Monday, February 9, 2015

The Messianic Kingdom


Resurrection is one of the central and most dramatic beliefs of the Christian faith:  that we all, good and bad alike, will be raised from the dead and judged by God; a judgment that will determine our fate for eternity.  The New Testament teaches that there will be two of these resurrections, one for the righteous—those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and lived according to his teachings—and one for the unrighteous.  The time between these two resurrections will be a glorious age of peace and blessing, a Messianic kingdom, in which the righteous will rule and reign with Jesus on this earth for a thousand years.  This coming golden age should be the hope and the desire of every true Christian. 

Because of its description in the book of Revelation, this future kingdom of the Messiah is often called the Millennium, which is Latin for a “thousand years.”  This is the time when Jesus will give out rewards, depending on what we have done in this life.  As he says in Rev. 22:12:  “Look!I am coming quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to each according to his work.” 

This is when the apostles will reign with Jesus on twelve thrones over the tribes of Israel, as it says in Matt. 19:28:  “But Jesus said to them, Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on his throne of glory, you will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Others will also be rewarded with positions of authority.  As Jesus put it in the parable of the talents, “Well done, good servant!  Because you were faithful in a very little thing, be in authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17).  Another was given five cities (Luke 19:19).  What cities are you going to be in charge of? 

Because of the importance of the coming Millennium in Biblical prophecy and in the teaching of Jesus, Christians today are sometimes surprised to learn that this teaching was rejected by most Christian denominations for hundreds of years, and still is in many places today.  In older, traditional churches, like the Roman Catholic church and mainline Protestant churches, belief in the Millennium is considered a heresy, known as chiliasm.  How could Christians reject such an important part of Biblical prophecy?  There are many reasons for this, including the rejection of Jewish thinking in favor of Greek thinking in the church, as well as the growth of anti-Semitism in Christianity, things that we have talked about before. 

But one objection I’d like to focus on today is that a one thousand year reign of Messiah is mentioned only in the book of Revelation, and nowhere else in the Bible.  Because of this, and because the book of Revelation is filled with symbols that can be difficult to understand, many have found it difficult to accept the idea of an actual one thousand year reign of Messiah on the earth, and have rejected the whole idea of a future Messianic kingdom. 

Now it’s true that the length of time given to the Messianic kingdom in the book of Revelation, the one thousand years, should be approached with caution.  It’s possible that this might be a symbolic number, as are so many of the numbers in the book of Revelation.  But the doctrine of the future Messianic kingdom doesn’t depend on the meaning of this number.  In fact, the Messianic kingdom doesn’t depend on the book of Revelation at all.  It’s taught in many other places in the Bible. 

Our goal today is to look at some of these other places where the Messianic kingdom is mentioned so that you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a real and an important teaching of the Bible, no matter how we interpret the book of Revelation. 

We’ve already seen that Jesus refers to the time of the Messianic kingdom as “the regeneration” in Matt. 19:28, a time when he will reign and the apostles with him.  But he doesn’t talk there only about the reward that the apostles will receive, but continues:   “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).  So according to Jesus, everyone who has left something or someone behind to follow him will receive a great reward, along with eternal life, in the Messianic kingdom. 

In another place, he mentions the reward we will receive in the Messianic kingdom if we include the poor and those with physical difficulties in our celebrations.  “Rather when you hold a formal dinner, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and you will be blessed, since they have nothing to repay you with.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13,14).  Here Jesus refers to the Messianic kingdom as the “resurrection of the righteous.”  This idea of a separate resurrection of the righteous is in fact the foundation of the idea of the Messianic kingdom:  that there will be a time in the future when the righteous alone will be raised to rule and reign with Messiah on the earth, and all wickedness will be destroyed. 

Later, Jesus returns to this idea in his debate with the Sadducees about the resurrection:  “And Jesus said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for neither are they still able to die, for they are like angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection’” (Luke 20:34-36). 

