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By Stephen Green. (First Published in Christian Voice: February 2003)
In Luke Chapter 19:11-27, there is an interesting example of the Lord Jesus telling two parables at once, or to be more accurate, one parable around the outside of another one. The Parable of Receiving the Kingdom is wrapped around the Parable of the Ten Pounds. As it happens, the Lord told the Parable of the Ten Pounds another way on another occasion. Matthew records it as the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30).
Interestingly, Matthew's account of the Parable of the Talents is set after the Lord entered Jerusalem, in a passage known as the 'Olivet Discourse.' The context is the believers' faithfulness and diligence in the midst of tribulation and judgment. Luke's account of the Parable of the Ten Pounds is given by the Lord immediately before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
In both parables, as we know, those of the Lord's people who have used to good effect the gifts which the Lord has given them are rewarded, whilst he that neglects his God-given gift is cast out. God does not just want what is His returned to Him, He wants to see some profit out it. Both parables are salutary lessons not to occupy ourselves with our own pleasures, or even stay at the foot of the Cross in perpetual thanksgiving, but to get up in the power of the Holy Spirit into service and mission.
But it is the Parable of Receiving the Kingdom which intrigues me. If we take out most of the parts to do with the nobleman's servants, we are left with this:
11 And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. . . .
14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. . . .
26 For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
28 And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. (Luke 19:11-28)
It was apparently quite common in those days for a nobleman to go to a higher ruler to be given the keys, seals and badges of authority of a kingdom. He would then return to the kingdom and rule in the name of him who sent him. Pilate would have received his authority in this way from Caesar, and so would Herod.
MESSIAH, SON OF DAVID
In the Parable, the Lord Jesus is obviously the nobleman. He was telling the parable against any who believed He was about to enter into Jerusalem to take it from the Romans by force or by the power of God as the conquering Messiah
That did not stop the people from giving Him all the honour of a king by strewing palm branches in His way and calling out "Blessed he that cometh in the Name of The Lord". Matthew 21:9 even records them as shouting out the Messianic title, "Son of David". Nor did Jesus restrain or rebuke the people. He was clearly agreeing, "Yes, I am the Messiah, the King, the Son of David, and this kingdom is my rightful possession
We must marvel at the mystery of the King declaring His right to the throne of David before having gone into the far country to receive both that throne and those of all the kingdoms of the world. Returning to the parable, the citizens are different from the servants. The servants are believers, the citizens unbelievers. It is plain from the parable that non-believers will object to Jesus' right to the kingdom. The unbelievers hate the Lord and hate His rule over them. They 'will not have this man' to reign over them, and even sent Him a message to that effect.
The message of rebellion is treated in the parable by the Most High God with disdain. Jesus receives the kingdom. It seems to me obvious that the 'far country' is heaven. The Lord received the kingdom at His Ascension, when He took His rightful place at the right hand of God the Father. From there He exercises His authority over every dominion and power as Lord of lords and King of kings.
I believe, from the Lord's words on earth, that His Ascension accomplished two main objectives: Firstly, He returned as High priest into the Holy of Holies, and was able to send the Holy Spirit, Whose power was necessary for the birth of the church as the body of Christ. Secondly, He went to receive all the power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing due to His Name, and thereby to defeat Satan and lead captivity captive.
In the words of the parable, He went to receive the kingdom, so that in due time He could return in judgment. The Lord's Glorious Ascension speaks of His demand to rule over the nations and His coming return in righteousness to judge and make war. Some Christian folk don't like either of those today, but without due respect to the Ascension, and likewise to the Incarnation, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of the Lord, our faith lacks balance.
RESTORING THE KINGDOM
The two functions of Ascension are brought out by Luke in the opening of the book of Acts. Firstly he says that his Gospel was an account of 'all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up.' Luke implies that by the Holy Spirit He will continue to do and teach through the church, which will be His body until His return.
Secondly, Luke records the answer of Jesus to the question central in the apostles' mind: 'Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?' They have an idea that what is about to happen is to do with heavenly rule on earth. The Lord does not object to their underlying assumption, He merely says, 'It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.' In other words, 'I shall do that in the Father's good time. Do not waste your time looking out for it.'
THE RETURN OF THE KING
The return of the Lord in His glory is, from the parable, a return in judgment. Firstly he deals with His servants, the believers. Judgment must be begin at house of God, and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God? (1Pet 4:17) The end of them is described at the end of the parable. The enemies of Christ, who object to His reign, are put to death.
The big question is what happens between now and the return of the Lord in power. Jesus has all the authority now. He demands to rule over the nations. When He returns they won't have a choice. Clearly the servants of Christ must be occupied, but should they attempt to occupy, in the sense of trying to work for the establishment of righteousness in the affairs of men in the meantime before the Lord's return?
