• “Consequently, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9 NASB) | Photo: Shutterstock

A Day Of Rest For The People Of God

Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer - 29 March 2023

“Consequently, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9 NASB)

It is clear from scripture that the Sabbath was typological of the rest that is found in Jesus (Hebrews 3-4). However, the Sabbath was a picture of several other rests in scripture as well. The rest was a reminder of God’s rest after creation. The Sabbath rest symbolized the promised land that was to be given to Israel. The Sabbath rest is also typological of the future rest of all believers in the Kingdom of Peace and Righteousness on planet earth and finally in the new heavens and new earth. Scripture closes with a picture of our ultimate restoration, a perpetual Sabbath without morning or evening in the new Jerusalem, part of the new heaven and new earth where there is no night, and where the city is continuously lit with the glory of God. The closing chapters of Revelation predict a restoration that is consistent with the opening chapter of Genesis, an eternal Sabbath with no evening or morning. Prior to that John speaks about the thousand years of Peace, Righteousness and prosperity under the worldwide leadership of Christ, the Messianic King of Israel and of the world.

When the angels announce the birth of Christ to the shepherds near Bethlehem, they praise God and shout and sing: “…Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests…” (Luke 2:14)
When the crowd welcomes Jesus to Jerusalem, they joyfully praise God and shout: “…Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!…” (Luke19:38)
When Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, He says: “…I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord.’…” (Matthew 23:39)
Jesus did not say: You will never see Me again. He said: You will not see Me again UNTIL you say: Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord – Baruch haba beShem Adonai!
So one-day Israel WILL say: Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord – Baruch haba beShem Adonai!

The Jews are coming home to the Promised Land of Israel, already for over a hundred years.
Israel celebrates their 75th Anniversary in 2023: 1948-2023!
Jerusalem is since 1967 the undivided capital of the State of Israel.
Jesus says that Jerusalem is the City of the Great King.

We are all waiting for the fulfilment of the two promises of the angel Gabriel to Mary.
Gabriel promised 2 things in Luke 1:31-33: “…You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His Kingdom will never end…”

  1. The first promise has literally been fulfilled. The Holy Spirit created a holy child in the womb of His mother Mary. God would be His Father and she would be His mother. The virgin birth. The holy Son of God was born to be the Lamb of God. He came to be slain for the sins of the world. In order that you and I would not perish, but have life everlasting.
  2. The second promise will also be literally fulfilled. One-day He will sit on the throne of His father David – and that throne stood in Jerusalem. One-day He will reign over the house of Jacob = the 12 tribes of Israel. And of His Kingdom there shall be no end.

One-day, peace will flow from Jerusalem and cover the face of the earth.

Isaiah prophecies in 2:2-4: “…In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s Temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.” The law [TORAH] will go out from Zion, the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore…”

And Israel will welcome Him, shouting: Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord – Baruch haba beShem Adonai! Blessed be the Son of David! (Matthew 21:9) Blessed be the coming kingdom of our father David! (Mark 11:10) Blessed be the King Who comes in the Name of the Lord! (Luke 19:38) Blessed is the King of Israel! (John 12:38)

That is why we pray for the peace of Jerusalem! It means that we are praying for the Coming of the Prince of Peace to Jerusalem, for only then the Middle East and the whole world will finally have Peace.
That is why we speak to the Church about the sin of replacement theology.
That is why we bless and comfort Israel in many ways.

“…we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is…”

Jesus’ resurrection body obviously has the ability to move between the different eternal  dimensions, and our earthly reality. Going back and forth. In the period between Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, ‘…He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God’, and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive…’, according to Acts 1:3. And when John contemplated His Coming in Glory, he said: we shall not only see Him as He is, but we shall be like Him. 1 John 3:2-3: “….Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure…”

This opens new perspectives, with regard to the coming of the Kingdom, and our role therein. The glorified Jesus says, in Revelation 2:26-27, that He will not only rule the nations with a rod of iron in His Kingdom of justice and peace, but that He will share His power with us, the conquerors. It says in NKJV: “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—as I also have received from My Father…”

Will we be moving between dimensions? Will we be crossing over, as He did? In an incredible fantastic unimaginable resurrection body? Who can tell…Let’s read the passage: “…To the one who is victorious and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from My Father…” This is a quotation of verse 9 from Psalm 2 about the Messiah-King.

Let’s read the whole Psalm 2: “…Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their  shackles.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath, saying, “I have installed My King on Zion, My holy mountain.” I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to Me, “You are My son; today I have become Your Father. Ask Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession…”

Then verse 9 and following verses: “… You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate His rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or He will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for His wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him…”

One thing is certain: His (and our?) Coming in Glory will be the start of the Kingdom for Israel. Israel will no longer be the tail of the nations, but the head of the nations.