Here Jesus calls the Messianic kingdom the age of “the resurrection from the dead.”  In English, “resurrection from the dead” can be understood to mean a resurrection from death itself, that is, from the state of death.  But in the original Greek, it says a resurrection “from the dead ones” (dead is plural here).  What this means is a resurrection “out from those that are dead.”  In other words, this expression means that there will be a resurrection of some of those who are dead out from the others that are dead.  This is the consistent use of the expression “from the dead” in the New Testament.  Often it’s used of Jesus’ own resurrection, who was also raised “out from” the other dead.  So here we see again the idea of a resurrection of the righteous:  a resurrection of some of the dead that will take place before the resurrection of everyone else. 

This interpretation is confirmed in this same place when Jesus says that you must be “worthy” to participate in this coming kingdom age:  “those considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead.”  Only some people—only those that are worthy—will be included in this first resurrection.   

The apostle Paul agrees with this when he says, in 1 Cor. 15:22-24:  “For just as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive; but each in his own division.”  And then he lists those divisions:  “Messiah the first-fruit.”  Jesus was the first to be resurrected.  “Then those who are of Messiah at his coming.”  These are the believers in Jesus that will be resurrected when he returns, when the trumpet is blown and the archangel will shout, and those of us who have died will be raised to life and meet him in the air, as 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 teaches.  That’s the resurrection of the righteous.  “Then the rest when he [Messiah] hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when he has removed every ruler and every authority and power.”  Who are “the rest” that are resurrected?  They’re the unrighteous dead that will be raised at the end of the Messianic kingdom period. 

If you look up this passage in your own translation, you will probably see this third part translated “then comes the end,” even though the word “comes” does not appear in the Greek (1 Cor. 15:24).  Why is it translated this way?  Because remember, many of the translators of the Bibles we have today don’t believe in a coming Messianic kingdom, and so they try to explain it another way.  But the highest authority on New Testament Greek today, the Bauer, Gingrich, and Danker lexicon (BAGD 2nd edition), specifically says that the word “telos” that appears here in the Greek refers to a final division of the resurrection, just as the language used here implies:  first Messiah, “then” the second group, “then” the third group. 

But aside from brief mentions like these, the New Testament doesn’t give an in-depth teaching about the Messianic kingdom.  Why not?  Because this was something that was so well known among the Jewish people, there was no need for it.  The teaching about the Messianic age went all the way back to the time of the Psalms and the prophets of the Old Testament, and even to earlier parts of the Bible according to many rabbis. 

Some of my favorite passages about the Messianic kingdom are in the prophet Isaiah.  The first, in Isaiah 2, is quite unique in that it’s the only extended passage of prophecy that is repeated almost exactly word for word by two prophets:  in Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-3.  Why these two sections are exactly the same, we don’t know.  Did God give it in exactly the same words to the two prophets?  Or was Micah repeating a well-known prophecy of Isaiah?  We don’t know.  But it must be important to be repeated twice like this in the Word of God. 

This famous passage is clearly talking about the time after God destroys and remove all sinners, as it says in Isa. 1:28:  “And there will be a crushing of both rebels and sinners; and those who forsake the LORD will perish.”  And then the famous prophecy begins:

Isa. 2:2:  “And it will be in the last days that the mountain of the House of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and it will be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations [the Gentiles] will stream to it.” 

The mountain of the House of the LORD is the location of the Temple in Jerusalem:  the Temple Mount as we call it today.  This is the place from which the Messiah is going to rule the world, as we will see later. 

Isa. 2:3:  And many peoples will go and they will say, ‘Go,’ and we will go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the House of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us from his ways, and we will walk in his paths.  For from Zion the law will go out, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.” 

The mention of the House of God here tells us that the Temple will be built again at that time.  And people will come here not only for worship, but also for instruction, just as the Jewish people did in Bible times.  This is where the Messiah’s new law and decisions will go out from to the world.

Isa. 2:4:  “And he will judge between the nations, and he will make legal decisions for many peoples; and they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning knives.  Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and they will no longer learn war.” 

Here we hear another of the crucial characteristics of the Messianic kingdom:  the world will be at peace. 

As we saw, all of this is after God destroys the wicked from the earth (Isa. 1:28).  But it’s before the coming of the New Heavens and the New Earth, in which John clearly says in Revelation that there will be no Temple (“and I saw no sanctuary in it,” Rev. 21:22).  So this is talking about an intermediate age, the Messianic Age, that will take place on this earth after Jesus returns to destroy the wicked, but before the New Heavens and New Earth appear. 

