"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
TO BE THE LORD’S PRAYER
THY KINGDOM COME
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven...Thy kingdom come..." (Mat. 6:9).
I will do you a special favor today. I will change that prayer somewhat. But it is not really I that am changing it — the church world has changed it. When they were through changing it they liked it a lot better. From then on they have prayed it the new way: "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy saints go to heaven..." Isn’t that what a lot of people are praying for? Vast multitudes believe a false doctrine that is called "The Rapture of the Saints." It means "The Going of the Saints." This idea is based on the scripture that says, "If I go away you will also go away..." Ah — how does that text go? "If I go away I will come again and receive you unto Myself." The Lord Jesus never said that He would come and take us to heaven; He said He would come and receive us unto Himself, unto a Person, not a place, unto union with Him in all that He is. What the church world is looking for today is not the Lord’s coming, nor yet the coming of the Kingdom of God, but their "going".
The Lord’s prayer, however, does not refer either to the Lord’s coming or our going — its cry is, "Thy Kingdom come!" What is the Lord’s title when He comes? In what office does He come? We have said that He is coming as King. No, He’s not. People testify that Jesus is their Saviour, Healer, Baptizer and Coming King. But He is not a coming King. When He comes He does not come as King. He is already King. He is the King eternal. He rules over all. When He comes He comes as King of kings. There is a great difference. Let us put Him where He belongs. Let us not drag Him down to just a king level — for the world has had a bumper crop of kings. He comes as King of kings. But I’m going to tell you something — He had better come soon, because there are very few kings left in the world at present! If the revolutions continue and He waits any longer He will be unable to come as King of kings because there will be no kings left! But that is not what He is talking about.
"John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come...and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father" (Rev. 1:4-6). Ah, my beloved, are you loved? Are you washed? Then you are also kings! Let me quote this passage to you another way. "Who hath made us beggars, orphans, and sinners saved by grace, hoping to make heaven our home — pray for us that we will hold out to the end." Doesn’t that inspire, challenge, and give you great comfort and hope? Read it with me — "and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father," and in chapter five He adds, "and we shall reign on the earth." Oh, yes, He is truly coming as King of kings — and WE ARE THE KINGS. He is coming as Lord of lords — and WE ARE THE LORDS.
The Bible is a book of faith and hope. It looks, not backward or downward, but forward and upward. Its face is ever set toward the Dawn. It always points us toward the best that is yet to come — the completion, maturity, fullness, consummation. In its first pages we read of the heaven blest Eden; of a time when mankind was free from pain, sorrow and evil, because man was free from sin. While man walked in his primitive state of innocence his home was a Garden — the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. He was destined to reign splendidly over all realms from the lowest to the highest, symbolized in the dominion given him over the lowest realm of the fish of the sea, the higher realm of the beasts of the earth, and the highest realm of all, the birds of the heavens. God was his familiar Friend and intimate Father. But we read on a page or two and a change comes over the order of things. Eden, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, disappears, becoming but a history recorded, a faint memory beyond the pall that hangs over the mind of man. Joy, peace, glory, power and life vanish, and leave in their wake sorrow, discord, weakness, shame and death. When man sinned pain, limitation, frustration and death entered the world, man’s heavens grew black with clouds; God no longer communed with him in the spirit of the Day, and he was driven out of the Garden, at the gates of which the cherubim were posted with swords of flame which pointed every way, as if to say, "No return, no return."
Then Jesus came! The message He gave was the Kingdom of God. It was the center and circumference of all He taught and did. It was His gospel, His good news. He lived and moved in the realm of sonship full and complete. He lived and moved in the realm of the Kingdom which He came to proclaim and which for three years or more He demonstrated in no small part. He began His public ministry with preaching the gospel of God, saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the good news." On His first circuit through Galilee, He taught in their synagogues, and preached the good news of the Kingdom, Himself saying, "I must preach the good tidings of the Kingdom of God to the other cities also: for therefore was I sent." On His second circuit through Galilee, He went about through cities and villages, preaching, healing, and bringing the good tidings of the Kingdom of God. On His third circuit through Galilee, He went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, healing the sick, casting out devils, raising the dead, and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. When He was near Bethsaida, and saw the great multitudes who were as sheep having no shepherd, He had compassion on them, and ministered to their needs, and spake to them of the Kingdom of God. Even when He presented Himself alive following His crucifixion, by many proofs, He appeared to His apostles during forty days, speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God.
