News Item 23
Order and Disorder,
contrasted with the Power of the Kingdom of the King of the Nations,
otherwise known as
The KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
TV News, May
The Advertiser, p. 13,
The Remnant of
that more than 88,000 Australians have been warned to waive their
So the world works, and strives and squanders opportunities of co-operation, sovereignties clash and arise, decay and decease; and many wonder. With God it is not so. His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven is the greatest and only sure kingdom the world has had, or ever will have. In one sense, it is not of this world; in another, the world will not find any to endure except this one (Daniel -27, 13-14).
the kingdoms of this world,
heavenly kingdom unlike that of
the most pressing question is this: How is it entered, this kingdom of heaven
? It is time this kingdom was studied whether by the much loved Chinese,
or by others. No race has a monopoly on it, and it stretches its initiative
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN - COME AND TO COME...
WHOSE KING IS YOURS?
on earth or in heaven,
IS YOUR CITIZENSHIP?
DOES YOUR CITY ENDURE?
John 3:3, 3:5, we have two exclusions from the
a) cannot SEE
b) cannot ENTER it. No birth in this homeland of the kingdom of heaven, of this King, and no spiritual passport, no visa.
this allow then some entry into "the kingdom of heaven" ? Not at all. The
two phrases are often interchanged. Thus in Matthew 13:11 we find the disciples
are given the privilege of knowing the mysteries of the
Reportage is often with the disciples, as with ourselves, that of the pith desired for record; and terms chosen reflect the truth. As reporters know, these may be selected this way or that, to convey the portent, gist of the message. We often summarise more or less, under the heading, 'He said'. I have for some years watched our ways in this field with care and my finding is this. It is indeed astonishing what a variety of forms and modes we employ to convey what has occurred or been said.
criterion is accurate depiction in which a variety of degrees of summary
and pith in presentation occurs. What is here apparent is this:
Ladd, in his Crucial Questions about the Kingdom of God is of interest here. He successfully destroys the dispensational delusion that there was an offered kingdom rejected, made mysterious and to be later instituted. He scorns with adequate data the thought that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven have diversification, are categories apart (this is not to say that there may not be some trends or specific aptitudes, as in Luke 16:15-16 - we speak of specifiable connotation differences). Alternations of texts and terms of these two phrases would make for ludicrous results of the precious kind; whilst Christ for His part must not have attributed to Him the disorientation of His contemporaries - He knows the way of the kingdom, and the way to the kingdom, through the kingdom. He did not, being the Truth, adapt to confusion in order to remove it. His unrelentingly different words, agreeing with the Old Testament but not with tradition, illustrate this.
WHERE? WHEN? is the KINGDOM?
is the kingdom of heaven? Luke tells us: The kingdom of heaven does not come
by observation? But does he? No: it is the "
one of its names is more apt for the narrator, sometimes another, as one
or another nuance is preserved in the report, from the events. Thus in Matthew
18 we find that the one greatest in the
The kingdom is visible, express, judgmental and yet experimental in this: that ANY may still come, from any race and at any time: providing only faith be granted. Nor even about that is there secrecy, for the children of God in their intra-heavenly connection, are to be like a light set upon a hill. The heavenly is never blatant; but it is not suppressed. It announces, acts and performs, although often ignored.
IN THE KINGDOM
So both phrases here have the same designation, although of course there is a development of the nature of the kingdom and its phases, in whatever phrase it be depicted, into its more compelling forms. This is without any detriment to the earlier exhibition from the heart of the KING, who, being present, is not at all attenuated in QUALITY. Christ did not throw pearls before swine, but was direct enough often enough to have it said that He spoke as One having authority (John , Matthew ). He does HAVE it. It is never hidden, merely not paraded.
The case for the development of the kingdom of heaven - it is, again, like youth: a youngster of 19 does not have all the mature strength, but has the essence of the matter, and some fresh and delightful dynamic in the very arena of apparent vulnerability. So with the King: who, after all, has the kingdom, and rules whether it be loaves to 5000 or waves, as He will, whether in humility or apparent majesty: yet always the same in heart and always unlimited except by His own procedures for His own purposes, which, like His free and divine nature, nothing can limit or change (Malachi 3:6). Like leaven, pearl of great price, field with treasure, it is there NOW, is to be entered NOW, while its grandeur continues like what? like a tsunami which is rolling now, will roll, and will reach its shores in due time. Its impact is less obvious at first, but its power continues.
