God's revelation to mankind has two significant and parallel lines of truth in the Bible, that impact the life of every Christian: 1) the Kingdom of God, and 2) Sanctification of life. These two primary principles are like the two sides of a coin, they go together: one side is God's promises to mankind, and the other is mankind's response to God. Taken together they form an indissoluble bond between God and the believing Christian. The Bible is the source book from which this understanding comes, and it is the responsibility of every Christian to know and understand these two basic principles, in order to comprehend God's program for mankind, as well as to know how to live in a sinful world.
As a starter, it is imperative for an individual to become related to God through a personal relationship with Him, by accepting the work that Christ accomplished on the cross, and making a personal commitment to Jesus Christ to care for one's sins against God (John 3:16-18,36; 5:24; Romans 10:9,10). Once the person's sin problem with God is settled, and that person is spiritually regenerated, then one enters a family relationship with God, and enjoys the fullness of God's promises and blessings both now as well as for eternity. Along with these promises go certain responsibilities within the family of God. And, these two elements are the basic parallel lines of truth found in the Bible which is the topic of this paper.
When God created mankind, He did so for three purposes as stated in Psalm 8:4-6. In v.4 God created mankind for fellowship with Him, then in v. 5 it states that mankind was created to reflect the moral qualities of God Himself (the word glory means God's moral attributes), and finally in v.6 we see that mankind was to be king over the rest of God's creation (i.e. the animal and vegetable kingdom). Had Adam and Eve not sinned, and had they filled the earth with their progeny as God commanded, there would have been no death, and all peoples of the earth would continually fill God's eternal principles forever.
However, sin did enter and because of that God had to unveil His "backup plan", in order for sinfully separated mankind to again be reconciled to God, and His eternal purpose for him to become a reality. This is why Christ was ordained to enter the realm of mankind (see I Peter 1:20, I John 3:8) in order to care for the problem of sin, and restore God's creation to perfect wholeness.
Adam was created with a threefold responsibility: he was a Prophet, a Priest, and a King. As Prophet he walked with God and was taught of Him, then in turn he was to teach his family God's revelation. As Priest, he had no sin in himself, so he had a right to stand before God in holiness. As King he was over all the creation, according to the command of God (Genesis 1:28-30). All of this continued until Adam sinned.
When he sinned, he no longer was a Prophet/Priest/King. Now that sin entered, it caused an estrangement to come between a Holy God and sinful man, so that Adam was no longer a Prophet, nor did he know the mind of God by direct revelation. He ceased to be a Priest, for now he was sinful and needed someone else to intercede for him with God. As King he now experienced the problem of subduing the earth, because of thorns, thistles, etc., and the animals became wild, and out of the sweat of his brow would he eke a living (Genesis 3:17-19).
In order for God to provide for the ultimate restoration and reconciliation of sinful mankind to Himself, and fulfillment of His eternal purposes in him, which would materialize through the coming of His son, Jesus Christ, He instituted three classes of peoples to carry out His program until the advent of Christ (Galatians 4:4).
First of all, He chose Abraham to become the father of God's anointed nation of Israel (Genesis 12:1-3). As the twelve tribes of Israel developed, God raised up a group of Prophets who spoke for and in behalf of God to the nation of Israel (Note: the word Prophet primarily means one who tells forth the Word of God. A secondary meaning has to do with that which is future). Next, He appointed the tribe of Levi to be the Priestly tribe, who functioned in the tabernacle with sacrifices and mediated in behalf of the people to God. Finally, God anointed the tribe of Judah to be the Kingly tribe, and beginning with David the line continued through to Jesus Christ (Luke 1:27,31-33). The story of all this is the basic revelation of God in the whole of the Old Testament, showing how these three classes fulfilled their function.
Yet, in all the Old Testament not one Prophet, or Priest, or King was found upon whom the Spirit of God would rest and remain, who could reconcile mankind to God, and provide the ultimate fulfillment eternally, that God desired for all His creation. The reason was that the "seed of the woman" as promised in Genesis 3:15, who would forever crush what Satan had accomplished in alienating mankind from God and reconcile him to God, had not yet appeared (Galatians 4:4). The story of the Old Testament ends with these longings as yet unfulfilled.
