or Chinese that can express the full meaning of it. In the King James Version, it is translated into 10 different words with "mercy'', "kindness'' and "lovingkindness" as the most common ones. In the Chinese Union Version, this word is translated into 18 different words and the most common one is "loving kindness'', "grace", "benevolence" and "gracious favor"· have also been used for many times. Consequently, it is hard to understand its true meaning through the Old Testament translations.
This word חםד is pronounced 'kheh-sed'. The basic meaning is 'love' but it is not of the common variety. It is love plus 'faithfulness', 'firmness' and 'unchanging'. Therefore, it is often used with 'faithfulness' (Ps. 89:2, 24, 33 and 49) and 'truth' (Ps. 89:14). Since it is also often used with 'covenant' (Deut. 7:9, 12) and 'preserves or keep the covenant' (Neh. 1:5, 9:32), some have translated it simply as 'covenant love' because the original meaning of this word is truly a kind of love that is 'firm, patient, immovable and rooted in a covenant'! Because of this kind of love, God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt (Ps. 136:10-15). It is also through this kind of love that God fulfilled His promise to Abraham in 1948 (Gen. 15:18-20). Overnight, Israel became a nation again and a miracle in history! In the same manner, although mankind has lost its reigning authority and the whole world is now under the rule of demonic government, God will also use the same kind of love, to fulfill what He prophesied through David to accomplish His desire when He created man. How is He going to restore the reigning authority that Adam lost?
A. The Kingdom of Heaven is Planned by God (Heb.2:5)
The Scriptures tell us that "For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking". In such a simple verse, God tells us two tremendously important events: First of all, there is a 'world to come' or a 'future world'. Secondly, the rulers of the future world are not 'angels' but unworthy 'man'. Praise the Lord!
When God created all things, He had an ideal world for man to rule over. Since Adam was deceived and Satan usurped the ruling authority, that ideal world has never been realized. Some thought that God changed His original plan. Never! The Scriptures say, "God is not like a man ... Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" (Num. 23:19) and "He has made a decree which will not pass away." (Ps. 148:6). In all that God has planned, there has never been anything that has not been fulfilled because God forgot! We who have been called the first fruits of the Spirit are waiting eagerly for the future world where 'righteousness dwells'. Our subjection to futility is also temporary while the entire creation awaits its freedom (Refer to Rom. 8:20-25). So, how can God forget this? In fact, Christ today has ascended into heaven and He "is seated at the right hand of God ... angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him." (1 Pet. 3:22). But God the Father has not yet "put all things in subjection under His feet" (1 Cor. 15:27). One day, when the seventh angel sounds the trumpet, there will arise loud voices in heaven: "The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He will reign forever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). At that time, those 'who are called and chosen and are faithful' overcomers, that is, those who has been changed to the likeness of His glorious body, shall reign with Him. For He said, "He who overcomes (not the entire Church), I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (Rev. 3:21). Brethren, even Christ has to overcome in order to reign. What about us, we who are His students? Only the deluded one would say that the entire church will reign with Christ, deceiving oneself and others!
Hebrews 2:5 causes us to sing Hallelujah because God did not subject the ''world to come" to angels. He wanted man to rule! In fact, if God let the angels rule, perhaps they would do a much better job than man. The reason is that angels are greater, holier, more energetic, more powerful and more experienced than man through years of training in serving God. At the same time, some of them already have had experience in ruling God's kingdom like Michael, who has been the Prince of Israel (Dan.10:21}. However; God set His eyes upon us who are ''worthless". This is truly "amazing grace"! This is amazing grace because the gracious Lord told us that God the Father didst love us as He didst love Him (see John 17:23). Therefore, He wants to grant us the Kingdom just as the Father has granted Him (see Luke 22:29). This grace is truly abundant and all we can do is to bow down and worship Him!
B. The Kingdom of Heaven is Accomplished by Christ (Heb. 2:6-10)
Ever since mankind fell into Satan's deceitful trap, not only have we lost our reigning authority, but we have also become Satan's obedient subjects, sons of wrath and also enemies of God! Now, things are even worse! Mankind has always been far from God (Eph. 2:13), rebels against God's word (Ps. 107:11), blasphemes against God (1 Tim. 1:13), turns against God (Ps. 2:2) and is an enemy of God (Rom. 8:7)! As a result, each has turned to his own way (Is. 53:6) and became accustomed to doing evil (Jer. 13:23). Their minds are blinded (2 Cor. 4:4), they become desperately sick (Jer. 17:9) and have no hope (Eph. 2:12)! No wonder David said, "What is Enosh...And the son of Adam..." (Ps. 8:4 in the original language)! Man's heart is more deceitful than all else and cannot be cured. Even though he is really nothing but the 'kheh-sed' God still wanted to accomplish His desire in the creation of man! Truly, "great is His love" and "wonderful is His grace"!
The concern God has for mankind is not only recorded in literature, but has also been proven repeatedly in history. For example, in Noah's time, the wickedness of man was "great" and "every intent of the thoughts of his heart" was "only evil"; these things grieved God's heart continually. So, His spirit could not strive with man. Nevertheless,He still allowed man to live for one hundred and twenty years more. Although the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah was indeed great and their sin exceedingly grave, God still hoped that ten righteous men could be found within the two cities to spare them from destruction. Although the Israelites did not listen to God's word in the wilderness but tempted the Lord ten times (Num. 14:22], God still allowed them to enter into Canaan to establish a kingdom after wandering for forty years. Although the Jews followed their hardened hearts, stiffened their necks, did evil, killed the prophets, stoned His messengers to death and finally dragged the Son of God out of the city and crucified Him on the cross, God patiently waited until 70 AD before dispersing them to the various nations. But in 1948. He restored their nation for them! In like manner, even though man is exceedingly wicked, God still takes thought of him. God still desires that the "chosen ones'' would rule over "all that His hand has created" and accomplish His purpose for creating man!
From the above discussion, it is clear that the authority to reign was usurped by the king of this world. Furthermore, since he has been in control for such a long time, how can it be taken back? Unless it is done in accordance with what the gracious Lord told us, "How can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house." (Matt. 12:29) Yes, this is why Christ has to come and "suffer death". This is just like a Chinese idiom: 'if you want a tiger cub, you must go into the tiger's den!" 'Through death, He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil." (Heb.2:14) By doing this, He took back the authority to reign for us, so that we might enter into glory with Him (Heb. 2:10). This is also what the Scriptures say: "...when He appears, we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:2). Hallelujah. 'We shall be like Him!" is to be like His "glorious body" (Phil. 3:21), "like Him sitting on the throne" (Rev.3:21) and like Him "reigning forever and ever!" (Rev. 22:5) All these that pertain to the glory of the Kingdom are the ultimate goals of the gracious Lord's salvation. Praise the Lord!