“According to the eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)

By Bob Myhan


God’s eternal purpose has been to bless all men in Abraham’s seed [which is also the seed of woman] by putting enmity between the serpent’s  seed and her seed. This blessing was justification by means of faith (Gal. 3:8). Throughout the ages man has always been justified by faith, if he has been justified at all [see Hebrews 11:1-40]. But there had to be a great object of faith, something or someone that would demand such great faith that it would also serve as a stumbling stone. Only thus could man exercise free will in choosing to believe or to disbelieve. This great object is the Person revealed to Israel as Messiah.

The Messianic Kingdom

Though it was not God’s original intention for the geopolitical nation of Israel to have a king, He did intend to establish, in the fullness of the times, a spiritual kingdom with a spiritual monarch. Prophetic hints of this intent are scattered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Consider some of the things Joel, Isaiah and Daniel prophesied concerning this spiritual kingdom that was to be ruled by Messiah.

The Messianic kingdom was to come with power as God would pour out His Spirit [miraculous power] “on all flesh.” That is, without distinction on the basis of gender, nationality and social standing (Joel 2:28-32).

The Messianic kingdom was to be set up in Jerusalem. Isaiah tried in vain to get Judah to see that they were headed for a similar fate to that of Israel (1:1-31). Isaiah then tells them there will be an end to the physical kingdom of Judah but that the Lord will set up a spiritual kingdom (2:1-4).

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. Many people 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 shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.

The “mountains” and “hills” of prophecy are kingdoms. The kingdom of the Messiah would be superior to those of men. Notice, it would be multinational, rather than national and its law would “go forth” “out of Zion” “and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” And its borders would not be enlarged by carnal war. And, though multi-national, its citizens would be at peace. (Isa. 11:1-9)

The Messianic kingdom was to be set up in the days of a fourth world empire, Babylon being the first. After the southern kingdom of Judah had been carried into captivity, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that so troubled him he woke from his sleep. He asked his various wise men to tell him the dream and its meaning, which they could not do. Daniel told him both the dream and its meaning.

Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, "The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these: As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart. "You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. "This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all--you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold--the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure." (Daniel 2:27-45)

Both John and Jesus preached, during the days of the Roman Empire, that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Luke 3:1-6; Matt. 3:1-3; 4:12-17). Jesus also affirmed that it would be “present with power,” before some of His disciples were to “taste death” (Mark 9:1).

On the Day of Pentecost following the Lord’s ascension into heaven, the Spirit of God was poured out and the apostles received power and proclaimed that the Messianic prophecies were being fulfilled (Acts 1:6-8; 12-26; 2:1-4, 14-36).

Though many believe and teach otherwise, the Messianic kingdom was established in the first century (Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:9). It is also known as the church of Christ (see Matt. 16:13-19).

[To be continued]