Lesson 2: God's Plan for the Ages - Part 2
Lesson 1: God’s Plan for the Ages – Part 2
I. God’s Kingdom Work
It’s good to be back with you and have this opportunity to consider God’s great plan for the ages. Well so far we’ve been looking at God’s Kingdom or we’ve been looking at God’s great plan for the ages and we’ve seeing how he deals with the false Kingdom of Satan. The first aspect is to redeem fallen humanity. Humanity came joined Satan and his rebellion against God and so we’ve been looking at that and now we want to continue to look at God’s plan to reclaim his Kingdom here on this earth, where his Kingdom was challenged by the evil one and then how God has a plan to execute judgment on Satan and his rebellious followers. From the time when God’s sovereign rule over the universe was challenged by Satan, God has been working out a plan – a plan to reassert his sovereignty here on this earth where his sovereignty was challenged. And this work of God to reclaim his Kingdom can be thought of and called the theocratic Kingdom of God.
A theocracy, the word theocracy literally means God’s rule or rule of God. This theocracy is the government or rule of God through divinely appointed representatives or delegated authorities. God’s Kingdom involves a king who rules, a people who are ruled and a sphere where that rule is taking place.
Over the history of God’s work with his people, he has had various representatives; prophets, judges, kings, apostles, even elders exercising his rule on earth. Graeme Goldsworthy has given us a nice definition of the Kingdom of God, “the Kingdom of God involves God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.” He develops that theme of God’s Kingdom in his book, Gospel and Kingdom. It should be understood, that God’s rule as king over the universe is present whether or not it is recognized or appreciated by mankind. God’s Kingdom work does not involve the reestablishment of God’s Kingdom authority but rather the demonstration and recognition of his divine authority on earth, this place where his rule was challenged.
A. The Kingdom Promised (Gen. 12:1-3)
Now there are several significant passages in the Bible where this concept of the Kingdom of God is developed and so we want to look at a series of these passages. The first one is the Gen 12:1-3 now with the call of Abraham, God begin to initiate some very significant developments in the reestablishment of his Kingdom authority on earth. These developments centered on God’s promise to Abraham in Gen 12:1-3. This is an unconditional promise and is referred to by theologians as the Abrahamic covenant or promise. It really serves as the basis for God’s entire covenant or promise program. It assures Abraham and his descendants of three things, three specifics; a land, a nation, and a blessing.
1. A Land (Deut. 30:1-10)
A land, Abraham’s descendants are to have a land, the land of Israel. The dimensions of this land are given in several Biblical texts; Gen 15, Josh 1, the land promises further develop in Deut 30:1-10. And then there’s a promise about the nation, Abraham’s descendants are promised to become a great nation.
2. A Nation (2 Sam. 7:12-16)
The national promises are developed in the Davidic covenant of 2 Sam 7:12-16. And then there’s the blessing promises. Abraham’s descendants are to be blessed and not only are they to be blessed, but they are to be a blessing to others. There is to be a blessing that extends to all the nations of the earth and these blessing promises are developed in what we call the New Covenant. So, these are important promises that are founded in the Abrahamic Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant is confirmed and reiterated in a number of Biblical passages, not only revealed in Gen 12 but later in Gen 13, 15, 17, 22, 28 over and over again these promises of a land, a nation and a blessing are reiterated to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants. So, this great plan of God as revealed to Abraham contributes significantly to what we understand as the Kingdom program. It guarantees that Israel will have a permanent national existence.
3. A Blessing (Jer. 31:31-33)
It guarantees that there will be a perpetual ownership or title to the promised land, the land of Israel and that material and spiritual blessings, through Christ, will extend not only to Israel but also the Gentile nations and the people of Israel will be a channel of blessing to all the nations of the earth. This Kingdom program of God is foreshadowed in a further promise that God gave David in 2 Sam 7. During the kingship of David, we see that God made a promise in 2 Sam 7:12-16 of an eternal unconditional relationship with David and his dynasty, his Davidic line, saying that the theocratic Kingdom, God’s rule through humanity on earth, would come to its full realization in one of David’s descendants who would reign over God’s Kingdom for ever and ever. WOW! That’s a great promise.
