I want to take you back to Luke 17 again this morning. I have a lot to say, and I want to say things that will be definitive and helpful to you, because it’s very apparent to us now that we who are in the invisible kingdom are living in the middle of another kingdom. When Jesus prayed to the Father, He didn’t say, “Take them out of the world,” He said, “Keep them from the Evil One.” We have to be in the world, otherwise we can’t preach the gospel. So we are this invisible kingdom in the middle of a visible kingdom that is getting more wicked all the time.
In Luke chapter 17, verse 20, Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming. They thought it was still future; and elements of it are, of course. But, “He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or, “There it is!” For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst, or among you.’” That is an incredible statement. They were looking for a kingdom in the future, and the kingdom was there because the King was there.
We don’t know a lot about kingdoms and kings, so I want to help you with that. We haven’t had, as I said a week ago, a king in our history – well, until now. America has been gradually becoming a kingdom with a king, an evil kingdom with an evil king and his evil agents. How did that happen? Turn to Romans chapter 1, and I want to rehearse for you some very important portions of Scripture.
Verse 18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven.” Now the wrath of God takes many forms. It could be eternal wrath. It could be eschatological wrath, the wrath that’s described in the book of Revelation. It could be the wrath of sowing and reaping, built in judgment to certain behaviors. But this wrath is not any of those, but rather described as follows: it’s wrath “against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” So it’s a kind of wrath that has to unfold on a society that is suppressing truth. Wherever you have a society suppressing truth, it necessarily then is characterized by ungodliness and unrighteousness.
“That which is known about God,” says verse 19, “is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and His divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” God has revealed Himself to the degree that man is without excuse if he doesn’t acknowledge the existence of God; and when men suppress that knowledge in ungodliness and unrighteousness, a king of wrath comes out of heaven. This wrath is for those, verse 21, “who knew God, did not honor Him as God or give thanks.” It comes on a society that inexcusably turned against the living God who is the Creator of all. In the case of our society, turns against the revelation of Scripture, which has been available to everyone.
“And though they knew God,” – that is they knew God existed because it was clear in the creation and in the Scripture – “they did not honor Him as God or give thanks. They became empty in their speculations, their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.” Those who reject God are fools. When I talk about an evil kingdom I’m also talking about an evil kingdom made up of fools.
“They exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” You might say that’s ancient animism. You might also say it’s modern environmentalism. “Therefore” – and here’s the judgment – “God gave them over” – language of turning someone over to prison for incarceration and execution.
So how do you know when this wrath is operating? You know when a society turns from God, that had the knowledge of God by creation and Scripture, when they give up on the truth of God and exchange God for a materialistic, secular worldview. That form of social, national, cultural apostasy leads to God giving them up, turning them over. And what does that look like? The first phase in verse 24: “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” So the first thing you would see in a culture under judgment is a sexual revolution: immorality, impurity, lust unbounded, “dishonoring their bodies among them,” pornography as a norm.
The second is in verse 26: “God then gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,” – that’s lesbianism – “and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error,” and that might be AIDS. So first, you’ll have a sexual revolution when God’s wrath is unleashed on a society that turns against Him. Secondly, you’ll have a homosexual revolution. Sound familiar?
Verse 28 says there’s a third step: “Just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind.” That’s a mind that doesn’t function. There’s a kind of insanity. What does that refer to? Not accepting reality. I read yesterday that this one author wants people to know there are a hundred genders. That’s insanity. What comes out of that insanity that we’re seeing now where you’re not even dealing with reality: we’re making laws to make the insane feel normal.
What comes out of that? “All kinds of things that are not proper, all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.” Okay, that’s what you get in that culture of insanity.
Verse 32 says the insanity is so severe that, “Though they know the ordinance of God.” How do they know it? Because it’s built into the fabric of their humanity. The law of God is written in the heart. And in our case, they’ve had the Bible. “And even though they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but give hearty approval to those who practice them.” They make them legal.