And as He, the firstborn Son of God, preached, so He would have His many brethren preach. When He commissioned His Twelve, He sent them forth two by two, and charged them, saying, "As ye go, preach, saying, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out devils." When He commissioned the Seventy, He sent them two by two before His face into every city and place, whither He Himself was about to come, saying, "Into whatsoever city ye enter and they receive you, cure the sick that are therein, and say to them, The Kingdom of God is come nigh to you." When He was traveling through Peraea, and one of His disciples asked leave to go and bury his father, the King said to him, "Follow me; leave the dead to bury their dead; but do thou go and announce the Kingdom of God." And as the King bade, so His brethren did.
When the persecution arose about Stephen, Philip went down from Jerusalem to Samaria, and published the good news concerning the Kingdom of God. When Paul visited Ephesus, he entered into the synagogue, and spake boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading as to the things concerning the Kingdom of God. When he summoned the Ephesian presbyters to meet him at Miletus, he reminded them of his habit of going about among them preaching the Kingdom. When he reached Rome, he summoned the leading Jews, and expounded to them the gospel, testifying fully of the Kingdom of God. During the two whole years he lived in his own hired lodgings at Rome, he gladly welcomed all that went in to him, preaching the Kingdom of God. In his very last letter that has come down to us, he charges his son Timothy before God, and Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, to preach the word; and he emphasizes his charge by reminding Timothy of Christ’s appearing and Kingdom.
The petition for the coming of the Kingdom brings us face to face with the supreme concern and purpose in the heart of Jesus. The Kingdom was His dearest dream, the one consuming passion of His life. As a child, when He studied the holy scriptures and communed with His heavenly Father, the reality of the Kingdom of God was birthed in His life and set the fires of expectation burning in His soul. As He fulfilled His daily responsibilities, as He strolled in the solitude of the green Galilean hills, the hope that constantly throbbed within His breast and would not let Him go was that of the Kingdom of God. It was upon the Kingdom that He meditated when He went to worship at the synagogue. It was of the Kingdom that He spoke to His Father in the secret place of prayer. In the soul of Jesus the reign of God was supreme.
When Jesus turned aside from the carpenter shop that day, He set out to proclaim the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom was ever His dominant theme. By deed and by example, no less than by word, He toiled to expound it. With divine motivation He set out to bring the Kingdom of God to pass in the earth. The world of His day was mad — pagan, vicious, violent, wicked, and intolerant beyond description. His was the most impossible task of which we can conceive. But He was convinced that by the power of His Father all things are possible. He was absolutely sure that God was stronger than the devil. He was absolutely certain that sin and death in their every ghastly and hideous form should at last be driven out of the world and that God should reign in every human breast from the rivers to the ends of the earth. He longed, and bade us pray, that this glorious consciousness of, and obedience to, God’s reign should be shared by every man, woman, and child that lives or has ever lived. That, surely, is what we ask when we pray as He taught us to pray, "Thy Kingdom come!"
"Thy Kingdom come." An incredible statement — three simple words in both English and Greek, yet they open to us a realm so vast and glorious that one approaches the thought like a little boy with a pail standing before the fathomless seas, wondering how to fit it all into his bucket. There is no way one can contain it, no way one can comprehend or articulate all that is here. The preachers in the church systems have misinterpreted this petition. They think that the prayer for God’s Kingdom refers to the end of the world or the so-called second coming of Christ. But when Jesus teaches us to pray, "Thy Kingdom come," He is not speaking of the end of the world, or the rapture of the saints, or the return of Jesus, but the coming of the Kingdom. He means that we are to pray that God may reign here upon the earth, yea, even here in this earth which we are; that men here may acknowledge Him as King, that life here may express and accomplish His will in earth as it is in heaven. "But rather seek ye the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" (Lk. 12:31-32). Here it is revealed that it is God’s will that we participate in or receive His Kingdom here on earth. I believe that every child of God ought to know and be assured that he can walk in the power and presence of the Kingdom of God today. One glorious day many years ago this message really struck home in my life because I realized most Christians had the idea that the major objective of God’s salvation was to qualify for an escape from off this planet to go to heaven. In the Lord’s prayer, however, we are taught that God’s Kingdom comes to the earth and that His will shall be done on the earth as it is in heaven.
