The Present Phase of the Kingdom (Transition): Chapter 6

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The present phase of the kingdom (indicated as P.2) is the transitional and parenthetical proclamation of the kingdom, during the absence of the King, by which certain results are produced through the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God to all classes alike, whereby believers are gathered out from the world, to come under the spiritual rule of Christ in the Church, while nominal Christians mingle with the true and together form what is commonly known as Christendom, and thus both together constitute the present phase of the kingdom.
These religious conditions only partially existed in our Lord’s day, but He anticipatively described them in His numerous discourses as a state of things that was to exist after His ascension on high. And these circumstances, and the incidents connected with them predicted by our Lord, were to occur during a peculiar interval, between the first proclamation of the kingdom by the King Himself and John the Baptist (the past phase) and the consummation or setting up of the kingdom in full power in the millennium (the future phase).
Two very marked points of contrast appear between this phase and the past.
First, in the present we find that the gospel of God’s grace was appointed to be preached to all classes without distinction. The commission was, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” while in the past the gospel of the kingdom was only to be preached to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:66But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:6)).
Second, in the past phase the believing Jews alone were looked upon as the saints or children of God, who then entered the kingdom, while the Gentiles were considered as outside, strangers and afar off. But now under the present phase, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:2828There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)). “For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Eph. 2:1414For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; (Ephesians 2:14)).
These two points present us with the most prominent and distinguishing features of these two phases (the Jewish and Christian), in which we see their marked dissimilarity.
The error of regarding these two distinct manifestations of the kingdom as the same religious order of things, and the present phase as merely a continuation of the past, has been the fruitful cause of much confusion in the interpretation of these portions of God’s Word.
The great change from the Jewish to the Christian dispensation was brought about by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in a way that was never known before, by which an entirely new order of things was commenced.
Moreover, it is well to remember that this could not have taken place until the Lord had ascended to heaven (John 7:3939(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:39)), nor could the disciples go forth to execute their new mission, until the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them. Hence the Lord “commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father.” “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:4, 84And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. (Acts 1:4)
8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
).
Mighty consequences were thus to follow the descent of the Holy Spirit, such as had never happened before, when a new order of preaching and a new religious dispensation were to be introduced, which we now see exemplified in the present phase of the kingdom. And as the first result of this new order of things we see (Acts 2) precious souls gathered out from the world (Jews and Gentiles alike) to the Lord Jesus Christ, to constitute the one body, the Church. The doctrine of this was revealed at a later period to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:2-102If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (Ephesians 3:2‑10)).
Then, for a short time at least, the true Church of God was seen in all its pristine beauty, fashioned by the Holy Spirit. But after a while false professors crept in and attempted to join themselves to the true believers, claiming to be called by the same name, and to be associated with them in all their acts of religious worship and service.
In the process of time it came to pass, incidentally, that mixed assemblages of true and nominal Christians were formed, constituting the state of things now known as Christendom, which our Lord describes in several of His parables as the present condition of the Kingdom of heaven.
In the true kingdom itself, regarded as the divinely constituted sphere of God’s holy rule, no such mixture could for a moment be recognized. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:1717For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17)).
It is intrinsically the holy Kingdom of heaven where God reigns supreme (the true Church side of it), and as such was intended to be the expression of God’s wisdom, truth and righteousness to the whole world, which it is, when true to its mission as God’s testimony on the earth (Eph. 3:1010To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, (Ephesians 3:10)).
Consequently while looking at the fundamental principles of the true Kingdom of God, as set forth, for instance, in the Sermon on the Mount - apart from its external representation in the present dispensation - we see nothing but truth, righteousness and holiness as its distinguishing characteristics, and in this light these principles are applicable to it in all its aspects and phases. But incidental to its proclamation in the world, the elements of evil have come in to mingle with the good, for while the Son of man has been diligently sowing the precious wheat, the enemy has also been busy sowing tares.
