The Kingdom Of Heaven

By Dave Hunt



This phrase is contained in the so-called "Lord's prayer," which, in fact, is not the Lord's prayer (that is found in John 17) but the disciples' prayer. It would hardly have been appropriate for our Lord to pray, "Forgive us our sins...And lead us not into temptation" ((Lk 11:4). Nor is it a prayer to be repeated over and over but a pattern for prayer for the disciples: "After this manner therefore pray ye" (Mat 6:9). When Jesus gave this pattern for prayer He told his disciples, "use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (v7). Yet the "Lord's prayer" is generally used exactly that way, repeated by rote with little thought to its deep meaning.

Contrary to some who preach the "prosperity gospel," we are not to request earthly blessings for ourselves, much less riches, but only sufficient provision for each day ("Give us this day our daily bread...."); and to be kept from sin in order to live to God's glory ("deliver us from evil...for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory"). Yet how seldom we think of His glory, while bombarding Him continually with endless requests to satisfy our own desires.

"Thy kingdom come" is the heart of this pattern for prayer, and it should be the passion of our lives. Yet for how many of us is this true? Have we not largely forgotten God's eternal kingdom in pursuit of our own temporal ambitions?

Seek ye first the kingdom! Here we have the pattern of life to go with the prayer pattern. But what is this kingdom we are to seek, consumed by the passion, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Mat 6:10)? What did Christ mean by His frequent references to "the kingdom"?

Christ referred both to the "kingdom of heaven" (found only in Matthew) and to the "kingdom of God." Significantly, the same things are said about the kingdom of God in the other Gospels which Matthew declared concerning the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, we can only conclude they are the same.

For example, in Matthew 4:17 Jesus preaches, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," while in Mark 1:15 He says, "the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." In Matthew's presentation of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus begins with "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (5:3). But in Luke, Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God" (6:20). For further study, compare Matthew 8:11 with Luke 13:28-29; Matthew 13 with Mark 4 and Luke 8; Matthew 18:1-4 with Mark 10:14-15 and Luke 18:16-17, etc.

Generally it is assumed that the "kingdom" refers to Christ's millennial reign. He promised His twelve disciples, "when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel [ten tribes were not lost after all]" (Mat 19:28). Surely this is not spiritual, but a literal reign that will be established at Christ's second coming when His feet touch the Mount of Olives (Zec 14:4; Acts 1:11) as He comes to rescue Israel in the midst of Armageddon (Zec 12-14). Then "every eye shall see him" (Rev 1:7) coming to earth "with power and glory" and the angels will "gather together his elect [i.e., the Jews, Isa 45:4, etc.] from the four winds" (Mat 24:29-31) to bring them from all over the world to Israel to share in the millennial kingdom. Having destroyed Antichrist and his kingdom at His second coming (2 Thes 2:8), Christ rescues Israel in the midst of Armageddon (Zec 12,14) and ascends David's throne (2 Sam 7:13; Eze 37:24-26; Lk 1:32), from which He will rule the world for 1,000 years (Rev 20:2-6).

In previous articles and books we have discussed many of the signs Christ gave to indicate the nearness of His return to earth: Israel back in her land (Eze 38:11-23; Zec 12, 14, etc.), weapons capable of destroying all life (Mat 24:22), the technology for a world dictator to control the world militarily (Rev 13:4,7) and to control all banking and commerce (vv 16-17), etc. The fact that these signs confront us already can only mean that the Rapture, which precedes the Second Coming, cannot be delayed much longer.

There are no signs for the Rapture, which could therefore occur at any moment. This is why Jesus repeatedly warned His disciples to be ready for His sudden return which otherwise would catch them by surprise:

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come....Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh (Mat 24:42,44).

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord.... Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not (Lk 12:35-40).

Because it is not intended to catch anyone by surprise, the Second Coming must be a separate event from the Rapture. Therefore it is preceded by many signs. Referring to His second coming, Jesus declares in the Olivet discourse, "...when ye shall see all these things [i.e., the signs He has given in the preceding verses], know that it [the Second Coming] is near, even at the doors" (Mat 24:33). When all signs have been fulfilled, it will be crystal clear that Christ is about to return to earth. Even Antichrist will know and will go out with his armies to repel Christ's invasion from heaven:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war....And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS....

And I saw the beast [Antichrist], and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet....These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone (Rev 19:11-20).

Another major sign preceding the Second Coming is a revival of the Roman Empire worldwide. This is clear from Daniel's interpretation of the image of the giant in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan 2). It represented four world empires: the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman. Each of the first three had a successor, but the Roman Empire did not; it never died, and is in the process of being revived.

