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Second Quarter 2015 (April–June)
COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF LUKE
Week 11: June 6–12
COMMENTARY ON THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Sabbath, June 6th, The Kingdom of God
Today’s lesson begins by stating how pervasive the Kingdom of God is in the Gospels. The lesson author then makes an unusual statement:
… the kingdom of God is an expression of what God had done in history for the human race as He deals with the problem of sin and brings the great controversy with Satan to an ultimate and decisive end.
The kingdom of God is not an expression of what God has done in history, dealing with sin and ending the great controversy. The great controversy was settled once and for all on the cross of Christ, where Satan was defeated and was dealt a death blow. Hebrews 2:14 tells us:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil[.]
The kingdom of God was established with the first coming of Christ but will not see its fulfillment until Christ returns and the whole world is subjected to him.
Ellen White is then quoted and includes this in her understanding of the kingdom of God:
The greatest manifestation of its [the kingdom’s] power is seen in human nature brought to the perfection of the character of Christ.”—Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 36.
It is the blood of Jesus that redeems human nature and can bring perfection of character. The “greatest manifestation” will not happen until Christ returns to Earth again to rule the nations. Human nature, “brought to the perfection of the character of Christ” happened when Jesus shed his blood on the cross to pay for our sins, accounting us with his righteousness. We will not be “made” righteous until we see him as he is, as 1 John 3:2 tells us:
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
It is not the power of the kingdom to make us righteous, it is the power of the king who will make us entirely righteous when he appears and we see him as he is.
Sunday, June 7th Characteristics of the Kingdom of God: Part 1
The lesson author makes this statement on page 89 (standard edition) of the quarterly:
This means that, through His incarnation, death, and resurrection, Jesus vanquished Satan’s challenge to God’s sovereignty and established for eternity God’s kingdom.
Nowhere in scripture do we have Satan challenging God’s sovereignty. Jesus didn’t “vanquish Satan’s challenge” to establish the kingdom; the kingdom was established at Christ’s first coming and will be completely established upon the earth at Christ’s second coming. God has been sovereign and will remain so for all eternity. His sovereignty cannot be challenged; it is one of God’s attributes and therefore is always a reality and cannot suffer a so-called “challenge.”
Revelation 11:15 is quoted, yet this is still future, it has not happened yet. The kingdoms of this world have not yet become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. He shall reign forever and ever once he returns to destroy all earthly powers and subject the nations to his authority.
The lesson author then states:
In the clash between Christ and Satan, Satan claimed victory after the fall of Adam and Eve. But the mission of Jesus proved the falsity of Satan’s claims
Satan never claimed victory after the fall of Adam and Eve, this is simply speculation based on the writings of Ellen White. The mission of Jesus was not to prove “the falsity of Satan’s claims.” Jesus’ mission was to bring righteousness and salvation to the world through his death and resurrection.
We must be careful in attributing to Satan more power than he actually has. See the beginning of the book of Job for an example of how Satan is subject to the will, wisdom and sovereignty of God.
Once we are saved, we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Christ. Colossians 1:13 tells us that:
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.
Monday, June 8th Characteristics of the Kingdom of God: Part 2
The texts referenced by the first question on today’s lesson do not tell us what citizenship in the kingdom of God is about. This citizenship, first and foremost must be about our subjection to the king and his commands.
The lesson author makes some very good statements about entering the kingdom of God. For instance, he states on page 90 (Std. edition):
Entry into the kingdom of God is not dependent on one’s status or position, or one’s riches or the lack thereof. Luke, along with other Gospel writers, points out that one must come to Jesus with an attitude of uncompromised surrender, absolute dependency, and child-like trust; these are traits of those who have entered the kingdom of God. They must be willing to give up everything, if need be[.]
We must even be willing to give up the health message or the seventh-day Sabbath if Christ requires that of us. Nothing can stand in the way of our relationship with Jesus and citizenship in his kingdom. Not once in the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles or Revelation are we commanded to remember the Sabbath day, or keep it holy. The Sabbath is not a law of his kingdom. It was specifically for Israel and has been replaced by communion, by which we are commanded to remember Jesus’ sacrifice every time we gather together.
Tuesday, June 9th The Kingdom of God: Already, Not Yet
The lesson for today states:
… with the arrival of Jesus, the kingdom has already come, with its components to include healing the sick (Luke 9:11), preaching the gospel (Luke 4:16–19), forgiving sins (Luke 7:48–50; 19:9, 10), and crushing the forces of evil (Luke 11:20).