The fashionable answer is 'No!' The kingdom of God is a mystery kingdom, present only the hearts of believers. The law is replaced by grace, and politics is a dirty, contaminating business which Christians have no business being involved with. Anyone who disagrees is labelled as having a 'Reconstructionist' or 'Dominionist' theology. Having given out those accusing labels, the theological equivalent of bear-baiters and child-molesters, the opponent of Godly government considers he has proved his case. Personally, I do not come under those labels, but I still reckon they are better than a 'Deconstructionist' or 'Retreatist' theology. In any case, such a view is far too simplistic.
WICKEDNESS WILL ABOUND
The reality is that there is no end of people going around today, as ever, saying 'We will not have this Jesus to reign over us!' They do want Him reigning in their lives, in their families, in their churches come to that, and certainly not in their nations. What are the servants to do? Are we to continue to keep our heads down, quietly evangelising (if we do that valuable service at all) and trying not to notice all the wickedness around?
If the only voices heard are those of wicked men who object to the reign of Jesus, then wickedness will abound. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing", as the 18th-century statesman Edmund Burke said. But if it is OK for Jesus to reign in the heart of a believer before His return, why is it wrong for Him to reign in a family, a church, a business or a nation? What is wrong with the reign of Jesus?
GOD IS GONE UP
Psalm 47, that great prophetic psalm of Ascension, makes the strongest possible connection between that event, and God's righteous rule, and what should be our reaction. God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. The Psalmist urges the people to clap and shout with triumph, sing praises (stated five times!) with understanding, knowing that they will share in His triumph.
Five times also the psalmist sings of God's rule: it is over all the earth, of all the earth, over the heathen, upon the throne of his holiness, possessing the shields of the earth. God is terrible, and highly exalted. Psalm 68, quoted by Paul to the Ephesians, speaks again of God's judgment and righteousness.
The voices in heaven in the Revelation to John remember the words of Exodus 15:18 when they say: 'The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.' Truly we have a great hope and serve a great king. The kingdom of heaven may indeed only be truly present in the hearts of believers now, but that does not mean that God will not bless that nation which obeys Him, and curse the one which disobeys. Nor does it mean that Christ Himself has abandoned His claim to establish His rule of law over all the kingdoms of the world. He has received them, they are already His possession.
The Conservative Party was said by Disraeli in his book 'Coningsby' to be in continual retreat, constantly adjusting to a new, more evil, status quo, making accommodation upon 'statesman-like accommodation'. Most Christian conservative political activism is fighting the same nice, decent, apologetic rearguard action, all the while vexed like Lot in Sodom.
I have been part of the Christian pro-life and pro-family movement for twenty years. (But I admit to being a new boy compared with some stalwarts. I was stung into action by a typically humanist and one-sided piece on human embryology involving Patti Caldwell on 'You and Yours', in the days when one could still listen to Radio 4 without fear of being subjected to swearing and indecency.)
During those twenty years we had minor victories mainly during the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, notably on Section 28 and sex education. However, we have suffered many more defeats, on Europe, Sunday trading, broadcasting, homosexuality, family law, embryology, abortion, children's rights, criminal justice and the national lottery.
I mention only the obvious acts of Parliament, but running alongside have been the constant inroads into family life by the child sex industry, and the galloping humanism and God-hating of the humanist elite and the media. It is fair to say that it has been compromise and retreat all the way. Such prayers as we have made have been answered in the negative.
JESUS IS KING
That is why I am tired of being 'conservative', and that is why Christian Voice has since its inception in 1994 looked for the Biblical answer rather than the worldly answer. I believe now that our only authority to speak as Christians comes from the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures. If we speak not according to the law and testimony, there is no light in us. (Is 8:16-20). The Parliament now sitting is the most godless in our history, worse than in Harold Wilson's day, and worse even than that of John Major's.
The church could approach it in a 'getting alongside' and 'doing business' kind of way, grateful for the odd concession, and if it does so it will be marginalised and patronised. I pray instead to be part of a church which has the courage to be radical, preach the words of God Himself to our leaders, proclaim the righteousness of His laws, pray for national repentance in a continual succession of days of prayer, and turn the world upside down in the process.
We won't be liked for it, but our destiny is to reign with Him, and how can we do that if we are embarrassed now by the laws by which He will rule then? In other words, in a world, and a nation, which 'will not have this man to reign over us,' I pray to have the courage, and to be part of a church which has the courage, to press the Crown Rights of the Ascended King Jesus here and now.
Amidst all the voices of rebellion, let us raise our voices too, and cry out, "We will have Jesus to reign over us!"