Sunday, June 5, 2011

JESUS RECEIVES A KINGDOM

The following is excerpted from my Kindle book "Demystifying the Gospel"
http://www.amazon.com/DEMYSTIFYING-THE-GOSPEL-ebook/dp/B006X51ZGY/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_5

Introduction

In our own generation there has been a proliferation of “End Times” books. Walk into any everyday Christian bookstore and these kinds of books are just about yelling out at you to buy them! Now, each book of course, needs to be taken upon its own merits – even “Last Days” books. In other words, everything the author says ought to be measured against the clear teaching of Scripture.

Of course, as a rule we tend not to read these kinds of books. But, our understanding of them is that they promote and propagate the view that everything in this world is going to go from bad to worse before Christ returns. They hold forth the thesis that because things (in their eyes) are getting worse and worse – therefore the immanent or any-minute return of Christ is sure.

If you take this type of belief to its logical conclusion then it will be your hope as a Christian that things in this world will continue to go from bad to worse. But isn’t that against the clear teaching of Scripture? Shouldn’t we be believing and praying for the exact opposite of this? Even in the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to pray to God: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Why would you bother yourself praying words like that if you think the world is supposed to spin more and more on a downward spiral? Why would you bother teaching people to be obedient to God by doing all things to His glory if you thought the Lord was going to return any second? Wouldn’t you just spend your time handing out little “How To Get Saved” Bible tracts? Wouldn’t you be thinking of the Lord’s Church as a lifeboat plucking drowning people from the raging sea?

But aren’t Christians supposed to be salt and light? Aren’t we supposed to be disseminating the salt and light and influencing the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ? Is the Church not supposed to be the leaven that leavens the whole batch – even the whole world? Therefore, like Noah exiting the ark, we need to dock the lifeboat, come ashore, and start subduing the earth as we’re supposed to.

In the title of a little book, Francis Nigel Lee asks: Will Christ or Satan Win This World? What do you think? In the following we’ll look at a couple of verses that might help you answer that question.


Christ’s Return

“And behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!” So says Daniel in Daniel 7:13. Daniel says he saw this wondrous sight in “the night visions.” Daniel, as you know, was one of God’s Old Testament prophets. God would give revelation of Himself and what He was doing, and even what He was going to do, through His designated prophets. Daniel in this particular vision is seeing something that would take place well over five hundred years into the future – something that actually took place some two thousand years ago.

What Daniel is seeing in this vision, without a doubt, is Jesus Christ ascending into heaven. Notice the words “…He came TO the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.” These verses therefore are not speaking of Christ’s 2nd Coming to earth (though that’s a common view). Rather they are speaking of His return to Heaven after His birth, death, and resurrection on earth. Jesus told His disciples in John 16:28, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world and go to the Father.”

Now, notice that Daniel says that he saw “One like the Son of Man.” Why does he use the word “like” – One LIKE the Son of Man? Why doesn’t he just say he saw the Son of Man, i.e., Jesus? Well, let’s first off note that this title “Son of Man” was a title that Jesus used to describe Himself. The examples from the Gospels are far too numerous to list. But, e.g., in Luke 9:22 Jesus is recorded as saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and raised the third day.”

And in John 6 when some of His disciples were complaining about His hard teaching He said, “What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?” John 6:62. Daniel, in Daniel 7:13 is seeing the Son of Man ascend where He was before. However, this is not to say that the Son of Man had a human body before the time He was conceived and born of the Virgin. John in John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” If Christ had always existed in human form he would not have said “the Word became flesh.” But he does say the Word BECAME flesh.

How did He become flesh? Luke 1:30&31, “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.’” Mary wondered how this could be seeing as she didn’t know a man that she could conceive. Luke 1:35, “And the angel answered and said to her [i.e., Mary], ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’”

The Apostle Paul refers to the birth of Jesus in Galatians 4:4: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born OF a woman…” Therefore clearly God the Son became also a Man only when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, a virgin. Therefore Daniel is seeing a vision of the return to Heaven the One who clothed Himself in the robes of humanity – the same One who went to Calvary and offered up Himself to God as a sweet-smelling sacrifice for our sins – the same One who was buried in a tomb and rose again on the third day – the same One who was witnessed in His resurrected state by over five hundred people at once.

Luke records what happened before Jesus ascended into Heaven. Luke 24:45f, “And He [i.e., Jesus] opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.’ And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.”

Luke also wrote the Book of Acts where he tells us a little more about Jesus ascending to Heaven. Acts 1:9, “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.’”