B. The Kingdom Foreshadowed (2 Sam. 7:12-16)
1. David's House
In essence, God promised David a house, a throne, and a Kingdom that would be eternal. It’s all summarized in 2 Sam 7:16, David’s house or David’s line, his dynasty would always be the royal line in Israel. Second, David’s throne, that is his right to rule would always belong to David’s descendants. Third, the right to a literal Kingdom would never be taken away from David’s posterity. So, David would have a house and a throne and a Kingdom that would last forever through one of his future descendants.
2. David's Throne
The next phase in this great Kingdom program is realized when Jesus appears on the scene. Jesus is a Davidic descendant and he is the one who will ultimately take the throne of Israel and rule over God’s Kingdom forever. And the fulfillment of this Kingdom program with Jesus is clear from the words that were given to Mary by the angel Gabriel where she is told in Luke 1, Mary is told by the angel Gabriel that she’s going to have a son (31), " And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus." 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
3. David's Kingdom
Throne, house, Kingdom the same things were promised to David in 2 Sam 7. It’s clear that Jesus is going to be the one who fulfills the promise that God gave to David in 2 Sam 7. All of this then comes to a fulfillment in the experience of Jesus.
C. The Kingdom Presented (Matt. 4:17, Luke 1:31-33).
So, Jesus is born, he begins his ministry by announcing these words, “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” WOW! That Kingdom that was promised to Abraham and to David is now coming to fruition in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus presents the prophesied Kingdom for Israel when he announces, “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He commanded the Jewish people of his day to accept him as their king and to enter into his Kingdom, enter into his literal earthly theocratic Kingdom, the Kingdom that had been promised to Abraham and to David and through the prophets. Now Jesus didn’t guarantee that the Kingdom would be instituted immediately but he was saying that all the preparations had been made so that God’s Kingdom was immanent, that is, it was at hand, it was ready to be received by the people of Israel if they would embrace their Messiah, the promised one, their king by faith.
Well the Jews living in the first century were anticipating the literal fulfillment of the Kingdom promises and they were looking forward to that based upon what the prophets had to say. But they stumbled over the person of Jesus Christ. Why is that? Why didn’t they embrace Jesus as their King? Well they were expecting a different kind of king. They were expecting a powerful military deliverer. They wanted someone along the lines of Judas Maccabee who had liberated the people from the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes and chased the foreigners out of the land. The Jews of the first century wanted someone to liberate them from Rome’s rule and chase the Romans out of the land. But Jesus wasn’t raising an army, he wasn’t yet ready to fight the Romans, he wasn’t the kind of Messiah that the Jews were anticipating. So, they rejected Jesus, the Lamb of God, the humble Savior that came to die for the sins of the world.
D. The Kingdom Rejected (Matt. 12:22-37)
The most significant turning point, I believe, in the life and ministry of Jesus was his rejection by the Jewish religious leaders and the Jewish establishment, when they accused Jesus of doing his miracles and casting out demons by the power of Satan rather than the power of God. We see this in Matt 12:22-24 and the Jewish religious leaders are saying, “You’re not doing your miracles by the power of God, you’re doing your miracles by the power of Satan.” This was an affront to the Holy Spirit who was working through Christ to accomplish God’s purposes. Jesus identified what was going on in the lives of the Jewish religious leaders as the unpardonable or unforgiveable sin. Why was it unpardonable? Why was it unforgiveable? Well it was a decision by these Jewish leaders that turned the nation of Israel against Jesus. For that, these leaders would be held uniquely accountable. Because they turned the people from following Jesus and accepting his Messiahship, they had sinned a sin that would never be forgiven. The nation then turned from accepting Jesus and began to reject Jesus and his offer of the Kingdom.
E. The Kingdom Culmination Delayed (Luke 19:11-27)
The Kingdom was based on an unconditional covenant promise, so it couldn’t be cancelled merely by Israel’s unbelief or the rejection by the Jewish leaders. God was going to accomplish his Kingdom purposes because God is sovereign. Certain aspects of the Kingdom, however, were delayed; that is Christ taking the throne of David and ruling over the land of Israel. These aspects of the Kingdom were delayed until there would be a more responsive generation that would accept Jesus as their Messiah. In Luke 19:11-27 Jesus told the parable of the ten pounds to show that since Israel would not accept their king, the kingdom was going to be postponed. It would be postponed, and the present rejecting generation of Jews would be judged. That prophecy of their judgment was fulfilled in AD70, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and burned the temple. But God wasn’t through with his kingdom program.
