HEBREWS LESSON 5 Mysteries in the New Testament
In the last study I mentioned that the Hebrew Christians had the problem of trying to sort through two distinct covenants, both given by God, both true, but otherwise completely different. The first was based on Law that required the natural man to obey the law and perfect his own faith and righteousness. The second was based on obedience to faith by the spiritual man who rests in the finished work of Christ and has the indwelling Holy Spirit as the source of his faith and is the transforming agent that changes the believer from glory to glory into the lawful image of Christ.
In the course of this explanation I state that these two covenants were introduced in scripture as mysteries; the kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God. I said the New Covenant had many mysteries in it and it was necessary to understand these in order to sort out much of the confusion the Christians addressed in the Epistle of Hebrews were experiencing. After discussion we agreed to look at the mysteries in the New Testament and see how they created contrasts between the two covenants.
The two mysteries most germane to our study were concerning the kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. Because I wanted to deal with these at length, I saved them till the end of the study.
In the beginning of this study I have listed twelve mysteries that set the covenants apart from each other. The intention here was to highlight the conflict within the Hebrew Christians because their identities had been founded upon the Laws of Moses and the discipline of the flesh. This whole view was being turned upside down and the mysteries revealed the extent to which their mental furniture was being rearranged. It is my opinion that this will help us to understand why the author to Hebrews was so careful to construct and contrast his theology to show the superiority to Christ over all those things in the Old Covenant.
Having said this, many of you may find the mention of all the mysteries to be tedious and distracting. For you I would suggest you skip this part and go directly to the section subtitled:
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AND KINGDOM OF GOD
In addition I found it necessary to explain why the church had not recognized these differences in the past. To offer some historical background for those wanting to know why the church is in disagreement on these distinctions I have included two appendixes to deal with these issues. Also, where I thought certain things should be developed more, but were not in keeping with the flow of the study, footnotes have been added.
My intention in this study is to show why I think the two kingdoms (Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God) are different but also to illustrate how the confusion of these two kingdoms has done great harm to the witness of the church even causing it to be subverted into something never intended.
I will argue that the parables concerning these mystery kingdoms are doctrinal rather than inspirational. To do this we will examine briefly the twelve parables about the Kingdom of Heaven and the five parables (seven- if you count their mention in different gospels) about the Kingdom of God. By contrasting these parables it becomes apparent that the Kingdom of Heaven is always consistent with the Law and has severe consequences, while the parables about the Kingdom of God are full of grace and do not result in damnation; they result in chastisement or loss of rewards.
The Mysteries: (1)
We concluded the last study by mentioning that there were things the Hebrews should have known, but there were also things they could not have known. We ended with mention that the New Testament speaks about mysteries that could not be known in the Old Testament. First thing I want you to notice is that Paul referred to himself and the other apostles as the stewards of the manifold mysteries of God.
1Co 4:1 ¶ Let a man so account of us, as of ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
The Apostles were sent in part to reveal mysteries that were brought to light through the gospel they preached. I will simply draw your attention to them and you can then recognize how Paul developed them in the rest of his letters.
1) The mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 13:11)
Mt 13:11 And he answered and said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
2) The mystery of the Kingdom of God (Luke 8:10)
Lu 8:10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to the rest in parables; that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
I want to spend considerable time on these two mysteries, so will address them last.
3) The mystery of God becoming a man of flesh
1Ti 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
This verse is a distillation of the whole Gospel Story. They knew the Messiah would come, but they did not know he would be God in the flesh; that he would be born, live, die, rise from the dead and ascend to heaven in order to make a way for man to be saved and transformed through him.
4) The mystery of salvation by faith
Eph 6:19 ¶ And on my behalf, that utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
Eph 6:20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Ro 16:25 ¶ Now to him that is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal,
Ro 16:26 but now is manifested, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known unto all the nations unto obedience of faith:
5) the mystery that faith will become available to all nations of people
Eph 3:4 whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ;
Eph 3:5 which in other generation was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;
Eph 3:6 to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,
Eph 3:7 whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power.
Eph 3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
.Eph 3:9 and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things;
Eph 3:10 to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God,
Eph 3:11 according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Notice in verse 9 he says his calling is to make all men know the dispensation of the mystery which was hidden in past ages. This is the same thing as saying God is doing something new; it is a new dispensation that no one saw coming.
6) mystery that Israel will be blinded for a while and then restored
Ro 11:25 For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in;
Ro 11:26 and so all Israel shall be saved: even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
Ro 11:27 And this is my covenant unto them, When I shall take away their sins.
This is the promise of Jeremiah developed at length in Hebrews chapter 8.
Heb 8:12 For I will be merciful to their iniquities, And their sins will I remember no more.
Heb 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant he hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away.
7) The mystery of Christ and his bride
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it;
Eph 5:26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word,
Eph 5:27 that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Eph 5:28 Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself:
Eph 5:29 for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church;
Eph 5:30 because we are members of his body.
Eph 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh.
Eph 5:32 This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church
God wants us to understand our relationship with him in terms of a marital relationship. He quotes the covenant he made with Adam and Eve before the fall to illustrate his intentions.
8) Mystery of the seven churches
Re 1:20 the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks are seven churches.
9) The mystery of the Rapture
1Co 15:51 ¶ Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed,
1Co 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1Co 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1Co 15:54 But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
1Co 15:55 O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?