Matthew makes it clear that the
kingdom may be a present possession. It is indeed set amid a number of futures
in the beatitudes; but this verse is not future. Nor is verse 3, where the
poor in spirit NOW have the kingdom. Incidentally, we find in Romans a present reference to the
On the present, again, in Matthew 19:12, it would seem odd if the eunuchs had made themselves so for a relationship, for example, with some future imagined Jewish efflorescence of the kingdom which some have, complete with Zechariah 14 sacrifices*1 unscripturally invented! Rather, for the kingdom of heaven's sake, such people have overcome temptation in this way, or sought dedication by being single, finding more fruit, like Paul, in this mode: NOW. It is now that the temptation one way or another is to occur; now that they HAVE done this, and now that they find the results they look for. Indeed, just afterwards in Matthew 19:13ff., we learn that the little children relate characteristically in some sense to the kingdom, being towards their parents as Christians are towards their Father in heaven, their King in glory. Doubtless the divine invention of childbirth on this earth, of children, is one outstanding and continual object lesson, showing in terms of intimacy, endearment and vast affection, the realities which Christians may experience with their FATHER, who is in addition, their Creator! All this is present. Such things illustrate His kingdom.
So too in Matthew 18, we find that those humbling themselves like such a child as the Saviour took to Himself, ALREADY HAVE eminence in the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom can be - and often is referred to as - present; but as Ladd well shows, it is scarcely a matter of the church visible: for then how would it be so hard for the rich man to enter into it - alas it might be all too easy! (Matthew 19:23). He draws attention to the question in the context: "Who then can be saved ?" The focus without doubt is not some terrestrial rule but salvation. This relates in contrast indeed (Matthew ) to a non-action on the part of a currently departing man (), the rich young ruler, whose preference was precisely for the terrestrial, over the celestial. That he is NOT saved, and is BY NO MEANS in the "kingdom of heaven" is the indubitable feature (). This is the NEGATION of opportunity, the one given explicitly to him by the Lord, who parted the ways in no secret style. GIVE UP your treasure, and make Christ your Lord instead! The man sorrowed, and the kingdom had one less than it might have held. The result is PRESENT, as is the action and the opportunity.
When the disciples attest their own leaving of things terrestrial for Christ, He does not speak of possibilities lying ahead, but of the thing in current context. THESE THINGS NOW BEING SO, therefore the one so acting, believing, following Him will receive in this life, in this time indeed, a hundredfold, and eternal life in that which is to come. Mark supplies the additional data, stressing the present time. There is no conditional character here.
IF Christ has been received and so followed, then THIS is the result now, and THAT is the result then. The kingdom is operative in present and future continually. Perhaps it is the human tendency without understanding in almost any field, to atomise things into sections and sub-sections without seeing the blessed integrity of the whole.
Skin is an organ, and so is the liver; and it is easy to limit the investigation of sickness too far, without considering the interactions in view of the designed totality of things. So in the kingdom of heaven, it has marked outworkings both now and later. It is a vision in the heart, a presence in the life, a texture in the understanding (Ephesians 1:16ff), a working in the life, a peace and a joy in the experience, a focus on the Christ who, being alive, manifests Himself (John -3) as He sees fit. It is power and it is suffering, but all, always in the presence of God as friend, refuge and deliverer, giver of purpose, and King in the life.
THE KINGDOM DEFINED
A careful look at the texts and context indicates that some such concept as this seems to be involved.
The Kingdom is that saving presence of Christ among the saved and being saved, that dynamic of realised rule, which at once exhibits*2 (fully or in part in its situational context) and confers the blessings of the intimacy of God. As distinct from this world, it is a kingdom which IS TO COME; and IN this world, it is a kingdom which operates.
It is neither to be divorced from salvation now, nor from its full result later.
This connotation appears to cover all cases, and to minimise none; further it incorporates the sense of kingship in the dual contexts of invasion and culmination, entry and consummation.
THE KINGDOM DYNAMIC
is not of this world (John 18:36), but is IN it; just as the true disciples
are not of this world, but are to be kept from the evil in it (John 17:9,12-15),
despite the prince of it in his diabolical intrusiveness and self-entranced
beguilings of his own little kingdomette
(John 14:30, Luke 11:18-22). That is the negative dynamic expressly referred to as a kingdom by Jesus Christ (John , , Matthew -26). Like a black hole, it is fond of retaining light so that it cannot shine; but it is powerless now as then against the incommensurable authority of Jesus Christ. As to that ?
In the presence of God (Matthew 28:18-20, John 14:18,27, 16:7), the people of God experience the power of God (contra II Timothy 3:1-5), by which they find the constraints and capacities of their divine Lord (Hosea 11:12, Romans 6, 5:17, 8:9-14, Psalms 46, 139,2) like a torrent of water springing up (John 4:14), or proceeding forth indeed to enact and to accomplish,, in a way past all their own single efforts (John 7:37-38). They learn that without Him they can do (in this realm and reality with which we are concerned) NOTHING! (John 15:5).
With Him, and through Him, however, they find they "can do all things" (Philippians ) - "through Christ who strengthens me". It is NOT a case of self-trust (II Corinthians 1:7-10, II Timothy ), but of the precise opposite. It is NOT self-esteem, but esteem of the King which makes a criterion of the kingdom which is... HIS (Philippians , 3:9).
