Part 1 of 2
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
The problem with basing an understanding of the kingdom in all its aspects on this exchange with the Pharisees is that one has to ignore the vast amounts of scripture from Abraham through the prophets through the Apostles through the Revelation to conclude that all the passages about a literal land, a literal kingdom, a literal, city, a literal meal, etc. are all spiritualized.
To try and cover this topic in a blog entry is impossible. Suffice to say, a couple of hand-picked verses taken out of context to try and disannul the full witness of the scriptures is hardly evidence. "The Kingdom of His Dear Son" (Colossians 1:13) is greater than the land and the kingdom and even the City of God which comes down to earth (literal city, literal earth/land). So, the spiritual aspect of the Kingdom lives along side the earthly manifestation of the promises of the Kingdom.
Related to that, one then has to interpret the warnings about losing the kingdom in light of what? Salvation? The free gift? No, the free gift of Life through his name (resurrection life) cannot be lost, but a place in the physical kingdom can be lost. A place in the City of God (the New Jerusalem) can be lost. A place in the city whose builder and maker is God must be earned, but never the free gift.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
The city is earned by faith expressed through one's actions. Caleb and Joshua were the only two among the twelve spies who were allowed to enter the promised land because they believed God. Moses also believed God, but he was not allowed into the promised land because of his actions. Was Moses not saved? Of course he was. He is not a picture of lost salvation, but of failure to receive a prize or reward or crown.
There was no prophet greater than Moses, yet he was not allowed into the promised land
And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face... and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.
Moses loss was based on lack of faith and on his actions. Lack of faith in striking the stone the second time which brought disrepute upon the name of God. In all ages, God honors faith which is exemplified in faithful actions.
The oft-quoted passage in James (written to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, James 1:1) concerning faith and works reveals this. James uses two examples of works which can only be explained by faith. The works he cites are hardly examples of how we are act today to "earn" God's free gift of Life. They are hardly the actions of the Parable of the Sheep and Goats from Matthew 25 often taught by some as the way of salvation.
Just as the works in Matthew 25 by the nations in regard to the physical brothers of the Lord (Israelites) revealed their faith in God's promises, so, too, do Abraham and Rahab express their faith in certain works. James quotes sections of the Law and refers to caring for one's brother or sister (again, a Jewish context to the twelve tribes), yet when he gives his scriptural examples, the Holy Spirit inspires two rather interesting characters.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
The "works" cited are human sacrifice, lying, and treason. Hardly things worthy of praise in other contexts. How many preachers or priests when preaching of faith and works use the full chapter? They gladly pull from the actions in Matthew 25 yet do not seem to ever suggest that the way to salvation is through child sacrifice and false witness. In both passages works are the evidence of faith. In the case of Moses (the greatest of all the Prophets) his failure to believe God at one point and his acting in the flesh is used to picture loss, but not loss of the free gift.
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
Moses surely has a place in the coming Kingdom. God used him in regard to Israel and the land to teach that the Lord is not a respecter of persons. Moses' loss is a picture of our possible loss according the promises, rewards, prizes, and crowns of our own age.
There are a number of these warning passages regarding the "kingdom." But what does one do with these warnings if the kingdom is salvation? What does one do with Paul's warning to the Galatians?
"Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
What are they failing to inherit by the works of their hands? By their actions? By their works? Our "salvation" is based on our behavior? Is that what we take from Paul's passage concerning the works of the flesh in Galatians? Of course not. That not only contradicts the offer of Life elsewhere, it contradicts Paul's argument in the Book of Galatians itself in regard to the surety of the promises of God. The Holy and Perfect Law of God could not annul the promises to Abraham. The Law has no claim over a free gift.
The Lord contrasts the children of Israel with Gentiles in Matthew 8. When the centurion shows faith, the Lords states:
"I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the KINGDOM of heaven. But the sons of the KINGDOM will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
What does one do with that if the Kingdom has only a spiritual aspect? Who are the sons of the "spiritual" kingdom who are cast out is this is the case? Why do some come from outside the "spiritual" kingdom to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? How does one even do that? People are free to try and spiritualize ALL the references to the land and the Kingdom in scripture, but they must then to do for every reference.
Again, if one wants to hold that the Kingdom, in toto, is merely spiritual with no physical promises, they may to do so. But then they must interpret ALL passages regarding the land, the Kingdom, the promises, the government, the actions, the people, the punishments, etc. the same way. ALL must be spiritualized.
They must go through Genesis through the prophets, through the Covenants, through the Apostles through all the promises and warnings connected to the Kingdom and spiritualize ALL of them. And, again, do not miss the warnings. If the kingdom warnings are merely spiritual, you are in danger of teaching a false Way to Life, a false gospel of works.
Examining the Statemen to the Pharisees in Luke 17 in Context
Let us quickly look back at Luke 17 as the Lord continued. He now addresses, not the Pharisees, but his disciples.
Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.
This refers to a physical and literal event. The Lord now reveals something that was not part of The Gospel of the Kingdom taught by John the Baptist or by the Lord when they decalred that gospel in Matthew chapters 4-9. In Matthew 10 when the Lord sends out his disciples, he says to preach the Kingdom, to Jews only, with no mention of His death. He had not yet revealed that Mystery. He does so in Matthew 16 (and they don't believe him) and here in Luke 17.
But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
These things have not yet happened. God has not wrought his destruction yet. Note that his examples are from before Abraham (the Flood) and after the promises to Abraham (Sodom and Gomorrah) and before the Law.
“In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”
Do we want to spiritualize this passage? "In that day" tells us the Lord speaks of a future day. So, the "kingdom within" and the "kingdom" among them refer to some of aspects of the Kingdom that will be manifest in the literal earthly kingdom of God.
Does this passage speak of saving one's spiritual life? Spiritual sleeping? Spiritual grinding? Or does it speak of a future, literal event? The physical kingdom was surely not there "within" the Pharisees.
And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord? So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
Luke uses the Greek word "soma" for "body" (which can be living or dead), but the passage in Matthew 24 uses the word meaning carcasses (dead bodies).
Matthew 24:28 For wherever the carcass [ptoma] is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
The idea of carcasses should take us to Isaiah and to the Revelation which picture the throwing of the carcasses of the rebellious ones into Gehenna. Gehenna ("hellfire" KJV) is a physical place in a physical land. Carcasses are physical dead bodies that will be thrown into Gehenna in a future day.
“For as the new heavens and the new earth
Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord,
“So shall your descendants and your name remain.
And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.
“And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
The Lord's warning to Israel in Mark 9 will hopefully now make more sense.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to [Gehenna], into the fire that shall never be quenched where
‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into [Gehenna], into the fire that shall never be quenched
This a warning of a future judgment, based on works, based on the flesh, regarding a physical new earth.
While we're in Mark 9, just a reminder that no one yet understood the Lord's destiny to die and rise again.
Then they departed from there and passed through Galilee, and He did not want anyone to know it. For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.” But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.
This was not a spiritual killing or a spiritual rising. A physical Son will come into his physical kingdom one day and sit on the physical throne of his father David.
The Gospel preached in Mark (as in Matthew and Luke) is a Gospel of the Kingdom in light of the prophecies and covenants with Israel. These are all things spoken "since the foundation of the ages." The promises of Ephesians were hidden from "before the foundation of the ages." We are indeed translated into an aspect of God's Kingdom, but our sphere of hope and blessing is in "all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places" in the "far above the heavens" and not in the earthly kingdom. But this does not annul the earthly promises or earthly kingdom or earthly Gehenna judgement or the earthly New Jerusalem.