September 4, 2020 Brethren Letter
Last week, I sent the first part of Mr. Armstrong’s article written about the Kingdom of God. Here is the final part of that article as printed in the Plain Truth magazine, April, 1962.
Please have a wonderful Sabbath!
Your Brother in Christ,
The Plain Truth
Just What Do You Mean — KINGDOM OF GOD?
Was it set up by Jesus Christ in the first century A.D? Why are there so many different teachings about WHAT it is? Part 1 of this article was shocking. This concluding part is even more so!
by Herbert W. Armstrong
PART I of this article began at the beginning — the very beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1, 14-15).
Jesus, from the beginning, preached one Gospel only — the Gospel (Good News) of the KINGDOM OF GOD. He said plainly it was necessary to repent, and to BELIEVE THIS VERY GOSPEL to be saved!
His parables concerned THE KINGDOM OF GOD. He commissioned the 70 He sent out to preach THE KINGDOM OF GOD. He commanded the apostles, on whom, with Himself and the prophets, the CHURCH was founded, to preach THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Paul preached THE KINGDOM OF GOD to Gentiles, and pronounced a double curse on any who should preach any other gospel.
Can You Believe CHRIST?
Today we live in a world of religious babylon. There are many ideas being taught about WHAT the Gospel IS. There are, perhaps, as many differing conceptions about the Kingdom of God.
One proclaimed to a world-wide radio audience that it is NOT the gospel for us or our time. Many sincerely believe — because they have been taught it and always heard it — that the Kingdom of God is THE CHURCH. Some talk about “men everywhere working together for peace and brotherly love, so that the Kingdom of God may at last be set up in the hearts of men.” Some represent it as “the god that is within you.” Some even say it is the British Empire.
IF YOU will be willing to read and believe the plain words of Jesus, of Paul, of John and those inspired to write the very WORD OF GOD, you may know what it is.
It is startling! It is shocking! But CAN you believe the plain words of GOD? Always, when I write on such a subject, some reader is sure to accuse me of departing from the false traditional teachings learned from MEN. Such critics gloss over, without reading, the Scriptures I give. They ignore the very Word of God. If the Bible differs from pagan teachings they have accepted as “Christianity”, they call me a “false prophet” and impute evil motives. They make the Word of God of no effect by their traditions. They worship Christ in VAIN, believing for doctrines the teachings of men (see Mark 7:7, 9, 13). Yes, truly, the MANY are today deceived!
Are YOU willing to believe CHRIST? Is your mind open? If you have sincerely accepted and believed something that is false — contrary to the plain teaching of your Bible — are you willing to confess it and accept the plain TRUTH? If your mind is CLOSED, stop reading right here. If you are willing, with open mind, to accept TRUTH when proved, and reject error, then read on! Believe what is in YOUR BIBLE!
Can Be Entered
In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders KNEW He was a Teacher sent from God with GOD’S TRUTH. They branded Him a false prophet, heretic, and seditionist. Yet THEY KNEW His was the Voice of GOD!
One of them, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, occupying an office of authority over the Jews, came secretly by night to see Jesus.
“Rabbi,” said this Pharisee, “we know that thou art a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). Yes, WE PHARISEES, he said, KNOW THAT! He did not say “I know it.” He said “WE KNOW” — we PHARISEES! They knew He spoke the TRUTH — yet they not only rejected it, they crucified Him!
But Jesus hewed straight to the line! He told Nicodemus about THE KINGDOM OF GOD. He told him some things you need to UNDERSTAND!
Notice! “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (Verse 3 — John 3). Yes, notice! The Kingdom of God is something that CAN be seen, but only by those who have been “born again.” It is something others CANNOT SEE!
…But what about the CHURCH? Can carnal people who make no claim to having been “born again” SEE a CHURCH? Of course! But they CANNOT see the Kingdom of God! So SAID JESUS! Then, if you believe Jesus, the CHURCH cannot be the Kingdom of God!
Notice further: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (Verse 5). The Kingdom of God is something that CAN BE ENTERED INTO — BUT, only those “born of water and of the Spirit” can enter into it!
Notice further! In the Resurrection chapter of the Bible, we read: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and
blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (I Cor. 15:50). The Kingdom of God is something no human, of flesh and blood, can enter or INHERIT!
