What is your idea of paradise? Do you think of a place that abounds in riches, overflows with love, joy and happiness and everlasting contentment? Perhaps somewhere without fear, sickness, suffering or sorrow, with no pain, no hatred, grief, war, death or destruction? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a place like that did exist?
Well, the good news is that there is such a place! God is creating an incredible inheritance for us that will be far greater than anything you could possibly imagine, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9).
It will be an everlasting Kingdom that has been the fundamental purpose of His plan from the beginning. He is creating a Kingdom of spirit beings with the potential to achieve things that exceed our wildest dreams. In that Kingdom we will be able to accomplish tasks that are far beyond our current abilities.
Isn’t that good news?
Preaching the Gospel
Jesus Christ began His ministry by preaching about the Kingdom of God, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17).
He preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The word gospel simply means good news.
Many think the gospel is a New Testament message that had not been preached until Christ’s time. But that is not the case. The Bible tells us that the gospel was preached to Abraham over two thousand years prior to Christ, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8).
The good news of the Kingdom of God was preached to Abraham by the Word (Logos) of God who later became Christ, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made… …And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3 and 14).
It was also preached to Abraham’s family who were brought out of Egypt over four hundred years later, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2). Hebrews 3:16 indicates that those to whom the gospel was preached were those who, “came out of Egypt by Moses”.
The gospel of the Kingdom of God was not just a New Testament message, it was also proclaimed in ancient times.
Because Abraham believed the gospel and acted in faith the Word of God considered him to be a friend, “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” (James 2:23 see also II Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8).
He knew that Abraham understood the spiritual concepts of the gospel message and would teach his family, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” (Genesis 18:19).
The Book of Hebrews confirms Abraham’s wife Sarah, their son and grandson had the same spiritual discernment and became heirs along with Abraham of the spiritual promise, “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised… … These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:9-13).
Later in New Testament times when the Word became Jesus Christ He also referred to His followers as His friends. They had the same sort of personal relationship with Christ as Abraham had with the Word. They believed the gospel and obeyed in faith.
Like Abraham Christ’s followers were also told to teach the good news to others, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.” (John 15:13-17).
He not only expected them to teach the gospel but also to produce spiritual fruit as a result of that message.
Because we know that the spiritual things of God can only be discerned by mankind through the Holy Spirit, God must have made His Holy Spirit available to them so they could produce the spiritual fruit He required, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:9-14).
This means that those of Abraham’s family who believed and acted accordingly must have received the Holy Spirit.
Abraham was so convinced by what he was told that he willingly obeyed, giving up his life in the prosperous and dominant city-state of Ur in southern Mesopotamia to follow the instructions the Word had given him.
It is interesting to note that the area he came out of was later known as Babylon. We too in this age have been instructed to come out of Babylon meaning that we are to spiritually distance ourselves from the world that is dominated by religious, political and philosophical systems that had their origins in the ancient world, “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her (Babylon), my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4).
The Word had promised Abraham’s family physical blessings of nationhood, status, land and riches, but knowing he would not see these things himself Abraham looked instead toward the spiritual outcomes that he had been told about, “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10).
The only city we know of that will be built by God is the spiritual city mentioned in Revelation called the New Jerusalem that is the Kingdom of God, “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband… …And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,” (Revelation 21:2 and 10).
Abraham came out of Ur and committed to following the commands of the Word knowing that there was an inheritance for him which was the spiritual city that represented the Kingdom of God.
In faith he put the physical comforts and riches of Ur aside to pursue a future spiritual existence that was of far greater value than anything physical that is in this world.
Abraham understood that through his faith and righteousness all families of the earth would also benefit by eventually having access to the Holy Spirit and God’s Kingdom, “…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3).
In the meantime Abraham’s own family were sanctified because of his righteousness. To be sanctified is to be purified or set apart for a holy purpose.
We in the Church today understand how members of our families are sanctified when we are called, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.” (I Corinthians 7:14-17)
It means that if members of our families believe what they hear and have the inclination and willingness to commit to God, then He may decide to call them to salvation in this age. But if they don’t have that inclination God does not hold it against them and their calling will come at the most appropriate time for them, which may be during the White Throne Judgment period when people from all ages will be resurrected to physical life and given the opportunity of salvation (Revelation 20:11-15).
The Word dealt with Abraham’s family in the much same way that He, as Christ, works with our families today, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8).