Why are we where we are? Because we’re under this wrath. This is not just us. Acts 14 says, “God has allowed all the nations to go their own way.” This is the cycle of human history. We are now in an evil kingdom. The kingdom we’re in is so evil that God’s wrath has been unleashed; and we’ve been living in it for a number of decades now from the sexual revolution, through the homosexual revolution, to the reprobate mind where you can’t even think straight and reality and fantasy are mingled.
The evil kingdom holds its power by one thing: lies. And that’s what Paul said: “They exchanged,” verse 25, “the truth of God for a lie.” The evil kingdom gains its power by lies. It holds its power by lies by suppressing the truth. What the evil kingdom fears most is truth, truth. The kingdom of darkness, the evil kingdom, has a ruler. Turn to John chapter 8. I’m being foundational here. John chapter 8.
Jesus said to religious Jews who had rejected God, John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks the lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” Verse 47, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you’re not of God.” If you’re in the evil kingdom, the kingdom of darkness, Satan the archetypal liar propagates lies through that kingdom, and that’s really all you can believe because you have no capacity to believe the truth.
So what threatens the kingdom of lies is truth. The liar’s history is pretty well-known. God created Adam and Eve, put them in the garden, gave them a command. Satan showed up, the liar, and told Eve God lied: “You’re not going to die; God lied to you.” She believed the liar, and the whole human race fell. Now the apostle John says, “The whole world lies in the lap of the Evil One,” and the lap of the Evil One is a lap of lies. By the way, it’s an interesting note when you come to the end of the book of Revelation, Revelation chapter 22:15, and we’re in eternal heaven. It says, “The liars are outside.” For the first time in redemptive history and forever, heaven will have only the truth.
The kingdom of darkness is a kingdom of lies. Even humanity recognizes the importance of truth. Plato said, “No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth.” George Orwell said, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” A line that came out of the Nazi-German era, “Those who burn books will soon burn people,” because they have to stop the truth. The truth is the only power against the lies.
This is not new to us; this is essentially the indictment of Isaiah against Israel. Back in chapter 5 it says among the indictments, chapter 5 of Isaiah, verse 20, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” That’s what happens. The evil kingdom switches everything. Everything is inside-out and upside-down.
Now I’m going to give you an axiom that you need to remember: “A society is defined by what it will not tolerate.” Did you get that? “A society is defined by what it will not tolerate.” When God wanted us to know His will, He didn’t say, “Let Me give you ten suggestions of what would be good behaviors.” He gave us Ten Commandments, because life is always going to be defined by what you tolerate.
In the past, even in our country, there was a traditional Judeo-Christian, biblical, conventional morality, and there were laws against certain kinds of behaviors. And when you violated those traditional laws drawn from Scripture there was shame. Those of you who went to college probably read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A look at 1850 viewpoint from Nathaniel Hawthorne of early America and the sad story of Hester Prynne who committed adultery and had to go through the rest of her life with an A stamped on her. That was the old culture, where biblical morality still had sway and shame was connected to the things that the Bible assigns shame. And that culture and the cultures that followed, adultery was scorned, fornication was looked down on, homosexuality was hardly talked about. Lesbianism was rare because women have a natural instinct to bear children with a husband. Transgender, beyond imagination. These kinds of things were virtually unacceptable and unimaginable.
Then came the rejection of God, then came the rejection of Scripture, and so the transcendent, sacred authority whose law was a standard for everyone gave rise to what Carl Trueman calls “the modern self,” where sovereignty goes from an external, sacred standard of God to the individual. And now we have self-styled sovereignty – everybody’s a sovereign over his own life and can declare himself to be anything he wants to be. God was rejected, the Bible’s rejected, and with it, biblical morality; everything goes to individualism. As a result, what our society will not tolerate is exactly the opposite of what it would not tolerate in the past. So we are now in an overturned morality. This society is making laws to normalize, justify sins, blatant sins.
