Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.Matthew 6:10
Script of the television program of the same name.
Christians center their beliefs, their very lives, around Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus centered his life, and his teachings around this theme of a coming kingdom.
He taught about it in his words:
He illustrated it in his parables:
He demonstrated its power in countless miracles: he gave sight to the blind; he made the lame to walk, he even raised the dead!
What Will ThatKingdom Be Like?
Although this kingdom was the central theme of Jesus life he did not originate the idea. The concept of this kingdom permeated Old Testament prophecy.
The prophets foresaw a kingdom of health:
They foresaw a kingdom with harmony between man and animal:
They foresaw a kingdom of peace:
They foresaw a kingdom of total economic security:
The New Testament apostles add their voice.
They foresaw a kingdom in which even death would be done away:
And the best part is that these were not idle dreams. They were not wishful thinking. They spoke of living verities for one simple reasonthey knew what they were talking about for their very eyes had witnessed it. Listen to the Apostle Peter:
And to the Apostle Paul, when speaking of himself, writing: "I knew a man in Christ . . . caught up to the third heaven." (2 Corinthians 12:2) In the next verse he calls this third heaven paradise.
These Biblical writers could speak with such authority, with such sureness, for one simple reason. To most of their kingdom prophecies they appended the reason for their positiveness: "For the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it!"
Who Will That Kingdom Be For?
"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment." John 5:28, 29 RSV
But that seems impossible! The Bible clearly says:
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."Acts 4:12
Yes! One must be a Christian to be saved. One must believe in Christ to live forever in that kingdom. Yet the Bible just as clearly states that the men of Sodom and of Gomorroh, of Tyre and of Sidon, will be there. Can both be true? Yes! Both are true because both are in the Bible. And the Bible is true!
The harmony between these seeming conflicting statements is in a simple statement of the will of God concerning man by the Apostle Paul:
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."1 Timothy 2:3-6
God will have all men to be saved! Jesus Christ gave himself a ransom for all! How more plainly can it be stated! ALLJew and Gentile; saint and sinner; Christian and Jew and paganALL! Yet . . . there is no other name whereby men must be saved than that of Jesus Christ. Both are Scriptural statements! Both must be true! But, How?
Two phrases in Pauls words to Timothy must be examined to solve this puzzle.
FIRST, let us look at the phrase:" to be saved."
The answers come readily. Saved from death! Saved from sin! And these answers are correct answersbut they only reveal half of the real truth behind these words: all men to be saved. The Bible is a complex book. But its central theme is simple. It is the story of redemption. It begins with man created perfect and placed in a perfect garden homeEden. It soon sees the original coupleAdam and Evesin and plunge the entire race into the consequences of sindeath.
The Bible closes with man restored to perfection in a perfect earth, an earth cleansed from the defilements of sinincluding death itself.
In between it weaves a story of promise and fulfillment, of despair and of hope, of prediction and reality, of man being redeemed by one manJesus.
The Apostle Paul summarized the whole of the Bible message into one short phrase:
"For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."1 Corinthians 15:21, 22
A simple balance scale illustrates it well. Adam sinned and brought upon himself and his posterity the merited penalty of death. The scales of justice demanded it. Christ died as a corresponding pricea perfect man for a perfect manto offset the sin and bring the scales back into balance. Simple? Simple! Scriptural! True!
It was from this death sentence on the human race, then, that all men are to be saved. This salvation is guaranteed by the death of Christ to all menthe good and the bad.
But it is one thing to obtain salvation; it is yet another to maintain that salvation. While the death of Jesus promises life from the grave for all, it does not promise that that life will be maintained forever.
Adam and Eve were given life in the Garden of Eden. They did not deserve it. It was simply a gift. It was Gods grace. They could have maintained that life forever. They did not because they sinned.
In this same manner all men will receive life in Gods kingdom. They do nothing to deserve it. It is simply a gift. It is of Gods grace. They can maintain that life forever. But will they?
This is where the second phrase of Pauls statement to Timothy needs to be examined.
The Knowledge of the Truth
"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." 1Timothy 2:4)
Notice the order! God will first have all men to be saved, and, second, come to a knowledge of the truth. Wouldnt you expect that order to be reversed? That men must first know the truthknow Jesusbefore they are saved? That would seem logical. But that is not what the Bible says. Gods plan is for all men to hear the voice of the Son of Man and come forth from the graves; and then to be instructed in the knowledge of the truth. Thats what Gods kingdom is all about. There are two parts to it. First, raise all men from the grave. Second, instruct them in the rules of God so that they might keep them and maintain the life they have been given.
But is not that giving man a second chance. Indeed it would be if sin and evil had caught God by surprise. But they did notmore about that later. Because God planned sin and evil for a purpose, life from the dead for all is not a second chance, but merely the completion of what God had originally planned for man.
Why The Long Delay
But, if Gods kingdom is so wonderful why is it so long delayed? Jesus died nearly 2000 years ago and there is still no kingdom. Instead of improving, many feel that world conditions have gotten worse. Why the long delay?
