Kingdom of God: 4

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In resuming the consideration of this subject, especially now in the light shed upon it by the New Testament, there are several facts and principles of God's ways which need to be borne in mind by us. In the first place, it was in the counsels of God that Messiah should suffer ere He reigned. Nor was this a truth which had been hid in God, as one of the secret things which belong to Him alone. On the contrary, the sufferings of Messiah form the subject of many a distinct prediction, and the theme of many a holy strain of lamentation; besides being prefigured by a great part of the Mosaic sacrifices and ritual. Thus had the law, the psalms, and the prophets, borne witness to the sufferings of Messiah: so largely indeed, that for any who, like my readers, are accustomed to view them in this light, it is needless to bring forward particular passages in proof of it. But to Jewish minds, prior to the accomplishment of the event, this was the deepest difficulty. It was, besides, a subject most unwelcome to the pride of the natural heart in them, just as it is still in us. Sufferings, which the holiness of God makes requisite on account of our sin, cannot but prove an unwelcome subject to hearts that have not been humbled under the sense of sin. Thus it was with the Jews, yea, even the disciples of our Lord themselves. Notwithstanding the plainest declarations on His part that He must suffer and rise from the dead, they seem not to have entertained a thought of it, until the event came upon them, and found them, despite all previous warnings, unprepared.
Then, further, it was foreseen of God, that the human instruments in effecting Messiah's sufferings and death, would be His own people, the Jews. It was foreseen, yea, and foretold, that instead of receiving their Messiah with open arms, they would reject and crucify (Psa. 22:1616For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16), compared with Zech. 12:1010And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)) their long-promised and long-expected King. It was also foretold that on account of this, instead of the kingdom being immediately introduced, their heaviest sufferings and longest dispersion should ensue on the rejection of Messiah. (See Psa. 69:19-2819Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonor: mine adversaries are all before thee. 20Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. 21They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. 22Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. 23Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. 24Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. 25Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents. 26For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded. 27Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. 28Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. (Psalm 69:19‑28). Isa. 5:5; 6:9-12; 8:14-17; 28:16-225And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: (Isaiah 5:5)
9And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. 11Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 12And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. (Isaiah 6:9‑12)
14And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. (Isaiah 8:14‑17)
16Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. 17Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. 18And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. 19From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. 20For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. 21For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. 22Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth. (Isaiah 28:16‑22)
). Other like passages there are, too numerous to be quoted.
Again, notwithstanding the rejection of Messiah by Israel, and the judgments which were to come on them in consequence, it was distinctly and largely foretold in the Old Testament, that eventually Israel shall repent (see Hos. 5:15; 6:1, 215I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early. (Hosea 5:15)
1Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. 2After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. (Hosea 6:1‑2)
. Psa. 110:2, 32The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. 3Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. (Psalm 110:2‑3). Ezek. 20:43, 4443And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. 44And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 20:43‑44). Joel 2:15, 1815Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: (Joel 2:15)
18Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people. (Joel 2:18)
. Zech. 12:10-1410And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. 11In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. 12And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; 13The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; 14All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart. (Zechariah 12:10‑14), &c.); that, confessing and bewailing their sins, they shall anxiously look for Him Whom they once rejected, and that then He shall return, forgive their iniquity, deliver them from their Gentile oppressors, on whom judgments the most solemn and terrific shall be executed, and that then the long-foretold and long-expected kingdom of Christ shall be actually set up; His government openly and visibly extending over all the earth. These events form the great burden of prophetic testimony: as the apostle expresses it, summing up the whole in a few words, they “testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow.”
Thus far all is plain and clear enough. But the question arises, How is the interval between the rejection of Israel's Messiah and His return in glory to be filled up? “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” If Christ be rejected by the earth, a place had been prepared for Him in heaven. “Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” The sovereignty which is hereafter to be openly and publicly exercised on earth, but which could not be thus exercised then, because of Israel's unbelief and sin, was to be exercised by Jesus risen, and ascended, and seated at God's right hand in heaven.1 He had, while on earth, manifested the name of His Father to those who had been given Him, and after His ascension the Holy Ghost was to descend to enable them to bear witness to the name of their rejected Lord, and to preach repentance and remission of sins in His name among all nations.
The effect of this word, which began to be spoken by Jehovah, and was afterward confirmed by them that heard Him (God also bearing them witness with signs, and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost), was, that then, and ever since, there have been those on earth who own the name, and title, and authority of that Christ Who has been rejected by the earth, and is now actually at the right hand of God in heaven. As a matter of fact, historically, whole kingdoms have thus owned and do own, the name and sovereignty of Christ. It may be, and as to the mass undoubtedly is, true that it is only in word, in profession, that Christ is owned. Still the fact is there, that, as to the effect of Christ's first coming, whole masses of men profess to be Christians, i.e. to be subjects of Christ, recognizing His authority and governed by His laws. It is also true that amidst the mass there are many who do really know Him by the Holy Ghost; and it is of the utmost importance to see, as to all such, that there was a far deeper purpose of God than any which has yet been noticed—a purpose which He purposed in Christ before the foundation of the world, even that those who do thus really know Him during the present interval2 should be fellow-heirs and of the same body with Christ—His bride, His body—united to Him now by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and to be manifested with Him in glory when He returns. But this, important as it is, is not the subject of our present inquiry, though intimately connected with it. It is referred to thus explicitly here, lest any should suppose it was overlooked, or that, in distinguishing between it and the kingdom of God, its importance was in any way undervalued.
(To be continued, D.V.)