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Chapter 17—The Rise of the Stone Kingdom, Part 2

Mystery Babylon and the Stone Kingdom, part 52—To whom does the kingdom of God (initially) belong?

Welcome back! We left off as we were demonstrating that, contrary to what most Christians might think, the primary focus of Jesus’ years of public ministry was not about getting people saved,” but was about the Kingdom. We pick up with our discussion now in the book of Acts, chapter 1.

Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:

3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.

5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

This chapter is the scene where Jesus ascends into heaven. He has been with the apostles for three and a half years, teaching them day in and day out. Then He was brutally executed, but on the third day, He arose alive from the grave, which had been the tomb that His great-uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, had planned for himself.

In the 40 days since His resurrection, we just read here where Jesus was giving altar calls and drilling the apostles to make sure they knew how to get people saved, right?

Well, maybe the Living Bible or the Good News Bible might say that (I am being sarcastic, of course, because I have very little regard for either of them), but my Bible says that for 40 days Jesus spoke to the apostles of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

And if we expected the apostles’ final question to Jesus to be another refresher course on how to get people saved, we need to think again. Look at verse…

6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

Whoa! Restore again? The kingdom? To Israel? We need to dissect that because it is loaded with importance towards our understanding of the Stone Kingdom. Again, for emphasis, after three and a half years, plus another 40 final days with the Savior, and the foremost question in the minds of the apostles had to do with the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel.

What are the implications of their question? First, they are talking about the Kingdom, not the church. There is a relationship between the two but they are not the same, despite what our good Presbyterian brethren and others teach—such that the church has inherited the promises to Israel. Not so, my dear brothers!

Secondly, they asked Jesus if He were going to restore the kingdom, which implies that the Kingdom had once existed. And the third implication, which is inextricably bound together with the idea of restoring, is restoring it to whom?

Well, to the people who once had it! Restore it to Israel, and not to some other people. Keep a bookmark here in Acts and, in that connection, look once more at our key verse in Daniel for this lecture.

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people,

So the prophecy in Daniel is that the Stone Kingdom will be the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. Back to the book of Acts now. And it would not be a restoration that would be immediately apparent. It would take centuries!

That is why Jesus—knowing all things—answered the apostles’ question in the manner he did. They had asked: will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel, and He answered:

Acts 1:7 … It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

In other words, it was a nice way of telling them it was not going to happen in their lifetimes. Turn to Exodus 19 for additional clarity concerning the Kingdom of Israel. These Benjamite apostles from Galilee either already knew their Israel history, or we can assume that Jesus had taught them all about it in the years He spent with them.

The scene here is 50 days after the children of Israel had left slavery in Egypt. They were now at Mt. Sinai and God was instructing them on their destiny as His chosen people.

Exodus 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

The word holy” there is the Hebrew word qadowsh {kaw-doshe’} or qadosh {kaw-doshe’} and it means that this people would be set apart, or chosen, for a special service for God.

Roughly 400 years passed before all the tribes were thoroughly unified under King Saul, and we know the story there of Saul’s reign and that of King David because we did a 54-lecture series called The Character of Saul and David. We have made that entire series available for free on our website.

Well, the Kingdom of Israel, in its first manifestation, reached its zenith, its greatest glory, under David’s son, King Solomon. And after the death of Solomon, the Kingdom split into two kingdoms; the one which comprised the 10 northern tribes kept the name Israel as they became known as the Kingdom of Israel.

The tribe of Benjamin remained attached to the royal tribe of Judah, and that nation was called the Kingdom of Judah. Levites were scattered in both kingdoms.

Both kingdoms eventually degenerated, but the northern kingdom came under God’s judgment first. The Kingdom of Israel was annihilated. It was in the period of 745 to 721 B.C. that God caused the Assyrian armies to come and conquer, and then deport tens of millions of Israelites from the northern kingdom to areas around the Caspian Sea. They never returned to the ancient land of Israel.

Later, in 586 B.C., our now familiar Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar sent his armies and they sacked and destroyed Jerusalem and the Judah kingdom. And that is how Daniel ended up in Babylon, graciously serving the Babylonian king and his successors.

When Babylon fell, a small contingent numbering less than 50,000 Judahites, Levites and Benjamites were allowed to return to the ancient land. As we have noted previously, the tribe of Benjamin settled in Galilee, while the Judahites settled around Jerusalem.

So the apostles either knew all this, or the Lord Jesus taught it to them, and hence their very pertinent question: will you at this time restore the kingdom. Well, it is clear to us that this Kingdom of Israel never did achieve what God had declared it would be; namely, a kingdom of priests and kings.

Nevertheless, even in their utter failure, they were still carrying out God’s Plan. Both sister kingdoms had been destroyed. Yet, even after the return of the Judahites from Babylon, for that 400-year period until Christ, they were sometimes semi-autonomous, as under the Maccabees and under John Hyrcanus, but nonetheless, the new Judean kingdom was always under the empires of Greece or Rome.