Now do flesh and blood people enter into the CHURCH? If so, then the Kingdom of God CANNOT be the CHURCH — for the Kingdom of God is something flesh and blood humans CANNOT ENTER INTO!
What do you think the “church” is? Is it the building? Flesh and blood people can and do enter buildings and cathedrals called “churches.” Is it the converted PEOPLE? Flesh and blood people can and DO enter into the membership of any group of PEOPLE that may call itself the church. But flesh and blood CANNOT enter the Kingdom of GOD — so the CHURCH IS NOT THE KINGDOM OF GOD!
In Men’s Hearts?
Now some think the Kingdom of God is some ethereal sentimental feeling or something set up in men’s hearts. If so, then the Kingdom of God enters into mortal man. But these plain Scriptures say plainly that it is men after they are no longer flesh and blood — but resurrected into spirit-composed bodies — who can ENTER INTO the Kingdom of God. It does not enter into men. Men enter into it — AFTER resurrected in glory — AFTER they are no longer “flesh and blood.”
Is it the “god within you”? No, it is not something that was born inside of man, or has ever entered into man — it is something man may enter AFTER he is “born again”.
What about the British Empire? Well, I have been pretty well over the British Isles, Canada and Australia — and all of the multi-thousands I have seen there were flesh-and-blood humans.
They DID enter The British Empire — but they CANNOT enter the Kingdom of God, in their present flesh-and-blood life. So the British Empire CANNOT be the Kingdom of God.
But, someone misunderstanding the Scripture may ask, “Didn’t Jesus Himself say that the Kingdom of God is ‘WITHIN YOU’?” In the 17th chapter of Luke, verse 21, King James translation, is a MISTRANSLATION which has led some to suppose the Kingdom of God is some thought or feeling or sentiment within man.
In Hearts of Pharisees?
Let’s take a good look at this. First realize, if it does say that, it is contradicted by all the other Scriptures I am giving you in this article. If the Bible does contradict itself, you can’t believe it anyway — so then it still would prove nothing.
First, TO WHOM is Jesus speaking? Read it!
“And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the Kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
He was speaking to the unconverted, carnal, hypocritical lying Pharisees. Notice, “He answered THEM, and said — ” It was the Pharisees who asked Him the question. Were they in the CHURCH? No, never! If one thinks the Kingdom is the CHURCH — and the Kingdom was WITHIN the Pharisees — was THE CHURCH within the Pharisees? Such an assumption is rather ridiculous, now, isn’t it?
Notice again, precisely WHAT JESUS SAID. Remember the CHURCH had not yet been set up. Jesus DID NOT SAY “the Kingdom of God SHALL BE set up in your hearts.” He said NONE of the things people interpret INTO this verse. He said to the Pharisees “the Kingdom of God IS” — present tense — IS, NOW! Whatever He was saying the Kingdom of God is, He made it present tense, not future.
But Jesus was speaking in the Hebrew or the Greek language. At any rate, Luke WROTE these words, originally, in the Greek language. He did not write the words “within you.” The Greek words he wrote were mistakenly translated into the English words “within you.” If you have a Bible with the marginal references, you will notice that this is corrected in your margin to read “IN THE MIDST OF YOU,” or, “AMONG YOU.” If your Bible is a Moffatt translation, you will notice that the translator recognized that Jesus was talking of His REIGN, or RULE, at the head of GOVERNMENT.
This is the Moffatt translation of the same verse: “He answered them, ‘The Reign of God is not coming as you hope to catch sight of it; no one will say, ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is,’ for the Reign of God is now in your midst.”
The Revised Standard translation renders it “the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” All these translations render it PRESENT TENSE.
Jesus was not talking about a Church soon to be organized. He was not talking about sentiments in the mind or heart. He was talking about His REIGN, as the Messiah! The Pharisees were not asking Him about a Church. They knew nothing of any New Testament Church soon to be started. They were not asking about a pretty sentiment. They knew, from the prophecies of Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others, that their Messiah was to come. They overlooked completely the prophecies of His first appearing as the “Lamb of God,” to be slain for the sins of humanity — being born as a babe, growing up, being rejected and despised by them, as recorded in Isaiah 53. They looked only to the prophecies of His SECOND coming as the all conquering and ruling KING.
