The Secret of the Kingdom

Luke 17:20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The Kingdom of God doesn’t come with observation;

21 neither will they say, ‘Look, here!’ or, ‘Look, there!’ for behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.”

Jesus spoke often of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Whether or not these are one and the same is another matter. For the purposes of this essay, I’ll treat them as one as, if these two terms do refer to different Kingdoms or different aspects of the same Kingdom, the same principles apply either way.

The sharpest among you have surely made the leap already.

How many times did Jesus say “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”? I’ll answer for you – once. He said “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” three times. The words “at hand” means close to us in time and/or space. What if there is another meaning?

Consider a teacher instructing an apt student. The teacher tries to convey an important albeit abstract concept. He can see the student consistently overlooks the one important aspect that would make everything crystal clear.” He says “You are almost there.”. In other words, the solution to this problem is at hand. Such is the Kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

King James Version (KJV)

Wait. What?! Look at verses 3 and 4 in the World English Bible (WEB)

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh;

4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds,

Verse 4a says “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (or carnal in the KJV). The word for flesh and carnal share the same root in the Greek. Let me ask you… if something is not of the flesh, then of what is it? Of course, scripture often compares the flesh with the spirit, but here, let’s consider verse 5…

2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Hmmmm – imaginations and knowledge, bringing into captivity every thought. There you have it. Humans think in pictures and… words. Let’s take this one step further.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The word of God is sharper than any twoedged sword. Where else is the word of God compared to a sword?

Ephesians 6:17b …the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

This verse is near the end of the great passage revealing the true nature of our warfare.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

Notice how every aspect of the armour of God is directly related to words. This is a spiritual truth. This is why prayer is powerful, why we are exhorted to renew our minds, and why Jesus said “the Kingdom of God is within you”. Ask yourself… “within you” where? In your feet? In your belly? No! In your “heart” – a figure of speech indicating the very center of your being. In other words, your mind.

What a revolutionary statement! No other creature formed on earth can rival man’s ability to communicate with words. We exist on a higher plain, just as spiritual beings exist on a plain higher than ours. I am not so sure it started out that way. Adam communed with God on a personal level. From the scriptural accounts one can ascertain their relationship was not like our own at all. While born again believers have regained the potential to operate in the spiritual realm, we are not quite complete… yet.

1 Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

Some use this passage to justify their contention believers can no longer operate the nine manifestations of the spirit. Personally, I find this ironic considering this passage follows on the heels of the most detailed treatment of the manifestations of the spirit and instruction and exhortation on speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and prophecy – three of the nine manifestations. Why bother with this at all and then say “oh, yeah, use this while you can because when I pen my last epistle, all of this is done because then the new testament scriptures will be complete”. Do note, neither Paul, nor any of the early church fathers said this… ever.

The Apostle Paul, however, did indicate when “that perfect will come” will be a reality, and he was not alone. Of course I speak of the return of Christ. He is perfect and he certainly will come. At that time:

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We shall all be changed. Isn’t that wonderful? And, oh gee look, this passage comes soon after that one I wrote of before! Go figure. In the same epistle even. Huh. Context! By this I mean, rather than taking a few verses out here and there, do consider the whole – where and how it fits. Surely there are some asides in these epistles and elsewhere but overall it is our job to rightly divide and discern how these things apply.

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The WEB presents this in a different light

2 Timothy 2:15 (WEB) Give diligence to present yourself approved by God, a workman who doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly handling the Word of Truth.

This is one reason why it can be helpful to compare different versions. I do this quickly and easily using the free software Theophilos, but one can also use online tools such as the Blue Letter Bible. To be fair the BLB is actually a stronger tool as it allows the student to instantly seek out the meanings of the words used – such as “study vs give diligence” above. The results of such studies are not always conclusive but they more often than not offer far more insight than simply reading one version or even comparing two or more.

Talk about asides. 🙂

So what is the Secret of the Kingdom? Jesus told us in the verse at the beginning of this post. Beyond that, the Kingdom of God is accessed by us mere humans by the utterly simple means of accepting Jesus, the Messiah, as Lord and Savior.

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Romans 10:8a But what saith it?

Romans 10:8b The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Romans 10:11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

In part one of this post, I took to task those who scoff at “mere words”. The “mere words” they love to scoff at are God’s words i.e. His WORD. These same scoffers will then use words to justify their claims and even more words to deceive and control anyone within earshot. Controllers overwhelmingly control via words. It is only when those words are ignored do they then apply force.

Words are the substance of human society and iteration. They set us above all other earthly creatures. In Genesis, God destroyed the tower of Babel and confused man’s language. Why?

Genesis 11:6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

God knows the power of words. Read Genesis from the beginning. The phrase “And God said…” occurs numerous times in the “creation” account. (Pop quiz: How many times does Genesis says God created? The answer may surprise you.) Consider just some of those things God said about words.

Psalms 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Proverbs 15:26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.

Isaiah 45:22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

Micah 2:7 O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the LORD straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?

Luke 9:26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.

1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

1 Peter 1:25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword

Thus I urge you to take the words and Word of God to heart. The day will come when you will either be glad you did or woe your decision to ignore them.

