HEIRS OF THE KINGDOM: II
The Church was it the “Kingdom of God” on earth — or was it a replacement designed by men that sought an answer to why Jesus had come; and why Jesus had not restored the kingdom of David? It was right after the feeding of the five thousand that the people did intend to make Jesus their king. “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the hills by himself” (John 6:15). Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass and they hailed Him as the “son of David” (Matthew 21:9). John Zebedee preserved this entry with the explanation that the disciples did not understand Jesus’ actions.
The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him crying “Hosanna! Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel! And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’s colt!” His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him (John 12:12-16).
Jesus did not identify Himself with David or as the “King of the Jews.” To give Caesar a reason why Jesus had to die, Pilate and the Jews did the connection:
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think of Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet’? If David thus calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions (Matthew 22:41-46).
Pilate entered the praetorium again and called Jesus, and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me; what have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them, “I find no crime in him” (John 18:33-38).
The disciples did not understand the real reason why Jesus had come. And the disciples could not separate Him and His “Heavenly Kingdom” from the kingdom of Israel. The Holy Spirit had yet to explain to them the nature of the true mission of the Christ:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8).
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit did come with a display of miracles and power. Thousands of people were added to the fellowship that became a huge congregation. Yet, Jesus the Lord did not return to restore Israel. Thanks to brother John Zebedee, who remembered what Jesus had said, “My kingship is not of this world. If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from this world” (John 18:36).
Also, Jesus promised that He would prepare a place for them in heaven:
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him (John 14:1-7).
Matthew put the icing on the cake by remembering that Jesus would come back with an army of angels and take the faithful earthlings to “His Kingdom” that was in heaven and not on earth.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:29-31).
The command “to make disciple in the world” gave way to the imminent return of Christ. People stopped working and sold their homes and properties to live on until Christ’s angels would transfer them to the new world (Acts 2:43-47; 5:1-2). Jesus frequently had stressed the need to be ready for the Master’s surprised return. Particularly the reference that it would happen in their generation added to their swelling in the idea that they would join their Lord. Jesus had instructed them regarding their mission, as they were watching Him ascent to heaven:
Behold two men stood by them in white robes, and said, men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11).
And he had told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21:29-36).
But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch (Mark 13:32-37).
The eleven disciples were on the Mount of Olives when Christ was taken up. As they returned to the upper room in Jerusalem, another surprise was waiting for them. One hundred and twenty people ad crowded the place and waited for Peter to lead them. Word had spread that Jesus had installed Peter as their shepherd. Peter proved himself quite efficient in forming the first Christian congregation, “The House Church.” The House Church became the key in the growth of Christianity. The family of John Mark that had opened her doors to Jesus and his disciples (Mark 14:13-15).
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount of Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (Acts 1:12-14).
In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry. (Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it’; and ‘His office let another take.’ So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.” And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles (Acts 1:15-26).
The replacing of Judas Iscariot with Matthias filled the twelve apostles who were in hope of Jesus’ promise that they would govern the twelve tribes in the restored Israel (Matthew 19:28). While they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit reminded Peter that Jesus had said to “search the scriptures,” for they spoke of Him (John 5:39,46). On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came in an unbelievable display of power. Peter searched the Scriptures. And therefore, Peter was informed what was taken place. Who else, but Moses and David had predicted that God would send a man like them, and Jesus was that “Man.”
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at the sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yes, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonder in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in our midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,’ I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope. For thou wilt not abandon my soul in Hades, nor let the Holy One see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence.’
“Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:1-42).
Jesus’ Promise that the Holy Spirit would turn the disciples into witnesses and many others out of the one hundred and ten, who were witnessing the display of heavenly power, similar to the days of Moses at Mount Sinai, when Jehovah disclosed His will to Israel. According to Peter, this disclosure was greater than Moses or David and it was God’s visible demonstration. God was angry with what the people of Israel had done with Jesus, His Son. And, it was only the beginning of what God’s power, in the hands of a Peter alone, could do. In the name of Jesus, he made a lame man walk. The man held out his hand for alms and Peter said to him:
I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened (Acts 3:5-10).
Peter and the other disciples became instant celebrities. Thousands of people, and not just hundreds of people, were trusted in Peter’s care. Peter’s sudden boldness to raise up Jesus, as the Christ, alarmed the authorities, who seemed helpless in dealing with the bursting forth of the “Church” Jesus had promised could not be stopped. He said, “I will build my church, and the powers of death (Hades) shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).