a Bible Study Course published by the Churches of God
Lesson 5: GOD'S GRAND DESIGN
|Since man was
expelled from Eden he has longed for the return of a utopia - the Golden Age when he was
at peace with the world and with his Creator. It has been a vain dream.
Philosophers have sought to construct their perfect world. For Plate it was The Republic. For Sir Thomas More it was Utopia. Campanella introduced us to the City of the Sun and the humanist and social reformer Andreae to Christianopolis. All represent the human hope of something better - what has been described as "vain dreams of perfection in a Never-Never Land".
Clearly, all the human effort for millennia throughout history has failed to unlock the door to lasting peace and prosperity for all. The key has not been found. For it simply is not in the capacity of the human mind to maintain for very long the essential elements that ensure a permanent "utopia".
But the good news is - utopia is coming! What mankind finds elusive is possible when God is in the picture. In His Word God describes it. And names it - The Kingdom of God.
In this lesson we will examine God's grand design for man. We will learn how His Kingdom will be introduced. And where and when. We will see that it does not depend solely on human effort but on the energy and power that flows from the divine Creator.
And we will see how you can be a part of a Kingdom that will never end, but will advance in power and scope throughout timeless ages.
The End of Time?
Many of the world's leaders in days gone by have been
struck by the way in which events overtake the purposes of men. They see a hand behind the
stage of history working out a plan. By contrast others fail to see such a purpose. Wrote
eminent astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, "Everybody must wonder from time to time if there
is any real purpose in life"
Bible students know God is working out a purpose. But what is it? There's a vague understanding that it has to do with "the Kingdom of God". But what does that mean? How and when will the Kingdom be established? Indeed, what is this "Kingdom"? This lesson will detail the Bible view of that Kingdom.
"The end of the world" is a common theme picked over not only by religious folk but also - perhaps skeptically - by the media. It has been the focus of theologians and the butt of music-hall jokes. A common conception is that the world - suddenly, with a bang - will disappear in a puff of smoke, with mankind exterminated.
Others, however, have the hope - but a false hope that the world will go on in much the same way for ever. That man will simply go on evolving into something or other - hopefully better.
And millions of Christians pin their hopes on what they term "The Rapture" by which they - Christians only - will be snatched from earth to heaven to avoid the mass destruction of all mankind.
Will our planet soon disappear in a puff of smoke? Will mankind be expunged from his earthly home? Has God, perhaps, had enough of us?
For students of the Christian Bible there need be no such pessimism. There is a purpose. There is hope for mankind. God has a plan. We will soon see the next phase of that plan with the setting up of the rule of the Kingdom of God here on Earth. The soon-coming devastation of the planet is not the end!
Jesus Christ made clear that there is a coming
"new age", that God has not abandoned mankind to destruction either by cosmic
forces beyond our control or by mass suicide through destructive weaponry and through
pollution. Time is not about to end!
What Is a Kingdom?
It isn't difficult to figure out what is meant by "a kingdom". Strictly, there are not too many left, but in essence it is a sovereign territory with a Head of State, having citizens and governed by a body of law. The United Kingdom is an example. Queen Elizabeth II speaks of "My Kingdom".
We can begin to understand the Kingdom of God in a similar way. Through the prophet Daniel God revealed a continuity between existing and future kingdoms and the Kingdom which He would establish to succeed them
Daniel's prophecy describes the end of this final world empire. It will mark the end of six thousand years of human government, and the establishment of divine government on earth
The Kingdom of God
The Bible is clear that the "Kingdom of God" is not only a future Utopia. For it has always existed, exists now and will exist forever
The Kingdom of God, then, has always existed. God has forever been Sovereign, reigning over His creation and jealously commanding the submission of all His creatures to His benign and loving rule ...Exodus 20:1-11, Nehemiah 9:6, Job 38-39, Psalm 8:3, 97:1, 99:1, Isaiah 66:1
The Kingdom Now
The reign of God is a vibrant reality in this age and in our day. God has not forsaken the world but is actively taking part in bringing about His purposes
the Kingdom is an ever-present reality for the Christian, for we are day-by-day subject to His rule and indeed have the King dwelling in us ...Acts 5:32, John 17:21, II John 9, Hebrews 12:9, Ephesians 3:17, Matthew 7:21-27, Colossians 1:13
note carefully that it is heresy to assume that this is the totality of the Kingdom of God. Whatever influence it has in our day, its major significance is for the days ahead
The Kingdom To Come
God's Kingdom, then, is relevant to our present life. But its main import is for the future. The Kingdom - as we saw at the beginning of this Lesson (review it!) - will have real dominion on earth. It is prophesied to succeed the four great prophetic empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, and will be just as real !
The Return of Christ
Ahead of us, according to the Bible prophecies, lies a time of worldwide disruption. Its horrors will surpass anything we have read about or seen. The real atrocities that surface on our television screens reflect the true nature of mankind lurking beneath the thin veneer of civilization. Six thousand years of recorded human effort have failed us. Our rejection of God's values will bring us to the brink of annihilation.
