strikematch02In my message, “The Theme of the Bible,” I expressed the opinion that the kingdom of God is the theme of the Bible. The reality of God’s coming government on earth is the goal toward which God is working and the theme upon which all His works are hinged. Ecclesiastes 3:14 declares:

14. I know that whatever God does,
It shall be forever.
Nothing can be added to it,
And nothing taken from it.
God does it, that men should fear before Him.

This verse does not tell us that whatever God does lasts forever. This cannot be, for we know that God’s dispensations and works with mankind change. For example, we know that God at one time put the man He created, Adam, in a garden in Eden and commanded him to tend and keep the garden. As long as he did not eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, he would live perpetually and enjoy the world God had given him. Yet Adam ate that fruit, so what God did in placing him in the garden did not last forever. Therefore, we can assuredly say that all things God does do not always last forever. What is this passage telling us, then?

The word “forever” is a translation of the Hebrew word olam. The olam in the Old Testament is a reference to the future kingdom of God, in which God will flow out to the world in such a manifest and powerful way that it will result in His kingdom coming to and dominating this earth. This verse is not telling us how long whatever God does lasts, but rather it is telling us the purpose for which God does all His works. He is doing everything for the purpose of bringing in His olam. That is why He does what He does. That is the plan on which He is working. Therefore, we should expect to find the coming kingdom stamped on all God’s works throughout Scripture.

The Kingdom of God in its many aspects is set forth for us in prophecy in many passages in the Word of God. We have already examined many of these in my series on “The Kingdom of God.” Yet the Kingdom of God is also foreshadowed for us in many of the historical events recorded for us in Scripture. Of course, we must be much more careful here than when dealing with the clear, obvious statements of Scripture referring to the kingdom. Here, we are looking at the meaning behind the stories, and so it is much easier for our imaginations to run away with us, and for us to see things that are not there. Nevertheless, I do believe that, since all God’s works are for the olam, we can expect to find the kingdom foreshadowed constantly in Scripture.

In the New Testament, one place where we clearly see the kingdom of God foreshadowed is in the book of Acts. In fact, I believe that the Acts period is not just a foreshadowing of the kingdom of God, but that it actually was part of the kingdom of God in its earliest stage.

This might seem like a radical idea, yet it can be backed up by Scripture. First of all, why should we think that the kingdom of God takes place in stages? The answer is that this is set forth clearly by Scripture itself. The Lord makes this plain in His parable of the kingdom of God in Mark 4:26-29.

26. And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,

The kingdom of God here is compared to a man scattering seed on the ground. Therefore, this parable is often called “The Parable of the Growing Grain.” It is important to notice that the Lord’s statement here is a parable of the kingdom of God. This is made clear by the Lord’s statement that “the kingdom of God is as if.” Some try to make out that this parable is talking about the church or church history, but to do this they must ignore the Lord’s own statement as to what this parable is teaching. He makes it clear that it is a parable of the kingdom of God. To say that it is a parable of anything else is to ignore His Own statement regarding it.

27. and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.

The man goes about his daily life as the seed sprouts and grows. He himself does not know how, but that is how it happens. It is hard for us to put a parallel to all these details here, but we would point out that not every detail in a parable needs to be significant. In the Lord’s Own interpretation of some of His parables, He ignores some of the details since they obviously were just for moving along the narrative of the parable. That is probably true of some of the details here. Yet we would point out that when the kingdom of God does come to earth, it will grow by God’s power, not by human effort, and it may be that men will have no idea how it did so when it has actually grown to take control of the whole earth.

28. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Now we have the growth of the grain, and here is where the stages come in. First comes the blade stage of the grain, then the head, and after that the full grain in the head, then the ripened grain, then the putting in of the sickle, and then the harvest. All of these represent stages of the kingdom of God. The first of these stages is the blade, which is when the grain first pokes its head above the ground. At this stage, the grain looks much like grass, and one kind of grain is nearly indistinguishable from another. This early stage of growing grain represented the very first stage of the kingdom of God, and is the stage I believe took place in the Acts period. The Acts period was the blade stage, the very first stage of the kingdom of God.

