Distinct Motive for the New Testament Church
God is sovereign (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Psalm 33:10-11; 50:1; 66:7; 93:1; 103:19; Isaiah 40:15, 17; Daniel 4:34-35; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 11:17). His sovereignty is indicative of His supremacy of position and power.
As sovereign, God has absolute control over every aspect of His creation. He does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3; 135:6; Daniel 4:35) and no person or plan can serve to alter His intent or obstruct His action (Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 25:1; 43:13; 46:10; Ephesians 1:11). Therefore, whether by divine directive or permission, all that occurs within the created realm is concordant with the eternal plan of God.
Kingdom of God
Relative to His sovereignty, God is King of Kings (Psalm 5:2; 10:16; 29:10; 84:3; 145:1; Matthew 25:40; 27:11; Mark 15:2; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:15; Revelation 15:3; 17:14). His reign is absolute. There is no king, ruler, power or dominion with comparable authority.
In the English Bible, the primary words translated into the word “kingdom” in the are the Old Testament Hebrew malkuth (1 Chronicles 11:10; 14:2; Psalm 45:6; 103:19; 145:11-13; Daniel 10:13) and the New Testament Greek basileia (John 3:3-5; Acts 1:3; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20). According to George Eldon Ladd, “The primary meaning of both the Hebrew word malkuth in the Old Testament and of the Greek word basileia in the New Testament is the rank, authority and sovereignty exercised by a king. A basileia may indeed be a realm over which a sovereign exercises his authority; and it may be the people who belong to that realm and over whom authority is exercised; but these are secondary and derived meanings.”1 First and foremost, the kingdom of God is indicative of the rank, sovereignty and authority exercised by God.
Before the origin of mankind, the eternal kingdom of God was populated by angelic beings (Job 38:7; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 148:1-6). They were created holy, immortal and spiritual in nature (Matthew 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; 20:36; Hebrews 1:14). Angelic beings were also created with personal awareness. As a consequence, they have the capability for thought, emotion and choice (Matthew 8:29; Luke 2:13; 8:28-31; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Timothy 2:26; James 2:19; 1 Peter 1:12; Jude 6; Revelation 12:17). In addition, the angelic beings were given freedom of will. Therefore, they have the privilege of choosing whether or not to reciprocate the love of their King.
Unlike mankind, the angelic beings were not created to propagate (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25). Instead, their entire number was created simultaneously in a vast unknown quantity that never increases or decreases (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 68:17; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 12:22).
God populated His eternal kingdom with more than one type of angelic being. The Old and New Testaments reveal that there are angels (Psalm 148:2; John 1:51; 1 Corinthians 13:1), cherubim (Isaiah 37:16; Ezekiel 1; 10; Hebrews 9:5) and seraphim (Isaiah 6:1-7).
The English word angel is translated from the Hebrew mal`ak and the Greek angelos. Both mean “messenger” and, by implication, one who is sent to “announce or proclaim”.2 Referenced at least 200 times in the Old and New Testaments, the angels are representatives of God. They are sent by Him to proclaim His message and fulfill His will and work (Psalm 103:20-21; Daniel 7:10; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 1:14; cf., Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:24; 9:52; Galatians 4:14; Hebrews 1:7, 14; 13:2; James 2:25). Thus, angels serve as messengers and ministers of God (Matthew 1:20-21; Luke 1:11-20; 26-38; Acts 7:38, 53; Gal. 3:19; Hebrews 2:2; Revelation 14:6-11).
The cherubim and seraphim are nearest to God. They have important roles around the throne of God (Isaiah 6:1-7; Ezekiel 1:26-28; 9:3; 10:1-22).
The cherubim magnify God through worship and praise. As further evidenced by their symbolic inclusion in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, they represent God and guard the attributes of His nature (Exodus 25:18-22; 26:1; 1 Kings 6:23, 27; Ezekiel 10:1-14). The cherubim are also known to fulfill important tasks for God on earth (Genesis 3:24).
The seraphim are mentioned in only one passage in the Bible (Isaiah 6:1-7). According to Isaiah, they worshipped God, proclaimed His holiness, declared His sovereignty over the earth and acted as an agent for the divine purification of the Prophet Isaiah.
The kingdoms of the fallen earth are governed very differently from the kingdom of God. Concordant with divine plan, fallen mankind governs on earth by rule of law. In contrast, God governs His kingdom by rule of life (zoe).