And though the tares or nominal Christians cannot be considered as forming any part whatever of the real Kingdom of God, yet the circumstances arising out of their professing to be followers of Christ, and claiming to be called Christians, while outwardly assuming the position and responsibilities of servants of Christ, are all taken into account in the representation of the Kingdom of God or of heaven, which we have in the Gospels.
In these accounts it is the whole profession of Christianity that is set forth, and the results (both good and bad) that grow out of this profession.
In the parables of our Lord - especially the seven notable ones in Matthew 13 - we have a clear and circumstantial representation of the Kingdom of heaven as it now exists, showing the effects that would be produced by, and the results that would follow, the proclamation of the kingdom through the preaching of the gospel, partly during the latter part of our Lord’s ministry, but chiefly from the Day of Pentecost down to the end of the present age.
These parables are given, as our Lord explained, that the truth of God concerning the kingdom should be fully made known to the disciples, to whom it was given to understand these mysteries, while to those who wilfully shut their eyes to the truth they should still remain as mysteries and not be understood by them, and thus be a testimony against them for the hardness of their hearts.
All except the first - the Sower - begin with the words, “The kingdom of heaven is like [or likened] unto,” and are therefore similitudes of the kingdom, that is, comparisons of moral and spiritual things with natural things.
In the first, the Son of man is the Sower and the field is the world, and this parable appears to be more general or universal in its application than the other six, while as the opening or introductory discourse it unfolds the originating cause and groundwork that are obviously implied in all the other parables, namely, the proclamation of the Word of God, and the effects produced thereby.
These effects, so clearly described in the four different grounds on which the seed fell, were, in the first instance, partially seen in connection with Christ’s ministry, but are now much more fully exemplified in what we see continually taking place in Christendom, and therefore need no further explanation.
Mainly, these parables apply to the present period, as already stated, but as they were delivered towards the end of our Lord’s ministry, when He had given up the Jews as a nation because of their rejection of Him, and He was consequently entering upon a new line of teaching, we see that the results of the new order of things He was then introducing were already beginning to be manifested in His day, such especially as we see described in the parable of the Sower. Therefore, we have in this fact a slight overlapping, to a certain extent, of the past with the present phase of the kingdom.
One point of resemblance between the parable of the Sower and some of the others is seen in the exhibition of both bad and good results, the unfruitful as well as the fruitful soils, and at the same time an evil agency - the fowls - at work picking up the good seed that fell by the wayside. “Then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.”
The first four of the seven parables present the kingdom in its outward or external aspect where man is the workman. These were addressed to the multitude by the seaside, while the last three - the Treasure, the Pearl and the Net - present the kingdom in its internal aspect, according to God’s estimate of it and the reality of its character, and where the work is God’s. These were appropriately addressed to His disciples alone in the house.
In the second parable - the Wheat and the Tares - we have a very instructive and comprehensive view of the kingdom in this dispensation, that embraces in its two classes the main features of some of the others that follow, showing the results of the proclamation of the kingdom generally, and the final consequences to these two classes at the end of the age, as explained by the Lord Himself.
In this, as in the Sower, we see that the good seed is sown by the Son of man, involving, no doubt, the continuation of this sowing of the Word of God by the apostles, and others after them. Anyhow, the kingdom is outwardly connected with man’s administration as to the results produced by the truth being sown on the earth, for through the inability of the servants to guard the field evil comes in. “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat.” The proclamation and outward care of the kingdom being committed to man as to its external form, the present mixed system, represented by the wheat and the tares, will continue to the end, or as long as man has any responsibility in the matter.
Then, again, the impotence of the servants is seen in their inability to distinguish between the good and bad, or to root out the tares from the wheat without disturbing the latter. This was to be reserved for the reapers, or angels, at the harvest time.
It must never be forgotten that the field is the world, and not the Church, as so often erroneously assumed. Owing to this mistaken notion, many have entertained the strange thought that inconsistent or merely nominal Christians, even when their walk is known to be contrary to God’s Word, should not be excluded from the Church, or that true believers should not come out and be separated from them! The Church is not in question here, but the kingdom or Christendom.