“The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”

Let’s look at Micah 4:1-4: “…In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s Temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken…

And Micah 5:2-5 NKJV: “…“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel.  And He shall stand and feed His flock In the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the Name of the Lord His God; And they shall abide, For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth; And this One shall be [the] peace…” First Messiah was born in Bethlehem. It happened after the 400 years of silence during the period between the Old and the New Testament, until God’s final word was spoken and the Holy Child was born by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then for almost 2000 years Israel was spread around the globe. Jesus is from the tribe of Judah. Today we see the return of the remnant of the 10 tribes together with the remnant of the 2 tribes of Judah, His brethren. And very soon He will come, and as the NIV translates: “…He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the Name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth…” The Kingdom is coming! “…And this One shall be [the] peace…”

Jesus’ friends asked Him shortly before His Ascension: Lord, will You restore the Kingship of Israel in this time? He simply replied: “Not yet”.  When will it then happen? Only the Father knows. The angels don’t know, even the Son does not know this. But the Gospel of the Kingdom (not merely the Gospel in general, but the Gospel of the Kingdom) must be preached over all the earth, as a testimony to all the nations, and then the Kingdom will come.

This world-wide proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom will bring an end to this – in fact, terrible – period of world history. And the restoration of the fig tree, Israel, ushers in the next phase of world history: the Coming of His Kingdom and the Coming of the King of that Kingdom. Luke 21:29-31: “…He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the Kingdom of God is near…” “…right at the door…” Mark 13:29 adds. And in verses 30-31 Jesus adds: “…Truly I tell you, this generation [or: race, people, meaning Israel and the Jewish people] will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away…” Luke 22:28-30: “…You are those who have stood by Me in My trials. And I confer on you a Kingdom, just as My Father conferred one on Me, so that you may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel…”

Things on earth will not continue endlessly. There are no cyclic time-concepts in the Bible, in which things keep going around in unending circles, repeating themselves endlessly. History is a straight line that stretches from Creation to Recreation. In the Bible there are several divine ‘UNTIL’S. The word ‘until’ is actually quite extraordinary, and comforting. It means that a situation continues and continues and continues… until! Then things change, and a new phase begins.

If you are interested, 10 of these ‘UNTIL-s’ can be found in:

  • Luke 21:24
  • Matthew 23:37-39
  • Romans 11:25-29
  • 2 Peter 1:19
  • Acts 3:21
  • 1 Corinthians 15:25-26
  • Luke 19:13
  • Revelation 6:11
  • Matthew 26:26-28
  • Revelation 20:5

And more of these prophetic ‘until-s’ can be found in the Scriptures!

A clear time-line appears when you align these divine ‘until’s’. Jesus said in Luke 21:23-24: “…How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles UNTIL the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled…”. Was this fulfilled, in 1967, when East Jerusalem was liberated from the 19-year Jordanian occupation, and Jerusalem was made the undivided capital of Israel? Or is the presence of two mosques on the holy place – Mount Sion which is Mount Moriah – indicating that the trampling under foot by the Gentiles is not over yet?

Jesus said, in Matthew 23:39: ”…For I tell you, you will not see Me again UNTIL you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord…” Jesus did not say: you will never see Me again, He said: you will not see me UNTIL you will say: Baruch haba beShem Adonai – blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD! So Israel will, someday – who knows how soon! – shout these words again, as they did when He entered into Jerusalem.

“Israel has experienced a hardening in part UNTIL the full number of the Gentiles has come in…”

Paul says, in Romans 11:25: “…I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part UNTIL the full number of the Gentiles has come in…” But when the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached to all the nations – and that is happening today, by powerful satellites, radio/TV transmitters, internet, etc., for the first time worldwide in practically all the languages of the world, hundreds of hours each and every day, for the first time in history – and the full number of Gentiles that God has in His mind been engrafted upon the old root, planted into the New Covenant made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah: THEN all Israel shall be saved and will see the Coming of Messiah to establish His Kingdom forever.

In 1 Corinthians 15:25 Paul says: “…For he must reign UNTIL he has put all his enemies under his feet…”

And in 2 Peter 1:19 the apostle Peter cautions us to pay close attention to the prophetic Word of God, in order to understand the signs of the times, that point to His Coming in Glory: “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, UNTIL the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Are we ready for that Day?