The rule of law is reflective of the righteous nature of God. He established it on earth to provide a measurable standard of righteousness for fallen mankind (Romans 3:20; 7:7). The Apostle Paul stated that rule of law was “not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane….” (1 Timothy 1:9).
The kingdom of God is populated with citizens that are righteous by nature. There is none unrighteous, not even one. The angelic citizens of the divine kingdom remain in their original state of righteousness. In contrast, the human citizens of the kingdom have been awarded the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ.
In the kingdom of God there is no sin that needs to be revealed. As a consequence, there is no need for rule of law.
Rather than divine law, the citizens of the kingdom of God are governed by the gracious rule of divine life (zoe) (cf. John 14:6; Acts 3:15; 5:20; Romans 5:10, 17, 21; 7:4-6; 7:10; 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 4:10-11; 5:4; Colossians 3:3-4; 1 John 5:20). The practice, movement and growth of the New Testament church on earth does not occur by human obedience to divine command, but by human faith in cooperation with the indwelling, eternal life (zoe) of God in Christ (cf. Romans 1:5; 16:26). Characterized by fullness of divine life, the Apostle Paul describes the state of existence in the kingdom of God as “swallowed up by life (zoe)” (2 Corinthians 5:4).
Kingdom of God on Earth
The heavens and earth have not always existed in their present form. “In the beginning”, before the angelic beings, God created the perfect, eternal heavens and earth (Genesis 1:1). Rather than “formless and void” or a “domain of darkness”, they were perfectly formed by God and illuminated by the light of His presence (Genesis 1:2; Colossians 1:13; cf., Revelation 21:22-27; 22:5). Subject to the rule of divine life (zoe), the original heavens and earth existed within the realm of His heavenly kingdom.
God created the original, eternal earth as a habitat for the angelic beings. Their rule over the earth was distinguished by an ordered hierarchy of authority derived from God (Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; Colossians 1:16; 2:15; cf. Ephesians 6:12).
Satan was the highest ranking angelic being assigned to the original, eternal earth. He “had the seal of perfection” and was “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12). Satan is further described as having been beautiful and splendorous (Ezekiel 28:17). He was possibly the most extraordinary of God’s angelic beings assigned to the original earth.
Satan served God in distinguished fashion. His role on the original earth was revealed by his splendid attire. Similar to the Jewish high priest, his breastplate was adorned with precious stones (Ezekiel 28:13; cf., Exodus 28:17). In addition to his priestly covering, Satan was equipped with “settings and sockets” (Ezekiel 28:13). They were indicative of either the receptacles that held his adorning stones, or, as distinguished by other English translations of the Bible, musical instruments. The Hebrew for “settings and sockets” has been translated “tabrets and pipes” (KJV) and “timbrels and pipes” (NKJV) (tambourines and flutes). The context does not conclusively promote one interpretation over the other. However, if it is a reference to receptacles for adorning stones, the relevance is not entirely clear. It would seem an unnecessary embellishment. Conversely, if “settings and sockets” is a reference to musical instruments, then Satan was equipped by God to worship Him with song. Relative to his anointed position at the throne of God, priestly attire and musical instruments, it is probable that Satan served God in the role of high priest.
In the role of high priest, Satan would have been allowed intimate access to God. Accordingly, the Bible reveals that he had the lofty privilege of enjoying the presence of God in both “Eden, the garden of God” and on the “holy mountain of God” (Ezekiel 28:13, 14). They were specific locations in the kingdom of God where Satan was permitted access to the presence of God.
“Eden, the garden of God” was not the same Eden known to Adam and Eve, but the archetypal Eden on the original, eternal earth. Like the subsequent Eden known to Adam and Eve, the original was associated with the intimate presence of God on earth in the midst of His created beings (cf. Genesis 2:8, 10, 15; Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 36:35). It was a place of fellowship between Satan and his King. Though presently unavailable, in the future Eden will again exist as a place of intimate fellowship between God and His created beings on earth (Isaiah 51:3; cf. Revelation 21:1-22:5).