We see that the tares are to be gathered together first, and bound in bundles to be burned. Some think, and perhaps rightly, that this gathering of the tares into bundles is going on now, in the natural and providential coming together and grouping of worldly professors which is so plainly visible all around us, so that they are thus being prepared in bundles for the judgment, or the burning, at the end of the age. But before this judgment of the tares or chaff, the wheat will be gathered into the garner at the rapture, though this fact is naturally omitted from the parable, because it only treats of the mixed kingdom and not of the separated Church.
It seems that at the end, when the Lord comes to judge the nations and set up His kingdom, there will be a visible gathering out of the wicked of that day, to be judged as only fit to be burned and then set aside in Hades, with all the tares or chaff of former periods, to await their common doom at the judgment of the great white throne. It does not, however, follow that, because these two facts are so closely connected together in the text, one will take place immediately after the other, for there will be - as we find from other scriptures - a thousand years at least between them. (See a similar passage in Matthew 25:4646And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46).) Sentence is pronounced at the first judgment, and the condemned are consigned to the abyss to await the judgment of the great white throne, when they and all the wicked shall be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:1515And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)).
As this typical parable - the Wheat and the Tares -contains the chief characteristic features that are implied in the other four (namely, the mixture of good and bad, and their ultimate separation), the four following parables may be regarded as two distinct subdivisions of it.
Thus the Mustard Seed and the Leaven may be intended to represent two further or later developments of the evil element - the tares - introduced into the kingdom, while the Treasure and the Pearl may, in like manner, be taken as setting forth the higher relationships and heavenly characteristics of the good element, the wheat. Continuing this line of thought, we see the dragnet naturally introduced at the end of the series, to show the final separation of the two elements, which were to be allowed to grow together through the whole of the present dispensation.
In the Mustard Seed we see one result of the evil principle, already introduced, in its expansion into a great tree (the emblem of worldly power and greatness), “so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”
What a striking picture of Christendom as we find it today! Nominal Christians find a delusive rest in the profession of Christianity, in outward association with true believers, while their hearts are wholly in the world, their worldly ways and dead formalism marring and falsifying the testimony of God on the earth - an unholy alliance between the Church and the world that all true saints ever deplore. The tree is wholly evil, while true Christians are connected with it only by the outward link of similar profession.
In the Leaven we have another development of the evil principle, in which we see it diffusing itself throughout the whole of the kingdom by the secret introduction of false doctrines and all manner of heresies, whereby the whole mass of professing Christendom becomes ultimately permeated and corrupted, as so largely described in most of the Epistles. It is the mischievous “leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”*
(*Leaven in Scripture is always figure of evil doctrine or evil practice, as the following passages plainly show: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. ... Then understood they how that He bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6,126Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6)
12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matthew 16:12)
). “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:1515And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod. (Mark 8:15)). “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:11In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (Luke 12:1)). “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. ... Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:6-86Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6‑8)).)
Another and different line of truth was presented in the next two parables, the Treasure and the Pearl, in which the deeper and more hidden things of the kingdom were unfolded to the inner circle of His own disciples in the privacy of the house.
The beautiful parables of the Treasure and the Pearl -in which no mixture of evil is seen - appear to represent the heavenly relationship of the true Church of God to Christ its head, together with the preciousness of that spiritual relationship to Him, and the true and holy testimony on the part of the saints that flows from it.
The characteristics of the Philadelphian Church (Revelation 3) seem to correspond, in some measure, with these two parables, displaying Christ’s estimate of and satisfaction in His saints. This delight and satisfaction of the Lord in His saints - His precious possession -specially appears in the promise to the overcomers of that Church. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him My new name” (Rev. 3:1212Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. (Revelation 3:12)).
Then at the end of this series of parables we have in the “net” (which gathers in the good and the bad) the final separation of these two classes - as already indicated in the explanation of the Wheat and Tares - now fully carried into effect at the end of the age, when the wicked are seen separated and cast away, to be finally judged at the “great white throne.” “The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity. ... So shall it be at the end of the world [or age]: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41-5041The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. 44Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. 45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. 47Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: 48Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. 49So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, 50And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:41‑50)).