In the story of the Old Testament the spirit of the Prophets showed that someday one would come, who as: Prophet, would fulfill in his life and work all the prophecies of the Old Testament; as Priest, would explain in His death and personal sacrifice all the ceremonies of the Levitical law; and as King would satisfy in His resurrection and coming again, all the human longings for an eternal king to lead the people.
When one sees the Bible in its overview, there is the impression of a basic concept of that of kingliness and orderliness. This is basic to God Himself, and is an integral concept in the universe, as well as in the creation itself. It began in the eternity of God, and became apparent at the time God created Adam/Eve, and instituted the kingly order. Even though sin has entered the universe, this "kingdom concept" still permeates all of mankind, and all that he does, whether it is formalized in government, the state, the home, business, or any organization. It even impresses itself in children on the playground, as soon a leader will emerge, and some organization will appear, as they interact with each other. This "kingdom concept" with a hierarchical structure is always present in life itself; it is God ordained, even in a sinful world.
The Bible speaks of two kingdoms: 1) the Kingdom of God, and 2) the Kingdom of Heaven. Through these two elements God rules over all mankind, from all eternity past to all eternity future. By definition, the Kingdom of God is the eternal rule of God in the universe, past, present, and future (Psalm 10:16; 103:19; Isaiah 10:5-18). There never has been a time when God was not ruling in the universe in the spiritual sense of the term. The Kingdom of Heaven, by definition, is the rule of God on earth, through human instruments, who are His representatives, and who speak and act for God, and in the person of Jesus Christ who offered Himself as King, though rejected of men, will someday rule over all the earth.
These two kingdoms are threaded through all of the Bible. The kingdom concept is indelibly ingrained in human nature, so God utilizes this basic element in mankind, to help us understand His overall purpose in creation, and what the future holds. Remember, God's threefold purpose in creation as seen in Psalm 8:4-6 is eternal, and thus will someday become an eternal reality, in which all of God's children will participate as subjects in the kingdom, over which Jesus Christ will eternally rule. In order for us to understand this thread, one must understand the two kingdoms.
The Kingdom of God is simply the fact that God is the king over all the universe now and forever. One may not fully realize nor understand this, but the Bible teaches it, and we must accept it by faith (Daniel 4:17,25,35). The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God on earth over mankind, but that rule is through human instrumentality. In the Old Testament God ruled through the kings of Judah. Today, He rules through leaders of nations to accomplish His divine will, though we as Christians may not understand (Romans 11:33; Isaiah 10:5; 40:15,17).
In the Old Testament the kingdom began with Abraham being called of God, and His promise that out of Abraham would come a great nation, and kings from his loins (Genesis 12:1-3; 35:11). This earthly kingdom that God promised Israel reached its zenith in David and Solomon, but declined after them and ultimately went into captivity. That kingdom failed for two reasons; 1) a lack of spiritual preparation by Israel (Judges 2:7-13; 3:5-7), and 2) the imperfection of God's human leaders (See the book of Judges, and II Samuel 12:13; I Kings 11:4-8). Therefore, the Prophets looked forward to a perfect king (Ezekiel 11:20; Isaiah 33:22), and subjects who would follow Him (Ezekiel 11:19).
When one comes to the New Testament, it opens with an announcement of a kingdom (Matthew 3:1,2). The kingdom that the Old Testament prophets spoke of, and John's announcement of the kingdom that Jesus offered, are one and the same (Daniel 7:13,14; Luke 1:31-33; Matthew 4:17,23). In Christ's teaching may be found every aspect of the prophetic kingdom. Christ taught that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, was that the King was present (i.e. Himself).
The fact that Christ was the Messianic King, to restore to Israel its kingdom, was announced to the nation alone (Matthew 10:5-7). Its establishment depended upon Israel's acceptance of Jesus Christ as king. But, He was rejected by the nation of Israel because He came to bring them a spiritual restoration with God (i.e. a spiritual kingdom), and they wanted a political restoration. Had He restored the political kingdom of old, it would fail the second time around for the same reason the first one failed, that is the spiritual failure of Israel in the past. Christ came to care for the problem that caused the original kingdom to fail, then He would restore the political kingdom. The very thing He came to save them from, i.e. their sins, was the thing that caused them to reject Him. They "shot themselves in their own feet" (Note: Israel's blindness, II Cor. 3:13-16).