In contrast, the “mountain of God” refers to the throne of God in heaven and, by implication, the authoritative rule of God over the earth (Exodus 3:1; 4:27; 18:5; 24:13; 1 Kings 19:8; Psalm 68:15; Ezekiel 28:14, 16). Satan, the high priest of God on the original, eternal earth, was allowed privileged access to the throne or "mountain of God". Consequently, his role was described as the “anointed cherub who covers” (Ezekiel 28:14). Covering or overshadowing the throne of God, Satan guarded the attributes of His nature. Like Eden, the “mountain of God” is not presently available on earth. However, it will again be accessible in the future (Isaiah 2:2-3; 65:17-25; 66:20).
In spite of his privileged position and proximity to God, Satan’s heart became “lifted up” or prideful (Ezekiel 28:17). As a result, he proclaimed: “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14). Regardless of his position of unparalleled privilege, Satan believed he could attain greater importance and influence in the kingdom.
Coveting the glory of the King, Satan devised a scheme by which he would challenge Him for His throne. He was convinced that it would reveal God as vulnerable and weak and, thus, susceptible to deposition.
Satan’s scheme was founded on the presumption that the attributes of the nature of God cannot be expressed concurrently in an unbiased manner. Specifically, he questioned whether or not God could demonstrate love and mercy concurrently with justice.
In his finite mind, Satan believed the aforementioned attributes of the divine nature to be contradictory to one another. He presupposed that if God were to lovingly and mercifully forgive his rebellious scheme it would necessitate that He compromise justice. Conversely, if God were to justly punish it would require Him to compromise love and mercy. Misunderstanding the nature of God, Satan was confident that God would choose love and mercy over justice.
Satan was convinced that a divine neglect of justice would constitute legal compromise. It would expose God as vulnerable and, therefore, susceptible to manipulation. Consequently, His authority would be discredited and His kingdom subject to division and, ultimately co-rule by Satan.
Understanding the potential advantage of co-conspirators, Satan persuaded many of the angels to join him in his rebellion against God (cf., 12:3-4). By the “abundance” of his unrighteous “trade”(trafficking or conspiring) he convinced about one third of the angels that his plan would succeed (Ezekiel 28:16, 18; Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12:3-4). As a consequence, they rejected their privilege of citizenship in the kingdom of God and followed his lead (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; Revelation 12:3-4).
The scheme, perpetrated by Satan and a vast number of the heavenly host, was no small incident. It constituted a serious affront to the nature of God and a legal challenge to His sovereign rule.
Abdication of Authority
By the success of his scheme, Satan demonstrated legal superiority over Adam. Consequently, he regained the legal right to rule over the earth and its fallen inhabitants.
The New Testament corroborates. When tempting Christ in the desert, Satan said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4:6). “Handed over”; “delivered” (KJV); “given” (NIV); are translated from the Greek word paradidomi. It “designates the act whereby something or someone is transferred into the possession of another.”4 Satan could not have made the offer to Christ had he not possessed at least some of the legal authority necessary to rule over the earth.
Satan regained the legal right to rule the earth when it was abdicated by Adam. He willingly traded his God-given authority over the earth for a future with Eve.
Judgment of the Earth
Relative to his misrepresentation of the renovated earth and abdication of his priestly authority, Adam experienced the judgment of God. The renovated earth, the appointed domain of his rule, was also subjected to judgment. Thus, the renovated earth, condemned like the original earth before it, was radically transformed into a fallen state. Separated from God, it became characterized by degeneration and darkness (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:19-21; Colossians 1:13).
Ruler of This World
Relative to his deception and Adam’s subsequent abdication, Satan regained some of his previous status and authority. Therefore, he presently and temporarily holds the legal titles of “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31) and “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). According to the Apostle John, “….the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). However, the present status and authority of Satan related to the renovated, fallen earth is but a distant shadow of the former glory he once enjoyed. Rather than ruling the pristine, original earth, he now presides over a “domain of darkness” (Colossians 1:13).
The plan of God to address the death, darkness and destruction caused by His creatures wasn’t simply a reactionary response. With foreknowledge, it was predetermined.
According to eternal plan, God had chosen beforehand to restore His kingdom on earth and repopulate it with willing subjects. His work of restoration and repopulation was accomplished in perfect accord with the attributes of His nature. Therefore, it was characterized by selfless love, unfailing mercy and absolute justice revealed concurrently, in an unbiased manner.
The foundation of the eternal plan of God was the Messiah or Christ (the Anointed). His arrival on earth was promised immediately after the fall of mankind, before Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15).
