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The Kingdom Comes Only By Birth
There is one scripture that I would like to turn to in connection with the kingdom of God as we experience it that I’ve come to feel says it more succinctly and more completely than any other. It’s found in the prophet Isaiah, chapter 33. And the passage we’re going to turn to is actually a prophetic preview of the next phase of the kingdom when the kingdom is established on earth. But the principles contained in it, I believe, apply to the kingdom and the citizens of the kingdom in every phase. So I would like to read to you just these two verses, Isaiah 33:22 and 24.
Now I cannot take time to go into the context but again I say it is a preview of what the kingdom will be like when it’s established on earth with Zion, or Jerusalem, as its capital. Verse 22 is what the people in the kingdom will be saying.
“For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king, he will save us.”
Skip the next verse and go down to verse 24 which is the result. This is the result.
“The inhabitant will not say I am sick, the people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquities.”
There will be no room for sin or sickness in the kingdom. I’ve pointed that out consistently from the beginning. Where the kingdom comes, the kingdom of darkness is pushed back and with it goes the works of darkness which are sin and sickness.
Now, let’s consider what it means to make this statement. I’m going to invite you in a little while to make it with me. I want you to understand what you’re saying before you commit yourself. Once you’ve committed yourself there’s really no way back. The statement points out three aspects of the Lord. The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king. Interestingly enough for those with an American background, this corresponds pretty exactly to the threefold distribution of the government. The judge is the judiciary, the lawgiver is the legislative, the king is the executive branch. But, you understand, instead of there being three separate branches, this is a kingdom. They are all in the one person. The same person is judge, lawgiver and king.
Now you have no idea, Americans, British, New Zealanders, Australians and others, what a mental adjustment that requires from you to conceive of a situation in which all that power is vested in one person. But that’s how it’s going to be. And then it says he will save us. I want to suggest to you that is salvation. When you can say those three things you are in God’s salvation. I want to make it singular. The Lord is my judge, the Lord is my lawgiver, the Lord is my king, I have salvation.
Let’s consider briefly what’s involved. The Lord is my judge. What does that mean? I don’t decide for myself what is right and wrong, I’m totally submitted to God’s judgment. If God says something is right, it’s right. If God says something is wrong, it’s wrong. He’s the judge, not me. I accept his sentence on every area of my life. If he says that’s wrong, it goes. If he says that’s right, in it comes. I am not making my own judgments about right and wrong. He is making them. He is the judge. Number one.
Number two, the Lord is my lawgiver. I interpret this as the Lord is the one who sets my lifestyle. Without going into a lot of explanation, the Hebrew word means the one who sets the institutions or the patterns of living. That’s tremendously important. You are not free to determine your own lifestyle. The Lord is the one who determines your lifestyle. And I venture to suggest to you lovingly that if you really were to say that the Lord sets my lifestyle and mean it, your lifestyle would change radically. I venture to suggest to you more than 50 percent of you, your lifestyle is not set by the Lord. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I am convinced that the majority of western Christians do not have a lifestyle that represents the kingdom of God or the kingship of Jesus.
This was brought out to me very vividly in a personal way last April when I was walking out of the condominium that we sometimes live in in Florida. I opened the door to walk out, walked out and closed the door behind me and in that period the Lord spoke to me. He didn’t speak about something I was thinking about, he took the initiative. This is what I believe he said: “If you will follow the right lifestyle, you can be completely well.” And I thought I can? And then I thought that makes sense. That’s right. Furthermore, I cannot expect health if I follow the wrong lifestyle. Okay? It is inconsistent. See, what we get in our healing meetings is people who live an unrighteous, carnal, ungodly lifestyle, come in for healing, want a little dab of God’s supernatural blessing and then go back and live the same lifestyle again. God is not playing that game. The time for this ignorance he has closed his eyes to. But he now commands all men everywhere to do what? Repent, that’s right. Change your lifestyle. Somebody said you’re forgiven when you stop doing it. It’s not enough to say I’m sorry if you go on doing it.
Now what’s the spiritual lifestyle? Righteousness, peace and joy. Now that sounds good. But you know what I’ve realized? There’s a physical aspect to living. We are living in bodies. And these bodies are designed to be temples of the Holy Spirit. Let me ask you, do you treat your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit? Or do you take better care of your automobile than you do of your body? If it’s not true, your automobile is going to break down.
