The Coming Kingdom
January 1st, 1984 @ 8:15 AM
THE COMING KINGDOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Samuel 7
1-1-84 8:15 a.m.
The Coming Kingdom. In 2 Samuel chapter 7, verse 12, God says to David, "And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy body, and I will establish his kingdom." Verse 16, "And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever." In Psalm 89, verses 3 and 4, Psalm 89, verses 3 and 4, "I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn unto David My servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations." Verse 34 of Psalm 89, "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of My mouth. Once have I sworn by My holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before Me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a witness in the heavens." And in keeping with that oath of the Lord, that "as long as there is a sun to shine by day, and as long as there is a moon to shine by night, just so long will the kingdom of David endure before Me," now in keeping with that, Jeremiah writes, in Jeremiah 33:20, "Thus saith the Lord, If you can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, that there should not be day and night, then also My covenant can be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne." As long as God lives and as surely as God speaks truth, just so surely will there be a kingdom of the Lord and the son of David to reign upon it.
Now, that kingdom of David is called "the kingdom of God." In Matthew, thirty-two times it is called "the kingdom of heaven." It is the reign and rule of God in this earth. There are those who say the kingdom of God refers to the reign of God and the rule of God through all creation and all time, and there are those who say that the kingdom of heaven refers to the rule of our Lord in His kingdom in Christendom between the first and the second comings. Whether those differentiations be true or not, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are used interchangeably, and they refer to the rule of God in this earth, in history, in time.
Now, the New Testament begins with the announcement of John the Baptist, in the third chapter of Matthew, "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, And saying, Repent ye, turn ye, get right with God: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This prophetic kingdom announced in the Old Testament days is coming now, says John the Baptist, "It is at hand." He began in the same way: "The kingdom of heaven is here." In Matthew 4:17, "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, get ready, turn, get right with God: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And the disciples were sent out by the Lord, the Twelve, and then later the seventy, "And these Jesus sent forth, and said, Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; and as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand" [Matthew 10:5-7]. The foretold, foreordained kingdom of our Lord, the kingdom of God, was announced as right then, right now, both by John the Baptist and by Jesus, by the twelve, and by the seventy [Luke 10:1].
That is the kingdom that God had sworn to David. And that is the kingdom of God toward which all the prophecies moved. That kingdom is described in Daniel 2:44, "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever." And that same glorious kingdom is described in the seventh chapter of Daniel, in verse 13, "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given unto Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, and nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." That is the kingdom that our Lord offered to Israel when He announced, saying, "The kingdom of God is at hand."
Had Israel accepted that kingdom, all of those prophecies of the glorious reign of the Lord in heaven and in earth would have come to pass. Every dot, every tittle, every jot, every syllable, every paragraph, every prophecy of the Old Testament concerning the coming kingdom would have been fulfilled. Christ would have established His reign in the earth; and all of those marvelous facets and glorious predictions of the kingdom of the Lord would have come to pass, had the Jewish nation accepted their King.
The kingdom is built around the King: there is no kingdom without the king, and there’s no king without his kingdom. And the Lord came a King. He is the King! He is the promised King. In John 1:, Nathanael, who is brought to the Lord by Philip – Nathanael, looking at the Lord Jesus, says, "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel," and Jesus did not disclaim that exclamation. Jesus is the King. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of John, there is portrayed the Lord Jesus in His royal entry into Jerusalem. And as the Lord enters Jerusalem, they cry, saying, "Hosanna! Hosanna to the King of Israel! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." He entered Jerusalem the King.
One of the most interesting of all the conversations you’ll ever read in literature is that between Jesus and Pilate in the eighteenth and nineteenth chapters of the same Gospel of John. Pilate says to Jesus, who’s been arrested and now faces trial, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" And the Lord says to Pilate, "Do you ask this question of yourself, or did some other tell it thee of Me?" And Pilate replied, "Am I a Jew? Your own people have delivered [You to me]," and the Lord said, "My kingdom is not of this world." And Pilate, looking at Jesus, said, "Art Thou a king?" And Jesus replied in the most emphatic way that the Greek language can make an affirmation: "Thou sayest that I am a king; to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world" [John 18:33-37]. A king; He is King Jesus. And in the nineteenth chapter, the next chapter of the Book of John, Pilate asked that great mob before him, who are clamoring for His blood and His life, "Shall I crucify your King?" And they reply, "We have no king but [Caesar]" [John 19:15]. And He was crucified a king! When Pilate sent word to the Roman soldiers to nail Him to the cross, Pilate also put above His head the superscription, "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS." And they came and said to him, "Do not write ‘King of the Jews,’ write ‘He said, "I am King of the Jews."’" And Pilate replied that famous word, "Ho ggrapha gegrapha": "What I have written I have written" [John 19:21-22]. And Jesus died a king! He is the promised King of the Old Covenant, of the Old Testament, of the prophets; the King had come, and with Him the kingdom.
