The Kingdom of God . . . A Fresh View - Part 2
DELVING INTO THE “GREATER THINGS”
Let me explain.
Matthew profoundly unveils the identity, if you would, of the Son of God—so does John. Matthew progresses to the Ekklesia—the Kingdom of God (as a matter of deductive reasoning but also giving Peter the “keys to the Kingdom of Heaven”); whereas, John does the same with Nathanael’s statement: “The King of Israel.” In both instances a “name change” is involved. Simon Bar-Jonah to Peter and, if you would, Jacob to Israel embedded in the account of Jacob’s vision at Bethel and subsequent rehearsal at El-Bethel some 21 years later from his first encounter at Bethel, prior to his stay with Laban in Haran.
In both cases we have the Son of Man and Son of God or the Son of God and the Son of Man (in that order – Matthew and then John). Indeed, in both instances there is a building taking place (“I will build my Ekklesia” juxtaposed to “erecting a pillar with the stone(s) and calling the place Bethel—the “House of God”). Again, in Matthew we have the Ekklesia being built; in John’s gospel we have Bethel, and the Pillar of Stone. In both cases there is the linkage of heaven and earth – John: “ascending and descending” (“How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”—Gen. 28:17) and Matthew: “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matt. 16:19).
The MEANS by which Jesus would build His House (Bethel) was given in Matthew’s gospel (by way of the cross with Jesus enjoining His disciples to “bear the cross through self-denial”—but in John’s gospel the “way of the cross” is greatly amplified. John’s account has Jesus telling Nathanael: “. . . greater things than these . . . you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” What is this? Nathanael, you say “Son of God . . . King of Israel” – I say “greater things” – I say SON OF MAN – I say the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven – you say the King of Israel – now you say “greater things” and lead us to Jacob’s ladder?
Again, in Matthew we have a follow-up exchange where Jesus “From that time . . . began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matt. 16:21) with the subsequent exchange where Peter rebuked Him for such talk whereupon Jesus countered: “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:22-23).
Whereas in John’s gospel there is the mentioning of a second “third day” – not of His resurrection “third day” (Matt. 16:21) but “on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee” (John 2:1) where the Son of Man performed His first miracle! The account of Jesus describing His suffering, death and resurrection was immediately followed by the manifestation of His GLORY on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8); whereas the account in John’s gospel produced a Wedding Feast with a Bride and Groom . . . THAT’S precisely what Jacob’s experience would produce: The Building of God—Bethel and the ultimate Bride of Messiah, as we shall see. That is, also, why Jesus filled the earthen pots with water and turned the water into wine where the joy of His “exchanged life” alone could produce the Bride of Messiah. The Bride is the manifestation of the GLORY of the Groom—she is his joy and delight; ultimately:
“Come, I will show you the WOMAN, the Lamb’s Bride . . . and he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, HAVING THE GLORY OF GOD” (lit. Rev. 21:9-11).
Bethel – the House of God has become the Bride, the Woman, the Lamb’s Bride, the Holy City, Jerusalem—SHE IS HIS GLORY!
Yes, in this sense, the account in Matthew’s gospel speaks of the Ekklesia Jesus would build to defeat the Gates of Hades . . . then Matthew goes on to tell how Jesus would accomplish it—through the cross. After Peter’s rebuke and Jesus’ counter of “Get thee behind Me Satan” – Jesus then tells His disciples: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matt. 16:24). Then, once again, He speaks of Himself as the Son of Man: “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels” . . . and of His transfiguration on the mount: “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:27-28).
Indeed, there is the subjective work of the cross in producing the Kingdom, the Ekklesia in Matthew’s gospel . . . but in John’s gospel it is just as overt, however, with much clearer attachments illustrated by the account of Jacob. Jesus’ transfiguration – by Himself with two others – is wondrous; however, the first miracle and the Bride demonstrates Jesus sharing His GLORY – this fully reveals His ultimate purpose in the universe! The “gates of Hades” cannot defend against the Ekklesia; but the Woman of Genesis 3:15 whose Seed is destined to “crush the serpent’s head” shows up as the Bride in John’s accounting . . . we shall speak more of this. Far-fetched? No . . . we are just connecting the dots. Allow me to expand on this “means to an end” – bringing down to earth how the GLORY is manifested.