You esteem the King because you KNOW Him, as any good subject should; and you find Him because you seek Him; and doors open because you knock in the presence of promises, not to faint but instead, to pray! In His kingdom, faith moves mountains (Mark 11), and also moves the heart of the Lord for what is good in His sight (Matthew 15:27ff.), whatever the time or place or race! IN this state, one proceeds WITHIN the kingdom to its unutterably magnificent coming declarations; but the more they vary, the more they are the same in this, but the KING Himself is always the same, always present, always gracious. Yet certainly when death is past and life is manifest, then shall the righteous shine forth like the sun; but He? He IS the light (Revelation -23).
Kept, then from the evil of the world, though in it, and giving authority over the evil antics of the contrary creation, Satan, His people experience within and express without the sovereign rule of the God who condescended to have a form which was crucified, and relented not at all in resurrecting it. In that suffering, though not for their sins, they are willing to suffer; in that power, they are enabled to work. Thus, ambassadors for Christ, they work on commission, the Great Commission, with power over all the works of the evil one, whose fall form heaven is not only symbolic but episodic (Luke 10:18, cf. Revelation 12:5-12).
These "love not their lives to the death", and overcome by "the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11, cf. Luke 10:19-20, ). In this, the devil is specifically disenabled: a spirit and a wisdom which he can neither gainsay nor resist is given to the commissioners, the assemblage of believers whose offices work throughout the earth. To the extent any church so abides, it can so act. To the extent it does not, it will suffer spiritual weakness, may call for the discipline of the Lord, and may at the last yield a dead residue, lost its site and place of service, becoming a dark light that neither has nor needs any spiritual post on which to display its lack of faith (Matthew 6:22-23, Luke 11:33-36).
Nevertheless, these apart, the people of the Lord still proceed without fail; and overall, the church world-wide in its spiritual integrity and unity continues to do the job against which the gates of hell, as Jesus put it , shall not prevail (Matthew 16:18, Revelation 1:18-19 cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 1058-1069). Led by lies, they lack, these "gates", the dynamic of reality; and the Lord is the frontier which neither their counsels nor their power can cross, for the Church which lives, it is His body, and all power is given to Him. It is for many amazing that these gates of hell do not prevail, because they try so hard; but they do not, because they cannot.
Now that is power, is kingdom.
It is not "Christendom".
As Ladd has it on
pp. 109-110 op. cit., concerning Matthew 18:1-4 "It is obvious that the kingdom
of heaven here is not Christendom but is the precise equivalent of the
Here what do we find ?
Unless you have
Entrance is for children; children are born of God; for this kingdom ? it is spiritual! Humbling oneself in this manner is a mark of reality so intimate with this kingdom, where lords like Gentile majesties do NOT lord it over people, but rather serve, that this spiritual childlikeness is a criterion of greatness in such a kingdom.
What then? The delineation of kingdom features, attributes, ways: it is unconditional, decisive and final. It is parallel to the 'work of God' (John ); and has that same utter rule which is observable in the aspiration for working 'the works of God' - John . It is in the area where God does it in direct style, where judgment does not mar, nor sin mark the accuracy and adequacy of the divine dealings through confusion or conflation of categories; it is the connotational area of irruption into this world, strong, clean and sure, manifesting unabashed its righteous categories and rank power (cf. Matthew 16:17).
It is grammatically consonant with the 'except' passage of John , where no life is the result of non-involvement. And that in turn relates to the bread which came down from heaven; Him who came down from heaven. Heaven has in a member inhabited the earth, and grasps it at will (thus , "If I by the finger of God cast out demons..." Luke , cf. Luke , Matthew with Luke ). Indomitable, dynamic and manifest righteousness is involved. As in the beatitudes in Matthew 5, this kingdom is filled with spirituality so blessed that it strains the eyes of the ungodly, touches their hearts rebukes their follies and establishes reality, not tradition (Mark 7), virtue (II Peter 1), not vice, love not lust and exhibits the thrust of heaven on earth, though the earth be too blind to bother. I Corinthians 4:7-15 and II Corinthians 4:5-14 both illustrate these things in significant areas.
But where is the Gospel in all this? A comparison of Matthew 24:14 and Mark makes it clear that the good news "of the kingdom" is not differentiated from the gospel.
Again, it is a vain pursuit to consider 'which kingdom' in view of the ready interchange of phrases. There is but one kingdom, though its phases of development are delightful; and this has been seen with emphasis and eloquence since the days of Daniel who showed both its conduct and its consummation in ways personal in his adventures and deliverances, and national in his graphics of Daniel 7-9, and 2.
If it were a republic,
perhaps we would have read, the gospel of the republic; and this would incorporate
the code, conduct and calling of the republic, and the way it related to
its occupants/inhabitants. Yet God is not a presiding officer over the universe.
HE is its king. Thus it is the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM, and there is no need
to state which phrase. It is a phase not a phrase which is the dominant consideration.