Notice the words, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven” in Acts 1:11. So, it’s not a different Jesus to the One who was taken up into heaven who is going to return to the earth at some future point in time. But rather it’s the same Jesus who was seen by over five hundred people at once in His resurrected state, 1 Corinthians 15:6. This is the same Jesus who laboured hard to teach Thomas, a.k.a. known as “Doubting Thomas,” that He had been raised with the self-same body that had been nailed to the cross. Jesus invited Thomas to closely examine the wounds He’d received on the cross, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side.” John 20:27. He said to His disciples in Luke 24:39, “Behold, My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’”

So, we see then that the Son of Man didn’t have a human body that He brought with Him from heaven where He was before. For the Word became flesh, in that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a woman. John 1:14 and Galatians 4:4. And we see also that Jesus didn’t discard His body on His way to Heaven. Nor did He have His Divine nature absorb His human nature – body included. For the same Jesus who was taken up into heaven will come back in like manner.

Therefore it wasn’t the human spirit of Jesus that Daniel saw in the night visions coming to the Ancient of Days to receive His reward for a job well done. No, Daniel saw the eternal Son of God who had condescended to take upon Himself human flesh and suffer at the hands of wicked men. He saw the One who is the Son of God become also the Son of Man forever. And, in the Person of Jesus Christ the Son of God is going to remain united to His human nature forever, and vice versa.

We’re labouring the point here with good reason. You need to see with Daniel who it is who is receiving dominion, glory and a kingdom from the Ancient of Days, i.e., from God. It is the Man Christ Jesus, the Mediator between God and men, who is receiving the reward. If you don’t see that it is the Divine Person Jesus Christ the God-Man who is receiving these things, you’ll have a faulty view of the “Cultural” or “Dominion Mandate” given to man in Genesis. And you’ll have a faulty view of the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28. In short you’ll have a pietistic view of the Gospel. Which means in turn that you’ll have a faulty view of the world in which we live. And by pietistic view of the Gospel we mean that you’ll have a view of the Gospel that may be so narrow that you’ll think that Christianity is only about saving individual souls.

But look at what the Divine Person – the Son of Man – received from God, the Ancient of Days.


Christ’s Reward

His work on earth finished, Jesus ascended into Heaven. The Men of Galilee witnessed Jesus being taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight. Daniel in his night visions had witnessed the Son of Man coming with the clouds of Heaven. He saw Jesus coming TO the Ancient of Days, not coming to (i.e., returning to) the earth.

Then Daniel got to witness what happened next: “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:14.

Notice at least three obvious things: 1. Dominion, Glory, and a Kingdom are given to Jesus. 2. All peoples, Nations, and Languages belong to that Kingdom – for the express purpose of serving Him. 3. His Dominion will not pass away – for His Kingdom will not be destroyed.

We’ve already noted that it was the Man Christ Jesus who received these things. God being God already has these things on account of His being Almighty God. It would be a redundant thing were God to give Himself what He already has! Therefore it most certainly is the Man Christ Jesus who is receiving these things.

Now let’s talk for a moment about the Cultural Mandate a.k.a. as the Dominion Mandate. Genesis 1:26-28, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

When Noah and His sons exited the ark, the Lord reiterated the Cultural Mandate to them. (Genesis 9). Therefore God never changed His mind about the Cultural Mandate. It still stands. Man was given dominion or authority over all the earth. Man was commissioned by God to “culturize” or “culturalize” the earth, i.e., to cultivate it.

And so we see men become farmers as they cultivate the ground. They become keepers of sheep, goats and cattle as they cultivate the animals. They begin to make musical instruments, and develop metallurgy etc., etc., etc. They begin to develop and make things – which is a cultural activity. We see these things being cultivated even as early as Genesis 4:20-22, and indeed earlier.

God gave man dominion over the all earth to cultivate it to God’s glory. And the Cultural Mandate still stands today. For instance, the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, WHATEVER YOU DO, do ALL to the glory of God.” So, we’ve to build fences to the glory of God. We’ve to bake cakes to the glory of God. We’ve to clean toilets to the glory of God. We’ve to develop the sciences to the glory of God. We’ve to develop the arts, languages, politics, education – whatever you do – to the glory of God! We work for Christ, i.e., we serve Him in all we do. Therefore we ought to try to do the best job we can.

What do we know? We know that God gave the Cultural Mandate to man. And we know that Jesus is a man. Therefore the Cultural Mandate was given also to Jesus.

Now, we know that the first man Adam sinned and therefore he and all his offspring are tainted by sin. Therefore we know that everything we do, i.e., every cultural activity we participate in, is tainted by sin. But what about the Man Christ Jesus? Is He tainted by sin? No! Are the things He does tainted by sin? No! So, do you think He will be able to keep the Cultural Mandate as a man, and, in the end, finally have cultivated and subdued all creation to the glory of God? Of course! 1 Corinthians 15:25-28.

