Series: Maintaining this hope
Kingdom living in light of Jesus’ return Pt.2
In the past 2 weeks we have highlighted a primary purpose behind ‘the Day or Season of the Lord’, that of advancing the establishment of the Kingdom of God in phases…beginning with the Jews, then to the Gentiles to form the church which is where God’s work and judgments begin with the end in view of making ready Christ’s bride – that is – forming Christ’s image within them.
Then He will retrieve His bride out of a world which is about to get their desire of godless culture led by ungodly people. God will let them advance in their wickedness for 3.5 years and then will begin the great tribulation.
With the great tribulation only lasting 3.5 years many may wonder just how back could this be? Well I think the last two years (2020-2021) helps us in realizing just how much the entire sociological and economical situations can change world-wide in a short period of time.
These are all working towards the realization of the need for God and His rule in those whose hearts are even remotely open to it.
Then we will come and judge the beast and the false prophet, through satan in the abyss and establish Jesus’ uncontested earthly reign for 1,000 years – at the end of which there will be a little, inconsequential uprising which God will immediately squash and then the final judgement. The earth will be renovated by fire and God’s right to rule and reign over His creation and within the hearts of His kingdom will be justified and established forever.
So, needless to say we have realized that a proper understanding of the events in the Day of the Lord, especially His return for the church, is deeply rooted in the establishment and advancement of the Kingdom of God.
It is established in the hearts of His people and from that place of heart devotion springs a servant’s heart which expresses itself in acts of proper stewardship to our Lord…the king of the kingdom.
We summarized our stewardship responsibilities as being:
- Obedience to the Gospel which has been revealed to us
- Submission to the Lord of the Kingdom in all things
- Guarding our hearts by active devotion towards God, being careful to maintain good works and a distinct separation from the influences and affiliations with the world.
- Shining as lights in the world by our living testimony, our acts of love and service for others and by proclaiming the gospel to the lost.
Last week we explored the teachings and parables of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew to get a sample what was included in the gospel of the kingdom which we still preach today and will continue to be preached until the end comes.
We found all four of these stewardships expressed in many ways such as the following:
- In order to enter the Kingdom one has to change their way of thinking and doing – repent
- Be humble and not filled with pride
- The kingdom is for those who will endure persecution for King and Kingdom without sinning
- They proclaim and live the Gospel in righteousness by faith
- They desire and look forward and greatly value God’s kingdom and rule
- They pursue righteousness of heart
- They want victory over the enemy by God’s power
- They rely upon God and place little value in earthly things, power or riches
- They are careful to maintain good works
- Through great anticipation of His return they maintain communion with the Holy Spirit and are always ready for His return.
Now today we are going to read through the book of Philippians, taking particular notice of these same thoughts as they show up in Paul’s encouragement to the believers there.
I know we recently went through this book but this time we are looking at it through two very specific lenses.
We are looking at:
- The Kingdom of God and
- Our being prepared for Christ’s return for us at the rapture.
Now these believers were no novices. They were among Paul’s earliest converts and they had been ongoing supporters of his ministry from the beginning both through prayers and financial support.
This letter employs the use of more than 100 first person pronouns which Paul employed in being very transparent with these believers. He told of his struggles, his concerns, his doubts and his desires for himself, their church and the ministry of the gospel at large. These are the kind of things you share with friends who have earned the right to know things about you and your heart that others have not.
Like Thessalonians, there is no real correction in this letter other than a very strong encouragement not to fall into Old Covenant Judaistic practices – especially circumcision for righteousness.
Of final note before diving in, we see a serious emphasis of the gospel in this letter. Knowing as we do that the ONLY gospel inspired by the Spirit since the time of John the Baptist until the end of the world is the Gospel of the Kingdom – makes all of these mentions very kingdom focused!
- The fellowship of the gospel (1:5)
- The confirmation of the gospel (1:7)
- The progress of the gospel (1:9)
- The advance of the gospel (1:12)
- The defense of the gospel (1:16)
- Walk worthy of the gospel (1:27)
- Striving together for the faith of the gospel (1:27; 4:3)
- The service of the gospel (2:22)
As such, we would expect to see references to peace and joy as well for…
Romans 14:17, “…the Kingdom of God does not consist of …righteousness, peace and joy, in the Holy Spirit”
The word for righteousness is the compound word dikaiosúnē, (di-kye-o-see-nay) and without breaking it down for you it essentially means, conformity to the claims God has on the heart and actions of His people as their highest authority – their KING. It stands in complete opposition to anomía(G458) (on-o-mee-a), lawlessness – which consequently is a derivation of one of the names of the antichrist – who is called ‘the lawless one’.
Joy or peace are mentioned about 9 times in this letter.
So let’s begin…
“(1) Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.
(2) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, (4) always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, (5) because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
The work of the kingdom – as senders or goers] what does their partnership in the gospel say about them that was in the list above? It says that they valued the rule and reign of Jesus and the advancement of His kingdom. Nothing expresses value like investment of time and resources!