Indeed, in Mark and Matthew we find that the phrase
used is indifferent -
Moreover the time for all this, dual-phrased and multi-phased, in Matthew 24:14 is long: this "GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM IS TO BE PREACHED IN ALL THE WORLD FOR A WITNESS TO ALL NATIONS..." How long? Till "nation shall rise against nation" (Matthew 24:7), till kingdom rise against kingdom, till worldwide famines and pestilences will arise, till the preaching, till the witness to the whole world is DONE! SO long as that... It is diversity of performance, of place in the END which is here crucial
This "gospel of the kingdom" is no new concept, merely a phase, like the bloom on a flower which softly suffuses beauty in the sunshine at its peak, a phase in its normal growth: it will bloom till the end comes, and it fades. SOMETHING will fade, but it is not the citizens of this kingdom who do so.
For the grass will fade, but the word of the Lord endures for ever, we read in Isaiah and in Peter. Indeed, the parables of the kingdom include the wheat and the tares example, where the enemy sows the botanical curse, the tares amidst the vital wheat. They are left together till fully grown, and then there is a reaping and a division and a burning of the waste, while the wheat is selected for use, for service (Matthew -42). the wheat is selected for use, for service (Matthew -42).
Meanwhile, the Gospel
may be preached with a divinely given unction, indeed "in power, and in the
Holy Spirit, and in much assurance" (I Thessalonians 1:5) as the Lord moves
to deliver His people. In I Corinthians 2:4, we read again: "And my speech
and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in the demonstration
of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom
of men, but in the power of God." Wisdom
(I Corinthians 2:6), that is meat after milk, when stability and strength are obtained (Isaiah 33:6); but it never varies from the wonder of the Cross (Galatians ).
The KING has a kingdom, and a heart, and is personal, and loves persons, and loves them each, and loves them all, and loves them singly, and loves them corporately, and loves them a family and loves them in their faith, and loves them in their pilgrimage and loves them in the consummation when "the end shall come". He loved them and so CAME, and SO acted (John ); and He loved them and so SENT HIS SPIRIT, that they would not be left orphans (John ). He loves them and so WILL COME to collect His valuables and bring them to the marriage feast of the lamb, that great and noble festival when the game is over, the trial is past, the witness is done and the work is rewarded.
Thus the GOSPEL (Mark ) is the very same item as the Gospel of the Kingdom, the latter merely drawing attention to an aspect of the totality, like volleys in the game of tennis. It is part of the whole, an aspect, unthinkable except in association with the rest, but capable (with the rest always held firmly in mind) of consideration in its own aspect.
It is then not possible to limit these concepts, hard as may be the effort of some, to specialised epochs, such as now, or to judgment, or after judgment, or Jewish affairs and so on. WHOSOEVER in Matthew 5:19, followed by WHOSOEVER yet again, makes it clear that only by adding to Scripture could we limit to now the kingdom of heaven, so adding and suppressing (against Proverbs 30:6, Deuteronomy 4, and 12). The same sort of consideration applies to Luke 6:20 where the kingdom of God IS possessed by the undifferentiated 'poor' (the whole context is spiritual in its signification). In the similar passage in Matthew 5, Christ proceeds to His 'whosoever' without qualification for the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. It is heavenly, reaches to the heavens, is apt for heaven, has its source in heaven, its base is there, the plans proceed from there, the destiny is there, and it is God's!
Thus in Luke 9:11, Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God, just as in 9:2 He sent the twelve to preach this! We do not conclude that Paul's ONE Gospel (Galatians 1), distinct, contradistinct, subject neither to contraction nor addition, as declared and operative then) was two. We do not conceive that Christ sent His disciples to talk about a 'kingdom of God' future rule as they healed, as their mandate; rather Christ sent them to deal with the healing from sin and from its consequences in illustration of His love and power, presence and authenticity so that they might believe in Him.
It is not that there were different preachments for facets of the world Christ came to save through the Gospel. Luke 14:16-24 shows the kingdom of God through its phases of servants seeking those for the supper, the excuses, the further searching, the great day and the result at that day! It is all there. Matthew 22:1 shows the same account in terms of "the kingdom of heaven". Both are comprehensive, pervasive. MATTHEW TELLS US IN 10:7 THAT THEY WERE TO PREACH THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN WAS AT HAND. This WAS the preaching of the kingdom of God of Luke 9:2. Even the kingdom of heaven is "at hand". Again, the Kingdom of God is "swept up upon you" (Luke 11:20), like an incoming tide, just as the fish AT THE END are gathered from the take, for this same kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13:47-49, where the end of the world is built into the schema expressly! Call it fabric or call it material, it is one.
In saying "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" were they
in fact saying that a future rule would occur, not currently available? To
ask is to answer. Thus we find in Matthew 21:43, that the
Whether we see this phase or that, there is one King and one Kingdom, and one Gospel of it, whether the glory be seen through this phrase and phase or that. It can be merely mentioned without any need of elucidation and in the most vulnerable or majestic moments.