And thus, when the true King of Judah and Israel appeared in the form of Jesus the Christ, He had many things to say about the Kingdom. First, when Jesus was asked by the representative of the Roman empire if He were a king, Jesus acknowledged it. The KJV reads this way:

John 18:37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

It would appear that Jesus was being a bit ambiguous in his answer to Pilate, but the Young’s Literal Translation makes it clear Jesus was not at all ambiguous. It reads:

YLT John 18:37 Pilate, therefore, said to him, Art thou then a king?’ Jesus answered, Thou dost say {it}; because a king I am, (etc.)

Other translations confirm that Jesus clearly admitted to His kingship. And we know from the work of my colleague, Dr. Stephen Jones, that Jesus came the first time to claim His throne rights. Therefore, we can conclude that this verse is one place where he did it officially—to the representative of the Iron Empire of Rome.

At this point, I must go back and repeat a paragraph and a Scripture passage that I used in the previous lecture. I was speaking of the good figs and the bad figs, and how Jesus cursed a fig tree. And I said:

If Jesus cursed it, you can be sure it was not the good figs. He was cursing the bad figs. It represented the Jewish nation, and more specifically its evil and corrupt rulers—and thus in another place, Jesus spoke to and about the rulers of the Jewish nation when He directed this their way in …

Matthew 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

First, I think it must be important that this is one of the very few places where Matthew uses the term kingdom of God,” instead of kingdom of heaven.” That’s a long discussion which we shall postpose to another time.

Verse 45 tells us that the chief priests and Pharisees perceived that He was talking about them. Alright, let’s think about this. If Jesus told these Jewish rulers that the kingdom was going to be taken from them, it is obvious that they must have been in possession of the kingdom to one extent or another.

We have just stated a few minutes ago that the Jewish nation, during the period after the return from Babylon and before Christ, was sometimes semi-autonomous. So while this was certainly a long, long way from the zenith of the kingdom under Solomon, nevertheless, the chief priests and power-mongers among the Pharisees exerted much control over the people of Judea, while at the same time themselves being under the control of Rome.

That is one aspect of it. Another is this: Jesus said the kingdom of God would be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. So that begs the question: what did Jesus mean by that? Well, first, we have already seen that the kingdom will be taken from the Jewish leaders. Why?

Well, obviously, because of their corruption, but more so, can you see this declaration in the context of the two works of Christ? The birthright blessing was split, wasn’t it? One tribe, Judah, was to be given the royal family, the ruler, the King. But the Kingdom was to be embodied or brought forth through another tribe.

Jesus was of the royal tribe of Judah and came the first time to claim His rights to the throne; that is, the king-ship. So the king came from Judah. But the Kingdom was to come from the tribe of Joseph. So that is another reason why the kingdom of God was taken from the corrupt leaders of the Jewish nation—because it did not to belong to them!

Jesus said it would be given to a nation. (Note: it does not say a church.”) We saw in Daniel 2:44 that the kingdom would not be given to another people; so therefore, the nation to receive the Kingdom has to be Israel. And so where did Paul and the apostles go to preach the gospel of the kingdom in the decades after Christ?

They went to where they knew the lost sheep of the House of Israel were: in Asia Minor and in Europe, including especially the British Isles. As we have discussed in other lecture series, when Paul wrote his epistles to the Romans,” the church at Rome was initially comprised of the members of the royal family of Briton/Britain.

What were they doing in Rome, you ask? They had been captured by the Roman armies in war. Those royal Britons were under house arrest in Rome and that was the home church Paul had founded.

Plus, Joseph of Arimathea himself had moved from Judea to Briton. He owned tin mines in Cornwall and he established the first Christian church in Britain at Glastonbury. You can read about that exciting story in the book, the Drama of the Lost Disciples by George Jowett. (You will have to web search for it.) We still carry Ray Capt’s book, The Traditions of Glastonbury.

In his epistle to the Galatians, we find the apostle Paul writing to some of these lost” Israelites in Asia Minor. In chapter 5, Paul explained what was meant by Jesus’ words about a nation or a people bringing forth the fruits thereof.” We will pick it up in verse 21, in the middle of Paul’s long list of rotten fruits.

Galatians 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

And so now, in contrast, Paul describes what the kingdom of God does comprise:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

So what is this describing? It is describing a nation or a people who are predominantly Christ-followers. We could even say it is a nation of people who strive to be Spirit-led, born again Christian believers. …Hmmm. Can you think of any nation(s) like that?

(To be continued.)

Up next Chapter 17—The Rise of the Stone Kingdom, Part 1 This is chapter / lecture # 17 in our series entitled Mystery Babylon and the Stone Kingdom. In our previous lecture, we were pursuing two lines of Chapter 17—The Rise of the Stone Kingdom, Part 3
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