The kingdom is connected with baptism in the Spirit in complete fulfillment of the prophecy given by Joel and John the Baptist in Joel 2:28-30 and in Matthew 3:11. To avoid misunderstanding, it is proper to say that the Spirit works in regeneration and sanctification during this dispensation, but this is not His final work. On the promises of physical blessings, another outpouring of the Spirit will follow. Did Joel imply that physical prosperity must precede spiritual fullness? To Joel these are the tokens that God has returned to His people, Israel. The drought and famine were signs of God's anger and judgment. But now there were physical proofs that God had taken Israel back, and this is ascribed to the unconditional covenant that God made with Israel. God has not turned His back on the covenant. It is unconditional. God has not forgotten His people (Rom. 11:1). They shall eat in plenty, be satisfied, and praise the Lord their God who will deal wondrously with them; and God's people shall know that God is in the midst of Israel and that He is the Lord their God (Joel 2:26,27).
Joel climbed higher than he had ever climbed when he looked into the future and gave the prophecy recorded in Joel 2:28. "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." In this verse, note the following: (1) Joel predicted the time of the Spirit's outpouring—"after-ward," after God has received Israel back (v. 27). (2) He predicted the Author—God, "I will pour." (3) He predicted the extent—"all flesh." (4) He predicted the effect— "prophesy," "dream dreams," "see visions," etc. This prophecy was not fulfilled during the ministry of Christ, at Calvary, or at Pentecost; but it shall be fulfilled when the kingdom is established. Hence, the baptism in the Spirit at Pentecost was only a pledge, or foretaste, of the future fulfillment which will take place at the time the Holy Spirit is poured out on "all flesh." "All flesh" includes more than was realized at Pentecost or will ever be realized until its fulfillment in the kingdom.
The blessings in the kingdom will be greater in degree than the blessings of Pentecost. Among the future blessings is the experience of fire. The fire that is included in the record of John's prediction in Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16 will then be the blessing of God's people. As the assembly of Jesus Christ does not presently use the keys of the kingdom, so does she not presently experience the blessing of fire.
The baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire of Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16 cannot be divided into a blessing and a curse. It does not make sense to divide John's promise into both a blessing and a curse. All of God's people will inherit the kingdom together, experience the universal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and take part in the blessing of judging with Jesus Christ. Fire is referred to three times in both Matthew 3 and Luke 3. Matthew 3:10, Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:9, and Luke
3:17 all refer to God's judgment. But in Matthew 3:11 and Luke 3:16, John was promising a blessing to the people of God. This was a blessing for those who would be baptized in the sphere of the Spirit; and being thus baptized, the fire represents God's judgment in which we shall participate. Jesus Christ will reign as King, and we will reign with Him as kings and priests, serving under Him. We will be like Christ; and we will be associated with Him as associate kings and priests, performing similar offices under our great King and Lord. All this is wrapped up in blessing, not a curse.
Fire is used two ways in Scripture. It is used in the sense of purification, or cleansing, and it is also used in the sense of judgment. Fire denotes judging and executing judgment in reference after reference in both Old and New Testaments (Deut. 4:24; II Thess. 1:8; Heb. 12:29; etc.). Those in the kingdom will join with Jesus Christ in executing judgment. Paul reminded the Corinthians that the saints shall judge the world and angels (I Cor. 6:2,3). God promised the assembly of Jesus Christ that those who overcome and keep His works shall have power over the nations (Rev. 2:26).
Joel's prophecy will be completely fulfilled in the future baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire. Pentecost was not the kingdom. The assembly of Christ and not Israel was being dealt with at Pentecost. It is a sad fact that many religionists have transferred to themselves Scriptures that belong to a future age. Those in the kingdom will join with Christ in executing judgment on the unregenerate, which will be a blessing to the regenerate. This judgment will take place when the kingdom is in its time stage. The time stage will be the 1,000 years preceding the eternal state of the kingdom. All who have the earnest of the Spirit have some understanding of what the Lord Jesus Christ will do when His Spirit shall be poured out on all flesh. There will be people in their flesh and blood bodies in the first phase of the kingdom. People will die during this millennium. But in the eternal phase of the kingdom, everyone will be in his flesh and bone body; therefore, there will be no death. Flesh and blood shall not inherit the eternal phase of the kingdom. The first aspect of the kingdom shall be purged before the eternal aspect begins (Matt. 13).