The terms are all correlative for, praise be to the Lord, we are
ALL that the Father has, declared Christ, is His, so that there is a unity which is intense and glorious, seen in all the developments; and once in Him from all time to all time, one is in His kingdom which is that, as Daniel says, which does not pass away and shall never be destroyed. It goes on and on, in the Eternal One whose it is, whose Son has shone like light upon the earth, that the dark things may hide, and the righteous, being hidden and so declared righteous in Him, may one day shine in the beauty of the Lord (Matthew 13:43) - like the sun "in the kingdom of their Father".
CATCHING SIGHT OF - AND ENTRY INTO THE KINGDOM !
What happens however when we introduce this basically undifferentiated concept into John 3 ? We find the unsaved Nicodemus is confronted in the midst of his current assertions about current interpretations of current events, with a current judgment on his current self, enshrined in a principle dealing with salvation both immediate and necessary.
YOU cannot do these
things, says the ingratiating pedant to Christ, unless God is with you. To
this Christ returns functionally: YOU cannot see the
That is the nature
of the dialogue - about the
The inference is
this: How can Nicodemus characterise events (far less be a teacher) in the
sphere where he is blind ? The attributes are sealed from his vision. He
attributes somewhat - almost a little patronisingly, at first, perhaps -
to Christ: as if to say, "You know, you really are quite a good player, distinguished
indeed." A little later, in a very different frame, Christ attributes somewhat
to Nicodemus, "and you a teacher in
But here, it is an expostulation concerning the necessary ignorance of Nicodemus, in view of his being both blind and a non-entrant to the kingdom, since it is one into which one must be born, and poor Nicodemus has not yet been born! To be a teacher before birth is really rather a lot to ask, but Nicodemus had not realised, as thousands of pedants and professors int he twentieth century do not yet realise, and many never did realise as they graced the track to the hell of presumption, arrogant unbelief and playing with the things of God without knowing Him at all: what? That if you are doing to teach, you must first be sure you are born, and then, that you grow up... in the kingdom concerned!
Christ did not lightly confront Nicodemus. It was only when the latter queried Christ's prescription of re-generation for his own person before teaching, that Christ enunciated the principle and applied it to this result! HOW, cried Nicodemus, can one be born again - enter into one's mother's womb again? Almost a bit of slapstick, but more likely a sort of rather irritable frustration on the part of the important professor when made to look and to feel as small as he really was! In my own career, I have found a vast sensitivity on the part of unbelieving 'Christian' professors who assail the word of God, when they are confronted.
To look as small as they are in the profundity of their impertinence in so much as attempting to touch, as it were, the aircraft they cannot see or enter, far less ... fly it: it is unpalatable. Temper, even fury, folly and the like tend to be emitted, as smoke from the burning pile of refuse. Alas, it is refuse that we are when we turn from the truth with the pseudo-spiritual effrontery of being our own, with our own theories and thoughts in the very presence of the Almighty who gave us thought, and asks us to realise that our thoughts are not as His.
To be a stenographer for God without invitation, and to write on His behalf without being called is ludicrous; and common. Hence this is the century of false prophets. It is not new. It is all old hat - in Jeremiah 23 the whole folly is exposed on the part of the Jewish people, as now one sees the identical phenomenon in the Gentiles.
Nicodemus, then, in the fulness of emptiness, that gaseous substitute for water, queried Christ's prescription with an ignorant rejoinder. Christ then told him two relevant principles. First, He adds to the new birth, this: that it is with water and the Spirit. This may signify in the perspective of John the Baptist's famous preliminaries, repentance and regeneration; but it might also simply refer, in view of the almost impertinent force of Nicodemus 'schoolboy' rejoinder, a very direct answer: You must be born
1) from the womb, where the water or embryonic fluid must be filled and then spilled at birth; and
2) of the Spirit, which is a matter of
by which, and which alone, anyone may EITHER
It is entirely possible that this second possibility is the one that best fits the context; but it is certain that the association between water and repentance, and washing is not lost, and this may be a kind of spiritual pun, held subdued lest it degenerate into sacramentalism, of which there is no trace here.
PRINCIPLES OF THE KINGDOM
To summarise, the intent may be felt by Nicodemus as this:
be born physically and
be washed as this requires (physically, a sort of infant depiction of the nature of flesh, which needs spiritual washing as well, and not merely symbolic - I Peter ); and then
be born spiritually so that you actually become a child of God and so both see and enter the kingdom.
Luke 13:1-3 would relate to this quite necessary element of repentance FROM the natural as well as ENTRY into the supernatural by adoption, the net effect of being born into the kingdom in which you did not first arrive!
The technique as it were, and the fact that "the wind blows where it will", indicating the sovereign power of God in His own election of kingdom entrants: both relate to the current period. When the wind blows, the grain moves; the results accrue - now! Thus also the non-seeing is a current phenomenon with Nicodemus, and its remedy consorts with this, at God's moment.