Just Words… Again

How many people today snort in contempt when someone mentions God’s Word? How many roll their eyes when God is mentioned? Are you one of them? For those who believe – how much do you believe? My own confession may surprise you. I’d have to say – it depends. Depends on what? How much I believe depends on how certain I am what is held forth as God’s Word truly is just that – God’s Word. It depends on my understanding. While I don’t have to understand something to believe it, I tend to believe more strongly in those things I understand best. Don’t we all?

No matter how much, or little, stock you put in God’s Word, as you understand it, let’s say we consider the concept of words in general. As a writer, I know words can be powerful. They can also be as wimpy as that 98 lb weakling on the beach. Then again, you need not be a writer to understand this. We’ve all been hurt by words. Many times words can cause pain far worse than a beat down. Ironically, much of the pain depends on the source. Keep this in mind…

If you would, stop for a moment and consider the events of your day. Pay particular attention to those things you see. Single out the “news” items. Let’s dump the news items concerning actual, physical violence for now. Instead let us zero in on, oh say, government doings, shall we? What do you see?

Depending on the day, chances are you are seeing some sort of legal action. You might be viewing reports on what law enforcement is or is not doing. Congress is sure to be up to one thing or another, as is our state legislatures and governors. You might notice none of them, with the exception of law enforcement, carries weapons. We’ll get to the law enforcement bit in a moment.

First let’s consider the lawmakers. By now you know where I’m going with this. Whether they are current involved in actual legislative action or they are jockeying for one agenda or another, they are using words. Laws are words. Political platforms are words. Don’t all legal actions boil down to what the words really mean? Ask any lawyer, the heart of any law is comprised of the definitions included.

Moving on to law enforcement, of course weapons are typically used. That said, the true force of law is not in weaponry but in the words. Without words, there are no laws to be enforced. Indeed, without our the words of our Constitution, we have no basis to even define laws. Warrants are words empowering those enforcing the law to search, to seize, to arrest. Summons call citizens and non-citizens to courts of law where their fate is determined on the words presented.

Beyond the realm of legislatures, laws, and courts, now consider some other stories vying for your attention. Is it fair to say words, in one way or another, influenced or are even directly involved in these acts? Violence does not happen in a vacuum. Even accidents often are the result of someone ignoring the rules of the road expressed in words.

In fact, the deeper you dig the more you will discover the roots of nearly all human activity are either expressed in or the direct result of… words.

Our nation was founded upon our Constitution – words. Our forefathers’ beliefs were based on what they learned in their youth, be it from the scriptures, from the classics, or from their elders. All words. Our laws take form in words. From the highest offices of the land to the most secret places in the darkest depths, the most damning and damaging weapons used against us are words.

So… and I’m speaking to you unbelievers and neer believers – go ahead – scoff at God’s Word. For those of you to envision an angry, vengeful god, take note, you are so very, very wrong.

Mark 10:17 And as he was going forth into the way, there ran one to him, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good save one, even God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor thy father and mother.

What did Jesus tell this fellow? Did he laugh in his face? Deride him? No. He told him simply to heed the commandments he’d been taught from his youth. You know what they are but I’ll post them here as a reminder.

Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

7 Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

12 Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee.

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

Note Jesus listed only seven of the ten. Which ones did he omit? Have no other Gods, do not make idols, and remember the sabbath. Those first two were likely a given considering the man was asking one he addressed as “good master”, in other words, a respected rabbi and not some priest representing any false god. As for remembering the sabbath, I don’t know why he didn’t include it.

None of these omissions detract from my point – only one of the above even hints at possible vengeance and that one merely states “Jehovah will not hold him guiltless”. More importantly, what do these commandments actually require?

For the most part that we treat others decently. How awful! What terrible god would require such things? (Do I need a sarcasm tag here?) So many have and will point out all the killing and such detailed in the scriptures. Two of these are among the most brutal.

In Judges, there is the story of a Levite who takes a concubine. Scripture says she “played the harlot”. Many verses later, the man literally cuts her into twelve pieces and “sent her throughout all the borders of Israel”. Ouch. Again, this man was a Levite or one of God’s priests class.

The second passage results in Israel’s first king, Saul, losing his kingdom.

1 Samuel 15:28 And Samuel said unto him, Jehovah hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine, that is better than thou.

Why? What did he do? What commandment did he fail at keeping?

 And Samuel said unto Saul, Jehovah sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel: now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of Jehovah.

2 Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, I have marked that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt.

3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

That’s right. God commanded King Saul to totally obliterate Amalek – everyone and every thing, even the babies. And Saul did just that… almost. Where did he fail?

1 Samuel 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

You read right. Saul spared the Amalek King Agag, and the best livestock. In other words he showed mercy (and a bit of greed) and lost his Kingdom because of it. As brutal as this seems, our Heavenly Father’s logic turned out to be absolutely infallible. Go figure. Because the Amalek line was allowed to continue, this tribe caused no end of trouble for Israel. It was an Amalekite who eventually killed Saul. So much for mercy.

Moving on to the main point, the scriptures overwhelmingly encourage and exhort us to be good and do good. This is particularly true of the New Testament. If we were to heed God’s words in these pages, this world would indeed be a peaceful and joyous planet.

To you they may just be “words” to me they are words of life. Just words? You tell me. Out of all the words in all the places in the world today – what words are better than those found between the the covers of the Holy Bible? If our understanding of the significance of words ended there, we could all lead very blessed lives. But what if there’s more… much more? Well there is. Stay tuned for part two – the Secret of the Kingdom.