Since the new king has come to power, I’m sure no previous ruler has been so consumed with LGBTQ, transgender perversion. When you have the swearing in of the new Secretary of State, and in being sworn in he vows to put a gay pride flag on every US embassy on the planet, there’s some kind of perversion that has literally turned our culture upside-down. If you disagree with this, you’re a domestic terrorist, you’re an extremist. Now if you disagree with this, you’re a danger; you’re breaking the law; you’re a homophobic; transphobic; you need to be silenced; you need to be terminated; you need to be marginalized. Maybe you need to be silenced all together or removed.
Laws are being made to criminalize righteousness. Laws are being made to silence, terminate truth speakers. Half of the states in America have such laws. An Air Force chaplain was removed from his duty because he gave a message against sexual immorality; he was dismissed. You either bake the cake or go to jail.
The new king can’t stop making rules, can he? You say, “Why are you calling us a monarchy?” Because of executive orders that are just endless. That’s unilateral rule. The king and the kingdom of lies will not tolerate the truth. To speak the truth is the greatest threat. They define it as hate speech, personal animus, and now as I said, domestic terrorism. And to sort of create theater about that, they put fences around the Capitol building and 30,000 troops, as if we are such a frightening enemy that they need to arm Washington to defend themselves.
There can be no civil liberties for those who tell the truth; there can be no freedom of speech for those who tell the truth, because they invade safe spaces, they trigger people. So the king and his lying agents must demonize the truth tellers. And then they need to demonize the past; they need to kill history. They need to go back so past moral standards don’t crawl up out of the grave and offend somebody. Strong societies have their foundation in sacred truth; they have a transcendent standard. When that is removed, what you have is barbarism, according to one writer. Barbarism means paganism, lack of civilization. So the trend here is exactly what Romans 1 said. It’s ungodliness and unrighteousness, godless paganism, hating God, hating Christ, hating the Scripture, hating the true church, and fearing the truth.
There was a Taiwanese general who was asked a question by a medical doctor about how Taiwan escaped the pandemic initially. And this Taiwanese general said this: “We have an entire department in the Taiwanese government that does nothing but monitor Chinese social media, and everything they censor we know to be the truth.” If you’re living in a reversed world, you have to think in reverse. You’re being lied to all the time.
Here’s a testimony from Natalia Zhakevich. Came to Grace thirty years ago with her five children; you know them. They left the USSR because of persecution. She finished high school, of course, at the top of her class as valedictorian, because all her kids are smart. She began her university studies on a prestigious, full-funded scholarship. She was being prepped to work as a translator in London in the Soviet Embassy, so she was studying English.
Her path would change when she became a believer. When the authorities found out that she was a believer, they demanded that she and her sister resign from their job. They ended up working as cleaning ladies. She couldn’t find a job after graduation. She spent the next thirteen years as a cleaning lady, cleaning the offices and emptying the trash bins of Soviet scholars, even though she graduated the top of the class.
When her older brother became a believer he was expelled from the Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering in the final semester of his studies. Her sister was expelled from another program in architecture after a woman saw her reading the Bible on a train. I’m afraid that masks are perfect training ground to teach people how to confront behavior they don’t like; and that can easily transition when they’re sent out to find Christians and confront that and report that as well.
Anyway, her sister was expelled. But Natalia continued to play an important role in the underground church. She had regular meetings with believers from other countries who supported Soviet believers. They had a secret code. If they said, “Grandmother isn’t feeling well,” the meeting was off. If the telegram said, “Grandmother’s looking forward to the birthday party,” church was on.
1976, when Natalia and her fellow congregants came to church on a winter Sunday, they discovered on the front door of the building a large lock which had been placed there by the Soviet authorities. For the next two years the congregants met in the forest of Riga, Latvia during the warm months and in people’s homes during the winter. When police discovered their location they showed up to scatter the meeting and arrest the leadership. Despite the threat of arrest, the church continued to meet and accept new members, baptizing new converts in local lakes in the middle of the night, sometimes in the middle of the winter.