When Isaiah says that the mountain of the House of the LORD “will be lifted up” (Isa. 2:2), you could take this as a poetic description of its importance at that time.  But Zechariah tells us about earthquakes that will physically change the area when Messiah returns.  First he talks about the Mt. of Olives splitting (Zech. 14:4:  “And his feet will stand on that day on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west, a very large valley, and half of the mountain will move northwards and half southwards”).  As it turns out, there actually is an earthquake fault line that runs right under the middle of the Mt. of Olives. 

Then he says, “All the land from Geba [that’s a few miles north of Jerusalem] to Rimon in the Negev [which is way down in the south near Beersheva] will surround Jerusalem as a plain” (Zech. 14:10a).  This means that the whole of Judah will be flattened out.  “And it [Jerusalem] will rise and remain in its place from the gate of Benjamin [in the northeast corner of the city] to the place of the First Gate to the Corner Gate [in the northwest corner of the city], and from the Tower of Hananel [on the north wall of the city] to the wine presses of the king [to the south of the city]” (Zech. 14:10b).  So in other words, the whole area of the old walled city will rise up, and everything else will flatten out.  According to Zechariah, Jerusalem actually will be lifted up above the surrounding mountains. 

The next section of Isaiah that talks about the Messianic kingdom is in Isaiah 4:2: 

Isa. 4:2: “In that day, the Branch of the LORD will be for glory and honor, and the fruit of the land will be the exaltation and the splendor of the survivors of Israel.” 

What is this talking about?  “In that day,” yom ha-hu in Hebrew, refers to the prophetic future.  The “Branch of the Lord” is one of the names of the Messiah in the Old Testament.  So this is talking about a time in the future when the Messiah will be lifted up in glory and honor, or actually will be the glory and honor of the land of Israel.

And the fruit of the land?  “The fruit of the land will be...the survivors of Israel.”  What is this talking about?  Who are the survivors of Israel?  The Jewish people who have been saved, who have accepted Jesus as their Messiah, and who are included in the resurrection of the righteous.  After so many years of hatred and persecution against them as Jews, they will be exalted and lifted up at this time.

Isa. 4:3:  “And it will be that the one remaining in Zion and the one left in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone recorded to life in Jerusalem.”

Here is that same idea again that not everyone in Israel will make it to this glorious time, but only those whose names are recorded in the Book of Life.  And where will they remain?  They will be “left” in Israel and in Jerusalem.  This implies that they will remain in the same Israel and the same Jerusalem that we see today, a Jerusalem of this earth.

Isa. 4:4:  “When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleanses the (spilt) blood of Jerusalem from her inward parts by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning.”

This, too, is clearly talking about the time after God’s judgment is poured out. 

Isa. 4:5:  “And the LORD will create over all the area of Mt. Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day and smoke and the brightness of a flame of fire by night, for over all the glory will be a canopy [khuppah].”

This is clearly not something that has happened yet in history, but is in the prophetic future.  Here we learn some very important things about the Messianic kingdom.  First of all, again we see that people will be worshipping on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.  This is where the Temple was built, and where its ruins can still be seen today.  So this implies that the Temple will be rebuilt.  Also, holy “assemblies” for worship will take place here again, as was once done at the times of the Jewish feasts and other events.  So this implies that the festival calendar of Israel will be continued in one form or another. 

Isaiah is not the only prophet to talk about the Temple in the Messianic kingdom.  Ezekiel has a very long section describing the appearance of the Temple in great detail in the time of the Messianic kingdom:  it’s five chapters long (Ezek. 40-44)!  Together with the chapters immediately before it and after it, this is the longest section in the Bible that talks about the Messianic kingdom, altogether about 10 chapters, depending on how you count it.  That’s huge! 

Nor is Isaiah the only one to talk about festal assemblies in Jerusalem in the Messianic kingdom.  You might remember that once before we looked at Zechariah 14, which specifically says that the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated by everyone “from year to year” in the Messianic kingdom (Zech. 14:16).  This, too, confirms that there will be a restoration of worship in Jerusalem.  It also confirms the idea that this will go on for an extended period of time—for many years at least, which means that the Messianic kingdom is going to last for an extended period of time before the New Heavens and New Earth come. 