1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law:
1Co 15:57 but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In our first study I said man had two problems that he could not solve. Sin reigned in his life and death reigned in his life. In this Corinthian passage we are told both of those problems are solved by Christ. He has paid the full measure for our sins and offences which is why the Rapture is possible.
10) The mystery that all things will be gathered into one kingdom at the end of time
Eph 1:9 making known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him
Eph 1:10 unto a dispensation of the fulness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth; in him, I say,
Eph 1:11 in whom also we were made a heritage, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will;
Eph 1:12 to the end that we should be unto the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ:
In verse ten he reveals another dispensation; the dispensation of the fullness of times when all of history is concluded in Christ.
11) The Mystery of Iniquity
2Th 2:7 For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way.
2Th 2:8 And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming;
This mystery centers around the Antichrist. The Antichrist was spoken of in the Old Testament in different names and contexts. The fact that this is a mystery implies that something new is being shown about him. The passage says lawlessness is already working in the world and there is a purpose to it; it is leading to a point where the world will embrace a man who will be completely lawless. If this is so, we can deduce that there are always two programs in the world; people are always either being prepared for Christ or for the Antichrist. Part of the mystery may be that nothing in life is neutral or at least, not as neutral as we think. It mentions a “he” who is restraining the Antichrist from coming to power. This tells us God is in control and he sets the times and boundaries.
Part of the mystery that is unique to the New Testament is the comparison of the Antichrist to Judas. Both are referred to as the Son of Perdition. Judas was simply another disciple to the other disciples, but Jesus said “have I not chosen the twelve of you, and one of you is a devil.” Perhaps in some counterfeit way to John the Baptist and the Spirit of Elijah, John may have had Judas in mind when he wrote of the Antichrist and said, “he was, he is not and he is yet to come.”
1Jo 4:1 ¶ Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, if they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
1Jo 4:2 Hereby ye know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses Jesus Christ come in flesh is of God;
1Jo 4:3 and every spirit which does not confess Jesus Christ come in flesh is not of God: and this is that [power] of the antichrist, [of] which ye have heard that it comes, and now it is already in the world.
12) Mystery Babylon
The woman is called Mystery Babylon, the mother of Harlots, She sits on a seven hilled city. She is carried by the beast who has the ten crowns. These ten crowns are ten kings. They will destroy the woman.
The Hebrew Christians addressed in this letter probably did not have many of these mysteries explained to them because of the early writing of the letters. Nevertheless, like the disciples, they believed in the KOH and wondered when it would happen. They were looking for the Kingdom of Heaven, but were being called into the kingdom of God.
Now we will talk about these first two mysteries, abbreviated as the KOH and the KOG. Why is it important to know the difference? Because the KOH is about Law and the KOG is about grace through faith. The law was in effect till Jesus died. Much of what Jesus said was about the law which he came to fulfill. KOH passages have no grace in them and end in condemnation, just as the Law of Moses. I will try to show you how they are different and why they should not be confused or mixed with each other.
The Hebrew Christians were confusion because they were waiting for one kingdom but were being called into a kingdom that had in part been a mystery until that time. Jeremiah and Ezekiel had told them it was coming but they related it to the time when the KOH would also be fulfilled. This same confusion has been carried over into much of the church because the church has thought it is the Kingdom of Heaven and has often made the Old Testament an allegory about the church.
God gave Israel many promises regarding their nation. It was going to become the envy of the world. The Messiah and David were both going to be reigning there. The Jews hoped in all these promises. They knew a deliverer would come but they looked for a king who would rise up and destroy all their enemies. Some thought there might be two or three Messiah’s. Some prophecies in the Old Testament said the Messiah would be a king, others said a priest, and others said a prophet. Moses fulfilled all three of these offices and prophesied that a prophet like him would come. The Jews spoke of this yet unrevealed figure as ‘The Prophet’. They knew it was the time for him to come because the time was prophesied by Daniel. They did not know it would be God in the flesh. That was a mystery.
John the Baptist appeared on the scene crying out “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. He was not preaching the church because Paul tells us that was a mystery hidden from them. What John was preaching was something they recognized. They were coming to John in multitudes, to be baptized. This was ritual cleansing. As we saw when we talked about Leviticus, ceremonial washings occurred often. By these, the Hebrews renewed their commitment to the Law. The Old Testament reveals that they often walked away from God. The call of repentance was followed by ceremonial cleansing.
John was preaching at a time of national revival. The Jews were looking for a kingdom. The Disciples of Jesus thought Jesus would establish it and when he did not, they asked him when he would do so. This was their last question as he was about to ascend back to heaven.
Ac 1:4 and, being assembled together with them, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me:
Ac 1:5 For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.
Ac 1:6 ¶ They therefore, when they were come together, asked him, saying, Lord, dost thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?
Ac 1:7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know times or seasons, which the Father hath set within His own authority.
Ac 1:8 But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Ac 1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
They are told to wait because they are about to receive the Holy Spirit, but the times and season for the Kingdom of Israel is something only the Father knows. What they would receive is what the Father promised through Jesus. What did Jesus promise?
Joh 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Joh 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
Joh 14:18 ¶ I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
That is the promise, the Holy Spirit. The world cannot receive him, or know him because he is not a man walking among them. The Holy Spirit is given to those who ask in faith. Faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross gives the believer peace with God. All of God’s anger was poured out upon Jesus so that by faith reconciliation to the Kingdom of God takes place. All of God’s creation is his kingdom. Much of it is at war with him but he is still it’s sovereign.
Peace with God is restoration within this kingdom. Jesus said the Kingdom of God does not come with observation. It is initiated when the Holy Spirit unites with our spirit and dwells within us.