In Revelation 20:4-5 one reads: “…And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again UNTIL the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection…”

(For a detailed study about the Day of Rest, the eschatological in the Book of Revelation I refer to THE ESCHATOLOGICAL SABBATH IN JOHN’S APOCALYPSE: A RECONSIDERATION ROBERT M. JOHNSTON, Andrews University: the eschatological sabbath in john’s apocalypse: a reconsideration)


The Church did not replace Israel, just as infant baptism did not replace circumcision. Israel is Israel, and the Church is the Church. There is no doubt in my mind that we as the Church are a chosen people of God. But the Church has never replaced Israel. God will fulfill all His promises to Israel, as He will fulfill all His promises to the Church. We need to stop mixing the two, or replacing the one with the other, as so often has been done in the past.

Paul taught us in Romans 11 that God hardened and blinded the Jews. Verse 25: “…Israel has experienced a hardening in part…” In part, because Jews know who God is, but have a blind spot for who Jesus is. And also in part because there has always been a remnant according to the election of grace. And in part because Jews know God and God knows them. To aggressively evangelize the Jewish people, as some do, seems to be saying: “God, you hardened and blinded them, but we will do a better job and bring them to Christ and get them saved.” Although it is quite all right to talk about Jesus when Jews ask you what you believe – speaking about ‘the hope that is within us’ – still we should respect the mystery of the plan of God. Earnestly praying for the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Israel, and showing the love of Jesus in our words and especially in our deeds of love and solidarity with the State of Israel and with our Jewish brothers and sisters who serve the same God as we do, is what He is expecting from us.

Paul continues in Romans 11:25-29 “…I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part UNTIL the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And then [or: and so] all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is [or will be] My Covenant with them when I take away their sins.” [Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9 (see Septuagint); Jer. 31:31-34]… As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for YOUR sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are (be)loved on account of [for the sake of] the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable…”

God loves Israel as a father loves his son, as a husband loves his wife. He made everlasting Covenants with Israel that He will never ever brake.

What do the prophets of Israel say about this Kingdom of Peace on earth, to which the Apostle John connects the number ‘1,000’  in Revelation 20:1-10? Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics.

  • The first bodily resurrection of the righteous will then take place: 1 Corinthians 15:51-57, in the ‘twinkling of an eye’: in a ‘split second’ verse 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 20:4-6.
  • Judgment over the nations: Matthew 25:31-46; Isaiah 63:1-6; Psalms 110:5; Joel 3; Isaiah 41:8-16; Revelation 19:11-16.
  • The Great Son of David reigns over Israel & Judah: Ezekiel 38:15-28.
  • Last and final Temple, Ezekiel 40-48.
  • The Lord dwells in Jerusalem, Psalms 132:13-14.
  • Kingdom of Peace and Righteousness: Isaiah 2:2-4. Micah 4:1-3 / 5:2-5a;
  • The Creator Himself guarantees the continuation of Israel: Jeremiah 31:35-37;
  • Prince of Peace on the throne of David: Isaiah 9:1-7;
  • The lion together with the lamb: Isaiah 11:1-10; 65:17-25;
  • The house of Israel will possess the nations: Isaiah 14:1-2; Isaiah 45:5-8;
  • The Servant of the Lord brings back Israel: Isaiah 49:1, 5-6, 8b-9, 22;
  • No one shall say: I am sick: Isaiah 33:24; + forgiveness of sins;
  • The Glory of Zion / Jerusalem: Isaiah 60 – 61 – 62;
  • When you die as a 100-year-old, you will be called: a mere youth, Isaiah 65:17-25;
  • Wolf and lamb together, lion eats vegetarian food like an ox: Isaiah 65:25;
  • Peace like a river: Isaiah 66:5-11; 12-14;
  • Proclamation among the nations: Isaiah 66:19-21;
  • A new heaven and a new earth, fire, ‘worm’ shall not die: Isaiah 66:22-24; Mark 9:44. See also Matthew 5:22; Matthew 8:28-32 torment; Matthew 18:25; Matthew 25:41 and 46; Mark 9:43-45; Revelation 19:19-20; 20:10/14-15.
  • Gnashing of teeth: Matthew 8:12 / 13:42 / 13:50 / 22:13 / 24:51 / 25:30; Luke 3:17, 13:28; Hebrews 12:25-29 God is a consuming fire; Jude 7 Sodom. Revelation 14:9-12. 1 Peter 4:12 and 3:10-13.
  • Jerusalem will last forever, Psalms 132:13-14, Revelation 21. 

What a great promise for His Church, for the Church of Jesus Christ. To be queen at the side of the King. To be deployed in the Christocracy / Christ government on earth. The Risen Lord promises this in Revelation 2:26-28


First the signs of the Kingdom in Israel performed by Jesus the King Himself, as pockets of light in a surrounding darkness.

