THE UPPER KINGDOM OF GOD
"... the Father ... has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves" (Colossians 1:12-13, NIV).
ENTRY INTO THE KINGDOM
As Alice desired to enter "Looking-glass house" so it is desirable to enter the "kingdom of God". As a body in the near-perfect mirror image world of anti-matter is different to a human body so a heavenly body is required to inhabit the heavenly realms:
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:50-53, AV).
"... 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. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:5-6, AV).
"... since it is a kingdom of which one becomes a citizens not by natural birth but by new birth, it is something that needs to be entered... Once a person has entered the kingdom, it is something that they "possess"...
"... entry into the kingdom of God requires conscious decision. Rich people can scarcely enter it all (Mt 19:23-24; Mk 10:23-24; Lk 18:24-25). It is open only to those who repent (Mt 21:28-32) and who produce the fruits of the kingdom (Mt 21:43). To enter the kingdom one must abandon other allegiances in single-minded devotion to the kingdom (Lk 9:59-62). People enter the kingdom "through many persecutions" (Acts 14:22), which implies opposition to the kingdom and a willingness to pay the price of suffering for the immeasurable higher value of the kingdom" ("Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven", DBI, Ryken, Wilhot, Longman III, General Editors, p.480).).
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21, AV).
"And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations" (Revelation 2:26, AV).
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them ... and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4, AV).
"Two thrones are mentioned: (1) His Father's, upon which He has sat since His ascension, after victory over death, sin, world: upon this none can sit save God, and God-man Christ Jesus, for it is the incommunicable prerogative of God; (2) the throne peculiarly His as the one humbled and then glorified Son of man, to be set up over the whole earth (heretofore usurped by Satan) at His coming again: in this the victorious saints shall share (1 Cor 6:2). The transfigured elect shall with Christ judge and reign over the nations in the flesh, and Israel foremost of them" (Fausset, Revelation, p.671).
"As Jehovah employed angels to ordain the law, when on Sinai He established His throne in Israel, so at His coming the saints with transfigured bodies shall administer the kingdom for and under Him. The nations of the earth and Israel, the foremost in the flesh, shall be the subjects of the Lord and His saints. The mistake of the Chiliasts was, they restricted the kingdom to the terrestrial part. Besides this earthly glory, there shall be the heavenly glory of the saints reigning above" (Fausset, 1 Corinthians, JFB, Vol.3, p.298).
In the kingdom of God, as in any government, there are various positions and levels of authority. The apostles will be ruling over Israel:
"And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28, AV).
With the demon-princes over the nations cast out some of the saints will be over nations. According to the parable of the talents (Luke19:12-26) and the pounds (Matthew 25:14-29) some of the saints will be over cities and others will be "rulers over many things".
To sit with someone on their throne is to share in their rule as subordinate-rulers.
THE LOWER KINGDOM OF GOD
""The king asked Daniel ... "Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?"... "You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue... The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay... You, O king, are the king of kings... You are that head of gold. After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom... Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom... In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever" (Daniel 2:26, 31-33, 37-41, 44, NIV).
In the Future Watch booklet Who and What is the Beast of Revelation? the requirements listed for a kingdom to be a part of the dream-image of Nebuchadnezzar were:
(1) it was the leading gentile empire of the world;
(2) the people of Judah were a vassal people of that empire;
(3) the empire had possession of the city of Jerusalem; and
(4) the Jewish sacrificial system was in operation, with a temple, during a part of each gentile overlordship.
In the earthly-kingdom that Christ, ("a" stone of Israel, cp. Gen 49:24; Eph 2:20), will set up - after the above requirements have been fulfilled one more time in the coming kingdom of iron and clay - Israel will:
(1) be the leading nation of the world
(2) be over the nations
(3) will have possession of Jerusalem; and
(4) have a sacrificial system, with a temple, in operation.
Ezekiel 40-48 describes the religious and civil set-up for the "kingdom of God" over Israel in some detail. This kingdom, as the throne of God, will be over the "worldwide kingdom of God". In this sense Israel will have a worldwide empire.
"'In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.' For this is what the LORD says: 'David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, nor will the priests, who are Levites, ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices... I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore'" (Jeremiah, 33:15-18, 22, NIV).
This article will now look briefly at three aspects - the Levitical priesthood, the Davidic "prince of Israel" and the "glory of the Lord" - of the 'Lower' Kingdom of God - "the kingdom of the LORD over Israel".
"But the priests the Levites, the sons of Zadok ... they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord GOD: They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge" (Ezekiel 44:15-16, AV).
"... almost all aspects of the Ezekiel system are identical with Mosaic procedure. It is primarily the omissions, with some modifications in keeping with the purpose of Ezekiel's worship that compose the differences..." (Ralph H. Alexander, Ezekiel, EBC, Vol.6, p.947).
