As we have considered the wonderful reality of the kingdom of God on earth, we have seen all the stupendous things God has planned for Adam’s race and for this earth in His amazing future. Yet having studied all these things, there is one question we might ask. The glorious truth of God’s coming eons is a wonderful thing to know, but to really put it to use it must impact us and our lives in our day. We live in the dispensation of grace. How does the kingdom impact us living at this time?
As I said, I believe that the time we live in is the dispensation of the grace of God. As we discussed in “Foreshadowing the Kingdom,” the initial, blade stage of the kingdom took place in the book of Acts. That blade stage continued throughout the Acts period until it was interrupted at Acts 28:28. At that time, the kingdom work of the Acts period was brought to an end by Paul’s momentous declaration, given here in The Resultant Version.
28. “Be it known therefore unto you that the salvation-bringing message of God is now authorized (made freely available) unto the nations, and it will get through to them.”
This statement marked a significant departure from God’s kingdom plan. The kingdom program is that Israel will be brought into the kingdom first, and then all nations will flow to them to be brought into the kingdom. Micah 4:2 explains this.
2. Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
So Israel will be the first nation into the kingdom, and all other nations will come flowing to them to learn of the kingdom and take their place in it. Salvation and entrance into the kingdom will lie with the land of Israel, and other nations will look to them to receive it. As soon as the salvation-bringing message expanded from Israel out to all nations, this kingdom program was interrupted. God paused the kingdom work, and it has not moved forward since that time. Instead, a parenthesis in the prophetic program of the kingdom began, and a new period was introduced. This is the period in which we live, when all nations have access to God’s salvation equally.
Ephesians 3 explains to us the character of this new epoch that was introduced when the kingdom was interrupted. We will be considering this passage again from The Resultant Version of Otis Q. Sellers.
2. Assuming that you surely hear of the administration of the grace of God, which is given to me for you
In verse 2, Paul speaks of an administration of the grace of God. The word “administration” is the Greek word oikonomia, which literally means a “house-law.” The word expanded out from a house, however, and came to be used of a much wider context. In this case, it speaks of God’s administrational policy towards the entire world. Today, God chooses to act toward the world graciously. He has acted in grace at times from the very beginning, but now He chooses to act only and exclusively in grace. Ultimately, when God acts, He acts graciously, and if He cannot act in grace, He will not act at all.
3. For by revelation the secret is made known to me, even as I have written before in brief,
In this verse, Paul speaks of a truth called “the secret.” That word is the Greek musterion, which some translations make “the mystery.” The English word “mystery” means something mysterious that has to be investigated to be figured out. But the Greek word musterion simply means a “secret.” When the Bible speaks of a truth It calls a secret, It basically means that God had never revealed that truth before in any of His revelations, though He has revealed it now. So Paul speaks of a secret, though he does not as yet reveal to us what that secret is.
4. By which you, reading, are able to apprehend my understanding in the secret of the Christ,
This secret is a secret of the Christ. It is His secret that Paul wants us to understand. Yet he has still not told us what it is.
5. Which secret, in other generations, is not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets:
The secret Paul is about to reveal was not revealed in other generations of truth that were made known to the sons of men. We cannot find it in the Old Testament, nor can we find it in the New Testament writings up to the book of Ephesians. It had now been revealed “live” by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets, and it was being revealed in Scripture right here in the book of Ephesians.
6. In Spirit the nations are to be joint-enjoyers of a portion, joint-bodies and joint-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the good message,
This verse speaks of the “nations.” Included in this word are all nations, Israel included. We surely cannot leave Israel out of what is being said here. Then, there are three words in this verse that in Greek all have the same prefix. Those words are “enjoyers,” “bodies,” and “partakers.” The prefix is the Greek “sun,” which means “joint” or “equal.” Paul is telling us that the nations are joint, joint, joint or equal, equal, equal. Israel no longer has the first place, as they did from the time of Abraham in Genesis 12 on. Israel is not the head of nations, as they will be in the kingdom of God to come. Instead, all nations are joint and equal before God. This is the secret which Paul is revealing here, as promised since verse 3. This is the program for which God interrupted the kingdom.
7. Of which secret I became dispenser, in accord with the gift of God’s grace, which is granted to me in accord with His powerful operation.
Paul became a dispenser of this secret according to the gift of the grace of God that was given to him.
