The Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God

A couple of days ago, I was digging around in a desk here at home, and I came upon a notebook in which I had started writing some of what I was studying at some point, and evidently was disrupted and set it aside.  Normally I will put a date on something like that when I start writing something, but that time I didn’t.

My Bible study can sometimes be a lot like a bee flitting from bloom to bloom, gathering and sampling nectar from here, there, and everywhere.  I am not very systematic in a lot of things, and I can’t say how much of that is rooted in the particular way God designed my mind, and how much of it springs from the inconsistencies of function that come with medical conditions etc.  I suspect a little of both, because even though I have always preferred to be organized, I have always found I had to work pretty hard at it. It doesn’t come naturally.  I guess if the way your mind works is not particularly systematic and orderly, it’s all the more important to maintain order in the outward things or else not much would ever be accomplished.

I can be rather expansive in the different places my mind ventures, so that when I do write something and tuck it away, it is entirely possible for me, when I stumble upon my own notes again later, to have no memory at first of having written them, until I really immerse myself back into them, and then my mind starts to make the connections and find those old files again on the internal mental “desk” under all the piles of “started” research projects or other ideas.

It looks as though this one was the beginning of an attempt to sum up some of what I have learned about how to study the Bible, over time.

I am sure I intended to eventually try and share this on the blog, and I also imagine I probably got bogged down in the scope of it. The bad thing about being comprehensive in your scope, is that everything is a sum of parts. I don’t seem to have the patience to construct everything from the ground up, so to speak, for someone else, once I’ve been over it all once myself.  I can tackle stuff that has a fairly broad scope, but I do not feel I am very adept at breaking it down in such a way as to actually try and impart it to others.

I’ve said before I don’t see myself as a teacher, and yet, I do always find myself, whenever the Lord opens my understanding about something, wanting to turn around and share the discovery with others. All I can say is, that nothing I manage to “figure out” ever is a product of my own intellect, and I have learned to literally just ask God specific questions, and as I journal what I study, and also what I pray, I have come to see His faithfulness in always answering my questions.

I consider myself still rather a novice in understanding the Scriptures.  But very much a life-long student. I am not gifted with the abilities some have, to absorb and digest and comprehend huge portions of scripture and doctrine, however, my desire for understanding is genuine, and even when my “appetite” may wax and wane (usually according to how much I am seeking the Lord vs how much am allowing something else to distract me from that aim) I do find that over the years the desire for the Word grows gradually more consistent and dare I even say, I am starting to see the principle of “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little”  in building the foundation of scripture knowledge in me by the Holy Spirit teacher.

Along the way I have been exposed to many different “preachers and teachers”, and experienced the disappointments of finding some of them are not as grounded in scripture as they would have folks to believe, and some of them don’t even realize it themselves.

I know the Lord uses the foolish things to confound the wise.  And I know that there was a period in my life when I was impressed by “knowledge” itself. Until I learned this:  Knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing.  Not at all!

This world loves knowledge.  Oh, it’s considered such a commendable attribute, for one to be capable of conversing on myriad topics with some degree of obvious “intelligence” and expertise.  It sounds so impressive, and many are the less articulate of this world, who stand in awe of that ability.  We put such a high premium on knowledge but the truth is, so much of what folks “know” is worthless, and particularly in the eternal sense.

The most learned men and women who ever lived, still lived and died in vain, if they didn’t know their Creator God.  And how can we know Him?

Only He can reveal Himself to us.  Of whatever percentage of the world that claims any sort of religion, how many of those, other than Christianity” are comprised of man attempting to make contact with God, or to attain god-hood, themselves?  All of them.  Including atheism.

What is the Bible?  It is God  revealing Himself to man, whom He created in His own image.    It is not a thesis, not a treatise, not a commentary on history or science or morals. It is not “dogma”.  It serves to reveal to man, where he came from, that he fell from grace and favor with his Creator, and show us the WAY by which God made provision for Salvation.  It reveals God’s plan for all the ages.  The Bible informs us about God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and also about our enemy, Satan.