But what of the kingdom now that the King is crucified and dead and buried? Is there to be any kingdom of God or any kingdom of heaven? It has been rejected by the chosen people. It has been disclaimed and disowned by Israel, and they have crucified their own Son. They have killed and nailed to the cross the promised Son and successor of David. What about the kingdom? Is there to be any kingdom of God? That was the question that the disciples asked the Lord Jesus when on the Mount of Olives He is being taken back up into heaven, He is ascended into heaven [Acts 1:6-7]. As the disciples stood there with the Lord Jesus they asked Him, "Lord, what of the kingdom? You are going back to glory and back to heaven; what of the kingdom? Will You give the kingdom to Israel? Will You restore it to the people of God? What of the kingdom?" Had there been, and if there is to be no kingdom, that would have been the one place for the Lord to deny such a coming reality. But He did not deny it. He said, "It is not for you to know the time which the Father hath kept in His own hands." And the kingdom, our Lord says, is postponed. It is coming at another day, at another time, which time and season is known but to God. The kingdom is postponed; it is coming at a later time and at a later date.
Then the Lord says in this great intermission, this vast interruption, there is to be the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God and the formation of the church. In this great interim, there is a mystery revealed that God kept in His heart, which mystery is this intermission between the first and the second comings of Christ and this period of grace in which you and I now live.
Paul describes that mystery. For example, he closes the Book of Romans – which is a theological treatise – he closes, "Now to Him that is of power to stablish you, through the preaching of the gospel of Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen" [Romans 16:25-27]. He speaks here of the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest by the preaching of the gospel. There was a mystery that God kept in His heart that the prophets never saw.
The Old Testament never speaks of it or refers to it. It was hid in the gospel. It was hid in the heart of God, namely, that there is to be a time intermission in here, between the announcement of the coming of the kingdom by John the Baptist, by Jesus, and its ultimate establishment at the second coming of Christ at the end of the age. And in this great intermission, we now live. Paul speaks of that. And if I had time, these little old pieces of time that are given to me to preach are almost, they’re almost infinitesimal. I’ve just got started and I have five minutes left.
That great kingdom that was announced through all of the prophetic years, and was announced by John the Baptist, and was announced by Jesus, and was announced by the apostles, when the King was slain, when He was rejected by the people of God, there was an intermission that the prophets never saw; a secret in the Bible called a "mystery," kept in the heart of God, that there should be this age of grace in which we live. And the kingdom assumed a mystery form.
In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew, in the eleventh verse, Jesus says to His apostles, "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." The kingdom of God now, in this age, is in mystery form. And in the Gospel of Matthew there are twelve parables that describe the mystery form of the kingdom of God. It is not seen with the naked eye, nor is it seen, nor is it realized in the world today. The kingdom of God in this age is in mystery form; and there are twelve facets to it. And I so wanted to speak of those twelve facets, and I don’t have time.
The kingdom of God in this age is in mystery form, but at the end of the age, at the end of this age, the kingdom of God shall be in visible form; the kingdom of God shall be established according to all the prophecies of the Old Testament, and according to the word of our Lord, the kingdom of God will be established at the end of this age. It is called the millennium. In the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven is established. It is established when the King comes again. As I said, there is no kingdom without a king, and there’s no king without a kingdom. Our Lord is a king in absentia; that’s why it is called a mystery down here in this world. The King is away. But when the King shall come – and He comes in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, in the battle of Armageddon – when the King shall come, He will establish His kingdom visibly, openly, visually, personally. It will be a kingdom here in this earth, called the millennium. The Greek word for those thousand years is chilia eta; chiliad is the Greek word for "millennium," chiliad. The Latin word for it, mille, "thousand," and annum, "year," "millennium" is the Latin word for the coming kingdom of our Lord.
And in that kingdom will be fulfilled all of the promises of the Old Testament, all of them. It will be a visible kingdom in this earth, presided over by the presence of the Lord Jesus, who shall be in our midst. And it will include those who have been raptured, who are alive at the coming of our Lord, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ, and have been resurrected from the dead. And we shall live in a home called heaven, the New Jerusalem, a city made out of pearl, and out of gold, and out of jasper.
Then shall come to pass all of these marvelous, wonderful, glorious prophecies of the Old Testament. For example, in Micah:
In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains,
– God’s throne above the nations of the world –
And it shall be exalted above the hills;
– above the smaller nations –
and people shall flow unto it.
– the whole earth and all the nations shall look unto the living God –
And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge among many people, rebuke nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
A picture of sublime peace and happiness, rest, universal; the coming kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven.
I have to close. I cannot but in this present moment, this present day, I cannot but be sensitive to the fact of one of the facets of that kingdom that I have just read out of Micah. There will be universal peace: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruninghooks,Every man will sit under his vine and his fig tree; for there will be none to make them afraid." I cannot but be sensitive to that one facet out of a thousand glorious facets of the coming kingdom of God because of the tragic days in which our lives have been cast.