1981, Natalia’s home was raided by seventeen KGB agents and police officers, who confiscated six large bags of religious material and personal belongings. During those years Natalia’s friends were arrested on various occasions, interrogated by the KGB and sent to prison for multiple-year sentences. Her best friend, a 19-year-old young woman, was sent to a Siberian labor camp for six years for participating in a children’s Christian camp. And while the Soviet authorities prevented Natalia from working as a translator for the Communist regime, she became the church translator for all the missionaries who visited her local church.
In God’s providence, she brought that little family here. She must have been your first English teacher. And what an incredible blessing. Is your mom here today? Mom, where are you? If you’re here you need to stand up. I know you don’t like that. Where are you? There she is, right there. All of that was a result of Marxism and socialism, words you’re hearing all the time, all the time.
Satan is the liar king; he is the liar king. He has a massive supernatural force of demons against whom we wrestle. His children are liars. The kingdom of darkness is known by its lies. This has penetrated the most sacred halls of our government, Supreme Court. In 2013 the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act to make way for homosexual behavior and marriage, and actually declared in their filing that religious objections to homosexuality come from hate. God is out; prayer is out. The Ten Commandments are out; get those off the wall. The Bible is out; blasphemy is in. Immorality is to be protected. In fact, laws are to be made and enforced to normalize perversion.
Cancel all dissent. There can’t be any dissent. That’s why people are getting canceled. That’s why their Twitter accounts are being taken down. And big tech is in cahoots with this paganism; and for the first time in human history they can shut down anybody they want.
This leads me to draw your attention to 2 Corinthians chapter 10. Your watch is irrelevant this morning; stop looking at it. I know what you’re doing in those pauses. Second Corinthians 10:3, “Though we walk in the flesh,” – and he doesn’t mean sin, but humanity – “though we’re human, we do not war according to the flesh.” We can’t fight this spiritual battle with any human strategies. “The weapons of our warfare are not human, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” We’ve got to realize that we’re assaulting fortresses; that’s the word for palaces, forts, prisons, and tombs. We’re assaulting massive stone edifices; we have to destroy them, and we don’t expect to do that with human ingenuity and human strategy.
What are these fortresses? He says in the next verse: “We are destroying logismos,” – ideas, ideologies, philosophies, speculations. We are destroying lies, because they are defined further as “every anti-God idea, every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.” We as a church in the world have the responsibility to assault the fortresses of lies – why we’re here – to smash down every idea raised up against the true knowledge of God. And then on the positive, “Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” That’s magnificent language, isn’t it?
We turn people from lies to the truth; that’s why we’re here. So do you understand what a threat we are? We exist in the world for one purpose, and that is to expose the lies and to bring the truth. And when lies dominate the kingdom at every point, and when they are basically the foundation of the society’s laws, we are not tolerable. But we are the kingdom; and the kingdom is here because the King is here.
God is our King. Psalm 47:7, “God is the King of all the earth.” Psalm 74:12, “God is my king.” Psalm 45:6, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.” Psalm 10:16, “The Lord is King forever and ever.” Jeremiah 10:10, “But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. The nations cannot survive His indignation.” Isaiah 33:22 says, “The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king. He will save us.” He’s a king that doesn’t need investigating, except to find the truth about Him on the pages of Scripture. He is holy, holy, holy.
In Deuteronomy chapter 10 I want to read just a portion of that chapter, starting maybe at verse 12: “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God”—or to fear Yahweh your God—“to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep Yahweh’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to Yahweh your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did Yahweh set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day. So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. For Yahweh your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality”—unlike politicians—“and doesn’t take a bribe.” So wouldn’t democracy fix all this? No. No.
When God created man – I want you to follow this - when God created man – I mean a functioning democracy; we had that. When God created man, He created him in His image, right? So when you think about that, what do you think about? I think about it in three terms. He created him in God’s image, and that first reality is that we can relate – relationships. God is Trinity, right? So the image of God is the ability to have relationship, relate.
