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God’s Kingdom

Written by Prof Johan Malan.

It is important to know the nature and functions of God’s kingdom and also how it functions in different dispensations. How does God rule and why is His kingdom not of this world? How long will His kingdom on earth still be hidden in the hearts of believers before being publicly proclaimed and manifested? Further questions that should be answered are: what is dominion theology and why do many Christian leaders have the expectation that God’s kingdom will be visibly manifested on earth before the second coming of the King, Jesus Christ, by human efforts such as reconstructionism, transformations, strategic spiritual warfare and signs and wonders?

Kingdom Now people do not want to understand that we have to follow in the footsteps of Christ and share in the fellowship of His sufferings that we might one day share with Him in His throne. The disciples could also not understand that there was a difference between the spiritual and physical/political aspects of the kingdom. According to Luke 19:11, they thought that the kingdom of God would appear immediately, but were told in a parable that their King would go into a far country (heaven) and that He would come back later to give them rewards (Luke 19:15-19; cf. Rev. 22:12). In Acts 1:6, they specifically asked if Jesus would establish the kingdom of Israel. His reply was that the time for that had not yet come but that they would receive power to be His witnesses in the entire world. That meant martyrdom to many of them in a hostile world. We should understand how the kingdom of heaven is described and progressively revealed to us.

A heavenly kingdom

A clear conception is needed of heaven, which is the seat of the kingdom to which we belong.

The highest heaven is the dwelling-place of the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Moses prayed, “Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel” (Deut. 26:15). At the birth of Jesus the angels said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace” (Luke 2:14). In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). After His earthly ministry Jesus returned to heaven, “While He blessed them, He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). In heaven He is at the right hand of God the Father where He ever lives to make intercession for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 8:1). Jesus is preparing a place for us in His Father’s house with the many mansions (John 14:2). He will return to earth from heaven to receive us to Himself, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, en with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 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” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Heaven is also the habitation of the angels (Luke 2:15; 22:43).

The kingdom of heaven rules over the entire universe, and is controlled from the throne of God, which is in heaven. In Psalm 103:19, David says, “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” We should be conscious of the heavenly rule of our lives and always fix our thoughts on the throne of God, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2).

God’s kingdom is eternal, “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:3). After the Fall and the extension of Satan’s power on earth the kingdom of heaven was established in a limited, hidden way in the world. Adherents of this kingdom serve the Lord by faith and not by seeing: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). The Lord Jesus said to His disciples that it was given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but this knowledge was not imparted to unbelievers (Matt. 13:11). He also said that the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which must be sought after and found. It is like a beautiful pearl which one discovers and for which he should sell everything else to buy the pearl (Matt. 13:44-46).

This hidden kingdom will be visibly revealed on earth during the second coming of Christ. Isaiah said, “The government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even for ever” (Isa. 9:6-7; cf. Dan. 7:14,27).

We obtain entrance to this everlasting kingdom through faith in Christ, “For so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:11). The characteristics of this kingdom are righteousness and peace. Temporal things are not to take precedence, “for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). It should be a matter of the highest priority with us to serve the Lord. For this reason, we should first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things will be added to us (Matt. 6:33).

Blessings and judgements come from heaven. God supplies to us spiritual food from heaven through His Son’s work of grace, and also through His Word (John 6:31-35; Luke 4:4). Christians who transgress biblical commandments are sinning against heaven (Luke 15:18,21). Judgements are also poured out from heaven upon the wicked (Luke 17:29; Rom. 1:18; Rev. 6:12; 16:1). During the coming tribulation period, sinners will be panic-stricken and call out to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (Rev. 6:16).

Christians have a heavenly destination. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) because our names are written there (Luke 10:20). We have an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for us and which will be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:4-5). It is beyond description, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Rewards will be given to those who fulfilled their calling as witnesses of Christ and also suffered rejection and persecution on earth for the sake of His Name (Luke 6:22-23; 2 Cor. 5:10). They are encouraged to lay up treasures in heaven by supporting evangelistic work and doing things that have eternal value (Luke 12:33; 2 Cor. 9:6-7).