JACOB-ISRAEL AND HIS VISION
The vision of Jacob’s Ladder and subsequent declarations initially calling the place of his vision Bethel—the House of God (Gen. 28:10-22)—then describes how he took the stone(s) upon which he slept and “set it up and a pillar, and poured oil on top of it . . . and he called the name of that place Bethel.” However, it was after Jacob’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord at Peniel (the time in between his two visitations to Bethel and shortly before his second visit to Bethel), wherein his name was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:28). It was here at Peniel Jacob’s hip was broken.
It was shortly thereafter Jacob-Israel returned to Bethel (the second time) by divine commission and there built an altar “and called the place El Bethel (lit. God, the House of God—Genesis 35:7), because God appeared to him when he fled from the face of his brother (Esau) . . . Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.”
God reinforced His first disclosure in Genesis 28 regarding “. . . your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south and in you in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 28:14) by reinforcing His promise to Israel via the second time: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a COMPANY OF NATIONS shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body” (Gen. 35:9-11). Thence, again, but not altogether similar, Genesis records: “So Jacob set up a pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it. And Jacob called the name of the place where God spoke with him, Bethel” (Gen. 35:14-15) . . . yet, previously, Jacob-Israel called the place El Bethel (Gen. 35:7).
Jacob’s name change took place between his first encounter at Bethel and his second encounter at Bethel. Yes, it was at Peniel or Penuel (lit. the “Face of God” (Gen. 32:22-32)—after his wrestling with the Angel of the Lord that his name was reconfirmed—from Jacob to Israel. He went from the name Jacob (Usurper) to the name Israel (Prince with God)—that is a cataclysmic altercation of the name! Immediately after Peniel, Israel faced off with his brother Esau prior to coming to Bethel again (Gen. 35:1-15) where, once again, the Almighty reinforced the name change from Jacob to Israel. (Gen. 35:10-11)—again, this took place at Bethel which Israel renamed: El-Bethel (Gen. 35:7).
Can I go so far as to say, initially, we see Bethel (the House of God or Bethel – the Ekklesia to be built); but after the vision of Jacob’s Ladder and after Jacob’s “breaking experience” and his encounter with Esau (no less) there is a complete expansion amplified in his name change to Prince with God/Israel—thus we see in this HOW God’s Plan and Purpose for the Ages would be orchestrated; how it would be carried out by changing another name—not from Simon Bar-Jonah to Peter (lit. “a stone”)—but from Jacob to Israel . . . the outworking of the Ekklesia, the Kingdom of God through the PRINCE OF PEACE. Twice did Jacob-Israel construct a pillar of stones upon which he slept and made a pillar upon which he poured the “anointing oil of the Holy Spirit” both times but the second time he initiated the pouring out in its entirety a “drink offering.” Why can I say such a contrast? Because Jesus said as much when He announced “greater things” to Nathanael.
Yes, Jacob and Esau were reconciled (Genesis 33:1-17), but it was only after Jacob had wrestled with the Angel of the Lord at Peniel/Penuel where upon he knew he had met the “Face of God” (viz. Peniel). Now, there was no escape—he had to confront his estranged brother, Esau. Then a most incredible statement from the lips of Israel is heard when he finally meets Esau. Now, concerning the “hated Esau” (for “Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated” – Romans 9:13; Mal. 1:2-3) . . . Israel now exclaims: “I [Israel] have seen your [Esau’s] face as though I had seen the face of God, and you were pleased with me” (Gen. 33:10). Alas! It is only when we meet our “Esau” that we meet the “face of God”—it is in reconciliation that the Ekklesia, if you would, becomes a reality . . . is this not the fruit of the “breaking” – the work of the cross – the changing of the name?
Then after all this (and more) Jacob comes once again to Bethel where the Almighty reinforces the change of Jacob to Israel, but only after Israel entitles Bethel as El-Bethel (Gen. 35:7) whereupon after the reinforcement of the name change Jacob sets up a “pillar in the place where He talked with him, a pillar of stone; and he poured a drink offering on it, and he poured oil on it” (Gen. 35:14-15).