I want to suggest to you three very simple, practical aspects of lifestyle which I have learned by hard experience. I’m just about 70, I wish I had learned them much earlier in life. Let me tell you from my perspective you can do things wrong and get away with it for years but they’ll catch up with you. One thing is sunbathing. Okay, you can lie out in the sun in your teens and twenties and your thirties and get a beautiful bronze. But when you’re about sixty your skin will be like leather. And you’ll have the problem I have which is potential skin cancer.
I went to a dermatologist, he looked at me and said, “You had all the sun you needed 25 years ago.” I thought “Where was I 25 years ago?”In East Africa living on the equator. I understood his remark. In those days I was proud I could walk out in the sun without a hat. I went to a Jewish dermatologist in Jerusalem, an Orthodox Jew. He looked at me and said, “Do you spend a lot of time in the sun?” I said, “I used to.” “A kind of sun worshipper?” I had to say yes. He said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” I had to bow, it was the truth. You watch the majority of people today when the sun shines and they’re on the beach. They are sun worshippers. They’re much more concerned with that than righteousness. Righteousness is a full time commitment, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Waking or sleeping.
Let me just then suggest to you these three basics. Diet, exercise and rest. I’m not a medical expert, I know there are medical experts here. I have come to the conclusion those are the three basics of health. It’s like the minimum number of legs that will hold up a table is three. And your table won’t hold up with less than three legs: diet, exercise and rest.
Listen, if your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit you are not free to fill it with junk food. You’re desecrating the temple. Almost everybody today knows that white sugar will ruin you. You are, in a sense, committing suicide if you build up your life on white sugar. That’s not a matter of theory any longer, it’s a proven fact. It’s somewhat ironical that most of us in the western world are concerned about losing weight when most of the rest of the world don’t have enough food to eat. Doesn’t that say something to us?
Exercise. There’s no country where I find more people with unequal legs than the United States. You know why. Because they never walk anywhere. I saw a skit once about a man who took the automobile three blocks from his house to the parking lot of a big department store and then took the escalator up two floors to buy a book on exercise! Muscles are designed to function when they work. They’re not designed to be without work.
The third is something I’ve just recently come to see. Rest is just as important ultimately as diet and exercise. And here’s where I think the majority of Christians fall down. One of the disciplines of living in Jerusalem is you are more or less obligated up to a certain point to observe the Sabbath. It’s no longer a dreary thing for me, it’s a joy to take one day in the week when I deliberately abstain from anything that could be classified as work. The Sabbath in Jerusalem is a unique institution. It’s not found anywhere else. Tel Aviv doesn’t have it, Haifa doesn’t. But ‘round about 3:00 o’clock on the average Friday afternoon the traffic slows down, all the sounds of work cease and then at the appointed exact moment the Sabbath horn is blown and you can hear it all over the city and a kind of stillness falls down on the city. And it’s there—broken by some people driving cars because a lot of people are not religious—but basically the whole atmosphere is different. And do you know what I came to realize? The Sabbath is not really an individual institution, it’s a corporate institution. You can take Sunday off somewhere but if people are out shopping in the supermarket and your neighbor is mowing his lawn, it’s a kind of little narrow oasis you’re living in in the middle of the desert. I don’t think the majority of us have got any concept of how far we have moved away from the divinely appointed lifestyle. I am not under the law, I am not teaching that Christians must observe a specific day of the week as a Sabbath, I’m just saying that the majority of Christians have lost the concept of rest. I have learned that if I will rest one day in the week I will accomplish much more in the remaining six days than if I worked all seven.