But they had even these prophecies distorted in their minds. They looked for Him to come as a purely Jewish Messiah, to liberate them from the Romans, and reversing the situation so that the Jews would be masters over the Romans. They looked for a limited JEWISH Kingdom, located in only a small part of the world, with the Messiah ruling and letting the Jews lord it over the Romans.
This, the Pharisees anticipated as the Kingdom of God. They had an erroneous conception of the Kingdom of God — but at least they did know it was to be a REIGN — a GOVERNMENT.
Jesus set them straight. He explained that it would not be a local, or limited Kingdom for the Jews only. It would not be merely one of many human and visible kingdoms which men could point out or see, and say, “This is it, HERE”; or “that is the Kingdom, over THERE.” But He, Himself, was born to be the KING of that Kingdom, as He plainly told Pilate (John 18:36-37). The Bible uses the terms “king” and “kingdom” interchangeably (see Daniel 7:17-18, 23). The KING of the future Kingdom was, then and there, standing IN THE MIDST OF THEM. And in the language in which He spoke to them, that is precisely what He said — as the marginal rendering and other translations state.
Jesus went on, in the following verses, to describe His second coming, when the Kingdom of God shall rule ALL THE EARTH. In verse 24 he refers to the lightning flashing, just as in Matthew 24:27, describing His second coming to RULE the whole world. Verse 26 — as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be when Christ comes in power and glory as world Ruler. Verse 30 — the day when He is REVEALED.
Plainly, Jesus was not saying that the Kingdom of God was WITHIN those Christ-hating, hypocritical Pharisees.
Nor was He saying that the Church would be the Kingdom.
Now continue with the other Scriptures, and it becomes very PLAIN!
Jesus distinctly said that those Pharisees WOULD NOT BE IN THE Kingdom of God. To them, He said: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye (you Pharisees) shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south. and shall sit down IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” (Luke 13:28-29).
The Kingdom of God is something men shall ENTER — at the Resurrection of the just! Yet Abraham is NOT THERE YET (see Heb. 11:13, 39-40).
Has Not Yet Appeared
But one may ask, did not Jesus Christ say the Kingdom of God was “at hand”? Yes, we quoted this, in the beginning of this article, from Mark 1:15. This naturally led some to mistake what He said, and what He meant, and assume the Kingdom of God was established and set up during Jesus’ ministry. Thus some supposed it was the Church.
But Jesus did not say the Kingdom of God had been established. It was now being PREACHED (Luke 16:16). He did not say it was already here. Jesus, Himself, corrected this false notion. Will you READ THIS IN YOUR OWN BIBLE? Will you then BELIEVE Jesus Christ — or will you call Him a liar and believe so-called “Christian” traditions of men? Will you believe YOUR BIBLE?
Notice — read it in your own Bible: Jesus “added and spake a parable … because they thought that the Kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11). WHY did Jesus speak this parable? Because some, even then, mistakenly thought the Kingdom SHOULD IMMEDIATELY APPEAR — because some thought it would be THE CHURCH!
Now continue: “He said, therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a Kingdom and to return.” (Verse 12). Christ is that “nobleman.” He is speaking of His ascension to the throne of God His Father, in heaven. Notice, He went there to be GIVEN rulership of the Kingdom — to receive the Kingdom. Notice, too, He is to return. when He has received it! HE HAS NOT YET RETURNED! Other Scriptures explain this. We will turn to them a little later.
But continue: “And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.” The original 12 tribes of Israel had been divided into TWO nations immediately after the death of King Solomon. The nation Israel rejected Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, and set up Jeroboam as their King. They made the city of Samaria their capital. But the tribe of Judah seceded from Israel, in order to retain Rehohoam as King, and Jerusalem as their capital. Then the tribe of Benjamin joined them, and many Levites. The northern Kingdom then became known as the TEN TRIBES.
Now Jesus Christ was born of the tribe of Judah. The promise of the “Sceptre” — or kingly tribe, from which Messiah was to be born — was divinely given to Judah. Consequently when it is stated that Christ “came unto His own, and His own received Him not,” it is speaking of His having come to the Jews of the Kingdom of JUDAH, dwelling then in Palestine, with its capital still at Jerusalem. At that time the TEN TRIBES had migrated from Assyrian captivity northwest across Europe. They were far away, had lost their identity, were speaking a different language.
