Vol. 4, No. 4
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Scripture demonstrates that God promised a kingdom, that those promises or prophesies have been fulfilled and that the church and the kingdom are the same institution, and therefore, that the kingdom now exists. There are several matters over which the religious community is confused: properly dividing the Old Testament from the New Testament, the frequency with which communion should be observed, tithing versus free-will giving, music in worship, the Sabbath, church organization, baptism (and salvation in general), among many other matters of some importance. Many sincere religious people are also greatly confused about the establishment and identity of the kingdom. Many churches teach premillennialism -- namely, that the church and the kingdom are not the same institution, and that the kingdom is yet future. Really, though, the church and the kingdom are the same institution, and both are the same as the house, the temple and the body, too. The Bible simply uses different perspectives to demonstrate several characteristics of the same divine institution.
God promised or prophesied he would build a kingdom. The king of the promised kingdom was to be a descendant of David (Psalms 89:3-4, 29; Isaiah 9:6-7).
"And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David" (2 Samuel 7:16-17).
"Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
The apostle Peter, in the first recorded Gospel sermon, made the correlation between the Old Testament prophecies regarding the establishment of a kingdom through a descendant of David to the establishment of the church through Jesus Christ (Acts 2:25-36). The relationship between the kingdom prophecies relative to David being fulfilled in Christ in the establishment of the church was the point of his sermon and the basis through which the redemptive message was first preached. The focus of Peter's sermon caused his auditors to ask what they must do (vs. 37) and prompted Peter to command them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins (vs. 38). About 3,000 souls that day gladly submitted to baptism (vs. 41) and Jesus added them to the church (vs. 47).
The king of the promised kingdom was identified as the Christ or Messiah (Psalm 2:6-7). The fulfillment clearly appears in Acts 13:33. "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." The mission of Jesus to be the Messiah is amply declared in the Gospel records (Matthew 21:5; Luke 1:26-33; John 18:37).
The king of the promised kingdom was to be a priest (Zechariah 6:12-13). The fulfillment of this facet of Christ's ministry is chronicled through the Book of Hebrews (2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:5; 6:20; 7:1ff; 8:1ff; 9:11; 10:21; etc.) Contrary to the popular notion of premillennialism, Jesus cannot be a priest on earth (Hebrews 8:4); therefore, he cannot be king on earth!
The kingdom of promise was to be eternal (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 45:6; Isaiah 9:6-7).
"I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).
This prophecy was fulfilled in the establishment of the church, over 2,000 years ago (2 Peter 1:11).
The kingdom of promise was to be established in Jerusalem or Zion (Isaiah 2:2-3; 62:1-2; Joel 2:28-3:2). These prophecies were fulfilled in the establishment of the church in Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 2). The kingdom of promise was to be for all nations (Isaiah 2:2-3; 62:1-2). These prophecies, also, were fulfilled (Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47). The kingdom of promise was to bring salvation (Isaiah 62:1-2; Joel 2:28-3:2). Likewise, these prophecies were fulfilled (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 2:38). The kingdom of promise was to have a new name (Isaiah 62:1-2). The new name was given following the conversion of Gentiles and their subsequent addition to the New Testament church (Acts 11:26). The kingdom of promise was to be established during the reign of the Roman kings (Daniel 2:31-45), which like the other prophecies also was fulfilled (Luke 2:1). The kingdom of promise was to come with power (Joel 2:28-3:2; Mark 9:1; Acts 1:4-8), and did (Acts 2:1-4).
The kingdom of promise was still yet future during the respective ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:1-2; 4:17; 6:10; 16:18), but it came into being in the first century, according to the apostle Paul (Colossians 1:13), the Hebrews writer (12:28) and the apostle John (Revelation 1:9). God promised to bless all nations through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12:1-3; 18:18; 22:17-18). Gabriel told Mary that Jesus was to be born in fulfillment of promises made to Jacob and David. This ties together the promises to the patriarchs with the king and his kingdom of promise (Luke 1:26-33; Genesis 12; 18; 22).
God promised to raise up a Prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-19). By inspiration, the apostle Peter taught Deuteronomy 18 was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19-26). This ties together the promise of a Prophet with the promise of a kingdom. God promised a Messiah or Savior (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6). John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah, Christ (Matthew 3:1-2). The wise men looked for the king of the Jews and were told that Scripture said he was to be born in Bethlehem; this ties together prophesies of the Messiah and the king -- hence, the kingdom (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:2-11). Jesus claimed to be the promised king in fulfillment of a passage about the Messiah's entry into Jerusalem riding a donkey; this ties passages about the Messiah and the king and his kingdom together, Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:5.
The church and the kingdom are the same divine institution. Jesus used the terms "church" and "kingdom" interchangeably (Matthew 16:18-19). The apostle Paul used the terms "church" and "kingdom" interchangeably (Colossians 1:13, 18). Jesus is now reigning in his kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) and he is also head of the church, which is also called the body (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23) or the house of God (1 Timothy 3:15) or the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). The apostle Paul stated that he and the Colossian Christians were in the kingdom (Colossians 1:13). The apostle John declared that all Christians and he were companions in the kingdom (Revelation 1:9). The Hebrews writer said we have received a kingdom (Hebrews 12:28). The church was in the eternal purpose of God -- not an after-thought; therefore, the church and the kingdom, with Jesus the head of both are the same institution (Ephesians 3:4-12).