Now I cannot go into this in detail but I really want to challenge you. Are you prepared to say the Lord is my lawgiver, he sets the pattern for my life, the hours I work, the food I eat, the entertainment that I enjoy. Shall I tell you how a lot of you will become much more spiritual? Shall I tell you one simple thing you need to do? If I tell you will you do it? That’s up to you. All you need to do is change two things around. The two things are the amount of time you spend in front of the television set and the amount of time you spend with your Bible. Just exchange them. That’s all you need to do. You’ll be very spiritual. And you cannot be very spiritual when you’ve got hours with your eyeballs glued to that boob tube. I have learned in the ministry of deliverance that there are various kinds of addictions. Do you know the latest one I’ve learned is TV addiction. People are just as much addicted to TV as they are to cigarettes or alcohol. It does them just as much harm. They cannot walk into the room without switching it on. It’s compulsive. And it saps their brain till they become passive spectators of life in general because they’re used to seeing everything in color on a screen in front of them without having to do anything. Okay, no one paid me for that and I’m not asking for anything.
Let’s take the third one, the Lord is my king. Do you know what that means? He gives me orders. He tells me where to go, what to do, how to act. I don’t make my own decisions. See, I’ll give you a simple example. If the Lord is your king and he tells you to live in Honolulu, you cannot be righteous in Kona no matter how hard you try. You can keep all the rules, go to church every Sunday, pay your tithe, but you’re not righteous. What are you? You’re a rebel. Understand?
Now I am personally convinced if God could find a congregation of people who would honestly say the Lord is my judge, the Lord is my lawgiver, the Lord is my king, there would be no sickness in that congregation. The people that dwell there will not say I am sick. Now I’m going to challenge you. Let’s say it as a pious intention, shall we? As something we’d like to be true, all right? And having said it let’s give the Lord liberty to make it true. It’s not true for most of you but it could be true say two years from now if you worked on it. And at the end of two years most of you would be very different people. And would be a big improvement! Do you believe you can be improved? If you can’t it’s a pity to tamper with you. All right, this is the winding up of this particular section of my teaching. You got the words, judge, lawgiver, king. Now we say this in faith, in humble submission to the Lordship of Jesus. I’ll do it just once. You know what you do when you take the oath in a Court of law? You lift up your hand? That means once you’ve put your hand up you’re committed. “The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king.” Maybe we better make it personal the first time. My and not our. Shall we say it together? “The Lord is my judge, the Lord is my lawgiver, the Lord is my king.” Now it won’t work if it’s merely individual. It has to be collective. So why don’t we make that YWAM’s motto for the week and say it together? Plural, okay? Now we’re including our brothers and sisters. We’ll stand together. If I see you—dear Lord—if I see you swallowing three Cokes I’ll say the Lord is your lawgiver. Did he authorize that? So we’ll say it collectively. “The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king.” Amen. Now I have to hurry on. I’ve committed myself to finish at the end of the next session.
I want now to look into the future, things that have not yet been fulfilled. I don’t want to dwell on it in great detail, I would rather that you viewed this like a slide show. You know, where you sit in a slide show, a slide is projected on a screen, there’s a little click, the next slide comes, a few words are said and a click, the next slide. Well, I’d like you to see the passages of scripture I’m going to be dealing with, each one as a slide on the screen and if you put them together they’ll give you a kind of overall picture of where we are headed.
First of all, I just want to take a few moments to point out the importance of knowing God’s plans for the future. I don’t believe this is optional, I believe God expects us to have an intelligent understanding of what he’s planning. I believe he’s given us sufficient material in the Bible to know. I know there are lots of things we don’t know, there are lots of things that Christians argue about. Pre, mid or post tribulation, I’m not even going to discuss that. There are a whole lot of things that are very clear. I’m going to focus on what I believe to be the clear indisputable facts and leave the unknown to be unknown. There are some things we’ll only find out when they happen, but there are other things that are very clearly predicted and painted before us.
First of all, let’s look for a moment at the principle in John 15:15. Jesus is speaking to his disciples.
“No longer do I call you servants [or slaves]; for a slave does not know what his master is doing. But I’ve called you friends; for all things I’ve heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Now if you don’t know what God is doing, you just obey orders, you’re just a slave. But if you’ve faithfully obeyed orders he’s going to promote you to being a friend. And when you’re a friend he shares his intentions, purposes and plans with you. So I’m suggesting that we should qualify to be treated as friends, not just as slaves.