This is not a prayer that we might be taken away from this planet to some far-off heaven somewhere, but it is a prayer that heaven may come down to earth, that joy may swallow up sorrow, that peace may overtake strife, that love may overcome hatred, that fullness may cancel limitation, that weakness may be overwhelmed by might, that mortality may be swallowed up of life, that sin may be banished by salvation, that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord might cover the earth as the waters cover the sea so that the earth itself and all within it may BECOME HEAVENLY. It is a prayer for the "new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" as men’s lives are brought under the sway of the Kingdom of God which is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.
WHAT IS THE KINGDOM?
The dictionary defines "kingdom" as "a government or country headed by a king or queen; a monarchical state; a realm or domain." The word "kingdom" is made up of the noun "king," and the suffix "dom". "Dom" is a noun-forming suffix to express rank, position, or domain. For example, a dukedom is the domain over which a duke has authority or exercises rule, and in the abstract the rank of a duke. In like manner a kingdom is the domain and the people within that domain over which a king exercises authority and rule. It is the "king’s domain". "Kingdom" is thus a contraction of "king’s domain". The term, Kingdom of God, can mean no other than the domain over which God exercises rule as King. It is God’s declared purpose therefore that His people, His holy nation, His peculiar treasure, should be the domain over which He would rule as King, and ultimately all the earth and all things and every creature. The Lord’s greatest dominion at this time is in the lives of His elect and chosen ones. We are now becoming ruled and governed by the Lord totally and absolutely. He has extended the dominion of His Kingdom to our hearts and lives, and now the Lord will rule us with complete and undisputed dominion. And He will continue to rule and reign in our lives until every enemy within us is made subject to Him. This is the present truth of the Kingdom of God!
Many of us who do not come from a country where the king or queen is sovereign, may have some difficulty grasping this idea of a kingdom. But it should easily be understood that no king is a king unless he has a kingdom to rule over. No sovereign is a sovereign without a state under his control. The state is composed primarily of three things: people, territory, and government. Without people, territory, and government no man is a king. And though there be people and territory, except the king possesses SOVEREIGNTY — SUPREME POWER AND AUTHORITY — he has no kingdom and is not a king. The Kingdom of God, therefore, means the SOVEREIGN RULE OF GOD. When we pray, "Our Father...Thy Kingdom come," we are saying, "Our Father, You who art Ruler in the realm of the Spirit, come and establish the conscious awareness of your sovereignty as well in the hearts of us men on earth. Your will be done in this earth which we are." It means that there will be a visible demonstration before men of the power of God to fully transform. And viewing the reality that breaks forth, "It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. 25:9).
How glibly the masses in the church systems pray this prayer! It is repeated hundreds of millions of times daily without any serious intention of it happening. People pray it without the foggiest notion of what the words mean, and have no disposition for it to be fulfilled in them personally in any practical way. There is far too much at stake. When all is said and done, most of us from our earliest childhood believe that we are the king of our own castle. We want to do things "our way." We determine our own destinies, make our own decisions, chart our own course, set our own goals, choose our own priorities, arrange our own affairs, and govern our own lives. We become highly skilled specialists in selfish, self-centered living where all life revolves around the epicenter of me, I, mine. Millions sanctimoniously and religiously pray, "Thy Kingdom come," thinking it is something outside of themselves, is some distant age, under other conditions — and have no intention whatever of abdicating the throne of their own inner wills and hearts to the King of Glory. They are utterly unwilling to surrender the sovereignty of their lives to God. They are no more prepared to accept the sovereign rule of Christ than were those men who shouted at His crucifixion, "We have no king but Caesar!"
So, if I sincerely, earnestly, and genuinely beseech the Spirit of God to rule in my life and experience, there to establish His Kingdom, I can only expect that there will be a most tremendous confrontation. It is a foregone conclusion that there will follow a formidable conflict between His divine sovereignty and my self-willed ego. And this, precious friend of mine, is the true BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON! S. D. Gordon ably stated it this way: "With this prayer go two clauses that really particularize and explain it. They are included in it, and are added to make more clear the full intent. The first of these clauses gives the sweep of His will in the broadest outlines. The second touches the opposition to that will both for our individual lives and for the race and for the earth.