Another truth about the Acts period as an early stage of the kingdom is found in Romans 13:11-12.

11. And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

Romans was the last book of Paul written during the Acts period prior to Acts 28:28. Paul reminds the Romans that they know the time, and that it is now high time to awake out of sleep, if one is in fact sleeping. Why is this? Because their salvation was now nearer than when they first believed. Since many of these Romans were already believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul cannot be speaking of our salvation from sin and death that takes place when we believe. Therefore, he must be speaking of the ultimate salvation of Adam’s race, when the kingdom of God comes to earth at last. This, he tells them, is nearer than when they first believed.

I suppose that this has been technically true of every believer since the beginning. Since our ultimate salvation in the kingdom will take place at some point, whenever time passes we have technically moved nearer to it. Yet this would not be a very significant thing to urge on first century Roman believers, when more than 1,900 years were yet to pass before the kingdom would come, and all of them would be dead long before this would happen. In the light of such a long period of time before salvation comes, there would be little reason for the Lord to urge them that it was “high time to awake out of sleep.” Yet this makes sense when we accept the fact that the dispensation of grace came in at Acts 28:28 and brought in a new, secret stage of God’s work, postponing the remainder of the kingdom until a far future day. Before this dispensation was revealed and the kingdom postponed, they were actually moving very near to the “ear” stage of the kingdom when the manifest kingdom would actually start to appear on earth, like grain starting to appear on the blade. That is why Paul points this out to them. It was near, but later it was postponed.

12. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

Now Paul proclaims that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. This sets forth the character of the kingdom of God, both as it existed in the Acts period, and how it will exist when this interruption of the dispensation of grace is over and the kingdom appears on earth once again. When the kingdom comes again, it will appear on earth like daylight, lighting up the world. Yet when the kingdom was present in Acts, it was in the shadows of night, and the inhabitants of earth did not see clearly that it was there or what it truly was that had come to earth in their days. The Acts period was the night period of the kingdom, when the kingdom was present, but what it truly was and what it would result in was cloaked in darkness except in the case of those who believed.

As the Acts period drew to a close, the believers realized that the day of the kingdom was moving near, so God urged them to cast off the works of darkness that are all too easy to do at night, and instead to put on the armor of light appropriate to the day. This would have been a good thing for them to do, even though the day period of the kingdom did not come. We too in the kingdom of God are urged to put on the armor of God in Ephesians 6. Yet this passage shows us clearly that the Acts period was not only the blade stage of the kingdom, but it was also the night period of the kingdom of God.

Another great fact about the kingdom of God in the Acts period is found in I Corinthians 13:12. I Corinthians was another book of Paul written during the Acts period, probably following Galatians and I and II Thessalonians and preceding II Corinthians and Romans. In this book, he proclaims:

12. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

Here the Lord is contrasting the way things were then in the Acts period and the way they will be in the full, manifest kingdom of God when it comes, when the grain grows in the ear and the day comes. Now we see the truth of God like in a mirror, dimly. Mirrors in Paul’s day were not the clear pieces of glass we have now, but were much more cloudy and dim, like trying to see yourself in a reflection off a piece of marble or something of that sort. In the full kingdom, we will see the truth of God face to face. Now we know in part, but in the full kingdom we will know as we are known. Therefore, what they were experiencing in the Acts period was in part. It was the kingdom of God in part. What they were experiencing was part kingdom of God, and part still the kingdoms and governments of this world. This made it a very strange period and a very mixed period indeed. Yet this was the truth of the Acts period: it was the blade stage of the kingdom, it was the night period of the kingdom, and it was the kingdom in part.

Now if the Acts period foreshadowed the kingdom of God, how did it do so? We can see this in several respects, which we will now consider. First, the Acts period foreshadows the Kingdom in how it started. We can see this in various facts recorded for us about its beginning in the book of Acts and chapter 2.