And then there’s a passage in 2Peter which I think is very important. 2Peter 1:16–19. I think there are two extremes about prophecy in the church. One is people who are all wrapped up in prophecy, they can tell you the exact number of the name of the antichrist and who’ll be mayor of Chicago in the great tribulation. And other people who just dismiss the whole thing as irrelevant. Each is error. Between the two is a reasonable and scriptural attitude. In these verses Peter exhorts us as Christians to give earnest heed to Biblical prophecies. And he does it on the basis of the fact that the New Testament contains so many prophecies from the Old Testament that were fulfilled that this is a guarantee to us that the remaining unfulfilled prophecies will be fulfilled and in like manner. See, some people say do you believe that’s going to happen literally. Because of my philosophic linguistic background I object to the word literally because it’s suggests there’s some other way for things to happen. Like if I say to somebody here are you literally married? What does it imply? It implies there’s some way to be living with a woman without being married. It’s got a whole lot of unfortunate implications. Or suppose I say to some businessman, do you literally pay your taxes? What am I implying? I’m implying there’s some way to get away without paying your taxes. It’s a misuse of the word literal. You can find out partly the meaning of a word from its opposite. What is the opposite of literal? I would say metaphorical. Now I don’t believe in the metaphorical fulfillment of prophecy. I just believe it will be fulfilled exactly the way it was in the New Testament. There are eighteen statements in the New Testament about the life of Jesus in which it says “that it might be fulfilled”. Every one refers to an Old Testament prophecy. Every one of them was fulfilled the way it was written, not metaphorically. Jesus was born of a real virgin, not a metaphorical virgin. What would a metaphorical virgin be? I hate to think! Jesus was born in a real city really called Bethlehem, not a metaphorical city. He really was called out of a real Egypt. And later on in his life it was a real friend who betrayed him. When they crucified him it was real soldiers who really divided his garments amongst them and cast lots. People gave him real vinegar to drink. They really pierced his hands and his feet and his side. There was nothing metaphorical in any of the fulfillments of Old Testament prophecy recorded in the New. Why should there be anything metaphorical in the fulfillment of the remainder? We have no basis whatever for anticipating that.
Now let me read the words of Peter here. He’s talking about the coming of the Lord Jesus, his return, his parousia.
“For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming [parousia, return] of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
He’s saying we just didn’t just dream this up or write some pretty fairy story, we have personal evidence of what it will be like.
“For he [Jesus] received from God the Father honor and glory. When such a voice came to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain [the mount of transfiguration].”
What Peter is saying is we’re not just imaging that he’s coming in inconceivable glory, we saw his glory. His face shone like the sun, his raiment was like the light, we heard the voice of God the Father, we saw this supernatural cloud that enveloped us. All of it really happened. So you can believe us when we tell you how it’s going to happen when he comes back. But then he goes on to say, and I want to emphasize, verse 19:
“We also have the prophetic word made more sure.”
Why is it made more sure? Because of all the ways in which it was fulfilled in the New Testament. We have a solid scriptural base for how prophecy will be fulfilled. There is no evidence to suggest that there’ll be any change in the way prophecy is fulfilled between the New Testament and the end of this age.
“We also have the prophetic word made more sure which you do well to heed.”
Who is you? You is we, isn’t it? We do well to heed the prophetic word.
“As a light that shines in the dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
I can never read that verse without getting excited because of this beautiful picture. Peter says if you will give careful heed to the prophetic scriptures, the unfulfilled ones, if you will read them and meditate on them and ask God to make them real to you, something is going to happen inside you. What’s that? The morning star is going to rise in your heart.
Now when I was with the British Army in North Africa in the desert, for two years we lived on the sand, we had no toilets, we had no running water, we had no electricity. One result was we went to bed when it got dark and we got up when the dawn came. That was our life. In that situation I learned something which I probably never would have learned otherwise. At certain seasons of the year in the eastern sky just about the time of the dawn it becomes very luminous. And you think now the sun is going to rise. It isn’t. It’s the morning star which incidentally is a planet which in other seasons is the evening star. But it’s so bright that you really think it’s the sun. Then you see it’s just a star. But when that star rises you know something for sure. What’s that? The next thing that is going to rise really will be the sun. So Peter says if you will give heed to the prophetic word, the morning star will rise in your heart. What does that mean? You’ll know for sure the Lord is coming back. It won’t be just a doctrine that you hear in church, it won’t be just a theory, you’ll be living in the excited anticipation of the Lord’s return. And people that live like that live lives that are different from other people. I venture to suggest to you the supreme motivation offered in the epistles of the New Testament for holy living is the anticipation of the Lord’s return. You read and check. I suggest to you that where people are not consciously anticipating the return of the Lord, the standard of holiness will be lower than that of the New Testament.
