Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Kingdom and The Church

These past few months, we have taken a closer look at the church, our Lord's churches, and distinguished between them and 'church pretenders.' We have seen how that the Lord's churches will distinguish themselves from false churches in that they will be upholding the doctrines of the New Testament, observing the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper, will be practicing Biblical Church discipline, will be made up of members that are saved and properly baptized, will be autonomous from any other authority apart from the Word of God leading the church body through the Spirit, and will have the proper church officers fulfilling the role God has established for them.
Recently the stand taken by myself and our church has been under attack. Unfortunately, they have not come and spoken to me about the issue, but rather other pastors, friends, and family-even the college I attended. True friends have called me to let me know of their tactics, and I have spent time studying and praying about the stand and beliefs we uphold.
One area greatly under attack is in the area of the Kingdom of God and the church. From my studies, those in disagreement must have a strong Ruckmanite background (follower of Peter Ruckman). It has been stated and printed by others that the Gospel which the Lord and the disciples preached was different than that Gospel preached by Paul. It was stated and printed that the Kingdom of God, had the Jews accepted Jesus, would have been established when His ministry took place or that upon the preaching of Stephen, the Lord stood in anticipation of coming and setting up His kingdom had they accepted his preaching. Unfortunately, there is no Scripture supporting such statements. All this is said to contradict the teaching that our Lord gave to the local church His authority and commission to evangelize, baptize, and disciple; and to contradict the Biblical teaching that this is done through the local churches-visible, organized, local assemblies of baptized believers. This is to contradict the stand that not all believers are part of true churches. These beliefs lead to ecumenicalism, which is a Satanic end-time plan of the Devil.
The Bible teaches that their is the family of God (Eph. 3:14-16). The family of God is seen to be made up in this passage of all saved both in Heaven and on Earth. All those born again are part of the family of God. We are adopted (Rom. 8:15, Eph. 1:5), been made sons of God (John 1:12). We can address no one by any greater name than that of 'brother' and 'sister' in Christ.
The Bible teaches the local church, which we have studied in detail. The church is a local, visible body of baptized believers sent forth to evangelize, baptize, and disciple. The church was begun in the ministry of Jesus Christ. He started the church (not John the Baptist who made ready the material to start the church). He promised the perpetuity of the church in Matt. 16:18-19. He gave instructions for discipline in the church in Matthew 18. The word church means called out assembly. In the New Testament it is primarily found used in connection with a local church. If there was one invisible body or church made up of all believers, then how do we not 'forsake the assembling of ourselves together?' The Lord's churches are those local, visible, organized bodies fulfilling the commission under His Authority.
The Bible then teaches the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God. I have been told that the Kingdom of God is the Lord ruling on this earth. It is what the Lord wanted when He first walked in Israel with His disciples, what He would have set up had the Jews not rejected Stephen. I have been told it was the 'Gospel' that Jesus and the disciples preached-different than our Gospel. (one point of thought...then why baptism? Doesn't baptism represent the death, burial, and resurrection?). The Kingdom would, by other's definition, a physical ruling and reigning of Christ.
This is a novel idea, but one I try to practice...Let us examine God's Word-not Peter Ruckman's, not Dr. Ken Blue's, not Travis Burke's....God's Word.
When one is born again he is regenerated (given a new nature). He is Justified (given a new standing). He is sanctified (given a new character). He is adopted (given a new family). He is Translated (given a new King)!
Colossians 1:12-14 reads:
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