Lu 17:20 ¶ 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:
Lu 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
The kingdom of God is not a geographical kingdom. The Kingdom of heaven is. It is something within them.
Where was Israel? It was a society among all the societies of the world. It was a light in the world.
On our graph it is in the world. But the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles is called out of the world. It acts as ambassadors of Christ and offers the peace of God to the lost. The church is the sheep of Christ who go in and out and find pasture. Jesus last commandment to Peter was if you love me, feed my lambs and sheep.
What is a kingdom?
A kingdom is composed of three things, a king, subjects, and something that is ruled over. God is a king. He sits on a throne in heaven. He rules over his entire creation. God has restored us to himself, so we are in the kingdom of God. God tells us the world is the kingdom of darkness but we are called into the kingdom of light. We saw this in chapter four.
Heb 4:16 Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.
The veil of the temple has been removed. Jesus is the door that opens the way to the throne of grace.
We are told that the Kingdom of God does not come with observation. The kingdom of God is within you. Paul tells us the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. So we are in the world, but what kingdom do we belong to? The earth belongs to God, but the kingdoms of the earth are the kingdoms of darkness. So this side of creation remains in a State of Sin until Christ returns and conquers it. Jesus is the gate and his sheep come in and out and find pasture. They have been restored to God so they are in right standing in the Kingdom of God. God has invaded the kingdom of darkness by filling us with his Spirit so we can continue the ministry of Jesus Christ.
In Christ reality and truth walked the earth together. The only other time this happened was before the fall. Now reality is whatever condition people find themselves in and truth is in Jesus Christ. What is truth? Truth is the way God intended things to be. It is expressed in the creation when it reflects his image and likeness; it is embodied in Jesus as God who walked among us.
God used the nation of Israel to make his presence known on earth. At the present time his principle witness is the church. We have already considered that the church is the tent of meeting where God meets people; we are ambassadors of Christ; we do not belong to ourselves, we are servants of our king; we get our marching orders here; but we live in bodies that are still slaves to the necessities of this life and we are easily seduced by the cares of this life. So we have to make conscious moment by moment choices to allow God to be glorifies in our circumstances. We are his sheep but too often try to act as his governors. So we neglect the preaching of the cross which is the power of God onto salvation and try to duplicate Israel by building theocratic societies. There is only one theocratic society in scripture and that is the KOH.
KEYS TO THE KINGDOM
Jesus brought the Kingdom of Heaven to the Jews but they rejected him. The Kingdom of Heaven is the land promised to Abraham and his descendants, the Jews. Because he died for us we have peace with the Father. We have been transformed into the kingdom of light. The epistle to the Hebrews is speaking about Hebrew Christian who have been promised both kingdoms. In Mark 19:28 Jesus told the twelve disciples that when he sat on his thrown they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. That has not happened. Jesus also gave them the Keys of David. Does the church have those keys? No. (2)
The church does not have these keys? Jesus has them. When the disciples sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel they will get them back.
Why is this important? It’s important because we need to know who we are as the church. We need to be the witness and savants that God has called us to be. If there are different kingdoms we need to sort them out so we don’t end up living halfway in each Kingdom. We only belong to one, the KOG.
2Ti 2:15 Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus preached his Constitution to the Jews. That is how he will reign in the Millennium. The Sermon has consequences. It is full of judgment.
Mt 5:22 but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.
Is this grace or the Law? It is Law. The New Covenant could not be in effect until after Christ died. He fulfilled the Law. He was only sent to the house of Israel and he preached the Law.
In Jeremiah’s prophecy he said from the least to the greatest, everyone will know the Lord. That will be reality when Jesus reigns on the throne in Jerusalem. Everyone will know him. Therefore, it follows that it is a serious thing to call someone a fool, or suggest that he is worthless. This is someone who knows the Lord. That will be the condition when Jesus is on the throne in Jerusalem. All of the Sermon on the Mount presupposes Jesus reign on earth. It is a reign over people who are still living after the flesh. This is a condition of the Millennium and those who are subject to the reign of Christ and his Saints.
In Matt 12 we see why the KOH did not happen at that time.
Mt 12:23 And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?
Mt 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
Mt 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
Mt 12:26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?
Mt 12:27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
Mt 12:28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
What Kingdom did the Pharisees blaspheme? Look at verse 28. The Kingdom of God.
What kingdom did they lose?
Mt 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
They lost the right to be the conduit for the KOG. He has not taken from them the promise of the KOH. He delayed it for a future time because they had blasphemed the Holy Spirit by saying the power working in him came from Satan. The KOH will be given to a future generation at the Second Coming of Christ.
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN AND KINGDOM OF GOD
In the Book of Acts we see that many religious leaders belived. Acts 15:5 speaks of Pharisees who believed but continued to push the laws of Moses. Paul’s gospel of grace came under constant attack from false brethren who preached Jesus and the law simultaneously. They were legalists called Judaizers (Galatians chapter 2) . In Gal 3 Paul tells the Galatians they had been bewitched into believing another gospel which is not another gospel. Paul wondered if he had preached to them in vain (3:4). What they had done was incorporate observances of the Sabbath and becoming circumcised as necessary steps to complete their salvation. This mixing of the two covenants (kingdoms) is the conflict being addressed in the epistle to the Hebrews. It is necessary to make the distinction between the KOH and KOG if we are to understand why Hebrews goes into exhaustive details to show the superiority of Christ over everything in the Old Covenant. The failure to separate these kingdoms was why Paul was persecuted by so many people who claimed to be brothers. This same problem has continued throughout church history. The reason these conflicts continue has to do with hermeneutics, i.e. how to study the Bible. Through most of church history the Old Testament has been allegorized and made to be about the church. When the whole Bible is thought to be about the church then there is no reason to distinguish between the kingdoms. These distinctions have only gained ground in the last couple hundred years in what is called Dispensationalism. A brief explanation regarding the Dispensational view is offered in Appendix A.
