23. Us and the Kingdom

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.

22. About the Kingdom

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 22. About the Kingdom

Mt 3:1,2  In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

Mt 4:17   From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

The focus of the kingdom: We concluded the previous study saying that the ‘kingdom of God’ is an all-important concept when we are considering Jesus’ activity now at the right hand of God in heaven. It is, and we need to understand it, because our lives are to be in alignment with Jesus and if his life is focused on bringing the will of God to earth, we need to understand that in respect of our own lives and what he wants of us. Many Christians seem to focus on their own ‘rule’ or their own desires and goals in life, with little thought to the bigger picture. This means that our lives may be out of kilter with Jesus’ heart as he works to bring God’s will through the kingdom. Heaven forbid!

As we see from our verses above, it was the focus of both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ preaching when they started their ministries. A few verses on we read, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (Mt 4:23) We might suggest that healing was a demonstration of the power, authority and thus the expression of the rule of God through Jesus, heaven’s will being expressed and seen on earth and shown through the Gospels.

Kingdom of ‘Heaven’: Matthew, writing for the Jews, uses the expression ‘kingdom of heaven’, while the other three Gospel writers use the expression, ’kingdom of God’. Perhaps it is that because the Jews did not appear to have a very clear picture of life after death, Matthew was seeking to emphasize to them that there is an existence in the presence of God – heaven – that they can look forward to. In his ‘theology’, if we can call it that, Matthew has in mind a place where God’s presence exists and His rule is expressed, hence we find the use of the word ‘enter’ in respect of the kingdom, suggesting a location (e.g. Mt 5:20, 7:21, 18:3, 19:23,24,  21:31, 23:13).

Basics of a Kingdom: There are various facts about a kingdom of which we should be aware:

  • First, the big thing about a ‘kingdom’ is that it has a king (or a monarch) who rules over it.
  • Second, it is actually all about a place or existence where the reign of a ruler presides over the citizens of the kingdom.
  • Third, another thing about such a rule is that there are clear rules for life in that kingdom. In modern democracies the citizen knows that life within the country is determined by agreed rules or ‘laws’.
  • Fourth, because we live in a fallen world where Sin prevails, there are likely to be many people who resist the rule of the king.

 Dealing with Enemies: That is what is behind that teaching of Paul we noted yesterday: “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) i.e. there are enemies of the king and part of Jesus’ activity is to destroy or subdue them. Because he goes on, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death,” (v.26) it is clear that his ‘enemies’ are not necessarily people. In Rev 21 we read of the new heaven and new earth, “There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,” (Rev 21:4) and so we may assume that death, sickness and anything that detracts from God’s original perfect creation where total peace and harmony reigns, will be removed – including sin in any form.

God’s Goal: Now do you see the enormity of this? THIS is what God is aiming for and what Jesus is working for NOW. Now you may look at the world and your experience of it so far and ask, how can you say Jesus is working for that perfect goal now, in our present existence? I have two answers.

The Goal declared: First, because of what we have just recently read: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”  i.e. he is reigning NOW and will only stop and hand it all back to the Father when he has accomplished all his objectives – to get rid of those things that prevent perfect people and harmony. THAT is his PRESENT objective and it is an ongoing process. This is what all the talk of ‘kingdom’ is about

Second, because Paul’s verses simply confirm David’s prophetic verses from Psa 110: “The Lord says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The Lord will extend your mighty sceptre from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” (Psa 110:1,2) It was on God’s heart from the beginning!  I have commented a number of times that there are at least seven verses in the New Testament that indicate that the plan to send Jesus to redeem us and work on this kingdom, was formulated before the Creation of the world.

The Need: The Godhead knew that mankind would sin, would exercise their free will to rebel against God and His design for mankind, with all the consequences that would follow. All of this, Jesus came to work against. The big, and hardest thing, would be to die on the Cross and all that that entailed, but after that, having established a new people, he would then work into the world and through his people – and that is where you and I come in.

Present Activity: Yes, there will come a time when Jesus will come a second time to the earth, a time of power, exercising the sovereignty of God, but in the meantime Jesus presides over this age and seeks to draw men and women to himself so that this peace and harmony can rule in their lives and they can work to bring it more and more in the earth. Now you may be gasping at the enormity of this (or maybe not taking in the enormity of it) and so we will pause up here and continue tomorrow in the next study.