Second is to create, not procreate – every living thing procreates – but to create something other than yourself. This is where the image of God is most often seen in the massive amount of creation from technology to art and everything in between that comes out of man. Man has that component, not just to procreate – monkeys don’t write symphonies – but to write a symphony. But there’s a third thing: God created man in His image to relate, create, and dominate. Dominate? Yes. Back to Genesis chapter 1.
Man’s king of the earth. God said in chapter 1 of Genesis, verse 26, “Let’s make man in Our image,” – here’s the first thing He says – “according to Our likeness; and let them rule.” “Let them rule”? And He said it again in verse 28: “Let them rule.” It’s a Hebrew word, radah. It means “to dominate by force.”
So Adam was created to be a king; that’s right. Adam was created to be a king. And God’s ultimate plan is for a king to reign forever, right? When men fell, when Adam fell, his crown was taken away and Satan became king. We now live, according to Acts 26, in the dominion of Satan. But God promised that there would come a greater king who would crush Satan’s head. But until He came, and even after He came, all human history is the story of the usurper, the evil king, Satan, ruling the world through other evil kings, until the coming of the King of righteousness.
Even the best of kings is evil. They’re all fakes and frauds. In some sense, they’re all part of the kingdom of darkness, because the system is in the darkness. We’re grateful when there are rulers that are Christians. But the reality is that Satan rules the world, the whole world lies in His power, and so it’s just a series of evil kingdoms. They can be influenced by Christianity, but eventually they fall into evil, as we’ve seen. All these kings are previews of Antichrist, all of them.
Last week we saw that Saul was a preview of Antichrist, the final world ruler. And John says, “Even now there are many antichrists.” Any godless leader is an antichrist. History reflects that God designed kings to be the norm; and when a king is relatively good, there is blessing because the government functions to punish evildoers and to protect those who do good, like Romans 13 lays it out. But history reflects that kings, by God’s design, are a common grace given to us; but there’s no expectation that they would do what the righteous King will do, and that is to rule according to the will of God. Evil kings then are more pictures of Antichrist than they are of Christ.
Few glimpses of pictures of Christ. David, a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 13. Along the way, God has some Christ-honoring rulers, but none of them can picture perfectly the final Ruler, and nor can any of them crush Satan. So, even a believing ruler in a nation can’t overpower the darkness, can’t vanquish the usurper.
There’s an illustration of this, two illustrations of this. The first one comes in the book of Daniel in chapter 2, verse – well, we’ll look just at verse 37. This is the dream that the pagan king has, Nebuchadnezzar, he had these dreams. “You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory.” Really? He was dreaming that about himself; that’s a problem. By chapter 4, he’s spending seven years out in the field like a beast until he learns that the true God reigns. You may think you reign as some king, but only God reigns.
The New Testament counterpart to that is in the twelfth chapter of Acts. One of the most serious warnings to evil rulers is the account of Herod, who is impressed with himself as Nebuchadnezzar was. And so in verse 20 of Acts 12, we are introduced to this event. “On an appointed day,” verse 21, “Herod put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum” – or the judgment seat – “and began delivering an address to the people. The people kept crying out, ‘The voice of a god and not of a man!’ And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he didn’t give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
You know what I love about this? The next verse: “But the word of God continued to grow and to be multiplied.” The king will die; the word will live. No matter what the king does, he will die and the word will live.
When we come to the New Testament we come to the introduction of the perfect king: our Lord Jesus Christ. And in Luke chapter 1, as I told you last time, an angel comes to Mary, Gabriel, and says to her, verse 30, “Don’t be afraid; you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” This is the annunciation that the true King has arrived.
And from then on, this is something very, very important to Luke, chapter 8, verse 1: “He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God.” The kingdom had come because the King had come.
Chapter 9, “He called the twelve together, gave them power and authority over all the demons, healed diseases. And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God.” Verse 26 of that same chapter, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in HIs glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. And I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
Chapter 10 and verse 9, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Chapter 11, verse 20, “The kingdom of God has come upon you.” Chapter 12, verse 31, “Seek His kingdom, and these will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” And so it goes all the way through Luke.
