KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
INCREASE OF THE KINGDOM
THE PROGRESSION OF THE KINGDOM
LIKE A SEED
THE INCREASE OF THE KINGDOM
A Pentecostal, Charismatic or Fundamentalist Christian who has been fed the "dispensationalist" scheme of things has only a future concept of the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, there are those who preach a "right now" word about the Kingdom, the present reality of the Kingdom, but conclude that the present expression and manifestation of the Kingdom is all there is. They have no concept of any progressive or future dimensions of the Kingdom. I do not hesitate to tell you, my beloved, if what I have seen of the Kingdom up till now is all there is, then the Kingdom will never be victorious, triumphing in all realms! If the present activity and power of the Kingdom is all there is, I believe I have reason to fear that it will never break in pieces, subdue and consume all other kingdoms as the prophets have prophesied, and all nations will never come to worship before the Lord, God's will will never be fully done on earth as it is in heaven, and God will never be all in all!
Those who read these lines are, for the most part, God's very elect, a people beloved of the Father, a people chosen and predestinated to sonship, the most enlightened and obedient people out of all the children of God on the face of the earth. But if what you and I currently have in God is all there is, then the power and glory of the Kingdom is most limited, and the hope of creation is cut off. There is a glory yet to be revealed in us! There is a manifestation of the sons of God that all creation is still groaning and travailing to see. There is an age, and there are ages yet to come of Kingdom increase, for it is in those glorious ages to come that God shall put on display before the whole creation, in and through the saints, what are the riches of His grace and kindness toward all men (Eph. 2:7), and of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end (Isa. 9:7), and in the dispensation of the fullness of times He shall gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him (Eph. 1:10).
Unknown to mankind as a whole, yet clearly revealed in the prophecies of the scriptures, the plan of God for man's salvation, transformation and eternal happiness has been progressing steadily onward in an orderly and systematic manner. The experience of evil, man's participation in the heartbreak of sin and the anguish of death, God's dealings with Israel, the sending of the Son of God into the world as the Redeemer, the formation of the Church and the preparation of the sons of God have all been steps in God's great plan. They have all been paving the way for the glory that shall be revealed when God shall set His hand to save all the nations, restore all things, and fill the whole earth with His glory as the waters cover the sea.
We can only grasp God's great plan of the ages when we understand that God has a goal and a timetable by which He works, and His dealings with men are different at various times and stages of history, according to the need, in order to advance His Kingdom program. God has manifested His power and glory in different ways at different times and for different purposes. As the great pendulum of the ages has relentlessly ticked away the centuries and millenniums one second at a time, God's Kingdom has come, and continues to come from glory to glory, from realm to realm, from stage to stage, until it shall be all-triumphant and all-encompassing. The great and glorious consummation of the Kingdom has not yet come, but it is coming, it is on the way, and it is right on schedule. When God's timetable reaches a certain point, His dealings with mankind will again undergo a dramatic change. His power and glory will be manifested in an altogether different way from what it has been during the age now ending. We are right now standing at the point of transition into the new age of God's great Kingdom purposes!
Every time God brings a fresh revelation and new experience to His people many of them are prone to say, "This is IT! This is the ultimate truth and the crowning glory of God! This is what it is going to be!" At the beginning of this past century when God brought the baptism in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues, many of those people believed that such was the last great move of God. They had come out of Holiness and Evangelical Churches and the Lord led them into a blessed new experience. Very quickly they settled down in it. For fifty years they organized and systematized it and Pentecost became one of the more respected denominations among the church systems.
In 1948 God moved again with power and great glory. It was called "Latter Rain." Rain, whether it be the former or the latter, or showers between, is the Lord coming to His people. The Lord Himself came in the Rain! When this outpouring began, again we found many people believing that was it, this was God's greatest and final move, and thousands have settled for the blessings and manifestations which characterized that move of the Spirit as being permanent. Already the clammy arms of the sectarian octopus have crushed its vitality and sucked the life-blood from it.
So God moves on! God brought Luther out of the Roman Catholic denomination, but God did not desire to stop there. The Holy Spirit drew the Wesleys out of the Church of England, but again He did not stop there. Latter Rain was unquestionably a shower of great refreshing and quickening power, but God did not stop there, and He is not stopping with any of the present-day movings, manifestations or dealings of His Spirit. His pathway is ever onward and upward, from glory to glory. What anticipation this stirs in our hearts! The fact is -- there will never be any stopping with God for He ever moves ahead, and "of the increase of His government and peace THERE SHALL BE NO END" (Isa. 9:7).
