After the prophet Malachi, almost four centuries of silence had passed when a new messenger was heard in the desert–the forerunner, John the Baptist. In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, the year 27 on our calendar, full of the Holy Spirit, John began to preach: “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” That same year, the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized and immediately began to preach: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2; 4:17. The disciples whom He called into special service, later the seventy, and then the apostolic church continued to preach the same glorious message. Considering the many references to “the kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven” appearing in the apostolic writings, we may say that this message was the center of Christian preaching.
While the great expectation in Israel was the reestablishment of Israel as a nation, Jesus’ message was of God’s kingdom established in the human heart. The Scriptures state: “… 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.
Even after the disciples preached the message of the heavenly kingdom for three years, they still held the popular view of the people. Therefore, in His teaching and parables, Jesus repeated over and over again the nature of God’s kingdom. “Before leaving His disciples, Christ plainly stated the nature of His kingdom. He called to their minds what He had previously told them concerning it. He declared that it was not His purpose to establish in this world a temporal, but a spiritual kingdom. He was not to reign as an earthly king on David’s throne. Again He opened to them the Scriptures, showing that all He had passed through had been ordained in heaven, in the councils between the Father and Himself. All had been foretold by men inspired by the Holy Spirit. He said, You see that all I have revealed to you concerning My rejection as the Messiah has come to pass. All I have said in regard to the humiliation I should endure and the death I should die, has been verified. On the third day I rose again. Search the Scriptures more diligently, and you will see that in all these things the specifications of prophecy concerning Me have been fulfilled.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 820.
Nevertheless, up to the very last moment, the disciples still expected an earthly kingdom to be established. Right before His ascension, when Jesus repeated the promise of the Holy Spirit, they asked: “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6. How important it is not to be influenced by popular ideas!
In the days of John the Baptist, the good news of the kingdom of heaven’s being at hand was not new. In the very first books of the Bible, all through the prophets’ writings, and in the Psalms, the message was constantly repeated to establish faith in the Lord and to lift up hope in the reality of His heavenly kingdom. In the Old Testament writings, while many verses present God’s dominion and sovereignty as universal, with man being encompassed within His realm (1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalms 22:28, 29; 103:19; 145:13; Daniel 4:3), others depict the redeemed in a very special position in His kingdom of glory. Daniel 2:44; 7:27.
How was it that the kingdom of God could be proclaimed as being at hand in Jesus’ days? It was indeed near in reality, in the Person and mission of Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God. Matthew 12:28. His message presented the nature of God’s kingdom as spiritual, for it is to be understood first as God’s power in the individual heart and life and then as a spiritual realm characterized by righteousness, peace, joy, endurance, love, and humility. Romans 14:17; Matthew 5:10, 20. The Spirit of prophecy terms it the “kingdom of grace” that has already begun. The “kingdom of glory,” which the redeemed will inherit when suffering, sin, and death exist no more, is still future and is reserved for those who have been partakers of the kingdom of grace.
The gospel is the power of salvation from sin and death (Romans 1:16, 17) and includes the good news of the kingdom, the message that is to be preached everywhere. Jesus said: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14. It was the message of hope and salvation that caused Abraham to look “for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10); and the Lord instructed His disciples to pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10.
Therefore, what should we do? “… Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness;…” Matthew 6:33. “Christ calls upon the members of His church to cherish the true, genuine hope of the gospel. He points them upward, distinctly assuring them that the riches that endure are above, not below. Their hope is in heaven, not on the earth. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness,’ He says; ‘and all these things’–all that is essential for your good–‘shall be added unto you.’…
“We should never forget that we are placed on trial in this world, to determine our fitness for the future life.” –Counsels on Stewardship, pp. 218, 22.
May these lessons inspire us to pray for the coming of the kingdom of heaven and to seek for it above all, so that we may be part of the kingdom of grace now and soon enter the kingdom of glory.
–The brethren of the General Conference Ministerial Research Institute
Special Sabbath School Offering for the
GENERAL CONFERENCE RETIREMENT FUND
God bless your loving sacrifice for Him!
Sabbath, January 5, 2019
“By humiliation, suffering, and rejection Christ purchased the salvation of the human race. By His death He made it possible for man to enjoy a home in His eternal kingdom.” –Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, p. 205.
Lesson 1 – The Lord is King
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2018
1. What did the psalmist recognize when he repeatedly praised the Lord? What will faithful parents do?
Psalm 84:3; 145:1 Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God…. 145:1I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.
Genesis 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
“God is our Lawgiver and King, and parents are to place themselves under His rule.” –The Adventist Home, p. 310.
“God is our King, and we are His subjects. A mere knowledge of His will does not set aside the necessity of offering earnest supplications to Him for help, and of diligently seeking, by obeying His law, to cooperate with Him in answering the prayers offered. Thus His kingdom is established in our hearts.” –Signs of the Times, November 18, 1903.
“In teaching them [Abraham to his household and children] the laws of God, he taught them that the Lord is our judge, our lawgiver and king, and that parents and children were to be ruled by Him…” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 286.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2018
2. How immense is the kingly position of the Creator? Describe Him in your own words.
Psalm 47:7, 8 For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. 8God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.