You see, before anyone was saved, they were under the 'power of darkness'. They served their father-the Devil. They were under the authority of Satan, living in darkness, blinded to their spiritual state. Praise the Lord, after salvation, we now are 'partakers of the inheritance of the saints of light.' (see 1 John). We have been 'translated into the kingdom of his dear Son." God has now put us under the authority of His Son, no longer the Devil...Praise God!
So is this kingdom one of Christ ruling and reigning physically here on this earth? Well, let us look at God's Word. Romans 14:17 reads:
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Is it me, or did our Lord just define in His Word "the Kingdom of God?" It is not the physical, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost! Now do not get me wrong, the Bible does prophecy that one day there will be the Lord ruling and reigning here on this earth during the Millennium-1,000 years-following the seven years of tribulation (Rev. 20); but most New Testament references of the Kingdom do not refer to this future Kingdom, but to a present kingdom. How is this possible?
Let us review? The Bible teaches that the Kingdom is not a physical kingdom now, but righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost. The Bible teaches that we, upon salvation, are translated into the kingdom of His dear Son.
Let us examine this further, how one gets into the kingdom. Jesus addressed it in John 3. In verses 1 & 2 a ruler named Nicodemus was 'buttering up' Jesus calling Him a good master. Jesus' response to him in verse 3 is:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
That word 'see' means to 'understand.' Example, I was teaching math today in school and one of my students who was struggling finally said, "Oh, I see it now." Jesus told Nicodemus, who had just told Jesus what a good master He was, 'You can't understand the Kingdom unless you are born again!" He went on to teach what being born again was, being born of water and Spirit. Some attempt to use this verse to say, "Baptism and Spirit Baptism." This is not the case, for the Lord explained what He meant in the next verse with "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." It is being born of water (natural birth when water sack breaks) and the Spirit (salvation). But in verse 5 Jesus says something interesting,
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
So, we see a difference in verse 3 and 5. You can't understand the Kingdom unless you are saved and you can't enter into unless you are born again!
I have met many people who can't understand why I go to church every week, why I like for men to yell the Bible at me, why I look forward to praying so much, why I read my Bible every day, why I don't do certain things they do...it is foolishness to them, they can't understand because they do not understand that the Lord is the King of my life! They will never understand this until they make Him the King of their life-then, it all comes together doesn't it?
In Mark 10:13-15 we see children brought to Christ and the Lord saying "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." The attributes of a child is what makes up the Kingdom? Yes, an obedient, believing faith!
In Luke 16 Jesus is preaching on some money issues and the Pharisees didn't like it and they (vs. 14) 'derided him.' They began attacking Jesus in words. Jesus' response to them in verse 15-16 is:
And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail

We see here that the Lord rebukes the Pharisees for trying to justify themselves and their attempt to rationalize their self-righteousness. God knew their heart. The Lord knew that they had themselves upon the throne and not the Lord God.
You see, yes some day the Lord will set up a kingdom for 1,000 years on this earth and that prophecy will be in fulfillment, but the kingdom of God now is a partial fulfillment. We see from Scripture that the Kingdom begins upon being born again, understood after being born again when we are translated out of the power of darkness and into light. That the kingdom is not meat and drink (physical) but righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Ghost.
Simply stated, we, individual believers, living on this earth have choices every day to do right or wrong. We are a testimony of the Kingdom of God when we have Jesus upon our heart's throne, when our life is one of righteousness, joy, and peace, we are partial fulfillments of what is to come. We are the Kingdom of God living on this earth! Only those who are born again can 'see' the Kingdom of God. Jesus told the pharisees that the Kingdom of God had been preached since John the Baptist (Luke 16). Before that time was the law and the prophets (sorry Dr. Ruckman, John was a New Testament prophet!). Since John, the Kingdom has been preached-allowing God to rule in man's heart!
When we leave this life, we enter Heaven and have no more 'choice' to do wrong. Thus we conclude that the family of God is all believers in heaven and earth; the kingdom of God is all those saved on this earth who has made Him the King of their lives-living a testimony of the day when Jesus will rule and reign upon this earth; and what of the churches of God?
Matthew 16:15-19 reads,
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Our Lord started the church during His earthly ministry here on earth with His disciples. Here our Lord promises the perpetuity of the church and then promises to 'give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven..." The keys speak of authority and the responsibility given to the church. The church has the responsibility to show men how to be born again (enter the kingdom) and then to disciple them to observe all things (allow Him to rule their hearts); thus the church has been given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven-which we have established is not a physical, but instead 'righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost.'
I'm glad I am part of the family of God; I'm glad I 'see' the Kingdom of God; and I must serve through the church to tell others how they can do the same!

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