Then the signs of the Kingdom in the whole world by the power of the Holy Spirit during the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the nations of the earth, Matthew 24:14. Signs and wonders, as pockets of light in a surrounding darkness.

And ultimately the Kingdom of peace and justice worldwide, when the King will again be among us and will sit on the throne of His father David and rule over the House of Jacob = Israel and peace will flow forth from Jerusalem and the nations will train for war no more, Isaiah 2:2-4. And of His Kingdom there shall be no end, because He was resurrected from the dead and lives forever.

All Covenants made with Israel will have their final fulfilment in the Kingdom to come.
Then all the Promises made to Abraham will be fulfilled
Then the Promised Land will have its Promised borders.
Then the Priesthood of Levi will function again.
Then the Kingship of the House of David will be established forever.
Then Jerusalem and the Temple will be the center of the world.
Then the New Covenant will be fully implemented for Israel
Then the Covenant of Peace will be fully operational.
Then the wisdom of Torah will be the guiding light for all nations

“We should be like Daniel who went to his knees, and said: Forgive my sins. And he had done nothing wrong”


  1. Repent for her sins of the past. We should be like Daniel. Personally he had done nothing wrong. He probably was the most pious man on earth during his days. He denied food that he as a Jew was not supposed to eat. It could have cost him his life, But he rather died than deny the God of Israel and His commandments. But when he understood on the basis of the prophecies of Jeremiah that the 70 years of the Babylonian Captivity (between 600 – 500 BC) were almost over and that the people of Israel were about to return home to the Promised Land, he went to his knees, and said: Forgive my sins. And he had done nothing wrong. And then he said: Forgive the sins of my people. He identified with the sins of the whole house of Israel. And then he said: Forgive the sins of my forefathers, the generations long gone. He identified with the sins of his people. So we should identify with the sins of the Church, although you and I personally – or the church that we belong to – did nothing wrong.
  2. Change our Christian theology. Remove Replacement theology and start thinking about a theology of the Kingdom, in order that the full Gospel can be preached to the nations: the Gospel of the Kingdom, Matthew 24:14.
  3. Understand that the return of the Jewish people to the Promised Land Israel (Isaiah 43:5-8) means that Jesus is coming soon! The Kingdom is coming. Can the Church meet with Jesus, with Jewish blood upon her hands, the blood of ages?
  4. The Church should understand that we are running out of time of grace. Worldwide the Gospel is still being preached, but slowly but steadily the light over the Gentile world is going down. Because the Jews are returning home, in preparation of the final revelation about Jesus and the Kingdom to come.
  5. The Lord expects a holy bride, when He comes. So this means a message of sanctification for the Church.
  6. Prayer is warfare. We should be watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem, looking for the dangers that threaten Jerusalem, Israel and the Jewish people. We should be involved in spiritual warfare, Isaiah 626-7. Praying for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6a) means also praying for the Prince of Peace to come to Jerusalem. Only then there will be peace in the Middle East and among the nations worldwide.
  7. Fight anti-Semitism, wherever it shows its ugly face. Whether cloaked in Christian garments, or Muslim garments; in Nazi-philosophy, in left-wing or right-wing fascism, in humanistic, new-age or secular political garments, in the media, in politics on a national or international level, in education on all levels – even at universities – in churches, newspapers or anti-Jewish jokes and cartoons: never be silent, Isaiah 62:1 and 6.
  8. Provoke Israel to jealousy by bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance in deeds of love and solidarity with the Jewish people and with the State of Israel. Bring the Jews home! Help them to return to the Promised Land. It is after God’s heart and soul, Jeremiah 32:40-41. He will be well-pleased with you and your church and your nation.
  9. Speak prophetically wherever you can and God gives you the opportunity. If you understand that God will bless those who bless Israel, but also that God will curse those who curse Israel, explain this to others. If you personally want to be blessed: Bless Israel. If your church wants to be blessed: Bless Israel. If your nation wants to be blessed: Let your nation bless Israel, also when voting in the United Nations when one of the many anti-Israel resolutions is on the table.
  10. Prepare for the Coming of the Lord.

Let me quote an in my opinion great article by George Eldon Ladd.  George Eldon Ladd (1911-1982) was a Baptist minister and professor of New Testament exegesis and theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Ladd was ordained in 1933 and pastored in New England from 1936 to 1945. He served as an instructor at Gordon College of Theology and Missions (now Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary), Wenham, Massachusetts from 1942-45. He was an associate professor of New Testament and Greek from 1946-50, and head of the department of New Testament from 1946-49. In 1950-52 he was an associate professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California, becoming professor of biblical theology in 1952. Ladd was a notable, modern proponent of Historic Pre-millennialism, and often criticized dispensationalist views. His writings regarding the Kingdom of God have become a cornerstone of Kingdom theology.