Satan has convinced many that the Bible is irrelevant.  That is truly tragic.  Of those who do count the scriptures as having value at all, there are some who believe that they (personally) can’t understand the Bible.  Others believe it is all “open to personal interpretation”, and still others believe that they are privy to “secret knowledge” either not found in the Bible, or “hidden” within the Bible for only a select few to discover.

The first group are willingly deceived.  Sin in the heart means error in the mind!  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools!  How’s that? Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.  For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Romans 1)

The second conclusion (believing the Bible cannot be understood) constitutes, at best, an unnecessary tragedy!  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. (Hosea 4:6)

The third conclusion (that the Bible is open to interpretation) is both dangerous and explicitly refuted by scripture.  It is true that “the natural man” does not understand Spiritual things. But a mystery is only a mystery until it is revealed. The Bible is that revelation.  If I say to a friend; “the strangest thing happened to me the other day, and I want to share it with you, but I’ll have to fill you in later”, well, at that point, I have introduced a “mystery” to my friend.  But say later that week, I sit down, and write it all out in a letter and drop it in the mail.  When the friend receives the letter, if she opens it and reads it, the mystery is no more a mystery, even if there are aspects of the saga that the recipient does not entirely understand, (an element of mystery remains), it is no longer secret but revealed.  Sometimes there might be a language gap.  Perhaps the primary language of the writer of the letter is English.  And the primary language of the recipient of the letter is French, where English is their second language.  The French recipient may understand more of the letter by having an interpreter explain some figures of speech, customs, etc, without which explanations, some of the context and meaning may not convey.

The interpreter, in the case of those wishing to understand scripture, is the Holy Spirit.  The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  (1 Corinthians 2)  If you want to understand the deep things of God, the things of the Bible that remain (for you, anyway) a mystery, all you have to do is ask God to show you by His Spirit.  But, here is the catch; The Spirit has already spoken “at sundry times (during a period centuries between BC 1492 and AD 100) and in diverse manners, to some 40 different Holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

The fourth conclusion is dangerous because there are consequences blatantly spelled out for this in the Word itself.  Revelation 22:18-21 warns: 18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.  And II Peter 1:19-21 says 19We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Anyone (Beth Moore and others like her) who encourage “entering into the silence and listening for fresh revelation” is setting you up for deception and false doctrine.  I have seen this happen with people who can quote scripture word for word.  In fact, it seems to me, that often times it is those people who may be particularly susceptible to this notion of private interpretation, perhaps because they have devoted a lot of personal effort to memorization and maybe became prideful of what they “know”.  Satan is more than happy to flood you with truth, so He can float one single little diversionary lie to set you just a little off-course.  And everyone knows that turning a mere one degree to the left or right, if not corrected immediately, will lead you further and further from the straight midline over time.  When someone has invested a lot of time and effort studying the Word, and gets proud in their accomplishment, if their heart is really for the Lord, He will send correction and chastisement.  At that point it becomes a choice of whether or not the believer will receive the Lord’s rebuke and forsake pride.  Depending on whether they are truly born again of the Spirit, and upon the scope of their influence, God may cut that person’s life short, who persists in their deviation.  But we are living in a time when God already warned us that deception will be running at high tide.  So we shouldn’t be surprised that every direction we turn, someone is offering up a different interpretation.  Any topic, you name it, rapture, eternal security, gifts of the Spirit.

I have witnessed this very thing in action during my life, both in myself and in others, I mean how easy it is to get mislead.  This is why, by the grace of God, I developed the habit of taking stock before the Lord.  It is so easy to get off on the “primrose path” and not realize it.  Because we live life in a sort of “ocean current” of Principalities and Powers at all times.  And like when you were a kid at the beach and not paying attention, you could believe you have been standing in the same spot for thirty minutes, but look up and find Mom and Dad and your familiar red beach umbrella, nowhere to be found.  The current beats against the believer at all times, causing drift that if not accounted for and compensated for, can carry you outside safe zones before you remember to look up and verify your reference points.

