FacebookTwitterRSS FeedPinterest

By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45am service, 2005-10-16

Text: Daniel 2:37-45

In this morning's message I hope, with the help of God's Word, to present to all of us such a captivating vision of God's kingdom, that we will always want to exult in its glory, yearn for it, and make every effort to enter the kingdom, seek it, suffer for it, and get involved in building it. Now, the word 'kingdom' is the keyword here, and it occurs about 342 times in the Bible, 158 of which are in the New Testament. Our Lord Jesus Himself used the word 'kingdom' many times. Even when He taught His disciples the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:10), He included in it the petition, 'Thy kingdom come.' And when He sent the disciples out to preach, it was to preach the Kingdom of God (cf. Luke 9:2,60). It is obvious that the Lord wants us to be a 'kingdom-minded' people.

But how exactly are we to be kingdom-minded? One difficulty that we have is that we often tend to associate the term 'kingdom' with the idea of a king sitting on an ornate throne in a grand palace, wearing flowing royal robes and a diamond-studded crown, with his queen and princes and princesses next to him, with many knights in shining armour, amid much royal pomp and majesty. And when these royal symbols of a kingdom are not evident or visible to us, we may wonder where God's kingdom really is. In ancient times, the monarchic form of government was predominant and it was very familiar to most people. But today, there are only 28 kingdoms left in the world (out of about 260 nations), and in the majority of those that remain, the king is merely a constitutional figurehead with no real clout or power. And so the word 'kingdom' may be a little obscure to most of us, and perhaps even difficult for us to fully identify with. 

Actually, what is to be understood by the word 'kingdom' in the Scriptures is not outdated but still very much relevant to our present time. It is meant to convey to us the idea of a leader or ruler and those who submit to his authority to rule over them. And so the kingdom of God must be understood in this sense - It is all about God's authority to rule over everything there is. But this begs the question: Why should there be any doubt at all about God's authority to rule? Is He not the sovereign Lord? Are not all things already under His full jurisdiction, since He created all things?

Here we have to distinguish two aspects of God's kingdom: The universal aspect and the earthly aspect. In the universal aspect, God is already governing the whole universe by His almighty power. His control of all things is absolute and no one can ever oppose His decrees successfully. Psalm 103:19 tells us, 'The LORD hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth over all.' Bible verses such as this one speak of the universal aspect of God's kingdom.

The earthly aspect of God's kingdom however, is not yet complete. It is still in the process of development. This consists of the voluntary submission given to Him by moral creatures on earth. And in this earthly aspect, we do not see the full establishment of God's kingdom yet. Although God is the rightful ruler of the whole earth, sin has caused others to claim their own authority to rule and govern this world, without any acknowledgement of God's authority over them. 

This is not something new, for it has been happening since the dawn of human history - e.g. the Tower of Babel, when all mankind banded together under the leadership of Nimrod to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:1-9). That attempt to build the first world empire and overthrow God's rule ended with the creation of different languages, the scattering of people to the various parts of the world, and the development of many civilisations. As each civilization developed, kingdoms and empires were formed with their own kings and rulers. 

Some kingdoms (e.g. that of King Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18, and Israel under King David) acknowledged God's rule over them, but most of the rest did not. They defied God's authority. And God sometimes saw it fit to demonstrate His sovereign right to rule by subduing kingdoms and humbling their rulers. One notable example of this in the Scriptures was the Babylonian Empire. Emerging in the year 626 BC, the Babylonians established themselves as the supreme overlords of the ancient world for about 80 years and left behind a lasting legacy on the world. 

Under their greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians defeated Egypt and took possession of the lands of Assyria, Syria, Phoenicia, Lebanon, and Israel, plundering their cities and bringing many people from these lands into captivity. With all the great wealth and manpower that he amassed from these conquests, King Nebuchadnezzar reconstructed the city of Babylon (formerly known as Babel) and he made it the largest and most well-fortified city on earth at that time (1,000 hectares in size). This city became famous for its fabulous architecture, which included the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Today, one part of this ancient city has been restored - it is the huge Ishtar Gate, which is now housed at a museum in Berlin.

