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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30 am service, 2004-07-04

Text: Colossians 1:13

The word kingdom occurs 342 times in the Bible, 158 of which are in the New Testament, as in this verse. Although there are few monarchies left in the world what is meant by the word 'kingdom' is still very much relevant to our present time. It is simply the idea of a ruler and those who submit to his rule. When we speak of the kingdom of Christ we are therefore referring to His authority to rule. Whenever we pray the Lord's Prayer (as we did earlier in this service) we are reminded of God's authority to rule in the petition 'Thy kingdom come'. This petition is our desire for God's authority to rule to be firmly established on earth. But why should there be any question at all of God's authority to rule? Are all things not 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 the Lord governs the whole universe by His almighty power. His control of all things is absolute and no one can oppose His decrees. Even king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, one of the greatest kings who ever lived in history, was humbled and subdued to admit in Dan 4:34,35 - 'I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?'

Now, if God's authority to rule is already so firmly established as even Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged, why then do we pray the petition 'Thy kingdom come' in the Lord's prayer? It is because there is the other aspect of God's Kingdom - the earthly aspect. This consists of the voluntary submission given to Him by moral creatures here on earth. And in this earthly aspect, we do not yet see the full establishment of God's kingdom. This is because right now there are actually two existing kingdoms on earth, namely the kingdom of Satan, and the kingdom of God.

I. The Kingdom of Satan

Our Lord Jesus Christ referred to the kingdom of Satan in Matthew 12:25,26 - 'And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?'

The apostle Paul gave further details of the authority that Satan claims, to rule over men: 'Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.' (Ephesians 2:2-3)

In these verses we see that the subjects of Satan's kingdom consists of all unredeemed humanity. The whole world of fallen mankind that is characterised by sin, and in rebellion against God, is the realm of Satan's rule. 

How did it come to be like this? Ever since Adam and Eve submitted themselves to his authority in their first sin. Since then every man woman and child have been citizens of Satan's rule of darkness on earth, held in his power by the cruel bondage of sin in their lives. And though they do not know it and would very much deny it, all who are not saved are under Satan's control. Now, this does not mean that people around us have no control of themselves or are demon-possessed. It means that Satan easily uses their natural inclinations and sinful desires to manipulate them to do his will. 

The Book of Esther tells us of a man called Haman who plotted to exterminate the whole Jewish race. That was quite obviously masterminded by Satan, although Haman did not suspect at all that Satan was using him and he did it out of his own conceited pride and desire for revenge. The same thing happened with Hitler and Stalin in the last century - two leaders who hardly knew that Satan was using them to destroy the Jews. In the same way, Satan may still be manipulating the affairs of the world by using the greed for wealth and power that is within the hearts of unsaved people today. 

Satan's kingdom is therefore still present today, and we were once his subjects. But now, thank God, we are no longer part of his awful kingdom. For our text in Colossians 1:13 tells us that God 'hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.'

God's kingdom has invaded Satan's kingdom and has liberated you from his control. Satan cannot touch you any more without God's permission. In the book of Job, we find that Satan had to ask God each time he wanted to lay hands on Job. But he did not have to ask permission at all, when it comes to using unsaved men to carry out his plans. In Job 1:15, we learn that Satan used a band of Sabeans to take away all of Job's oxen and asses and in 1:17, he used the Chaldeans to take away his camels. 

We can be sure that Satan utterly resents this invasion of his territory by God's kingdom, and he will do all he can to, resist, oppose and counterstrike. This is why the church of our Lord Jesus has suffered sorely throughout its history from persecution, infiltration, and subversion. As long as we are in this world, we are living in enemy territory. Therefore we cannot expect to have an easy time here. But let us take heart. Don't be discouraged. We can be very much encouraged by one blessed thought: That Christ's Kingdom is destined to triumph and Satan's kingdom is destined for destruction.

II. The Kingdom of Christ

During the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, Martin Luther saw the worst of Satan's kingdom venting all its fury against him. He wrestled against the principalities and powers. He stood against the rulers of the darkness of this world. He strove against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). At times he was really discouraged when he saw the might and authority that the Adversary seemed to be able to wield against him. Who was he, that he should dare to take a stand against such an awesome foe? But he took comfort from the Word of God in the 46th psalm and he paraphrased it in his famous Reformation hymn 'A Mighty Fortress is Our God.'

Listen to what Luther wrote: 'The prince of darkness grim - we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure - one little word shall fell Him' That 'little word' is none other than Jesus Christ, the living Word, that Luther had come to trust in. And Luther thus ends the hymn powerfully in praise of that Word 'That word above all earthly powers - no thanks to them - abideth; The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth, let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill: God's truth abideth still - His kingdom is forever.'

Yes, God's kingdom is forever! This is our source of great comfort and encouragement, as we live in the midst of a world so dominated by sin and Satan. As powerful as the world's ungodly regimes may be, and as mighty as Satan's hosts may be, none of them will endure. All of them will be destroyed without a trace when God's kingdom is fully established on earth. You and I must be exceedingly glad that God has delivered us from Satan's kingdom of darkness and has translated us into to the kingdom of His dear Son! We must now do all that we can for this kingdom that we have been translated in.

For the rest of our message we shall go on to learn four important truths about the Kingdom of Christ:

A. The kingdom of Christ is not yet fully established on earth.

Christ is not fully reigning on this earth yet, even though He is reigning in the hearts of those who believe in Him. So the kingdom of God is already present. This is the meaning of passages like Mark 1:15 where Jesus announced 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.' But the present character of the kingdom not political. Jesus said this clearly in Luke 17:20-21 - 'And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.'