The World To Come
The Bible speaks of a world to come. It is the high point of man's existence in the flesh, when mankind will once again be educated in God's ways - the lifestyle which alone brings the fullness of joy, the "golden age" which has been man's quest since his expulsion from Eden
The divine rule for a thousand years will be a high
point of the Kingdom of God. It is the time when the Christian hope will at last be
Subjects of the Kingdom
A famous fallacy is that Christians will, at the return of Christ, remove to heaven for the thousand years. It is claimed - on a misreading of an Isaiah prophecy - that no human will be alive at the beginning of the Millennium
The Millennium expresses the "reign of God"
in a real way. Mankind will learn the true paths, live as God intended and enjoy peace,
abundant health and the fruits of a productive pollution-free earth.
"...he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below" [Sir Winston Churchill to the US Congress, 1941]
"The history of mankind is not a purposeless history. It is a manifestation of the divine purpose" [Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin]
A "king" in the Biblical sense is simply the leader of a nation, whatever he titled and whatever the form of government
Nebuchadnezzar (605-562BC) had invaded Judah, capturing Jerusalem and burning down the Temple in 589BC, and exiling most of the inhabitants, including Daniel. His empire is said to have stretched from the Atlantic to India
The Dream Image
From the area ruled by ancient Rome will arise - in our day - a voluntary alignment of ten nations. It will provide the military force that opposes and subdues modern Israel, and will fight Jesus Christ at his return
Our article God's Grand Design traces the ancient non-Biblical prophecies concerning these 6000 years of human government, and the return of the "golden age"
Daniel prophesied during the time of the "head of gold" in the sixth century BC. He was a high-placed official in that empire. So far his prophecies have proved correct in detail!
The concept of a unity of this nature is exemplified by such words as family, church
The Godhead consists of a plurality of Beings. But as a future lesson will show, something different from a "Trinity" is expressed in the Scriptures
The Name YHVH ("Jehovah") is understood, only when translated, as which is , and which was, and which is to come... Revelation 1:4. It is the personal name of God, applying according to context to the Father and to the Word (YHVH in the KJV is written as "LORD")
"...the 'he which is and was and is to come' of John the Divine is the Jehovah of the old religion [i.e. of the Old Testament]" Dr Farrar
The Gospel preached by Jesus focused on the Kingdom, the Reign, of God. It is the true
heart of the Christian message, but has been obscured in our day by an unwarranted
It is a mistake to imagine that mere "belief in Jesus" is the totality of salvation ...James 1:19-26. Following our repentance, baptism and laying on of hands (for the Holy Spirit) God requires our obedience to His will, as revealed in the Scriptures
"Earnest" [Gk. arraboon Ephesians 1:14] is the term for an engagement ring. When we are given the Holy Spirit following baptism we are "betrothed" to God, and become part of His Family
Prayerfully study the "parable of the talents" in Matthew 25.
How we perform in this life has eternal consequences in the
Be Sure to examine the various texts quoted in Bible Basics!
It's important to carefully differentiate between the various meanings of our English translations as related to the original language. An example is the word world (John 18:36). Here it is the Gk. kosmos
The appalling bloody record during the middle ages of those who claimed, as "Christians", to be promoting the Kingdom of God brands them as devilish, whatever the denominational label worn
Review Lesson 3 which demonstrated the accuracy of the prophecies concerning Jesus
There is a direct link between human sin and physical events on earth - e.g. the "curse", the Flood of the House of Israel and then the House of Judah
The "restitution" [Gk. apokatastasis] signifies the restoration of an estate to its rightful owners[Vine: Expository Dictionary]
The teaching that Jesus has already returned and is on earth is mistaken. His coming will be as obvious as the sun's progress across the sky on a clear day! ...Matthew 24:23-28
"Plato [d. 437BC] maintained that the world would be destroyed at the end of six thousand years, that then the day of judgement would come" [Godfrey Higgins: Anacalepsis, v.1 p.202]
"Hesiod [8th c. BC] may have been acquainted with that early tradition of six millenary ages of the world which prevailed throughout the east" [Wm Hales: Analysis of Chronology v.1 p.44]
The chronology of the Bible "adds up" to roughly 6000 years from Adam until the present. It has been calculated (Archbishop Ussher) that Adam was created in 4004BC. Note that there are "chronological gaps" in the Bible which have been bridged in various ways
The 1000 years is commonly known as the Millenium. The Bible teaching has been called pre-millenialism
There are some misinterpretations of the Bible teaching on the Millennium: A-millenialism: denies there will be a 1000yr reign of the Messiah Post-millenialism: Jesus will return after the Church, through preaching, converts the world
Matthew often uses Kingdom of Heaven for Kingdom of God. Note that the meek will not be in a different place to the poor or the persecuted!
The prophet Zechariah tells us that after the return of Messiah all nations will be required to observe the annual Festival of Tabernacles. This eight-day Festival (see Leviticus 23:33-43) in part relates on its symbolism to the 1000-year reign of Jesus. The weekly Sabbath also symbolizes this 1000-year "rest"
A future Bible Basics will explore this fascinating relationship between the Festival of Tabernacles and the Millennium. We will also describe in detail this time when our God reigns
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