In one case, a Christian couple I knew, were having problems in their marriage and they were separated.  While separated, the husband fell back in with some people he knew before he came to know the Lord.  He got drawn into former habits and addiction, lost his job, and reverted to petty crime to support his habit.  With several of his Christian brothers and sisters praying for him, trying to get him to come back into the fold, he continued to choose the old lifestyle; a man who had done missions, and held office in his church.  It was explicitly stated to this person that in regards to this dangerous game, he was “in the eleventh hour”, and to which he admitted  that he knew this was true.  It was only a week later when I got the call from his wife about his violent and tragic death.  If you belong truly to the Lord, He will not permit you to go on indefinitely in willful sin.

It is my opinion that the Body and it’s many parts were working as they are meant to, in the scenario above.  Brothers held this man to account in love. They sought him out, counseled him,   prayed for him and with him, and warned him. Sisters who were praying and supporting the wife, were given insight by the Holy Spirit from the Word, in order to be ready to support her when the marriage she hoped to see mended, was dissolved in the passing of the estranged husband.  God could not allow one of His own to continue in willful defiance and rebellion.  I am sure the tears of that Godly wife, were not lost on the Lord, as she prayed for the drifting husband, the deliverance he got from his addiction, was permanent and not ideal from the widow’s perspective. In the end,  this widowed friend eventually remarried to a Godly husband.

In writing the Bible, God wrote out “history” in advance.  Understanding of the Bible can only be acquired in context of the whole Bible. With so many “sources” at our disposal, and so many voices “teaching” it is possible to wind up with a shoddy patchwork of beliefs, few of which may be at all actually supported by Scripture.

Christ’s appearance on Earth is the central and single most important event in all of history.  The Old Testament is about a nation. The purpose of this nation was to bring Emmanuel (God with us) into the world. The New Testament is about that God-man, Jesus Christ. His birth, life and ministry, death, burial and resurrection in propitiation for the sons of the world.

Christ commissioned HIs Jewish disciples to take that story of His life, death, burial and resurrection and it’s power, to all nations.  That was His plan for taking redemption beyond the Jews, and out to the Gentiles as well.  The Church is the vehicle which would carry that redemptive power forward in the age of Grace under the New Covenant.

You see, the Bible also is about three people groups.  This is very important to understand.  It is a key that will help unlock prophecy, as well.  The three people groups are

  • Jews
  • Gentiles
  • The Church

God created man (Adam and Eve) placed him in a perfect Earth in a perfect garden (Eden) and man sinned in the temptation of believing it was ok for them to look into secret things that God had not given them to see.   By sin, man fell from the perfect state, and God, having known they would, then set in motion His pre-ordained plan for redeeming mankind.  Romans 5:12 says And wherefore by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death  by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for all have sinned. Verse 19 says; For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Christ) shall many be made righteous.  (Parenthesis added).

See, the Bible not only tells us Adam and Eve sinned in desiring to look into the secret things of the Lord, the “knowledge” Satan/the Serpent told them God was withholding from them, the bible also tells us that The secret things belong to the Lord, but those that are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29).

What belongs so us, are the things He revealed in His Word.  Who is it that goes around whispering “secret things” and telling us there is more to know, and God is withholding it from us? The father of lies and all of his who hear his voice.  If someone is “whispering secret things to you” in “the silence”. Beware!  God is not exclusive in His truth.  And what He gives one to disseminate or proclaim, is given for all and must fully align with all of Scripture.

The Lord said via the prophet Isaiah (46:9-13)

9Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

10Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

11Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.

12Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:

13I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.

The book of Daniel gives an account of a dream that King Nebuchadnezzar had.  It was interpreted by the Prophet Daniel, detailing events across multiple centuries of Gentile world-rule.  King Nebuchadnezzar could not even recall the dream.   Daniel not only told him what he saw in the dream, but what it meant. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged it was Daniel’s God that revealed the secret dream and it’s meaning to Daniel.

