There are so many familiar verses with this term: Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand; the kingdom of God has come upon you; Thy kingdom come; seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness; unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
What exactly is the kingdom? This can be a loaded question, for "the kingdom of God and "the kingdom of heaven" are not exact, technical terms referring to one period or place. They can be used interchangeably to refer to either God's physical kingdom, or His spiritual kingdom; they can refer to His present kingdom, His future millennial kingdom, or His eternal kingdom. The safest definition I've found is that the kingdom of God simply refers to the kingdom that God is the king of. Wherever God has subjects, that is the kingdom of God. If you have submitted yourself to God, you are a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
The Jews all wanted to know when the kingdom of God was coming. When would this yoke of Roman oppression be thrown off, and God be the one to rule and reign? When would Messiah come and set up the kingdom?
But in their zeal for freedom, they had misunderstood and misinterpreted the prophecies regarding Messiah and the kingdom. With hindsight to the plan of God, we can see that the Scripture had clearly foretold not only that He would set up God's kingdom, but that He must first suffer and be slain for crimes that he didn't commit.
They had one thing in mind, but God had something different planned. We often get ourselves into the same place - having a presupposition - fully expecting God to do one thing, when His plan is something else. And when we do that, coming to God or His Word, expecting a certain thing, it warps our perspective. It causes us to misinterpret Him, and to misappropriate His Word. God's plan of action is most often not in line with man's expectation. He told us,
Isa. 55:8-9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."
The Jews were expecting and hoping for a conquering king, not a suffering servant. They couldn't comprehend that this guy who claimed to be the Messiah was saying things like "I must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation." Even today, much of mankind can't accept that God would do such a strange thing - allowing His Son to die for the sins of the world. It doesn't make sense, it doesn't follow conventional wisdom or expected plan of logic.
1Cor. 1:18-24 For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
God's ways are definitely not man's ways.
The usual (and oft quoted) translation of this is, "The Kingdom of God is within you". The New Agers love to quote this. But when referring to a group of people, the Greek word "entos" always means "among", not "within". So Jesus wasn't saying "The kingdom of God is within you" - certainly these Pharisees had no part in the kingdom of God. He was telling them that the kingdom of God was right there with them - He was in their midst, He was among them.
Then He tells them that the kingdom wouldn't be appearing in the way they thought it would. They were waiting for the sign of the Romans being overthrown, the yoke of oppression and occupation thrown off.
One day, He says, the kingdom will appear in that manner - a conquering king coming to reclaim His world. And on that day, He would be appearing in conquering power that everyone will see.
In the Scriptures, we read of three distinct times that the Lord Jesus Christ comes. First, he came to earth to suffer and die. Second, He will come to snatch His church out of the world. And third, He will come to judge the world.
This judgment will occur at the end of the tribulation - when Jesus Christ makes His appearance as a conquering king.
Luke 17:24 "For just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day."
The cults will come to your door and tell you that Jesus came back secretly in 1921. That clearly goes against what the Bible teaches, for Jesus says that everyone shall see His arriving. In that day, He will come to judge the earth for its wickedness. There is so much Scripture written about that day. One of my favorites is in Zechariah 14...
Zech. 14:3-4 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.
Jesus is discussing His three days. In verse 24, He has addressed His third coming in judgment. In verse 25, He addressed his first coming in servitude. Now He gives us details of second coming - when He snatches away the church from the world.
What happened in the days of Noah? Wickedness was abounding, but the people of the world were going on with business as usual. Nothing strange about getting married, eating, or drinking. They lived in ignorance of the coming judgment. Just like the world today is.
But notice what happened in the days of Noah: Seven days before the judgment came, the Lord took the only righteous people left on the earth - Noah and his family - and hid them for seven days.
Gen. 7:1 Then the LORD said to Noah, "Enter the ark, you and all your household; for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time."
Gen. 7:4 "For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made."
This is a picture of what the Lord will do with His righteous ones before He judges the earth again. For He is going to hide us for seven years before that happens. Isaiah prophesied that He will say,
Isa. 26:20-21 "Come, my people, enter into your rooms, and close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while, until indignation runs its course. For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed, and will no longer cover her slain."