The present emphasis of the Holy Spirit is upon the imminent manifestation of the sons of God. We are privileged to be living in blessed days of preparation for this grandest of all events, days fraught with holy and awesome responsibility for God's elect. But I would be remiss if I failed to acquaint the saints with the fact that even the placing of the sons of God is not the last revelation, nor the final act, in God's great drama of the ages. It is easy for the apprehended ones to settle down in the beautiful hope of sonship to God. But God will move on, beloved, making sonship, too, but a stepping-stone to realms higher and grander, for, as sonship is not the ultimate reality or position in the natural life, neither is it in the spiritual life. We praise God for the call to sonship, and with bated breath await the glory of its unveiling, but the crowning glory of God remains to be demonstrated in the age of the ages yet to come. Saints of all ages have stood in awe, wondering in great amazement as in spirit they caught faint glimpses of the divine mystery of God's purpose of the ages, and deep within my ransomed being lies the sacred knowledge that even this marvelous reality of sonship, glorious and far-reaching as it is, is NOT THE ULTIMATE IN GOD!
God has put His hand to the task; He is ready to grasp the whole world and, through the ministry of the manifested sons of God, switch it onto another track, changing its course and destination. I tell you, dear ones, we are not waiting nor preparing our hearts in this hour to behold the dawn of the Kingdom; as sons of God we are laborers together with God in inaugurating the next stage of the Kingdom. We shall work and work, minister and minister, reign and reconcile and bless and deliver and transform all nations and all men and all realms and all worlds and all ages until we accomplish the end. "Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, until He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:24-26). If it takes a week, a month, a year, a decade, a century, a millennium, a billion years or a trillion years, it matters not one whit -- the Kingdom of God shall increase and expand and triumph until that blessed day when from pole to pole and from sea to sea and throughout all the unbounded heavens everywhere God shall be ALL IN ALL.
Let the truth sink deeply into the heart of every saint of God who now reads these lines, the great and glorious truth that GOD HAS A PLAN. God's plan is His aionian plan, His wonderful PLAN OF THE AGES. God is not an experimenter doing test procedures and making trial runs, driven to His wit's end by clever and cunning enemies, just doing the best He can as occasion demands. Let the notion forever perish from our minds that God is something like a chess player arduously straining for opportunities to out- maneuver an expert opponent (the devil). Oh, no! The great Architect of the ages drew out His plan before ever He commenced the vast work of creation and redemption, and those plans were complete, in both principals and details, long before He spoke the first angel or atom into existence. The wonderful goal of creation, and the methods and means for attaining that goal, were settled before ever a star twinkled in the night sky or brook babbled over mountain rocks. In this wise and magnificent plan the UNSEARCHABLE WISDOM of God is exhibited, His INEXHAUSTIBLE RESOURCES revealed, His INFALLIBLE JUDGMENT displayed, and His IRRESISTIBLE POWER manifested. And now, in the midst of our present distresses and travail, our faith quietly rests in the blessed assurance that the end will justify God in all His ways. The triumphant declaration of the prophet is, "As for God, His way is perfect," and "He maketh my way perfect" (Ps. 18:30,32).
THE PROGRESSION OF THE KINGDOM
From the very heart of events from the morning of creation there can be observed a gradual development of everything that came from the hands of the omnipotent Creator. From the lips of the almighty Elohim came that irresistible command of the word of God, "Let there be!" And there was. But it was not a single command, the heavens and the earth were not formed in an instant nor fashioned in one day, by one divine word. Again and again there issued forth the majestic proclamation, "Let." "Let there be light." "Let there be a firmament." "Let the waters be gathered." "Let there be lights in the firmament." "Let the waters bring forth." "Let the earth bring forth." "Let us make man." Dispensations had come and gone with their Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets before our Lord Jesus explained to the inquiring Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." And now through the dreary years of every century since Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God with power and birthed His anointed body in the earth, the blessed Holy Spirit has been planting within the believing hearts of men and women the seed and power of that ever-increasing Kingdom and, wonder of wonders, yet true to God's progressive purpose of the ages, that incorruptible seed is ready to bring forth a company of sons of God in the fullness of the nature, power and glory of God's firstborn Son and Christ.
It cannot be otherwise! All things have a beginning, followed by various stages of development, formation, growth, and increase until ultimately comes the fullness and perfection. Space travel did not begin by sending a man to the moon. Men first jumped off cliffs, trying to fly with crude, homemade wings. Then men flew in balloons. The Wright brothers invented the first airplane, and other types of aircrafts followed until the Russians startled the world by sending their Sputnik into orbit around the earth, inaugurating the space age. Today we are sending space probes throughout our solar system, and it is only a matter of time, if God permits, until Star Trek will move from science fiction to living reality. Can we not clearly see by this how it is that each and every step was required in the grand and epochal work of creation and redemption. For six thousand years the race has witnessed the natural evolution of civilization, human government, science, economics, medicine, and technology. Nothing ever happens overnight! But all things move inexorably forward.