Homework: Pray and ask the Lord to enlarge your understanding: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength.” (Eph 1:17-19) Increased understanding is a sign of growth.

56. Christ’s Kingdom Expressed

Focus on Christ Meditations: 56.  Christ’s Kingdom Expressed

Mt 12:28   I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

We now move to the heart of the will of God in respect of the Kingdom of God. How did Jesus express the kingdom?  We finished Study No. 54 with a quote from Daniel about the coming of the Son of Man and picked up on two words in that were in those verses and we said, “Dominion” speak of dominance, domination, and the power to rule. “Kingdom” speaks of the realm or territory or area where his reign exists, where we start thinking about the expression of the reign of the king, how he shows he is king as he reigns. ‘Reign’ is about exercising sovereignty, about being in control.  I want us to now zoom in on that last definition, the fact of ‘reign’ being all about being in control, not merely coping, not merely surviving, but being in control.

In the UK we have a Queen but these days she is mostly just a figurehead, the authority rests with Parliament, but when a king truly reigns, it means that have absolute control, absolute power and absolute authority. When we see this in respect of sinful human beings, they are usually despots who abuse their power and abuse their subjects. When we come to the ruler over the Kingdom of God, the ruler is a benign controller who controls for the benefit of his subjects. That is the big difference between the kingdoms of the earth and the Kingdom of Heaven.  So let’s see ‘Christ in Control’. It is so obvious we have probably never thought about it.

Control over the material world: This is the most obvious thing in Jesus’ earthly ministry, and many of us struggle to believe that this is still true of his body today when we allow him to lead. In the pages of the Gospels we see Jesus in control of the elements – calming a storm, walking on water, turning water into wine, expanding bread and fishes to feed thousands; these are all examples of Jesus being in absolute control of material elements.

Control over health and life itself: When we see Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons and even raising the dead, we see this power and authority over the material world being applied into flesh and blood human bodies. This is Jesus reigning in the most obvious ways. If we believe Scripture, the very scriptures we have been looking at earlier in this series, where we have seen that Jesus was involved in creation (Jn 1) and now upholds this world by his powerful word (Heb 1), the fact of him controlling nature and the state of human bodies should not surprise us.

Control over himself: Now here is an area we don’t tend to think about but when it is paralleled into our lives as part of his body today it becomes very pertinent. Let’s consider various ways we see this.

i) In respect of Satan: The Gospels record Satan coming with three temptations before Jesus starts his ministry, seeking to bring him down, but in each case he remains firmly in control of his mind and his behaviour and gives right responses. This is significant because Satan questioned his very identity, but Jesus remained firmly in control of his own thinking about himself and so did not succumb to the enemy’s negatives; he knew who he was and what he was to do, right up to an including the Cross and never deviated from that, even in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was confronted with the awfulness of what was just about to happen

ii) In respect of human prejudices: Jesus not succumb to prejudices or false religious expectations which we see in the way he met with and spoke to the Samaritan woman, the adulterous woman, the Greek woman, a leper who he touched, tax collectors etc. who he dined with, all of whom we have considered previously, and all of whom would have been rejected by respectable Judaism.

iii) In respect of his speech: But it goes beyond meeting with the unclean, the sinners and so on; it includes how he encountered and responded to the leaders and religious elite; he did not speak out of turn, he was in complete control of his tongue. He did not waver before ‘great people’; he knew who he was and therefore never felt defensive, as we so often do. He never felt uncomfortable in any situation because he knew who he was and knew the power and authority that he had.

iv) In respect of his emotions: This is an area where we are so often stunted and so our emotions are oppressed by expectations or hardened and calloused by the hard knocks of life or the hard words of parents or teachers or other people of influence that shut us down. No, he was clearly saddened by the fact of his disciples’ little belief sometimes, he was saddened by the grief that he saw in those he loved (at Lazarus’s tomb) and he anguished over the thought of being separated from his Father on the Cross.

