By George H. Warnock
The Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus came to establish in the earth is a spiritual, heavenly Kingdom. People lose interest when we mention things like that, because if it is spiritual it is not considered to be real. Let me assure you that the spirit of man is the most important part of man--that the spirit is the real man. And the Kingdom of Heaven is that realm in God where man is lifted and elevated, made alive, and brought into reality.
This Kingdom was heralded by John the Baptist, and brought into being by the ministry of the Lord Jesus Himself. It is not a kingdom that He saw fit to postpone because He was rejected. It was not delayed for some future era. It came right on time.
If God's people could only recognize this! Like Israel of old we have continued to expect a kingdom that would come "with observation", and with outward show. It is taught that one of these days Jesus will return to earth to set up the Kingdom, whereas the Bible clearly teaches us that He set it up and ordained its constitution and its progress in the earth when He came the first time.
If there is one thing that Jesus emphasized above others regarding this truth, it was that the Kingdom of Heaven was to grow out of the earth because of a seed that was planted--and that He Himself became that Seed.
"So is the Kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself: first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (Mark 4:26-28). Notice this clear truth: It is planted in the earth. It grows and matures in the earth, And the "full corn" comes to maturity and full growth "in the ear"--in the earth, and not in Heaven.
Then we have the parable of the four different kinds of soil in which the seed of the Kingdom is cast, and how the seed that fell into good soil came forth in abundant fruitfulness, "some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty" (Matt. 13:23). Our Lord tells us also that the Enemy will sow tares among the good seed, and that God would allow the tares and the wheat to grow together until the day of harvest. And lie tells us that the harvest is "the end of the world" (age) (Matt. 13:38, 39). It is the end of the Kingdom age that Jesus brought into being, not the beginning of it. But all this was so contrary to the thinking of the people of His time that they could not receive it. Jesus tells us why: "This people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed" (Matt. 13:15). Surely it would not have been difficult for Him to explain that He was there to become their King in the earth, and to reign from Jerusalem. That was exactly what they were looking for. But the Kingdom He came to establish was so very, very different that they could not see what He was seeking to reveal. So he turned to His disciples and said, "Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear and have not heard them" (Matt. 13:16, 17). Notice this: "Many prophets" desired to see what these disciples were now seeing, and could not. Why do we get the notion that the prophets were longing for and prophesying about something different? Peter tells us that "All the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days" (Acts 3:24). They did not understand fully the times of which they wrote, but God showed them that "not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things" which they wrote about, and that these things "are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven" (1 Pet. 1:12).
God wants to Spiritualize the Natural
The principle is: "That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual" (1 Cor. 15:46). It is not less real when it becomes spiritual--it is more real.
When the natural Israelite comes into Christ, he is not less an Israelite. Rather, for the first time he becomes a true Israelite. "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Rom. 9:6, 7). And Paul tells us what God means by this: "That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for The seed" (vs. 8). Surely the "heavenly Jerusalem" is much more real, much more glorious, much more enduring than the earthly one which "is in bondage with her children" (Gal. 4:25). Surely Mount Zion in the heavens is more glorious, more beautiful, more enduring than that little hill in old Jerusalem! (See Heb. 12:22).
It was God's desire from the very beginning to bring forth a spiritual people out of the natural. True, He ordained sacrifices, and offerings, and circumcision, and altars and temples--for a season. But He always desired "the sacrifices of a broken and a contrite heart" (Ps. 51:17). He always desired "him that is poor and of a contrite spirit" as His dwelling place, and not a 'house' that men would build of wood and stone (Isa. 66:1, 2). God's purpose from the beginning was that He might "circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart" (Deut. 30:6).
Shall we Spiritualize or Carnalize the Word?
Be assured of this, if God by His Holy Spirit does not breathe His own breath and life into the Word, we are carnalizing it. We are making it to be the "letter that killeth" rather than the "Spirit that giveth life" (2 Cor. 3:6).
Now we have many good translations that are useful to us in breaking down the barriers that exist between the original scriptures and our modem day languages. And we are thankful for those translators, ancient and modem, who are honestly trying to express the thought of scripture according to the original intention of the writers.