The physical phenomena of the sun being turned to darkness and the moon turned to blood will precede the great and terrible day of the Lord (Joel 2:31). But these did not accompany the baptism in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter knew that Pentecost was not the terrible day of the Lord but was only a partial fulfillment of the prediction by Joel and John. He explained the terrible day of the Lord in his second Epistle, not in Acts. "Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of the heavens being set on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements burning are being melted, but according to His promise, we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells" (II Pet. 3: 12,13—translation).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire cannot be Israel as a nation entering into the events of Joel's prophecy. Although Peter quoted from Joel's prophecy and said, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16), he did not identify the baptism in the Spirit at Pentecost as "all of that." Pentecost was only a partial fulfillment of the events of Joel's prophecy. Both Joel and John prophesied the conclusion in the absolute fulfillment. All the Old Testament prophets prophesied in that manner. The complete fulfillment of Joel's prophecy will not take place until the reality of the day of the Lord. In that day, all sham and hypocrisy will be manifested. Only that which is of God will stand. Joel's prophecy is timely in our apostate days, reminding us that the coming of the Lord is approaching.
The day of the Lord signifies judgment. It is used in a local sense. It was experienced by the people of Joel's time, and it will be experienced in a final sense. It was the Lord's judgment on Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem at that time, but it will also be God's judgment on Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem in a final sense. Joel combined both the historical and prophetical, both the near and the remote. This is a remarkable feature that we find again and again throughout Old Testament Scripture.
The kingdom will not be established without a period of violence and war: "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision" (Joel 3:14). How utterly vain are the expectations of collective humanity unified and deified in the person of the antichrist (Rev. 13). The Spirit predicts the formation of a mighty confederation under the auspices of this last head of depraved humanity (Rev. 17:12). The formation of this confederacy is still future. Whatever confederations have existed in the past were only partial fulfillments looking forward to the last great array in the kingdom of the earth against the Messiah (Rev. 19). The period of violence and war against antichrist is described in Revelation 19, II Thessalonians 2, Isaiah 63, and many other prophecies. This last great war will create the greatest devastation of any preceding it. God will execute justice on the ungodly. The wicked must fill up the measure of their sin, and this will have taken place before the Lord returns (Joel 3:1-16).
Vengeance belongs to God: "...Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12:19b). "For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people" (Heb. 10:30). Christians long for the day of absolute justice under Jesus Christ. The time for absolute justice on earth will not be executed until the time the assembly has been perfected. Then we shall use the keys of authority given to the perfected assembly to participate in judgment. God's vengeance will become ours in the Lord Jesus Christ, our King, the King of the Jews.
The Hebrew word for vengeance is nagam, which means a rendering of justice, retribution, punishment, or satisfaction. The Hebrew root word with its derivations is used 70 times in the Old Testament. Although theologically important, it is greatly misunderstood. In modern thinking, vengeance and revenge, coming from either God or man, are ideas that appear to have no ethical validity. Those with this thinking have no concept of God's holy character. Understood in the light of God's whole counsel, vengeance is understood to be a necessary aspect of the history of redemption. There are a few cases in the Old Testament where vengeance is executed by man. Although the Hebrew word nagam is not used in Genesis 9:6, this verse teaches capital punishment: "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." Other passages warn men not to take vengeance into their own hands. These are not contradictory. A classic use of the Hebrew word nagam is the Lord's statement in Deuteronomy 32:35 and 41—"To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me." God cannot be true to His holy character and justice if He does not punish in justice. The prophet Isaiah stressed the day of the Lord's vengeance. We will rejoice when we see God's absolute justice executed: "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth" (Ps. 58:10,11). Does this teach that Christians must hate their enemies? We, like David, hate those who hate the Lord: "Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies" (Ps. 139:21,22). Christ was not rejecting the teaching of just punishment in His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, but He was showing that just punishment awaits the time for it. Psalm 50 brings this into focus by showing that men curse the Lord while He remains silent. However, the time is coming when His silence will be broken. He will roar out of Zion (Joel 3:16). He will speak in vengeance and execute absolute justice. We await this day of reckoning, which will not occur until the assembly of Jesus Christ has been perfected.