At the ascension when Jesus was about to rise into heaven the disciples question was “will you set up your kingdom at this times?” He said it is not for you to know, but wait here for the Holy Spirit. They were the faithful remnant and on the Day of Pentecost they did gain the KOG. The age of the church began. The KOH is a promise to the Jewish people. One of the mysteries was that Jews and Gentiles would be joined in one body, the body of Christ, and that body is part of the KOG. Remember, the KOG is God’s sovereignty over his creation, but in this instance, it is those whom God has made peace with through the cross of Christ. They now belong to the KOG instead of this present evil world; the kingdom of darkness.
While Jesus was on the earth, doing the perfect will of the Father, both the KOG and the KOH were being fulfilled. When he told them in the Sermon of the Mount about all the things pertaining to the Kingdom of Heaven in the middle of the Sermon he said:
Mt 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
Mt 6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
Mt 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
He shifts from the KOH to the KOG and says faith must be first. If they do not first seek God what is the point of all the rest.
The KOH has promises of land, provisions and prosperity. The KOG does not. It is reconciliation to God through our Lord and savior who sit enthroned in heaven.
Ro 14:17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus cast out demons he was conforming to the will of the Father. In Matthew 12 as a response to them saying he did things by the power of Beelzebub, he replied:
Mt 12:28 But if I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you.
This is also in Luke. Jesus demonstrated the Kingdom of God by taking authority over demons and casting them out. He does the same thing when Satan is thrown out of heaven.
Re 12:10 And I heard a great voice in heaven, saying, Now is come the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accuseth them before our God day and night.
This is in keeping with Paul:
1Co 4:19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will; and I will know, not the word of them that are puffed up, but the power.
1Co 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
The power the church has is for the pulling down of the strongholds or beachheads Satan has made into men’s lives. Scripture tells us ‘greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world’. Because they blasphemed the Kingdom of God; Jesus spoke in parables so the Pharisees would not see or hear and be converted. Converted to what? He did not want them to recognize that he was the rightful king and convert and attempt to put him on the throne of the KOH. He wanted his disciples to know who he was, but not the Jewish leaders. This was not an issue of salvation. Many Pharisees got saved (Acts 15:5). When they blasphemes the Holy Spirit (KOG) they lost the KOH for that time but by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ many still got saved.
Mr 4:2 And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
Mr 4:3 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
Notice, Jesus is now teaching doctrine in parable form.
What he reveals to them is how the prophecies of Jeremiah will be fulfilled regarding the Jewish people and their promise of inheriting the land of Israel. There are 12 parables about the KOH. But he will also tell them five parables (seven if you count the fact that two are quotes in two different gospels) about the KOG.
The KOG is God’s reign over all of his creation, but in these parables it is specifically about the period of the church; when the Holy Spirit works to accomplish God’s will on earth through the faith of believers.
When you look at the parables about the KOH and KOG they have things in common. They are both kingdoms. Christ is king of both. They both are built on the Word of God. The both are talked about in the parables with regard to their future history. They have a history played out in the earth among fallen men. They both suffer persecution.
But there are differences.
The Kingdom of heaven is a geographical place so the kingdom of heaven suffers violence. When John the Baptist was arrested and executed Jesus said:
Mt 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and men of violence take it by force.
Is there anything that can separate you from the love of God? Can anyone take the Holy Spirit from you? Violent men take the KOH. We are in the Father’s hand (John 10:29) and in Christ’s hand (John 10:28). Nothing can separate us from his love (Rom. 8:35-39).
The Kingdom of Heaven was continually suffering violence. Israel had been invaded or conquered and occupied by Phoenicians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Edomites, and others. Contrast this with the KOG in Hebrews 12:28:
Heb 12:28 Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe:
Once John was arrested Jesus took up John’s message. He began to say “Repent forth Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mt 4:17). Since both kingdoms were present in Christ he also said “repent for the KOG is at hand (Mk 1:15).
Parables are told about both kingdoms. In Matt he talks about the KOH, but makes references to the KOG. In Mark and Luke the parables are only about the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
Both the Hebrew Christians and the Gentile Christians have been confused and misdirected by not distinguishing the meaning of these two kingdoms. The church has taken parables that applied to the KOH and applied them to the church. When they have done so they subverted the church and it became a theocratic geo-political entities rather than servants of Christ.
1) The Sower
In Matt 13 The parable of the sower who sows the word is told About both kingdoms. Jesus explains to the disciples that every symbol in this parable has a meaning. The symbols mean the same thing in all the parables. In the parable of the Tares he gives them more symbols. So if a parable has a man in it; it is always Jesus Christ. Jesus says “he who sows the good seed is the son of man.”
The parable of the Sower applies to both kingdoms ( Matt 13: and Mark 4:2) In these he is saying the foundation of both those kingdoms is the word of God. He calls the seed “the word of the kingdom”. The parable deals with how people handle and accept the word of God. It deals with what will prevent the word from growing and producing fruit. In the Kingdom of God this illustrates how believers can frustrate the grace of God and grieve the Holy Spirit. It is an important parable to both Kingdoms. Matthew 13 Jesus gives 7 kingdom parables one after another. Some of these are repeated in other Gospels with regard to the Kingdom of God.