Also notice that the work of the good news of the kingdom had worked so in Paul as to work a reorientation of things which bring him joy. As a lost Israelite Paul worked to destroy the Good News seeing it as a dangerous doctrine eroding the purity of the Jewish faith. Now, it is in the advancement of this same gospel that Paul finds his greatest joy and not him only but Peter sees in in those he wrote his letter to for the same reasons and John said that he had no greater joy than to know that his children in the faith were living in accordance to the truth of the Good News of the kingdom!
“(6) I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. [Being conformed to His image through continued intimate communion with the Holy Spirit – lamps full]
(7) It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel. [witnesses and furtherance of the kingdom]
(8) For God is my witness, how I deeply miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
Paul here is not indifferent to these believers nor are they in regard to him. They have a history in the kingdom together and share one mind in regard to its value and importance!
“(9) And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, (10) so that you can determine what really matters and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, (11) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
[Value things above – filled with fruit > being fruits worthy of repentance]
“(12) Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel, (13) so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is for Christ.”
Enduring persecution for the kingdom willingly due to holding it in great value and laboring for its advancement.
“(14) Most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the message fearlessly. [Witnesses]
(15) Some, to be sure, preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. (16) These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; (17) the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me trouble in my imprisonment.
(18) What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice (19) because I know this will lead to my deliverance through your prayers and help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”
By means of their prayful involvement and the inner work of God’s precious Holy Spirit.
“(20) My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Honoring and seeking the king and the kingdom in righteousness > not holding our physical lives dear but willing to forsake all and give all for the advancement of King and Kingdom.
“(21) For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. (22) Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. (23) I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ–which is far better– (24) but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.”
This is kingdom thinking at its finest. Paul looked to and longed for unveiled communion with Jesus but knew it would benefit the advancement of His kingdom and the growth and comfort of His saints if he stayed… so he knew the only choice he really had was to stay. It is what love would do.
“(25) Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your advancement and joy in the faith, (26) so that, because of me, your confidence may grow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Something worth staying for!
(27) Just one thing: live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith of the gospel, (28) not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is evidence of their destruction, but of your deliverance–and this is from God.”
[Verses 25-27 are all focused upon their advancement and joy in the faith. But what does that mean?
Well Peter addresses both and thereby defines them as well in 1Peter 1:3-9,
“(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, (5) who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. (7) Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (8) You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, (9) because you are attaining the goal of your faith – the salvation of your souls.”
This is the work of the kingdom – the advancement of the rule of Christ within which means conforming to the image of Christ within and works in keeping with that image being expressed without…fruit. Something Jesus told us specifically God greatly desired – unfickle fruitfulness or fruit that remained.
“(29) For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, (30) having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear about me.”
Persecution is always about loyalty. Those who capture and expose enemies to hardships and torture do so to break down their loyalties in order to gain advantage. When one will not break, that too offers information to one’s captors. It either tells them that the one who holds their loyalties has leverage on them (their family and fortunes) or they honestly believe in the cause of their kingdom and are ready to die if need be rather than defect or turn from their loyalties. In either case, such a one becomes unprofitable to detain any longer since all advantages are lost through their undying loyalties and devotion.
“(1) If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, (2) fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on one goal. Single-minded service!
(3) Do nothing out of rivalry [remember the question of the disciples? Who will be greatest in the kingdom… wrong hearts produce wrong questions] or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. (4) Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Humility like a child.
“(5) Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, (6) Who, in the very essence of His nature and being was God, did not consider equality with the Godhead something to be used for His Own advantage. (7) Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, (8) He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death–even to death on a cross.”
Conformity, humility, service, obedience.
“(9) For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, (10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow–of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth– (11) and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
That Jesus Christ is King – yes and more than a King – He is also Creator and Owner – the One with all and absolute authority over and concerning us. It is on the basis of His Lordship that we have righteousness – which as we said before in regard to the kingdom is conformity to the claims He has on us as His Own.
“(12) So then, my [beloved and] dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (13) For it is God Who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.”
Primary focus is on king, kingdom, the cooperation with the Spirit within Who then produces fruits of righteousness without.
“(14) Do everything without grumbling and arguing,”
I always emphasize this point since we have always had in our church a tendency towards this if we get in the flesh. It is IMPORTANT to know your weaknesses and be watchful that we do not yield to them even for a moment.
“(15) so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.”
If you live in love and trust with Christ through the Spirit you BECOME a witness in your person.
“(16) Hold firmly the message of life. Then I can boast in the Day of Christ that I didn’t run in vain or labor for nothing. (17) But even if I am poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. (18) In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.”
This was a reference back to libations poured out beside the altar where the sacrifice was being offered. Paul was painting a word picture in which these Philippians were the priests since the word “service” was a priestly term and the priestly service they were offering sprang up from their unwavering faith in Jesus and was in fact the sacrifice they offered. It was on or beside this offering of faith that Paul’s life was at that very moment being poured out and very likely in the not so distant future perhaps even his actual blood may be poured out as a martyr.
“(19) Now I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon so that I also may be encouraged when I hear news about you. (20) For I have no one else like-minded who will genuinely care about your interests; (21) all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
Notice that the interests of the Philippians WAS the interests of Jesus and Timothy sought FIRST the interests of the king and kingdom.