Rome was divided in two as the giant's two legs foretold: politically in A.D. 330 when Constantine moved his capital to Byzantium, which he had captured in 328 and renamed Constantinople; and religiously in A.D. 1054 between Roman Catholicism in the West and Orthodoxy in the East when Pope Leo IX imperiously excommunicated Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople.

The ten toes on the feet attached to the two legs correspond to the ten horns on the fourth beast which Daniel 7:24 says are ten kings. Missing from history, however, is any record of ten kings reigning simultaneously over Rome. Therefore, Rome, the fourth kingdom, must be revived with ten subrulers under Antichrist. That is the worldwide kingdom which Christ destroys to establish His millennial reign. Once again this is clear from Nebuchadnezzar's image. Directly after its description of the feet and ten toes (Dan 2:40-43) verse 44 declares, "In the days of these kings [represented by the ten toes] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed." A "stone cut out without hands" smashes the image, becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth (vv 34-35). These events must be future: in the days of these kings.

This stone can only be Christ, and the great mountain His eternal kingdom. The smashing of the image by the stone clearly means that Christ's kingdom will be established by His sudden personal intervention from heaven to destroy Antichrist's kingdom—not by the church gradually taking over the world as so many teach. What folly to imagine that the church is supposed to establish the Kingdom—or to claim as many do, that the Kingdom has already been established on earth and Christ is ruling it from heaven.

We have often warned of the solemn fact that those who expend themselves in the attempt to clean up society and to establish God's kingdom on earth are playing into Antichrist's hands, for his kingdom will be established prior to Christ's millennial reign. In fact, a major purpose of Christ's second coming (in contrast to the Rapture in which He takes His bride to heaven) is to destroy Antichrist and his kingdom: "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord ...shall destroy with the brightness of his coming..." (2 Thes 2:4-9).

Far from the obviously evil ogre he is generally thought to be, Antichrist will be so appealing and popular that "all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him" (Rev 13:8). His kingdom will begin in peace and prosperity. Tragically, multitudes are being led astray by leaders in the "signs and wonders" movement who claim to use "miracles" to establish the Kingdom; and that only when they have done so will Christ then return to rule over the kingdom they have established in His name. Those who reject the Rapture and look for a "Christ" who comes to this earth to reign without first taking the church to heaven are setting themselves up to embrace Antichrist and his kingdom.

Those who believe in the Rapture cannot be enticed to look for a "Christ" who comes to rule the "kingdom" they've established. They expect "to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thes 4:17) above earth to be taken to heaven. Critics deride this belief as a "secret rapture theory," but Scripture says, "the dead in Christ shall be raised...we which are alive...shall be caught up together with them..." (1 Cor 15:51-57; 1 Thes 4:13-18) to be taken to His Father's house (Jn 14:1-3).

Christ's millennial reign is not the ultimate Kingdom for which we are to pray.

Christ told Nicodemus unequivocally, "Except a man be born again, he cannot [even] see...[much less] enter into the kingdom of God"(Jn 3:3-5). We are also told that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor 15:50). Yet there will be many flesh-and-blood people living during the Millennium, and among them multitudes who have not been born again of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the Bible declares repeatedly that God's kingdom is "an everlasting kingdom" (Ps 145:13; Dan 4:3, 7:27); that Christ shall reign on "the throne of his father David...over the house of Jacob [Israel] for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Lk 1:32-33)....Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end..." (Isa 9:7). But the Millennium lasts only 1,000 years; and its peace ends with earth's final war.

The Millennium in fact is the final proof of the incorrigible self-centered evil of the human heart. No longer can anyone complain that Adam and Eve alone had the unique opportunity of living in Paradise and that if only they (the complainers) had been there they wouldn't have sinned. Billions will live in an even better Paradise because Christ will rule it and Satan will be locked up for 1,000 years. Yet when he is at last released, Satan will "deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth," and they will attack Jesus Christ at Jerusalem (Rev 20:7-9).

The true kingdom of God with endless peace will only come in the new heavens and new earth.

Paul writes, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to the Father" (1 Cor 15:24-28). Here we see that Christ did not refer to the Rapture when He said, "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Mat 24:14). Obviously, the Rapture is not "the end" to which Christ referred, but that which Paul explains.

May what has been for many a "vain repetition" become a passion for prayer without ceasing: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." May our hearts turn from earth to seek first the ultimate Kingdom in which heaven and earth are one in the new creation, rebellion is a thing of the past and God's will alone is truly done because it has become the will of all creatures. And as that passion grows within us we will find that our wills are more and more in harmony with His because "every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure" (1 Jn 3:3).


 

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