2) The Tares in the Wheat
The second parable is about someone sowing tares among the wheat. This applies to both kingdoms (Matt 13:24, Mark 4:26). The word of God has been sown. Satan immediately sows counterfeit seeds in the field. Do we discern the differences? Throughout the New Testament there are repeated warnings about false prophets (Matt 7:15, 24:11,24; Mar 13:22; 1 John 4:1), false teachers (2 Cor 11:14-15; 2 Pet 2:1), false doctrines (Matt 15:9; Col 2:22; 1 Tim 4:1; Heb 13:9; Jude 1:4), a false Christ (Matt 24:5, 23-24; 2 Cor 11:4; ) , a false spirit (2 Cor 11:4; I John 4:1-6), false apostles (2 Cor 11:13-15;) and false brethren (Gal 2:4). It is important to remember that in Mark 4:2 Jesus called these parables ‘doctrine”. They are hidden, but are foundational to our faith.
3) The Mustard Seed
The third parable is also about both kingdoms. It is mentioned in Matt, Mark and Luke.
Mt 13:31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:
Mt 13:32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
Jesus ministry was small. He had a couple hundred followers. He moved in a circumference of less than two hundred miles. Though his ministry was small it has filled the whole world. This is true about both kingdoms. The whole world knows about Jews and Christians. In the first parable the birds were the demons that stole the seed. Here they find rest in the branches of the kingdoms. Remember when Jesus went into a synagogue and a demon possessed man cried out Son of man why have you come here…. have you come to torment us before our time? (Matt 8:29). This demon filled man was content in the synagogue. As Paul walked the streets preaching a demon possessed woman followed him declaring that he was sent from God (Acts 16:16-18). Out of both kingdoms branches have reached into the whole world and people have borrowed from them creating out of them doctrines of demons.
2Co 11:13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
2Co 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
2Co 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
4) Leaven hidden in the dough
The fourth parable Matt 13:33 is about the woman who had leaven and hid it in the meal until the whole was leavened. This is also about both kingdoms. The woman in the KOH is the bride of Jehovah (Duet 6:10-15; Ezek 16:8, 60-63; Jere 3:1-5; 31:31-34); the woman in the KOG is the bride of Christ (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-27; Rev 19:6-9; 21:9-22:5). Once a year the Jews were required to throw out their old leaven. Failure to do so meant they would be cut off from the people. In the parable those who did not want to get rid of it hide it in the dough. The consequence is that the dough was transformed into something it was not supposed to be. What is this leaven?
Mt 16:12 Then understood they that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The leaven was bad teaching or doctrines.
Luke 12:1 he warns them to beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy. In Mark he also warns about the leaven of the Herodian’s.
Mr 8:15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
The Herodian put personal power above everything else. (See Appendix B as well as footnote 3)
It is interesting that both kingdoms have had certain beliefs they wanted to hang onto. They hid them in the pure word. I sometimes marvel that the doctrines that are least defensible are often the ones most loved and protected by certain denominations. They draw their distinction and identity from them. Doctrines are built by stringing scriptures together. Paul tells us to cling to sound doctrine. We must question the doctrines we believe and see if we can support them by scripture. This parable tell us that the KOH (Jesus told the religious leaders they had made the word of God of no effect by their traditions and commentaries) and the KOG which is the whole church has been likewise inflated by false doctrines, hypocrisy and power struggles.
We are told to examine ourselves to see if we are of the faith. We have to protect our faith. Satan wants to make us fruitless. Bad doctrine will not necessarily cause someone to lose their salvation; it is about preventing them from bearing fruit for God. Satan’s desire is to make Christians fruitless.
5) Treasure Hidden in a Field
In the fifth parable a man finds a treasure in a field and hides it, sells all he has and buys the field. This is only a KOH parable. Who has been hidden in the world for the last two thousand years? The Jews. What is purchased here? The field they are in. The field is the world. The man (Jesus) sold all he had to buy the field. It is God’s pleasure to keep his treasure hidden until the appointed time. The church is not hidden. It is called to turn the world upside down; to preach the crucifixion of Christ for the salvation of the lost and bring peace with the Father to those who believe. The next parable is similar but different. It is the parable of the Great pearl and also is only about the KOH.
6) The Pearl of Great Price
In this parable a man is seeking for pearls and he finds one of great price so he sells all he has to purchase it. This pearl is Israel. This is a continuation of the preceding parable. Before Christ could get Israel he had to buy the field (the world). To get the field he had to defeat Satan and destroy Satan’s right to rule man. Once the field is purchased, the pearl is hidden until the time appointed by God for it to be redeemed.
7) The Net
In the last parable a fishermen casts a net into the sea and it fills with fish. He sits on the beach and separates the good fish from the bad fish. Jesus indicates this is the time of the end. He says angels go forth and separate the righteous from the unrighteous. The Unrighteous are cast into the fire. The righteous go into the Millennium. This parable finished the Jews hidden history in the world and is about the Second Coming when judgment takes place to determine who will be allowed into the Millennium. These seven parables were told right after Jesus judged that generation for blasphemy and told them they would not receive the kingdom at that time. If they had received it both the KOH and KOG would have been united. Because they rejected Jesus and ascribe his authority to Satan the KOG was given to others (the period of the Gentiles Luke 21:24).