Zechariah 14:9 And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.
“God is our Father, who loves and cares for us as His children; He is also the great King of the universe. The interests of His kingdom are our interests, and we are to work for its upbuilding.…
“We are now standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. A crisis is before us, such as the world has never witnessed. And sweetly to us, as to the first disciples, comes the assurance that God’s kingdom ruleth over all. The program of coming events is in the hands of our Maker. The Majesty of heaven has the destiny of nations, as well as the concerns of His church, in His own charge.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 107, 121.
The eternal kingdom
TUESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2019
3. Is His noble and holy dignity as King limited to a certain span of history? Tell about your experience when you first realized God’s eternal nature.
Psalm 10:16 The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.
Jeremiah 10:10 But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.
1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
“The Scriptures declare that upon one occasion, when the angels of God came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan came also among them (Job 1:6), not to bow before the Eternal King….” –The Great Controversy, p. 518.
“The intellect, the reason, the talents of men, are the gifts of God to be employed to His glory, for the upbuilding of His eternal kingdom. It is the spiritual and moral character that is of value in the sight of Heaven, and that will survive the grave and be made glorious with immortality for the endless ages of eternity…. Only those who have appreciated the grace of Christ, which has made them heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus, will rise from the grave bearing the image of their Redeemer.” –Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 258, 259.
“Brethren, may God help us to preach the message in its purity, that the sound may go to earth’s remotest bounds, and souls be gathered out, such as shall finally be saved with us in His eternal kingdom.” –General Conference Bulletin, January 1, 1900.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2019
4. Although on the earth there are lords, kings, sovereigns, and rulers, who is in reality the true, just, loving King? Is He also King in your mind and heart?
Psalm 22:28 For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations.
Daniel 2:20, 21 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.
1 Timothy 6:15 Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of Lords.
“ ‘I prayed,’ he said, ‘to the God of heaven.’ In that brief prayer, Nehemiah pressed into the presence of the King of kings and won to his side a power that can turn hearts as the rivers of waters are turned.” –Conflict and Courage, p. 262.
“Let us be hopeful and courageous. Despondency in God’s service is sinful and unreasonable. He knows our every necessity. To the omnipotence of the King of kings our covenant-keeping God unites the gentleness and care of the tender shepherd. His power is absolute, and it is the pledge of the sure fulfillment of His promises to all who trust in Him. He has means for the removal of every difficulty, that those who serve Him and respect the means He employs may be sustained. His love is as far above all other love as the heavens are above the earth. He watches over His children with a love that is measureless and everlasting.” –The Ministry of Healing, pp. 481, 482.
Foundation of God’s kingdom
THURSDAY, JANUARY 3, 2019
5. What attributes characterize God’s kingdom? Tell what it means to delight in such a holy realm.
Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is … righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
Psalm 116:5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
Isaiah 35:8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
“The kingdom of God consisteth not in outward show. Light will not be received by following selfish plans, but by looking unto Jesus, following Christ’s leading, not the suppositions of men. The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, p. 497.
“Let every business transaction be done in righteousness, remembering that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, ‘For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block, or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way…. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ Romans 14:11-17.” –The Health Food Ministry, p. 75.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 4, 2019
6. Rejoicing in and desiring the happiness of all living beings, to whom will the Creator one day give the kingdom, dominion, and greatness over all the earth?
Daniel 7:18, 27 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever…. 27And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
“The kingdom of God’s grace is now being established, as day by day hearts that have been full of sin and rebellion yield to the sovereignty of His love. But the full establishment of the kingdom of His glory will not take place until the second coming of Christ to this world. ‘The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven,’ is to be given to ‘the people of the saints of the Most High.’ Daniel 7:27. They shall inherit the kingdom prepared for them ‘from the foundation of the world.’ Matthew 25:34. And Christ will take to Himself His great power and will reign.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 108.
“The great plan of redemption results in fully bringing back the world into God’s favor. All that was lost by sin is restored. Not only man but the earth is redeemed, to be the eternal abode of the obedient. For six thousand years Satan has struggled to maintain possession of the earth. Now God’s original purpose in its creation is accomplished. ‘The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’ Daniel 7:18.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 342.
Seek God’s kingdom above all else
SABBATH, JANUARY 5, 2019
7. With this glorious prospect right ahead, what should be the first and most serious interest of our lives?
Luke 12:31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
“ ‘All these things,’ said Jesus, ‘do the nations of the world seek after.’ ‘Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’ Luke 12: 30; Matthew 6:32, 33. I have come to open to you the kingdom of love and righteousness and peace. Open your hearts to receive this kingdom, and make its service your highest interest. Though it is a spiritual kingdom, fear not that your needs for this life will be uncared-for. If you give yourself to God’s service, He who has all power in heaven and earth will provide for your needs.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 99.
“Here is presented definitely that man is dependent upon God for every breath he draws. The beating heart, the throbbing pulse, every nerve and muscle in the living organism, are kept in order and activity by the power of an infinite God. ‘… Seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.’ Matthew 6:31-33.” –Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, pp. 98, 99.