How old is this earth of ours? How long were each of the creative "days" in which the word of God brought forth the things now seen and enjoyed by mankind? Nobody knows of a certainty, but the evidence is on the side of antiquity, a million years might be conservative. It takes a vast stretch of time -- eons, indeed -- to produce coal and diamonds and a variety of other natural resources of earth. It reminds me of a story I read once about a little boy with a small shovel. He was trying to clear a pathway through deep, new-fallen snow in front of his house. A man paused to observe the child's enormous task. "Little boy," he inquired, "how can someone as small as you expect to finish a task as big as this?" The boy looked up and replied confidently, "Little by little, that's how!" And he continued shoveling. Progression is a divine principle rooted in the very way of our omniscient Creator! He took seven days (epochs, periods) to create this world in all its beauty and splendor. Notice how He began by creating first the grass, then the herbs, and then the trees, followed by the sea creatures, then the winged fowl, then cattle, then the great beasts, and finally the greatest miracle and crowning work of all -- man in the likeness and image of God! The implications of such a marvelous, precise and determinate process is staggering to the imagination, and it is small wonder that our elder brother, whose name is The Word of God, by whom and through whom all things were made, has instructed us with these words of wisdom and understanding, "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (Mk. 4:26-28).
God is revealing His Kingdom plan to us piece by piece, revelation by revelation, and from each piece of the puzzle revealed to us, we know that the entire, completed picture will be beyond our wildest imaginations! I do not profess today to have all the pieces of the puzzle nor to understand all the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. But of one thing I am very confident -- I do possess the next piece of the puzzle! And so do all the sons of God! I can assure you today that the next thing on God's agenda is the manifestation of the sons of God! The ministry of God's Son-company will bring to pass the subduing of the living nations of earth to the dominion and glory of the Kingdom until the heavenly words are fully fulfilled, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign to the ages of the ages!" (Rev. 11:15).
When our lovely Lord Jesus came into this sin-cursed world bringing the word and power of the Kingdom, He ushered in a new and glorious age. But it should be clearly evident to all who have eyes to see and hearts to understand that the blessings of the new order did not, and have not, come to all men. Even in Jesus' day not all the blind received their sight, not all the lame were healed, not all lepers were cleansed, not all demons were cast out, and only a few dead were raised. Multitudes of deformed, sick, diseased, tormented, sinful, lost, and dead men in Palestine remained untouched by the life of the new-born Kingdom of God. Rome remained pagan and the unnumbered millions of humanity of all the nations throughout the ends of the earth had not even heard that God had sent a Redeemer and a Christ! The saving power of the Kingdom was not universally operative. It was resident only in Jesus and His "little flock" of footstep followers. The mighty signs of the Kingdom wrought by Jesus and His early disciples were but a token, an earnest, a parable and prophecy, not the fullness nor the consummation.
It is very doubtful that any in those days had the remotest idea that it was the Father's intention to take the next two thousand years to complete the great work of preparing the kings of the Kingdom. Jesus came to bring in the new age of the Church, the seedbed in which the Kingdom could grow and develop to its next stage. When the conditions are fully ripe for this next stage of the Kingdom, this age will completely pass away. How our glad hearts rejoice in the sacred knowledge that we are standing even now at the door of the next new age and the greater glory of the Kingdom that it brings! Oh, the wonder of it! Sonship! Sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ receiving power over the nations to rule them with a rod of iron! Sonship is the hope of all creation and the joy of the Father's heart. The manifestation of the sons of God is now ready to bring to fruition the desire of all nations. The hopes and dreams of all the years for peace and righteousness and blessing and life upon the teeming billions of the nations of this benighted planet are met in the unveiling of God's sons, the increase of the Kingdom for the new age.