There is joy in heaven for every sinner who repents to become a member of this wonderful kingdom (Luke 15:7). The saints will experience fullness of joy when they have been clothed with their glorified resurrection bodies, which will elevate them far above the limitations of their earthly existence (2 Cor. 5:1-2; Phil. 3:21).

A kingdom of love and holiness

God is the personification of love (1 John 4:8) and holiness (1 Pet. 1:15-16). These divine principles apply to all who become partakers of His kingdom (1 John 4:7,16). Love is a voluntary and spontaneous disposition of being attracted to and fully accepting other persons. But love is not only an attitude as it is also committed to acts of caring, frequent communication, faithfulness, mutual respect and help during times of trouble. Love does not only seek its own interests but those of others (1 Cor. 13:4-5; Phil. 2:4).

True love can never be enforced as it originates deep from within the heart. For this reason, the angels and human beings created by God all have a free will. They are not manipulated nor compelled to love the Lord. They are only asked to do so as it would not only be to the glory of a loving God but also in their own interest to love.

The freedom to love also includes the possibility not to love – that is, to hate. The angels in heaven freely love God because He is good, but they were always free to act contrary to this principle. Many of them have indeed sinned and were consequently judged by God (2 Pet. 2:4). This fatal choice has given rise to the kingdom of darkness.

An opposing kingdom

Rebellion occurred in the kingdom of God when Lucifer became proud and exalted himself to be equal with God (Isa. 14:12-17). He was cast out of heaven together with a third of the angels who shared in his rebellion (Rev. 12:3-4). Lucifer became “Satan” (“Adversary”) and headed up the opposing kingdom of darkness. The fallen angels became evil spirits, or devils, who are controlled and used by Satan.

Since the Fall he also controls and manipulates unsaved people who are spiritually dead and inclined towards him. God delivers us from the power of darkness (Col. 1:13). The devil makes every effort in his power to rule over God’s creation and to destroy it. He also tries to avert the restoration of the image of God in human beings by blinding them spiritually and making them slaves of sin. His final objective is to be worshipped and served in the place of God (Rev. 13:2,4). He intends to have the Antichrist (the counterfeit Christ) appointed to a position of authority as King of the world. He also tries to oppose and replace the Holy Spirit by influencing and controlling people spiritually through deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1). We need the whole armour of God to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, as he and his demons are the rulers of the darkness of this age (Eph. 6:11-12).

The position of spiritual power that Satan attained on earth results from the Fall. All people are born with a sinful nature and therefore participate in Satan’s rebellion against God. They are spiritually dead and morally depraved (Rom. 3:10-18). Even after the coming of Christ most people still prefer darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19). That is the reason why the devil is called the ruler and also the god of this fallen, evil world (John 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4). John says that the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). His influence is extensive.

A wicked world

After Satan and his following of fallen angels were cast out of heaven they declared war against God and His everlasting kingdom. Satan takes revenge and is still intent on exalting himself as the god of this world and to deceive the nations to worship him. His ability to deceive people has given him control over the vast majority of the human race. He turned our first parents, Adam and Eve, into co-rebels against God and His governance of the universe. The consequent spiritual depravity was inherited by all Adam’s descendants, which means that all people on earth are born as sinners (Rom. 5:12).

The Lord gave Adam and Eve dominion over the natural world by assigning them with the duty to subdue the world and have dominion over it (Gen. 1:26,28). The fact that they yielded to Satan’s evil counsel signifies their acceptance of his leadership and also transfers their God-given authority over the world to him. Because of this, and also the fact that most people love the darkness of sin more than the light of God’s holy presence (John 3:19), renders Satan the ruler of this world.

Paul says that “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Satan established his rule here and made the world a wicked, sinful place which is completely opposed to the kingdom of God. He even tried to seduce the Lord Jesus to worship him and thus to become part of his wicked kingdom:

“Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, All this authority I will give you, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whoever I wish. Therefore, if you will worship before me, all will be yours. And Jesus answered and said to him, Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Luke 4:5-8).