The identity of the Christ was carefully revealed by more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament and by name in the New Testament. Jesus, God in human flesh, was sent by the Father to the renovated, fallen earth as the Messiah or Christ (John 1:1, 14, 18; Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 2:9).
Jesus was anointed as the Savior of the world (Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Titus 2:11-14; 1 John 4:14). Foundational to the eternal plan of God, He was the means chosen by God to restore His kingdom on earth and repopulate it with willing citizens.
Sent to earth by the Father, Jesus the Christ was God in human flesh (John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8). He possessed both fullness of deity and fullness of humanity. Therefore, Jesus was uniquely qualified to represent both God to man and man to God.
Jesus the Christ was fully God. Existing “in the form of God”, He possessed the very nature of God (Philippians 2:6).
Indicative of the fullness of His humanity, Jesus the Christ was “made in the likeness of men” and “found in appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:7-8). He was the embodiment and expression of the life (zoe) of the heavenly Father on earth (John 1:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).
Fully God, Jesus possessed absolute authority. Thus, He had the ability to exercise divine authority while on earth. However, while in human flesh Jesus “emptied Himself” of His divine authority. He chose not to act according to His own will or exercise His own authority (Philippians 2:7a).
Instead, Jesus took “the form of a bond-servant”, one without authority, and lived a life of perfect dependence on His indwelling, heavenly Father (Philippians 2:7b). Through the authority and power of the indwelling Father He performed miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out demons. Though fully God, Jesus freely emptied Himself of His divine authority and demonstrated an earthly life and ministry of radical dependence.
Fully dependent on the indwelling Father, Jesus “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). By His crucifixion, He paid the penalty for the sin of all mankind and, thus, provided the means for the divine forgiveness of human sin (John 1:29; 4:42; 1 John 2:2; 4:14). His death was utterly sufficient to fulfill the purpose for which it was intended. Therefore, there is no need for additional sacrifice for human sin (Hebrews 9:26; 10:12).
As stipulated by the Eternal Covenant, Jesus the Christ conquered sin and death and was resurrected by the Father (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; 10:45; John 2:18-22; 11:25-26; Romans 1:4-5; 1 Peter 1:3). His resurrection demonstrated approval of Jesus’ sacrifice, validated the truth of Jesus’ earthly message and provided the means for fallen man to receive justification from sin. Further, it opened the door to mankind for the possibility of resurrection to a union of eternal life (zoe) with God, the requirement for citizenship in His eternal kingdom.
Concordant with His eternal plan, God provided the means to restore His kingdom on earth and repopulate it with willing citizens. To the bewilderment of the devil and his angels, it constituted a perfect demonstration of selfless love, unfailing mercy and absolute justice.
Longing of the Angels
The holy angels observe the redemptive work of God on the renovated, fallen earth with great interest and curiosity (Job 1:1-2:13; Luke 15:10; 1 Corinthians 4:9; 11:10; Ephesians 3:8-10; 6:12; 1 Timothy 3:16; 5:21; 1 Peter 1:12). The idea that God would restore His kingdom on earth and repopulate it with willing citizens by means of His own death and resurrection had been a complete mystery (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 1:9; 3:4; 6:19; Colossians 1:26-27; 2:2; 4:3). Once unveiled, however, they recognized that it was a perfect demonstration of the love, mercy and justice of God. As a consequence, it became a point of awe and wonder.
In spite of the rebellion and destructiveness of His creatures, God has promised the future regeneration of the earth. It is congruent with His eternal plan to vindicate His nature in heaven and on earth.
According to plan, the kingdom of God will be visibly manifested on the regenerated earth in the future (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13). It will accommodate the immediate, visible reign of Christ on earth and allow for the vindication of the divine nature through the restoration of the nation of Israel. As revealed throughout the Old Testament, the restoration of Israel to the covenant plan of God and kingdom citizenship has long been their national hope (cf. Psalm 24:1-10; 89: 3-4, 29, 34-37; Isaiah 1:26-27; 4:2-6; 9:6-7; 16:5; 27:12-13; 29:22-24; 30:18-26; 32:16-20; 33:20-24; 35:1-10; 43:5-7; 44:1-5, 21-23; 45:17; 51:3; 52:1-10; 55:12-13; 56:6-8; 60:1-14; 61:10-11; 62:1-12; Jeremiah 3:8, 17; 16:14-15; 31:1-40; 50:19-20; Ezekiel 11:14-20; 17:22-24; 20:40-41; 28:25-26; 34:25-31; 36:8-15, 24-38; 37:1-25; 40:1-43:27; 44:1-46:24; 47:1-48:35; Hosea 1:10-2:1; 14:4-8; Joel 2:18-32; 3:17-18; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 4:1-8; 7:18-20; Zephaniah 3:9-20; Zechariah 8:1-8; 10:8-12; 14:9-11).