8. To me, less than the least of all saints, was this grace granted: to herald among the nations the good message of the untraceable wealth of Christ,
Paul was given grace to proclaim among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ. God is acting richly toward this world today in grace. However, those riches are untraceable. Those riches are untrackable. No one can trace out an exact series of evidence that leads back to God from any grace that is given. God is acting in secret, so all the gracious works He is doing today are unsearchable. No one can prove He did them. Only in the future when the hidden things are brought to light will men be able to see all the wonderfully gracious things God has done for the world in this dispensation of grace.
9. Even to enlighten all as to God’s secret administration, which has been concealed from the eons in God, Who creates all these
This tells us that Paul is working to enlighten all as to God’s dispensation of the secret. In other words, God’s administration of the world today is carried out in secret. He is not acting openly or manifestly. He is not working evidentially, so one can see that He is working. He is always acting only and exclusively in secret.
So this is the truth of God’s work today. But before moving on to consider how the kingdom impacts us under God’s work today, let us say a brief word about our position today. Let us look at Ephesians 1:1 in The Resultant Version.
1. Paul, a commissioned one of Christ Jesus, through the will of God, to all the saints, the ones being and believing in Christ Jesus:
I believe this expresses the truth of the position of the believer today. The believer today is “in Christ.” The believer today is identified only and exclusively with Him. The believer today, whether or not he is a Jew, is not privileged by being “in Israel” in God’s sight. The believer of today is not “in the kingdom,” as those believers of the Acts period were. Our privileges and blessings as believers today come to us only and exclusively because we are believers “in Christ.” That is our position, and that is our standing.
So now that we have established when God’s current work is and our position in it, we can go on to our question regarding the kingdom of God. How does that kingdom impact us in the dispensation of grace? What do we have to do with it, and what does it mean to us?
First of all, I believe that God’s current work is not out of harmony with God’s plans for the kingdom. The dispensation of grace is in accord with the eonian purpose of God. We read the reality of this in Ephesians 3:11.
11. In accord with the purpose of the eons, which He makes in Christ Jesus our Lord,
How is what God doing today in accord with the purpose of the coming kingdom eons? Ephesians 2:7 explains this for us.
7. In order that among the eons to come, He might be displaying the transcendent wealth of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus;
In the future eons of the kingdom, the transcendent wealth of God’s grace will be displayed through the kindness He is showing to us now in Christ Jesus, and will be showing to us then in Him. I believe that the kingdom of God is a time when God will be displaying His righteous judgments, His perfect order, His true justice, and His excellent fairness to the world. He will be setting everything right, and the world will see most plainly the God of justice and order. Yet in this environment, it might be easy for Adam’s race to lose perspective on Him as the God of every grace. As they see His justice and fairness displayed every day, they might tend to forget His great grace, mercy, and love. Yet we will be there to see to it that this never happens. We will be the living object lessons of His grace, and who and what we are will be made plain to all at that time. We will be His living lessons of grace.
This is our blessed hope and the outcome we all look forward to: when Christ will no longer be hidden, but be manifested to the world. Titus 2:13 speaks of this.
13. looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
So our hope, the great expectation we are looking forward to, should be this. We know that Who and what Jesus Christ is are facts hidden to the world at this time. They do not really understand Christ. They do not know Who He is nor what He is about. Yet someday, when God’s kingdom comes to earth at last, this will no longer be the case. Someday, He will be revealed and made plain to all, and our blessed expectation waits for that day. Yet He will not be revealed alone. When He is manifested, we too will be manifested. Colossians 3:4 (The Resultant Version) reveals this.
4. When the Christ, Who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall you also be manifested together with Him in glory.
Thus when Christ is manifested and made plain to all, we too shall be manifested together with Him in glorification. Thus we look forward to the day of the kingdom, for we will be manifested then along with Christ. Our hope awaits that glorious day to come in the future. The kingdom impacts us in that it is once the kingdom comes that we will take the place God intends for us to take. The kingdom impacts us in that its arrival is our blessed hope. We are not supposed to be looking forward to death or to heaven, but to God’s kingdom.
With this, then, being our hope and our future, we have one more question to ask. How shall we then live? How should our lives reflect our hope of the kingdom? I believe in this too the kingdom should impact us. It should affect the way we live our lives.
The early chapters of Ephesians, as we have already discussed, talk about our standing as believers today “in Christ,” and of God’s current work in the dispensation of grace. In Ephesians 4-6, the last three chapters of this most important book, God discusses the worthy walk we are to walk in light of all God has done for us in Christ.