Jesus did not deny Satan’s rule over the kingdoms of the world, but rejected his claim to be accepted and worshipped as the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). From this Scripture it is evident that the world is part of a wicked kingdom that is utterly hostile towards the kingdom of heaven. God did not surrender human beings to their fate under these circumstances but called them to repentance and faithfulness to Him. That is the reason why the Lord Jesus died for our sins, “that He might deliver us from this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4).

Our position in the world

The Lord Jesus thus prayed for His disciples who found themselves in the kingdom of darkness on earth, “These are in the world... The world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world... They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:11,14,16). In his book, Like Christ, Dr. Andrew Murray comments as follows on this Scripture:

“If Jesus was not of the world, why was He in the world? He was here to provide a plan of salvation to fallen humanity. He was in a struggle with the powers that rule the world to learn obedience, and so to perfect and sanctify human nature. He was here to manifest and bring near the life that is in God, which man had lost, that men might see it and long for it. He was also here to found a kingdom entirely heavenly in origin and nature, entirely independent of all that the world holds desirable or necessary, and with principles and laws the very opposite of those which rule in the world.

“The two expressions, ‘in the world’ and ‘not of the world’ reveal to us the great mystery of the person and work of the Saviour. He is not of the world as He judges and overcomes the world in the power of His divine holiness; but He was in the world that through His humanity and love He could seek and save the lost. The most entire separation from the world, with the closest fellowship with those in the world – these two extremes meet in Jesus. In His own person He has reconciled them. And, it is the calling of the Christian in his life to prove that these two dispositions, however much they may seem at variance, can in our life, too, be united in perfect harmony. In each believer, there must be a heavenly life shining out through earthly forms.

“True followers of Jesus must combine both concepts. If they do not clearly show that they are not of the world, and prove the greater blessedness of a heavenly life, how will they convince the world of sin, prove to them that there is a higher life, or teach them to desire what they do not yet possess? Earnestness, holiness, and separation from the spirit of the world must characterise them. Their heavenly spirit must manifest that they belong to a kingdom not of this world.

“The believer is as little of the world as Christ. In his new nature, he is born from heaven and has the life and love of heaven in him. His supernatural, heavenly life gives him the ability to be in the world without being of it. ‘Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.’ Then the promise is fulfilled, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them’ (2 Cor. 6:16-17). Then Christ sends you, as the Father sent Him, to be in the world as the place ordained of your Father to glorify Him, and to make known His love. Are you prepared to live the heavenly life on earth?”

God’s sovereignty

The fact that we are strangers in Satan’s kingdom on earth raises questions in the minds of many believers on the sovereignty of God. Isn’t He in full control? God is indeed the supreme authority. Although God has given dominion to humans who, in their turn, let it slip into Satan’s hands, God can at any time overrule in Satan’s kingdom by nullifying his plans. That is the important reason why Christians regularly pray that God will deliver them from the devil. The Lord Jesus also intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25). In His High Priestly prayer on earth he prayed for us: “I have given them your word; and the world has hated them... I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:14-15). From this prayer it is evident that we are in a hostile kingdom and that we are deeply dependent upon the blessings, guidance and protection of the Lord if we wish to be spiritually victorious.

In spite of these divine interventions we are daily living in a wicked world which lies in the sway of the devil. We also still have our free will with which we take decisions. We cannot blame God for negative things that happen to us as He did not predestine any of them. The wrong decisions that we take ourselves, the defiling effect of the world in which we live, the lust of the flesh, as well as the temptations and attacks of Satan, must be blamed for afflictions and disasters. God is not party to the world’s calamities. He does not cause or determine them.

The disorderly and sinful situation on earth does not render any proof that God has lost control or that He is not sovereign. He has taken a sovereign decision to give all people a free will as well as dominion over the world. If they make a mess of it He will judge them and therefore have the final say on their destiny. He is still the supreme authority in the universe. He is merciful and longsuffering but the time is coming when He will judge the world in righteousness. Sin and unrighteousness will not go unpunished.

Satan’s kingdom will be completely obliterated, but presently it is still an ominous reality.

The King in God’s kingdom

Jesus Christ is the Judge and King in God’s kingdom (Ps. 2:6; Acts 17:31). The execution of His duties is closely related to the struggle between the two kingdoms, as well as the deliverance of people from the power of Satan. For this reason there are two comings of the Lord Jesus to the earth – the first time as the suffering Messiah to die in the place of sinners to pay the penalty for their sins, and the second time as King of kings to publicly manifest the kingdom of God on earth.