Ezekiel agrees with this when he says that after the war when Messiah comes, the inhabitants of Israel will be cleaning up the place for seven years (Ezek. 39:9:  “And those dwelling in the cities of Israel will go out and burn and make a fire with the armor and shields and bucklers, with bows and arrows, hand-held clubs and spears; and they will burn a fire with them for seven years”).  So this, too, implies that the Messianic kingdom will last for many years. 

But Isaiah adds that when the people come to worship the Lord on Mt. Zion, there will be a “canopy” of “cloud by day and...fire by night” over the city (Isa. 4:5).  Does that remind you of anything?  It’s like the pillar of cloud and fire that went with the children of Israel in the desert in the time of Moses.  So this will be a time of God’s supernatural presence like in the Exodus from Egypt. 

But there’s something more hidden in that word canopy, which is khuppah in Hebrew.  The khuppah is the piece of cloth stretched out over the heads of the bride and the groom in a Jewish wedding.  The fact that there will be a khuppah over Jerusalem is a symbol of what John in Revelation calls the wedding feast of the Lamb (John 19:9): our spiritual marriage to the Messiah, after which we will live in unity with him forever. 

We’ve mentioned before Paul’s reference to this event in Eph. 5:27:  “that he might present the Church to himself as glorious, not having a stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she might be holy and blameless.”  This is talking about the time of the Messianic kingdom, when we, the Church, will be presented to the Messiah as his eternal bride.

Isaiah comes back to the Messianic kingdom again, and to the wedding feast of the Lamb, in chapters 24 and 25:

Isa. 24:23:  “And the moon will be abased and the sun will be ashamed, for the LORD of hosts will reign on Mt. Zion and in Jerusalem; and before his elders will be glory.”

What is this “glory” that appears before the elders?  Isaiah already told us in Isa. 4:2:  it’s the glory of the “Branch of the LORD,” the Messiah.  Here again, the glory of the Messiah appears on Mt. Zion and in Jerusalem, in this earth before the time of the New Heavens and New Earth.  And it specifically tells us that he will reign on Mt. Zion, in other words, in the Temple area. 

Isa. 25:6:  “And the LORD of hosts will hold for all the peoples on this mountain a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of refined well-aged wine.” 

Here’s the wedding feast of the Lamb again.  Which mountain is “this mountain”?  Mt. Zion as we just saw in Isa. 24:23.    

Isa. 25:7:  “And he will swallow up on this mountain the surface of the covering that covers all the peoples, and the veil that is woven over all the nations.”  

What is this talking about?  The next verse explains it:

Isa. 25:8:  “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe the tear from every face and will remove the reproach of his people from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken.”

Here Isaiah clearly identifies the time of the wedding feast as the time of the resurrection, when death will be removed forever from all who are gathered there. 

Isa. 25:9:    “And it will be said in that day, ‘Look!  This is our God, we have waited for him and he saves us.  This is the LORD, we have waited for him.  Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation (yeshuah).’”

Isn’t this just what we will say at that time?  “Look!  This is our God, we have waited for him and he saves us.”  But what will we see that we can point to and say “This is our God”?  The answer is written right there in the Hebrew:  we will see God’s yeshuah, in other words, Jesus.  Jesus is the one that we will see at that time, the one for whom we are now waiting, the one who saves us. 

One of the characteristics of the Messianic age that is mentioned over and over again in the Bible is the fertility of the earth:

Isa. 30:23:  “And he will provide rain for your seed that you will sow in the ground and bread from the produce of the ground; and it will be rich and plentiful; in that day your livestock will graze in a wide pasture.”

