This article continues the series by describing the third phase of Christ’s kingdom-building process, what scripture calls the Kingdom of God. Most Christians will recognize early that this is the core of the gospel message Christ brought first to Israel and Judah, and then to the Gentile nations. In the previous articles (Do You See the Three Kingdoms? and What is the Kingdom of Priests?), we saw how the kingdom Christ spoke of exists in various stages; the kingdom which is amongst us, Christ’s future earthly kingdom, and the glorious kingdom to be delivered to the Father. This article will focus on the last of the three – the culmination of the work of Christ.
Christ’s Revelation to Paul about the Kingdoms
Let’s continue in 1 Corinthians 15. Recall that in this part of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church Paul is discussing the essential nature of the resurrection from the dead to the work of Jesus Christ. As we’ve shown previously, the resurrection from the dead to eternal life is a key promise included as part of a mystery for those who will inherit the kingdom of God (vs 50).
The mystery Paul is referring to is called the Mystery of God. Discover more.
1 Corinthians 15:20-26 (ESV throughout)
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Let’s focus on just one of the things to be achieved before Christ hands his earthly kingdom over to the Father; in Christ shall all be made alive. We’ll see that this is a necessary part of the process.
All Made Alive in Christ
We know that the inheritance of those called into Christ and the new covenant is glorification; eternal life. And this glorification comes through resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:42-50
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Paul is describing a unique resurrection of the dead, a resurrection to glory in the Spirit for those who’ve received the Spirit of God. This is why he proclaims that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
But as we saw in the previous article about the kingdom of the Son, there is an order and progression to the resurrection of the dead (vs 23). At Christ’s appearance at the end of the tribulation, he first redeems his faithful servants who’ve died and are buried, and they ascend into the heavens(1) (Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 13:26-27; Luke 21:27-28).
Immediately after their resurrection, any of Christ’s faithful servants who are alive at the time are changed from mortal to immortal (vs 53-54) in the twinkling of an eye as the command of Christ goes out like a trumpet blast to his angelic host (Matthew 24:30-31).
Yet these are not the only ones to be redeemed at his return. As Christ intervenes on behalf of Jerusalem and Judah, he will bring 144,000 of the descendants of Israel with him. These also have been redeemed as firstfruits of salvation, and will serve the Lord during his earthly reign (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5).
These two groups comprise those spoken of in Revelation 20, who’ve been seated on thrones with authority to judge. They will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him for a thousand years in his earthly kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6).
But notice an important characteristic of their resurrection – Over such the second death has no power. As inheritors of eternal life (immortality) and the glory of our Lord, death no longer has any hold or power over them. So they inherit the kingdom of God in the manner described in 1 Corinthians 15, but do so at the beginning of Christ’s earthly reign – at his appearance and arrival to earth at Mount Zion.
The Resurrection to Judgment
We’re told in Revelation 20:4-6 that the rest of humanity’s dead did not come to life until after the thousand years were ended. Little detail is provided, but an outline is given later in this chapter:
- A great white throne is revealed and Yeshua the Christ sitting to judge the nations (Fourth Gospel(2) 5:21-23)
- All the dead, great and small, were brought back to life, mortal life(3).
- They were all judged out of the books of God’s word, that they might consider what they’ve done.
- If anyone’s name is not written in the Book of Life, they are cast into the lake of fire.
- This is the second, and final death.
- Death and Hades (the grave) are also cast into the lake of fire and destroyed. This indicates they no longer serve a purpose in God’s will and purpose for humanity.
The Kingdom of the Father
Notice the outline Paul provides in 1 Corinthians 15 and its similarity to Revelation 20.
1 Corinthians 15:24-26
- Christ is going to deliver a kingdom to the Father
- Notice that occurs at the end (of the age)
- But only after doing some things first:
- Christ will reign in heaven and on earth
- Destroying every rule, authority, and power that opposes God
- Until he has put all God’s enemies under his feet
- The last enemy he will destroy is death
As a result of Christ’s righteous judgment, any of these resurrected to mortal life(3) who surrender to Christ will find their name written in the Book of Life. Though it’s not detailed here in Revelation 20, it should be clear the glorified end that awaits those willing to repent.