The divine regeneration of the earth will first necessitate the judgment of the degenerated earth. “….the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the [degenerated] heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the [degenerated] earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:7, 10). Every last trace of angelic and human rebellion related to the degenerated heavens and earth will be destroyed by the fire of divine judgment.
After the fiery destruction of the degenerated earth, God will regenerate the earth in temporal form. “But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13; cf. Matthew 19:28). The newly regenerated heavens and earth will be suitable to accommodate the reign of Christ over the earthly nation of Israel.
The kingdom of God will then be manifested on earth in conjunction with the return of Messiah Jesus (cf. Psalm 2:6-9; Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:6-7; 11:1-12:6; Jeremiah 23:3-8; 33:9-26; Matthew 25:31-34; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 19:11-20:6). He will arrive on the regenerated earth and reign as King over the nation of Israel for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). Providing a perfect demonstration of selfless love, unfailing mercy and absolute justice through the restored nation of Israel, His reign on earth will serve to vindicate the nature of God in a decisive manner.
At the end of the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth, God will re-create the heavens and earth. The Apostle John states, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away” (Revelation 21:1). Eternal in form, the re-created heavens and earth will be suitable for existence within the eternal kingdom of God. They will serve to accommodate the eternal God in the midst of all who have placed their faith in Jesus the Christ, Jew and Gentile alike. The faithful redeemed will then enjoy the unending, ever present reality of fullness of life shared with God.
New Testament Church
The devil and his angels were originally created in a state of holiness under rule of divine life (zoe). Relative to their original status in the kingdom of God and subsequent choice to reject God, they have no hope of redemption or restoration to kingdom citizenship.
In contrast, mankind begins existence outside of the kingdom of God in a fallen state under rule of divine law. He is completely unworthy of redemption. Nevertheless, God has graciously chosen to provide mankind with the choice to experience justification from all sin, exult in the amazing privilege of shared-life and enjoy kingdom citizenship under eternal rule of divine life (zoe). It is an unconditional benefit of the Eternal Covenant.
During this present age, the distinct church of the New Testament is the chosen instrument of God for the restoration of His kingdom on earth. According to the Apostle Paul, it is an assembly of God’s chosen people in one spiritual body; an intimate, shared-life community united and quickened by the indwelling Spirit of God (Acts 2:42-47; 8:3; 12:12; 17:1-9; Romans 12:5; 16:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 12:13-27; 16:19; Ephesians 1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4; 4:12,16; 5:18; 23; 5:30; Colossians 1:24; 2:19; 3:15; 18:5-11; 20:20; 21:7-10; Philemon 2; cf. 2 John 10). Working in and through the distinct church of the New Testament, God pursues willing human subjects, predominantly from among the Gentile nations of the world, and assembles them together in preparation for the fulfillment of His eternal kingdom on earth (cf. Ephesians 3:1-13).
The Apostle Peter further clarifies that the New Testament church is “…a spiritual house for a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5). He adds that it is “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession….” (1 Peter 2:9a).
The banishment of the angels from the kingdom of God provided the need for its repopulation. The selfless love, unfailing mercy and absolute justice of God established the motive.
1Ladd, George Eldon, The Gospel of the Kingdom. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. Grand Rapids, MI. 1959) pg. 19
2Luginbill, Dr. Robert D., The Satanic Rebellion: Background to the Tribulation, Part 1: Satan's Rebellion and Fall from Grace, (http://ichthys.com/SR1copy.htm)
3Luginbill, Dr. Robert D., The Satanic Rebellion: Background to the Tribulation, Part 2: The Genesis Gap, (http://ichthys.com/sr2-copy.htm)
4Balz, Horst, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, © 1990)
© 2018 James Hiatt