FIVE OTHER KINGDOM OF HEAVEN PARABLES
Jesus told some parables that were not about the kingdoms. And sometimes scripture mentions kingdom without telling which one is spoken about. If it has judgment in it, it is the KOH. I won’t look at those. We don’t have time to look at any parables in detail. But I will mention the other five KOH parables. What I want you to notice is that the KOH parables do not have any grace in them. There are serious consequences for them. In Contrast what happens to the people in the KOG is more like chastisement rather than punishment or rejection. All the KOH parables are consistent with the Law. All the KOG parables are consistent with grace.
We will look at the KOH parables in the order they appear in Matthew.
1) Unforgiving Servant
In Matt 18:23-35 he tells the parable of the unforgiving servant.
In this parable a king forgives the debts of all his servants. Then one of them found a guy who owed him a little debt and he was merciless to the guy. The king found out and turned him over to the tormentors.
Mt 18:34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Mt 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
This is very much like the Lord’s Prayer in the Sermon of the Mount (the Constitution for the Millennium when Christ rules with a rod of iron) “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” There is no grace in this. The mercy they receive is contingent on the mercy they give. Remember the promise in Jeremiah about the New Covenant “I will have mercy on their unrighteousness”. You don’t find that here.
In Matthew the consequences of failing to forgive is sever. This does not mean we should be unforgiving. We have no right as God’s servants to be hardhearted. We are to bring the gospel of peace to all men. God will not torment Christians in prison if they fail him. They may fail to gain a reward.
Mt 20:1 ¶ For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that was a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.
He kept hiring people throughout the day and at the end of the day they all got the same wage.
Just prior to this parable the Disciples said they had given up everything to follow him. They asked what they would get in return. Jesus told them they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (KOH). But then he added this parable about people hired for a penny. He hired some early in the morning and then over the course of the day he kept hiring people. Everybody got the same pay no matter when they got hired. They had agreed on the wage, but were jealous because the boss was kind to everyone. We see the disciples constantly arguing over which of them will be the greatest in the kingdom.
This parable may have been intended to keep the disciples from being puffed up over what they did and the promise of their future authority. God is always concerned about our attitudes. There is to be no rivalry or jealousy regarding access to the Millennium (KOH). Salvation is also of equal value to all who believe (KOG).
3) The Wedding Feast
Mt 22:2 The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son,
Those invited refused because of the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. They not only refused to come they beat and killed the servants who brought the invitations.
Mt 22:6 and the rest laid hold on his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them.
Mt 22:7 But the king was wroth; and he sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
In Luke 14:15 a similar parable is told about the KOG.
Lu 14:16 But he said unto him, A certain man made a great supper; and he bade many:
The people invited had the same three excuses for not coming.
Lu 14:21 And the servant came, and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor and maimed and blind and lame.
Lu 14:22 And the servant said, Lord, what thou didst command is done, and yet there is room.
Lu 14:23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and constrain them to come in, that my house may be filled.
In this parable those who refused are not destroyed, they are overlooked and others are sought so that the house may be filled. This is not a time of judgment; it is a period of reaping. The church is called to take the gospel to the whole world. The context of the parable of the KOH is the King wanting to give a wedding feast for his son. This could be the criteria for Jews getting access to the Millennium. They must embrace the Son and his bride. In the KOG parable someone told Jesus “blessed are those who eat in the Kingdom of God. In response he told this parable which is simply a feast, not a wedding feast. If it were about a party for the wedding feast for the son the people invited would be the bride and the parable would make no sense. It only makes sense in the KOH who are invited to celebrate the Son’s marriage supper to the bride, the church.
4) Parable of the Ten Virgins
In this parable five virgins had enough oil for their lamps; five didn’t. The five that didn’t had to go and buy some.
Mt 25:10 And while they went away to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast: and the door was shut.
The ten virgins were handmaidens of the groom, they were not the bride. Five of them were not ready for the feast- perhaps the marriage supper of the lamb. Five were not prepared for the wedding and were excluded. As handmaidens of the groom, they were expected to attend to his needs. This could indicate that the Jews who refuse to embrace the union of Christ and his bride may be excluded from the Millennium.
5) The Parable of the Talents
This parable is told about each kingdom and follows chronologically from the preceding eleven. In both a king is going away on a journey for a long time. He gives his servants money to invest while he is gone. KOH
Mt 25:15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability; and he went on his journey.
In this parable each is given talents in keeping with their abilities. To whom much I given much is expected. The first two doubled their investment.
Mt 25:21 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
The one who received one talent hid it and did nothing with it. This failure brought about his damnation.
Mt 25:30 And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.
In Luke 19:13 the parable is different. Ten people each receive one talent. Then the king goes away for a long time.
Luke inserts this into the parable.
Lu 19:14 But his citizens hated him, and sent an ambassage after him, saying, We will not that this man reign over us.
While the servants are investing their talents the people (citizens)under the king revolted.
The servants all started with just one talent, but one produced ten and another five.
When the king returned he said to the one who earned ten talents:
Lu 19:17 And he said unto him, Well done, thou good servant: because thou wast found faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
Lu 19:18 And the second came, saying, Thy pound, Lord, hath made five pounds.
Lu 19:19 And he said unto him also, Be thou also over five cities.
In Matt they are given charge over many things. In Luke it specifies authority over cities.
