CHRIST COMING IN HIS KINGDOM
When John the Baptist began to preach in the wilderness of Judea, he said: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Immediately after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled,. the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the gospel." In this way the people were induced to expect that the kingdom of God was about to be established on the earth. Was the expectation thus created well founded? Did the kingdom of God appear?
That the expectation was created, and that the people did look for the coming of -the kingdom of God, no one familiar with the Scriptures will deny. But some do deny that the kingdom has come. They tell us that its establishment on the earth belongs to the period of the Second Coming of Christ, and not to his first coming. This brings us face to face with serious questions. Both the character and design of the Gospel dispensation are involved, as well as the intent and purpose of the Second Coming . If the kingdom ot God has not come, how are we to explain the preaching of Christ that produced the expectation of it? How shall we understand the oft-repeated declaration, "The kingdom of God is at hand?" Why were the disciples instructed to say to every house and to every village and city that received them, or that received them not, "The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you?" It must be that the kingdom of God is come,—that the Gospel we preach .is the "Gospel of the kingdom, that those who receive Christ, and are "born again," are born of water and the Spirit into the kingdom of God. We thus believe and teach in all good conscience, and if it be that the kingdom of God is not yet, but is \o come when Christ comes again, then must our preaching be, "another Gospel." We have said the people did expect the speedy coming of the kingdom. Let us now see whether this expectation was well founded. Was it the legitimate result of the preaching of Christ and his disciples; or was it a misapprehension of their utterances? There is no doubt that the people formed erroneous notions of the nature of the kingdom when it was preached as near at hand, and may it not be that they were as far astray in looking for its manifestation within their day? In order to test this question, we must examine those sayings of Christ which limit the time of the coming of the kingdom to the life-time of those then living. These important testimonies are the following: "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." "Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." "But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." (Matt 16: 28; Mark 9: 1; Luke 9: 27.) These are parallel, and the slight variations in the words assist us in gathering the meaning. The "coming of the Son of man in his kingdom," "the coming of the kingdom of God with power," and "seeing the kingdom of God," all refer to the same general occurrence, the setting up of God's kingdom on the earth. This is the coming of the kingdom for which the disciples were taught to pray. It means something that was near at hand.
Let it be observed that no ambiguous term is employed to denote the nearness of the kingdom. The word "generation" is not found here. There is no possibility of stretching the time beyond a very few years. It must occur within the life-time of some that heard him, or the statement must prove false.And there is yet another passage which limits the time of the coming of the Son of man in his kingdom, or in connection with the manifestation of the kingdom, quite as positively, and perhaps to a shorter time, than those just quoted. It is, "But when they persecute you in this city, flee into another, for verily I say unto you, You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come." (Matt, x, 23.) This occurs in the instruction given the apostles when sent out under the first commission, which ran thus: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans do not enter ; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven ss at hand." This was a limited commission. It was preparatory to the coming kingdom. Every point in this ministry looked to that end. That event, whatever it was, was to complete the mission and revelation of the Son of man. He would then be "come in his kingdom." And this mission to the 'cities of Israel" would not be fully accomplished "till the Son of man be come." They could "go over the cities of Israel" in a few months. The journey was not great, and the apostles went two and two. But here is the unequivocal assertion, "You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come." Were these words fulfilled, or did they fail? Evidently the coming of the Son of man, in this verse, is the same as Hiis coming in his kingdom, in the verses above; so that if one failed, they all failed together.In taking the position that these Scriptures did not fail, but were all fulfilled in the time and manner intended, it becomes necessary that we find the kingdom of God, and the revelation of the Son of man in it, within the life-time of those who heard these words as they fell from the Master's lips. But we must first throw off the embarrassment which some have felt at this point, and guard against a mistake which many have made, and which is the source of no little confusion. It is a turning-point in the argument. The embarrassment arises from confounding things tljat differ, which is the mistake to be guarded against. The coming of Christ in his kingdom, is often confounded with His coming in glory with the angels in the clouds of heaven. This is wrong, an error whlch is the fruitful cause of endless errors and difficulties. The events differ widely in nature, time, object, and result. The one was at hand, the other in the remote future. The one was known and definitely predicted as to time; and the other was unknown, unrevealed as to time, and kept within the Father's power. The one was to occur within the life-time of those living, and even before the first mission to the "lost sheep" was fulfilled; the other at the "end of the world," after wars and famines and earthquakes and pestilences and after a "tribulation " that was to last many centuries. The one was "in his kingdom;" the other is to be with the angels in the clouds, with the sound of a trumpet. With the coming "in the kingdom" there is no mention of the angels, the clouds, the trumpet, the gathering of the elect, the resurrection, or the judgment. And, on the other hand, the coming "in the clouds" is never limited to the lifetime of those who heard the Savior. Let this fact be noted, and this distinction be kept in mind, and much the greater difficulties of the subject will disappear. The coming in the kingdom, which was so near at hand, was much more closely related to the first than to the second advent, and it may not inappropriately be looked upon as the mpletion of the coming of Christ in the work of redemption. It is at the beginning, while the coming in the clouds is at the end, of the Gospel dispensation. The one established the kingdom of God on earth, while the other finishes its work, and "delivers it up unto God, even the Father."
Then, we return to the task of finding the kingdom of God on earth, within the lifetime of the then living auditors. When did "the kingdom of God come with power?" When did "the Son of man come in his kingdom?" Let no one imagine that we have in mind the destruction of Jerusalem, or a "figurative" coming of Christ at the time of that calamity. The kingdom of God came with power long before that noted period in Jewish history. We must here learn the nature of the kingdom, and something of the manner of its coming. When Jesus stood in the presence of Pilate, and was questioned concerning his kingship, he said: "My kingdom is not of this world." This brief sentence sheds a world of light on the point in hand. The disciples, as did the other Jews, still expected a worldly kingdom, when Messiah should reveal himself, and this answer to Pilate ought to have been sufficient to dispel all such thoughts from those who had confidence in him. As the kingdom of Christ is "not of this world," it is not like worldly kingdoms in its manifestation or work. Then, with this statement in mind, let us turn to another testimony in regard to the coming of the kingdom, in Luke17: 20, 21: "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Look again at two sentences here. "The kingdom of God comes nott with observation", or, as the marginal reading is, "not with outward show." Another world of light falls upon our theme! As the kingdom is not of this world, so its "coming" is not with "trumpets" and banners; not with "clouds" and "angels;" not with any outward pomp or grandeur, or any thing to attract the world, or to command its attention.
It must, theretore, come quietly, silently, unobserved by the multitude in their heated strife for worldly things. And mark again, : "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you!" Here we have it. This kingdom, which is not of the world, whose coming is silent, gentle, unostentatious, and unseen by the busy throng, is a spiritual kingdom, its domain is the human soul. It rules in the heart; it is the rule of heaven on earth. The Apostle Paul, in after years, under divine inspiration, declared its nature: "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans. 14:17.) Every element of the kingdom of God is in the Holy Spirit. Where the Holy Sprit abides, there is the kingdom of God. All who are born of the water abd Spirit are born into the kingdom. Here another flood of light cheers our search for the kingdom of God