The Jews could not understand what Jesus meant here. They were all expecting the inauguration of a visible political kingdom, with the overthrow of their Roman overlords and the restoration of the throne of King David. But the present reign of Jesus is His reign in the hearts of believers, and not on a visible throne in some grand capital city. He did not come in His first coming to set up a political kingdom yet. 

But while Christ made it clear that the kingdom of God at present is to have this spiritual, non-political character, this does not mean that there will not be a time later on when God's kingdom will assume a political character. Jesus mentioned this in Acts 1:6,7 'When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.' Now, if the kingdom of Christ was to remain a spiritual one what do you think He would have replied? Christ would probably have corrected their mistaken notion of His disciples and said something like, 'The kingdom is already restored to Israel right now, but in a spiritual, not a political one, as I now reign in the hearts of men.'

But Christ said nothing even close to this. Instead, the way that Jesus answered them implied that the disciples were absolutely right to expect a restoration of a political kingdom. He said, "It is not for you to know when the kingdom will be restored." We observe that Jesus did not make any correction to what they had asked, and by this He confirms that the kingdom will be restored to the nation of Israel, but it is not for them to know precisely when this will happen. And till today nobody knows the exact date when Jesus will inaugurate His reign as king in Israel.

There is an easy way for us to confirm this. Let us look at what Jesus said to Pilate in John 18:36 'Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence.' Jesus said this against the allegations by the Jews that He was planning to overthrow the Romans and restore the political kingdom of Israel. I want you to observe the important word 'now' It adds a time element to His statement and makes an important difference. Why did Christ add it in? I believe that it means that there will be a time when Christ's kingdom will be of this world. This brings us to the second truth:

B. Christ's kingdom on earth will be fully established in the future.

This full and absolute reign of the Lord Jesus Christ has not yet come, but it is coming, it is well on the way. And it will be a visible, political kingdom on earth, no longer just a spiritual one, in the hearts of men. As a political kingdom, it will surpass all the superpowers and empires that this world has ever seen, because it will include the whole world. Daniel 11:27 says - '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.'

And when Christ rules this whole world, the kingdom of Satan will be destroyed. John the Apostle foresaw this: 'And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren [Satan - v.9] is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.' (Revelation 12:10) At that time there will no longer be two kingdoms here on earth. The earthly aspect of God's Kingdom will therefore merge into the universal aspect. There will be only one sole sovereign King who rules over the whole universe as well as over the entire human race.

According to Paul, that will be the time when 'every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.' (Philippians 2:10,11)

C. Christ will usher in His Kingdom on earth whenever He wills to do so.

Now there are some people who think that they can usher in this kingdom of Christ through their own efforts. They believe that the world will become better and better as Christians go about converting the whole world to Christ. And then Christ will come to rule over His kingdom. Thus, the faster we accomplish this task, the sooner He will come. The only reason why His coming is delayed is because of our slow efforts. Recently a new teaching that is similar to this has emerged, and it is known by the names, 'Dominion theology,' 'Reconstructionism' or 'Theonomy.' This teaching emphasizes that Christians are not only to convert the world but also to reform the world socially and politically, by a systematic takeover of all the governments, and forcing the entire world to submit to the Law of God. 

Now, if it is true that the kingdom of Christ depends solely on human efforts to change this world, by social and political reform, then it will never come. Look at the state of the world today - a world where humanism reigns supreme in all governments, and nations are torn with disagreements, with strife, suspicion and pride, a world where terrorism continues to create fear as suicide bombers infiltrate cities. The very best of human efforts has never been able to bring forth the perfect world (utopia) that people dream of. And our very best efforts will utterly fail to subdue all the nations of the world under the political rule of Christ. It is up to Jesus Christ alone to do this. He alone has the power to effect all the changes that this world needs. And therefore we must constantly pray 'Come, Thou long expected Jesus. Come and subdue this world. Let Thy sovereign rule over all men be established. As the second Adam, regain the paradise that was lost by the first Adam.' 

But while we are to pray for Christ to come and establish His kingdom on earth, we do have a part to play now in His kingdom. That brings us to the final truth we will learn this morning about Christ's kingdom.

D. We must do our part in building Christ's kingdom on earth.

What is our part? The messages that you will hear over the next 12 weeks will elaborate this is detail. But for now, let me just outline two important responsibilities that we must fulfill. Firstly we must let Christ's kingdom be fully established in our own lives. Christ must be the sovereign king of our lives. This must result in a total dying to self and living for Christ alone. During the Lord's Supper today please ask yourself: 'Is Christ ruling over my life, or am I still trying to rule my own life? Does Christ have everything in my life at His disposal, or am I still holding on to some things and refusing to surrender every part of my life to Him?' Let us carry out this internal responsibility we have of ensuring that the Lord is really our King.

Our second responsibility is to make every effort to establish Christ's kingdom in the lives of others. We do this by proclaiming the three facts about His kingdom that we have seen today: 1) That Christ is the ruler of the universe, 2) That He demands all men to submit now to His rule in their hearts, and 3) that one day He is coming back to rule this world in absolute righteousness. Dearly beloved if you want to serve in the Kingdom of Christ, you must dedicate yourself fully to actively promote His kingdom on earth. Make it your priority to witness to your loved ones and to your friends. 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness' (Matthew 6:33) Share the gospel whenever you have opportunity with your colleagues at work. Encourage others to do these things. Give as the Lord enables you, to the work of missions and evangelistic projects. Let your life and your resources be completely devoted to promoting the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ!

And this is really the least that you should be doing, since God has so lovingly and mercifully delivered you out of the power of darkness and translated you into the Kingdom of His dear Son.

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

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11