The Messianic Kingdom

Part 3: What is the believer’s role in the Kingdom?

 

By I Gordon

 

Introduction

 

We have spent a few messages looking at prophetic themes while we have traversed through the book of Isaiah. Now I read a list recently of “The Top Ten Ways to Know If You're obsessed with Bible Prophecy”. Here is the “Top-10” list.

 

10. You use the Left Behind books as devotional reading
9. You get goose bumps when you hear a trumpet.
8. You believe the term "Church Fathers" refers to Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye.
7. You believe there is an original Greek and Hebrew text with Scofield's notes.
6. You can name more signs of the times than Commandments.
5. You refuse a tax refund check because the amount comes to $666.
4. Barcode scanners make you nervous.
3. You talk your church into adapting the '60s pop song, "Up, Up, and Away" as a Christian hymn.
2. You never buy green bananas.

1. You always leave the top down on your convertible in case the rapture happens.


Now obviously you are not at that stage... yet! But if you keep reading studies like this, you may be getting close!

 

In the Bible we read about things past and, amazingly, things still to come. And we have been looking at a little series on what is called the Messianic Kingdom. In the first message we looked at how the Messianic Kingdom will come in and saw that it will come with a bang! It will come suddenly. Last time we looked at the characteristics of the Kingdom and we saw that this world will be a place of rejoicing and gladness, health and well-being, peace, prosperity and the presence of God. Bring... it... on!

 

In this study we shall look at the next question: What is the believer’s role & relationship to this coming kingdom? In other words, “whad’a we gunna do?”

 

Now, it should be said that it’s not an easy question for the Bible doesn’t spill all the beans on this question. But it does give us a few little nuggets to chew over. We’ll start with a general description of the kingdom age that we haven’t looked at yet... then we’ll look at our role in the kingdom, and we’ll finish with a parable that Jesus gave to teach how the thought of this coming kingdom should influence our life here and now. 

 

When the King rules and reigns

 

Micah 3:9-12 Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right;  (10)  who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness.  (11)  Her leader’s judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the LORD and say, "Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us."  (12)  Therefore because of you, Zion will be ploughed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

 

Here is a prophecy that says that because of the great wickedness in Israel, especially amongst her leaders, that destruction would befall Jerusalem. Her leaders, her priests and her prophets were corrupt. We read the ‘leader judge for a bribe’, ‘the priest teach for a price’ and ‘the prophets tells fortunes for money.’ They were all in it for the dollars. So it says specifically that ‘Zion would be ploughed up and Jerusalem as a whole would be a heap of rubble; the temple hill overgrown.’ Now that is a very interesting prophecy. It’s ultimate fulfilment? 70AD... and it was fulfilled quite literally![1]

 

There are some in the church who think that with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, God showed He was forever rejecting Israel as His people and Jerusalem as His city. Well, the prophets certainly foresaw the coming destruction of Jerusalem hundreds of years before it took place; but they didn’t stop there. Look at what else they saw right in the next verses that followed - A time when the king of kings shall reign from Jerusalem and it shall be the focus of the world’s attention!

 

Micah 4:1-4 and it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it.  (2)  Many nations will come and say, "Come and let us go up to the mountain the LORD and to the house of the God of Jacob, that  He may teach us about His ways, that we may walk in His paths." For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  (3)  And He will judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war.  (4)  Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. 

 

So here is a prophecy that has not yet come to pass. The reason it hasn’t come to pass is because, as it says in the first verse, it is something that will come to pass in ‘the last days’. It is a prophecy concerning the Messianic Kingdom when Jesus rules and reigns from Jerusalem. It is repeated almost exactly in Isaiah as well so it must be important. Let’s quickly look at the verses:

 

Verse 1: Jerusalem shall be raised up: Zechariah spoke about this as well in chapter 14 to show what would happen to the city after the return of the Lord. Judah shall be a vast fertile plain and the city of Jerusalem shall be lifted up. One commentator described it as a wedding ring with Jerusalem in the future to be the diamond that is raised up.

Verse 2: The people and the nations shall stream to Jerusalem to see the king
: After giving a previous message on the kingdom I was asked that “if Jesus lived in Israel, wouldn’t everyone want to live there as well?” That is a fair enough question. Well there will still be ‘the nations’ but yes, they will stream into Jerusalem to see and listen to Him and hear His word and law so they can walk in His ways. You may remember in the days of King Solomon, who built the first temple and whose reign was one of peace, that they came from other nations to hear his wisdom and to see the glory of Jerusalem. This was a type of what it will be like in the future reign of Jesus.