As the Word He continued to deal with later generations of Abraham’s family who became known as the nation of Israel. He entered a marriage covenant with them, “…I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:” (Jeremiah 31:32 see also Ezekiel 16:8-14). As His wife they were sanctified just as an unbelieving wife is sanctified today, “…and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband” (I Corinthians 7:14).
The Israelites were sanctified, not only in a physical sense but also in a spiritual sense, “And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes.” (Exodus 19:14).
Potentially those individuals within Israel who were willing to obey and commit to God had the opportunity to receive the Holy Spirit and be called to salvation in those days.
Gospel Received by Many in Ancient Times
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews confirms that not a few, but many Israelites had made that commitment and died in faith believing the promise, ‘…that they may obtain a better resurrection’ (Hebrews 11:35). That included people specifically mentioned like; Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Sampson, Jephthae, David and Samuel. Plus there were many others, men and women who through the history of Israel had been subjected to numerous circumstances described in Hebrews 11:33 through to 37 of whom it was said, ‘…the world was not worthy’ (Hebrews 11:38).
All of these people listed in Hebrews 11 plus many others who also died in faith during those ancient times will be also be resurrected to spirit at the same time as the saints from more recent times, “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
We know that flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (I Corinthians 15:50).
A spiritual transformation to renew the mind must take place prior to being resurrected to spirit, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2).
That spiritual transformation of the mind came through being led by God’s Spirit to produce the spiritual growth and changing their lives through overcoming sin and by living according to God’s way.
We know that judgment is now on the house of God and if we are found worthy we will be resurrected to eternal life at the end of this age, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God:” (I Peter 4:17).
This means that those who have died in faith and are awaiting the promise of eternal life have already been judged and found worthy. That includes these people from ancient times who are to be resurrected at the same time as those from this age.
It was through having the Holy Spirit made available to them that they were able to discern the spiritual concepts and looked forward them, “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:16).
If they did not have the Spirit then those spiritual concepts would have been foolishness to them, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Seven Thousand under Grace
In addition to those mentioned in Hebrews 11 the Apostle Paul declared that the seven thousand Israelites in the time of Elijah were of God’s elect under His grace, “Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.” (Romans 11:3-8).
While many in Israel were blinded because of unbelief these seven thousand people who were not understood what God was offering through the gospel. Paul said they were part of God’s elect and under grace just like the remnant in New Testament times.
God was merciful toward Abraham’s family as He is merciful toward our families in this age.
Those of Israel who had been blinded because of unbelief will be resurrected back to physical life to receive God’s Spirit and have their opportunity of salvation under more appropriate circumstances, “Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:12-14).
These incredible events will take place during the White Throne judgment period. God’s Spirit will open their minds to the gospel message that is written in; and preached from, the books of the Bible and their reactions will be judged over a period of time to see if they too can be written in the book of eternal life, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15).
Whether we are judged now, or judged later after Christ returns the process of judgment is the same for all as, “there is no respect of persons.” (Colossians 3:25). To understand what God has planned we need to look at the broader meaning of the word ‘judgment’. The word ‘judgment’ does not only mean the pronouncement of a sentence, or decision. The Hebrew word ‘mishpat’ (Strong’s 04941) translated as ‘judgment’ implies a whole lot more because it includes the process that precedes the decision. It involves the assessment and analysis of evidence the leads up to a final decision and does not preclude the opportunity to make amends. There are examples in the civil laws God gave ancient Israel for the guilty party to repent and make amends through restitution (Exodus 22:3, 5, 6, 12). The process ensures that every one will be judged fairly and justly. God is incredibly merciful to those whom He has not called or judged during these current and past ages.
Prior to Abraham there were others who had been called to preach the gospel, men like Abel, Enoch and Noah (see Hebrews 11:4, 5 and 7). They were taught the same gospel of the Kingdom of God. They had the same understanding through the Holy Spirit, and looked toward the same spiritual outcomes that we do in this age. They were not only righteous but heirs along with those called from Israel in the past and all nations in more recent times. They already have an inheritance in the Kingdom of God, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:4-6).
Enoch was a prophet, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:14-15). He knew about the saints who will accompany Christ and the judgment to come on the world.
Noah was a preacher of righteousness, “For if God… …spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” ( II Peter 2:4-5). Righteousness is a spiritual state that God imputes to the faithful and obedient.
Gospel Preached to Israel
As a nation Israel received the spiritual meat and drink of the gospel message from the One to whom they were espoused and who later became Christ, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (I Corinthians 10:1-4).