During His first coming the Lord Jesus clearly explained and demonstrated the principles of His kingdom, but hid Himself in the image of a servant and therefore did not rule as King over Israel and the world. Down here, in hostile territory, he supplied a way of salvation which allows remorseful sinners to accept Him as their Saviour, thereby gaining entrance to the everlasting kingdom of heaven. He also gave His disciples an example on how to live in this wicked world as members of the heavenly kingdom (1 Pet. 2:21; 1 John2:6).

During His first coming Jesus indicated that He is both God and King, and that there will be a future dispensation of heavenly glory on earth, but he did not reveal Himself in the glorious capacity of His future kingdom. That will only be done during His second coming. The redemptive work that He finished during His first coming did not lead to the public establishment of His kingdom on earth but only to its establishment in the hearts of believers (Luke 17:21).

During the entire dispensation between the first and second comings of Christ His disciples are followers of the suffering Christ who is rejected by the world. That inevitably means that we will be rejected and persecuted by a wicked world (John 15:18-20; 16:33). All believers must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations (Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 2:3; 3:12; 4:5).

When Jesus comes for the second time it will be in power and majesty to visibly reveal His kingdom on earth (Rev. 19:11-16). He will first destroy the kingdom of Satan as there can be no overt co-existence between the kingdoms of light and darkness. The hostile powers of Satan will be destroyed at the battle of Armageddon, the Antichrist and the false prophet will be cast alive into the lake of fire, and Satan will be apprehended and bound in a bottomless pit for 1000 years (Rev. 16:14,16; 19:19-21; 20:1-3).

“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15). Daniel says: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44).

Only then, and not a moment earlier, the kingdom of God will be visibly revealed on earth. The second coming of Jesus is also associated with the resurrection of all believers as we will be co-rulers with Him in His kingdom (2 Tim. 2:12; Rom. 8:17). We will be kings and priests and rule as kings with Christ (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:4). The wicked must first be destroyed (Isa. 11:4; 13:9; 24:3-6) before Jesus will institute His kingdom of righteousness. The survivors of the great tribulation will all accept Him as King and Saviour (Matt. 24:30).

Jesus will rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem during the millennium (Acts 15:16-17; Isa. 9:5-6; 16:5). Justice and righteousness will prevail on earth (Ps. 45:7-10; Jer. 23:5). The law of the Lord will go out from Jerusalem and “He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:3-4). “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David... to order it and establish it with judgment and justice” (Isa. 9:7).

During that time all the strongholds of Satan will have been pulled down so that he will not be able to seduce the nations into a state of rebellion against God. “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem; they shall walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart” (Jer. 3:17). Zechariah says, “Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (Zech. 8:22). The saved Israel will be the leading nation in the world who will be admired for their godly lives (Zech. 8:23), and Jerusalem will be made a praise in the earth (Isa. 62:7).

Although Satan will be bound during the coming thousand-year reign of peace “so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished” (Rev. 20:3), they will still be mortal people with a sinful nature. All the members of future generations will have to be evangelised and saved to become members of God’s kingdom. Their lack of discipline and spiritual commitment is part of the unsaved human nature and will cause these nations to be ruled by a rod of iron (Rev. 19:15).

The glorified saints who will be co-rulers with Christ will also maintain strict discipline. The Lord Jesus says to His faithful disciples, “He who overcomes, and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations – he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the potter’s vessels shall be broken to pieces” (Rev. 2:26-27).

However, conditions that will prevail during the millennium will not yet indicate the end of Satan’s rebellion against the kingdom of God. At the end of Christ’s reign of peace on the present earth Satan will be released for a short time to deceive the nations (Rev. 20:7-10). All the unsaved people will immediately fall victim to his deception and participate with him in the last great rebellion against the kingdom of God. But they will be consumed by fire from heaven and Satan cast into the lake of fire. That will immediately be followed by the last judgement when all the unsaved people of all time will be condemned to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

The present heaven and earth will pass away and a new heaven and earth will be created (2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 21:1). The new Jerusalem will descend upon the new earth and will be the eternal habitation of the saints who will be with the Lord forever (Rev. 21:2-3). “There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). In this city “there shall by no means enter anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

In the new heaven and on the new earth there will never again be any form of rebellion against the eternal kingdom of God.

