Eternal Hope – Part 40

Eternal Hope – Part 40

January, 2011

Dear Co-Laborer,

Eternal Hope
Part 40


Because individual salvation is muted in the Old Testament and emphasized in the epistles, Jesus acts as a bridge by highlighting the individual’s need for grace. You are led to believe that apart from Moses’ violation of God’s law not to strike the rock, and David’s murder and adultery, people had a relationship with God because they kept the Law. I know of no place in the Old Testament where God actually forgives an individual. (The one exception may be when Nathan tells David: “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”[1] Even here, such a promise from God seems out of place and unjust; it certainly stands in contrast to how God deals with other individuals in the Old Testament.)

As noted earlier in this study, God begins to emphasize the individual during the time of Judah’s exile in Babylon: “But if a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”[2] Although the word “forgive” is not used, God clearly suggests that the man’s sin is forgiven, but only because the man changed his ways and began to live according to God’s Law. God says nothing about substitution or propitiation. Note also that God threatens the sinner with death without specifying what kind of death. If temporal death, and the context seem to suggest this, then the Law of the Harvest does apply to the temporal.

In the Gospels Jesus affirms the importance of keeping the Law, and although He was rejected by the nation (cf. Matthew 12), He talks to people about how they can be saved (something the Old Testament writers did not do). But Jesus gives little hope to people who violate the Law, as evidenced by: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”[3] The word for “iniquity” means “law breaker.” Thus, Jesus stands as a bridge between the OT and the NT epistles.

Observations Regarding Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven

Before leaving the Gospels, let’s take a moment to look at the Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven. When God promised Abraham the land in Genesis 12 and 15, what did He have in mind? Historically, the Jews have viewed the land as part of their covenant with God; God give the land to His people in perpetuity. The absence of an eternal promise given to the individual may have resulted in their concluding that the temporal was eternal, i.e., the individual will not live eternally, but the nation will eternally live on the land. However they thought, it included Messiah one day establishing His Kingdom on earth.

In the Gospels the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” appears only in Matthew. The phrase “Kingdom of God” appears in all four gospels, but only twice in John.[4] According to Jesus, it is the community in which the divine will is to be realized on earth as it already exists in heaven. An individual can enter it only by total submission to the authority of God. He may be motivated by self-interest, but he must surrender his lust for autonomy to the authority of Christ.

The Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven has the following uses:

1 – The OT prophets saw the Kingdom of God as something future, even though they lived in the days of the Theocratic Kingdom: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”[5]

God speaking through Amos says: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit [them]; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.”[6]

2 – The Kingdom predicted in the OT was not in existence in the days of John the Baptist, for he preached that it was “nigh at hand.”

Matthew tells us: “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand… the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”[7]

The Jews believed that John’s prophecy was for them. The gospels record no controversy between the Jews, on the one hand, and Jesus and John, on the other, over their understanding of the Kingdom of God. It is interesting that the Jewish rulers thought that if they acknowledged Jesus as their King, the Romans would destroy their nation.[8] Evidently they looked for the kingdom, but believed that for it to arrive Rome had to be dealt with first – which is the argument of the prophecy of Daniel and “the feet of clay mixed with iron.”

3 – Christ preached that the Kingdom of God is both a present reality and a future hope: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”[9] I have to receive it now if I am to receive it in the future.

4 – Christ preached that the Kingdom of God is “within you.”
Luke records: “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”[10]

5 – God’s sovereign rule is operational, whether people acknowledge it or not, as
King Darius attests upon Daniel’s escaping with his life from the lion’s den: “I make a decree, that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he [is] the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion [shall be even] unto the end.”[11]

So also, in a vision given Daniel regarding the last days: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, [one] like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed.”[12]

6 – Jesus said that the Kingdom of God would be taken from Israel and given to another ethne or ethnic people: “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”[13]

7 – Christ’ present kingdom is different from the millennial kingdom as the latter is yet to be realized. In His explanation of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Jesus said, “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.”[14] It will not be a pure kingdom until the return of Christ and He establishes His millennial kingdom.

“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season. And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection. Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.”[15] (This is a future event, since it occurs after the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.)

It is for this kingdom that Jesus tells us to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.”[16] And it is this kingdom that we are to seek: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”[17]

If these teachings of Jesus apply to the church, and I think most would agree that they do, then it is a different kingdom from that described by the Old Testament prophets.

8 – Paul teaches that God’s use of the church does not abrogate His Old Testament promises to Israel. When he concludes his analogy of the “wild” and “natural branches” of the olive tree, he says: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:”[18]


In my study of the Kingdom of God/Heaven, although it was not exhaustive, I could not find any distinction between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven; the writers of the Synoptic Gospels seem to use the terms interchangeably.[19]

Eager for His Kingdom,


[1] 2 Samuel 12:13, KJV
[2] Ezekiel 18:21-23, KJV
[3] Matthew 7:22-23, KJV
[4] John 3:3, 5
[5] Isaiah 9:6-7, KJV
[6] Amos 9:13-15, KJV
[7] Matthew 3:1-3, KJV
[8] Cf. John 11:47-48
[9] Mark 10:15, RSV
[10] Luke 17:20-21, KJV
[11] Daniel 6:26, KJV
[12] Daniel 7:13-14, KJV
[13] Matthew 12:43, KJV
[14] Matthew 13:41, KJV
[15] Revelation 20:1-6, KJV
[16] Matthew 6:10, KJV
[17] Matthew 6:33, KJV
[18] Romans 11:25-26, KJV
[19] For further research on the subject, cf. Peters, George N.H., The Theocratic Kingdom, Kregel, Grand Rapids, 1994, 3 Volumes.