When all the ages have passed, and the sun has set on every progressive stage of the unfolding of God's glorious Kingdom, there will be no more deaf or blind or leprous or demon possessed or crime or violence or wars or sin anywhere. Death shall be swallowed up in life! Here we discover the mysterious law of the Kingdom. Its blessings entered the old age of the law, introducing a new order of life for all who would believe. This new order of the Spirit that Jesus brought is not the final age, nor even the age before the last age! The blessing and glory of each new age is rooted in the previous age and springs forth from it. The new age of the Kingdom upon the nations is not by any stretch of the imagination the closing dispensation in God's great plan of the ages. Oh, no! A new age is hidden in this present age, as the blade is hidden in the seed, and another even more glorious age is hidden in the new age now dawning, just as the stalk is hidden in the blade. Another age will proceed from that age and on and on and on until the dispensation of the fullness of times (Eph. 1:10). Thus did the Holy Spirit speak through the apostle Paul, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ: and hath raised us up and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show (demonstrate, put on display, reveal) the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus...that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things into Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him" (Eph. 2:4-7; 1:10). The issue is not in doubt. The Kingdom of God moves onward from stage to stage, from age to age, to its inevitable triumph: THE RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS.
Well did Paul Mueller write: "As the ages unfold in harmonious and ordered progression, all the attributes of God will likewise unfold to be revealed in a vast and increasing manifestation. As we have already shown, grace is increasing as is righteousness, peace and joy. When one age ends, the spiritual characteristics of that dying age do not end. Rather, each divine aspect of the previous age is raised up to a higher spiritual level of fulfillment and is then carried over into the next age. Thus, the grace of God will not end with this age, but will increase because the Lord has raised it up to a higher order. All the other attributes of the divine nature that we have known in the past will not decrease but will be fulfilled in a greater measure, and manifest in increasing fullness to the saints of the new order." Amen and amen!
It is impossible that our Father of grace, mercy, love and power should endure forever the moral entanglements and spiritual darkness of the world. Creation would be a tragic failure if nothing better than our mixed circumstances of good and evil, of truth and error, or light and darkness were to continue forever. The present condition of the world does not justify its existence or vindicate the creation of man. There is something better to eventuate! The present is only tolerable as a stage in the vast process of God's creative genius. The forecast of scripture anticipates a time when evil will have run its course, and when all that remains obstinately and persistently evil shall meet with swift, severe, stern measures of judgment and doom. Jesus came into the world to "seek and to save that which was lost," to be the "Saviour of the world," and to "give life to the world." He was born, He lived, He taught, He labored, He worked miracles, He gave Himself a sacrifice for sin, He died, He rose, He ascended up far above all heavens, He poured out His Spirit, He sent forth His apostles to establish His Church, to raise up His body in the earth. And is that all? If so, it is not enough!
The very purpose of the Christ's coming demands something more. We are not satisfied with such a climax. So far as it goes, it is well, but it does not go far enough. Sin, sickness and death still stalk the world. If Jesus came to be the Saviour of the world, to give life to the world, but the world still lies in the power of the evil one, and is "not of the Father," -- something is missing! The nations are angry and there are wars and rumors of wars. Deceit, plunder, greed, lust, hatred, bigotry, tyranny, sorrow, pain, trouble and poverty plague all peoples and nations. If what we have had for two thousand years is all there is, and the last thing we are to see on earth is a miserable handful of Christians getting ready to die or be evacuated away to some far-off heaven somewhere, then Jesus' mission was a failure, and He might as well have remained in heaven so far as planet earth is concerned. If the ages of the future are to go on in endless repetition of what has been; if the age-long battle between Christ and Belial, between righteousness and evil, between the Church and the world is to continue forever with only slight advantages to one side or the other, but without a definite outcome of victory for one of the sides; if there is to be no progress or decisive and triumphant conclusion to the fact of Jesus Christ being the SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD, and the PRINCE OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH, then there is an incompleteness about the entire message of the Kingdom of God which is not to be reconciled with the omniscience and omnipotence of our heavenly Father. What is begun here on this planet is to be finished here! If Christ came to save the world and rule all nations with a rod of iron, then His work is not finished until the world is saved, and the nations are subjected to His glorious rule!
There should be no need to remind any who read these lines that there is much more to come for this sin-weary world! It is somewhat like touring a beautiful and spacious mansion. Entry into the foyer is only the beginning. It would be unfair and misleading to judge the whole house by what is first seen, or to conclude that nothing more remains to be seen. Likewise, it is unfair to judge the whole Kingdom of God from the standpoint of this present Church age. This age has been but the foyer, the introduction to the grand and glorious Kingdom of God! The extent of the riches of God's kindness and the excellence of His glory will only be revealed in the age and the ages to come as the Kingdom expands, unfolds, and intensifies from glory to glory. This age is but a small segment of the rule of God for the ages! This age is not the whole stage for that rule. It is merely the scenes in the First Act. In these few scenes a great drama is being played -- the outcome, however, is assured, for the Finger of God has been lifted up in the person of Jesus Christ. These scenes will give way to greater scenes when "the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father," and all creation shouts for joy at the manifestation of God's sons!