Since man's examination of himself and others cannot be absolutely perfect because he cannot discern motives, Paul said, "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who both will bring to light the hidden things of the darkness, and will make known the counsels of the hearts: and then praise shall be to each one from God" (I Cor. 4:5—translation). A distinction is made between the exhortation not to judge in I Corinthians 4:5 and the exhortation to judge in I Corinthians 5:12-13 with the use of "before the time" in the first reference. A just judgment must be made now on the basis of one's fruits, works, words, and lifestyle (Matt. 7). Christians must judge themselves and offending members in the local assembly (I Cor. 5:12; 11:31).
The Greek word for judge in I Corinthians 4:5 is a present active imperative of krino, which means to judge, pronounce judgment, preside over with the power of giving judicial decision, or examine. Since it is an imperative, it is a command. This judgment, or examination, goes beyond fruit that is seen. It descends into the soul. Therefore, it is not viewed externally. The context of verse 5 proves the Lord alone can examine and render judgment on the things that are hidden. All the things in our lives that we have successfully hidden from others will on this day be brought to light, and we will stand fully revealed before the Lord. Since Paul was incom petent to judge either himself or his service, the Corinthians could neither examine nor make a just judgment of Paul's motive and service.
The time for judging in the sense of I Corinthians 4:5 will be subsequent to our being judged at the judgment seat of Jesus Christ, where we will be rewarded according to our individual performances in time (I Cor. 3:13-15; II Cor. 5:10). There, the counsels (plural of boule, which means purpose, design, determination by implication, secret thoughts of the mind, or the mediation of the mind) of the hearts of others will have been brought to light. Every born again person will receive praise (epainos, which means approval, commendation, recognition, or reward) from God. This is the judgment of God's people; it is not the general judgment at the great white throne.
The perfected collective body of Jesus Christ shall be given the keys to the kingdom. This authority will be executed perfectly under the perfect King, Jesus Christ, the Son ofMan, the Son of David. Being perfected and having the keys of Christ's kingdom, we shall render absolute justice, and God's vengeance will become ours because we will be concerned only about His vengeance. Righteous judgment by us is impossible before that time. But we shall at that time render absolute justice in our judgments when we execute our examination (I Cor. 6:2; Rev. 2:26,27). Jesus Christ promised His disciples the blessing of rendering absolute justice in their examination. Peter's question, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?" (Matt. 19:27), was answered by Christ's promise to the disciples that they would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel: "And Jesus said to them, truly I am saying to you, the ones having followed me in the regeneration [paliggenesia, which means rebirth, new birth, new age, or next world] when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, you shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28—translation).
Some say the word for regeneration refers to the new birth. They are correct pertaining to its use in Titus 3:5. But in Matthew 19:28, the Lord was talking to already regenerated disciples; therefore, it refers to the new age—the messianic restoration. The time element is explicitly stated. It has to do with the future, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory. At that time, the apostles will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The names of the twelve apostles will be inscribed in the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:14). Hence, the twelve apostles will have a part in that which is future. Furthermore, they had a part in the foundation of the assembly (Eph. 2:19,20).
Those who have forsaken all for the name of Jesus Christ "shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life in its fullness" (Matt. 19:29—translation). The regeneration— messianic restoration of all things—of Acts 3:19-21 is not one single act. It includes the glorification of the bodies of Christians who make up the ekklesia—the body of Christ. It also involves Israel's future restoration when God will deal with them nationally. The judgments that will take place during the millennium before the eternal state of the kingdom are also included in this restoration. Those who will participate in this judging will include the Jewish branches that have been broken off, the assembly that has been grafted in, and the restored natural branches (Rom. 11).
With these truths in mind, any person who spiritualizes the kingdom in order to bring about the teaching of amillen-nialism concerning the Lord's future is dishonest in dealing with the Scriptures. One cannot isolate one text and try to make all other texts fit it. He must consider all the passages relative to the subject. He is then in a position to arrive at a correct conclusion when all the various Scriptures pertaining to the subject harmonize.
There is no doubt about the spirituality of the literal kingdom. Jesus Christ had a material body while He walked among men. He was also filled with the Spirit. There was none more spiritual than He who has the Spirit without measure. When the Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh in the kingdom, the kingdom will be very much a spiritual kingdom. When the King—Jesus Christ—pours out His Spirit on all flesh and the Spirit exerts His mighty energy in every direction, extending even to the material creation, surely the kingdom will be preeminently spiritual. This kingdom will not be of this unspiritual world. The literal/spiritual kingdom will be on a renovated earth on which Jesus Christ will reign, and we shall rule and reign with Him.
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