By George Eldon Ladd

“We live in a wonderful and yet a fearful day. It is a wonderful day because of the amazing accomplishments of our modern scientific skills which have provided us with a measure of comfort and prosperity undreamed of a century ago. Great metal birds soar through the air, swallowing up thousands of miles in a few hours. Floating palaces bring to the ocean voyager all the luxuries of the most elegant hotel. The automobile has freed man to explore for himself scenes and sights which to his grandparents were contained only in story-books. Electrical power has brought a score of slaves to serve the humblest housewife. Medical science has conquered the plague, smallpox, and other scourges of physical well-being and is on the threshold of other amazing conquests.

A marvellous age, indeed! Yet happiness and security seem further removed than ever, for we face dangers and hazards of unparalleled dimensions. We have come victoriously through a war in which the foundations of human liberty were threatened; yet the columns of our newspapers are stained with unbelievable stories of the suppression of human freedom, and the fight for freedom goes on. New discoveries in the structure of matter have opened unimaginable vistas of blessing for man’s physical well-being; yet these very discoveries hold the potential, in the hands of evil men, of blasting society from the face of the earth.

In a day like this, wonderful yet fearful, men are asking questions. What does it all mean? Where are we going? What is the meaning and the goal of human history? Men are concerned today not only about the individual and the destiny of his soul but also about the meaning of history itself. Does mankind have a destiny? Or do we jerk across the stage of time like wooden puppets, only to have the stage, the actors, and the theatre itself destroyed by fire, leaving only a pile of ashes and the smell of smoke?

In ancient times, poets and seers longed for an ideal society. Hesiod dreamed of a lost Golden Age in the distant past but saw no brightness in the present, constant care for the morrow, and no hope for the future. Plato pictured an ideal state organized on philosophical principles but he himself realized that his plan was too idealistic to be realized. Virgil sang of one who would deliver the world from its sufferings and by whom ‘the great line of the ages begins anew.’

The Hebrew-Christian faith expresses its hope in terms of the Kingdom of God. This Biblical hope is not in the same category as the dreams of the Greek poets but is at the very heart of revealed religion. The Biblical idea of the Kingdom of God is deeply rooted in the Old Testament and is grounded in the confidence that there is one eternal, living God who has revealed Himself to men and who has a purpose for the human race which He has chosen to accomplish through Israel. The Biblical hope is therefore a religious hope; it is an essential element in the revealed will and the redemptive work of the living God.

Thus the prophets announced a day when men will live together in peace. God shall then ‘judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more’ (Isaiah 2:4). Not only shall the problems of human society be solved, but the evils of man’s physical environment shall be no more. ‘The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them’ (Isaiah 11:6). Peace, safety, security – all this was promised for the happy future.

Then came Jesus of Nazareth with the announcement, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 4:17). This theme of the coming of the Kingdom of God was central in His mission. His teaching was designed to show men how they might enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20; 7:21). His mighty works were intended to prove that the Kingdom of God had come upon them (Matthew 12:28). His parables illustrated to His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:11). And when He taught His followers to pray, at the heart of their petition were the words, ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matthew 6:10). On the eve of His death, He assured His disciples that He would yet share with them the happiness and the fellowship of the Kingdom (Luke 22:22-30). And He promised that He would appear again on the earth in glory to bring the blessedness of the Kingdom to those for whom it was prepared (Matthew 25:31, 34).When we ask the Christian Church, ‘What is the Kingdom of God? When and how will it come?’ we receive a bewildering diversity of explanations. There are few themes so prominent in the Bible which have received such radically divergent interpretations as that of the Kingdom of God.

Some, like Adolf von Harnack, reduced the Kingdom of God to the subjective realm and understood it in terms of the human spirit and its relationship to God. The Kingdom of God is an inward power which enters into the human soul and lays hold of it. It consists of a few basic religious truths of universal application. The more recent interpretation of C. H. Dodd, conceives of the Kingdom as the absolute, the ‘wholly other’ which has entered into time and space in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

At the other extreme are those who, like Albert Schweitzer, define Jesus’ message of the Kingdom as an apocalyptic realm to be inaugurated by a supernatural act of God when history will be broken off and a new heavenly order of existence begun. The Kingdom of God in no sense of the word is a present or a spiritual reality; it is altogether future and supernatural.