1. When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

First of all, the Acts period started with a sound. This sound was of a rushing mighty wind. When we consider that word aion or “flow” that is often connected with the kingdom of God, we can see that this was an audible representation of that very thing. It was as if they were hearing God begin to start flowing out and flowing down from heaven to earth with His kingdom power. What a sound to hear, and what a glorious signification! May He begin to flow to the earth again with His kingdom power very soon.

The manifest kingdom of God in the future, when it comes, also starts with a sound. We read of this in I Corinthians 15:51-52.

51. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52. in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

This resurrection, in which all the Acts period believers (and perhaps all the Israelites who have died down through the millennia) will be raised from the dead will be one of the first events to take place when the kingdom comes again and is manifest on earth. Of course, it is hard to say if this is the very first event of the kingdom that will take place when it begins again. For that matter, it is difficult to say if the Acts period portion of the kingdom started at the events on Pentecost in Acts 2, or if it started with the resurrection of Christ fifty days earlier. But this is still one of the first events of the manifest kingdom to come. The sounding of the trumpet indicates the presence of the Lord as He comes in His kingdom, just like the trumpet signaled His presence as He came down on the mountain in the book of Exodus. So both the Acts period and the manifest kingdom to come start with a sound.

The Acts period also started with a visible sign of fire. We see this in Acts 2:3.

3. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.

This seems to mean that one great flame, shaped like a tongue, appeared to them, and then it divided itself into many smaller flames, each one shaped like a tongue. These smaller tongues of flame came and sat upon the heads of each of the disciples. This was a powerful sign of fire. The manifest kingdom also starts with signs of fire. To read of the prophecy of this, we need not leave this very chapter, for it is spoken of in Acts 2:19-20.

19. I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20. The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

Wonders and signs will mark the kingdom of God in the future, and among these signs are listed “fire” and “vapor of smoke.” We cannot know what all these signs will be, but they must be at least as impressive as that which appeared at Pentecost, if not more so.

The Acts period also started with fire marking out God’s chosen representatives. We can see this again in Acts 2:3.

3. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.

Notice that the tongues of fire sat on each of the disciples. This was a clear sign, not just that God was working, but also that He was marking out each one of these men as His chosen leaders. No one could doubt that these men, with tongues of fire burning over their heads, were chosen by God as His representative leaders. In the Manifest Kingdom, the leaders will also be marked out by a sign of fire. We can see this in the interesting prophecy of Isaiah 4:5-6.

5. then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. 6. And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.

This speaks of the dwelling places and assembly places of Mount Zion, the very center of the government in the kingdom of God to come. Above these places where the kingdom rulers will live and work, there will appear a cloud and smoke by day and a shining of a flaming fire by night. These signs will mark out the residences and meeting places of the members of God’s government. No one will have to wonder who is associated with the kingdom of God at that time! The sign of smoke and fire will clearly mark them out. Moreover, this cloud will be a shade over these places in the daytime to stave off the heat, a place of refuge day or night, and a shelter from the weather in storm and rain. Ultimately, I believe this sign of cloud and fire will be a miniature of the pillar of fire in the wilderness. We read of this in Exodus 13:21.

21. And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.

Here, Yahweh went before the Israelites by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light. Whether or not this means that Christ literally was inside the pillar or not is hard to say, but we can be certain that it was a sign of His presence with them. The same will be true of the cloud and fire in the kingdom as set forth in Isaiah 4, for the Lord Himself will be present through His Holy Spirit with those upon whose houses and meeting places the cloud and fire will rest. So there will be signs of fire in the future, manifest kingdom, just as there were in the Acts period.

Next, we see that the Acts period started with the pouring out of the power of the Holy Spirit. We read of this in Acts 2:4.

4. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The Greek here tells us that they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages as the Person of the Spirit gave them utterance. This was a great miracle, for these were languages that these men did not know and had never learned, yet suddenly they could speak them fluently and without an accent. The manifest kingdom will also start with the pouring out of the power of the Holy Spirit. Again, we do not have to leave this chapter to see this, for it is set forth in Acts 2:17.

17. ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.