F. The Kingdom Realized (Rev. 20:46, 1 Cor. 15:24-28)
We find in Rev 20 the kingdom is ultimately realized and fulfilled. Rev 11:15 indicates that the kingdom promises would be realized following the tribulation period and that at the second coming of Jesus the Jewish people will accept Jesus as their Messiah. This is prophesized by Zechariah, he says, “they will see him whom they pierced” and they will repent and believe and embrace their Messiah at that time. Zech 12:10 through 13:1. After judging the unbelieving nations Jesus will set up his millennial government and rule the world for 1,000 years according to Rev 20. You say, “A 1,000 years isn’t an eternal kingdom. Wasn’t the kingdom to be eternal?” Well the 1,000 years is simply the first installment of what becomes an eternal kingdom. Paul writes in 1Cor 15:24-28 that the end of the 1,000 years Christ will deliver up the reigns of his theocratic kingdom to God the Father. The millennial kingdom then will become an eternal kingdom, the 1,000 year kingdom will become an eternal kingdom. Christ deliverance of the Kingdom to God the Father will constitute the final step in reclaiming his Kingdom, the Kingdom that was challenged by Satan in his rebellion.
G. The Kingdom of God in the Present Age
1. The Kingdom is Future
Well, the prophesized Kingdom of God has been postponed but it will be one day consummated in the millennium. Does the Kingdom of God exist in some form or in some manner today? That’s an important question and theologians wrestle with this question. Typical amillennial theologians who do not believe in a literal 1,000year rule of Christ on earth will equate the church with the kingdom and deny the existence of the future kingdom for the people of Israel. Pre-millennial theologians, those who believe there will be a literal kingdom a 1,000year rule of reign of Christ on earth, they deny any relationship between the church and the future kingdom. They hold that the kingdom is entirely future. Well scripture seems to present evidence for both of these positions, rather than emphasizing one body of evidence to the neglect of the other. It seems like that we as believers need to appreciate both aspects of this important kingdom truth.
2. The Kingdom is Present
So, I believe, there is abundance evidence then that the kingdom is present and this evidence comes from the Gospels. Jesus speaks, and he says, “I will not drink again the cup until I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” He was certainly speaking of the future. He says I’m not going to drink it now, I will drink it with you then. And then we have the disciples in Luke 19:11, they supposed that the kingdom was to appear immediately, but it wasn’t, and Jesus tells a parable to say no, it’s not now, it’s future. And then they ask the question in Acts 1:6, “Lord is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom to Israel” and Jesus said no, not at this time, it’s not for you to know the time but it’s yet future. So, there seems to be indications, in the Gospels and in the words of Jesus, that the Kingdom is future and there is Biblical evidence for that. But there’s also the aspect that the Kingdom is present while a future literal Kingdom cannot be denied. Scripture seems to indicate that God’s Kingdom program has to do with present spiritual realities not mere physical formalities. There is a Kingdom in the present age, but it shouldn’t be equated with the church, the church is not the kingdom. The church is certainly an aspect of the kingdom and one might say that the church is the most visible and significant aspect of God’s Kingdom as it’s developing in this present age. There’s abundance evidence in scripture for a present kingdom. We have Jesus saying to his disciples, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven” so it seems as though there is a possibility of entering the Kingdom of Heaven in this present age. He tells his disciples, “for you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven”, and then he tells the parables which seem to be about the present age. He tells his disciples the Kingdom of God is within you, Luke 17:20-21. He says unless one is born again you cannot see the Kingdom. It seems to me that if you’re born again you can see and experience the Kingdom. Then a strong statement by Paul in Col 1:13, “he delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us, “eis” into the Kingdom of his beloved son. The Greek word eis indicates an into kind of relationship. We’ve been transferred into the Kingdom based upon faith. So, I’m going to conclude then that the Kingdom is both present and future. According to Jesus’ announcement the time is fulfilled that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
Mark goes on in his Gospel to record a series of miracles which authenticate the present aspect of the Kingdom. The Kingdom, the miracles that Jesus did are really characteristics of the future Kingdom, Isa 35:5-6 tell us that in the Kingdom the blind will see, the lame will walk, the deaf will hear, the dumb will speak in the Kingdom. Through Jesus’ miracles, he was saying that the Kingdom order has been inaugurated. When he gave sight to the blind and healed the sick and caused the lame to walk and liberated those with demons, Jesus was giving the people of his day a picture of what the Kingdom of God is all about, a foretaste of the Kingdom. There is a sense in which the Kingdom is already, but not yet. The Kingdom order has been inaugurated but it hasn’t yet been consummated. The King will one day return and at that time the Kingdom will be fully in place and fully consummated.