But my point now is that we are exhorted by the New Testament to give careful heed to the prophetic word. We are not free to ignore it, dismiss it, shrug our shoulders at it or make fun of the people who have misinterpreted it. So I am now going to look with you at a number of prophetic statements about what lies ahead. The first two phrases of the Lord’s prayer: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” That’s the approach. Then we come to the first petition, you remember what it was? “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth...” Where is the kingdom to come? On earth. Do you think that Jesus told us to pray for that if it would never happen? I can’t conceive of that. The very fact that God tells you to pray for something is an indication he wants it to happen. Every time you say the Lord’s prayer whether you realize it or not, you are praying for the coming of the kingdom of God on earth. If you don’t believe it’s going to come, don’t pray because you’re a hypocrite. Somebody said it’s just as much a sin to pray a lie as it is to say a lie.
Now what’s going to happen when the kingdom does come to earth? I’m going to give you this series of slides, I’m not going to dwell on any of them. You can study them for yourselves. The first thing I want to say is the kingdom will then be restored to Israel. That is the focal point of the coming of the kingdom of God to earth. Let’s look at two scriptures, one we’ve already looked at. Acts 1:6–8. You remember the disciples were asking Jesus about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel.
“Therefore when they had come together they asked him saying, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? Jesus said, It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons.”
He didn’t say it won’t happen. If he knew that the kingdom would never be restored to Israel I venture to suggest to you he would have been honest enough to tell them, “You’re wrong, it’s never going to happen.” What he said is, in effect, it will happen but it’s not up to you to know when. Something else has got to happen first. What’s that?
“You will be endowed with power from on High, you will be my witnesses to the utmost part of the earth.”
In other words, as I said already, every nation now has to have the offer of the kingdom before it can be restored to Israel. But when every nation has had the offer of the kingdom, it will be restored to Israel.
Turn to Romans 11 for a moment. Verses 25–26.
“For I do not desire brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery...”
A secret that God kept with himself but has now revealed. That’s what a mystery is. I think there’s at least half a dozen places where Paul says I hope you aren’t ignorant. My observation is in almost every one of those cases, most Christians today are ignorant.
“For I do not desire, brethren, you should be ignorant of this mystery [then Paul guards against something] lest you should be wise in your own opinion.”
Lest you should become conceited, lest you think that everything begins and ends with you. It doesn’t. It began with Israel and it’s going to end with Israel. And we Gentiles are singularly privileged to get in on the act at all. And woe to us if we become arrogant in our thinking about Israel. That’s the warning. A warning that’s been desperately needed in the church for many, many centuries. If the Roman Catholic church had paid attention to this scripture it would be a very different institution today.
Now what is the mystery?
“That hardening in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”
Notice it’s only in part. All Israel never has been hardened, there has always been Jewish believers in every generation. And it’s only until. Never take the attitude it is total or final, it is not. It is in part and until. Until what? The full number of the Gentiles has come in. How will that come in? It’s very obvious. By our obeying the commission: going and making disciples of all nations, proclaiming the gospel to every creature, proclaiming the gospel or the good news of the kingdom to all nations. It cannot happen until we’ve done that because God is pleased to save people through the foolishness of preaching. He could do it a dozen other ways but that’s the way he’s determined to do it. Who’s got to do the foolish preaching? We have.
Now once the full number of the Gentiles has come in, what will happen next? Verse 26, are you there?
“And so all Israel will be saved...”
The whole nation will be restored to the favor of God through the acknowledgment of Jesus, their Messiah. Israel is the only nation concerning which the Bible guarantees a whole nation will be saved.
“...as it is written [and Paul quotes the Old Testament] the deliverer [Jesus] will come out of Zion, he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins.”