Or in Isa 32:15:  “Until a spirit from on high is poured out on us, and a desert will become an orchard, and the orchard will be thought a forest.”  Here we see hinted the supernatural fertility of the earth that many post-Biblical writers associated with the Messianic age.  This is also one of the characteristics of the Messianic Age mentioned in Psalm 72: 

Psalm 72:16:  “There will be an abundance of grain in the earth; on top of the mountains, its fruit will shake, like Lebanon; and those from the city will sprout up like the green plants of the earth.”  Today, grain usually only grows down in the valleys in Israel, so for it to grow all the way up to top of the mountains is sign of exceptional fertility.  And for this grain on the mountains to shake like the forests of Lebanon implies that the stalks of grain are huge.  Joel says: 

Joel 3:18:  “And it will be in that day (that) the mountains will drip with grape juice, and the hills flow with milk, and all the ravines of Judah flow with water, and a spring will flow out from the House of the LORD and water the Valley of Shittim.”  That the mountains will drip with grape juice means that the grape harvests will be exceptionally abundant, and the hills flowing with milk means that there will be lots and lots of healthy and happy sheep and goats (and cows).  Today the ravines of Judah are mostly dry little canyons, but in the time of the Messiah, Joel says, they will be filled with water. 

Joel also mentions the Temple in the Messianic age, “the House of the LORD.”  From the Temple, he describes a spring of water coming out and flowing all the way down to the Jordan Valley, where the Dead Sea is located (the “Valley of Shittim”).  This is a very interesting detail, because several of the prophets pick up on this.  For example, Zechariah says:

Zech. 14:8:  “And it will be in that day that living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea [the Dead Sea] and half of them to the western sea [the Mediterranean]; it will be in summer as well as in winter.”  There’s a little water that flows out to the Dead Sea today from Jerusalem, but it’s mostly waste water and smells pretty bad.  Aside from that, there is only water flowing here when it’s actually raining.  But when Messiah comes, there will be clean, fresh water flowing out from Jerusalem all year round. 

Ezekiel agrees with this:  he says that there will be so much fresh water flowing out from the Temple that fruit trees will grow along its banks; and it will bring so much fresh water to the Dead Sea that fish will be able to live there, and fishermen will fish there (Eze. 47:1-12).  This is so important to him that he spends 12 verses on it. 

Isaiah, too, chimes in on this:  For water will break forth in the desert and streams in the Aravah [that’s the desert area down by the Dead Sea].  And the parched ground will become a pond, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the abode of jackals, its resting place [in the desert], the plants will become reeds and rushes” (Isa. 35:6b-7).

Not only will the land become more fertile, the animals will be changed, too.  One of the most famous sections about the Messianic kingdom begins with Isaiah 11:6 (much of which he actually repeats later in Isa. 65:25): 

Isa. 11:6:  “And a wolf will dwell with a lamb, and a leopard will lie down with a young goat, and a calf and a young lion and a fatling together, and a small boy will lead them.”    

Isa. 11:7:  “And a cow and a bear will graze, together their young will lie down, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.”

Isa. 11:8:  “And a baby will play in the hole of a cobra, and into the den of a viper a toddler will stretch out his hand.”  It will be like the earth was back in the Garden of Eden, before the animals became dangerous and harmful. 

Isa. 11:9:  “They will not hurt and they will not destroy in all my holy mountain [Jerusalem], for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the water that covers the sea.”  What an amazing and beautiful time this will be!

This theme about the animals is picked up by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 34:

Ezek. 34:24:  “And I, the LORD, will be God to them, and my servant David [the Messiah] will be a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.”  In other words, he’s talking about the time of the Messianic kingdom.

Ezek. 34:25:  “And I will make a covenant of peace with them, and I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and they will dwell in the desert and sleep in the forests safely.”  Here’s the theme of peace again, and safety, with no dangerous animals to worry about. 

There’s so much more we could say about the Messianic kingdom:  that the Promised Land will be divided among the tribes of Israel (Eze. 47:13-29), and that even foreigners that live among them will be given an inheritance (which means that at least some Gentile Christians will be given an inheritance in Israel, Ezek. 47:22).  We could mention that the tribes of Ephraim and Judah will be united once again (Ezek. 37:15-23).  We could even talk about the layout of the gates that will be built in the city wall of Jerusalem (Ezek. 48:30-35). 

But I would like to close with Psalm 72, a remarkable psalm about the Messianic kingdom.  This psalm speaks of a king greater than any of the Old Testament kings of Israel:

Psa. 72: 8: “He will rule from sea to sea and from the river [the Euphrates River] to the ends of the earth.” 