ASCENDING & DESCENDING
Could it be, and I most definitely affirm it to be so, the “ascending and descending upon the SON OF MAN” carries the vision of the Son of God’s incarnation by placing initial emphasis upon “ascending” (bringing MAN into God—for there is now a MAN IN THE GLORY seated upon the Throne (viz. the “Heavenly Man”—1 Cor. 15:48-49). Here we have “ascending” mentioned before “descending” (bringing the Son of God into MAN).
The priority of order is the Son of Man’s ascent into heaven, now glorified as a Man. It is one thing for humankind to confess the deity of the Messiah as Son of God—it is a massive advance of the vision whereby the ASCENSION OF THE SON OF MAN into glory, having accomplished through the “breaking” – through the cross – that splendid goal of “creating in Himself” – through “the blood of the cross” (the “breaking”) -- “between the TWO” (Jew and Gentile – between Israel and Esau) ONE NEW MAN, so making peace—Ephesians 2:14-18:
“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one spirit to the Father.”
Yes, immediately after Peter’s confession – “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God” – Jesus commenced to predict His death (Matt. 16:21), whereupon “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’” (Matt. 16:22). Peter had a revelation of the Son of God but NOT the efforts of the Son of Man—for it would be only through the ascent accomplished by the Son of Man would the Ekklesia be built.
In John’s account regarding the reality of the “name change” extended, once again, to the King of Israel – from Jacob to Israel – from Usurper to Prince with God . . . then and only then, through the cross, would Jacob ever be reconciled with Esau – only through the breaking of the outward man (the work of the cross) can the Ekklesia come into being: El-Bethel. God . . . the House of God. Only God Almighty (El) can build the House of God (Bethel). Only the Son of Man, through incarnation, human living, suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, can build the Ekklesia – the real Temple, the real House of God where the GLORY OF GOD is on full display:
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the WHOLE BUILDING, being fitted together, grows into a HOLY TEMPLE in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19-22) – Is this not Bethel?
I have often pondered why the order presented of “apostles and prophets” is so expressed . . . shouldn’t it be “prophets and apostles” because the “prophets” came first and then the “apostles?” Did not the Son of God come down first and then ascend as the Son of Man? No, this is the divine order. The emphasis is upon the ascending Son of Man producing Bethel, the Bride, the House of God, the Ekklesia, the Kingdom of God, the APOSTLES. The “prophets” of God are, if you would, as the “Son of God”—wherein Son of Man had NOT expressed Himself in incarnation. God’s voice was “without” but through the Son of Man, Who through incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension became the Life-Giving Spirit where He is not only “among us” (outside) but is now, through regeneration, within us (inside)—His commandments are not written on external stone but on the fleshy tables of our hearts (2 Cor. 3:3).
The Incarnation of the Son of God (though He was always the Son) “came in the flesh” to suffice the righteous requirements of the law—“for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin” (Heb. 9:22; Lev. 17:11)—but “. . . it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins . . . Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—in the volume of the book it is written of Me—to do Your will, O God’” (Heb. 10:4-7; Mic. 6:6, 7; Ps. 40:6-8).
If you would, the “subjective application of the cross” in our lives as believers in Jesus, enables Messiah, the Christ, through the Spirit of Christ applying His cross in our daily lives, to build His Ekklesia—to reconcile us not only to God (Bethel – connoting personal “peace with God”) but this same Spirit of Christ brings us into peace with our brethren—between hostile peoples (El Bethel). This demands a reinforcement – a breaking – a name change “rehearsal” - the taking, not only of anointing oil, but the pouring out of a “drink offering” – not only the “anointing of the Holy Spirit” to build His Ekklesia, but the total “pouring out” of our lives (the cross)—His Life in us out-poured for the brethren.
Yes, we are LIVING STONES to be built up a most Holy and Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:4-10). It is upon these “living stones” that the “anointing oil” is poured—but more so, the “drink offering” is poured out (Is this not what the Son of Man did on our behalf?). That same outpouring in us alone brings in the full experience of His Ekklesia.
PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM – ROM. 1-8 VS. ROM. 9-16
Can you see this? What we have here is none other than the preaching of the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM recited numerous times in the Gospels. Yes, it is the Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24) which wholly entails “preaching the kingdom of God” (Acts 20:25) – the two are inseparable. It is the same recitation at the close of the book of Acts where we read: “Preaching the KINGDOM OF GOD and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts. 28:31).