What were those three obvious things we noted from Daniel 7:14? 1. Jesus was given Dominion, Glory, and a Kingdom. 2. He was given all peoples, Nations, and Languages – that they should serve Him. And, 3. His Dominion will not pass away – for His Kingdom will not be destroyed. So, in terms of the Cultural Mandate Jesus has received – for cultural development – an everlasting Dominion and a Kingdom that will never be destroyed.

We hear echoes of the Divine decree recorded in Psalm 2:7-9: “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

So, in the night visions Daniel witnesses the fact that the Man Christ Jesus was indeed given all peoples, nations, and languages. He will break them with a rod of iron, and dash them to pieces. This, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that He will destroy them from the face of the earth, though that is the way of it for some nations, peoples and languages. But it does mean that Jesus has been given dominion or authority over them. Therefore they should to serve Him.

And isn’t that exactly what Jesus said just as He was about to ascend to Heaven bodily and receive His reward? Matthew 28:16f., the ‘Great Commission’: “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshipped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”

It was a foregone conclusion that Jesus, when He ascended to heaven, would be given the nations for His inheritance and the ends of the earth for His possession. Daniel testified to that some five hundred years before it happened.

But how do we tie all of this together? How should we view all of this in our own day? Well, we hope you can see the connection between the “Cultural Mandate” and the “Great Commission” as it applies to Jesus in the light of the Daniel 7:13&14 passage. Can you see that our being obedient to His Gospel is far, far more than you and me handing out little Gospel tracts to people? Can you see that, not only is the Gospel about the redemption of individual souls, but rather is much larger in scope than that?

The Gospel is also about the redemption of all peoples, nations, and languages. It’s about the redemption of the ends of the earth! It is the MAN Christ Jesus who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. It’s as a man that He has overcome the world. It’s as a man that He crushed the serpent’s head on Calvary’s cross. It’s as a man that He has destroyed the works of the Devil. Satan will have no victory! The cosmos belongs to the Man Christ Jesus. His is the dominion. His is the glory. His is the kingdom. His are all peoples. His are all nations. His are all languages. All peoples, nations, and languages will serve Him – not Satan! Satan is a usurper. He has no dominion. He has no authority. Satan’s dominion came crashing down when the Man Christ Jesus rose from the dead.

So what’s this nonsense being taught in the churches today? – The nonsense that Satan is going to destroy Christ’s kingdom before He comes back? – The nonsense that Satan is going to possess the ends of the earth before Jesus returns?

Look at Daniel 7:14 once more, and believe it: “Then to Him was [not, ‘will be’] given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed.”


Conclusion

Is the dominion that God gave to Jesus upon His ascension an everlasting dominion? Or is it a dominion that the Devil is somehow going to wrest from Jesus, even though Jesus has defeated him by His cross? And is the kingdom that the Father has given to the Man Christ Jesus going to be a kingdom that will be destroyed?

We’re sure you can see clearly that the dominion and kingdom of Jesus Christ is forever. So, what is all this pessimistic and pietistic nonsense being spread around nowadays? What’s all this nonsense that the world will get worse and worse before Christ returns? Of course it will get worse and worse right up until the point where Christians wake up and start living their whole lives to the glory of God in the world instead of wanting to be “Raptured” out of it! For, as that great Christian leader Abraham Kuyper said in effect: “There’s not one inch of all creation that Jesus cannot point to and say, ‘Give it to Me, it’s mine!’”

So, let’s be done with all pietism and pessimism. Rather, let’s be obedient to the Cultural Mandate. Let’s be obedient to the Great Commission. Let’s even eat and drink to the glory of God. Let’s do all things to the glory of God in the service of Jesus Christ. Let’s hammer every nail in every plank to the glory of God. Let’s mow our lawns to the glory of God. Let’s raise our children to the glory of God. Let’s repair our cars to the glory of God. Let’s plant our gardens to the glory of God. Let’s change our tap-washers to the glory of God. Let’s make our beds to the glory of God. Let’s play football and tennis etc., to the glory of God.

Why should we do all things to the glory of God? Because this is how the Gospel is spread among the nations, even to the ends of the earth. Because this is how Jesus breaks the nations with His rod of iron – so that they will serve Him. This is how He dashes them to pieces – so that they will work for Him. And this is how we, as Paul says to the Romans, crush Satan under our feet. Romans 16:20.

The Man Christ Jesus has returned to Heaven victorious. The Man Christ Jesus has received His reward. Praise Him! Praise Him! Praise Him! Therefore serve Him! Serve Him! Serve Him!

What do you think now in light of Daniel’s night visions? Will Christ or Satan Win This World? For Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

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