"The priesthood in Ezekiel is composed of the Levites as helpers in the maintenance, administration, and function of temple worship; but those of the Zadok line will be the only ones permitted to minister before the Lord with the most holy things (44:5-16)..." (Alexander, Ezekiel, p.948).
"And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. And in controversy they shall stand in judgment; and they shall judge it according to my judgments: and they shall keep my laws and my statutes in all mine assemblies; and they shall hallow my sabbaths" (Ezekiel 44:23-24, AV).
"... the focus shifts from the priests' cultic service before Yahweh to their function in Israelite society, referred to by Yahweh affectionately as "my people." Three dimensions of their public role are specified" (Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-28, NICOT p.642).
"Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites about the heaps; and Azariah the chief priest, from the family of Zadok, answered, "Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over"" (2 Chronicles 31:9-10, NIV).
The sons of Zadok ministered in Solomon's Temple and they will minister in Ezekiel's Temple - the Millennial Temple.
(Map adapted from John B. Taylor, Ezekiel, TOTC, p.273). (Unit of measurement either "cubits" or "rods").
THE PRINCE OF ISRAEL
"And upon that day shall the prince prepare for himself and for all the people of the land a bullock for a sin offering" (Ezekiel 45:22, AV).
"The prince is to enter from the outside through the portico of the gateway and stand by the gatepost. The priests are to sacrifice his burnt offering and his fellowship offerings. He is to worship at the threshold of the gateway and then go out, but the gate will not be shut until evening" (Ezekiel 46:2, NIV).
"Thus saith the Lord GOD; If the prince give a gift unto any of his sons, the inheritance thereof shall be his sons'; it shall be their possession by inheritance" (Ezekiel 46:16, AV).
"The English word "prince" connotes royalty. However, the word nasi would best be translated "leader"" (Alexander, Ezekiel, p.974).
The prince was "allowed to enter the east gateway of the inner court and to go as far as its innermost threshold (46:2). There he would have a full view of what was going on at the central altar, but he was not permitted to set foot within the inner court, which was reserved exclusively for priests and Levites" (Taylor, Ezekiel, p.276).
"This leader was not the Messiah, because the leader made a sin offering for himself (cp.45:22)... In addition, this leader had natural children (46:16)..." (Alexander, Ezekiel, p.974)
"Charles Feinberg believes that he is a "future scion of David's dynasty who will represent the Messiah governmentally in the affairs of the earth"" (Walter C. Kaiser, "nasi" [prince], TWOT, Vol.2, p.601).
"The LORD said to me, "This gate is to remain shut... It is to remain shut because the LORD, the God of Israel, has entered through it. The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway to eat in the presence of the LORD..." (Ezekiel 44:2-3, NIV).
"The prince must mean the civil ruler under MESSIAH. His connection with the east gate (by which the Lord had returned to His temple) implies that, as ruling under God, he is to stand in a place of peculiar nearness to God. He represents Messiah, who entered heaven, the true sanctuary by a way that none could... he holding the place of God in political concerns, as the priests do in spiritual..." (Fausset, Jeremiah - Malachi, JFB, Vol.2, Pt.2, p.368).
The "prince of Israel" will be the leading human-being on the earth during the Millennium.
"'... I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them..." (Exodus 29:46, NIV). "... and be your God, and you will be my people" (Leviticus 26:12, NIV).
"... Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God" (Revelation 21:3, NIV).
God desires to live with His people - mankind. Because God is a 'spirit-being' without sin and His people are 'human-beings' with sin this cannot happen at once. God has implemented a plan to enable 'human-beings' to become 'spirit-beings' without sin so that God can literally 'dwell' with them.
But in His plan God provides a prototype and foretaste of His dwelling with His people. The prototype is the "Glory of the Lord".
THE GLORY OF THE LORD
"Now it came to pass ... as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God... Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD..." (Ezekiel 1:1, 26-28, NIV).
"These were the living creatures I had seen beneath the God of Israel by the Kebar River, and I realized that they were cherubim" (Ezekiel 10:20, NIV).
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:1,14, NIV).
"... made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory. The Greek for "made his dwelling" is connected with the word for "tent/tabernacle"; the verse would have reminded John's Jewish readers of the Tent of Meeting, which was filled by the glory of God (Ex 40:34-35)" (The NIV Study Bible, note on John 1:14, Kenneth Barker, Gen. Editor, p.1593).
Jesus Christ is "the glory of the Lord", (cp. also Hebrews 1:3, 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6), in the same way he is "the word of God". John said the "the Word" was also God. By comparing the two quotes from Ezekiel above it is seen that "the glory of God" is also God.
"Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17, NIV).
While God the Father is both Lord and God so is Jesus Christ:
"And Thomas answered and said unto him [Christ], My Lord and my God" (John 20:28, AV).
"And he [Jacob] blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil..." (Genesis 48:15-16, AV).
The relationship of God and Jesus Christ in the NT is practically the same as God and the "Angel of God" in the Old Testament. The Angel of God, the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ was also God in the OT.