"The first clause is this, ‘Thy Kingdom come.’ The second clause is, ‘Thy will be done.’ In both of these short sentences the emphatic word is "THY". That word is set in the sharpest possible contrast here. There is another kingdom now on the earth. There is another will being done. The other kingdom must go if God’s Kingdom is to come. These kingdoms are antagonistic at every point of contact. They are rivals for the same allegiance and the same territory. They cannot exist together. ‘Thy Kingdom come’ of necessity includes this, ‘the other kingdom go.’ ‘Thy Kingdom come’ means likewise, ‘Thy King come,’ for in the nature of things there cannot be a kingdom without a king. That means again by the same inference, ‘the other prince go,’ the one who makes pretensions to being the rightful heir to the throne. ‘Thy will be done’ includes by the same inference this: ‘the other will be undone.’ There are the two great wills at work in the world ever clashing in the action of history and in our individual lives. In many of us, yea, in all of us, though in greatly varying degree, these two wills constantly clash. Man is the real battlefield. The pitch of the battle is in his will. The greatest prayer then fully expressed, sweeps first the whole field of action, then touches the heart of the action, and then attacks the opposition. It is this: THY Kingdom come, THY will be done’" — end quote. When I pray, "Thy Kingdom come," I am willing to relinquish the rule of my life, my own will, my own ways, to give up governing my own affairs, to abstain from controlling my own destiny in order to allow the indwelling Christ to be raised up within me as the personality of my being.
The word "kingdom" is from the Greek word BASILEIA meaning "rule" or "reign". Sometimes I wish that everywhere the word appears in scripture it had been translated "reign" or "kingly rule". I think that says something that "kingdom" does not, at least to our modern minds. Kingdom makes us think of land and people, of riding horses, pomp and ceremony, maidens and knights, castles and motes and walls and laws and all of that. Even Pilate asked Jesus if He were a king, implying, "What kind of a king are you?" Jesus replied, "My Kingdom is not of this world — that is, my Kingdom is not after the order and systems of earthly kingdoms. It is the rule of God by the Spirit."
To the first believers "evangelism" was merely the sharing of good news. In fact, "evangel" or "gospel" means good news. The good news of a new and marvelous Friend — the man Jesus who had walked the roads of Galilee with them, helped them mend their nets by the lakeside, played with their children, healed their sick, even raised their dead, talked to them in familiar yet fascinating words about the Kingdom of God — the glorious new order of the reign of God where sin, sickness, oppression, cruelty, war, famine, and death would pass away and all men would live in righteousness, peace, joy and power in the Holy Ghost.
THE KINGDOM OF THE FATHER
There is very special meaning and deep mystery in the words, "Our Father...Thy Kingdom come." Earth is full of misery, sin and death. Many are the schemes of science and politics for correcting and mending matters, and God knows they need mending. Each man has his own nostrum, every quack his own panacea — but every council and summit, every invading army and self-assertive leader, every carnal effort of man leaves God and His Christ out of account, making every plan doomed to failure. We shall mend matters only by finding God as reality, and deliverance comes only when HE is enthroned as King.
Someone says, "But — is not God King now? Is not the world His? Are not all men in His sovereign hands? Does not the Most High rule over all? Has He not always been King?" That is perfectly true! I do not forget for one moment that even now the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein. "God is King of all the earth" (Ps. 47:7). He is a King upon His throne. "God sitteth upon the throne of His holiness" (Ps. 47:8). He has a regal title, high and mighty. "Thus saith the high and lofty One" (Isa. 57:15). He has the ensigns of royalty. He has His scepter. "A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy Kingdom" (Heb. 1:8). He has His royal crown. "On His head were many crowns" (Rev. 19:12). He has His jura regalia, His kingly prerogatives. He has power to make laws, to seal pardons, which are the flowers and jewels belonging to His crown. Thus the Lord is King. He is a great King. "For the Lord is a great King above all gods" (Ps. 95:3). He is great in and of Himself; and not like other kings, who are made great by their subjects. That He is so great a King appears by the immensity of His Being. "Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord" (Jer. 23:24). His center is everywhere, His circumference is nowhere, He is nowhere excluded; He is immensely great that "the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him" (I Kings 8:27). His greatness is manifest by the demonstration of His power. "He made heaven and earth" (Ps. 124:8). With a breath He can crumble us to dust; with a word He can unpin the world, and break the axis of it in pieces.
