It is quite obvious that Jesus never intended to start any type of church structure since he believed he would return very shortly to rule his kingdom in person. It is also quite obvious that Jesus was wrong about when he was coming backNow again, this seems to assume that Jesus was attempting to set up some kind of geo-political kingdom in the manner that we see other religions such as Mormonism or perhaps an even better example, Islam. Many within the Dispensational camp also see Jesus coming back to set up an earthly reign in an earthly Jerusalem on David's literal earthly throne. I realize the Post-Millenialists such as Theonomists may make similar claims. However, I think it would be helpful if we allow Jesus to explain the nature of His own Kingdom.
Jesus' Kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom, not a geo-political earthly Kingdom. In John 18:36, Jesus tells us,
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."Jesus also tells us in Luke's Gospel that we are not to look for a geo-political Kingdom. Luke 17:
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Sower that the Kingdom is within the heart.
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.How often Christians, including Jesus' own disciples have misunderstood the nature of the road of glory verses the road of the cross. Jesus did not come in the sense Muhammad came. He did not come to "bonk" people over the head. He came to save sinners from this present evil age. Jesus had no desire to keep this passing age as His home as it is recorded in Luke 9:
51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."] And they went on to another village. 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."This understanding of Jesus' teaching is quite difficult. In response to John the Baptist's question as to whether or not Jesus was really the Christ, Jesus explains to the Disciples about the nature of His Kingdom in Matthew's Gospel chapter 13. One parable in particular explains a teaching that has been called the Now verses the Not Yet. It is the parable of the Wheat and Tares. The beauty of this parable is that Jesus interprets the parable for us.
37 And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 "So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 "Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.Jesus tells us very plainly that in this evil age, He has planted His kingdom on this earth. This Kingdom is to exist side by side with evil men. It is not to overthrow governments or be a political institution. It is in fact, the church. The very thing which Infidel.org denies.
So where is this Kingdom? It is wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, the gathering of the saints, the administration of the sacraments/ordinances, and church discipline takes place. The rest of the New Testament simply furthers and expands this teaching.
There is one text that refers to the church as a nation. Peter wrote,
Therefore the church is a nation that does not have geo-political borders nor does it exist in a mere earthly sense. The church is made up of men as described in Revelation 5:
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
with your blood you purchased men for GodThis understanding of the nature of the Kingdom is consistent with Jesus' final words just moments before His ascension when he answers a simple question.
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.
Act 1:6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."Jesus is currently ruling and reigning as the Apostles taught in one sense during this age and in a different sense in the age to come. As Peter teaches in the next chapter,
30 "And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. 32 "This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 "For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, 35 UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET."' 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ--this Jesus whom you crucified."If we keep this in mind along with other passages that deal with the coming Kingdom, then we must always keep our eye on the ball. There is a tension within the entire New Testament. This tension is on purpose. The Kingdom has in one very limited sense already come. But in another very real sense, it comes at the end of this evil Age.
Jesus also cites His own teaching in Matthew 24 when He speaks of the coming angels at the end of the Age. This is the consummation of all things. This is what Jesus taught about His Second Coming. That first there is a planting time, and then there is a harvest time. Therefore there is a delay between His two Advents. In the next post, we will look at Jesus' teaching on the delay of His Coming.