This result SHOULD
now be, and this is how it comes! To have this, in context, is to have the
If therefore we seek
to reduce the phrase, 'kingdom of God' to a mere phrase or facet, to which
in its time reference could be made, then in view of the fact that this which
is before us in the text concerning Nicodemus is all here and now, a matter shameful
failure now with gratifying removal of shame available now,
what would we in fact then be
We would simply
impose a connotational limit,
violate the word of God,
suppress it by mental tradition and
execute not righteousness but meaning! Behead it!
We would excise from the context a principle which is not only there, but central and crucial to the whole episode.
The consideration, then, is not at all what Nicodemus may find later - that is a separate question broached in John 3:12, the very issue of which would need to await the birth to make the 'growing child' Nicodemus (if he WERE to be born again) able to enter into the arena of discourse (and reality) at all! Thus the remedy relates to the sphere of discourse, which is pertinent, pointed and all but abrasive. In response to Nicodemus' complaint (v.4), Jesus makes it clear that it is not into a womb one is to enter, but into a kingdom. Both are current or contemporary considerations. Both relate to the context, more broadly, of not perishing but having now eternal life - one of the courses to continue for all the phases of the kingdom of heaven and of God, in this world, indeed, and in the next.
The kingdom is all the rule of the king in the dimension described; it is not to be segmentalised as if there were many Gods or many sorts of sovereignty or many types of Gospel.
There is one God, one Gospel, one Lord, who (Romans 4) indeed preached the Gospel to Abraham of salvation, sacrifice and grace through covenant mercies (Genesis 12,15,17). It is identified by Paul (Romans -25, Galatians 3:8) as the same Gospel, that everlasting Gospel of which John speaks in Revelation. Delightfully, Paul puts it:
|"and the SCRIPTURE,
FORESEEING THAT GOD WOULD JUSTIFY THE HEATHEN THROUGH FAITH,
PREACHED BEFORE THE GOSPEL TO ABRAHAM."
The power of this One God is always over all, and for His saints it is always adequate and world-overcoming, just as God always rules and has done, with His saints (Hosea 11:12), though many be bogus, and many things high in form are low in reality, as in fact was the case with Nicodemus personally at this phase of his life (cf. I Corinthians 1:27-30).
Other concepts are intrusive, extraneous, and here anti-contextual. In a sense, they are novel. They wrap God up, instead of seeing His perennial wrapping of things up, as He so often protests is the case, in Isaiah (cf. 40:23-31).
The concept then, that regeneration is logically necessary for perception and reception of God's lively personal rule (called here "the kingdom of God" in its various features and phases), in triumph over evil, to put it shortly, is here; just as it is found in different periods of history in chosen forms and formats.
(John 3:6) , and that's the way it is.
This is a foundational principle affecting all aspects of the kingdom. It is a threshold without which there are simply NO STEPS in the kingdom. The feet are not on its soil, at all in such a case. You understand or you do not; but the GOD WHOM you understand (cf. Jeremiah -24) changes not a whit. He ways do not change.
"Let not the wise man glory his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him who glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says the Lord."
The kingdom, then, is co-extensive with the Gospel and with the children of the place. It also covers the supernatural conferment of a NEW NATURE which is the implication of NEW BIRTH. There is no straining to appear what one is not. It is rather a matter of being what one is (Matthew ) - a good tree, so planted with the right seed, does perform accordingly. It is not automatic, but it IS characterisable. There can be blemishes, but there is the Gardener for that.
Thus most directly, Christ said this: "Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up." We are "planted together with Him" says Paul in Romans 6, of that blessed union and unity with the Saviour which results when our spiritual heredity (cf. John 3:9) has been granted, through repentance and faith in Christ and Him crucified, yea bodily risen (Romans 8:32, Luke 24:39, I Corinthians 15:1-3), that ONE Christ who did that ONE sacrifice and who gives that ONE life which, saved by grace, has His imprimatur.
Thus in I Corinthians 1:14, we find that the natural man (that is, the one born just once, the unconverted person) finds spiritual things, indeed the very things OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD (closely related to the points on the kingdom, above)... foolish! This is an unlimited ascription. If then a natural man were illuminated and stirred (cf. Hebrews' sad case, 6:4-6, where some touches of heaven are shrugged off the shoulders which refused the mantle, a fatal folly) - like the soil on which the seed fell, but the ground was shallow.. then at all times, he remains natural. Then at all times he remains of the view that spiritual things are foolish.
This being so, he does not stop his folly, he cannot be changed in concept whilst so considering them, repent or be converted while of such an opinion of the things of the Spirit of God. Put differently, cleaning up, he does not fill up, and his vacuum is soon filled with what is worse (Matthew ). Proverbs has it, a fool though ground in pestle and mortar, stays the same (27:22). This is so at each moment and micro-moment. NEVER can such a man change his view UNTIL he is a spiritual man; and NEVER can he be that whilst unconverted. He may be drawn or touched, but not categorically changed. He may be like shallow ground on which the seed, the word of God falls, but underneath the rock is still there: the heart is unconverted and the word dies in him before it takes root.