God is a glorious King. "Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory" (Ps. 24:10). He has internal glory. "The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty" (Ps. 93:1). Other kings have royal and sumptuous apparel to make them appear glorious to beholders, but all their magnificence is borrowed; God is clothed with His own majesty; His own glorious essence is instead of royal robes, and "He hath girded Himself with strength." Kings have their guard about them to defend their person, because they are not able to defend themselves; but God needs no guard or assistance from others. "He hath girded Himself with strength." His own power is His lifeguard. "Who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?" (Ps. 89:6). He has a pre-eminence above all other kings for majesty. He has the highest throne, the richest crown, the largest dominions, and the longest possession. "He hath on His vesture a name written, KING OF KINGS" (Rev. 19:16). "The Lord sitteth King forever" (Ps. 29:10). Angels serve Him, all the kings of the earth hold their crowns and diadems by immediate tenure from this great King. "By me kings reign" (Prov. 8:15). What a mighty and glorious King! As someone has written:
While we deliberate, He reigns.
When we decide wisely, He reigns.
When we decide foolishly, He reigns.
When we serve Him humbly, loyally, He reigns.
When we serve Him self-assertively, He reigns.
When we rebel and seek to withhold our service, He reigns.
At a given moment in history it may seem to be true that the rulership of the world is not in the hands of God but in the hands of selfish and ruthless men. Caesar sits securely on his throne; Christ perishes on a cross. So it appears. But not so. It was easy for the Roman Governor, Pilate, to make this mistake. How very impressive an empire that covered the whole of Europe and reached into Africa and Asia! How very substantial-looking those palaces and basilicas, those arches and amphitheaters, those roads and aqueducts and suburban villas which contributed to the grandeur of the city men called eternal! How very great and far-reaching and impregnable the power of Caesar! It was easy for Pilate to think Rome was reality. Nevertheless, it is God, and not Caesar, who reigns. It is the Kingdom of God, and not any earthly empire, that endures. In the New Testament it is said of Christ that He is the stone which the builders rejected but which God has made the cornerstone of creation. It is also said, "He that falleth on this stone shall be broken to pieces." And it appears to be so. On that stone the Roman empire fell, and was broken to pieces.
What consolation and understanding is inspired by the blessed knowledge that in spite of all the bluster and might exhibited by the kingdom of darkness, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth! But, dear one, if you will examine the basis of that Kingship, the Kingship of the Lord from the beginning of the world, you will find that it rests on God’s Creatorship. He is Lord of the world and men and rules and overrules in all their doings because He is their Creator with divine plan and purpose for their destiny. But God wants to be King in and by Jesus Christ — that is to say, He wants to be King by virtue not of His power, but of His love. He wants men to reverence and obey Him not because they are afraid of Him, not because they are out-witted and out-maneuvered by Him, not because they cannot help themselves, but because they love Him. It is reconciliation, union, oneness with man that the heart of God is after.
Let us meditate deeply upon these words: "Our Father...Thy Kingdom come." Whose Kingdom is it? Ah, it is "our Father’s" Kingdom. Not the Kingdom of the Lord God of the Old Testament, not the Kingdom of Yahweh, but the Kingdom of our Father. Of our Father it is written, "God is love." "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." In other words, God so loved the world that He BECAME A FATHER! "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." "Who hath delivered us from the rule of darkness, and hath transferred us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love." Oh, the Father’s Kingdom is a Kingdom of love! Yahweh’s Kingdom was a Kingdom of power. God wants to be King not because He is Creator, but because He is Father. He wants men to be obedient to Him, not because He has omnipotent power and can do anything He wants and have His way with men, but under the sweet constraint of love. God has been King by His position as Creator since the world began; but now He will become King by the position of Father. It is for this Kingdom that sons are instructed to pray — for the event in which all men everywhere shall realize what God’s Fatherhood means, for the circumstances in which men’s hearts shall be so touched by God’s love to them in Jesus Christ, that out of the response of their own hearts they shall return from the far country to Father’s house and out of a pure and genuine affection will render Him a willing and glad obedience.
THE KINGDOM — PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
The prayer, "Thy Kingdom come," points to the Kingdom as something still to be realized. How can that which is already fully realized be requested to come? As yet it is in some way in the future. And yet, in other places in the scriptures it is spoken of as actually existent, a present reality. How can this be? The reality is, both premises are true — the Kingdom is both present and future. There are many indications that for Jesus the Kingdom of God was not only future but present, not only coming but already beginning to come. According to Mark, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming good news from God and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the good news." A number of eminent scholars believe that Mark’s Greek requires it to be translated, "The Kingdom of God has come." For example, "If I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the Kingdom of God come upon you," or "has overtaken you" (Goodspeed), or "has reached you already" (Moffatt).