Verse 3&4: Peace amongst the nations and mankind:
This week we had the United Nations meeting in their headquarters in New York. We got to hear Iran’s President Ahmadinejad say lovely kind things about Israel again like they have no roots in the Middle East and will soon be eliminated. The interesting thing is that this scripture ‘they shall hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks’ is engraved on the outside wall of the United Nations building. Of course they leave out the first part of the verse out because they don’t care for Jesus the Messiah, nor His judging of the nations from Jerusalem. No, they think they can bring peace without the Prince of Peace.[2] But one day, in the Messianic Kingdom, this will be fulfilled. Nation shall not lift up sword again nation anymore. They won’t even learn war. It will be the first time since the fall of man that man will live in true peace. Each one will live in peace the scripture says, with no one to make them afraid.

 

Now we said at the start that we would look at what the believers role in this kingdom will be did we not? And “we” haven’t done that now have we? To be fair, there isn’t a lot of detail about our role in that time. But there is some information without completely letting the cat out of the bag.[3] Jesus will rule and reign from Jerusalem in fulfilment of many prophetic scriptures... that is clear. But He is a giving God and shall give of His authority to His followers as well. Let’s look at some of these:

 

Quick Scriptures on the Believer’s role in the Messianic Kingdom

 

Matthew 19:27-30  Then Peter said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?"  (28)  And Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  (29)  "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.  (30)  "But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

 

Jesus told the disciples that they would rule and reign over the twelve tribes of Israel. But the promise of reward is also given to all those that have sacrificed something for the sake of Christ. Paul would also bring up this thought of reigning with Christ when he wrote to Timothy: "If we endure we shall also reign with Him" (11 Tim. 2:12). John, quoting Jesus in the book of Revelation, also gave us more detail on this:

 

Revelation 2:25-27  'Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.  (26)  'He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, TO HIM I WILL GIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE NATIONS;  (27)  AND HE SHALL RULE THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON, AS THE VESSELS OF THE POTTER ARE BROKEN TO PIECES, as I also have received authority from My Father;

 

Revelation 3:20-21  'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.  (21)  'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

 

Paul wrote that we shall not only judge and rule this world, but we shall also judge the angels!

 

1 Corinthians 6:1-3  Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints?  (2)  Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?  (3)  Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?

 

So what is the link between the ‘here and now’ and the ‘there and then’?

 

Finally I want to look at a parable that Jesus gave which teaches us about how our actions today, influence our role in the coming age of His kingdom. The passage is Luke 19:11-27 so let’s study this parable.

 

Luke 19:11-27 (11) While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. 

 

Why did Jesus tell them this parable? That is clear from the first verse – the disciples thought the kingdom would be established straight away. Jesus knew otherwise and wanted them to realise that there would be a time, possibly a long time, before the kingdom would be setup. This delay would be a period of training for the coming kingdom age and requires faithfulness from the saints.

 

(12)  So He said, "A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. 

 

With all of Jesus’ parables, he used people, places and actions that all His hearers understood. Living 2000 years later we aren’t always so lucky to understand all the subtle nuances but the people of Jesus’ day understood what He was alluding to. So Jesus begins: “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself.” Well? What is that all about? It was common in Jesus’ day for the soon to be crowned king to travel to another country to receive the kingdom.[4] They would go off to the ruling power, be granted the rights to be king over an area, and then return. Jesus is obviously the nobleman in this parable. He was telling them that He would soon go to His Father in Heaven, a distant country, where in the fullness of time He would return having been given the right to rule in His Kingdom.

 

(13)  "And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, 'Do business with this until I come back.'  (14)  "But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.' 

 

While the nobleman was gone, he still wanted His servants to be productive and busy so He gave them all 10 minas (which was about 100 days work in those days). And He gave them instruction to put this money to good use. In like manner, Jesus has given His followers gifts, talents and resources which they have been instructed to use for His glory in this period of His absence. We see also that Jesus added that ‘his citizens hated him’. In the context of His time, this spoke of the Jews, the citizens of the kingdom, who largely rejected and despised Jesus. This hatred continues today right across the world. Yet He still has His servants worldwide as well who desire to live for Him and long for the day when He returns! 

