What's in the Bible for you?

We live in a society that probably has the greatest freedom of any age to do as it pleases. Freedom is a prized possession, as many people will tell you who live in countries where oppressive regimes are dominant. Think about that day when the Americans rolled into Baghdad; men tore down images of Saddam Hussein and struck them with their shoes, the ultimate sign of insult that could never have happened during the regime of Saddam.

What the world saw was a release for a nation of people, a perception on their part that they had gained a freedom not experienced for many, many years. Freedom of expression is what men and women all over the world crave for. They don’t want to be beholden to anybody and don’t like to be told what to do, unless it suits them.

But what is freedom really all about? Essentially it is the freedom of choice, a value the people of this country probably take for granted. There is one choice we all make that has the most profound effect upon us as individuals, but it is rarely one we hear mentioned. We all have the capacity and freedom to choose whether or not to heed the message of the Bible - we either accept it, or we reject it. There is no half-way house, we have to come down on one side or the other. We might not all know what that message is, but there are probably very few, if any, in Christian society who don’t know of the existence of the Bible. That is God’s declared message to man, which we either choose, or reject.

The choice we make probably stems from whatever answer we derive from the question ‘what’s in the bible for me?’ For most people their choice is one of rejection because they probably have no idea what the bible is really about. Many have the idea that it is simply a guide for Christian living, often referred to only for what Jesus had to offer as advice for a good life. Many others see it as God’s direction on how we should live our life on earth, with a belief that men and women will eventually go to heaven when they die. But many don’t accept it because it places restrictions upon believers to live in obedience to the commandments of God. That to some takes away their prized freedom to do just what they like.

Sadly, such views are very far wide of what the bible offers. True, there is guidance on how we should live on the earth, as directed by God, and it does appear to take away freedom to do just as we like, but there is much more to the bible than that. The whole of the scriptures is a message to mankind from God about a wonderful future in prospect for the earth, but with that comes a great responsibility for those who seek to be part of that future.

It all hangs on our freedom of choice to disobey God, or to obey Him. The bottom line for our future is expressed by God through the apostle Paul, who wrote ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ We all know we will die, but that message brings us hope that we can escape death and live for ever. It is that message of hope we wish you to know is there for me and for you.

Now if we were to turn to Luke 8:1 we would read that Jesus ‘went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God.’ This was the Gospel that Jesus preached, which simply means ‘good tidings’ or ‘good news’. So Jesus preached good news concerning the Kingdom of God, of which he himself is to be enthroned as King.

The Kingdom then, is to be a ‘good’ thing, something to look forward to. So good in fact, that the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles was all to do with persuading men and women to seek for a position in that Kingdom by obeying the commandments of God.

Those who are persuaded and who faithfully obey God, will actually be given positions with Jesus as kings and priests, which we hope to see a little later.

Now that is an incredible offer, because it doesn’t require any organisation of men and women to elevate us into that position. It is an offer from God, and He alone determines whether or not you and I can participate in that Kingdom. That offer is made to me, and to you, and it is that good news we want to investigate today.

As the ‘good news’ concerns the future Kingdom of God, we would like now to justify these remarkable statements and to learn what the Kingdom is all about, the right of Jesus to be King, and what is required of each of us to participate in that glorious age to come.

What we hope to demonstrate form the scriptures will of course merely scratch the surface and time forbids any lengthy or deep consideration. But we do hope to instil within you a desire to pursue the matter and discover the great things written for our learning, and benefit.

Let us then address ourselves to the age to come, and consider what light the bible sheds on the future of the world.

As Jesus is not at this time on the earth, for him to become the king of the earth necessitates his return from heaven, where he currently resides at God’s right hand. The scriptures assure us that he will return, as the angel stated at the time of his ascension:

“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1: 9-11) The apostle Peter reinforces this with his own statement, but adds a rider:

“And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3: 20-21) So the ascension to heaven and the return to earth of Jesus, was, says Peter, spoken before by God through the prophets ‘since the world began’. So this wasn’t something new, this was foretold by the prophets in Old Testament times, which we shall look at a little later God Willing.

In what capacity, then, is Jesus to return? As a king, we said earlier, and so it shall be,

“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” (Matthew 25: 31) Jesus is to sit on a throne, styled here ‘the throne of his glory’, but which throne will that be? As we said, Luke records that Jesus went about preaching the good news concerning the Kingdom of God, and upon investigation we establish that it is to be the throne of the Kingdom of God which Jesus is to inherit.