Regeneration is logically prior to conversion and sight; chronologically, of course it may be simultaneous (see SMR p. 476). Similarly, as is pointed out in his Scripture and Confession (ed. Professor John H. Skilton), in John 6:65, it is those to whom it is so GIVEN who come. It is not a possibility, an aid, a stirring: it is a conferment and a gift TO COME (cf. Acts ). Thew king calls and the elect come: the willing are indeed willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3), and this is not merely millenial, but multi-dimensional in the kingdom broadcast in Christ (Luke -27).
I Corinthians 15 makes especially alive to us that there are two intimately related features: the POWER NOW to do what is required in the Lord, pilgrim servants in the magnificent shadow of His resurrection, and the HIS POWER then when He comes, to turn on the light in a world that is dark, so that all may see how very dark it was, and find the Governor from among the people, in righteous rule. Philippians 3:20-21 likewise, and Romans 8 also, presents this growing facets of the unitary kingdom. Like crystal, the more it grows, the more it is itself; but for some, like this, WHEN it is grown, it is a magnificent masterpiece.
THE SPIRITUAL NATURE,
then, of the children of the kingdom is one of the aspects of this gleaming,
multi-faceted crystal, which in turn reminds one of the crystalline throne
structure in Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 1:4,26, Revelation 21:19ff.). This
is one function of the
Just as love of the truth is one of the categories of this nature, which is both attuned to it and embraces it in the sacrificial splendour of the crucified Christ, made available to us in the freest of grace and the grandeur of His passion; so the truth of love is a brimming reality in this kingdom. To this, we shall shortly return.
The new nature is no abstraction. Made in the image of God initially, mankind has become distorted, disoriented to a greater or less degree, and above all, free of something infinitely more important than a trace element: the abiding presence of His Creator. On being regenerated (which is considerably more basic then 'renovated'!), a redeemed sinner, an occupant of the kingdom, one that is who has been not only created by the Creator but now through cost paid by Christ, recreated, re-assumes the natural integrity of Creator-creature relationship. It is adorned by the new relationship: Redeemer-redeemed. Thus Ephesians refers to this new heritage in terms of zeal and zest for these new possessions:
"Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness", or "holiness of truth".
Since God is love (I John 4:7-8), an essential criterion of this new nature is love. It is more than sentiment or affection, more than mere ideals, though it is not foreign to either. I Corinthians 13 tells us that the greatest of love, hope and faith is love; and Paul there describes its operational features in some detail, an impact on many peoples from time immemorial. Now into this Kingdom, the King calls. As to that, it is "not of him who wills", says Paul in Romans 9:16, just as Romans 8:16 testifies that the Spirit of God testifies with the spirits of believers that we are the children of God.
If a Lutheran (theological) type conversion were to occur, this would mean that the stirred but not yet converted soul would be ABLE to respond before its conversion, which we have already seen is impossible Biblically, structurally, spiritually, in the light of I Corinthians 1, John 6 and other words from the Bible. It would then also, in terms of Romans 9:16, be a case of HIM WHO WILLS. Willing would be working it out and getting it, and so coming in; but Paul assures us, this is not the way of it at all. "NO MAN," said Jesus, "can come to Me, except it be given him of My Father" (John 6:65).
Professor Skilton also mentions the constraints of Matthew 11:27 in this connection. There we read this. It is the SON who wills, and the RESULT of this willing is productive of revelation, and this is incorporative of knowing the Trinity which is eternal life. NO ONE knows the Son except the FATHER; nor the FATHER except the SON : with this exception. The SON WILLS to show the Father to some. It depends on HIS WILL. NOR can any come to Christ, unless "it be given to him of my Father" as we saw. WILL does determine it: but it is not in the last resort human, carnal will. It is the will of God, working in brilliance of light as one holy unity. The action of God here is sufficient and necessary and personal. This is the teaching of Jesus Christ as shown in these places.
When, as Skilton stresses, Christ is revealed IN one, then we have something special. In fact, this sort of revelation on His choice is constitutive of eternal life. ONCE this revelation is made, response is predictable; but it is the response of a converted man. Once this grant is rendered into history, conversion is the result.
This however is not to begin to discuss the eligibility of the elect. Sometimes this is an implicit concept for some Calvinists and Arminians alike, though offensive to both, often, explicitly and rightly . (For scriptural harmony, see SMR Ch.8, pp. 636ff., Appendix B, pp. 1113ff., That Magnificent Rock, Ch.7, Section E, and Predestination and Freewill, pp. 147-179). It says nothing of WHY God so chooses.
But it says something of the kingdom and of entry into it.