Again, "Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go (or "are going" — Moffatt, as also Goodspeed) into the Kingdom of God before you" — not will go into some future Kingdom some day, but are even now entering the Kingdom that is. I do not hesitate to tell you that the Kingdom of the Father came when Jesus of Nazareth appeared among men. It came in the truth that He revealed. It came in the love that He made manifest. It came in the redeeming power that worked through Him, by which the blind were made to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the dead to live again, and the poor had good news brought to them and the sinful and despairing were lifted up into a new life of hope and glory. This power is now in the world, available to all men and able to save to the uttermost. The Kingdom of God is here! It is for us to receive it "as a little child," as Jesus said.
You remember that when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God should come, He answered, "The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation...for lo, the Kingdom of God is within you." The Pharisees were treating as future what was already present. The Kingdom of God was right there within them if they could have understood it. "But," you object, "surely the Kingdom of God was not within those carnal, hateful, legalistic, Christ-rejecting Pharisees!" Some say that the correct translation should be: "For the Kingdom of God is in your midst," or "among you," meaning that the Kingdom was present in their midst in the person of Jesus, "among" them but not "within" them. It cannot be denied — the Kingdom was indeed present among them in the very life of the Son of God, the King of glory! But that is not the meaning of this passage.
The clearest meaning of the Greek can always be ascertained by usage. The way a word is used reveals its true meaning — the meaning that the Holy Spirit of inspiration puts upon it, not the meaning our English translators give it. It is a thing of wonder — the Holy Spirit has faithfully, powerfully and indisputably recorded for us the precise meaning of the word here translated "within". The Greek word is ENTOS meaning simply, according to Strong’s concordance, "inside; within." The word is used in only one other place in the whole New Testament, in Matthew 23:26. It is the Lord Jesus Himself that uses the word on both occasions, and notice what He says. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within (entos) the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." No one can argue that ENTOS means "in the midst" or "among" in this place — it clearly means "within". "Within" is contrasted with the "outside" of the cup and platter and plainly speaks of the pollution within the hearts of men, not in their midst or among them. The evil in men is not something apart from them or outside of them but something rooted deeply in the inward nature.
The question follows — how could Jesus say to the same Pharisees that both corruption was within them and the Kingdom of God was within them! It sounds like a contradiction. But it isn’t. Paul spoke of a dual reality within man when he said, "For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my (spiritual) mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom. 7:22-23). Little wonder that he cried out, "O wretched man that I am!" It is really very simple. The carnal, soulish heart of man is the seat of all uncleanness, just as the deeper spirit of man is the root of all godliness. So it is not surprising that the Pharisees failed to discover the presence of the Kingdom within them, for they were not walking after the spirit, but after the flesh. Yet they were potentially capable of either.
So note — not to the disciples who followed Him and kept His sayings, but to the Pharisees in their spiritual blindness He spoke these amazing words: "The Kingdom of God is within you." Yes, the Kingdom was indeed "within them," as a bright and radiant possibility. This appeals to me, in a sense, as the most beautiful thing Jesus ever said. Consider what the Kingdom of Heaven was in His thought — the most pure, and perfect, and heavenly of all existing possible realities; then consider that He said this to His implacable enemies, and to the men, who, in their lives, exemplified the exact opposite of what He had come to reveal and establish. Within these men — religious intellectuals and scholars, hypocrites, men hateful and hating — there slumbered this lovely and lovable thing — the Kingdom of the spirit. They were possible members of that Kingdom; in their spirits were all the materials necessary for the development of the Kingdom of God. I cannot emphasize too strongly that the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of the spirit, for God is spirit. Buried deep within every man is the spirit that has come from God, for every man is body, soul, and spirit.
