The Promise of the Kingdom
These exhortations were given by me between 1999 and 2005. That was a long time ago, and I have grown a lot since then. They may not reflect my current beliefs.
The world around us is in a terrible state. I’m sure I’m not the only one who had trouble getting to work during the week because of the various protests throughout Northern Ireland; for all its problems Northern Ireland is still one of the nicer places in the world. The dreadful events in parts of Africa are enough to make your blood run cold.
We are truly luck because God has promised that he will sort everything out. Gods promises are promises that are kept and the Bible has a clear and beautiful record of them. Gods promises began right at the beginning, but I am going to start today with the promises made to Abraham.
Genesis chapter 12, verses 1 to 3:
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
I am reading as usual from the NIV.
There is an awful lot in those three verses. They are one of those passages from the Bible that contain almost everything we need to know in one way or another. Abraham’s descendants will become a great nation, a nation that will be a blessing on the earth on one way or another. All peoples would have access to this blessing. The land of Cannann is to be given to Abraham.
The promises to Abraham fleshed out in the next few chapters of Genesis. I remember once, shortly after I was baptised I had a copy of Glad Tidings that listed all the verses in Genesis chapter 12 and on that were part of the promises to Abraham. I tried to underline all of them but I stopped when I realised that I was, more or less, underlining entire chapters.
In chapter 17 of Genesis, Abram’s name is changed to Abraham and God repeats the promise. Please turn to Genesis 17, verses 1 to 8:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Abram fell face down, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.“
That promise to Abraham, was central to Abraham’s faith and is central to our own. Galatians chapter 3, verses 26 to 29:
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The kingdom of God will be a truly wonderful place. It is perhaps hard to imagine just how wonderful. Isaiah describes it in chapter 11, verses 6 to 9:
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Isaiah 65 17-25 is similar:
“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit. No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat. For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the works of their hands. They will not toil in vain or bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.
The Kingdom will bring an end to warfare and persecution, both in general and to Israel herself. Isaiah 40 verses 1 and 2:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
In the King James version of the Bible, that passage is translated as:
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.
Mortality it a difficult burden to bear, but in the kingdom of God we will not have to. Isaiah 40:28-31:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no-one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
There are three key features of these passages that reflect the three things that will be beautiful about the Kingdom. The first is that the immortal inhabitants of the Kingdom will be happy, strong people, not the weary troubled ones that we are today. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
The second is the world in general, and Israel in particular will be peaceful: Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.
The first and second points are a consequence of the third, which is the most important point: the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
At the minute the problems that the world faces are because the knowledge of the LORD does not fill it, but it wont always be like that. In the kingdom there will be so much more knowledge of God, beyond what we can imagine. In Mathew 6 verse 10 Christ taught us to pray Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The earth being filled with the knowledge of the LORD means that people will lead Godly lives; Gods will being done on earth as surely as it is in heaven.
Christs sacrifice was a vital part in the plan that leads to the Kingdom, and that is what we are here to remember today in the sharing of the bread and wine.
We are also here to look forward to Christs return. Sometimes it feels difficult to wait. In Acts chapter 1 the disciples asked Christ: Will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel? We all know Christs reply: It is not for you to know the times and seasons that the father has set within his own power.
God is a loving God. As Christ said in Luke 12:32 “Fear not little flock; for it is your fathers good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” The waiting is part of that process. As I think Herbie is going to say this evening God is longsuffering and wants everybody to repent, and he gives everybody the opportunity. I want to finish by reading from 2nd Peter chapter 3, verses 3 to 14:
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this `coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.