In John 18 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight. But My kingdom is not of this world.” So who is in this kingdom, this kingdom of light in the midst of the kingdom of darkness? Those who are born again. John 3, Jesus said, “Unless you’re born again you can’t see the kingdom of God. You have to be born from above.”
To those who are regenerate and those who repent, “Repent, for the kingdom is here,” Matthew 4:17. For those who are humble and broken over their sin, hear these words of our Lord: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” – the spiritually bankrupt – “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn over their sin, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness they know they don’t have, they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, they’ll receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, they’ll see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, they’ll be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
What identifies you as someone in the kingdom is spiritual bankruptcy that comes to God, mourning over your sin, crying out for His righteousness or righteousness that you do not possess, receiving that righteousness which manifests itself in meekness, mercy, purity, peace, and persecution. It’s also the dependent who are in the kingdom. Jesus said, “Unless you become like a little” – What? – “child, you can’t enter My kingdom,” Matthew 18.
But let me sum it up the way Mark sums it up in Mark chapter 1, verse 15. “Jesus came,” verse 14, “into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying,” – this is so important – “‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come. The kingdom has come.’” – the invisible kingdom, the spiritual kingdom – “‘Repent and believe in the gospel.’”
So how do you get out of the kingdom of darkness, that will be destroyed and is being destroyed, into the kingdom of light? What do you do to be delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son? You must be regenerate; that’s a work from heaven. You must repent; that’s a work that the Spirit does to convict you of sin and righteousness and judgment. You must recognize your spiritual bankruptcy and poverty, and that there is no righteousness which can at all satisfy God’s requirement for a kingdom citizen. You must understand that you are utterly dependent, you have nothing to offer God, you come like a child, with no accomplishments. But summing it all up, as Mark does, you have to “believe the gospel.” You have to “believe the gospel.” The true kingdom is here.
A king was there. The Jews were not interested in that king, as our nation is not interested in Him. So Peter said to them on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:22, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” John put it this way: “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” He was in the world, the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. But verse 24 of Acts 2 says, “But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” There is a king you can’t kill; He already died and rose and lives forever.
Turn to the book of Revelation. We don’t have time to go through all that’s there, but a few minutes. Look at chapter 1, verse 5: “Jesus Christ,” – I love this – “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness [the prōtotokos, the premier One from the dead], and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and He has made us to be a kingdom, [a kingdom of priests]” – which means we have direct and total access to the Holy of Holies – “to His God and Father—to Him” – the faithful witness, firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth, to Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood, to Him who made us to be a kingdom, to Him who made us priests to His God and Father – “to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.” And everybody said, “Amen.” This is our King. This is our King.
The kingdom is here. The King is here, He lives in His people: Christ in you, the hope of glory. But the day is coming when He will come to establish His kingdom on earth. Listen to Revelation 11:15, “Seventh angel sounded; and there were voices, loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.’” Stop right there. Right now the kingdom of the world is not His, right? It’s ruled by wicked kings. It’s under the rule of Satan. But the day is coming when the kingdom of the world, not just the invisible kingdom, but the visible kingdom, the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever. And verse 18 says there’ll be wrath when He comes, and He will destroy those who rejected Him.
In the nineteenth chapter of Revelation, verse 11, the scene is even more dramatic: “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and” – What? – “True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He’s clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written,” – say it with me – “‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’” And every eye will see Him, will they not? Right now the King is invisible. The true King is here, He lives in His people, lives in you and me.
Now not everybody who claims to be in the kingdom is in the kingdom. I hear very wicked people say they’re religious, they’re spiritual, they go to a certain church. Listen to the words of our Lord in Matthew 7: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Really? Not everyone who goes to Mass one day and the next day makes laws that blaspheme God should expect to be going to heaven.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, Your name perform many miracles?’” That’s very religious. “I’ll declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me.’” Why did He not know them? Because they were practicing, What? Yeah, it’s the character of their lives that is the acid test of whether they are kingdom citizens or not. We know the kingdom is mixed. Matthew 13 says, “The wheat and tares grow together; only the angels can separate.”