The Bible says that "God is the Father of the spirits of all flesh" (Num. 27:16; Heb. 12:9). We might ask, "Who, really, is entitled to think of God as Father?" God is the Father of all men. Some men walk as children of the devil, for they walk after the flesh, after the serpent nature. But God is still the Father of their spirit. There is a special sense in which God is the Father only of those who are reborn of Him through the Holy Spirit of re-generation. To these He gives, in a blessedly unique sense, the "spirit of adoption" or the revelation of their sonship, whereby they cry, "Abba, Father!" The Holy Spirit quickens their spirit to know that they are sons of God and to enable them to walk in that realm. Nevertheless, the fact remains, universal and unalterable, that God is the Father of the spirits of all men. If we had no spirit from God the Holy Spirit would be unable to quicken our spirit and make it alive unto Him. Father Adam is declared by the Spirit of inspiration to be "the son of God" (Lk. 3:38). He is indeed a "prodigal son." But not withstanding his disobedience and banishment from Father’s house, he has never ceased to be a son; the Father, notwithstanding His anger and punishment, has never ceased to be a Father. And He is a loving and tender and gracious Father who waits patiently for every prodigal to come home. And they will come home! Blessed be His name. How precious beyond words to express is the blessed truth that God life abides within every man down in the depths of his spirit, although most men walk not after the spirit, but after the flesh. It is there, in man’s spirit, that the Kingdom of Heaven is to be found. There is the root, the base, the seed, the fountainhead of God’s life and God’s rule. The Kingdom of God is truly within every man — but he knows it not, and therefore walks unheeding its claims and powers. But if ever he discovers that Kingdom of Life and Light and Love he discovers it within as his spirit is quickened by God’s Spirit, his consciousness awakened to the Kingdom of the spirit within.
While the Kingdom of God is thus present, it is also still future. Its full realization has yet to come. So long as there is in this world one man who has not surrendered unto the spirit of Christ, so long as there is a single area of life that has not been brought into subjection to the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, so long will the Kingdom be unrealized, so long shall we need to pray this prayer, "Thy Kingdom come!" All the misery of this world is due to the fact that there are still multitudes of men and women walking after the flesh, there are whole arenas of human activity that are not birthed out of, or controlled by, the Spirit. The Kingdom is still imperfect, incomplete. Its full establishment lies in the future somewhere. Until that full establishment takes place, until God is experientially King everywhere and over everybody and everything in the union of love, the world’s "golden age" will not have arrived. For the elect of God the Day has dawned! The Sun of Righteousness has arisen within our hearts! Our old heavens and our old earth have passed away. We live now in a New World, we sing now a New Song, our night has turned to Day. Darkness has flown away, sin and sorrow and death are swallowed up, God has wiped all tears from off our faces, and all things are made new! This is the present glorious and eternal reality of the sons of God in this wonderful Day of the Lord! This is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory of God within His chosen ones.
If I did not believe in the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God in all realms and everywhere and over every thing throughout the vastnesses of infinity, and if I believed that this world was to continue to be misruled and misgoverned as it is; if I believed that sin and sorrow and death and wicked men and vile institutions were to continue unto the end, I should despair of humanity and of God. But God never gives up. God reigns! The good news which our Lord Jesus Christ came to preach is "good tidings of great joy to all people." Praise God for the good news! God reigns! — that is the good news. God shall be Victor! God shall put every enemy under His feet and our feet! He is Lord of ALL!
The gospel that Jesus preached was the gospel of the Kingdom. He announced that He had come to found a Kingdom; He claimed the title of King for Himself; and in the Sermon on the Mount He gave us the laws, the principles, the very constitution of that Kingdom. Well, what kind of a Kingdom is it? Across millenniums of time the answer of the great apostle Paul rings clear: "The Kingdom of God is Righteousness and Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost." There you have in one sublime statement the essence of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is righteousness, or, in other words, right-ness. There is cruel wrong in this world of ours. Man wrongs man, brother oppresses brother, nations war against and oppress one another, bosses become hard taskmasters, taking advantage of employees, pastors lord it over the flock and control and manipulate congregations, husbands beat and abuse their wives. The low realms of the earth are full of cruelty, maliciousness, violence and crime, and even in the midst of those who name the name of Christ there is iniquity also. But the Kingdom of God is righteousness and when His Kingdom comes tyranny, oppression, strife, injustice and wrongs cease — men do right out of the loving nature of the King who reigns within. Forgiveness of sins does not secure such a transformation, but when the Kingdom of God comes with power there is a mighty change!