He preached the gospel to them, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2). Those to whom He preached were those who, “…came out of Egypt by Moses” (Hebrews 3:16).
We know that David, a King of Israel, had God’s Holy Spirit, “…Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11). And that he also preached righteousness and salvation to his people, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.” (Psalm 40:6-10).
Gospel Proclaimed by the Law
The gospel message of the Kingdom of God was reinforced not only to Israel but to the world, through the law that formed the basis of Israel’s culture, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” (Hebrews 10:1).
It was also portrayed through the ceremonial laws and rituals that represented in physical terms, the forthcoming spiritual aspects of the Kingdom.
It was a culture that revolved around the Tabernacle with its ceremonies and rituals portraying a time when God will dwell among His people, “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it.” (Exodus 25:8-9).
God’s presence was in the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies where no man other than the High Priest was allowed to enter. It portrayed the future New Jerusalem that only Christ who is our High Priest could enter in this age. The length, breadth and height of the Holy of Holies measured the same, “And he prepared the inner sanctuary inside the temple, to set the ark of the covenant of the LORD there. The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high. He overlaid it with pure gold, and overlaid the altar of cedar.” (I Kings 6:19-20 NKJV). It contained the mercy seat representing the throne of God.
This inner sanctum was designed as a physical symbol of the future spiritual city that was shown to Abraham. A city to be built by God that represents His spiritual Kingdom - the New Jerusalem which is also symbolised with equal length, breadth and height, “And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." (Revelation 21:16).
Christ’s mission to bring this light to the world was symbolised in the magnificent menorah that was part of the Tabernacle furniture (See our article entitled - ‘The Magnificent Menorah’). He suffered to enable God’s plan to proceed. All the symbolism and scriptures pointing to Christ and future events concerning Him were expounded to the Israelites “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27).
Having fulfilled some of these events already Christ is our High Priest today, “…We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” (Hebrews 8:1-2).
All of these things including the priesthood and sacrifices were symbolically designed to portray the good news of the coming Kingdom, “…seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.” (Hebrews 8:5).
Even their Holy Days foreshadowed future events in God’s plan, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come;” (Colossians 2:16-17)
Gospel Preached by the Prophets
Not only was the gospel symbolically portrayed through the law it was also preached to them directly by the prophets that God sent.
Isaiah for example spoke about a saviour - Jesus Christ: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;” (Isaiah 11:1-2).
He talked to them about the Kingdom: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:2-4).
He spoke of Christ and His coming judgment over all the earth, “And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:3-4)
He talked to them about salvation, “And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:1-3).
He mentioned redemption and reward for God’s people in the future city that is the New Jerusalem, “Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.” (Isaiah 62:11-12).
He said that those who are redeemed to eternity are the New Jerusalem, “…and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 60:14-16).
And how that eternal Kingdom will be open to people of all nations: “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 66:22-23).
That is what God promised Abraham many hundreds of years earlier when He said,“…in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3).
Isaiah also told about how God will dwell among them forever in His Kingdom, “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.” (Isaiah 60:18-21).
All of these spiritual concepts were taught and many had the spiritual discernment to understand them because they had been given the Holy Spirit. But the majority chose not to believe, “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 7:11-12).
When the Word came to this world as Jesus Christ He confirmed that the gospel that had previously been preached by way of the law and also the prophets, was from that time being preached by Himself and many were responding, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” (Luke 16:16).
It was not a “New Testament” message. The gospel of God’s Kingdom that proclaimed by Isaiah was also taught by Enoch who was alive in the time of Adam (Jude 1:14-15).
What Paul Preached
Christ sent Paul to preach the same Gospel that was preached to Abraham and the Jews condemned him for doing that.
Look at what he told King Agrippa when the Jews made accusations against him, “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” (Acts 26:6-8).
Most do not realise that the Jews condemned Paul to the Romans because he preached the same gospel that had been preached to Abraham. It was a gospel of hope in the resurrection and a spiritual inheritance that comes through faith, repentance and forgiveness of sin, “… I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks… …for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” (Acts 26:14 and 16-20).
The Jews tried to kill Paul for preaching the gospel of the Kingdom that promised a spiritual inheritance through the resurrection that comes via faith, repentance and forgiveness of sin, “For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.” (Acts 26:21).