It was then 700 years after their captivity and removal from northern Palestine.
Not Church Language
And so the nobleman’s citizens who rejected him were the Jews at Jerusalem and dwelling in Palestine. And notice, Jesus is here talking about a KINGDOM which is a literal GOVERNMENT. His citizens would not accept Him as KING — they refused to have Him REIGN over them. That is not CHURCH language — that is CIVIL GOVERNMENT LANGUAGE!
So it becomes plain that the TEN SERVANTS of the parable, to whom He gave the ten pounds, represent the TEN TRIBES, who had become known as the LOST Ten Tribes. After the Jews rejected Christ, He sent His original apostles to the “LOST sheep of the HOUSE OF ISRAEL” — and the term “House of Israel” ALWAYS applies, after the division, to the ten-tribed kingdom — NEVER to the Kingdom of Judah — or, as often called, the House of Judah.
Continuing the parable, spoken BECAUSE some thought the Kingdom of God was immediately, then, in the first century, to appear: “And it came to pass that when he was returned, having received the Kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading” (Verse 15). When Christ returns, we shall all be called before the Judgment Seat of Christ — to give account!
Now notice: in verse 17, the one who had gained ten pounds is given authority to RULE CITIES — “have thou authority over ten cities!” To the one who had gained five pounds, he said, “Be thou also over five cities.”
This is speaking of the SECOND COMING OF CHRIST — and of His delegating AUTHORITY TO RULE to saints converted during this Christian era, between Christ’s first and second appearings on earth.
This parable, then, was spoken to make clear to us that the Kingdom of God is a literal GOVERNMENT, to be set up AT CHRIST’S SECOND COMING — AND NOT BEFORE! The CHURCH, then, CANNOT be the Kingdom of God. But the true Church of God is to be changed, by a resurrection and instantaneous change from mortal to immortal, INTO the Kingdom of God. The Church, when all its members have been changed to immortality, shall BECOME the Kingdom of God. But it is not, now, the Kingdom!
Saints to Rule
Now read the description of Christ’s actual RECEIVING authority to RULE the Kingdom. He is the nobleman who went to heaven to receive this kingship, and to return.
We have already seen how the prophet Daniel recorded the setting up of the Kingdom of God — AT CHRIST’S COMING — to consume all present national governments on earth, and set up the world-ruling Kingdom of God. This was recorded in the second chapter. Notice now chapter seven:
“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man (Christ) came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him” (Verse 13). Jesus continually referred to Himself as the “Son of man” — all through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Christ ascended to heaven in clouds (Acts 1:9). He ascended to the very throne of God in heaven (Mark 16:19). Now continue:
“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.” (Verse 14 — Daniel 7).
That is plain! Christ ascended to the throne of God in heaven. God is Sovereign over the entire universe. This vision shows God Almighty, Father of the resurrected living Christ, conferring on Christ dominion. Dominion means sovereign or supreme ruling authority. Also given to Him was “a kingdom.”
Where is that Kingdom to be? It says “a kingdom that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.” The people, and the nations speaking different languages, are here on earth. He is given dominion over ALL NATIONS — the whole world!
Important Word “UNTIL”
Now will you read, in your own Bible, Acts 3:21? It says the heavens have received Jesus Christ UNTIL — not permanently, just UNTIL a certain time. Until WHEN? Until the times of RESTITUTION of all things. Restitution means restoration to a former state or condition. It is speaking of restoring God’s laws, God’s government — of restoring happiness and universal PEACE.
In this 7th chapter of Daniel, the prophet had experienced a dream, and visions. He had seen four wild animals. Notice, verse 16, THE INTERPRETATION begins verse 17. This is GOD’S inspired interpretation — not mine: “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the KINGDOM, and possess the Kingdom forever, even for ever and ever.” (Dan. 7:17-18).
NOTICE IT! Not ONLY is Christ to rule — but THE SAINTS — that is, converted true Christians — those begotten as sons of God — are to take and possess the Kingdom! They are to rule under, and WITH Christ! In the New Testament it is recorded that converted saints are co-heirs with Christ!