3. The Kingdom: Present and Future
Herman Ridderbos, a theologian has said, “The threshold of the great future has been reached, now the concluding drama can begin.” I like that, there is a present aspect to the Kingdom, the threshold has been reached but now the concluding drama, the culmination of the Kingdom when Jesus returns can begin. Is there a Kingdom in the present age? Yes. The Kingdom of God involves God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. Today God’s people are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, whether you’re Jew or Gentile. God’s place would be the body of Christ, the ecclesia, the church or the congregation. God’s rule over his people is exercised through Christ and his under shepherds, the elders, the leaders of the church. The Kingdom of God has already been inaugurated but it has not yet been consummated or culminated. There is a presently developing kingdom, but it will be fully realized when Jesus returns. So, we can say that there’s a spiritual reality of the kingdom today which will be realized in physical form when Jesus returns. At that time the literal throne, the literal dynasty, and the literal king will be on the throne in Jerusalem a consummated, culminated Kingdom and Jesus will rule for all eternity.
I prepared a chart which is my attempt to illustrate how I see the Kingdom of God in the present age and its future culmination. You can see the two references the shadows and the substance. We’re presently in the shadows, this is the Church Age and the Kingdom is present in spiritual form but it’s not yet as it will be in physical form, when the King of God is culminated in the Person of Jesus. You can see the time line there, the tribulation, the millennium, and then we move into eternity and that’s the full substance of the kingdom. When Jesus returns sits on the throne of David and rules and reigns forever. It’s like the mustard seed that Jesus talked about it begins very small but eventually it grows to great proportions and becomes a tree. That’s like the Kingdom, the Kingdom starts small as we see it on the earth today but it’s growing and will continue to grow until Jesus returns, when it will be culminated, and Jesus will take the throne of David and rule and reign forever.
Israel had once rejected their king but according to the prophets they will someday accept him, Zech 12:10 “they will see him whom they pierced,” they will repent they will believe and God will open up a fountain of cleansing and blessing for the Jewish people. We believer that there will be a remnant of the Jewish people who are repentant and embrace Jesus at his second coming. Paul develops that thought in Rom 11.
II. The Judgment Work
Well, we’ve been looking at God’s great plan for the ages and we have seen his plan for the Kingdom. We’ve seen his plan for redemption and now we want to consider his plan for judgment. Having redeemed fallen man and reclaimed his Kingdom, one might say mission accomplished. But not quite yet. Every major project requires some cleanup. And God’s work is no exception. God’s Kingdom and judgment work may be thought of as two sides of the same coin. Like repentance and faith, one implies the presence of the other. God’s work of judgment is both contemporary and eschatological. God’s judgment is presently and progressively taking place., his judgment on sin, his judgment on wickedness but there will be an eschatological culmination of God’s judgment and that is yet future.
A. Judgment on Satan and His Angels (Matt. 25:41, Jn. 12:31, Rev. 12:9, 19:20, 20:2,10
So, we see a future judgment on Satan and his angels. Jesus spoke of the eternal fire which has been prepared for the Devil and his angels. The actual judgment on Satan commenced at the cross according to John in John 12:31 and his wicked activities will be further restricted during the tribulation period according to Rev 12:19 and during the millennium Rev 20:2, the beast and the false prophet will be thrown into the lake of fire at the second advent and finally Satan, himself, will be cast into the lake of fire at the end of the Messianic Kingdom, the Millennial Age and there he will remain for all eternity. That great victory over Satan is recorded in Rev 20:10 where Satan is cast into the lake of fire and there he stays with the beast and the false prophet forever and ever. But what of Satan’s followers?
B. Judgment on Satan's Followers (Rev. 20:11-15)
Rev 20:11-15 reveals that after the Messianic Kingdom the wicked dead, those who rejected Christ and his offer of salvation, they will be raised and judged. Rev 20:15 records, “if anyone’s name is not found written in the book of life he is thrown into the lake of fire. I identify that verse as the most tragic verse in all of scriptures because it describes the destiny of those who have rejected the free-gift of salvation. Why would any body want to reject a free-gift? A gift of salvation? God’s offer us all that free-gift of salvation, why would anyone want to reject it? But those who do reject it find themselves under the judgment that they deserve for the sins that they refused to accept Christ’s sacrifice for. They are the ones that end up then in the lake of fire. They have joined Satan in his rebellion on earth and they will join him forever in the lake of fire.