It is absolutely incredible that the Jews condemned Paul for teaching the very gospel that had been taught to their fathers. He taught the gospel of resurrection into the Kingdom of God that had been preached not only to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses, but to ancient Israel as well.
It was a gospel of hope in the resurrection to a spiritual inheritance that comes through faith, repentance and forgiveness of sin. It was about the same spiritual inheritance that had been promised to Abraham and all those whom God had sanctified through faith.
He preached that the promise made to Abraham that he and those sanctified with him will inherit the earth, “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” (Romans 4:13).
A promise which we know was confirmed by John concerning those redeemed by God through resurrection to spirit, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10).
Paul preached the same gospel of the Kingdom that was preached to Abraham.
Before the end of this age God promises to restore to the modern generation knowledge of that same gospel message concerning the Kingdom of God that was preached to, and by the men like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn (restore) the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6).
The two witnesses of Revelation 11:3-6 will come with the same powers that Elijah had: to bear witness of Jesus Christ and His gospel of the Kingdom.
Not yet ‘Given’
Some maintain that these people who Paul said were sanctified who lived prior to Christ did not have God’s Spirit. They use the following verse to support their view, "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.). (John 7:38-39).
In the King James Version verse 39 is in brackets because it is a comment added by John to qualify what Christ had said and the word ‘given’ is in italics because it has been added by the interpreters to clarify what they think John meant. They had mistakenly concluded John was saying that no-one prior to this occasion had been given the Holy Spirit to dwell within them.
Their mistaken conclusion has given rise to the popular concept that the Spirit was first given as an indwelling Spirit on the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2:1-4 when the New Testament Church was established. The implication is that the Holy Spirit was not available as an indwelling Spirit to those called by God in Old Testament times. Many claim that those in ancient times had the Spirit with them, but not in them.
It is difficult to conclude that the Holy Spirit had not been ‘given’ to anyone prior to Christ’s resurrection when we have read how so many in Old Testament times obviously did have the spiritual perception of the Holy Spirit to understand the spiritual concepts that God promised them. In addition they were able to undergo the transformation of the mind that ensured they will be resurrected when the saints at the end of this age and that requires the indwelling of God’s Spirit. God is not going to let any unconverted mind into His Kingdom, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:14-15).
When we remove that word ‘given’ that the translators added to John 7:39, then the true rendering reads - ‘for the Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified’.
It is important to understand what John was meant when he said that the Holy Spirit ‘was not yet’.
We know the Word was part of the God deity, He was not only with the Father, He was God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1). And it was through the Word that God dealt with mankind, “The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:2-4).
Later the Word of God became Christ, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
To do this He divested Himself of the power He had and became subject to death, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8).
Then having completed His work in this world He was glorified through resurrection to what He was before He became a man, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:4-5).
As the Word of God He was able to give the Holy Spirit as an indwelling Spirit to those whom the Father called. But as a man He either was not able, or chose not, to do this. It was not until He returned to His role as part of the Godhead that he resumed giving the Holy Spirit to dwell within those whom the Father called.
We see this being done first to His Apostles soon after He had been resurrected, “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23).
And then on the day of Pentecost He gave the Holy Spirit to the brethren who had been with Him, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.” (Acts 2:1-3).
It is also import to understand how Christ’s sacrificed validated the promise of eternal life for those who already had the Holy Spirit.
We have already seen how many who had been given the Holy Spirit had died in faith expecting to receive the promise of eternal life.
Abraham was fully persuaded that what God promised would be fulfilled, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:20-22).
He and Sarah, their son Isaac and grandson and Jacob were heirs of the promised spiritual city built by God, “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:9-10).
They and many others looked forward to the same resurrection to spirit to which we look forward, “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:” (Hebrews 11:35)
God would not make such a promise if He did not intend to carry it out, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).
A number of questions arise as to whether Christ could have given in to temptation and failed to be glorified. If so what would have been the consequences? Was His success preordained? If not, then on what basis did God promise eternal life to those who died in faith prior to the advent of Christ?
We may well ask how eternal life could be promised to them before Christ had made His sacrifice to pay for their sins? What if Christ had sinned?
No matter how much we speculate on this issue the main thing is that He did not sin and His sacrifice counted for all of mankind.
What is more important for us to understand is why the Father knew He would not fail. The Word who became Christ was willing to pay the penalty for all the sins of mankind to fulfil what had been promised to Abraham by the Word when He said,“... in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
In doing so He not only kept the promise made to Abraham but also revealed the incredible extent of His love for humanity and the Father’s unfailing faith in Him.