"And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night" (Exodus 13:21, AV).
"And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them" (Exodus 14:19, AV).
"... I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them..." (Exodus 29:46, NIV).
God dwelt in the Old Testament "kingdom of God" in both the 'tabernacle' and 'temple':
"... the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34, NIV).
"When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven... and the glory of the LORD filled the temple" (2 Chronicles 7:1, NIV).
"In Old Testament times, God's glory was the visible manifestation of his presence in the midst of his people. Thus Isaiah's vision of the glory of God filling the temple (Isa. 6) forms the basis for his assertion in the following chapter of "God with us" ("Immanuel," Isa. 7:14; 8:8)" (Iain M. Duguid, Ezekiel, NIVAC, pp. 492-493).
"I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people" (Leviticus 26:11-12, NIV).
"God promised to dwell among his people (v.11) in the tabernacle spiritually, not materially. From the word for "dwelling" (miskan) and its root, the later Israelites developed a name for the presence of God in the Most Holy Place - the Shekinah. The expression "I will walk among them" (v.12) is not to be literalized... It refers to life fellowship, and behaviour. Enoch, Abraham, and many others were said to "walk with God"... God would continually fellowship with his people if they obeyed his word; he would live among them..." (R. Laird Harris, Leviticus, EBC, Vol.2, pp.643-45).
There are four stages to the "kingdom of God" in the earthly realm - two under the Old Covenant and two under the New Covenant.
The pattern of God's presence and dwelling in the Old Covenant is similar to the New Covenant.
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23, AV).
"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit..." (Acts 2:1-6, NIV).
"... a lambent flame, in the form of a cloven tongue, became stationary on the head of each disciple; a proof that the Spirit of God had made each his temple or residence. That unusual appearances of fire were considered emblems of the presence and influence of God, both the Scriptures and the Jewish writings amply prove" (Adam Clarke, Acts, ACCB).
"... the Son is the glory of the Father, shining forth with a truly divine splendour... Jesus Christ in his person is God manifest in the flesh, he is light of light, the true Shechinah" (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Hebrews).
"Although the word "Shekinah" does not occur in the Bible, the root skn occurs not only in the verb ("dwell"), but also in the noun miskan ("dwelling place," "tabernacle" and the name Shecaniah ("Yahweh dwells"; e.g. 1 Ch. 3:21f.)...
"The association of Jesus with the Shekinah is ... apparent ... in the NT. Paul saw the resurrected Jesus and was blinded by His brightness (Acts 9:3-9...
"The presence of the Holy Spirit is also a representation of the Shekinah... At Pentecost the Spirit came down and rested on the 120 disciples...
"The NT is clearly set against the Jewish background. The NT authors attributed to the Spirit and to the Son the glory associated with the Shekinah..." (W.A. Vangemeren, "Shekinah", ISBE, Vol.4, pp. 466-468).
In the two stages of the Old Covenant and the first stage of the New Covenant Christ is not present - in person - micro-managing His kingdom. This is also the pattern of the second stage of the New Covenant.
THE DEPARTURE AND RETURN OF THE GLORY OF THE LORD
The Old Covenant Kingdom of God came to an end when God could no longer dwell with His people.
"... and in visions of God he took me to Jerusalem, to the entrance to the north gate of the inner court, where the idol that provokes to jealousy stood. And there before me was the glory of the God of Israel... And he said to me, "Son of man, do you see what they are doing - the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary?..." (Ezekiel 8:3-4, 6, NIV).
"Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple and stopped above the cherubim. While I watched, the cherubim spread their wings and rose from the ground, and as they went, the wheels went with them. They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the Lord's house, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them" (Ezekiel 10:18-19, NIV).
"The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it" (Ezekiel 11:23, NIV).
But all was not lost, God promised to return.
"... 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries ... I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God'" (Ezekiel 11:16-17,19-20, NIV).
"This is what the LORD says: "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain" (Zechariah 8:3, NIV).
God is going to return and renew His covenant and resume dwelling with His people.
"And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory... And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house... And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile..." (Ezekiel 43:2-7, AV).
In the future kingdom of God "... the temple will provide a throne for God among his people (43:6-7), [and] the residency of his glory (43:1-2) from which he will rule over his people" (Alexander, Ezekiel, p.947).
"... and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there" (Ezekiel 48:35, AV).
"... there is something remarkable about this city bearing this new name. The center of gravity in Ezekiel's cartography of power is obviously the temple, the place where Yahweh resides in the midst of the most sacred teruma several miles north of the city. In comparison the city is for human habitation... the city reflects the presence of Yahweh!" (Block, The Book of Ezekiel Chapters 25-28, p.741).
In the future the "prince", a descendant of David, will represent God and Christ in Jerusalem, exercising godly rule; and "good" will be "present in a particular potent way", so reflecting God, that it may be said 'God is there'.