The “last days” here refers to the coming kingdom of God, as I set forth in my message on “Bins for Bible Prophecies Part 3: The Last Days.” In that time, the Spirit will again pour out on people to give them power. Yet this time, it will not be on just one hundred and twenty disciples, as happened at Pentecost in Acts 2. This time, the Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. The result is that even the young people will prophesy. This will not be limited to men, for the daughters too will take part. The young men, not just the elders, will see visions. The old men, on the other hand, whom we might expect to be like old people today and live more in memories than anticipation, will be dreaming dreams of the future, for suddenly their life will be expanded and death will no longer be near. These great things will happen when the land of Israel is restored, as we read in Isaiah 32:13-15.

13. On the land of my people will come up thorns and briers,
Yes, on all the happy homes in the joyous city;
14. Because the palaces will be forsaken,
The bustling city will be deserted.
The forts and towers will become lairs forever,
A joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks—
15. Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
And the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
And the fruitful field is counted as a forest.

This passage gives us a sad picture of what would happen to the nation of Israel in what to Isaiah was the near future. The land would be spoiled, the happy homes in ruins, the cities deserted, and wild animals would proliferate. Yet the sad condition of the land would come to an end when the Spirit is poured out on Israel from on high. After that, the wilderness lands would become fruitful fields and the fruitful fields would become forests. After that, the land would again be blessed, and be altogether a land flowing with milk and honey again. This prophecy has never yet been fulfilled, but it will come to pass just as Jehovah said it in the kingdom of God.

Why will the Spirit be poured out? For many reasons, no doubt. But we are told one of the most important purposes for this outpouring in Psalm 22:27.

27. All the ends of the world
Shall remember and turn to the LORD,
And all the families of the nations
Shall worship before You.

Many critics have mocked the Bible with the idea that Its Author thought the earth was a square. As if God could not see what shape it is! But the fact is that an “end of the world” does not mean an edge. If you were in a jungle village, standing at the very edge of it looking out into the wild jungle beyond, you would have come to a place where civilization and the world of men comes to an end. If you took one more step, you would be out of the world of mankind altogether and in the wild. You would have come to an “end of the world.” This phrase means a most remote place, and not an edge of a square earth.

People in even the most remote places will remember. When we remember something, this implies that it was something we knew before but had forgotten. Yet this word means that they have something impressed on their minds that was not there before. The result of this is that all the different families of the nations shall worship before the LORD, whether or not they had been doing that before. This will be a glorious time indeed.

What sort of things will the ends of the world “remember” that will bring about such a great result? These things are indeed significant. We read of them in John 16:7-11.

7. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9. of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10. of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11. of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

When the Spirit is poured out, the world will be reproved regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment. Once they truly are made to understand these things, how can they help but worship? We will discuss this great outpouring more at length in an upcoming message on “The Return of the Holy Spirit.” Yet for now, we can say that the Acts period began with the Holy Spirit being poured out on certain men, whereas the kingdom of God will start with the Holy Spirit being poured out on all people.

The final way in which the start of the Acts period foreshadows the start of the kingdom is in the breaking down of the language barrier. We read of this in Acts 2:4.

4. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

These men had not known these languages previously, but they were suddenly and powerfully given mastery of them. This resulted in the breaking down of the language barrier between them and the people who spoke these languages. The Manifest Kingdom will break down this language barrier as well, along with many others. We read of this again in Acts 2:17-18.

17. ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18. And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.

This presents a picture to us of barriers being broken down as well. The barrier between the young and the old is broken down. The barrier between the powerful and the slaves is broken down. Why? Because all alike receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Age and social standing will no longer matter as they do in this world, for all alike will partake of the power of God.

Thus the Acts period foreshadowed the coming, manifest kingdom in many ways. Both start with a sound, both include signs of fire, both see God’s chosen representatives powerfully marked out for all to see, both involve the pouring out of the power of the Holy Spirit, and both break down barriers that exist between people in this world. Thus we see that, in many ways, the beginning of the Acts period foreshadows the kingdom of God. (For more on this same truth, see my article on “Acts 2 and the Kingdom of God.”)

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