Healing the sick and crushing the forces of evil are not primary components of God’s kingdom. The primary components of his kingdom are preaching the gospel and the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ.
Healing and crushing the forces of evil are secondary components of the kingdom, but should not be regarded as primary when compared with the Great Commission Jesus gave his apostles. Found in Matthew 28:19-20 we are told:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
The lesson author has us refer to Luke 18:29-30, where Jesus tells of some of the things that followers of him must be willing to do. But it’s in the following three verses where Jesus states how the kingdom will be further established. Luke 18:31-33 tells us:
And taking the twelve, he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise."
Yet the apostles did not understand what he was saying when he said this. At his death he destroyed the devil, who had the power of death. On the third day he arose and continued to establish his kingdom. Luke 4:16-21 (see tomorrow’s lesson) is where Jesus first inaugurated his kingdom.
Wednesday, June 10th The Kingdom and the Second Coming of Christ
At the end of today’s lesson, the author states:
The anticipation of the Second Coming demands the sanctification of our lives now and here.
Although we have been sanctified already, spiritually through Christ, we have yet to see the sanctification of our bodies. This is a life-long process that will not be completed until the Lord returns for his people at the second coming.
If you believe that sanctification is possible here and now, you must ask yourself some hard questions. How is your thought life? What is your favorite sin? How many times have you had to ask for forgiveness today; yesterday; last week or month? We have been justified in Christ, we have received his righteousness, while he was put into our place on the cross, becoming sin for us.
Justification is the means by which we receive eternal life and will be allowed to enter heaven and the new Earth. That comes instantly at one’s conversion to Christ.
Sanctification is the process by which we become more and more Christ-like, growing from one degree of glory to another. Second Corinthians 3:18 tells us that it is from the Lord that we continually are being transformed into the image of Christ.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Read all of Second Corinthians chapter three and see what it means that we “with unveiled face” are beholding the glory of the Lord. We must be redeemed from law-keeping into the freedom of the sons of God, before we can behold the glory of the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Thursday, June 11th Witnesses
The lesson author states in today’s lesson:
… if anything, for 40 days the risen Jesus continued to impress on the disciples the reality of the kingdom.
Other than the fact of his resurrection, we have no information on what Christ taught to the apostles or the new church. This is mere speculation to say that “Jesus continued to impress on the disciples the reality of the kingdom”.
Rather than engage in a discussion of the kingdom, Christ told his disciples in Acts 1:7-8:
He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
It is the preaching of the gospel, not the kingdom that the followers of Jesus must do now. We are to be his witnesses to all the earth. The lesson author gets the gist of what we are to do today as members of God’s kingdom – preach the gospel and teach all that Christ has taught until his ascension.
The lesson author goes on to state:
… just as “when the fullness of the time had come” (Gal. 4:4) He sent His Son to inaugurate the kingdom of grace.
Here, he is misusing the verse from Galatians. Galatians 4:4-5 in its totality states:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Nowhere in scripture do we find the statement that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent his son to inaugurate the kingdom of grace.” We must handle the word of God carefully and not make strange speculations based on a portion of a verse of scripture.
Friday, June 12th Further Study
There are two quotes from the pen of Ellen White for today’s lesson. The second quote is from Testimonies for the Church where she says:
“We are now in God’s workshop. Many of us are rough stones from the quarry. But as we lay hold upon the truth of God, its influence affects us. It elevates us and removes from us every imperfection and sin, of whatever nature. Thus we are prepared to see the King in His beauty and finally to unite with the pure and heavenly angels in the kingdom of glory. It is here that this work is to be accomplished for us, here that our bodies and spirits are to be fitted for immortality.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 355, 356.
Our bodies are not being “fitted for immortality.” Our bodies are dying, and will be changed in the twinkling of an eye when Christ returns for his own. As Paul states in Romans 8:22-23:
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
The redemption of our bodies is something that will take place in the future; it is not something that we begin working on here while we remain in the flesh. Of course, we are to keep ourselves clean as temples of the living God, but we cannot prepare our flesh to be “fitted for immortality.” Only God can do that; and he will do that when Christ comes again.
Read Romans chapter 8 in its entirety and discover the difference between our spiritual selves and our physical bodies. We are not to live according to the flesh; in other words, we are not to live giving ourselves over to things such as vegetarianism, or “clean” foods as these are distractions from our primary responsibility, which is to preach the gospel to the entire world. All has been made clean by Christ as Mark 7:18-20 tells us:
And he [Jesus] said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him.