This severing of the wicked from among the just will practically take place when the Lord comes to judge the nations at the end of the Day of Tribulation (Matt. 25:31, 3231When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: (Matthew 25:31‑32); Rev. 14:14-1814And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. 15And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. 16And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. 17And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. 18And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. (Revelation 14:14‑18)); while the final casting of the wicked into the furnace or lake of fire will take place a thousand years later, at the judgment of the “great white throne” (Rev. 20:11-1511And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11‑15)).
In reviewing the foregoing remarks, the leading features of the present phase of the kingdom as a whole may be briefly summarized as follows:
1. We have the manifestation of certain effects and results that were to follow the proclamation of the Kingdom of heaven, during a peculiar interval between its introductory announcement (by Christ and John) and its consummation in the millennium.
2. The central thought that runs through the whole is the Rule of God over the souls of men, either submitted to by the true or rejected by the nominal hearers of the gospel, and the results that would follow in either case.
3. The King being absent - not visibly present in reigning power - His rule is spiritual in the hearts of all who accept the gospel, and who, by being born of God, enter the kingdom, and thus come under the rule of Christ. During this absence of the King, the Holy Spirit takes His place as the Comforter, Guide and Teacher of His saints, ever directing them to their Head in heaven (John 14:26; 16:1326But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
13Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. (John 16:13)
).
4. Two distinct classes of persons appear by profession mingled together in a religious way, specially described in five of the parables of Matthew 13 (the Wheat and the Tares, or the true and the false), who thus continue together to the end of the age, or the “harvest.” This may be considered the distinguishing feature of the present phase of the kingdom.
5. At the time of the harvest these two dissimilar classes are to be finally separated, and the future destiny of each class will then be irrevocably decided by the righteous Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ. This separation is also foretold, in a general way, without any reference to time, in another scripture: “Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:1212Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:12)).
The separation and judgment of the two classes at the end of this dispensation, or harvest time, more especially refer to living people on the earth, when the Lord comes to judge the living nations, the “quick.”
The fact becomes clearly apparent when we note the explanation given by our Lord, that “the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels,” and further, that when the Son of man comes, He “shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” (Matt. 13:39-4139The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (Matthew 13:39‑41)).
These wicked and rebellious rejecters of the gospel of the kingdom, which will be preached during the Day of Tribulation, will be destroyed in the awful judgment mentioned in Revelation 19:1515And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. (Revelation 19:15), while the righteous who believe and receive the gospel of that day (see the saints mentioned in Revelation 7) shall be preserved through that terrible day, and thus come out of the Great Tribulation at its close to enter into the full enjoyment of millennial blessings on the earth, when they shall “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:4343Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:43)).
The account given in Matthew 25 of the separation and judgment of the nations at the end of the age presents us with another aspect of the same events that we have been looking at in the foregoing remarks, in which we find the King saying to the sheep - the good class -“Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” and to the goats - the bad class - “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:34, 4134Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matthew 25:34)
41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41)
).
The kingdom in the above passages doubtless refers to the millennial kingdom, into which the saints who have passed through the tribulation shall be introduced, to enjoy all the privileges of that blessed reign of Christ.
While the judgment at the end of the age is evidently limited to the people actually living on the earth at the time, it appears to be looked at in the parables and other scriptures as involving and applicable in principle - as to its execution and final results - to the judgment of all the true and nominal believers of the whole dispensation, though the time and mode of execution would be different.
Comparing these peculiar features of the present phase of the kingdom with the circumstances of our Lord’s time and ministry, we see at once that they could not be applied to that day - the past phase of the kingdom - seeing that the circumstances of that time were quite different from those described in the parables and other scriptures, nor can it be said that they represent in any sense the characteristics of the millennium, in which totally different conditions and relationship will be manifested.