Another type of interpretation relates the Kingdom of God in one way or another to the Church. Since the days of Augustine, the Kingdom has been identified with the Church. As the Church grows, the Kingdom grows and is extended in the world. Many Protestant theologians have taught a modified form of this interpretation, holding that the Kingdom of God may be identified with the true Church which is embodied in the visible professing Church. As the Church takes the Gospel into all the world, it extends the Kingdom of God. An optimistic version holds that it is the mission of the Church to win the entire world to Christ and thus transform the world into the Kingdom of God. The Gospel is the supernatural redeeming Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom is to be established by the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel. The Gospel must not only offer a personal salvation in the future life to those who believe; it must also transform all of the relationships of life here and now and thus cause the Kingdom of God to prevail in all the world. The Gospel of redeeming grace has the power to save the social, economic and political orders as well as the souls of individual believers. The Kingdom of God is like a bit of leaven placed in a bowl of dough which slowly but steadily permeates the dough until the entire lump is leavened. So is the Kingdom of God to transform the world by slow and gradual permeation.

Still others have understood the Kingdom of God to be essentially an ideal pattern for human society. The Kingdom is not primarily concerned with individual salvation or with the future but with the social problems of the present. Men build the Kingdom of God as they work for the ideal social order and endeavor to solve the problems of poverty, sickness, labour relations, social inequalities and race relationships. The primary task of the Church is to build the Kingdom of God. Those who are interested in the history of interpretation will find a brief but comprehensive survey with documentation in the author’s book, Crucial Questions About the Kingdom of God.

In the face of such diversity of interpretation in the history of Christian theology, many readers will react by saying, ‘let us be done with all human interpretations. Let us go directly to the Word of God and find what it has to say about the Kingdom of God.’ The perplexing fact is that when we turn to the Scriptures, we find an almost equally bewildering diversity of statements about the Kingdom of God. If you will take a concordance of the Bible, look up every reference in the New Testament alone where the word ‘kingdom’ occurs, write down a brief summary of each verse on a piece of paper, you will probably find yourself at a loss to know what to do with the complexity of teaching.

The Word of God does say that the Kingdom of God is a present spiritual reality. ‘For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17). Righteousness and peace and joy are fruits of the Spirit which God bestows now upon those who yield their lives to the rule of the Spirit. They have to do with the deepest springs of the spiritual life, and this, says the inspired apostle, is the Kingdom of God.

At the same time, the Kingdom is an inheritance which God will bestow upon His people when Christ comes in glory. ‘Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ (Matthew 25:34). How can the Kingdom of God be a present spiritual reality and yet be an inheritance bestowed upon God’s people at the Second Coming of Christ?

Another facet of Kingdom truth reflects the fact that the Kingdom is a realm into which the followers of Jesus Christ have entered. Paul writes that God has ‘delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son’ (Colossians 1: 13). This verse makes it very clear that the redeemed are already in the Kingdom of Christ. It may of course be objected that we must distinguish between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Christ; but this seems impossible, for the Kingdom of God is also the Kingdom of Christ (Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 11:15). Furthermore, our Lord describes those who received His message and mission as those who now enter into the Kingdom of God (Luke 16:16).

At the same time, the Kingdom of God is a future realm which we must enter when Christ returns. Peter looks to a future day when there ‘will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (II Pet. I: II). Our Lord Himself frequently referred to this future event. ‘Many will come from the east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 8:11).

This future coming of the Kingdom will be attended with great glory. Jesus told of the day when the angels ‘will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ (Matthew 13:41, 43). On the other hand, when asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God was coming, he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is !’ or, ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you’ (Luke 17:20-21). The Kingdom is already present in the midst of men; and Jesus flatly discouraged the Pharisees from looking for a future Kingdom which would come with an outward display of glory.

The parables of the Kingdom make it clear that in some sense, the Kingdom is present and at work in the world. The Kingdom of God is like a tiny seed which becomes a great tree; it is like leaven which will one day have permeated the entire bowl of dough (Luke 13: 18-21). Yet on the other hand, when Pilate examined Jesus about His teaching, Jesus replied, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18: 36).

The very complexity of the Biblical teaching about the Kingdom of God is one of the reasons why such diverse interpretations have arisen in the history of theology. Isolated verses can be quoted for most of the interpretations which can be found in our theological literature. The Kingdom is a present reality (Matthew 12:28), and yet it is a future blessing (1 Corinthians 15:50). It is an inner spiritual redemptive blessing (Romans 14:17) which can be experienced only by way of the new birth (John 3:3), and yet it will have to do with the government of the nations of the world (Revelation 11:15). The Kingdom is a realm into which men enter now (Matthew 21:31), and yet it is a realm into which they will enter tomorrow (Matthew 8:11). It is at the same time a gift of God which will be bestowed by God in the future (Luke 12:32) and yet which must be received in the present (Mark 10:15). Obviously, no simple explanation can do justice to such a rich but diverse variety of teaching.