Their love and faith are not just emotions as we know, but are incredibly dynamic spiritual forces that are beyond normal human comprehension.
God the Father and Jesus Christ are spirit beings with powers of which we have little understanding, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” (Colossians 1:16).
We may think we know about the power of their love and faith, but we only know in part, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (I Corinthians 13:12-13).
Knowledge of these powerful forces of faith and love can instill great confidence and hope in believers.
God is described as love, “…for God is love” (I John 4:8). And love is of God, “…for love is of God” (I John 4:7). That love is a dynamic spiritual power, or force, that is characteristic of God and emanates from Him. Jesus Christ is exactly the same in this respect, “Jesus saith … …he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
The Father has such a profound love for humanity that He was willing to sacrifice His only begotten Son for our benefit, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
He knew that Christ also shared that same profound love for humanity, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).
Although technically Christ could have sinned there was no doubt in the Father’s mind that He would not because He knew the power of the love that Christ had for humanity. He knew that sort of love does not fail, “Charity never faileth” (I Corinthians 13:8).
He knew the enormity of what He had undertaken to do and the importance of what was at stake. Knowing the outcome would be so incredibly magnificent for those whom He had created He was willing to suffer and endure what He knew they would do to Him in their ignorance. Both Christ and the Father knew from the outset what would be required to redeem humanity if they made the wrong choices. This had been planned from the outset and Christ as our creator was willing to make the sacrifice to redeem mankind whom He loved.
He knew the joy that would come from the establishment of the Kingdom by that one sacrifice, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:2-4).
What an incredible saviour we have!
He came to establish a process by which we are saved without compromising the law. He sacrificed His own life for our benefit. What greater love can one have than that? “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).
God the Father knows His own strength of character as He knew Christ’s, “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:15-18).
He also knew that nothing could separate us from the love of Christ, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... …For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35 and 39).
God’s love is a powerfully dynamic, spiritual force that never fails.
God’s faith is also a powerful spiritual force that does not waver.
The Bible describes our faith as the substance of things hoped for or unseen, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). The Greek word translated as ‘substance’ also means ‘evidence’.
But God’s faith is based on certainties, things He has planned and created with powers and knowledge that are beyond our comprehension. He knows what is true and reliable so has absolute faith in what He and His Son are doing. His faith is in no way negated by our human unbelief, “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Romans 3:3-4).
Even though God has given mankind freedom of choice, He is still able to predict with pin point accuracy the behaviours and outcomes with sure certainty thousands of years in advance. His knowledge and understanding is far, far greater than ours and we need to have faith in that!
He knew technically that Christ as a man could have failed, but had absolute faith beyond all doubt that He would not because of Christ’s love for mankind. His love that surpasses anything we can imagine does not fail!
It is incredibly comforting to know that God has faith in us. His faith in us is expressed as if we are already raised to Spirit, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
This also applies to those to whom the gospel was preached in ancient times. They died prior to Christ’s sacrifice having been promised a future resurrection. That promise will be fulfilled for them at the same time it is fulfilled for us, “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
The Father’s faith in the love that Christ had for humanity should give us incredibly great hope!
Day of Pentecost
The Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2 was when God’s Spirit was poured out on many who committed to Christ at that time.
God’s Spirit was poured out upon those who believed, empowering them to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God the gospel with miraculous power to the remnant of Israel who were present at that time. It also endorsed this increasing spiritual body of believers to take the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world until Christ returns.
This was the event that Joel had spoken about. A time when multitudes would receive God’s Spirit and men, women and young folk would speak in great anticipation of that future time when the heavenly signs shall occur just prior to the Day of the Lord and Christ will return to resurrect those to whom salvation has been promised, “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:14-21).
The church as we know it today is the extension of that body of believers who emerged from the remnant of Israel into which the Gentile believers have been added as God’s people. They, along with believers from ancient times who died in faith, will be the first fruits harvested by Jesus Christ at the end of this age as symbolised by the Day of Pentecost. This is what was preached in ancient times by the Word to Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph and so many others as it has been preached in these later times by Jesus Christ about the long awaited Kingdom of God.
It is coming soon - an everlasting Kingdom that overflows with love, joy and happiness. It will be a place without fear, sickness, suffering or sorrow, with no pain, no hatred, grief, war, death or destruction? It is an everlasting inheritance that is beyond anything we can begin to imagine.
That is the good news.