Psa. 72:11: “And all kings will prostrate themselves before him; all nations will serve him.”

Psa. 72:17: “And they will bless themselves by him, all the nations will call him blessed.” 

This is clearly talking about the Messiah, at a time when he will rule over the entire earth.  His kingdom is described in remarkable prophetic detail:

Psa. 72:6:  “He will descend like rain on the shearing [of sheep in the spring]; as abundant showers that drip on the earth.”  This is talking about the Messiah’s return from heaven, that it will bring abundant blessing on the earth, like showers in the springtime.  The next verse says:

Psa. 72:7:  “The righteous will sprout in his days, and an abundance of peace, until the moon is no more” (Psa. 72:7, [see also 72:17 “while the sun endures”]).  That’s an interesting way to describe the resurrection:  that we will “sprout” up from the ground.  Paul uses this same image when he compares the resurrection to the growth of a seed sown in the ground (1 Cor. 15:36-38). 

But there’s a very interesting detail here:  that the Messianic kingdom will last until the moon [and the sun] is no more.  This is also the teaching of the book of Revelation, that the Messianic kingdom will last until the sun and moon, and even the earth itself and the heavens above, are removed by the power of God (Rev. 21:1).  This same idea is repeated in verse 5:

Psa. 72:5: “They will fear you in the presence of the sun and before the moon, a generation of generations.”  The Messianic kingdom will remain as long as the sun and the moon endure. 

But what about that last part of the verse?  Though this is sometimes translated in other ways, what it actually says in Hebrew is “a generation of generations.” What is that talking about?  Well, who are the people that will participate in the Messianic kingdom, according to Jesus?  Those who are worthy, who are raised in the resurrection of the righteous.  These will be the righteous of all time, who will reign with Jesus in Jerusalem (Rev. 20:4).  This raised up people will literally be a single generation, which means all the people living at one time, that is made up of all the generations of the righteous from all time:  it will literally be “a generation of generations.”  That itself will be one of the most amazing of all the amazing things in the kingdom of the Messiah:  to meet and to get to know the believers from all the ages of time;  to meet and talk with Peter and James and Moses and Abraham—not to mention Jesus himself.  What a beautiful way to describe those that will be in the Messianic kingdom, the final, eternal generation of mankind:  “a generation of generations”!  Amen?

Well, what do you think?  Do you now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Messianic kingdom is taught throughout the Bible?  We’ve only looked at a portion of the verses that talk about this beautiful time.  But as you can see, there is a remarkable harmony in the teaching of the prophets on this subject, even about some of the small details of what life will be like at that time.  I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to that long, beautiful time of Sabbath rest on a beautifully renewed earth:  a time of peace, a time of prosperity, a time when the Spirit of God will be poured out in great abundance.  Won’t that be wonderful? 

So how can we be sure that we will experience the Messianic kingdom?   As Jesus put it, we must be found worthy (Luke 20:35).  And how can we be worthy?  Well first, Jesus said, we must be one of those that follow him:  we must be his disciple (Matt. 19:28,29).  That means you must make Jesus the Lord of your life, and do everything he tells you to do.  You must also receive Jesus as your Savior, so your sins can be forgiven.  And then you must follow, and keep on following for the rest of your life.  Don’t get off track.  Don’t let Satan pull you away.  But fight the good fight, and have victory over the world.  These are the ones that are worthy of the kingdom.

Let’s pray:  Father God, we look forward to living in the kingdom of your son Jesus, not just spiritually as we do today, who have accepted you—but physically in a beautifully restored earth:  an earth full of peace, of blessing, and of prosperity.  It stretches our imagination even to think of the earth in such a beautiful way:  an earth without war, without poverty, without sickness and death, without hatred.  And more than anything else, an earth in which the Lord Jesus will be with us physically, in which we can see him face to face, can talk to him, can learn from him, and can learn to walk more fully in his ways.  How awesome that day will be!  May it come quickly, Lord!  And may we be worthy of that day, by submitting our lives to you and following your teaching.  We thank you Lord, for the privilege of knowing you, and for the hope you give us for the future.  In Jesus’ name.  

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