See? The plan is very clear. All Gentiles have to be invited into the kingdom and they either have to accept or decline. And when that has been done then the kingdom will be restored to Israel. This is God’s program. You say why did he do it that way? Why don’t you ask God himself? I’m content to know that’s his program. There are some things in his program that I find strange. See, when you deal with the Jewish people, bear in mind that there’s a blindness in them which God put upon them. You better know how to relate to that. You can say give your heart to Jesus fifteen times but it will mean nothing as long as their blindness is there. You’re dealing with a different kind of person when you deal with the Jews. If you’re not called upon to deal with them just pray for them. But if you’re called upon to deal with them you’ve got to learn some lessons you don’t have to learn when you go to the Asiatics or Russians, Americans, Chinese or any other race.
So we come to the statement the kingdom will be restored to Israel. That’s slide number one. Click. We’re moving on to the next which is a similar statement. The prophet Micah. Chapter 4, the first two verses quote two verses from Isaiah 2, or else repeat.
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days [this is the end of the age] that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains and should be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it.”
I believe there’s going to be a tremendous earthquake in that area and as a result, the hill which is the holy hill will become higher than all the surrounding hills which it isn’t at the moment.
“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 law shall go forth and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem will be the governmental and the worship center of the whole earth. From Jerusalem will go out God’s teaching to all nations, all nations will come to Jerusalem to offer their worship.
Now going a little further on in that chapter here’s the clear statement. It’s in prophetic language but it’s very clear. Micah 4:6–8:
“In that day says the Lord, [and that’s usually the end of the age too, not always, but usually] I will assemble the lame, I will gather the outcast and those whom I have afflicted.”
That’s the regathering of poor, scattered, lame, afflicted Israel. It’s such a vivid picture of what’s happened.
“I will make the lame a remnant and the outcast a strong nation; so the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on even for ever.”
That’s a clear statement of the establishment of the Lord’s kingdom with its capital in Mount Zion.
“And you, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, even the former dominion shall come to you.”
The kingdom you once had will come back to you. The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem. That’s a clear specific statement that the kingdom will be restored to Israel.
Now there’s only one way the kingdom can be restored. Do you know what that is? There’s no kingdom without the king. That’s a basic principle. For the kingdom to be restored, the king had to return and be acknowledged. We’ll read one verse in Matthew 25. Verse 31:
“When the Son of man comes in his glory...”
Note, in his glory. Does your heart leap at that thought? It should.
“...and all the holy angels with him.”
It says in Luke 9, I think it’s verse 23, that he will come in his own glory, in the glory of the Father and in the glory of the holy angels. Think of the indescribable glory. No wonder the sun will be ashamed and the moon will be abashed.
We’re going back to that verse:
“When the Son of man comes in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.”
When he sits on the throne, what will he be? A king. When he comes he will sit on the throne of his kingdom. Not the heavenly throne, the earthly throne of an earthly king.
Now I want to develop a principle which is very interesting, has a lot of implication. I don’t have time to go into it in detail. But I just want to make this statement. All through the Bible, the New Testament, entrance into the kingdom of God is only by a birth. Without a birth you cannot enter the kingdom. And a birth comes with what? Travail. It’s a laborious process. One I have never experienced but I have the information from good sources. I heard a well known Episcopal surgeon once say that he had attended many births and every one of them was a messy business. We’re talking about a birth, you understand? Now whether it’s an individual, whether it’s the nation of Israel, whether it’s all nations or whether it’s all creation, the kingdom is only coming by a birth. I think you find this an exciting principle. Let’s look, first of all, at the individual. John 3:3–6. What does that say? Most of us know it by heart I’m sure but let’s have a look. This is the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Most assuredly I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born. Jesus answered, Most assuredly I say to you unless one is born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
No one gets into the kingdom but by a birth. You don’t get into the kingdom by being religious or joining the church or saying your prayers. You have to be born into the kingdom. Why does there have to be a birth? I believe because there has to be a total separation from the whole background out of which you come. And the scriptural name for that is repentance. Just like a baby leaves the womb, is separated from it, the umbilical cord is severed, so the into the kingdom is coming out of something into something by a process analogous to birth. Lots of people go to meetings and crusades and make, quote, decisions. But they’re never born again because they never come out of something into something. A birth is nothing to talk lightly of. In many ways it’s an agonizing experience. But the results are so wonderful as Jesus said, when the birth pains are over the mother forgets for the joy that a human being is born into the world.