For those who lived during the Second World War and suffered the terrible consequences of that conflict, one of the most important days of this past century was D-Day. That was the day when the Allied Forces landed on the beaches of Normandy and won the decisive battle against Hitler's army. True, it would still take another year for V-Day, or Victory Day, to occur, but it was D-Day that delivered the death blow to the Nazi enemy and guaranteed its ultimate defeat. For all of us who live with sin, sorrow and death and who suffer the terrible consequences of their destructive power, the most important day in all human history took place some two thousand years ago just outside Jerusalem. That was our spiritual D-Day! For when Jesus walked out of the tomb alive He won within Himself and for every son of God and for all humanity the decisive battle over satan, sin, and death! Ah, we still see the effects of these enemies in our violence-filled world, in our broken-down and abusive relationships, in our weaknesses and fears, in our disease-ridden and aging bodies, and self-centered attitudes. But as surely as there has been a D-Day in the Kingdom of God, just that certain it is that there shall also be a V-Day! That's where the sons of God stand at this moment -- between D-Day and V-Day! The battle is on, but the victory is sure, and the sons of God are pressing their way forward to overcome all things in this great Day of the Lord. This glorious victory will herald the day of manifestation and usher in to the visible world the next stage of THE INCREASE OF THE KINGDOM!
Long centuries ago in far-away Babylon the aged prophet Daniel received this challenging and assuring word from the Lord: "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:3). Our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is the bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16). There are many other stars besides the Morning Star in God's glorious celestial realm, His spiritual heavens. Here the signification of stars is identified with the saints. Each member of God's elect is one star in God's spiritual universe. You are a star in God's economy! You are appointed to have an eonian fixed position in God's heavenly Kingdom as a star, as a shining one, as a luminary. There are different degrees of glory to the stars, "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory: so also is the resurrection of the dead" (I Cor. 15:41-42). As one star outshines another in glory so is it in the incorruptible Kingdom realm of God. Stars have different dimensions of glory. The greatest of all stars signified to us is as the Sun Himself, Jesus Christ our Lord. But there is a vast multitude of stars possessing differing degrees of glory in the Kingdom of God -- but they are all called "wise" stars and they all "turn many to righteousness," therefore they burn as bright lights in the Father's Kingdom. Stars are bright lights that give light where there is darkness.
I am sure most of my readers are familiar with the old song, "Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown?" There is no scripture to indicate that the saints will wear "starry crowns," but there is scripture which is greater by far! It is the privilege of all who treasure the beautiful hope of sonship to dwell upon the bright hope of this marvelous promise, "And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever." God's universe embraces all places. This little world of ours, and each star and sun and planet and moon are but tiny grains of sand on the seashore of infinity. Each one is small indeed in relation to all the rest of the systems, and in relation to limitless space. A conception of its magnitude can be gathered only from the stellar worlds themselves. What are those stars, in the likeness of which the wise teachers of righteousness are to shine to the age and beyond? How much brightness, and majesty, and length of days is involved in this analogy?
There are stars, as, for instance, Arcturus, which emits light equivalent to one hundred fifty-eight of our suns; Capella, one hundred eighty-five; and so on, until at last we reach the great star Rigel, in the constellation of Orion, which floods the celestial spaces with a brilliance fifteen thousand times that of the ponderous orb which lights and controls our solar system! Why, then, does it not appear more luminous to us? Ah, its distance is equivalent to thirty-three million diameters of the earth's orbit; and the latter is one hundred eighty-six million miles! Figures are weak to express such distances and sizes. It will be sufficient to say that its glowing light must traverse space as only light travels -- one hundred eighty-six thousand miles a second -- for a period of more than ten years before it reaches this world of ours. There are many other stars which are hundreds of light years from our solar system. A few years pass away, and all things earthly gather the mold of age and the odor of decay as the desert winds blow the swirling sands over the crumbling ruins of ancient empires. But the stars shine on in their glory as in the beginning. Centuries and cycles have gone by, kingdoms have arisen and slowly pass away. Yet the stars' brightness is not dimmed, nor their force abated. The dew of youth still seems fresh upon them. No faltering motion reveals the decrepitude of age. These shine on in undiminished glory through all the ages of time, for they are the lights of the ages.
Thus shall those wise and blessed sons of God shine who turn the inhabitants of the world to righteousness. Thus shall their ministry and their years roll on from age to age until that wonderful age of the ages, the dispensation of the fullness of times wherein everything in heaven and on earth and throughout all realms is gathered together into one in God's Christ and God becomes All-in-all. What glories lie beyond this, we cannot yet know, but methinks there will be more worlds, further universes, vast new creations from the hands of God and His sons who, in Christ, become the Word by which the creative power of God brings forth His pleasure and purpose forever. God has always been a Creator, for He has always been all that He is. God will always be a Creator, for should He stop creating, He would cease to be God!