C. Purging of the Earth (2 Pet. 3:10, Rev. 21:1, Isa. 65:17-25, Rev. 22:3)
Well there’s one more issue that has to be addressed, and that is this present earth that has been corrupted and ruined by sin. 2 Pet reveals that this present earth is destined for destruction. The very sphere of Satan’s rebellion against God is going to be purged by fire in preparation for what Isa promises to be the new heavens and the new earth, and Rev 21 speaks of that as well. This will be a purging which will result in the removal of all the effects of sin and all the effects of the fall. God’s going to do away with pollution, God’s going to do away with weeds, God’s going to do away with sickness and death and all those things that came as a result of sin, then the worlds of John in Rev 22:3 will be fulfilled, and John records that in the eternal Kingdom there shall no longer be any curse. WOW! No longer any curse. Gen 3 begins with a curse because of sin, the curse that came as a result of sin, Rev concludes with the removal of the affect of sin and the end of the curse. I believe we could say in summary God’s great plan for the ages is to remove the curse that came as a result of sin. God ‘s great plan for the ages summarized in Rev 22:3, God’s plan to remove the curse that came as a result of sin. Well God does have a plan for the ages and most of Biblical history and theology can be considered under one of the major themes that we’ve looked at here. Believers today are living between the first and the second advents of Jesus Christ under the provision of the New Covenant. We are participating in God’s Kingdom in a spiritual sense, but yet we are waiting for its full culmination when Jesus returns. There’s encouragement for us in knowing that God does have a sovereign plan. It’s a plan that exists now and he knows that plan from the end to the beginning. All of history and all of human existence is under God’s rule, his sovereign plan for the ages. In the face of uncertainty and misfortune believers can be assured that God is in control, God is in control when unexpected tragedy strikes in your life when difficulty comes. God rules the universe; he’s got a plan for the ages. He rules the nations and he rules the affairs of our lives according to his sovereign plan.
It was about three and a half years ago that I had a physical with my Dr. and he said, “Let’s check the prostate” and he did and after that he said, “You know we need to have a urologist do another check on this” and so I went to a urologist and he checked and he said, “You know we need to have a biopsy on this.” So, I had the biopsy came back a week or so later and he said, “Well, I’ve got some bad news for you, you’ve got cancer.” Well you know hearing those words “you’ve got cancer” I’ll never forget those words. It was kind of a sobering heads up to what life is all about and that life comes to an end, But as I considered those words, as I drove home I recognized that God has a plan for the ages and you know that plan includes Carl Laney just as it includes you. And God knows the end from the beginning and God is working out his sovereign plan in my life and in yours as well. You know as I reflected on that and God’s sovereignty and his love for me I said, “You know this is exciting, this is an opportunity for me to trust God in an area of the unknown and what God has for me.” You know as I processed that whole experience and went through my surgery for my cancer, I knew that God was sovereign, and if God chose to take me home to Heaven that would be good. If God chose to leave me down here on earth for a time of further ministry that would be good. But what gave me great sense of peace and confidence at that time is that God has a sovereign plan for the ages. And as that sovereign plan for the ages gave me peace and confidence in my experience of uncertainty so I believe that God’s plan for the ages and his plan for you can give you peace and confidence as you, too, experience uncertainty and encounter difficulties in your life.
I think of the words of Joseph when he spoke to his brothers who had sold him off into slavery and finally Joseph spoke to them about this and he said, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring about the present result and to preserve many people alive.” So even bad things can be used by God to accomplish good in our lives. As I look on this experience of cancer and over the three years my slate is clean, I’m cancer free as of my most recent checkup and I appreciate God’s intervention in my behalf. I know that my life is in his hands and I’ve learned abut faith and trust during that experience and God was working good through that experience giving me opportunity to live out, for my students, the fact of my faith. How do you respond when you know your life may be over? Is your faith real? Is it genuine? My experience with cancer gave me an opportunity to live that out, live out my faith for my students, live out my faith for my children, for my family, for my church and it’s been good. Even though cancer is not good, God used that experience for good in my life. I thank him for his goodness and his sovereignty. Well, God has a great plan for the ages and I believe his plan for the ages can be an encouragement to each one of us.
Transcribed by BT volunteer Sandy Whitfield