The present struggle

It is very obvious that we do not now reign as kings with Christ. Children of God have not yet inherited the earth (Matt. 5:5). Only after the enemy has been evicted by God “the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Ps. 37:11). All Christians are still in the enemy’s territory, which explains why we are sojourners and pilgrims on earth during this dispensation (1 Pet. 2:11). We must be witnesses for Christ in this wicked world as we find ourselves “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15).

We must be mindful of the fact that the present world lies in the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19), and that we should actively resist him while always praying that the Lord will deliver us from evil (Matt. 6:13). Prayer is of the utmost importance in our daily lives as we are faced by countless problems which we cannot solve without the intervention of God. We are fallible human beings with limited knowledge and power, and for these reasons we should not attempt to conduct our daily lives without actively committing ourselves to the Lord. Should we fail to watch and pray always we will fall victim to the enemy’s temptations and thus grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). Our poor understanding may lead to wrong decisions through which we could cause harm to ourselves, other people and the kingdom of God.

The fact that Satan gained control over the world inevitably means that he will further extend his power bases here in order to conduct a full-scale war against the kingdom of God with a view to subjecting and destroying it. During the coming tribulation period, all nations will be deceived by devils to deploy their military forces in Israel to fight against the coming Messiah. John refers to “demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and to the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty... And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon... And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (Rev. 16:14,16; 19:19). Only then will the power of Satan and the Antichrist, as well as their deceived following, be broken by the coming Christ who will engage in the battle while riding on a white horse. We are now in a decisive stage of world history, leading up to this last, great battle before the coming of Christ.

Presently, Satan is limited in what he can do since the Holy Spirit who is in us is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world (1 John 4:4). All true Christians are the temple of the Holy Spirit and as such the light of a dark world and the salt of a corrupt earth. Although the true church can fulfil a restraining role through the power of the Holy Spirit, it does not mean that we can dethrone Satan and take control of the world like the transformation movement is intending to do. We remain soldiers for Christ who must put on the full armour of God to remain standing against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:11).

Remember that Satan will use all possible methods to deceive Christians and subject them to his power. He applies every method to make them unfaithful to the Lord by influencing them to depart from a biblical faith and to become so deluded that they will accept and worship the false messiah when he comes. There is not a single aspect of the Christian religion which is not corrupted by him in his efforts to achieve this purpose. The following ten forms of spiritual deception are well-known and are almost daily increasing in intensity:

False Jesus. The person and atoning work of the Lord Jesus is distorted by denying His deity and virgin birth (cf. 2 Cor. 11:4). To deceived people He is not the spotless Lamb of God who offers the only way of salvation to fallen humanity. Do you follow the true Jesus, or perhaps a counterfeit Jesus whose image was falsified by ill-disposed people?

False spirits. The work of the Holy Spirit is imitated by deceiving spirits of Satan who are working among believers to make them believe in lies and also let them have strange, unbiblical experiences (2 Cor. 11:4; 1 Tim. 4:1).

False gospel. Satan takes every effort to have perverted forms of the gospel of Christ proclaimed which he knows will not contribute to the salvation of souls (2 Cor. 11:4). False foundations for salvation are offered to people, e.g. observing the law, good works, predestination, baptism, etc., while the demand of regeneration based upon Christ’s atoning death on the cross is denied.

False spirituality. Spiritual dedication by means of prayer, Bible study, faith and vigilance is replaced by a mystical spirituality in which people practise quiet meditation (or contemplation). A vain repetition of words (mantras) is used to instil a consciousness of God’s presence within oneself (cf. Matt. 6:7).