Of this we may be sure: We who are redeemed have entered a progressive institution, a Kingdom in which stagnation will never enter. We will ever go on "from glory to glory," for "of the increase of His government...THERE SHALL BE NO END!" We will never come to the place where we can sit down with folded hands and say, "This is the end." The end of one creation, of one order, of one plan of the ages, will only bring us to the next. We who have been born into the heavenly realm, have entered a stage of action, we have become active agents in the greatest development program ever conceived. A whole universe awaits our touch and guiding hand. "What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put ALL in subjection under him, He left N-O-T-H-I-N-G that is not put under him. But we see not yet all things put under him (man). But we see Jesus crowned..." (Heb. 2:6-9). Surely these words can mean nothing less than UNIVERSAL DOMINION! Away out there in the blue is a Kingdom of life and light and love for every son of God to explore and develop and perfect. And if ever, in all the countless ages to come, that Kingdom should become too small or overcrowded for its citizens, let us remember that we, being as He is, are therefore, one and all, the very same kind of Beings as He who simply spoke the word, and lo! the present worlds appeared. Being like Him, we will also be creators, one and all, and not destroyers, as in our human state. "WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM."
God says that men enter His heavenly Kingdom by being born into it (Jn. 3:5). Men do not die to go to heaven, they are born there. And then after they are born into that state -- after they become heavenly beings -- they can lay up, by their obedience to the heavenly Father, heavenly riches which will not only be a place, but royal pomp and splendor and majesty and dominion beyond compare. Sonship does not only entitle one to residence in God's limitless and eternal domain, but to the ownership and rule of that domain. Ah, the sons of God are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ their Lord, who is the heir of all things! Oh, that it were possible to lift men up above the shadows, and give them just a glimpse of something higher! Mortal minds are so entirely inadequate; human eyes so dim; human ears so dull!
Heaven is not a mansion over the hilltop, nor the gratifying of the needs and desires of this vessel of clay. It is not that which will bring creature comfort. It is not a state of eternal creature enjoyment and rest. The celestial realm is something infinitely higher. It is eminence, power, majesty, glory. It is becoming the same kind of a Being as the One who made the worlds (Jn. 10:34-36; I Jn. 3:2), and will bring, not inactive rest with fluttering wings and strumming harps, but activities and accomplishments far surpassing that of earth's mundane limitations. And it includes kingship and priesthood over God's eternal and infinite domain. It is dominion and power and influence far above that which carnal minds can contemplate or even imagine. And then the place which we receive after entering this heavenly state is not heaven, but that which we receive as a consequence of our entrance into the celestial sphere. The place is the reward which faithful heavenly beings will receive as their very own, a part of their inheritance, heavenly real estate!
The stars are distant lights. They shine in other spheres. There is no doubt that vast numbers of these stars are "suns" like unto our own, the centers of great solar systems, with heavenly bodies that revolve around them, perhaps populated by beings of which we know nothing at this present time. Thus will it be in the Kingdom of the Son, in the spiritual heavens of God's universal and eternal dominion. Each son of God will be a star, a sun, shining forth in living and everlasting luster. Each member of the elect will faithfully radiate his beams of life and light and love, shining in those spheres which the omniscient Father shall allot to them. Thus each shall become the central star of a spiritual solar system composed of myriads of creatures in God's glorious creation which revolve around them, unto whom they shine as the revelation of God's nature, glory and power. And thus shall the scripture be fulfilled, "Then shall the righteous SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the Kingdom of THEIR FATHER. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Mat. 13:43). The Kingdom does not become the Kingdom of "the Father" until Christ, having put all enemies under His feet, including the last enemy death, delivers up the Kingdom to God, EVEN THE FATHER, and God becomes all in all (I Cor. 15:24-28). What glorious and ineffable prospects lie before us!
LIKE A SEED
The Word of God contains mysteries which little by little are opened to us like the opening of a rose. In His wonderful Kingdom parables Jesus revealed the great mystery of the progression of the Kingdom from stage to stage and realm to realm. He said, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof"(Mat. 13:31-32). Again, "Behold a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds (the word of the Kingdom) fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them. Some fell upon stony places...some fell among thorns...but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Mat. 13:3-9). And yet again, "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way..." (Mat. 13:24-25).