 

Are you ready to give an account of your life to God?

 

(15) "When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.  (16)  "The first appeared, saying, 'Master, your mina has made ten minas more.'  (17)  "And he said to him, 'Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.'  (18)  "The second came, saying, 'Your mina, master, has made five minas.'  (19)  "And he said to him also, 'And you are to be over five cities.' 

 

Jesus also taught through this parable that the time came when this nobleman returned. That is where we are in history right now... awaiting His return. And we see that when He returned, all of the servants had to give an account of their dealings while He was away. The Apostle Paul tells us the same thing:

 

Rom 14:12  So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”

 

In this parable we read that the first man made 10 minas more. He had used his time, opportunities and talents given to him by the king to produce more for the king[5]. And what do we see? He is given authority in the kingdom over 10 cities! This again backs up this thought that the believer’s role in the coming kingdom will be one of ruling and reigning with Jesus. Now there are a couple of points we should note here:

  1. The reward is in equal measure to what was done.
    We see that those who made 5 extra minas while the nobleman was away were given authority over 5 cities. In like manner, those that made 10 minas were given authority over 10 cities. This is the case when people have the exact same gift and opportunity to exercise it. God will judge and reward according to what we have done with what we have been given. In real life we all have different gifts and different opportunities. Most are not called to go to Africa to be a missionary. But some are. But maybe you are a mother or father at home. Then be faithful in that role and bring your kids up in the truth and ways of the Lord. Serving is a gift. Encouragement is a gift. Helps is a gift. Speaking and teaching is a gift. Giving generously is a gift. Evangelism is a gift. Showing mercy is a gift. Whatever you have been given, be faithful in making good use of it for His glory!

  2. The reward is way out of proportion to what the man’s dealings warranted!
    The servants only did what was expected of them. It wasn’t a large thing. Yet the reward that they received was something large! What does the nobleman, Jesus, say to these faithful servants? (Vs 17) ‘Well done good and faith servant. Because you have been faithful in the little things...’ That which we do in this age for the Lord, when done in dependence and obedience to Him, will earn eternal everlasting rewards. You do not get any bigger than that![6] It is way out of proportion to what we do in this life!

 

(20)  "Another came, saying, 'Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief;  (21)  for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.'  (22)  "He *said to him, 'By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?  (23)  'Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?'  (24)  "Then he said to the bystanders, 'Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.'  (25)  "And they said to him, 'Master, he has ten minas already.'  (26)  "I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.  (27)  "But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence."

 

This part of the parable is focused on a third servant. This person did nothing with the minas at all. Nothing. At the very least Jesus said that it should have been put in the bank so that interest could be gained on it.  People debate whether Jesus had a true believer in mind that had no rewards or whether it was a professing believer who didn’t love the Lord at all. But there are a couple of things that we can say. Firstly Jesus wasn’t pleased with this servant. He had the same opportunity as the others but did nothing with it. We see from his attitude that he had a wrong opinion about the Lord. He disliked the master, calling him a ‘hard or exacting man’. This is not our Lord. He is amazingly gracious and kind. But this was the impression that this man had. The first thing that should be said concerning this is ‘Beware forming wrong ideas about God’.[7] Wrong thoughts lead to wrong actions which do no service whatsoever to God.

 

The second thing that is implied in the parable is that this servant did not really expect the king to come back. How sad this is! It led to inactivity! And so when the Lord came back this sevant was found to have done nothing. Even if he couldn’t produce anything with the minas himself, at the very least he could have invested the money with a place that could. The same goes for us. If we can’t go we can still invest and help people in the front line of missions because they are using the opportunities and resources in God’s work.


Conclusion

 

Jesus will rule and reign on this earth in what will be Earth’s golden age. Utopia at last. And we will reign as well. Someone has rightfully said that this life is ‘training time for reigning time.’ Too true! The glory Jesus receives from His Father will be shared for our reward. But the degree of our rewards does depend on faithfulness, even in small things, in this life as we await his return. The warning of this parable is to use our gifts and opportunities wisely and faithfully. Don’t get bitter or form a wrong impression of God like the one servant did in this parable... that only lead to an uncaring inaction and eternal loss.

 

But to God’s true servants, we saw that their rewards are completely out of proportion to what their dealings warranted. This is ‘training time for reigning time’. We should be people that long to hear ‘well done good and faithful servant’ from the Master on that day!