All through the Bible, we have a consistent occurrence - God delivers the righteous from judgment. He gives us yet another example in Lot.
Now another example of God delivering the righteous from judgment. The five cities of the plain, which included Sodom and Gomorrah, had become exceedingly wicked, just as in the days of Noah. All sorts of evil and sexual immorality were accepted as commonplace, and people just went on about their business like nothing was wrong and no judgment was coming.
Notice what happened there in Genesis 19. Before the city was destroyed by the judgment of God, two angels were sent to grab Lot and his family. The angel told Lot, "Hurry and escape, for I cannot do anything until you're out of here!" Today, we are in the same place in history - the earth's wickedness has gotten back up to the level where good is called evil, evil is called good, sexual immorality is commonplace, and everyone is just going along with their lives as if nothing is going to happen. And here are the Christians - people made righteous by the blood of Jesus - and God cannot judge this world until we are taken out.
As a matter of fact, Abraham knew the character of God and believed in this so strongly that he said to Him before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah,
Gen. 18:25 "Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from Thee! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?"
May I suggest to you that we have the boldness and privilege to say the same thing to the Lord.
It is true, you won't find the word "rapture" in the Bible. But we do get the term from the Bible - just not the English version of it. In 1Thessalonians 4:17 Paul wrote,
1Ths. 4:17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.
"Caught up" is "harpazo" in Greek. When the Scriptures were translated into Latin, the Greek "harpazo" became the Latin "rapturos", where we get the English "rapture". The term rapture means "to catch up, to seize, to snatch, to take".
The Rapture is an interesting and an intricate study. Although we had hints throughout the Old Testament, the mystery of the rapture isn't revealed clearly until the New Testament. As Paul said,
1Cor. 15:51-52 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
At that point, we will receive our glorified bodies.
2Cor. 5:1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
These bodies are as flimsy and temporary as tents. But compared to these tents, our glorified bodies will be buildings!
Phil. 3:20-21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory...
This all happens, as Paul said, "in a moment", in the twinkling of an eye". Notice that Jesus points out people asleep in bed, a nighttime activity, and people working in the field, a daytime activity. How could this carpenter from Galilee know that it could be night and day in one moment, when everyone knew that the world was flat? That is unless He'd seen it from heaven, or actually created it Himself...
Two men in bed - family or friends - but only one is raptured. Two women grinding - coworkers - but only one is raptured. It will be a joyous day for those of us who have been saved, but a day of sorrow for those who are left behind. How important it is for us to be faithful to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with our family, friends, and coworkers!
The disciples ask Him, "Where is this snatching going to happen?" Jesus' response seems very strange.
Luke 17:37 "Where the body is, there also will the vultures be gathered."
What does He mean? Well, the first thing we have to do is correct a mistranslation. This word is not "vultures", it is "eagles". For some reason, Bible translators decided that since eagles are not eaters of carrion (dead flesh), they had better "clarify" this verse by translating this word "vultures" - even though everywhere else in the New Testament it is translated "eagle". What happens is that the real context is destroyed. Let's go ahead and use the Bible to clarify the Bible:
Want to know what "the body" is? Grab a concordance!
1Cor. 12:27 Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.
Rom. 12:5 ...We, who are many, are one body in Christ
Eph. 1:22 ...The church, which is His body...
Eph. 4:12 ...Equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
Col. 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church
You get the idea. "Where will this "taking" occur, Lord?" the disciple asked. "Wherever the body of Christ is, there the eagles will gather."
What do the eagles signify? Eagles are first mentioned in the Bible in Exodus 19, when the Lord says,
Exod. 19:4 "...I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself."
And once again, we will be born on eagles' wings and brought to the Lord. And that gives us a new perspective on an old favorite Bible verse in Isaiah 40,
Isa. 40:30-31 Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.
Wait on the Lord - be an overcomer, and in that day, you will be lifted up as if on eagles' wings and taken to the Lord. We will have new glorified bodies which will be immortal and imperishable. They will never get tired, never grow weary, never age, never die. Oh, what a glorious day that will be!
1Ths. 4:17-18 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.