"To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:10-11).
In view of all the foregoing, the inescapable conclusion is: (1) God fulfilled his promise to build a kingdom when he gave man the church. (2) God's promises to the patriarchs were fulfilled in the establishment of the church/kingdom. (3) God's promise to raise up a prophet like Moses was fulfilled in Jesus Christ as head of the church and king over the kingdom. (4) The Messiah became king over the kingdom/church. (5) Church, kingdom, body and temple are used interchangeably to describe varied facets of the same institution. (6) The kingdom is present, not future; premillennialism is false!
You can become a citizen of the kingdom today by obeying the Gospel, after which Jesus will add you to his church, which is his kingdom (Hebrews 5:8-9; Acts 2:47).
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen" (Matthew 28:18-20).
Erring Christians can repent and pray (Acts 8:22) to receive the forgiveness of their sins (1 John 1:8-9).
The basic problem with gambling is that it involves the sin of covetousness, which is the desire to possess something that rightfully belongs to another. Dr. Stafford North, of the Oklahoma University of Science and Arts, defines gambling as "The act of risking what is yours in order to get what belongs to another with nothing given in return."
It has come to our attention that some are under the impression investing in the stock market falls into the same category as gambling because it involves risk. Many things in life involve risk, i.e. surgery, driving an automobile, etc. However, these do not constitute gambling according to the definition given, nor does it necessarily follow that an activity is a form of gambling just because risk is an element. Let us examine this in light of the Scriptures.
First of all, from the beginning of time God has desired that man earn his living through honest labor. "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread" (Genesis 3:19). This "work ethic" is a tried and proven means to prosperity, as witnessed in our nation today. Yet many do not realize it has its roots in the divinely inspired Word of God! In the New Testament we also read, "if any would not work, neither should he eat" and "the laborer is worthy of his hire" and "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." (See 1 Thessalonians 3:10; Luke 10:7; and Ephesians 4:28.) In other words, if you want to receive something, work for it honestly!
Second, throughout the scriptures, buying and selling are presented as acceptable means of labor. Nowhere is this more evident than in the parable of the talents as recorded in Matthew 25. In verse 27, the lord scolds the one talent man for being wicked and lazy and offers this admonition: "Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury." It is obvious this means the servant could have pleased his master by investing the talent (money) thereby gaining interest ("usury" in the KJV). Incidentally, depositing one's money into a bank is virtually the same as investing in stock, since banks make investments in the market and prosper in this way. That is precisely how such institutions are able to pay interest for checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, etc.
We must also point out here that one may be involved in legitimate labor and receive the reward he deserves for that labor, but be displeasing to God. The rich man in Luke 12 was one who through honest labor had great increase from his fields, but he was "not rich toward God" (Luke 12:21). One must always keep in mind the fact that he is a steward of God's property, and is responsible for those less fortunate than he.
Third, although investing in stock contains an element of risk, it does not fit the above definition of gambling, "risk" being only a part of that definition. When one invests in stock, his desire is to see that particular company grow and prosper so that both it and he will gain. To put it in colloquial terms, when a stock does well, it is a win/win situation -- both for the company and for the investor. In stark contrast to this, gambling requires others to lose for one to prosper. The motive behind the "Friday night poker game," for example, is to go home with everyone else's paycheck, or at least a sizable portion of them. Try to match this attitude up with the "golden rule" of Matthew 7:12! Here Jesus says, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." One shudders to think of the countless families that suffer due to the loss of income by those who would gamble away their hard-earned wages, or of those who may take someone else's hard-earned wages by trickery and cause another's family to suffer. Either way, greed takes bread away from the mouths of deserving children.
In recent years, there has been an effort by the proponents of gambling to normalize this immoral activity. However, changing the terminology does nothing more than put a smiling mask over a wicked practice. By calling gambling, "gaming", and a gambling casino a "resort" or "park", worldly people attempt to deceive others into thinking such a place is a wholesome, family-oriented establishment. The Scriptures are not silent on this subject either.
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 5:20-24)
One needs only to look beyond the surface to see that these so-called "recreational areas" are facades. The increase of crime and the "seedy" elements (prostitution, nude bars, lone sharks, etc.) almost always accompany such places and this is well documented. Just ask any local law enforcement officials where such establishments thrive. Christians are told to "abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22). This does not mean that if something looks evil, it is evil. It means that wherever the forces of wickedness exert their influence, the Christian is not to be found in association with them.
To put it bluntly, any time one engages in a game of chance (through a card game, state sponsored lottery, bingo, slot machines, horse and/or dog racing, etc.) for the purpose of receiving gain that is not rightfully his, he has sinned, and God will deal with him accordingly!
He has sinned by coveting what is not rightfully his.
He has sinned by disregarding the Bible's commands and examples concerning honest labor.
He has sinned by not having consideration for those he will be robbing of what is rightfully theirs (including, perhaps, even those of his own household).
Brethren and friends, this is not a "gray area" left open for loose interpretation. The Bible is plain. We implore you to consider this matter scripturally and carefully!