The Coming Kingdom.
“That ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” – 2Th_1:5.
“The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”- Rom_14:17.
We are ‘kings and priests unto God’ (Rev_1:6). The exercise of this royalty and priesthood is not yet. It will come in due time. ‘If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him;’ and the song which the redeemed sing above is, ‘We shall reign on the earth.’ It is an ‘everlasting kingdom’ (2Pe_1:11). It is a ‘heavenly kingdom’ (2Ti_4:18). It is a ‘kingdom which cannot be moved’ (Heb_12:28). It is called the ‘kingdom of heaven’ (Mat_8:28); the ‘kingdom of Christ’ (Eph_5:5); the ‘kingdom of God’ (1Co_15:50). This last name is the most frequent.
There is a kingdom for us. Not for angels, but for the sons of men. It is truly what its name implies-a region ruled over by a king, and filled with subjects, happy, holy subjects; governed by laws, good and blessed laws. It is here called the kingdom of God,-God’s kingdom,-because originated by Him, set up and ruled over by Him. Elsewhere it is called the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of Christ.
It is a kingdom to which we are invited,-invited by Him who is its King and Lawgiver, God Himself. He has revealed to us its nature, and proclaimed the law of entrance and exclusion. For no man may make what he please of this kingdom; no man may enter it in his own way, or take possession of it at his own pleasure. The law of entrance is very explicit: ‘Except a man be born again, be cannot see it.’
It is of less moment that we should know the locality, than that we should know its nature and entrance-gate. A right knowledge of these lies at the root of all true religion; and mistakes on these points are fatal. It is a perilous thing not to know the King, or the kingdom, or the way of entrance-the warrant for taking possession of it as our own.
Let us gather from the second of our texts, first, What this kingdom is not; and, secondly, What it is. And let this solemn warning sound in the ears of all who name Christ’s name: ‘The kingdom is not meat and drink;’ or put it in this way, ‘Heaven is not meat and drink;’ or put it in this way, ‘Religion is not meat and drink.’ Take it in any or in all of these forms or senses, it enunciates the same searching truth, and touchingly rebukes the materialistic religions of our day.
I. What it is not.-Of course one might enumerate a hundred things which it is not. But let us take those directly suggested by our text.
(1.) It is not forms-There must be forms in this kingdom; but the forms do not constitute the kingdom. Under Judaism there were many rites, sacrifices,-there was the passover; but these did not make the kingdom. ‘He is not a Jew that is one outwardly.’ ‘The kingdom is not meat and drink.’ So with us there are sacraments, prayers, worship, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the weekly Sabbath and gathering; but these are not the kingdom. All these may exist, and yet men may be far from it.
(2.) It is not moralities-There must be these, and yet these are not the kingdom. Without them the kingdom cannot be won; yet they are not the entrance. A man may have the gate shut against him, though presenting himself clothed with all the moralities that ever distinguished humanity. So was it with him who came to the Lord saying, ‘All these things have I kept from my youth up.’ He went away sorrowful. It was not the kingdom for him.
(3.) It is not carnalities.-The theory of a large school in our day is, that we are to enjoy the world and its pleasures as much as may be, and that this is real religion,-that thus we honour God by enjoying His world. But this is worldliness, not religion; it is not the kingdom, nor does it resemble it or fit us for it. No doubt, ‘whether we eat or drink,’ we are to do all to His glory; but the mere physical or carnal enjoyments of the world have nothing to do with that glory. Self-denial, not self-indulgence; flesh-crucifying, not flesh-enjoying, is the law of that kingdom now.
Yes, nothing outward, nothing in the flesh, nothing of external display, nothing that feeds self-none of these is the kingdom, or can give us a title to it, or prepare us for it. The body can never be the soul, nor the dress the man, nor the word the deed. Externalism is not the kingdom.
II. What it is.-God’s kingdom has to do with the inner, not the outer man; with the soul, not the body. Everything connected with the kingdom and the King is spiritual, and real, and true, and holy. The words do not imply that the kingdom is not a real kingdom, and that its dwellers are not real men; but that its laws, its service, its employments, its enjoyments, are spiritual and divine. It is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
(1) It is a righteous kingdom-Its King is the Righteous One. Its laws are righteous; its employments are righteous. The entrance into it is by the righteousness of the Righteous One. All in it and about it is righteousness. Only the righteous enter and dwell there; nothing that defileth.
(2.) It is a peaceful kingdom-There peace dwells. Dispeace has been banished from every heart. It is the kingdom of the reconciled; of men who have found Him who is ‘our peace.’ No variance, no estrangement, no wrath, no trouble yonder!
(3) It is a joyful kingdom-Everything about it is joy; not gloom, nor sorrow, nor darkness. We belong to it, ‘if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope;’ if we have joy in God, and are partakers of what Christ calls ‘my joy.’ There are songs of joy; every being in it is full of joy; its King is anointed with the oil of gladness.
All this is in and through the Holy Ghost. He makes the kingdom what it is; and its dwellers what they are,-righteous, peaceful, joyful. It is He who imparts reality, spirituality, truth, holiness, to that kingdom. No Spirit, no kingdom. Ye speak of being heirs of the kingdom. Have ye received the Holy Ghost? Of this kingdom we are to ‘walk worthy,’ and to be ‘counted worthy,’- that is, ‘meet for,’ as it is said, ‘Meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.’
Worthy of the kingdom of God! What an expression! Yes, worthy of God and of His kingdom. Such are we to be even here. Such is to be our life on earth. A life of holiness, and self-denial, and devotedness to that God in whose kingdom we are kings; a life of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Yet though our life here is to be a life worthy of or corresponding to, the holy nature of that kingdom, still our right of entrance and possession does not depend on any such worthiness. That right comes from and through another. Another’s grace and another’s worthiness give us the introduction into that kingdom. It is absolutely and entirely on the ground of what Christ is, not of what we are, that we enter in. His excellency comes in the place of our unfitness, so soon as we accept the Father’s testimony to that excellency, and consent to be treated on the ground of it alone. A growing fitness for that glory, and a growing likeness to its inheritors, is unspeakably blessed and desirable. Nay, to this we are called. Yet that fitness has nothing to do with our right. The fitness is one thing, the right is another. Live enter the kingdom as does a little child who has had no time nor opportunity to acquire fitness, but gets in on the ground of another’s doings. We enter the kingdom as did the thief upon the cross, who all his life long had done nothing but evil, and seemed wholly unfit to possess a kingdom into which nothing that defileth shall enter.
O blessed freeness! Freeness absolute and unconditional; freeness which makes no exceptions, but receives all who come; freeness which does not suspend itself upon one good thought, or feeling, or wish on our part, of any kind whatsoever, but throws wide open the everlasting gate, that the chief of sinners may enter in freer than the air which we inhale; freer than the sunlight; freer than the rain of heaven, is this access into the kingdom of God.
The Father beseeches; the Saviour invites; the Spirit calls; good angels beckon; Christ’s ministers entreat; and the one dear sound which they make to echo through earth, and to pierce the wanderer’s ears, is, enter in. All is free; all is ready; all is for you.