Also we find that that throne has been previously established in the earth, for the Kingdom of God to come will be the re-establishment of the Kingdom of Israel, which was the Kingdom of God set up over His people the nation of Israel.

The first king to take up the throne of that kingdom was Saul, a man who was appealing to the people. However, he was replaced by a man chosen by God, for Saul, although he was a man of stature, his heart was not right before God and did not reign acceptably in the eyes of God. As for David, although he was but a shepherd, was, in God’s words, ‘a man after His own heart’, a righteous king and pleasing to God.

Now God promised David that he would raise him up a descendent who would occupy that same throne. David did not live to see that descendent, but had faith that God would keep His promise. Peter it is again who confirms this for us, “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.” (Acts 2: 29-30) It was to be Jesus then who would one day sit upon the throne of David, who was the ‘fruit of David’s loins’ or his direct descendent. This is how the angel announced the birth of Jesus to his mother Mary,

“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1: 31-33)

As Jesus has yet to return to the earth this prophecy must still concern the future. So we read that Jesus will be great, and ‘the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David’. This agrees entirely with what we have seen so far, and we also read that he will ‘reign over the house of Jacob (or Israel) for ever’.

Jesus is therefore to reign over Israel, of which kingdom there will be no end. It was, we said, the mission of Jesus to preach the Kingdom of God, and so we see that the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of God are one and the same thing.

But, we also said that this kingdom was to preside over the whole earth. How can this be if it is to be the Kingdom of Israel? Israel exists at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, won’t that nation constitute the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Israel?

Well, yes, the Kingdom will be in that territory, and the throne will be situated in Jerusalem, but the Kingdom will also take in all the nations of the earth which will become the dominions of the Kingdom of Israel.

“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, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2: 44) “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7: 13-14) If we care to at our leisure, we can read in Ezekiel chapters 38-39, and Zechariah chapter 14, of the return of Jesus to commence and fulfil the outworking of God’s purpose to destroy the kingdoms of men, and to establish the throne of the Lord in Jerusalem.

This great, righteous and equitable Kingdom, is to be ruled over by Jesus, but not on his own. He is to have assistants, namely the saints, and saints are simply those who are faithful to God, and who are obedient to His Will and commandments. Such saints will be rewarded with a position in the Kingdom to reign with Christ, v18, 27.

“But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever..…And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.” (Daniel 7:18, 27) The apostle Paul, in writing to the Corinthians (2 Cor 6:2) said ‘Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?’ Clearly there is to be a position for the faithful in the Kingdom,

“And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5: 9-10) That surely is a marvellous prospect that is on offer in the Bible, and one that most people are totally unaware is there for us to seek after. But that is what we urge you to do today. What we want you to understand is that this is the clear and unambiguous message of the Bible, and it is an invitation to you, and to me, to be a participant in the future Kingdom of God.

Accepting that then, we might well ask what difference will there be with this Kingdom to set it aside from all other kingdoms, the kingdoms of men, which are corrupt and totally fallible? Well look at the words spoken by Jeremiah,

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgement and justice in the earth In his days Judah shall be saved, andIsrael shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23: 5-6) This prophecy also speaks of the reign of Jesus, for the Spirit in speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, says that God will raise unto David a righteous King, ‘who shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgement and justice in the earth.’ Who can say of any ruler in any shape or form, who rules or has ruled, who can be said to be righteous, to reign with justice? There is no king or ruler who can claim that authority. But Jesus will, he shall be called ‘the Lord our RIGHTEOUSNESS’.

There will be none of the fallibility, none of the corruption, none of the excesses, or lies and deceit, of those in power in this present order of things. Righteousness does not breed corruption, nor does it fail; Jesus will reign with perfect judgement,

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.” (Isaiah 11: 1-5) These are indeed wonderful and equitable characteristics for a King. Never has this earth seen such perfection in its rulership. No longer will there be different classes of people receiving different levels of judgement, based upon weak and imperfect laws requiring constant change. There will be one law for both rich and poor, a perfect law without the imperfections of the laws of men, being devised as it will be by the Highest Authority commanding the heavens and the earth, the One true God.

How comforting it will be to be subject to such righteous laws. And where will such laws emanate from? Jerusalem.

“The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jersualem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” (Isaiah 2: 1-2) Men and women will recognise the wisdom of the ways of God, and will seek to learn of them. Such people will be converted to the ways of God, not remain as they are today in a Godless society honouring the ways of mankind rather than the Creator and sustainer of all life.

“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3) “At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.” (Jeremiah 2: 17) ‘Then’ says the prophet Zephaniah (Zeph 3:9), ‘will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the Name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent.’ No longer will there be many denominations seeking to please their own gods, but rather will they ‘with one consent’ worship the one true God of Heaven and earth.