“(22) But you know his proven character, because he has served with me in the gospel ministry like a son with a father. (23) Therefore, I hope to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. (24) And I am convinced in the Lord that I myself will also come quickly. (25) But I considered it necessary to send you Epaphroditus–my brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier, as well as your messenger and minister to my need– (26) since he has been longing for all of you and was distressed because you heard that he was sick.”
Christians have a capacity to understand this better than the world ever could. Epaphroditus was the one who had been sick, but his heart was broken for his siblings in his home church of Philippi. He knew they longed to see his face healthy and well, so he wanted to present himself to them as such to do their hearts good. It was not for praise as a hero of the faith… but for the sake of their hearts that he longed to return to them.
“(27) Indeed, he was so sick that he nearly died. However, God had mercy on him, and not only on him but also on me, so that I would not have one grief on top of another. (28) For this reason, I am very eager to send him so that you may rejoice when you see him again and I may be less sorrowful. (29) Therefore, welcome him in the Lord with all joy and hold men like him in honor, (30) because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up what was lacking in your ministry to me.”
“(1) Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write to you again about this is no trouble for me and is a protection for you. (2) Watch out for “dogs,” watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh. (3) For we ARE the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh— (4) although I once had confidence in the flesh too.”
Communion with the Spirit, service by His power and in humility we boast not in ourselves but in Christ and place little value on things in the flesh. Those who live such are like Abraham who by his actions declared plainly that he sought a heavenly country – for which God was not ashamed of him! He had learned to value what was truly valuable.
Here might be a good place to use Abraham as an illustration of God’s work. We, like Abraham, are often tempted to shift what we value from God to the things He provides. For Abraham, that provision was Isaac – the very center of his love and joy. God in His goodness, wanted Abraham to enjoy his son without his son OWNING his heart. Abraham’s heart had only ONE Owner and God needed to excise this growth in his heart which challenged God’s unrivaled rule there. So he placed Abraham in an impossible situation of offering up to God the son of his love. God pulled no punches with this request – in fact He made the point with the sharpness of a razor. “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” was the command and “offer him as a burnt sacrifice” to Me!
Abraham was now at the crossroad where we are told in scripture wisdom meets with us if we have ears to hear. Abraham did! He had come to know God. His relationship with God was not second-hand knowledge ABOUT God, but was forged in the fires of encounters, wrestling matches and trust filled obedience to His will. Now, one of God’s gifts to Abraham – the one most cherished by him was challenging God’s unrivaled rule in his heart and God meant to remove it quickly, swiftly and finally. It was Abraham’s relationship to God, his history with Him that kept him, much as it did Peter and the disciples at difficult times. He reasoned that God had promised to raise up a nation through this son and so, if offering Isaac was being required of him, he knew he would see God raise him back up from the ashes and so set his face to mount Moriah to fulfill God’s will and his own obedience. THIS is the kingdom of God! And God let him go through with it all the way up to binding him to the altar and lifting the knife. This was not to prove anything to God intellectually. God knew the outcome. This was for the benefit and freedom of Abraham’s heart. To love but not be possessed by God’s gifts, but by God alone!
“If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: (5) circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; (6) as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. (7) But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ.
(8) More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing VALUE of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ (9) and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ–the righteousness from God based on faith.”
What did Jesus say to His followers in reminding them of their baptism by John?
“29 (And when all the people, including the tax collectors, heard this, they acknowledged God’s way of righteousness, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism.”
“(10) My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,”
[Valuing what is truly valuable – eyes to see, hearts to respond and pursue.]
“(11) assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.”
Which is to say maturity in Christ – that state of the New Life we were raised in baptism to live – only realized in it’s completed form – Christ in me!
“(12) Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
(13) Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, (14) I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.
(15) Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also. [Being conformed to His image – maturity in Christ]
(16) In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.
(17) Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. (18) For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. (19) Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, (20) but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (21) He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.”
This is a reference to the rapture and our physical bodies being changed since flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom. This is also a reminder of Jesus’ words of warning that it is hard to enter the kingdom when one values earthly things, power and riches – Matt. 19:23.
“(1) So then, in this way, my dearly loved brothers, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.
(2) I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (3) Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers whose names are in the book of life.
(4) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (5) Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. [Living aware of our King and letting such knowledge guide our actions so as to be a living witness to others]
(6) Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving [whose heart is devotional worship], let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things. (9) Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
(10) I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last you have renewed your care for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me, but lacked the opportunity to show it.”
[Investing in the kingdom]
“(11) I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (12) I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot.
In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. (13) I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
(14) Still, you did well by sharing with me in my hardship. (15) And you, Philippians, know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone. (16) For even in Thessalonica you sent gifts for my need several times. (17) Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that is increasing to your account. [2Cor. 9:10]
(18) But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided–a fragrant offering, a welcome sacrifice, pleasing to God. (19) And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added unto you.
“(20) Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(21) Greet every saint in Christ Jesus.
Those brothers who are with me greet you.
(22) All the saints greet you, but especially those from Caesar’s household.
23) The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”