Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Christ's Kingdom and the Law

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic 

Christ and His Law

Lesson 13: Christ's Kingdom and the Law


Every government must have a law, a constitution. If the government of your country were to abolish all highway traffic laws, you would never dare to travel anywhere. If someone walked down the highway shouting, "All traffic laws are abolished! Drive on any side of the road you please! Freedom!" the people would know he was a fool, and the police would rightly lock him up.

As soon as someone begins to find fault with God's "perfect law of liberty" we may likewise know that he is himself either a fool, or is in bondage to the enemy of God. In fact, this is the test by which we may know if God has sent a man, or if Satan has sent him. This is a fair warning as we conclude this series of studies on Christ and His law.

Men who say that the law of God is abolished cannot be sent of God, for Jesus Himself said: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. ... Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:17-20).

Every human being upon the face of the earth must choose between the "glorious liberty" of the sons of God in obedience to God's perfect "law of liberty" in His kingdom, or the bondage of obedience to the evil rule of Satan.

The master inventor of all fiendish schemes wants to embarrass Christ. If Satan can perpetuate sin among God's people, he has his success made. This is his best way to sabotage Christ's kingdom.

Let's face a reality: continued apathy now is sin. And as time goes on, it will be seen to be a re-crucifixion of Christ. The enemy cannot at present use physical force. His strategy has been to take advantage of our ignorance of what sin is and thus induce in us a spiritual paralysis. Our singular lukewarmness is an enchanted-ground lethargy on the borders of the heavenly kingdom.

Here is the source of evil. Satan's campaign on earth against God is a cosmic struggle that dwarfs all of our petty concerns for our own personal salvation. The fate of a world is in the balance. But even more: something still greater is involved. God cannot be a tyrant in the universe, ruling over unwilling subjects who do not trust Him. The fate of His government is in the balance too.

If political tyrants have fallen because their peoples break free from the chains of oppression, demanding democracy, so surely must God rule only by the voluntary, wholehearted acclaim of His subjects. Satan's lies must be unmasked and he must be defeated in order for the kingdom of God to be established.

The war between good and evil cannot go on forever, for if it does it will prove that God is impotent. And that will mean that truth cannot prevail. No news could be worse than that. Victory for righteousness must come. This is precisely the scenario that the Bible unveils in the book of Revelation:

"Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:10, 11).

True "salvation" is greater than our personal security. It is the salvation of the cause of righteousness and truth. Our personal salvation is involved in that greater salvation, like saving your finger from drowning is included in saving your body. In fact, our personal salvation would be worthless without that greater salvation having been achieved. There is no way that "saved" souls can exist independently of God!

Every time we pray the Lord's Prayer, we pray the prayer that may be over our heads in understanding. This setting up of "the kingdom of God" is the same as the goal of the Lord's prayer: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10).

The "kingdom" has not yet "come." It's been awaiting establishment now for two millennia since Christ gave us this prayer of expectation; many who reverence the Bible as the Word of God wrestle with the conviction that it's overdue. It's been hindered. But they also are convicted that if there is any delay, the honor of God will be compromised.

The coming of "the kingdom" is equivalent to the great "other angel [who] comes out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sits on the cloud, 'Thrust in Your sickle, and reap; for the time is come for You to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe'" (Rev. 14:15). It's the grand close of probationary history of this earth.

The coming of the kingdom is also equivalent to the grand climax of Christ's work as the world's High Priest: "We have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, ... not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:14, 15). The 1888 message is about our High Priest's work; to reconcile the alienated hearts of God's people to Him; another name for that is the ministry of the antitypical Day of Atonement (a simple word, at-one-with-God-in-heart). Yes, for that to happen would be a miracle; but that's what the Lord's Prayer has been praying for all this long while!

Another word for atonement is "the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary" (see Dan. 8:14), a phrase that makes sense only if it is understood as the cleansing of the hearts of God's people from all sin, known and also unknown. The honor and vindication of Christ in the "great controversy with Satan" is involved in thus establishing "the kingdom." That is our true motivation, something that transcends our concern for saving our own poor little souls.

Satan's enmity and warfare are now directed against "our brethren," that is, against all who are loyal to God. Those who are loyal to Satan remain on his side. All human beings are therefore involved in this great spiritual war, and no one can exempt himself from being on one or the other side.

Loyalty to God is expensive, for it means (for many at least) the sacrifice of life itself. But this is not difficult for them, for they are loyal "unto the death" through faith in "the blood of the Lamb." Christ was loyal to them "unto death," "even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8). They say, "Thank You" for such a sacrifice.

--Paul E. Penno
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Raul Diaz