In each of these ways Jesus was in complete control. He knew people (Mt 12:25, 27:18, Jn 2:24) and was not fazed by them, whether they were the great and good and influential or whether they were prostitutes, demon possessed, sinner and crooks. In one sense we might say he was above them all and was therefore not controlled by what they thought, either of themselves or about him. (There is another aspect of his reign that appears to run completely contrary to this, but we will leave than until the next study.)

For the time being can we remind ourselves that we Christians are ‘the body of Christ’ and therefore with his Holy Spirit within us we are called to reflect him and portray him to the world around us. We fail to do that when we don’t reject the lies from the past we have been told about ourselves, or we fail to let him heal us up over our hurts from the past, and we thus allow the enemy to demean us in our own thinking about ourselves, and so we feel inadequate in the presence of ‘big’ people, or ‘trying’ circumstances.

And then we forget what Paul tells us, that “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” and, even more, we forget that this was, “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 6,7) This is our place – next to him. And why? So that we can catch his heart and purpose and receive from him everything we need to stand with heads held high as God’s children.

The apostle Peter said the same thing: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him.” (2 Pet 1:3) Putting that into our own words, “The power that Jesus has as the Son of God ruling at his Father’s right hand, has also been given to us to help us meet the needs of every day and be godly (knowing and responding to God in every circumstance) as we share in his life, share in that experience of him, the ruler of all things seated on high.”

As the apostle Paul put it, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph 1:22,23)  Sometimes the Message version puts it very well. Here is Eph 1:20-23: All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the centre of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” This is what this is all about! Hallelujah!

52. Christ Poured Out?

Focus on Christ Meditations: 52.  Christ Poured Out?

Acts 16:7     When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.

Our temptation, as we have worked our way through Old Testament prophecies, the birth and arrival of Christ, his names, his ministry, his death, resurrection and ascension, might be to say, right, that’s it, end of the story, but it isn’t, it isn’t the end of the activity of the Christ, it continues today, and we need to see that. But before we come up to date, we need to take in the events of the Day of Pentecost and all that followed, because that was the START of what CONTINUES today and reveals HOW Christ continues his work through us, and that is vitally important.

It is important here to understand the bigger picture. We concluded the previous study by noting that the New Testament tells us very clearly that Jesus has ascended back to heaven from where he came, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, in a position where he rules. In the next studies we will examine this rule in some detail but for the moment we need to realise that that rule, shared with his Father, started from the moment he ascended but was only seen, tangibly if you like, from the moment his Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost. We need to link that with Jesus ruling at his Father’s right hand.

Now to see this perhaps even more clearly, we need to see how the Holy Spirit is described in the New Testament. Most of the time, the third person of the Trinity is simply described as “the Spirit” or often as “the Holy Spirit”, and sometimes as “the Spirit of God”, e.g. those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom 8:14 also 1 Cor 2:11,14, 7:40. 12:3 2 Cor 3:3, Phil 3:3, 1 Jn 4:2). However, because there is a unity within the Trinity there are also a (limited) number of occasions when he is referred to as “the Spirit of Christ” or even “the Spirit of Jesus” etc.

Observe: “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” (Acts 16:7) and “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Rom 8:9) and “I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” (Phil 1:19) and “the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet 1:10,11) and even, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts.” (Gal 4:6)

The book of Acts, most of us would agree, is an account of the work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles. Usually we use the language of “being filled with the Spirit” or “baptized in the Spirit” but the ‘Spirit’ we refer to is in fact, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus. If we hold in our mind’s eye the picture of Jesus now ascended and ruling at his Father’s right hand, what we see in Acts is in fact the outworking of that rule in Jesus, there in heaven, prompting, leading, and inspiring his people by his Spirit. It is the way he expresses that rule when it comes to his people, us, Christians.

One has to admit that there did not yet seem a real consciousness in the apostles most of the time that this is how it is; it is only when we come to an incident as that referred to in our starting verses that Luke and Paul recognize what is going on. They wanted to move on into Bithynia but they became aware that “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” i.e. Jesus, exercising his rule from heaven stirred an unease in them that this was not the right thing for them to be doing. It is one of those rare occasions when it is made clear just what is going on. Most of the time, the apostles just move as, presumably prompted by the Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, to act as they did, revealing the power and revelation of Jesus. Those are the two primary ways we see him working through the apostles – through power and through revelation.