False preachers. A large number of false preachers are proclaiming lies to church members (2 Tim. 4:3-4) and even openly deny the deity and atoning death of Christ (2 Pet. 2:1-2). They preach in the name of Jesus, do miracles and cast out demons, but their ministries have been falsified and their powers are consequently not from the Lord (Matt. 7:22-23). Because of their false religion, many people will be eternally lost.

False churches. Many Christian churches have already deviated so far from the truth that the Lord Jesus reproaches them by saying, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent” (Rev. 2:4-5). To another false church He says, “Because you are lukewarm... I will spew you out of my mouth. Because you say, I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:16-17).

False holiness. There is a class of hypocrites who are only concerned about outward appearance without their hearts having been changed in any way by the gospel of Christ (Matt. 23:27). They merely have a form of godliness because of practising a false religion (2 Tim. 3:5). Such people only pay lip-service to the Lord as they do not belong to Him at all (Matt. 15:8-9). They also block the way to heaven to keep others from getting there (Matt. 23:13), and that perfectly suits the devil’s plan of deception. The Lord says to the hypocrites, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

False revivals. Signs and wonders are used to create a false impression of revival among those who have already been deceived. Jesus warned that this phenomenon will proliferate in the end-time, “Many false prophets will arise and deceive many... they will show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:11,24). That is done in preparation for the appearance of the Antichrist and the false prophet, who will also use signs and wonders to deceive people (2 Thess. 2:8-9; Rev. 13:13; 19:20).

False identity movements. Satan specialises in giving people a false sense of identity to see themselves differently from what they really are. Among such groups is the British Israelites who wrongly think that they descended from the so-called ten lost tribes of Israel, and that only white Israelites can be saved. Many churches also wrongly conclude that they are the “spiritual Israel” and because of this they do not give recognition to the real Israel who are now in a process of being restored to their own land.

False future expectation. The devil is strongly opposed to a pre-tribulation rapture as he knows that believers who wait for the Lord Jesus are obeying His commands and are preparing to appear before Him holy and without blemish (1 John 3:3; 1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23-24). Instead of this commitment he gives people an expectation on a universal messiah of all faiths who will institute a new world order of religious, political and economic unity on earth. Even those Christians who realise that they should reject the Antichrist, but who believe that they will nevertheless be here during his rule, are occupying themselves with survival strategies for the coming difficult times. That is a futile exercise which arises from a wrong interpretation of biblical prophecies. This view removes the glad expectation of the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom and confronts the bridal congregation with a tribulation as there has never been on earth (Matt. 24:21). We must have a Christ-expectation and not an Antichrist-expectation.

It was not without good reasons that the Lord Jesus warned His disciples, “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Matt. 24:4).

Conclusions

While we are witnesses to Christ here on earth in an environment characterised by Satan’s kingdom we conduct our lives as pilgrims on our way to a heavenly destination. We are sojourners here because we do not belong to the kingdom of darkness. “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). We are children of the light who expect the revelation of God’s kingdom (Col. 3:4). We resist the devil and join Paul when he says, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18).

The Lord controls the destiny of believers because our lives are in His hand. But that does not change the fact that we are living in the midst of a hostile kingdom which exerts definite influences upon us. That is the very reason why we have to pass through many tribulations into the kingdom of God.

We need to squarely face this reality and not occupy ourselves with wishful thinking which is typical of kingdom theologians who argue that God’s kingdom should be established and revealed on earth before the second coming of Christ. We must realise that the battle will increase in intensity as we are now in the final run-up to the rapture of the true church and the revelation of the Antichrist.

Satan is intent on robbing the church of its power and commitment to Christ as this divine body acts as a withholder of the Antichrist’s rise to power and Satan’s end-time plans for the full revelation of his kingdom. He deceives the virgins to commit sins, drives them to despondency and encourages spiritual inactivity and slumbering among them. The love of many of them grows cold because lawlessness abounds (Matt. 24:12). The person and work of Christ are also publicly attacked and the gospel of salvation questioned, which leads to widespread departing from the faith among believers (1 Tim. 4:1). This situation is very serious: “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

When the King comes He will destroy His enemies, save the remnant of Israel and the nations, restore the throne of David in Jerusalem and rule with His saints. Then, the kingdom of God will have come – not only in our hearts but also publicly in the whole world, “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).