Let’s look at the second example, Israel. We’ll look in Jeremiah 30:2–9. This is a prediction of what will happen when Israel is restored to their own land.
“Thus speaks the Lord the God of Israel saying, Write a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will bring back from captivity my people Israel and Judah says the Lord. And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave their fathers and they shall possess it.”
Now anybody that knows anything about the Bible knows there’s only one land that answers that description, is that right? There’s only one land that God gave to the forefathers of Israel, it’s that little strip of territory at the east end of the Mediterranean. Now God goes on to describe what will happen when Israel come back and he says don’t let them anticipate peace because it will be the very opposite. Some Christians have said if it was God that was bringing Israel back they’d come back in peace. They don’t know their Bible. The Bible says the exact opposite. Verse 4:
“Now these are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah. For thus says the Lord; we have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, not of peace. Ask now and see, whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man [the word means a male] with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great so that none is like it and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble [or tribulations] but he shall be saved out of it.”
What’s that describing? A process of agonizing birth. So agonizing that every man is behaving like a woman in labor.
“For it shall come to pass in that day says the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from your neck and will burst your bonds; foreigners shall no more enslave them: but they shall serve the Lord thy God and David their king who I will raise up for them.”
What proceeds out of the birth? A kingdom. It’s very clear.
Let’s look at the next. All nations. Matthew 24:3, 7–14, 21–22, 29–30. Understand I’ve excerpted them so as not to make it too lengthy. Now this describes the coming of the kingdom not just to Israel but to all nations. I have to say but for me these words are very actual, they’re not something remote in the distant future, they’re a pretty good version of the morning newspaper. Matthew 24:3, Jesus is asked a question:
“What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?”
And from verse 7 onwards he gives various signs which are great international wars. Verse 7: famines, pestilence and earthquakes. Verse 9: tribulation and persecution of Christians. Verse 10: many Christians offended, betraying one another. Verse 11: many false prophets. Verse 12: a tremendous upsurge of lawlessness and the corresponding decrease of love among Christians. And then this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world to all nations, et cetera.
Notice that the preaching of the gospel is not in a time of peace when everything is going well. The harder it gets the more involved it is to proclaim the message. And only those who are aggressive will do it. Then Jesus goes on, verse 21–22:
“Then there will be great tribulation such as not been since the beginning of the world until this time nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened no flesh should be saved. But for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.”
This is the tribulation of all nations. Jeremiah 30 was the tribulation of Israel. But the Bible says tribulation and anguish to every soul of man, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile. And then it says in verses 29–30:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
What’s all that? Jesus said it in verse 8. All these are the beginning of birth pangs. Understand, we’re describing the birth pangs of a new age. When will the new age come into being? When the king returns and sets up his kingdom. But there is no way into the kingdom but by birth. Whether it’s for an individual, whether it’s for Israel, whether it’s for all nations or whether it’s for all creation.
I believe I just have time to close this up. It’s such a consistent principle all through the New Testament. Romans 8:19–23. I think I’ll be able to read them and probably not have time to comment on them. But they comment on themselves really. Romans 8:19–23:
“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was made subject to futility [or vanity] not willingly but because of him who subjected it in hope.”
Those of you who are familiar with thermodynamics, that’s the second law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy. Everything is getting less organized, less efficient, there is less power available for useful work. It is all going down. That’s a scientific statement of what Paul says in Romans 8:20. Creation was subject to futility not willingly but because of him who subjected it in hope. Verse 21:
“Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
That’s a birth. And then he says:
“For we know [listen] that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only they but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves eagerly waiting for the adoption, and the redemption of our body.”
What a vivid picture. All creation is in birth pangs for the birth of the new age. And those who have the Holy Spirit should be in sympathy with creation. We should be sharing in the birth pangs of creation.
But the principle that I want to bring out and I think it’s tremendously important is whatever it is, whoever it is, there is no way into the kingdom but by a birth which is being projected out of what you were in and propelled into something new by a process that can be agonizing. And both for Israel and for the nations it’s called tribulation. Peace is not going to come by negotiations. It’s not going to come from the United Nations. It’s going to come through a birth that will bring forth a new world order. God bless you.
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