The Bible outlines three reasons for the delay
When God first made man and placed him in the Garden of Eden he have him a commission.
And God blessed them, and God said to them, `Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.Genesis 1:28 RSV
Demographic experts today say that this is just the problem. The earth has a population explosion which threatens our existence. But is this truly so? The Bible indicates that man has been on this planet for a little over 6000 years. The total population from creation to the present has been estimated at between thirty and fifty billions. Thats a lot of people!
Yet the earth is a big place. Fifty billion people could each have 60 square feet of space on the island of New Zealand alone. But thats not much space, you say! True! But New Zealand is not a great part of the earth, either!
Not only does man need more space to live on, large amounts of land are required to grow the necessary food for mans sustenance. This, too, has been provided for in Gods plan.
Notice, once again, the words of the prophet Isaiah: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God."Isaiah 35:1, 2
The desert shall blossom as a rose. Thousands and thousands of square miles today are filled with desert
Countless more miles are unproductive wilderness area and scrubland. Think of all of these blossoming as a rose. Think of the productivity of the worlds breadbasketsthe Ukraine, the prairie provinces of Canada, the great plains of the United Statesthink of these joined by the vast areas of todays deserts! Yes, there is roomroom for even more.
And Gods commission was fill the earth. This "filling" is one of the reasons for the great delay in ushering in that kingdom for which we pray.
The permission of evil. Mans experiences on the earth have been hard ones. Not only has he had to earn his living by the sweat of his brow, but the inhumanity of man to man has filled all decent men with revulsion. Natural disastersfloods, earthquakes, famines, volcanic eruptionshave added to the misery of the human scene. Does man really want to live forever in such conditions? If there is a God, why has he permitted such suffering.
There is a purposeand a good oneto all of this evil. Listen to the words of King Solomon: "And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith."Ecclesiastes 1:13
Sin was introduced on this earth through the intervention of an evil personalitySatan. His influence has made such evil epidemic. Every being who has ever lived can well identify with the words of David of old: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me."Psalm 51:5
One of the reasons for the success of the kingdom of God is based on a simple process. This evil influence will be restrainedSatan will be bound.
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season."Revelation 20:1-3
With Satan bound while man is educated in the laws of God and righteousness, human beings will have the wonderful opportunity to compare two life stylessin, with its consequences of misery, sickness and death; and righteousness, with its consequences of happiness, health and life. Is there any question which they will choose. Yes, as the wise man said, this sore travail has God given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith.
Comparing the brief span of mans present life under sin and evil with an eternity of life under kingdom conditions, all will echo the sentiments of the Apostle Paul: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."Romans 8:18
But there is still one more reason for the long delay. The work of the kingdom is a big work. Gods plan is that there be helpers to assist Jesus in this great human uplift project. When Jesus reigns, there are those who will reign with him. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us."2Timothy 2:12
"Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years".Revelation 20:6
It is the selection of this class and their training which has occupied the centuries since the death of Christ to the present. These will be with their Lord in heaven: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."1John 3:2
For these three reasons
When Will That Kingdom Come
But will it ever come? How will we know? Is it near?
Yes! It is near! The Bible contains abundant signs of changes that would take place in world conditions introducing that kingdom. Many of these are found in a sermon by Jesus found in Matthew, chapter 24, based on a prophecy in the book of Daniel, chapter 12.
We have time to look briefly at just four of these:
A Time Of Trouble Threatening To Destroy All Flesh:
"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elects sake those days shall be shortened."Matthew 24:21, 22 Not until World War Two unleashed the age of nuclear warfare has man had this ability to destroy all his flesh. Today the dreaded word "overkill" heightens this dread with the ability to destroy all flesh many times over.
A Knowledge And Transportation Revolution:
"But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased."Daniel 12:4
With the introduction of compulsory education, the widespread ability of printed material, knowledge has been exploding exponentiallydoubling every five to eight years. Means of rapid transportation are so common that we may forget that our ancestors of only 150 years ago were restricted to the speed of a horse, and most died without travelling more than a few miles from their homes.
My people of Israel . . . shall build the waste cities and inhabit them . . . and I will plant them upon their land and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.Amos 9:14, 15
In a modern miracle of the past century a people, wandering homeless for 2000 years, have returned to their ancient homeland. Despite numerous onslaughts by overpowering numbers of enemies, they have endured and stand strong today among the family of nations.
Preaching The Gospel:
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."Matthew 24:14
It was only since the early 1800s that the Bible societies were established in Europe and the United States for the sole purpose of distributing the Scriptures all over the world. Today the Bible continues to be a best seller, and has been translated into more than 1000 languages.
Now, once again, hear the word of the Lord: "So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand."Luke 21:31
Yes, man has prayed for many things. He has prayed for nothing harder or more often than the kingdom.
"Our Father which art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven "Matthew 6:9, 10
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