We are therefore driven to the conclusion that these illustrative parables and other similar references wholly relate to the present phase of the kingdom - the Christian or Church dispensation. This obvious fact has, however, led many to conclude that the kingdom is the Church, making these two terms synonymous. * But such a sweeping and unqualified conclusion cannot be correct, because the Church and the kingdom represent two very distinct and widely different characteristics and relationships, which fact becomes plainly apparent when we consider the special conditions of each, for they are different in formation, character and administration.
(*“The kingdom must not be confounded with the Church. In the kingdom the wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest; but in the Church a wicked person is to be put out (1 Cor. 5:1313But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:13)). There may appear to be a similarity between the professing Church and the kingdom; but the ideas are not the same. The kingdom is the sphere of Christ’s rule; whereas the Church is the dwelling place of God by the Spirit. Neither will the duration on earth of the Church and the kingdom be the same; the kingdom will be set up in power after the rapture of the Church, and will continue during the millennium. The Christian, besides sharing in the privileges of the Church, has also the privileges and responsibilities attaching to the kingdom. To each individual is entrusted a pound (Luke 19:1224); or, in another aspect, one or more talents (Matt. 25:1428), which he is responsible to use for his Lord and Master, and for which he will have to give an account in a future day. His place in heaven is by grace apart from his works, but his reward in the kingdom will be according to his faithfulness to his Lord.” (Concise Bible Dictionary, page 470.))
The Kingdom of heaven in its full development implies the presence of the King visibly reigning over His subjects; while these subjects are regarded as entering into and inheriting this kingdom and being reigned over by their King, the Lord Jesus Christ, on the earth.
The Church, on the other hand, consists of the whole assembly of true Christian believers, who are born of God, renewed and sealed by the Holy Spirit, and gathered to be associated with the Lord Jesus their Head, thus constituting the members of His body, which is the true Church of God.
Now neither of these definitions - of the kingdom or of the Church - can be said to answer to the descriptions of the present phase of the kingdom in its entirety, which we have been considering, as set forth in the parables of our Lord, and other portions of the New Testament.
For in these delineations we have a mixed condition of things that belongs only to the present dispensation, in which we see true and nominal Christians outwardly united in one common profession of Christianity and the observance of religious ordinances, but which is not the true Church of God either in its constitution or essential features. And this outward profession as a whole, including both classes, true and false, we call CHRISTENDOM.
At the same time, when we say that the kingdom is not the Church, nor the Church the kingdom, we have to bear in mind that individual Christians who, in another aspect, are members of and constitute the Church, are included in the kingdom, and are indeed one essential part of it, although they are not in this outward connection seen in their peculiar church character as the body of Christ.
There are many other references to this present phase of the kingdom, in which we see only the true or holy side of it represented, while in others we have the mixed condition of things shown, as in most of the parables. Of the first class, that well-known passage may be cited which directly relates to blessings and privileges of Christians of the present day: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son” (Col. 1:1313Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Colossians 1:13)). Evidently this is a present as well as a future privilege, to be thus introduced into the spiritual kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, preparatory to being partakers with Him in the glory of His millennial kingdom.
Of similar import, as belonging to the first class, we have also the following examples: “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:2828For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. (Luke 7:28)). “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:1212That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:12)). “There came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus” (Acts 28:23, 3123And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. (Acts 28:23)
31Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. (Acts 28:31)
). “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt. 21:4343Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. (Matthew 21:43)).
To the second class, or mixed condition of the kingdom, we have also many references besides those quoted, such as, “And I will give unto thee [Peter] the keys of the kingdom” (Matt. 16:1919And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:19)). “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard” (Matt. 20:11For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. (Matthew 20:1)). “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son” (Matt. 22:2; 18:232The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, (Matthew 22:2)
23Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. (Matthew 18:23)
). “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom” (Matt. 25:11Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. (Matthew 25:1)).
It should be noted that there are numerous allusions to this phase of the kingdom, not enumerated in this short treatise, both in the Acts and the Epistles as well as in the Gospels.