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THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST IN THE PRESENT ERA
THE kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of Christ; these are the leading denominations given to that economy of divine grace which is to eventuate in the restitution of all things. Though cognate titles, each expresses a distinctive idea. It is called the kingdom of God, not simply to denote its wholly divine character, but because it is the kingdom which the Father hath given to the Son, for the subordination of all things unto Himself. It is called the kingdom of heaven in that it is power put forth from heaven to bring back earth to heaven, and because it is to result in the assimilation of earth to heaven, in the will of God being done upon earth even as it is done in heaven. It is called the kingdom of Christ because He is the Head and Ruler of it, and because by and in Him all things are to be gathered up together, and to be reconciled and made subject unto God.
When we compare together the several passages in which this kingdom is spoken of, we at once perceive that different passages speak of it under
different aspects and in different stages. At one time it is spoken of as still to come, at another as already come. Thus our Lord bids us continually to pray, 'Thy kingdom come,' and yet tells the Jews Matt. vi. 10. that his casting out of devils was a proof that the Luke xi. 20. kingdom of God had already come upon them. In some passages it is spoken of as that which is still to be attained unto, a matter of future inheritance; in others as already realized by Christ's followers. Thus we are exhorted to seek the kingdom of God,' Matt. vi. 33. and it is promised that if we do certain things an abundant entrance' into it shall be ministered to 2 Pet. i. 11. us; and yet St. Paul gives thanks for the Colossians col. i. 13. as having been 'delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son.' Sometimes the coming of the kingdom Matt. xxiv. 30. is spoken of as being in manifestations of power Mark ix. 1. and great glory, and yet in answer to the Pharisees, who demanded of Him when the kingdom of God
should come, our Lord said, 'The kingdom of God Luke xvii. 20, 21. cometh not with observation, neither shall men say Lo here, or, lo there! for behold the kingdom of God is within you.' So St. Paul describes the kingdom of God as one of righteousness and peace Rom. xiv. 17. and joy in the Holy Ghost. In a passage before quoted all things without exception are said to be put in subjection to Christ, yet with this admission, we see not yet all things put in subjection Heb. ii. 8. under Him.' In one passage it is declared that of Christ's kingdom there shall be no end, yet in Luke i. 33. another it is said that the end cometh when He
shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father, and
having subjected all things, shall Himself become 1 Cor. xv. 24—23.
Matt. iv. 17.
subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
Now comparing together, I say, these and other passages, it becomes very evident that the kingdom of Christ is spoken of under different aspects and in different stages. This, it will at once be seen, falls in with what was discussed in the previous chapter, viz., that the ultimate consummation of the redemptive work and mediatorial reign of Christ is only to be reached through and after a succession of ages, and that these will be marked by varied manifestations of divine grace and power. The enquiry, then, now before us is, what Scripture reveals concerning these eras in their distinctive features.
And, first, as to that aspect of the kingdom of Christ which it now presents, and has presented since its commencement. Now, looked at under one point of view, in relation to its full and formal introduction, it may be said that the kingdom of Christ was set up on the Day of Pentecost. Not until the great High Priest had finished the atonement for the reconciliation of the world to God, not until He had entered into the holy place to assume his intercessory office, not until as a Priest He had sat down upon his throne and had shed forth upon his Church the Holy Ghost, not till then, may we say, was the kingdom of Christ distinctly promulgated and formally introduced. Hence, prior to this, the kingdom of heaven is spoken of as being at hand'; after this, it is preached by the apostles as opened to all believers, and men are invited to enter into it. Still, under another point
of view, considered as an economy of grace savingly operative ever since the Fall, the commencement of the kingdom of Christ dates back to the beginning of the ages. The counsel of redemption, ' ordained 1 Pet. i. 20. before the foundation of the world,' at once began
to take effect from the moment sin entered into
the world, in that from the first souls were pardoned by virtue of that atonement which flung back its
fragrance to the fall of man, and in anticipation
of his sacrifice who was the Lamb slain from the Rev. xiii. 8. foundation of the world.' While, therefore, it is to
the New Testament, of course, that we must mainly
was 'the shadow of the good things to come,' in the Heb. x. 1.
Behold, the kingdom of God is within you,' said our Lord to the Pharisees, in answer to their enquiry when the kingdom of God should come. Their notion of that kingdom was altogether a carnal one, they associated it entirely with the aggrandisement of the Jews, and they expected it to be ushered in with conspicuous external manifestations. In correction of this idea and anticipation, our Lord tells them that the kingdom of God cometh not with Luke xii. 20, 21. observation,' with such outward show, that is, that men could at once point thereto and say, 'Lo, here is the kingdom of heaven.' Not such the kingdom of heaven; the nature of which is of an inner not of an outer character, invisible rather than plainly open
Rev. i. 7.
to the eye, a kingdom that may be near and present, yet not seen by many. Behold the kingdom of God is within you.' It is true, indeed, that there Matt. xxvi. 64. shall be a coming of the Son of Man in his kingdom with such visible power and glory as that 'every eye shall see Him.' But that belongs to another era of it; the present one is not so. The kingdom of heaven, as it now is, is a spiritual power, it is grace reigning in the heart, it is the dominion which Christ exercises by the invisible operation of his Spirit, captivating the affections of his people, and constraining their obedience. The kingdom of heaven, in its present stage, is that which was set up on the Day of Pentecost, and has been continued ever since, a kingdom of spiritual influence; the influence of that Spirit whom the ascended and exalted Christ sent forth upon his adherents, to illumine, to sanctify, and strengthen them; a Spirit to convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment; a Spirit to pierce the conscience, to convince men of their need of a Saviour, and to take of the things of Christ, and to show them to those so convinced. The kingdom of heaven, then, in its present era, consists of that spiritual rule which the Lord Jesus exercises over the hearts and lives of his people, swaying their affections, and receiving their homage and loyal obedience. Thus Christ sits a Priest upon his throne,' drawing souls unto Him by the power of his cross, and making them willing by the power of that Spirit which He went away that He might send forth. Thus the kingdom now is not one of the visible manifestation of Christ; personally absent, He is present by his Spirit. It is a kingdom
John xvi. 8.
Zech. vi. 13.
John xvi. 7.