When the Spirit is poured out on the Day of Pentecost it is power that energizes Peter to get up and preach and his ‘sermon’ is full of revelation. A short time later at the Gate Beautiful the healing that took place there was attributed by Peter not to themselves (Acts 3:12,13) but as in line with all that happened already (see v.13-16). Power exhibited and revelation poured out in his ‘sermon’ that followed. After being imprisoned over night, when called before what was almost certainly the Sanhedrin, Peter is filled with the Spirit to boldly explain all that had happened (Acts 4:8-). When they leave and tell the others there is a praise meeting and the Holy Spirit fills them so they speak out boldly (Acts 4:31). The incident with Ananias and Sapphira, who both end up dead, has surely got to be a judgment of God (Acts 5:1-11). As a general statement we are told, “The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people.” (Acts 5:12) Power continues to be seen. And so it continues.

Now most of the time it is simply attributed (where there is an identity) to the Holy Spirit, but all the time we must remember two things: first, the Spirit is sometimes named as ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ and all the while we have this picture of Jesus at his Father’s right hand overseeing and directing what is going on. There is in Paul’s writing that which sheds even more light on what is going on, describing the end times, “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) I have emphasized what are, in this context, key issues: Jesus is working to establish the kingdom of God and he does that by ruling over – expressing the power of God and bringing the revelation of God – all things until there comes a climax after which he hands back the control, so to speak, to the Father.

Before we finish, there are some things Jesus said that I believe we take for granted but they also shine light into this teaching. For example: Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (Jn 15:4) See four times in that one verses Jesus says we are to ‘remain’ in him. Remain means to stay in the same place, or continue in the same place. What is that place? See another expression: “in Christ”. e.g. Rom 6:11,23,  8:1, 12:5, 16:7,9,10, 1 Cor 1:2,4,30, 4:10,15,17 etc. etc.  Elsewhere, of course it talks about him being in us by the indwelling presence of his Holy Spirit. We are one with Christ, there is this link with the living Christ who, for the time being is reigning at his Father’s right hand. The story did not end at the ascension, it continues as Christ continues the work of the Father but now at his side and as he administers it through his Spirit. We need to understand more of this if we are to understand his ongoing working today, and that we will do in the following studies.

15. A Reigning Body

Short Meditations on the Body of Christ:  15. A Reigning Body

Eph 2:6,7  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus

And so we come to the last of this particular series which leaves us realizing a crucial spiritual reality – and it is spiritual.  We have considered that we, the Church, are Christ’s body on earth today, and that he is still the head of the body, even though he is seated at his Father’s right hand, ruling in heaven over all things. So positionally Christ, the Son of God, is in heaven with his Father, but we have also observed that we are indwelt by his Holy Spirit who not only unites us with each other, but now also with him in heaven.

And so he now wants us to grasp this picture that Paul brings to the Ephesians, that because we are untied with him by his Holy Spirit, it means that we too, having been raised to new life after dying to the old, are in a sense, sharing with Christ in his role as the present king ruling over all things.

Now is this just an academic or theological nicety or does it have any practical outworking? Yes, it is far more than just a theory, it is an overall picture of how the body is supposed to work to bring about the will of God, the reign of God on the earth.

First of all this means a change of understanding. We are to see ourselves as sharing with Christ in his rule, so that, second, as we listen to him and sense and receive the revelation of His Holy Spirit, so we are led to do the things on his heart and those things will bring change on the earth.

Third, we will see these things as incomparable riches of grace, amazingly wonderful expressions of his love and mercy that come to us through his kindness, here within the body so that the body uses this grace to perform signs and wonders to bring changes on the earth. Every time you pray, every time you command in the name of Jesus, as he leads you, so his grace is released in the form of power so that things are changed on the earth, people released, people delivered, circumstances changed. Every time we bind something in his name (Mt 16:19 & 18:18) the power of the enemy will be annulled.

We have much to learn about being his servants, about wielding authority and bringing in the reign of the kingdom of God, as we experience what it means to be “seated with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”, i.e. as we experience what it means to be part of the active body led by the head from heaven. Hallelujah!