Righteousness is right attitude, right motive, right living out of the spirit. You see, my beloved, it is not just righteousness by man’s standard, not external obedience to the law, not outward conformity to society’s norms, not mere human goodness. There is more than one kind of righteousness. Paul says, "For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Rom. 10:3). The Kingdom of God is "righteousness...IN THE HOLY GHOST!" It is the righteousness that comes by a new spirit, a right spirit, or Holy Spirit. It is the righteousness of God Himself, a new nature. You can know righteousness, peace, and joy through the Holy Spirit while you live in America, Europe, China, Africa, or any place on this earth. These are not realities in heaven or in the millennium. The Holy Spirit does not say that "the Kingdom of God is righteousness...IN THE MILLENNIUM." Nor does He say, "The Kingdom of God is righteousness...in the KINGDOM AGE." Too long preachers and believers have interpreted the Kingdom of God as a future, physical, materialistic Kingdom, ordered by external laws, attainable in a future age or after death. God wants you to understand today that His Kingdom is not to be sought in that realm. That would make His Kingdom too cheap, materialistic, natural, worldly and earthly. All that the Kingdom is is IN THE HOLY GHOST! That is why it is both the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. God is spirit, high above the earthly realm. Heaven far surpasses a place or locality somewhere out in the universe. Heaven is not a planet beyond the Milky Way. Heaven is a real dimension — the dimension of God’s own life. Heaven is the result of the presence of God and we can know and experience that realm right here on earth. When you enter into the consciousness of God by the spirit you have stepped upon the territory of the Kingdom. It is in the Holy Ghost. Hallelujah!
The Kingdom of God is peace — peace in the heart, peace of soul, peace with God, peace between men, peace between nations. What is peace? Is peace real? What is its appearance? Have you ever seen peace? Is it long or short? Is it fat or skinny? Ah, peace is spirit. You cannot see peace apart from its effect upon people and circumstances. You can know when peace is present. You can sense peace, but you cannot touch or handle it. There is more than one level of peace. There is a soulish peace which men experience in a psychological way. It is a peace generated out of the conditioning or influencing of the mind, will, emotions and desires. It is the peace attained on a restful vacation, in the silence of the evening watching a sunset, on a psychologist’s couch, relaxing with the television at night after the kids are all tucked in, or hiking a mountain trail. These and many other things give peace — but none of them have anything whatsoever to do with the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not just peace — it is peace IN THE HOLY GHOST. It is God’s peace. It is heaven’s peace. It is divine peace. It is peace that passeth understanding. It is peace that rules our lives and keeps our hearts in the very midst of calamity, pain, disappointment, trouble, problems, difficulties and testings. It is a peace so deep that it comes only out of the spirit. It holds us steady, calm and confident in the blasts of hell. It is peace in the Holy Ghost. It is the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven!
The Kingdom of God is joy. Can joy be found in the world today? Certainly. But just as there is more than one kind of righteousness and more than one kind of peace, there is more than one type of joy. There is a superficial soulish joy experienced by every man, woman and child on earth irrespective of whether they be saint or sinner, moral or immoral, or what god they serve. It is the joy of a loved one coming home, the joy of a wedding, the joy of a newborn baby, the joy of the amusement park and the dance floor, the joy of delightful children who are an honor to their parents, the joy of accomplishment and recognition. Soulish joy is often a religious joy inspired by the singing of peppy choruses over and over and the clapping of the hands. There is nothing wrong with such joy, but if it can be "worked up" it is soulish, not spiritual. While such activity may be done "as unto the Lord" it should not be confused with the Kingdom of God. Many good things bring soulish joy to our lives, but none of these have any relationship to the Kingdom of God. You see, the Kingdom of God is not merely joy — it is joy IN THE HOLY GHOST. It is God’s joy. It is heaven’s joy. It is divine joy. It is spiritual joy. It is joy unspeakable. We are the people of God. We are the vessels that contain the Spirit of God. To have a conscious revelation of what Christ is in you arouses the consciousness of the Kingdom of God. When you walk in the spirit you are walking in the power of the Kingdom of Heaven. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:17). The sons of God are also called "the sons of the Kingdom." When the Holy Spirit rules us, what other son could we be? The Spirit of Christ has come to rule our senses and our body. Christ is being raised up within us as the personality and power of our lives. We can now live and walk above every storm and trouble, above all weakness and limitation, yea, above even sin and death! Tears are wiped away from off all faces and there is joy unspeakable and full of glory as the Kingdom rules our lives!
Truly the Kingdom of God is IN THE HOLY GHOST!
To be continued...
J. PRESTON EBY
Table of Contents
J. Preston Eby
P.O. Box 371240
El Paso TX 79937-1240
All writings are distributed on a free-will basis.
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