Where Is The Kingdom?

by: Wayne Schatzle

       The history of religious beliefs is interesting. Like a pendulum, Bible doctrines swing from being believed as they are literally written to the spiritual intent of the writer. Actually neither is correct.

      Consider the words of Jesus instructing his audience, "If your eye causes you to sin, cut it out." He had to be giving a lesson on the importance of not sinning and not really wanting one to destroy their eye because even a blind man can sin. Evil comes from the mind. Discerning Bible knowledge comes from several sources. A student is called a workman, rightly dividing the word in personal Bible study. The Holy Spirit must lead us in all truth.

       Recently I watched a program on a religions network that flies in the face of the accepted belief and used a literal interpretation of the Scriptures relating the kingdom of God. The presenter showed how believers were to rule on the earth after Christ returns for 1,000 years rather than recline on clouds in heaven and play harps. He used the same Scriptures many in the past taught as being figurative rather than literal.

      In Revelation 20, the Bible speaks of believers in the first resurrection reigning with Christ for 1,000 years. (Chapter 5 shows they shall reign on the earth.) Many commentaries deem this as figurative.

       Why take these verses literally? The idea of the earthly kingdom is the dominate theme throughout the prophecies of the Old Testament. They continually show the time after the Messiah returns as a time of peace, of putting down of evil, restoring the waste places, nations learning God's way and freedom to worship God in truth. Further proof the kingdom will be on earth is in Revelation 21, where it is written the new Jerusalem comes from heaven to earth.

       Why do so many believe in the "going to heaven" doctrine? It is like so many other falsehoods, the more repeated, the more things will be accepted as truth. The foundation for this belief comes from several verses which, taken out of context, can be viewed as teaching it. 1Thessalonians 4 speaks of the resurrection, saints rising to meet the returning Christ in the air. The assumption is we all go to heaven then, when elsewhere it speaks of Christ placing his feet on the earth again. Also the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 is widely used. It is assumed that Abraham's bosom is another name for heaven when, in fact, we learn in Hebrews that Abraham died in the faith not having received the promises. This short parable is subject to a variety of interpretations.

      Heaven is indeed a real place. It is where God calls home for now. It is the capital of the universe with a beehive of activity with angels doing their assignments, God and the 24 elders in important meetings and archangels engaging in major battles. It is easy to assume we will jump right into the middle of all this and be an integral part, but we do not want to throw up our hands in despair and discount this earth as our home. The problems we have on earth now will become our work in the age to come. Living and reigning with Christ means more than wafting off to a comfortable cloud - it means work of restoring the mess we made of the beautiful garden we were given.

       What God is looking for now is men and women who will dedicate their lives to the cause of His kingdom, not only now but in the age to come (Daniel 12; Revelation 2 and 3.) God's word reveals some extremely terrible times for all men of the earth. We need to be aware of how tribulation will come upon us like painful birth pangs, progressively getting more intense and closer together as trials of anguish (Matthew 24, 1Thessalonians 5.) This tribulation precedes the coming of God’s kingdom. It will be a wonderful time when the kingdom is finally here. A time when mankind can finally learn God's way to live and experience the joy of life as it was meant to be lived, without Satan around to deceive us (Isaiah 2 and 11; Micah 4; Amos 9; Jeremiah 31; Zechariah 14). After all, the meek shall indeed inherit the earth. 11/07/98

(Written by Wayne Schatzle,
director, Freedom Biblical Information Center
P.O. Box 1806, West Chester OH 45071)