What the Bible says about itself, the claims it makes, the scope of it, and the fact it was written over a period of 1200 to 1500 years, by 40 different men, and has it’s own cohesive flowing narrative, make it the singular, most unique book that ever existed.

As the revelation of God, it is forever settled in heaven.  (Psalm 119:89)

The “setting” of the Bible is Heaven, Earth, and Hell. It was written in Hebrew, Greek, and some Aramaic, and translated into Latin, but as Henry Van Dyke said ;

“Born in the East and clothed in oriental form and imagery, the Bible walks the ways of all the world with familiar feet and enters land after land to find its own, everywhere.  It has learned to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of man.  (Halley’s Bible Handbook, p. 19)

If you want to understand Bible Prophecy in our age, you have to realize that the Old Testament prophets did not know about the Age of Grace to come. All they were given to see back then about this present time, can be visualized as mountain peaks in a distance. They did not anticipate a first coming and second coming of Christ, much less a coming once in humility as a meek and lowly human baby, and a second one in power and glory later.

The first peak was the Virgin Birth, (they expected) but they did not see the peaks of Calvary, and Pentecost. with a valley beyond those which is the current church age.  They did not know that Isaiah 61 would span centuries.

Each prophet over time had their own piece of the puzzle, and a specific “target” to whom god instructed them to direct their message. Many of them didn’t even understand everything they proclaimed, which is why God did not answer Daniel’s questions, but instead, instructed him to “seal up the book until the time of the end.

As we approach Christmas this year, we long to celebrate the proper things in a world and even a church that has all but completely lost sight of what is important. Though His Word is settled in Heaven, there are sure a lot of folks down here willing to argue until they are blue in the face, about that.

I believe the Lord directs our steps, and gives us understanding to the degree we desire to receive it and to the degree we ask.  Sometimes in comparing scripture to scripture, it is what is not in both of two similar passages, as much as what is in them, that yields an explanation.

The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are not the same thing. There is some overlap, but many points of contention could be resolved by careful comparison of passages that are similar but not same.  The Kingdom of God are all who willingly subject themselves to God, including angels and the saints of all ages/dispensations. The Kingdom of Heaven can only be entered into by new birth. During this age of grace, the church age, this Kingdom of Heaven encompasses all who profess Christ, however some profess Him falsely. They are impossible for us to tell apart, which is why there will be a time of threshing to separate the wheat and tares.  Mustard plants aren’t supposed to look like trees.  They are fairly “leggy” or spindly plants.

From the inception of the early church to the present, the “church” (visible) grew to exponential proportions, to become a “great tree” with birds nesting in it’s branches. The true church is sort of the frame while those birds nesting and enter-twining and weaving their nests in the tree seem to be a part of the tree, and make the tree appear massive from a distance.  One cannot differentiate between the nesting birds and the tree itself.  The “world church” or “global church” is an illusion superimposed over the true church so that when the true church is removed, a substantial structure will remain in place, which Satan will use for a time to further his illusion of a world religion, riding it to power and eventually installing the Antichrist in his temporary position of world power.

As people argue whether it will be Rome, the Vatican, Islam, secular humanism, Gaia worship, they continue to do the enemy’s work for him. Satan knows how to be all things to all people.

The Kingdom of Heaven is the earthly sphere of the Kingdom of God. This is why again, the subtle differences in similar passages are so critical to note.  The Kingdom of God is not outward but spiritual and inward. (Romans 14:17). The Kingdom of Heaven will merge with the Kingdom of God when Christ has put all enemies under His feet, and He will have delivered up the kingdom to God.

(1 Corinthians 15:24-28)  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.

28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

Don’t let anyone steal your joy and blessed hope.  Just don’t!  Just stay in the Word for yourself!  You don’t have to study all the counterfeits out there, to recognize them for what they are.  You just have to know the truth to recognize anything and everything else as not the truth“.

I don’t know who this is for out there, but you’ll know when you read it, I have no doubt.  You’re in turmoil and can’t get peace because of the cacophony of claims that crash over you in a deluge.  Step back and be still.