There is, however, a basic solution to this complex problem which will provide a key of meaning to open the door into treasures of understanding and blessing. This key provides the simplest approach to this involved and diverse body of Scriptural truth. It is a key which is often overlooked because of the difference between modern and ancient idiom.

We must ask the most fundamental question: What is the meaning of ‘kingdom’? The modern answer to this question loses the key of meaning to this ancient Biblical truth. In our western idiom, a kingdom is primarily a realm over which a king exercises his authority. Not many kingdoms remain in our modern world with its democratic interests; but we think of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as the original group of countries which recognize the Queen as their sovereign. The dictionary follows this line of thought by giving as its first modern definition, ‘A state or monarchy the head of which is a king; dominion; realm.’ The second meaning of a kingdom is the people belonging to a given realm. The Kingdom of Great Britain may be thought of as the citizens over whom the Queen exercises her rule, the subjects of her kingdom.

The exclusive application of either of these two ideas to the Biblical teaching of the Kingdom leads us astray from a correct understanding of the Biblical truth. The English dictionary itself makes this mistake when it gives as the theological definition of the kingdom, ‘The spiritual realm having God as its head.’ This definition cannot do justice to the verses which speak of the coming of the Kingdom in outward glory and power when Christ returns. On the other hand, those who begin with the idea of a future realm inaugurated by the return of Christ cannot do justice to the sayings about the Kingdom as a present spiritual reality. Furthermore, those who begin with the idea of the Kingdom as a people base their definition upon the identity of the Kingdom with the Church, and for this there is very little scriptural warrant.

We must set aside our modern idiom if we are to understand Biblical terminology. At this point Webster’s dictionary provides us with a clue when it gives as its first definition: ‘The rank, quality, state, or attributes of a king; royal authority; dominion; monarchy; kingship. Archaic.’ From the viewpoint of modern linguistic usage, this definition may be archaic; but it is precisely this archaism which is necessary to understand the ancient Biblical teaching. The primary meaning of both the Hebrew word malkuth in the Old Testament and of the Greek word basileia in the New Testament is the rank, authority and sovereignty exercised by a king. A basileia may indeed be a realm over which a sovereign exercises his authority; and it may be the people who belong to that realm and over whom authority is exercised; but these are secondary and derived meanings. First of all, a kingdom is the authority to rule, the sovereignty of the king.

This primary meaning of the word ‘kingdom’ may be seen in its Old Testament use to describe a king’s rule. Ezra 8:1 speaks of the return from Babylon ‘in the kingdom’ of Artaxerxes, i.e., his reign. II Chronicles 12:1 speaks of the establishment of Rehoboam’s kingdom or rule. Daniel 8: 23 refers to the latter end of their kingdom or rule. This usage of ‘kingdom’ as a human reign may also be found in such passages as Jeremiah 49:34; 2 Chronicles 11:17;12:1;26 30; Ezra 4:5; Nehemiah 12:22, et cetera.

When the word refers to God’s Kingdom, it always refers to His reign, His rule, His sovereignty, and not to the realm in which it is exercised. Psalm 103:19, ‘The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.’ God’s kingdom, His malkuth, is His universal rule, His sovereignty over all the earth. Psalm 145:11, ‘They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and tell of thy power.’ In the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, the two lines express the same truth. God’s Kingdom is His power. Psalm 145: 13, ‘Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endures throughout all generations.’ The realm of God’s rule is the heaven and earth, but this verse has no reference to the permanence of this realm. It is God’s rule which is everlasting. Daniel 2:37, ‘You, 0 king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory.’ Notice the synonyms for kingdom: power, might, glory – all expressions of authority. These terms identify the Kingdom as the ‘rule’ which God has given to the king. Of Belshazzar, it was written, ‘God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end’ (Daniel 5:26). It is clear that the realm over which Belshazzar ruled was not destroyed. The Babylonian realm and people were not brought to an end; they were transferred to another ruler. It was the rule of the king which was terminated, and it was the rule which was given to Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:31).

One reference in our Gospels makes this meaning very clear. We read in Luke 19: 11-12, ‘As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, ‘A nobleman went into a fat country to receive a basileia and then return.’ The nobleman did not go away to get a realm, an area over which to rule. The realm over which he wanted to reign was at hand. The territory over which he was to rule was this place he left. The problem was that he was no king. He needed authority, the right to rule. He went off to get a ‘kingdom,’ i.e., kingship, authority. The Revised Standard Version has therefore translated the word ‘kingly power.’