In the course of Christ's earthly ministry, and after perceiving His rejection as king over Israel (Note: the poll the Disciples took as to what the Jews thought of Christ as king---Matthew 16:13-18), He turned from Israel as a nation, to bring in a totally new concept, i.e. the Church (Matthew 16:18). The "Church" was unforeseen by the Prophets (Ephesians 3:3-6; Colossians 1:24-29; Matthew 13:11). It was never mentioned in the Old Testament. The Kingdom of Christ over Israel was not abandoned, only postponed. The reason: Israel, originally was to be God's channel through whom His revelation of Salvation would go to all the world (Note: Solomon the king knew this---see his prayer in I Kings 8:41-43), but instead of disseminating God's revelation they kept it to themselves, because of their selfish pride, and thought of themselves as better than the other nations. Thus, when Christ came as king, their selfish pride rejected Him. They wanted a political return to their kingdom; He came to bring them Salvation from their sins. During Jesus' trial He re-affirmed His kingship (Matthew 26:63,64).
In the book of Acts it is seen that even the Disciples (all of whom were Jews, though they believed Christ as their Messianic King) failed to harmonize Christ's death with their hopes of the Kingdom (Luke 24:21; Acts 1:6-11). Even the Apostle Paul, himself a Jew who ministered primarily to his own people, came to the realization that Israel had rejected Jesus as the Messiah and king, and turned from them to minister to the nations of the world (See: Acts 28:27-31). In the New Testament one sees that though God set Israel aside so that His revelation could go out to all the world through the Church (Matthew 28:19,20), He never set any individual aside as to Salvation (Ephesians 2:11-18), only the corporate nation of Israel. Yet someday He will restore the nation of Israel to His favor (Romans 11:26), and Christ, the greater son of David will rule over them (Luke 1:32,33).
Today, the Kingdom exists in the sense that Christ is preparing the people who will spiritually inherit the Kingdom that will come (Colossians 1:13; Galatians 3:26-29). The aspects of the Kingdom are set forth in parables, which refer to the "mysteries" (Colossians 1:24-28; Ephesians 3:1-7) of the Kingdom (Note: In Scripture a mystery is not something mysterious, but means that which heretofore has not been revealed, but is now divinely revealed).
In the world today there is a parallel growth of both righteousness and wickedness, but someday the separation will come (Matthew 25:31-46). The parable of the "Wheat & the tares" (Matthew 13:24-30) speaks to this point.
The end will come someday, and will be ushered in by the power and judgment of Christ. God's seeming silence (Romans 2:4; II Peter 3:9) in the kingdom of mankind will be concluded by the "Trump of God" (Joel 2:1;3:16; Zephaniah 1:14-16), and the great Tribulation, known as "The day of Jehovah", which is God's judgment on the wickedness of mankind (Zechariah 14:1-9; Revelation 19:11-21).
At that time the Kingdom of God on earth will be ushered in (Revelation 20:1-6), and after the Millenium the earthly Kingdom of Heaven, ruled over by the Lord Jesus Christ as king over His people, Israel, will ultimately merge with the Kingdom of God, forever (I Corinthians 15:24-28). God's conclusion to all this is seen in Revelation 22:1-5. At that time the eternal purpose for which God originally created mankind (Psalm 8:4-6) will become a reality, never to change. Throughout eternity, we who are God's children, will experience and enjoy all the fullness of God and His revelation to us.
This line of evidential truth in Scripture is God's plan for mankind. It started with Israel, who was to be God's channel, and concludes with the Church being God's vehicle, to spread the Gospel. When Christ announced the concept of the Church, He also noted that this time around, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). The answer to this is that Israel's obedience to God's Holy requirements rested upon their own ability to measure up. This they failed to do. Christians today, who are the Church, would do no better, were it not for the indwelling Holy Spirit, who regenerates us, keeps us in God's power and grace, guides us into all the truth through the Word of God, and protects us from the evil one (John 14:16-26; 16:7-14). It is only by the Holy Spirit that the Church is succeeding, whereas Israel failed.