 

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10.)

 



[1] J. Vernon McGee states – “The Talmud, which is a Jewish writing, records the fact that at the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in A.D. 70, an officer of the Roman army (Rufus, by name) actually ploughed up the foundations of the temple with a ploughshare... The Jewish historian Jerome also noted it, as did the Jewish philosopher Maimonides. So this prophecy was literally fulfilled.”

 

[2] I heard a speaker the other night who spoke of how mankind loves to hold onto this notion that we can all live in peace – the whole world living in peace.  He said this is encapsulated in John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ (which incidentally was broadcast simultaneously through 1000 radio stations from the United Nations building in New York in 1990 on the 50th anniversary of John Lennon's birth). Here are the lyrics:
“Imagine there's no heaven, It's easy if you try. No hell below us, Above us only sky. Imagine all the people Living for today... Imagine there's no countries It isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too. Imagine all the people Living life in peace... You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, And the world will be as one...Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people Sharing all the world...”

Such a great notion for the world... we can all live in global peace, no possessions... A brotherhood of man. Just everyone getting on. The funny thing, as this speaker mentioned, is that even the four Beatles couldn’t get on! And they certainly didn’t get on with each other’s wives! So what hope is there for the whole world? It’s like what Larry Norman used to sing in his song ‘Readers Digest’ - ‘The Beatles said all you need is love and then they broke up.’ Mankind wants peace and rightfully so... this world is getting crazier by the minute. But they don’t, as a generalisation, want the one who brings that peace.

[3] I thought I’d look up the story behind this phrase. The origin dates back to the medieval European marketplaces. Farmers would bring their piglets to market in small bags called "pokes." They would open the bags for their customers upon request in order to show that the pigs were of good quality. Occasionally, some unscrupulous pig farmer who had had a bad year would bring cats he had caught and try to sell them as piglets. These farmers would try to sell the customers a "pig in a poke" (that is, to sell the customer the "pig" sight unseen) by telling them that "if you open the poke, the pig will escape." Every once in a while, a customer would call such a farmer's bluff, and let the cat out of the bag.  So there you have it. Hope you are better off from reading that! Maybe I shouldn’t have used that phrase. I could have said that the Bible doesn’t completely ‘spill the beans’ on our role in the Messianic Kingdom. ‘Spill the beans’... argh, now there’s a story to be had!

 

[4] John MacArthur writes concerning this: Kings in Roman provinces... actually went to Rome to receive their kingdoms. The entire Herodian dynasty was dependent on Rome for ruling power, and Herod the Great himself had gone to Rome to be given his kingdom.”

[5] I took children’s church recently and it was at the time that the Olympics were on so we talked about ‘running the race’ (from a Biblical perspective of course!) We contrasted how the athletes train and work hard so that they may gain the rewards at the end with the Christian life and the rewards that we get. I mentioned to the kids that knowing that he was about to die, the Apostle Paul said the following in his last letter:

 

2 Timothy 4:7-8  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;  (8)  in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

 

At the end of Sunday school I asked the kids “so what do you have to do to get rewards in Heaven?” A little 5 year boy called Ezra answered quickly with one word - “Die!” Can’t really fault him for technical accuracy, though not exactly what I was looking for! We need to be faithful in the opportunities we have and in exercising the gifts God has given us.

 

[6] Some of the audio sermons on the JesusPlusNothing website are now transcribed by a lady in our church so that we (and you) have a written document of the message. The interesting thing is that this lady is totally blind. She types the audio messages without ever seeing what she is typing! I love that... Just someone being faithful in whatever she can do! There are so many believers across the many churches who just work faithfully behind the scenes using whatever gifts they have to honour the Lord. It may be a ‘little thing.’ But in being faithful in the little things you may one day see them ruling over many cities!

 

[7] We’ve known people that have been offended by what God has allowed to happen to the point that they no longer love God nor want to serve Him. My mother has friends who had a man in their church a while back whose daughter had a brain tumour. He said to the Lord that if you don’t come through and heal her he’s finished. His daughter later died and the man kept his word. He left the church and years later was seen in the paper as a 33rd degree mason. This sad story has been played out countless times. Instead of thanking God for the time that he had been given with his daughter, he chose to blame God and saw Him as an unjust cruel God. What a mistake that is! A wrong impression of God leads to wrong choices. Don’t make that mistake!