In this illuminating teaching Jesus reveals to His disciples the nature of the Kingdom of God. He teaches them how to know the mysteries of the Kingdom. What mystery is it? Ah, before anything else, it is the truth that the Kingdom comes as a seed into the midst of men, seemingly the smallest, most insignificant, weakest and most defenseless thing there is. It can be devoured by the fowls, it can choked by the thorns, it can be scorched by the sun, and sometimes it can hardly be distinguished from the tares. That is the secret of the Kingdom! But just as life lies hidden within a seed, and springs forth in power and unfolds in beauty and substance to become a mighty tree, so the Kingdom of God has entered this world in the person of Jesus Christ and now the world is full of the redemptive power of God.
What a wonderful thing is vegetation! Look at this tiny acorn. Little sign does it give of the vital energy locked up within it -- the costly diamond is more promising! But plant that diamond, plant it carefully in the richest of soil, under the most favorable conditions. Let your descendants ten thousand years hence visit the spot. No dazzling tree is there, flashing with countless jeweled leaves. Nothing is there but just what you planted -- an unchanged, cold, dead diamond, perhaps much depreciated in value. But the acorn -- an autumn wind sweeps through the forest; that little brown, seemingly dead acorn falls to the ground. The hoof of a browsing deer presses it beneath the sod. There it lies in its grave an unnoticed thing. But the germ of a great life is in it. The winter chill breaks away, amidst spring showers the sun warms the earth, the finger of its secret power touches its inner life, and, lo, the little brown nut is quickened, swells, bursts, roots, springs forth, grows, develops, and by the time your descendants visit the spot the whole earth is filled with mighty oaks! As the acorn embodies the tree in embryo, but is not the oak tree in extenso, so is the Kingdom in this age within the hearts and lives of God's elect. But God's elect shall, in due time, fill the earth with the power and glory of the Kingdom.
The mighty king Nebuchadnezzar beheld in a dream the same wonderful truth under another figure, and the aged prophet Daniel interpreted the king's dream with these words, "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:34-35). The revelation in this instructive experience of Nebuchadnezzar is that the Kingdom of God comes into the earth, smites the kingdoms of man until they no longer exist as the kingdoms of man, and the Kingdom of God increases until its glory and dominion fill the whole earth.
God has a wonderful plan for the earth! The firstborn Son of God came into the world, the cross of Christ was placed in this world, and Christ arose here, and poured out His Spirit here, and began to conquer the hearts of men here, and to build the new society of His Kingdom here. It is this effective power of the increase of the Kingdom in the earth that Jesus unfolds in His parables of the mustard seed and the other seeds. The seed is planted in the earth. The seed is very small but the tree is very great, the birds lodge in its branches and people seek shelter under its leaves. The Kingdom seeks the people and the ends of the earth and the heights of the heavens and the depths of the underworld. The Kingdom of God, which began as a small seed in these vessels of earth, has the very life of God in it. The Kingdom seed, which is Christ, is growing within us to become a great tree in the earth. The growing, increasing, and expanding Kingdom of God in the earth is forcing man out of the picture. And the mighty and all-glorious Kingdom of God shall continue to grow and expand in the earth, and in the whole universe, until there is nothing else, but only GOD. He shall fill all things with the glory that He is, until He shall truly be all in all.
A dear brother with whom we correspond shared the following in one of his letters. "I recently took a sack of acorns to my Sunday School class and passed them out. I asked the class what they could see in them. Then I compared the acorn to the word of the Kingdom. Starting small it produces an oak tree, which then produces many trees, which produce a forest. When man rightly "divides" the Word, bringing his chain saws, then planers, table top saws, jig saws, etc., from one acorn comes a fine home, then a subdivision, then an entire city. Inside the homes the acorn produces trim, shelves, closets, and beautiful furniture. All from one acorn, one seed -- and that seed is Christ!"