The person in the KOG who hid his talent does not get authority over anything. He remains, but loses his reward. He is not thrown into outer darkness. The citizens who rebelled when the king left are destroyed.
Lu 19:27 But these mine enemies, that would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
This is exactly what happens before the beginning of the Millennium. All those who have survive the Tribulation Period are brought before the throne of Christ and judged. Those who are wicked are destroyed. The rest go into the Millennium to re-populate the earth,
Immediately after the parable of the KOH talent Jesus spoke of judgment:
Mt 25:34 Then 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:
Mt 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Mt 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Mt 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
Mt 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Mt 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
Mt 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Mt 25:41 Then 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:
Mt 25:42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
Mt 25:43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Mt 25:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Mt 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Mt 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
It is possible that feeding sheltering and visiting the Jews being persecuted by the Antichrist will be the criteria by which the Gentiles are given access to the Millennium. Just as the criteria for the Jews is to accept the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
1Co 9:23 And I do all things for the gospel’s sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof.
1Co 9:24 ¶ Know ye not that they that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain.
1Co 9:25 And every man that striveth in the games exerciseth self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
1Co 9:26 I therefore so run, as not uncertainly; so fight I, as not beating the air:
1Co 9:27 but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.
Rejection here means not winning the reward.
To conclude the two kingdoms are not the same. One is a literal physical kingdom under the Law which will become a reality when Christ returns. The other is peace with the Father because we are restored to right relationship to him in the Kingdom of God through the blood of Christ (a major theme in Hebrews).
By examining this material we have been able to demonstrate that each kingdom is different and that any effort to synthesize them has led to hybrids that deny the glory of both kingdoms. The present church age is a period where the grace of God is saving people through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. The Old Covenant which is based upon the perfection of the flesh through obedience failed because of the weakness and self-centeredness of the flesh. God has made a new way through his Son but the goal remains the same, to make man holy.
By combining the two kingdoms people have attempted to merge human effort with the work of the Holy Spirit. God has made a way in Christ to transform us in a way that does not allow the flesh to glory and think it has added to what God alone in Jesus Christ has done.
1Co 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1Co 1:24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
1Co 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1Co 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
1Co 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
1Co 1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
1Co 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
1Co 1:30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
1Co 1:31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.
Ga 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified……Ga 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
- Manifold Mysteries of God
Paul called the apostles the steward of the manifold mysteries of God. The New Testament uses the word ‘mystery’ and ‘mysteries’ over fifty times.
μυστηριον musterion moos-tay’-ree-on
from a derivative of muo (to shut the mouth); a secret or “mystery” (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites):–mystery.
These mysteries are things not revealed in the Old Testament but now made manifest through the New Covenant established in Jesus Christ. These mysteries have not received a great amount of attention in much of church history because early in church history the quest was made by leaders such as Augustine to establish a singular continuity in God’s plan of salvation that ran from Adam to Revelation. To this end much of the Old Testament has been read allegorically. A quarter of the Bible is prophecy, but here also, allegory has been supplanted by the desire to maintain an interpretation that finds and renders the church as the central thread and purpose of God from Genesis to Revelation.
In the last two centuries some church scholars (Darby, Ryrie, Scofield, Gaebelein, Chafer, Ironside, Larkin, Pearl, Fruchtenbaum, etc.) began to read the scriptures literally. They found in the prophecies, mysteries and literal narrative that salvation history has been revealed here a little, there a little, in the form of various covenants God has made at different times. This includes the covenant in the garden; after the flood with Noah, then Abraham, Moses, David and the risen Christ.
Not bound by the presupposition that everything must be used to validate the singularity of the church alone as the instrument of salvation, a Christology was developed by Dispensationalists that reveals God’s consistency in Christ as he acts in man’s history in what the Epistle to the Hebrews calls “diverse times and different manners.” By this approach modern Biblical eschatology and the study of diverse covenants has become central to groups like Evangelicals and Charismatics. Being a relatively new movement it has changed and evolved as the interpretation of various distinctions have been debated (example: The Day of the Lord as opposed to the Rapture or the Millennium- subjects irrelevant to the amillennial view held by mainstream Protestant and Catholic tradition, who simple see the church in everything).
For the Dispensational Movement the meanings of the mysteries is critical to “rightly dividing the word” of God. In this regard the mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven and the mystery of the Kingdom of God must be carefully examined to determine if they speak of one or two separate mysteries.
In some passages where the word ‘mystery’ is employed, it is not always clear what that mystery is. Michael Pearl in his book The Eight Kingdoms consolidates all the mystery texts into a list of twelve. Pearl is deeply impressed by Biblical numerology and I cannot say for certain if it is scholarship or enthusiasm that determines the number twelve. Nevertheless, the twelve mysteries he does identify seem Biblical sound to me so I will present the twelve here as a way of introduction to the concept of mysteries.
- The Keys to the Kingdom
Mt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Mt 16:19 And 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.
What are these keys? Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would have the keys of David.
Isa 22:22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
Jesus gave these keys to the disciples, but those keys were for a kingdom that failed to materialize. The church has often assumed those keys as its own source of authority.
Revelations makes it clear that the keys Jesus gave them, the keys of David, now are in his hands.
Re 3:7 ¶ And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and none shall shut, and that shutteth and none openeth:
Here is it clear that Jesus now possesses those keys.
We therefore have to ask the question, has the church errored in assuming that it possesses the power to bind and lose judgment on this earth. By assuming that the KOH is about the church they have assumed that authority without questioning their own legitimacy.