At the end of Christ’s earthly reign we see all that he set out to accomplish for the Father fulfilled. Christ will succeed in putting all God’s enemies under his feet. This will take two possible forms:
- As a life willing to kneel and surrender to the will of the King
- As ashes burned up in the lake of fire
The end result will be the countless millions of glorified children, led into obedience to Christ through faith and the grace of God poured out on many.
Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV)
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
At this point, there is a new heavens and a new earth – and the kingdom of God comes down out of heaven. This is the kingdom Christ spoke of when he said to Pilate – My kingdom is not of this world. This is the kingdom Paul spoke of when he said – flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Our goal in this series of articles was to show the relationship between, what only appears to be, three distinct kingdoms. Clearly they are one kingdom, the Kingdom of God, distinguished only by how they are made manifest to the world. First the preparatory stage of the new creation – building a body of faithful believers into a kingdom of Christ-centered leaders. Once fully redeemed they will rule with him in his earthly kingdom for 1000 years. This too is a preparatory stage for the Kingdom of God – leading the world, once deceived to the point of death, into the truth and life that is in Christ Jesus. At the dawning of a new age with a new heavens and new earth, the glorified earth becomes the centerpiece of God’s realm, the place from which he will rule all things seen and unseen.
This is truly the good news of the kingdom of God which Yeshua brought to the world (Luke 4:17-19, 43).
There is much more to learn about each of these topics, and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.
To discover more about Christ’s kingdom-building process for his faithful, a restored Israel, and even the nations, read my recent book . . .
The Rapture Question: An Unfiltered View
At the close of each article, the relevant presuppositions that support it will be cited. This enables the reader to gain a clearer and deeper understanding of the context. To learn more about presuppositions, see the About page.
- God is proactive and purposeful in all that he does (Matthew 13:34-35; Ephesians 1:3-14; Hebrews 1; 1 Peter 1:18-21)
- God is faithful and will fulfill in those called and chosen what he has already completed in Christ (Fourth Gospel 1:9-13)
- The grace of God is greater-than the sin of humanity (Romans 5)
- God and his Christ are involved in a redemptive work for humanity.
- A key method in God’s redemptive work involves the offering of reconciliation, redemption, and salvation to eternal life – all through belief in Yeshua as the Son of God.
- Entering into belief in the Son of God we leave behind the state of being under God’s wrath, which exists to humble the proud and correct the deceived. (Fourth Gospel 3:36; Romans 1:18-32; 9:21-23; Isaiah 2:6-22)
- All will have the opportunity to receive God’s righteous judgment and be led into the truth of Yeshua, the Christ, but some will not surrender to truth. (1 Corinthians 15:22-26; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-13; Fourth Gospel 12:44-50; Romans 2:12-16; 11:32; Revelation 20:14-15)
- God’s redemptive work on humanity’s behalf is to save them from the second death, not the first death. (Genesis 2:16-17; Fourth Gospel 3:16-21; 5:24; 6:40; 17:1-3; Romans 5; 6; 1 Corinthians 15:19; Hebrews 9:25-28; Revelation 20:6)
1) Our resurrection and glorification follows the model of that set by Christ. Christ died and was buried in the tomb (grave), and three days later was resurrected. It was not until after this resurrection that he ascended into heaven (Fourth Gospel 20:1, 11-18). Christ was given the privilege of not seeing corruption in the grave because he was the Son of Man from above (Fourth Gospel 3:13). We, however, do not get that privilege. Like King David, we are of the dust and mortal (Acts 13:36-37; 1 Corinthians 15:53-54). Our ascension into heaven, like Christ’s, comes after our resurrection, not before.
2) We adhere to the belief that the authorship of the Fourth Gospel has been misrepresented. Typically this authorship is attributed to John the brother of James and author of the Book of Revelation of Jesus Christ. I have concluded on the side of such authors like J. Phillips (ISBN13: 978-0-9702687-3-0) who has shown conclusively John could not be the sole author and instead attribute primary authorship to Lazarus – the disciple whom Christ loved. Due to this, I will refer to the book as the Fourth Gospel.
3) We can conclude the mortal nature of the resurrection of the dead, great and small, because their judgment can result in the second death. Those previously resurrected to immortality were no longer subject to the second death; it has no power over them.
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