Nebuchadnezzar's achievements were of such immense magnitude that he became the inspiration for many kings and rulers who lived after him, who aspired to become another Nebuchadnezzar. The latest of these is of course, the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who aspired to lead the whole Arab world. He is now on trial for the many crimes he committed during his ruthless regime.

Now, it was to such a king as Nebuchadnezzar that God chose to reveal the truth that human kingdoms are nothing when compared to the kingdom of God, and that all human kings must fully acknowledge God's authority over them. And the account of this is found in the book of Daniel. It all began with a strange dream that Nebuchadnezzar had. Although the king could not remember the dream when he awoke, it troubled him so much that he desperately needed to know what it was and what it meant. It bothered him so much that he called four different classes of advisors to help him recall the dream and interpret it for him. But none of them with all their wisdom and learning were able to do what the king now required of them.

Out of anger and utter frustration King Nebuchadnezzar issued a death sentence on all of them. Now this death sentence would also affect Daniel and his three friends who had not been there with the royal advisors when all this happened. They were God-fearing Jews whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into Captivity, and because of their God-given skills they had been promoted to be advisors to him. When they heard about the dream that the King had and the death sentence that he issued, they prayed together that God would reveal the dream and its meaning. And God answered their prayers by revealing it to Daniel (Dan 2:17-19).

Subsequently, Daniel was brought before Nebuchadnezzar and revealed to him both the dream and its meaning. In his dream the king had seen a huge statue that was made of different kinds of metals. The head was gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and thighs were brass, the legs were iron and the feet where iron mixed with clay. Then a stone hit the feet of the statue and destroyed it. And the stone replaced the statue and filled the whole earth. 

The interpretation of the dream was then given by Daniel. The five parts of the statue represented five kingdoms or empires that would come one after another. Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian empire was represented by the head of gold. But it would be replaced by another which was represented by the silver chest and arms. And this in turn would be replaced by another which is representated by the brass belly and thighs. 

By comparing this vision with ancient history, and with the rest of Scripture, we can now name each of the four empires that come after the Babylonian empire: The Medo-Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire and finally the Divided Empire, which will be derived from the Roman Empire. At the time of this divided empire God will set up His worldwide rule on earth, which will never be destroyed or replaced.

At the end of the account, Nebuchadnezzar was thoroughly overwhelmed that Daniel had been able to reveal his dream with full accurate details and even provide its interpretation. He could not help but to bow down to Daniel and said to him, 'Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets' (v.47). He then promoted Daniel to become the ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and the chief of all his advisors. 

But what we must not miss here is the impact of this vision on the king himself. Awhile ago we had seen that Nebuchadnezzar was one of the greatest kings in antiquity and that under him, Babylon reached its zenith of earthly glory. But now through this vision, he was made aware that his own kingdom's glory was only to be a passing glory, because it was represented only by the golden head. It will soon be followed by the rise and fall of other glorious kingdoms. And the final ultimate kingdom that will surpass all the rest will be God's kingdom. 

What a humbling vision this must have been to king Nebuchadnezzar! And what an amazing revelation it was to him of the awesome majesty, glory and power that God's coming kingdom was going to have. Let us analyse some of the characteristics of the kingdom of God that may have caused Nebuchadnezzar to wonder at its glory with awestruck amazement. The first characteristic of the kingdom of God is that:

1. It is set up by God Himself (v.44)

This was mentioned in v.44 'And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom.' This is definitely not true of all other worldly empires. They are set up by mortal men and not by God. However it is God who allows men the privilege of setting up kingdoms and exerting authority. Nebuchadnezzar was no exception, since he was told in vv.37-38 'Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath He given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.'