16. The Rule of Jesus

Meditations on “The Big Picture” 16. The Rule  of Jesus

Rev 1:4,5    Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

Some would refer to the present ere as the day of the Spirit but the names of the Holy Spirit include ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ and so the Holy Spirit is the executive arm if you like of the Godhead, but He administers the will of Jesus in his people while Jesus sits at his Father’s right hand in heaven exercising his rule, deciding and determining what will be. Now of course many of us would prefer to focus on the works of the Spirit as seen, say, in the Acts of the Apostles and that is certainly the starting place.

Yes, there we see on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit being poured out on the believers and them being equipped to be Jesus’ witnesses (see Acts 1:8, 2:1-4,14-21).  Yes, there we see Peter preaching the first sermon and three thousand being saved (Acts 2:22-41), there we see the apostles performing miracles (e.g. Acts 3:1-10) and then taking the opportunity to share the Gospel (Acts 3:11-26) And so it continues. The Holy Spirit moving through the early church with signs and wonders accompanying the preaching of the Gospel.

Others may wish to observe the roles of the Church and Israel. It is a fact, forgotten by many, that the early church was entirely Jewish in nature with all the apostles being Jews and Jerusalem being the heart of the church. As the church reached out with the Gospel more and more, it was obvious that it would change its nature with believers coming from the larger population of the world and thus became more Gentile orientated. Indeed Acts shows us quite clearly that it was Jewish hostility that forced the apostle Paul to move on sometimes and thus pushing the Gospel out even further. (Some modern historians suggest that Jews continued to be saved in numbers until the seventh century). With the fall of Jerusalem  – and the church leaders had already moved on – Judaism was also dispersed into the world (see Rev 12)

As far as individual Jews are concerned, they are no different from Gentiles in terms of needing salvation: there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom 10:12,13) yet when it comes to them as a people, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.” (Rom 10:25,25)  Some will say that word ‘Israel’ simply means all believers whether from Jew or Gentile background, others will say it means the Jewish people will eventually be saved. Time alone will tell. That they as a people still have a part to play in the plans of God seems fairly obvious.

Which leaves us coming back to Jesus revealed as:

  1. a) the one seated next to the Father in heaven (Mark 16:19 / Acts 2:33 / Acts 5:31 / Acts 7:55 / Rom 8:34 / Eph 1:20 / Phil 2:9 / Col. 3:1 / Heb 1:3 / Heb 8:1 / Heb 10:12 / Heb 12:2 / 1 Pet 3:22), and
  2. the one with all authority (Rom 8:34 / Eph. 1:22 / Heb 2:8 / 1 Pet 3:22 / 1 Cor. 15:25 / Isa 9:7  / Psa 110:1,2) and
  3. the ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5, Psa 110:1,2, 1 Cor 15:24,25)
  4. the one ruling over the church (Rev 1:12-20)
  5. the one who will return sometime in the future in power (Matt 24:42,44, Matt 25:31-32, Acts 1:11, Eph 1:9,10, Rev 1:7)

It might be well to emphasis the 1 Cor 15 verses: 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) We may not be able to discern his works but the truth is that he IS reigning over this world – from heaven. He brings things about by his Spirit working in his followers, he will use Satan and his demons and powers as he sees fit (this is too big a subject to cover here, but he does) and he will work to manipulate circumstances, yet overall it is a mystery for most of the time. BUT he IS ruling; this is the era of Christ’s reign from heaven.

However when we see the praise given to him in heaven there comes a surprise: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God 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.” (Rev 5:9,10) We the believers should be reigning. Now there will be some who say that is in the future but when you consider Jesus’ words, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19 & 18:18) there seems a certain amount of ‘exercising rule’ about that. There is a similar hint in Eph 1:22 – “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,” Perhaps, as with so many things it is a partial reign this side of heaven, fulfilled completely in the new heaven new earth where, “they will reign for ever and ever.” (Rev 22;5)  Some room for more reflection there!

Pre-AD1 (say) Christ sat with his father in heaven, waiting for his day on earth to come. Somewhere about that time, about AD30-33  He expressed his father’s kingdom in his ministry on earth. Since that time he has been reigning from heaven. At some point in the future he will return again as a conquering king (see Rev 19) and will then preside alongside his Father in eternity over the new heaven and new earth. The present ‘stepping stone’ of history is unknown to us as to duration for the time being – so watch the skies.