So how do we respond? If you’re a non-Christian let me say this to you: repent and believe in the gospel; the King is here, the kingdom is here. Or Matthew 6:33, if you will, “Seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” What things? The things that you will ever need in time and eternity.
What is the reward of coming into the kingdom? Well, the truth will make you free. Luke 22:29-30, “And just as My Father granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at My table in the kingdom,” – you get to be at the head table in the eternal kingdom and sit forever with Christ; oh, not just at the table, Revelation 3:21 – “and sit down with Me on My throne, as I sat on My Father’s throne.” So if you are a non-Christian, the kingdom is here, the King is here; repent and believe the gospel.
Now what about a Christian? Well, you could take a cue from the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul in his calling from God showed us essentially what we all should be doing. He says to King Agrippa, giving his testimony in Acts 26, “I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision. The Lord gave me a vision, a call, and I was obedient.” So what was that obedience? “I kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles. From where I started in Damascus to the whole Gentile world, I declared the message,” – And what was the message? – “that they should repent and turn to God.” So you’re a believer? What’s your responsibility? The same thing: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
So we are unique people. First Peter 2, cant resist verses 9-10: “You’re a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” That’s why we’re here. Did you get that? So that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His light, His marvelous light; and those excellencies are intolerable in the kingdom of lies, intolerable.
You are aliens, you are strangers. Keep your behavior excellent, even when they slander you, even when they persecute you. So I would suggest that this is what we do. And blessed are you when you’re persecuted, for that’s evidence you’re in the kingdom.
There’s one other thing I want you to do, and I want to show it to you from 1 and 2 Timothy, 1 Timothy chapter 2. This is very straightforward now. “First of all, then,” – priority – “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,” – Are you ready for this? – “for kings and for all who are in authority.” So what are you supposed to be doing for the evil king and the evil empire and all his evil agents? What’s your responsibility? Proclaim the truth and do what? Pray. What are you praying for? You’re praying for their salvation, verse 4: “It is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior to do that, because God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of” – What? – “the truth.” So we have to proclaim the truth. We can’t hedge. We can’t compromise. We can’t hide it. We can’t soften it. We proclaim the truth, and we pray for the salvation of those in leadership, from the president on down.
Second Timothy 2:22-26, “Flee youthful lusts, pursue righteousness with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Be a part of the family of God, the fellowship of those who are calling on the Lord from a pure heart. “Refuse foolish and ignorant speculations.” Don’t get caught up in stupid arguments like evangelicalism is right now. “Refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, they just produce quarrels. The Lord’s slave must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” So there we are again; we’re going after people who are caught in the snare of the devil. That requires obedience to the commission, prayer, and the truth, because we’re leading them to the truth. We’re bringing every thought captive to Christ.
One more time, turn back to Revelation chapter 1, verse 5. This is the benediction. “Now,” verse 5, “to Jesus Christ, the faithful witness,” – He’s our model for faithful witness – “the firstborn from the dead,” – we followed Him; we were dead and we live – “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” – And we reign in Him – “To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests with access to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” And by the way, I need one more amen for verse 7: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” Let’s pray.
I think of the words of Isaac Watts who wrote the hymn that touches on this text in Revelation: “Now to the Lord, that makes us know the wonders of His dying love, be humble honors paid below and strains of nobler praise above. ‘Twas He that cleansed our foulest sins and washed us in His richest blood; ‘tis He that makes us priests and kings, and brings us rebels near to God. To Jesus our atoning Priest, to Jesus our superior King, be everlasting power confessed and every tongue His glory sung. Behold, on flying clouds He comes, and every eye shall see Him move; though with our sins we pierced Him once, then He displays His pardoning love. The unbelieving world shall wail, while we rejoice to see the day. Come, Lord Jesus, nor let Thy promise fail, nor let Thy chariots long delay.” Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
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