As to this 'why', the reason for His choice: This will Biblically relate to the divine protestations of love ( I Timothy 2:1-5) and loving the world (John ); and of the Father as willing to reconcile ALL things... in heaven or on earth - Colossians 1:19ff. (This is as distinct from deciding for all, as if to merely determine them. He did not make them in His image for nothing!). ALL things? This is His willingness? So it is written. ALL things to Himself. The deviation which reaches hell thus must cross the double threshold of sin (1), which is part of all men but Christ, and the love of Christ with its remedy (2). It is a sort of double-cross... It is precisely here that we understand John 15:21-23!
╬ What is also clear even from these few divine words is this: NOT ONE SINNER on earth reaches hell, through any lack or lapse in the love of God (I John 4:7)) - this would contradict both what He is (revealed to BE), and what He says. It is only pre-emptive darkness which persists into its place.
The epic divine restraint before condemnation is final,
is expressed in the endurance that conceived and faced the Cross in the flimsy
garment of the flesh, when the Word became flesh, dwelt amongst us ... to
seek and to save that which was lost (cf. Luke 19:10, 15:1-32, John 1:14;
and see Predestination and Freewill, 148ff., 155ff., 160-168, p. 120), with Dimensional Darkness). Nor does God fail
to choose before the world was so much as founded (Ephesians 1:4). Also clear:
none who ever comes to Him is cast out (John , 10:9, 27-28). If you want
the kingdom, then seek the King: it is His! If you don't, then why whine?
For such things, there is no place in the
In this love of God, present dominant power (Romans ,21, 8:8-17, II Timothy -18) in spirit and life is consummated in future manifestation: faith (which can move mountains -Mark 11) becomes then - sight! Matthew 23:37 and Luke 19:42, like Hosea 7:1, Ezekiel 33:11 and II Chronicles 36 show the enormous energy and pity of God. He however does not cast His pearls before swine, KNOWS and FOREKNOWS His elect (Romans ), and has accordingly PREDESTINATED them, there being no error. That is the kind consequence.
SINCE His love is declared and universal in scope, the RESULTANTS in His knowledge, where human will is discountenanced by sin, but the divine Creator selects those in His image, not automatons: these are His own. Resultants? yet in His light to which no man can approach, the work of thousands of years of analysis by man, aborted by inadequate purity and knowledge, are as a flash. HE KNOWS who are His own, as an artist KNOWS his vision; and infinitely more so.
The incredible beauty of this kingdom fact must be stressed, and it is this: you do not need to ARGUE with the judge whose free pardon is so costly to HIM, and so available to US. IF you wish you were predestinate, the case is direct. Approach the King in terms of His covenantal offer, and on His word, you are His. In that case, in His foreknowledge, you always were. "The Lord knows who are His" - II Timothy .
As II Timothy 1:9 declares: He "has saved us and called us with a holy calling , not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." In that context, works are an abomination, like someone trying to pay back a benefactor who paid his hospital bill of millions, with spare change. In the Kingdom, we are dealing with a King: indeed, with the King of Eternity, "with whom is no variation or shadow of turning" (James ).
Hence we read in Paul:
The same sincerity that God manifests, selecting without violence, as is the way of love, is found in the heart of the redeemed - I Peter 1 verbalises it:
"Love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous" (3:8).
This love of God (Romans 5:5, I Corinthians 13, Titus 3:4-7, Colossians 1`:13-14, 3:13-14, I John 2:15, 3:1-3,23-23, 4:10,15-18,20) ... it is unpossessive, seemly, spiritual, pure-hearted, constructive, patient, kind, Christ-grounded, Spirit-dynamised, Christ savoured, unselfish, strut-free, unfretting, free of guilt, made innocent by grace in the hearts of the redeemed through the blood of Christ: "Above all these things," exhorts the apostle Paul, "put on love" (Colossians 3:14).
Again, he says (I Peter 1:22): "Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit to unfeigned love of the brethren, see that you love one another with a pure heart fervently: being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever." As to that, the principles of the place, you might say, of the palace, include this (I John 5:2):
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments."
The rules of the spiritual road are a good test; keep these and with a pure heart, walk in the Lord, whose light is sent out to guide to His holy haven, through the Kingdom, to the Kingdom. Ponder on the way, Isaiah 32:16-17, and 32:17, 33:6. Such is the way of the Kingdom, the province of the King. As to Him, on earth He is thus reported:
we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full
of grace and truth" - John .
*1 A matter of misinterpretation both in the Old and New Testament overall contexts. That would be as if Hebrews 8-10 - where the old fades away, and Isaiah 65 - where the former people of God are to be given a new name, just as also a new covenant (Jeremiah 31), had never been written. Hell, in Isaiah 66 is seen in the symbol of a terrestrial horror, but as with all imagery, when principles have been expounded clearly elsewhere, its portent is not hard to find. Isaiah 66, following the covenantal repudiation in Ch. 65, makes unutterably clear in verse 3, what the Lord thinks of animal sacrifice when its purpose is past.
*2 And by abstraction, can imply their removal.