In this same 7th chapter, Daniel explained another power. The fourth beast of his dream — the fourth Empire — the Roman Empire, was pictured as an animal having ten horns — explained here and in Revelation 13 and Revelation 17 as ten revivals or resurrections of the Roman Empire, after its original fall in 476 A.D. But among them — after 476 A.D. — arose another little horn — a religious kingdom, actually ruling over the last seven of the other “horns” or revived Roman kingdoms (Verse 20).
Now read about this “little horn” — the religious kingdom — verse 21: “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, UNTIL (NOTE, ANOTHER “UNTIL”) the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the Kingdom.”
The saints — then no longer human flesh and blood, but immortal — are to possess the Kingdom, at the second coming of Christ!
Jesus Christ makes that plain. It is Christ who is speaking in Revelation 3:21, and 2:26-27: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.” The Father’s throne is in heaven — where Jesus Christ is NOW; but Christ’s throne, in which the saints shall sit with Him, is the throne of David, in Jerusalem (Luke 1: 32).
Further: “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron.”
Can’t Know the TIME
After His resurrection, on the Mount of Olives at the very hour of His ascension to heaven, Jesus was explaining to His disciples how they would receive the inspiring God-begetting POWER of the Holy Spirit on the approaching day of Pentecost.
His disciples wanted to know whether the Kingdom of God was to be set up AT THAT TIME! THE CHURCH WAS established on that imminent day of Pentecost. Was THAT CHURCH, then, to be the setting up of the Kingdom?
“Lord,” they asked, “wilt thou AT THIS TIME restore again the Kingdom to Israel?”
Jesus again made plain that the Church is NOT the Kingdom.
“And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:6-9).
The commission He had given the CHURCH was to preach His Gospel to all the world. They were to receive the Holy Spirit, begetting them as saints — as Christians — putting them into God’s CHURCH. This would infuse them with the power to carry out the mission of the Church. But it was NOT the setting up of the Kingdom of God. Of that they were not to know the time.
Just what did Jesus mean, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons?” He explained it another time. It is recorded in Matthew 24:36: There He was speaking of the end of this world, and His second Coming:
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” He was speaking of His second coming, and setting up of the Kingdom, the time of which no man knows, but only the Father.
However, though we do not, even now, know the day or the hour, WE DO KNOW, from God’s prophecies, THAT IT IS TODAY VERY NEAR! Notice this, in Luke 21:25-31: He had been foretelling the world events, RIGHT NOW BEGINNING, leading to “distress of nations” in world troubles and world wars, “with perplexity” — “men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth” — world trouble such as never before experienced. “When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.”
The Two Fateful Alternatives
This world trouble began in l914, with World War I. There was a recess from 1918 until 1939. We are in a second recess now — although we are in what we call COLD WAR. But now at last we have nuclear energy. We have hydrogen bombs stock-piled in such power and volume that they could blast all human life off this planet several times over. There are two other destructive weapons today in existence, either of which could erase humanity from the earth.
Today world-famous scientists say only a super world-government can prevent world cosmocide. Yet MEN cannot and WILL NOT get together to form such a world-ruling government.
It’s time we face the hard, cold, realistic FACT: humanity has TWO alternatives: either there IS an Almighty all-powerful GOD who is about to step in and set up THE KINGDOM OF GOD to rule all nations with supernatural and
super-national FORCE to bring us PEACE — or else there will not be a human being alive on this earth…
If the deceived religionists who think the CHURCH is the Kingdom of God were right, and there is not going who be any supernatural and all-powerful WORLD GOVERNMENT which is the Kingdom of God, then humanity is utterly without HOPE — there will not remain a living human…
But notice what Jesus Christ said!
Can you BELIEVE JESUS CHRIST?
Where is your trust — in the Word of God, or in paganized, empty, deceiving teachings falsely labeled “Christianity” — inherited as “Christian tradition” — which says the CHURCH is the Kingdom of God; or, that the Kingdom is merely a meaningless frothy and ethereal sentiment “set up in our hearts”? It’s about time you come to know WHO are the false prophets, and WHO is speaking the true Word of God faithfully!