Imagine attending a forty day conference with the resurrected Christ as the guest speaker. That would be amazing, right? The topic of discussion for the whole conference? The kingdom of God (or heaven) So, what is the kingdom of God? Commentary from the ESV study Bible says this:
The “kingdom of God” means not an earthly political or military kingdom but the present spiritually directed reign of God, gradually transforming individual lives and entire cultures through the power of the Holy Spirit.
With this explanation in mind I must say that the most damage done to the kingdom of God does not come directly from the devil, but through Christians who have the wrong understanding of the kingdom. Imagine an earthly kingdom that was impenetrable by enemy forces. It had a wall so high and so thick that enemies wouldn’t dare to try and invade. This kingdom has a military ten times more powerful than any other in terms of weaponry and skill in war. A kingdom this powerful could only be stopped by people inside its walls.
I’m not saying that the kingdom of God can ever be stopped, but what I am saying is that the advancement of the kingdom slows down when believers take on wrong mindsets about it. The Jews in Jesus’ day had the wrong mindset about the kingdom. They envisioned the Messiah as a political king who would come and defeat the Roman army and deliver them from Rome’s oppression. They had David in mind, and since the Messiah was called the “son of David” they thought it meant He would bring the same sort of military advancement that David brought.
Jesus did not come to defeat Rome. He came to defeat Satan, sin and death.
In our day many believers have the idea that right before Jesus comes the world will get so evil that He will have to come and rapture His people, destroy darkness and set up His throne in Jerusalem where He will reign for 1000 literal years. Then the final judgment will come and then the New Jerusalem will come down from heaven ushering in the eternal state of the new heavens and the new earth.
The mistake Jews in Jesus’ day made is the same mistake I think we are making today. That is, believing that the kingdom will come in a way that is visible to the eye. Jesus directly addressed this issue in Luke 17:20-21:
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” – Luke 17:20-21
When John says in Revelation that he saw the New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God” people imagine a physical thing taking place, but that’s not how the kingdom is. We can dive into this by looking at a few different points:
- The 1000 year reign
First of all we must understand that the number 1000 is rarely used literally in the Bible unless it involves counting money or other possessions (as in Genesis 20:16). It often symbolizes a large quantity or the whole of something, like in Psalm 50:10 where it says God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Literally speaking, God owns the cattle on all the hills. Another example is in Psalm 84 that says a day with the Lord is better than a thousand elsewhere. A day with Him is really better than eternity elsewhere.
The next thing we must understand is the nature of the thousand years. It says in Revelation 20 that during the thousand years Satan is bound and imprisoned, and that the saints reign with Christ. It’s also called the “first resurrection.”
What it doesn’t say is that there will be any type of “golden age” or fairytale-like peace on earth. We must remember that peace is not the absence of evil, but the presence of Jesus.
Looking at these characteristics of the thousand years we can better understand what is going on. When it says that Satan is bound it mentions that he is bound so that he “might not deceive the nations any longer” (ESV). The ESV is the only version I’ve found that says it this way and I’ve researched it and this is what the original Greek also says.
What does it mean that he might not deceive the nations? Well, I think it means that Satan is bound up by anyone who believes he’s bound. When you consider the fact of how the gospel has been spreading across the earth for 2000 years this makes sense. In the news we hear about how bad ISIS, but the reality of heaven is that more muslims are coming to Christ today than ever before! Matthew 16:19 explains it perfectly:
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” –NASB
When a person acts in faith and confronts evil forces by binding them, Jesus says that binding is past tense for that person. Think about it from opposite perspective. What if He said, “…whatever you do not bind on earth will not have been bound in heaven…” That puts this idea into perspective. Jesus bound Satan, but it’s our job to keep him bound and to keep the seal on the pit he’s in.
You mean I have to actually take action?? Yes. This is why prayer and the spread of the gospel is so important and so much more powerful than we know. People, cities and nations are greatly impacted by the prayers and actions of the saints.
- The first resurrection
I mentioned earlier that part of the nature of the thousand years is that it is called the “first resurrection.” Jesus clearly defines the two resurrections in John 5:25, 28-29. He says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live… Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:25, 28-29
The first part of this passage is about salvation. That hour is now, when spiritually dead people hear the voice of Jesus through His disciples and they come to life spiritually. This is the “first resurrection” where people come to life spiritually and reign with Christ. The second part is about the final judgment when people will come out of their graves and stand before God to face judgment also explained in Revelation 20.
Revelation 21-22 explain the New Jerusalem. I believe the New Jerusalem is God’s prophetic explanation of the church and the kingdom of heaven. There are certain elements of the New Jerusalem that give us clues that it is not a description of eternity in heaven, but an allegory of life in the kingdom of heaven on earth. For this blog I think I’ve covered enough and will write another blog totally focused on the New Jerusalem. Grace and peace 2u.