Ephesians 4:1. I am admonishing you, therefore, I, the bound one in the Lord, to order your behavior in a manner worthy of the position in which you have been placed, 2. With all humility and meekness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
Because everywhere we go in life we generally “walk,” this becomes a figure for how we live our common, everyday lives. In other words, God wants us to order our behavior in a manner worthy of the position in which we have been placed in Christ. The remainder of the book goes on to urge us to do this. In verses 3-16 of chapter 4, we are urged to walk in the unity of the Spirit. In Ephesians 4:17-31, we are encouraged to put off the old man with his ungodly deeds and put on instead the new man who is like Christ. Ephesians 4:32 says much in summary on how we are to behave today.
32. And become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, dealing graciously with one another, even as God also in Christ deals graciously with you.
God is dealing only and exclusively in grace with us, as we already learned from Ephesians 3:2. Now, He calls on us to deal graciously with one another, emulating God’s dealing with us. We should be gracious as He is gracious. This is an important part of our “worthy walk.”
In Ephesians 5:1-7, we are urged to walk in love, in 5:8-14 to walk as children of light, and in 5:15-20 we are to walk wisely. Then in Ephesians 5:20-6:9, we are instructed to submit to one another in love, and we are given three examples when submission is particularly appropriate (with a worthy response of the one submitted to in each case). In Ephesians 6:10-17, we are told to put on the armor of God which protects us against the devil’s schemes that seek to interrupt our stand for God. This armor all has to do with the Word of God. Finally, in Ephesians 6:18-31, we are told to pray, for constant communication with our Lord is necessary for our walk.
So our great, future position in God’s kingdom that He has so lovingly and graciously given us should inspire us to walk worthy out of love and gratitude for all He has done for us. Yet how else should the kingdom of God impact us? I would point to a rather mysterious passage in Mark 11:12-14 for our next truth.
12. Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”
And His disciples heard it.
In this strange story, Christ looked for a fig tree to bear fruit out of season, and was angry when it did not. We can be sure God does not want us to learn a lesson about trees, but about people. I believe the fig tree represented Israel at the time, and the fact that Christ was looking for them to bear fruit out of season. The kingdom had not yet come, but He was looking for men at the time to bear kingdom-type fruit. Some men, such as the twelve, were doing this, but others were utterly failing to do so.
Though we are not Israel and we live at a different time, the same is true of us in Christ, His people at this time. We should bear kingdom-type fruit before the season of the kingdom comes. In the kingdom, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” Matthew 4:4. So we should not live by food alone today either, but we should live and feed daily on the Word of God. In the kingdom, “they shall all be taught by God,” John 6:45. So we today should read the Scriptures and let God teach us His truth. In the kingdom, “None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” Hebrews 8:11. So we today should get to know the Lord through His Word. In these ways, and many others, we can bear fruit out of season. We can live the kingdom lifestyle now, even before the kingdom comes.
Of course, we cannot do this completely. The kingdom is not here yet, and so we cannot live totally like the kingdom. In fact, we must live in conformity with God’s current dispensation of grace. But in some ways we can live now like we will live in the future. In these ways, we should bear fruit out of season.
In this dispensation in which we live, grace teaches us how we should live. Titus 2:11-14 speaks of this.
11. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
This happened at the start of the dispensation of grace. Now unmixed by judgment, God’s salvation-bringing grace blazed forth on behalf of all mankind.
12. teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
Grace teaches us how to live. We should deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and instead should live soberly, righteously, and Godly in the present eon.
13. looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
We should also live looking for the blessed expectation, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. This will take place at the start of the kingdom of God in the future. So God’s grace today teaches us to live looking for the coming of the glorious kingdom of God in the future, when our Savior shall blaze forth to the world.
14. who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify us for Himself as His Own special people, a people zealous for good works. We are going to be redeemed from all iniquity in the future when the kingdom comes. Yet should we wait until then to make this a reality in our lives? Certainly not! We should try as much as it is possible for us to do to start living that now! Let us live now in ways that are congruous with the position we expect to hold in the kingdom. That is what Christ redeemed us for, and we should give ourselves to live up to His expectations.
We live in the dispensation of grace, an interruption in the kingdom program wherein God shows forth the riches of His grace. Yet the kingdom is our hope and expectation, and His work now is still in light of it. We should live as if we had one foot firmly in the kingdom, bearing fruit out of season, living for Him in this dark world. Let us every day and in every situation strive to do so.