The notion that there is but one single age of the Kingdom, or the "Kingdom Age" as it is called, is foreign to scripture and contradictory to God's great purpose. God's Kingdom plan is a "plan of the ages," not one "Kingdom Age." The ages of the Kingdom of God stretch into infinity! "Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end" (Isa. 9:7). That doesn't sound like one age or a mere thousand years to me! Ah, the purpose of God is a purpose that encompasses the ages, and the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom that progresses and triumphs through the ages. As Jesus taught, it is like a farmer planting his seed in the soil. He makes the field ready and plants the seed in the ground. The seed lies buried under the earth, lost from sight, of course. If I had my way, I would expect a field full of corn tomorrow morning! After all, I put a lot of time and energy and money to prepare this soil and plant this seed. I did the right thing. I sowed the seed. An experienced farmer understands, however, that it is going to take time for the seed to sprout, to grow, to develop through all its stages, and ultimately bear fruit at harvest. The consummation doesn't come immediately nor instantly, but in season. Seedtime and harvest! That is God's method of operation in everything He does. It's been this way since the beginning, when God took six "days" to fashion the heavens and the earth, and it will continue to be His way throughout all the limitless ages. The Lord is ambitious. He enjoys growth and expansion! That is the way of His plan and purpose, always. Do not despair, precious one, if the work of God in you seems very slow. As long as there is some progress, however infinitesimal it may appear to the eye, GOD IS AT WORK! He will never leave you nor forsake you, He will not abandon the work of His hands, nor will He turn from His purpose in you. God will complete that good work He has begun in you! Oh, yes, He will! You see, this is the deep mystery of the Kingdom of God. Jesus has taught us that it comes like silent leaven, grows like a grain of mustard seed, develops like corn, which is "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear." Of the increase of His government and peace within you and in all the earth beneath and the heavens above, there shall be NO END! Eternal increase! God has only gotten started!
I heard a brother relate the following experience. He said, "It was 1977, and I really lost half my crop. It was a bad, bad year. It was so wet, I couldn't get half of it harvested and it didn't develop. So, at the end of the year, in October, I would walk through the fields and try to pick up a bushel here and a piece there. Then, I saw standing by itself a most extraordinary soybean plant. I walked over and I was shocked by its size and its good looks. I went and I carefully picked off the pods. There were 202 pods and I opened them and I counted out 503 soybeans and I took them home. I kept them in a pan all winter, and they dried out. The next spring they just seemed special to me. In 1978 I took those 503 soybeans and I planted them in a little plot behind my house. When October came I harvested 32 pounds! 32 pounds! I dried them out in the winter, and in 1979 I took those 32 pounds and planted them on one acre. When October came, I harvested. I had 2,419 pounds. Well, next spring was 1980 and I took those 2,419 pounds and planted them on 68 acres, which was all the land I had available. In October I harvested 2,100 bushels and cashed it out for $15,000 dollars! Now, one bean stalk four years later, $15,000 dollars. Not too bad, is it?"
What a beautiful modern day parable this is of the Kingdom of God! The extraordinary seed this farmer discovered in his field in the midst of desolation and ruin represents the only good seed to ever spring forth in the presence of the sin, darkness and death of earth's benighted ages. This good seed, this extraordinary seed, is our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God. It is a very good seed, for it is the germ of spiritual life. It is the incorruptible seed. When this seed was planted in the earth it began to grow vigorously and brought forth first the glory of the early Church. Then, from move to move, from visitation to visitation, from revival to revival, from dealing to dealing this seed has grown and multiplied and reproduced in the earth and now it is time for the cash crop that will bring blessing to all the families of the earth -- the manifested sons of God. The sons are the increase of the Kingdom of God within the Lord's elect. Within that first, extraordinary seed was a preview of the Kingdom when Christ with His entire body of sons will appear in the glory of sonship. And that, precious friend of mine, is how the Kingdom of God will also increase and expand from age to age throughout the ages of the ages with the unending increase of God! Think about it! Just as Jesus was the first seed for this age, bringing forth a harvest of many sons, so the sons are the first seed for the next age. What an increase of the Kingdom they will bring! And the harvest out of the age now dawning will be the seedbed for the age that follows after that. And of the increase of His Kingdom there shall be NO END!
Man's God gets
bigger each time a man grows.
His Lord becomes greater, the more a man knows.
One time, a lone mountain, His total domain.
He grew with His people, Their gain was His gain.
In Israel's small country, they centered His grace.
He stayed with His people, their place was His place.
He grew with their concepts, He grew with each thought.
Bigger and bigger grew all that He wrought.
From sacrificed creatures...to sacrificed wills.
From temple that held Him...to heavens to fill.
From war with the heathen...to love for all men.
He grew, and He grew, and He grew...again.
I know God is constant...His size cannot change.
And never, no mountain, could limit His range.
God's quart in our pint? Such greatness in man?
God shows us as much, each day, as He can.
A soul that is hard...sees not the Lord's kindness.
A person that's rude...sees not the Lord's fineness.
As children we're apt to misunderstand.
So oft' misinterpret, the heav'nly command.
We limit God's size... 'cause we are so stunted.
It's not the Lord's fault, that we are thus runted.
As we grow in grace...as we grow in love...
So groweth our God...we keep learning of!
By Bob Robin
(Used by permission)
To be continued...
J. PRESTON EBY
If you would like to receive these studies write to:
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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