Lessons in Growth Meditations: 23. Us and the Kingdom
Rev 5:9,10 “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
A Song of Revelation: We must never overstate these things and so we will seek to get a focused balance here. Our verse above from Revelation 5 comes from the throne room of God and in one sense is timeless. Having said that there is before the throne, “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain,” (v.6) which indicates at least it is post the Cross, a picture of Jesus after he had been through that experience. It therefore suggests that the song that is sung, of which the above verses form part, is a declaration of the work of Christ (“you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation”) and its outworking of that work (“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”)
Timing? The difficulty which is here is the timing, the ‘when’ of these things. Does this outworking refer to the present age or to the future? Arguments for the present: we know we have been made and are part of God’s kingdom now, and we know that we have the role of priests to serve God and therefore the implication is that the reference to our reigning is for now. Arguments for the future: the kingdom and priests may be present outworking but the word ‘and’ separates off what follows which will therefore be a future outworking.
Revelation of ‘An Early Saying’: Let’s consider this further because this will impact on our faith levels for how we live and serve the Lord in the present. The early church were obviously starting to grab hold of this for they had a number of basic or simple sayings that they taught new believers before the New Testament got written and every now and then, Paul used to drop these into his letters, so for example, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” (2 Tim 2:10-12) The idea of reigning with Christ was clearly there and was in one of those simple and basic sayings, but the tricky thing about those verses is that they don’t spell out ‘now’ or ‘future’. For that we will have to look elsewhere in Paul’s writings.
On the way: In 1 Corinthians the apostle Paul says something strange to his Corinthian readers: “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you!” (1 Cor 4:8) He is in fact speaking about the work and lives of the apostles and compares his readers with them. Essentially, he wants them to grow up (remember, ultimately this is what this series is all about).
Twice he uses the word ‘already’ to highlight what they already have as new believers and, as a follow on, implying this is also where you have got to in this growing process, he says “You have begun to reign.” Good start! Indeed, “and that without us,” i.e. you’ve got this far while we’ve been away from you after that first time we came to you, but having said that, “How I wish that you really had begun to reign.” It is only a start and there is a way to go. How far? “so that we might also reign with you” i.e. so that we can both operate at the same level of faith that is required of us apostles!
Isn’t that amazing! A simple challenge. It’s not like you can ‘not reign’ and then ‘can reign’, it’s more a case that you learn to reign! It’s just the same as faith. You start off with simple faith – I believe there is a God. More complex faith: He sent Jesus so I could be saved and relate to Him. More complex still: He did this so that I could see myself as a member of Christ’s body and operate with the gifts, talents and abilities He has given me as He directs me. Wow! I’m reigning with Christ and we are changing the world!
After the Second Coming: If we’re still not sure that this is Christ’s intention for us, consider what happens AFTER Jesus Second Coming. Now this is an uncertain area of theology and different people have different views but in its basic idea there will be a long period in the overall strategy of God (this world, in heaven, you can dream up a whole load of possibilities) where faithful believers will reign with Christ: “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Rev 20:4) It doesn’t matter for this argument how or where or when, just take note that the prophetic declaration is that these faithful believers will reign with Christ.
Don’t get all picky on me, reign still means ruling over someone or something. Somehow, somewhere, sometime, these faithful believers are going to share with Christ as together they oversee everything else. Now I only make this point so that we can see that the overall intention of Christ is that we come to a place where we share with him in what he is doing, and if you forgot what that was, let’s finish today with that same verse we’ve seen a couple of times already: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25) The idea of us ‘being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms’, of us ‘reigning with Christ’, is that we share with him in this long-term goal, as active participants. If we still haven’t got that yet, can we get it now? Until we do our growth will be stunted.