This very thing had happened some years before the days of our Lord. In the year 40 BC political conditions in Palestine had become chaotic. The Romans had subdued the country in 63 BC, but stability had been slow in coming. Herod the Great finally went to Rome, obtained from the Roman Senate the kingdom, and was declared to be king. He literally went into a far country to receive a kingship, the authority to be king in Judaea over the Jews. It may well be that our Lord had this incident in mind in this parable. In any case, it illustrates the Fundamental meaning of kingdom.

The Kingdom of God is His kingship, His rule, His authority. When this is once realized, we can go through the New Testament and find passage after passage where this meaning is evident, where the Kingdom is not a realm or a people but God’s reign. Jesus said that we must ‘receive the kingdom of God’ as little children (Mark 10:15). What is received? The Church? Heaven? What is received is God’s rule. In order to enter the future realm of the Kingdom, one must submit himself in perfect trust to God’s rule here and now.

We must also ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33). What is the object of our quest? The Church? Heaven? No; we are to seek God’s righteousness – His sway, His rule, His reign in our lives.

When we pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,’ are we praying for heaven to come to earth? In a sense we are praying for this; but heaven is an object of desire only because the reign of God is to be more perfectly realized than it is now. Apart from the reign of God, heaven is meaningless. Therefore, what we pray for is, ‘Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ This prayer is a petition for God to reign, to manifest His kingly sovereignty and power, to put to fight every enemy of righteousness and of His divine rule, that God alone may be King over all the world. However, a reign without a realm in which it is exercised is meaningless. Thus we find that the Kingdom of God is also the realm in which God’s reign may be experienced. But again, the Biblical facts are not simple. Sometimes the Bible speaks of the Kingdom as the realm into which we enter as present, sometimes as though it were future.

It is future in such verses as Mark 9:47, ‘It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell.” (See also Mark 10:23, 14:25, Matthew 7:21.) In such passages the Kingdom of God is equivalent to that aspect of eternal life which will be experienced only after the Second Coming of Christ. In other passages, the Kingdom is present and may be entered here and now. Luke 16:16, ‘The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently.’ Matthew 21:31, ‘The tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.’ Luke 11:52, ‘Woe to you lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge: you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’ 

Our problem, then, is found in this threefold fact: (1) Some passages of Scripture refer to the Kingdom of God as God’s reign. (2) Some passages refer to God’s Kingdom as the realm into which we may now enter to experience the blessings of His reign. (3) Still other passages refer to a future realm which will come only with the return of our Lord Jesus Christ into which we shall then enter and experience the fullness of His reign. Thus the Kingdom of God means three different things in different verses. One has to study all the references in the light of their context and then try to fit them together in an overall interpretation.

Fundamentally, as we have seen, the Kingdom of God is God’s sovereign reign; but God’s reign expresses itself in different stages through redemptive history. Therefore, men may enter into the realm of God’s reign in its several stages of manifestation and experience the blessings of His reign in differing degrees. God’s Kingdom is the realm of the Age to Come, popularly called heaven; then we shall realize the blessings of His Kingdom (reign) in the perfection of their fullness. But the Kingdom is here now. There is a realm of spiritual blessing into which we may enter today and enjoy in part but in reality, the blessings of God’s Kingdom (reign).

We pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ The confidence that this prayer is to be answered when God brings human history to the divinely ordained consummation enables the Christian to retain his balance and sanity of mind in this mad world in which we live. Our hearts go out to those who have no such hope. Thank God, His Kingdom is coming, and it will fill all the earth. But when we pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come,’ we also ask that God’s will be done here and now, today. This is the primary concern of these expositions, that the reader might meet the Kingdom of God, or rather, that the Kingdom of God might meet him. We should also pray, ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done’ in my church as it is in heaven. The life and fellowship of a Christian church ought to be a fellowship of people among whom God’s will is done – a bit of heaven on earth. ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done’ in my life, as it is in heaven. This is included in our prayer for the coming of the Kingdom. This is part of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.”

What a beautiful explanation by George Eldon Ladd of the Gospel of the Kingdom!

The Gospel of the Kingdom – George Eldon Ladd – 1st edition 1959, The Paternoster Press – ISBN 0-8028-1280-5 (reprint 1992, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, USA)

Crucial Questions About the Kingdom of God – George Eldon Ladd – 1952, Eerdmans – Grand Rapids

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