With this will be brought at last a true peace. Not the so-called peace which is desperately sought by the world’s leaders of today, which will remain elusive until Jesus comes. Then, and only then, will peace reign on the earth. The weapons of war will at last be dismantled, and the effort at present put into defence and aggression, will rather be directed towards peaceful ends,

“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4) What a marvellous prospect that is, my dear friends. If you want something from the Bible what better future could you ask for than one without fear? We know that Jesus will rule in righteousness, and the prophet Isaiah elsewhere (ch32:17) says, ‘The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.’ How can we not want to experience that moment?

Wasn’t this the declared purpose of Jesus as spoken by a multitude of angels at his birth? ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ (Luke 2:14)

Whilst in the prophet Isaiah, we can see how he provides us with a beautiful description of a peaceable kingdom, and the effects of a righteous order,

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” (Isaiah 11: 6-10) How can anybody neglect such a marvellous prospect? Yet that is precisely what the world does, howbeit mainly through ignorance.

What then is life going to be like in the Kingdom? Man at present toils in the ground because it was put under a curse by God, and even now it reluctantly gives up its harvest (Gen 3:17) When Christ returns and establishes the Kingdom, the curse will be removed; as the psalmist says, ‘Then shall the earth yield her increase.’ (Ps 67:6)

The prophets are full of the prospect of a blossoming earth. ISAIAH 55:13; 41:19-20; 35:1-2, 5-7.

“Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:13) “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.” (Isaiah 41: 19-20) “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God…. .. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.” (Isaiah 35: 1-2, 5-7) So no longer will man toil, for even the waste places will blossom. He will also reap the benefits for longer, as he will live longer, thus accomplishing something which man today tries in vain to secure.

“There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.” (Isaiah 65: 20-21) The people spoken of here directly are the Jews, who will reside in the land promised to them by God, but the principle holds for all the inhabitants of the Kingdom. With long life will come blessedness, with freedom from disease and suffering.

What we have spoken of paints a picture of life in the approaching Kingdom of God. It is a picture in great contrast to the age we live in now.

Now, there are two classes of people involved in the Kingdom. What we have been considering, are those people who will form a mortal population which will be ruled over by Jesus, and the saints. Remember we spoke of them didn’t we? They are those men and women who have been faithful and obedient to God before Jesus returns. Jesus in coming, will bring blessing and glory to the saints as well. But with that they will receive a position with Jesus which in fact will be given as a reward for their conduct during their life in this present order of things. It is this we wish to turn to now, because if we want to be in the Kingdom we first have a responsibility to do what God has commanded.

When Jesus was on the earth, his work was to preach the gospel concerning the Kingdom of God. The requirement of those who would have a position in that Kingdom, was a life of obedience and dedication to the commandments of Christ. But there is something else that we haven’t yet touched on since our opening comments, and this is something in the Gospel that is open to us that is a great gift from God which will change our lives for ever.

And it all hangs on the need to believe and obey the things that God has revealed through His Son Jesus, which was the message the apostles were to deliver to the world as Jesus had to Israel, MARK 16:15-16.

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16: 15-16) Failure to believe will bring death, but belief and subsequent observance of the commandments of Christ will bring that reward of life in the Kingdom, never to die again. What greater gift can God bestow upon us that everlasting life? That is ultimately what is here for me and for you, in the Bible before us. Those who succeed and who are found acceptable by Jesus at the judgement seat, for that is where our future will be decided, will be amongst that number described in the Revelation.

“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7: 9-17) What a tremendous prospect that presents to us, a life preserved by the power of God, suffering neither hunger nor thirst, and ‘God will wipe away all tears from (our) eyes.’ That is the salvation of the saints; it is the message which is offered by God, now, today, through His Word the Bible. You have the opportunity to become an immortal ruler with Jesus. You don’t need to be one of those who reject this opportunity, because you now know, if you didn’t before, of the great blessings which the faithful will receive at the hand of Jesus. What greater blessing could he bestow upon us than that of everlasting life? God has promised this to each one of us, provided we exercise our freedom of choice now to be obedient to His commandments.

With that comes the wonderful hope and expectation for the return of Jesus who will change the world we live in for ever.

What we would like you to take away with you is this last thought because out of all the evil, the pain, the suffering, that we experience in this life, will come a life of unimaginable blessing and joy.

The final glory is expressed in the book of Revelation and we commend it to you as our concluding thought.

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Revelation 21: 3-7)

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