Nebuchadnezzar had foolishly thought that he was the one who had set up his own kingdom successfully, and that he had done it with his own power and ingenuity. In fact, later on as he walked in his palace and viewed the whole city of Babylon, he boasted, 'Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?' (4:30) Well, now in Daniel chapter 2 God plainly declared to him that he could build Babylon and his kingdom only as far as God had allowed him the privilege to do this. It was God who had made him king and who had given him authority.

The same thing is true of every human government in the world. Each can only rise up and exercise authority over a nation, only if God Himself graciously gives this privilege to the human government. This is the reason why we are told to submit ourselves to human authorities in Romans 13:1 ('Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.') Now, while God permits men to set up kingdoms on earth, the kingdom of God will not be set up by any man. It will be set up personally by God Himself.

It will be a kingdom where God Himself will personally come down to subdue the whole world to himself, and set up His own rule on earth. Other Bible passages tell us that this will happen when Jesus Christ returns. The stone that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream was therefore the Lord Jesus Himself. Let us look at 34-35 '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.'

Do you know that Jesus Christ is described in Ephesians 2:20 as the 'chief corner stone'? The apostle Peter also designated Him as the chief corner stone who is elect and precious to those who believe, but to those who are disobedient He becomes a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence (1 Peter 2:7,8). Hence, the stone in Nebuchadnezzar's vision represents Christ, who comes down to set up the Kingdom of God on earth.

Dearly beloved, let us learn something important from this: in the same way that the whole world must one day submit to Christ when He comes to set up His rule in the world, we ought to submit ourselves to His setting up of His rule in our hearts now. This is one personal application of what we have just learned about God's kingdom. Have you set up your own rule in your heart, or are you allowing Christ to rule there? Is Jesus truly the elect and precious chief corner stone in your life now, or is He a stumbling stone and rock of offence to you? Let us carefully seek to honour the Lord Jesus Christ in our life, and at all times!

Coming back to our study of the kingdom of God, we proceed now to consider another characteristic that makes it more glorious to us than any other kingdom on earth:

2. It shall never be destroyed - (v.44)

'And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed.' Let us consider this carefully for a moment - has there ever been any kingdom or government on earth that has lasted indefinitely? No, not at all. 

Whatever human governments that have existed, only endured at most for a few centuries before being replaced. The once proud and mighty Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires no longer exist today. You can only read about their glory and splendour in history books, and visit some of the ruins they have left behind. A few generations ago there was the British Empire. At one time people used to say that, 'The sun never sets on the British empire' because its interests and colonies could be found all over the world. Today Britain no longer enjoys such status. Another example is the Soviet Union, which used to be a fearful world superpower with great ambitions of turning the entire world to communism. But this came to an end 15 years ago. The Soviet empire disintergrated and the threat of communism is now replaced with the threat of terrorism.

Some regimes come to an end through war, and some through revolution. Many have fallen because of deep divisions and internal strife. One of the greatest weaknesses of worldly kingdoms is the question of leadership succession. Every change of leadership is bound to affect the future of a nation. Even a leadership that begins well may turn bad later on (e.g. King Solomon, King Asa). 

Against all this as a backdrop, we can now see the supreme glory of God's kingdom revealed here in the fact that it will be an indestructible kingdom. It will endure because the One who rules it never dies, and because His rule remains consistently righteous and incorruptible. And God's kingdom is not only indestructible, for we are told in Hebrews 12 that it is also unshakeable and unmovable - Hebrews 12:27-28 'And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.'

This verse also indicates to us the appropriate response that we ought to have now, to knowing that God's kingdom is indestructible - We must serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. Dearly beloved, if you are seeking to invest your life in something that is so strong and durable that it can never be destroyed, you can do nothing better than to invest it in the kingdom of God. Why devote so much of your toil and talents to earthly kingdoms that cannot last? Let them be expended instead for God's kingdom, and they will never be in vain!