During the period called Christendom, the church controlled nations by threats of divine wrath, excommunication, and inquisition. According to Jacques Ellul, (writing the forwards in two of Bat Ye’or’s authoritative works on the history of Christians under Islamic dominance), the Crusades inspired Christendom to transform the Church into a model based on Islam. As the war with Islam progressed, it assimilated the Islamic model of absolutism over the people under its power. All of this was possible because of the assumption that the church had the keys to the KOH. Were they mistaken?
You can see by this question the seriousness in how we interpret these scriptures about the kingdom. This is why it is important to our study of Hebrews to see the conflict these Jewish Christians had in trying to determine whether to assimilate the kingdoms or leave one for the other. This will be the struggle we examine as we study chapters 9 and 10.
When the disciples failed to grasp Jesus’ meaning about leaven he asked them why they didn’t learn the meaning from the feeding of the five thousand. In this he contrasts the power of God to provide for his people with the quest for power of fallen men who seek to control mankind. The leaven of the Herodian’s was the desire to exercise power. Jesus warned the disciples to beware of this temptation to try and rule the church. Peter learned this well as he clearly states that leaders are not to Lord it over believers, but to be examples. (I Pet 5:1-4. Se also Paul’s comments: 2 Cor 1:24; Heb 13:17). Paul warned Timothy that the church was being subverted even then; so that men who loved power were changing the nature of the church into something other than a body of believers serving one another in love (1 Tim 4:1-5; 2 Tim 3). In 2 Tim 3 Paul is clearly warning Timothy by way of example, pointing to his own suffering, persecution and labor. Paul saw that the church was being subverted. It was not supposed to be an institution of power. The opposite of love is power.
Many interpret this passage in 2 Timothy as a condition of the world in the end times because Paul uses the phrase “end times”. In 1 John 4 John wrote that man was already in the end times since Christ’s death on the cross. The description in 2 Timothy has always been true of the world. This is a warning to the church in every generation. It is the church that is always at risk of becoming something other than the ambassadors of Christ.
In the last two centuries Dispensationalism has changed the way many read the Bible. Men such as Darby, Ryrie, Scofield, Chafer, have looked at scripture and discarded the traditional hermeneutics that sought to allegorize the Old Testament so that it seemed to be about the church. Instead they have taken Biblical prophecy literally and have observed God making different covenants at different times. In this approach they have made distinctions in scripture between things such as the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. This has not been a welcome movement; it has generated a war within the church. (See Appendix B).
I am taking a Dispensational view of scripture. Since this movement is new there has not always been consensus on every point.
How the Church was Corrupted
Appendix B is an examination of the impulse of Nimrod that has stained man’s history; the drive to unify and order man under one all-encompassing ruling body. This is the impulse of the natural man.
In the first Hebrew study we looked at the natural man and the state of man after the fall. By examining Cain and Nimrod we saw in man the impulse to organize; to bond together and to build societies around ideological or religious impulses on the one hand or personality Cults on the other.
The natural man needs to belong; he needs to feel right and just; and societies satisfy these deep needs. Societies are the surrogates man has used to replace God after the fall. In the history of the Middle Ages this collective impulse found its fullest expression in Christendom after the rise of Islam. Through the wars and contact between these two groups they both developed totalitarian systems. This quest for totalitarianism was intrinsic to Islam and was adopted by the church during the crusades. The desire for power is always a reality, but the means and justification for acquiring it within the church has always faced scriptural impediments that were only overcome by the necessities of war (pragmatism). Necessity is a proof of man’s fallen condition. When crisis come man’s impulse is always towards.
The need to consolidate power requires the suppression of opposition. Societies that succeed in this become closed systems. In a closed system all the explanation and purpose for life is contained within the system. The Aztecs is an ancient example; North Korea a modern one. In Christendom the church developed doctrinal dominion that anchored every citizen to the State/Religion. There was no separation of Church and State. People were taught the sacraments which tied them to the State from cradle (infant baptism) to the grave (extreme unction). The absolutism of the Church/State closed the door on free thought.
Anyone who questioned the authority of the church was a heretic. By this definition they were evil. They didn’t get the chance to spread their ideas; they were forced to repent upon pains of death and were often killed to “save their soul”.
In this environment a person who found and read a portion of scripture was an enemy of the church. Instead of scripture, church tradition became the dominate means of propagating the faith.
In this type of environment any examination of scripture was only done to validate the church. So the Old Testament was allegorized (a process begun by Origen and Augustine early in history). Things like Bible prophesy became either allegory or something said to have been fulfilled in the past. When the Reformation took place the desire was to reform the church. There remained no separation of Church and State. The various new denominations remained Augustinian. Consequently most old line denominations remain allegorical in their hermeneutics of the Old Testament.
(For those who want to study this in greater detail, a book that argues this point and disagrees with the Dispensational view is Dispensationalism: A Doctrinal survey of the system that permeated Fundamentalism by Reginald Kimbro. For a study of Israels place in scripture (examining through the theologies of amillennialism, premillennialism, post millennialism and Dispensationalism) see Israelology: The missing link in Systematic Theology by Arnold Fruchtenbaum.)
The Age of Reason opened the door for people to have freedom of conscience. In the 1800’s some Christians began to read the Old Testament and take it literally. They saw in Bible prophesy future events yet to be fulfilled and began to anticipate the Jewish return to Israel. They saw that God had in different times, made different covenants with individuals and groups. For this they are called Dispensationalists. Having set aside the filters of tradition they saw differences between things such as the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God.