In my lifetime, I have lived through two terrible World Wars. I can remember World War I as though it were yesterday. And of course, I can remember being a pastor, I can remember World War II with all of its infinite sorrow. At that time, the War Department sent the telegram to the pastor to deliver it to the family, that their boy had been killed. And since that day, the war in Korea, the war in Vietnam, and all of us are sensitive to the terrible strife in the Middle East. And the Scripture say that the denouement of the age is there; the great final battle that ends history is there. And the rising fear, trepidation, trembling of all mankind in the proliferation of these atomic warheads. There is no such thing in history as any kind of an instrument of war and it not be used. That’s why Nobel thought, when he invented dynamite and TNT, that it was so terrible that it would be no more war, Nobel Peace Prize. Why, the first thing they did with dynamite and TNT was to put it in shells and put it in guns to blow one another off the face of the earth. It will be used; it has already been used – ask Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We live in troublous times, in terrible times. And our hearts tremble at the future. That’s why this story, this prophecy, this promise, and this description of the peace that comes with our Lord is almost, almost beyond imagination; it is sweet and dear and precious.
Preaching in Moscow one time, I had just been in Leningrad, preaching in Leningrad, and while I was there, I was retold the story of the siege of Leningrad. Oh, it lasted for about three years, the German army completely around the city, never able to capture it. And they brought me to the monument outside Leningrad, about, oh, maybe four, or five, or six miles outside the city, which was the point at which the German invading army had been stopped. And there is a great impressive monument there. This was the height; this was the farthest reach of the advance of the invading German forces. And I had just been through all of that with those Russian Christians in Leningrad. So preaching to the Baptist people in Moscow, in our Baptist church in Moscow, and you’ve seen pictures of those people and those churches, most of the congregation would be older women, all of them with a scarf over their head, all of them with a scarf; and all of them with deep lines of toil and weariness written in their faces. Well, as I was preaching to them, I mentioned the fact that I had just been preaching in Leningrad, where the sorrow of this last war had been indescribably tragic and traumatic, where hundreds of thousands, and hundreds and hundreds of thousands had lost their lives in that terrible siege. Then in the sermon, I began to say:
Whether it is an American mother, bending over her soldier boy, and cries; or whether it is a German mother, bending over her boy who’s been slain in the war, and she cries; or whether it be a Russian mother, bending over her son who’s been slain in the war, and cries; the tears of all three are strangely alike. And the sorrows that have broken the hearts of an American mother, or a German mother, or a Russian mother, are somehow much alike.
When I was preaching that part of that message, I had the strangest, strangest feeling. They all began to cry. Even though I was preaching through an interpreter, that great throng, mostly those older women who had lived through the war, began to weep. The sorrows of the conflicts in this world are endless and deeply traumatic, and there is no end to it.
Daniel says in the ninth chapter of his prophecy that wars are determined unto the end [Daniel 9:26]. There is no end to it, according to the Word of God – until Jesus comes again. And that is why we are to pray, "Lord, Thy kingdom come." Every day we’re to pray that prayer: "Lord, Thy kingdom come" [Matthew 6:10]. No more war, no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain, no more tragedy, no more separation – Jesus is here; the kingdom is established. And our hearts lift up in anticipation to the glorious return of our Lord. This Paul calls "the blessed hope" [Titus 2:13]. We don’t have any hope other than the coming King and the coming kingdom. If we live, it’s because He is living. If we’re raised from the dead, it’s because He is coming. And if we have peace and blessing, it’s because He has been gracious to us and brings with Him life and dominion and glory forever and ever.
What a marvelous gospel! And what an incomparably precious faith! To preach it, to speak of it, to pray for it is the glorious privilege of being a fellow traveler and disciple of our dear Lord.
And that is our invitation to you in this moment that we sing our hymn of appeal, this first Sunday of the new year. And what a marvelous day in which to respond, to begin the new year with God, to start it with a fellowshipping friendship with Jesus, our coming King. What a glorious time to give your heart to the Lord, to put your life in the circumference and fellowship and communion of His people. Lord, Lord! This is a glorious time to open your heart God-ward and heavenward. "And pastor, I’m on the way; here I stand." In a moment we’ll sing our hymn of appeal, and if you’re in the balcony round, there’s time and to spare, coming down one of these stairways. In the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, this is God’s day for me. This is the first day of a new year, and it’s going to be the first day of a new commitment of my life to my dear Lord, and here I am." Welcome, and a thousand times, may the angels bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE COMING KINGDOM
2 Samuel 7
Announced as "at hand"
1. By Jesus, John
the Baptist, the twelve, the seventy
2. If the nation
had accepted it, all the prophesies about the kingdom would have come to pass
3. The King had
cause to start His kingdom
What of the kingdom? The disciples so asked
1. Kingdom postponed,
2. The kingdom took
on its mystery form
Kingdom in its full manifestation