Now we move on to the third characteristic of God's kingdom which is that:

3. It shall consume all the other kingdoms - 

In v.44 we are told that the kingdom of God 'shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms.' In Nebuchadnezzar's dream the stone was seen smashing the statue to smithereens. And when the wind had blown away all the debris, nothing was left of the great nations of the world. All that remained was the stone which grew into a huge mountain, and filled the whole earth (v.35). This shows us that in its final form, God's kingdom will not coexist with any other kingdom on earth. It will be the one and only kingdom on earth, and all will submit to God's government. This will be the rightful one-world government, which is God's government. 

While many nations have tried their best to join their hands together in big international bodies like the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the European Union, APEC, and G7, none of them have ever achieved complete world-side unity, because of the many differences between them. But where man has failed, Christ, the great King of kings and Lord of lords will undoubtedly succeed. His rule in this world will be completely all-encompassing and absolute. And the best part of all, is that we will actually have a role to play in ruling the entire world with Him! 

Dearly beloved, do you know that we who are saved in Christ are destined by God to enjoy great privileges that the most powerful men on earth can only dream of? This is stated in two verses: Daniel 7:22 'Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.' And Daniel 7:27 'And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.- The 'saints of the most High' in these verses refers to God's people. Our bodies will be changed into its new incorruptible, glorifed state, and we will then be able to rule the world with Christ.

What a glorious privilege will be ours to reign over this world together with our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:6)! It is not so much the prospect of being able to reign that should excite us, because ruling a world as big and complex this one can give a headache of global proportions if we attempt to govern it by ourselves. 

But the best part of all is our prospect of being able to reign together with our head, Jesus Christ - to be a part of His team, to sit with Him on His throne (Revelation 3:21) and colabour closely with Him in governing the whole world and exercising dominion over it! How thrilling it is to know that mere creatures of dust like us can actually enjoy such an excellent privilege as this one - to reign with our Lord Jesus Christ in His glorious kingdom! 

Dearly beloved, please let this thought inspire you to be kingdom-minded people from now onward, for God's kingdom is going to be yours, and you are destined to govern it with Christ - Hence your should treasure it and love it. And let your heart be moved to prize God's kingdom even more, as you add on to this the other 2 characteristics that we had seen earlier - that it is a kingdom set up by God Himself, and that it is an indestructible kingdom. Besides these, there is one more characteristic that we must consider: It is the one found at the end of v.44:

4. It shall stand forever - 

The kingdom of God is an eternal kingdom. It will even outlast the present earth that God created. After Christ's 1000-year reign on earth, His kingdom will be transformed into its final state of eternal bliss and glory. And the last two chapters of the Bible present a most wonderful picture of it - the new heaven and the new earth with the holy city, the new Jerusalem in the midst of them, having the glory of God. 

If you have time today, please read these two chapters carefully and try your best to imagine what God's kingdom will be like in eternity. And as you do this please bear in mind that even what you read there provides only a rough sketch of its glory, for no words or pictures can adequately convey to our minds the immense glory of its appearance, its structure, its worship, and its fellowship. 

Listen now to Revelation 22:3-5 'And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: And they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.'

Dearly beloved if what you have heard this morning about the glory of the indestructible kingdom has captivated your mind and your heart, then please consider what you should be doing now for this kingdom, and particularly for the Church. 

The Church of Jesus Christ is the present form of God's Kingdom. Jesus Christ reigns in our hearts, and He also rules over each local church, adding precious souls that are saved to them, and equipping them with spiritual gifts to edify the rest. At our church anniversary service here next Lord's Day, we will give our praises and thanks to God for having done this in Life Church for the past 55 years. Truly we must marvel at God's grace in building His kingdom here in our midst. 

But we should also consider His work beyond Life Church to see what He is doing in the universal Church. The universal Church comprises of all true born-again believers from every age of history, and from all over the world who belong to Christ. And this entity is also God's indestructible kingdom, for Jesus Himself said in Matthew 16:18 'upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' 

Dearly beloved, let us commit ourselves to do our part well for the kingdom of God now. Don't be slack in your service as a member of this great awesome enterprise of God, but give of your best unto the Lord, the King. May the Lord stir us up to greater heights of love and good works for His glory.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25