The revelation of the Kingdom of God is His side of the coin. It shows how He has provided for us, and all this plan was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world (Romans 8: 28-34). How marvelous, how wonderful, is God's love to us. Therefore, we now come to the other side, which is our response to what He has provided for us, the matter of Holy living, or Sanctification.
Once a person has made a personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior from his sins, and become a child of God, the primary responsibility that one has to God is to live a holy or sanctified life. This is a progressive transformation of character, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to become increasingly more like the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself. It is accomplished through two basic means: by allowing the Holy Spirit to apply the principles of God's Word, the Bible, to one's life in character re-development, so that the life of Christ becomes the life that the Christian lives. This is a lifetime process, and will not conclude until that person is with the Lord in Heaven. This is the Christian's response to all that which God has done for mankind, through sending Christ into the world, to provide Salvation to all from our sins.
The words Sanctify or Holy (Holiness), both mean the same thing, i.e. to be set apart from one's sinful ways and be brought toward a personal sinlessness within the family of God. There are three elements of Sanctification:
For the Christian who is now in the family of God, and is separated unto Him through the work of Christ on the cross (II Corinthians 5:17), the basic aspect of Sanctification is that of daily living a Holy life. This is not easy, since the Christian still has a self centered nature, that is opposed to the new nature received from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-24), and these two natures are contrary to each another. Therefore, it is imperative for the Christian to daily commit that day and his life to the Holy Spirit's control, meditate on the Word of God, pray, as well as fellowship with other Christians. These are the means by which one "grows in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18).
The Bible serves as an instrument of Sanctification in three ways: 1) to reveal our sinful condition (James 1:23-25; John 6:28,29); 2) the Holy Spirit uses the Word to cleanse us from our sinful habits and practices (Ephesians 5:26); and 3) the Holy Spirit uses the Word to transform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 3:18). The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from the guilt of sin, the Word of God cleanses us from the habit and daily pollution of sin. All this implies three elements: that we will read and heed the Word of God, that we will submit our lives to its cleansing power, and that we will find Christ in the Word.
God provides certain incentives, to spur us on to holy living. First, is God's own Holy nature, that is who He is as a Holy God, totally set apart from sin, and He desires that we become like Him (I Peter 1:15,16; Philippians 2:12,13). Second, is God's grace to us, that is what He has done for us, in providing Salvation from sin and Hell (John 3:16-18; Romans 12:1,2; II Corinthians 8:12). Third, His promises to us eternally, that is what He has guaranteed to us in the future (II Corinthians 6:17,18,7:1; Hebrews 13:5,6; John 5:24).
There are certain results that accrue to our benefit, when we allow the Holy Spirit to apply God's truth to our lives. One, it will help us control our fleshly lusts and appetites (I Thessalonians 4:2-7). Then, it will fit us for God's service (II Timothy 2:21; 3:16,17). Finally, it provides for us fellowship with Christ (John 15:3,4). Our response to all of this may be summed up in one word, that is, we are to OBEY.
Someday, when we are taken to Heaven, our perfect Sanctification or Holiness will become a reality. As far as God is concerned it is already an accomplished fact. In Romans 8:30, where there is a listing of God's work throughout eternity for the Christian, it states that those, "whom He has justified, them He also glorified". Today, the Christian has been justified (i.e. declared righteous), and in God's eternal plan we have already been glorified (i.e. become perfect as God is perfect in His moral character). For God it is a done deal; for us it awaits Heaven.
The assurance that the Christian has for an eternal future, should make one desirous of living in the here and now a more mature Christ like life. Our responsibility today is found in II Corinthians 6:14-7:1, where it says, "Having all these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all the filthiness of the flesh and spirit, maturing Holiness in awe and respect to God, for who He is". We cannot do it in our own strength, we must allow the Holy Spirit to do it in and through us by the Word, and submit to His cleansing power.
There are four final admonitions to the Christian in our response to all that God has done for us: 1) Read the Word of God, daily; 2) Obey it; 3) See Christ in the Word; and 4) Look for His coming again. See: I John 2:15-17.