But let us never forget that there remains an insurmountable language barrier between the Creator and the creature; and that only the Holy Spirit can bridge that vast gulf. Saul of Tarsus knew Hebrew and Greek to perfection--but through it all he never discovered the living truth. God revealed the truth to him "by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:12). And of course he discovered, in the reading of the scriptures, that what God had revealed to Him was in accord with that which was written.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD" (Isa. 55:8). How great is the barrier between our thoughts and God's? "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (vs. 9).
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
We are totally helpless, brethren, to come to a knowledge of the truth and of the scriptures except as God reveals it to us by His Spirit.
He speaks from the realm of the Spirit, into the realm of the earthly and the carnal.
He speaks from the realm of eternity, into the realm of the finite.
There is no linguist on earth today, nor has there been in any other day, that can bridge that gulf.
But Lord, we want to know You! We want to hear from You! We want to see You! Illuminate us by Your Spirit, that we might see! We desire "truth in the inward parts" (Ps. 51:6). We want the living bread. We want "manna" that has been spiritualized with the atmosphere of Heaven. We want pure "water" that has been spiritualized with the smiting rod, and flows forth from the living Christ. We want Your word, that is "forever settled in Heaven"--but we must have it fresh and new every morning. From the days of our youth, and even to the days when our head is hoary and our strength is weakened--we must hear and see new things, fresh things, from the throne of God. I must hear a word that is constantly "spiritualized" with the breath of Heaven. We are persuaded concerning the great foundational truths of scripture; but in all that we know we simply recognize that we only "know in part" (1 Cor. 13:12). This awareness does not give us a sense of uncertainty, but it does leave us with a greater sense of our insufficiency. What You give, what You reveal, is sufficient for today. But tomorrow I must have a fresh supply. I will find that supply in the same well, in the same river, in the same manna, in the same holy place. But if I have truly been taught of the Lord, and have walked in obedience, in faith, in hope, in charity--tomorrow's portion will be of a higher order to lead me into higher heights of spiritual appreciation, into broader streams of love and mercy, into lower depths of humility and meekness. Amen.
We must learn to put our trust and confidence in God, and in His Holy Spirit, to lead us into "all truth". He is a Guide that can be trusted. If we fall into deception, it is because of the perverseness of our own hearts. No man who walks with Jesus and stays close to Him can be seduced by the Enemy. For in the Lord Jesus there is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
We are not denying that there is a Kingdom yet to come. But the essence of that same Kingdom is here in the earth now. And if we do not find ourselves reigning in life now, how vain and senseless to think we are going to reign with Him later on. For whatever may be involved in future aspects of the Kingdom of God, it is nothing more than the outgrowth of the Kingdom that is now planted in the hearts of men by His Spirit. There are "tares" mingled with the "wheat"--that is true; and for this reason many of God's people refuse to believe that the real Kingdom of God is in the earth today. Jesus said it would be this way until "the end"--until the day of harvest. The tares will appear wherever the wheat is growing, because the Enemy wants to spoil God's garden. Antichrist will appear wherever there is an anointed people, because he is 'anti' Christ--He is opposed to the Anointed One. He has no interest in coming to a temple built with the hands of man. He wants to take charge in God's Temple where God's glory should rule and reign. He wants to crowd Christ out of His Temple. The meaning of "antichrist" is not only one who is "opposed to Christ"--it can also mean one who stands "instead of Christ". Anything he can do to replace Christ in your life or in your church assembly, he will do it. If he can succeed in replacing the anointing with something else--anything else, it matters not--he has won a great victory. And how well he has succeeded in doing this, especially in these last few decades!
We know that "Antichrist" will come to fulness of manifestation in the last time. But John tells us that there were many antichrists at work, even in his day (1 Jn. 2:18). He has been the constant Enemy of God's people. And God has always brought forth a conquering people, many of whom overcame through blood and martyrdom. But today it seems the Church has forgotten that she is engaged in battle with a world that hates God, and Antichrist has taken up strong positions in our midst. We have pretty well made a covenant with the world that we will co-operate with her the best we know--help fight her wars, and get very much involved in all her programs and her political systems--rather than becoming a separated people unto the Lord. It is thought we are to be "kings" of this world system, rather than her enemies. And we seem to know how to co-exist quite nicely. The reason is we have taken the kingdoms of this world into our possession under the terms of Satan, and therefore he gets the honor and glory from our submission. He tried to entangle Jesus this way and failed. And he has continued to use the same tactics with the followers of Jesus--and very often is successful.