I am always glad to share with our visitors the writings of my friend Rod MacArthur. He is an excellent Bible student with a gift for communicating the truths of God’s word. Here is a short– but very important and powerful article from Rod. Enjoy!!
A Kingdom within a Kingdom
Believing that the Kingdom of Heaven emerged as an independent entity in AD 70, I have faced what some suppose is an insurmountable truth from Paul. “How could one be ‘transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son’ (Col. 113), if that kingdom wasn’t established until five years AFTER Paul wrote this?” is the question I’ve frequently heard.
I have an answer that satisfies me as I work to harmonize all scriptures that bear on the question. Let me first say it in common terms by way of illustration (which is more than an illustration, as it turns out). I have three adult children; but let me only consider the first, or oldest of them. Conceived in September, he was born in June of 1973. Once we realized that we were “expecting,” we began referring to him as “the baby.” Then after he was born, breathing and eating on his own, we still called him “the baby,” as well as his given name of Jim.
The point is that Jim didn’t suddenly become a baby at his birth, he was already a baby since his conception. For forty weeks he grew and developed in the protective environment of his mother’s womb. Then, at the right time, with much travail (labor pains) he emerged as his own being, uniquely different from his mother. This illustrates the birth of the Messianic Kingdom simply, yet clearly.
Jesus talked about “birth pangs” that immediately preceded the destruction of the Temple (Matt. 241–2, 8). The “end of the (Mosaic) age” at the coming of Jesus (Jerusalem’s destruction would be obvious when those great temple stones were torn down. The distress and tribulation leading up to that destruction—predicted by Daniel—were, according to Jesus, birth pangs. Birth pangs imply and impending birth. What was going to be born when the temple came down?
Isaiah helps here. “Before she was in labor, she delivered; Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be given birth all at once? As soon as Zion was in labor, she also delivered her sons.” (Isa. 667–8).
Who is “she” in this reading? She is called “Zion,” God’s wife (the covenant at Sinai was a covenant of marriage; Ezek. 168, Jer. 3131–32). Who was the “boy” born before her labor pains? He was the Son first introduced in Isa. 714, the virgin’s son: Jesus. This son/child theme reechoes through Isaiah’s pages. God’s faithful remnant, represented by faithful Mary, brought forth a Son (singular) before she experienced her labor pains. But, Isaiah spoke of a second birth; an entire nation. The Boy was born before the travail, and the nation was born after the travail. So, what is the “land” or “nation” that was born in one day? What was born as soon as Zion was in labor? The “sons” (plural) of God equals the land/nation. (Compare to Dt. 3243, “His land, His people”).
Here is my point: Israel under the Old Mosaic Covenant was God’s kingdom. She was the woman who gave birth to Jesus (the Son, see Rev. 121–5). This was 70 years before her labor pains. When the nation, God’s wife, was destroyed in AD 70, she gave birth to an entire nation/people/land/kingdom. After Jesus’ Cross and prior to His return, the “land” was developing within the OC Kingdom. Thus, a kingdom (fetus) was being nurtured and protected by the kingdom (mother). Both coexisted for 40 years. But with the death of the mother (OC Israel) the Nation was born and was independent of the mother.
Thus, one who responded to Paul’s gospel was “transferred into the kingdom of the Son,” becoming part of the developing “fetus.” For forty years this fetal-kingdom continued to develop and grow within the mother, God’s wife by covenant, Israel. As the forty years drew toward an end, severe difficulty, hardship, and persecution intensified: the birth pangs. With the fall of Jerusalem, and especially the Temple, the birth took place and God’s new nation, the Messianic Kingdom, stood firm, unshaken by the collapse (see Heb. 1228).