The Four Elements of a Kingdom--Part 3
May 10, 2008
Citizenship in the Kingdom of God is different from citizenship in a Christian nation. The Old Testament nation of Israel was set up essentially as a Christian nation by Jesus Christ, appearing as Yahweh to Moses. This is shown by Exodus 15:2 and Isaiah 12:2, which both tell us that "Yahweh has become my Yeshua." In other words, Yeshua (or "Jesus") is the earthly incarnation of Yahweh, the Lawgiver who formed the nation of Israel through Moses.
So even though the word "Christian" was not yet in use during Moses' time, it is applicable to that time. In fact, Christ is the Greek term for Messiah, or The Anointed One who was to rule Israel. So in that sense, though Jesus Himself had not yet appeared as the final Anointed One, there were others like David who occupied His throne temporarily.
Israel was set up as a Christian nation. It had certain flaws under the Old Covenant, which proved to be fatal in the end. First, the Old Covenant was based upon the citizens themselves, who had vowed to obey the law and made their salvation conditional upon that obedience. That simply was not going to happen.
Secondly, the nation's laws made outward conformity to religious rituals the condition of their continuing citizenship. The law was weak under the Old Covenant in that it could not prosecute someone for his heart condition, but was limited to the person's actions. For instance, hatred is a sin (Matt. 5:22), but a person had to actually commit murder in order to be prosecuted under the Old Covenant arrangement. Under the New Covenant, however, one must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matt. 5:20), because by this arrangement hatred itself is cause for expulsion from the Kingdom of God.
The law was not put away. In fact, the requirements of the law were raised to include attitudes and motives of the heart.
A Christian nation is essentially an Old Covenant way of applying the laws of the Kingdom in the earth. As long as the citizens abide by the law, they are not prosecuted in court. The idea of prosecuting "hate crimes" is a novelty in the history of the world. It is not very practical, because it is a secular attempt to regulate or change the hearts of men apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. It will only succeed in causing repression of hatred. The law applied externally can never change the heart.
Israel discovered that the laws of God were not enforceable when the majority of the citizens did not agree with God's law--that is, when the laws were not written on the hearts of the citizens. The natural tendency of the people was to go their own way. Even the priests and teachers of the law began to torture the law into saying things that God never intended for it to say. Thus, the "traditions of men" began to pile up, which actually nullified the law (Mark 7:9).
Eventually, the temple itself was turned into a "den of robbers" (Jer. 7:11), that is, a hideout where robbers could feel safe from the law of God. That is the point when God brought in the Babylonian army to destroy the nation and to bring its citizens into exile. The same occurred in the New Testament, for Jesus quoted Jeremiah's words and applied it to that temple (Matt. 21:13). Within 40 years, the Romans had destroyed the temple and the city.
The point is that a Christian nation is a nation that utilizes the laws of God, but it does not have the power to change the hearts of men. This is its fatal flaw. The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, is a New Covenant idea. It appears in the Old Testament time frame, along with the concept of the New Covenant (prophesied in Jer. 31:31-34), but its manifestation would require the coming of the Messiah as the Lamb of God to die on the cross in order to ratify this New Covenant by blood.
And so, whereas under the Old Covenant, citizenship in the nation of Israel was based upon a person's actions, under the New Covenant, citizenship in the Kingdom of God is based upon a person's heart. In fact, one's citizenship was based upon circumcision. Under the Old Covenant, it was fleshly. Under the New Covenant it is of the heart.
Under the Old Covenant, physical circumcision became largely meaningless when the outward sign did not reflect an inward heart condition. Yet the religious and political leaders viewed circumcision as the sign of one's citizenship in the nation. The New Covenant requirement for citizenship abolishes outward signs and goes straight to the heart. When Paul says that a Jew is NOT one who is outwardly circumcised, and that a Jew is one who has a heart circumcision (Rom. 2:28, 29). he is defining citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
Paul was saying that one had to have a heart circumcision in order to be a citizen of the Kingdom. This was a slap in the face to the priests in the temple, who had posted guards at the door of the courtyard to keep non-Jews and women at a distance. Anyone coming through that door had to show the guards that he was physically circumcised in order to prove his citizenship in Israel. Their tradition was that only such men were worthy to approach God. No one was asked or examined to see if his heart had been circumcised.
The only reason that Israelites or Judahites were considered citizens was because of their circumcision, normally performed on them at the age of eight days. Yet in the law, even a full-blooded Israelite could lose his citizenship. For example, if he violated the law of sacrifice (Lev. 17:1-7), he could be "cut off from among his people" (vs. 4). That is a loss of citizenship.
Under the New Covenant, with Jesus as the true Sacrifice for sin, a person loses his citizenship in the Kingdom of God by refusing to bring the blood of Jesus to the place where He has put His name. In other words, the blood of Jesus must be applied to our foreheads, for we are now the true temple where He has placed His name (Rev. 22:4). Anyone who does not do so is not a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
"The law is spiritual" (Rom. 7:14). It is to be enforced in the Kingdom of God, but not in the same manner as under the Old Covenant.
The New Covenant revealed a truth that had always been true, but which had not been known generally. It was the truth that citizenship with God was based upon the heart, not upon the flesh. The ratification of the New Covenant made it clear that anyone with a mere fleshly circumcision was NOT a citizen of the Kingdom of God. It made it clear that to be a citizen involved the lawful requirement of fulfilling the law of sacrifice. Men had to accept and offer the true Sacrifice of Christ and apply His blood to the true temple, which is their body.
Anyone who refused to do this was NOT a citizen of Israel or Judah. Hence, Paul says that such a one is NOT a "Jew" (or Judahite citizen). This had nothing to do with one's race or genealogy. It was a matter of law as applied in the context of the New Covenant that had now been ratified.
It has always been the case that non-Israelites could become citizens of Israel. Under the Old Covenant, they had to be circumcised. Yet even then, they were usually treated as second-class citizens, and so this discouraged many from doing it. Under the New Covenant, all must receive heart circumcision, regardless of their genealogy, and when they do, they are equals in the Kingdom of God (Gal. 3:28).
All have equal opportunity for citizenship, and all obtain citizenship in the same way. No one can set forth his genealogy or family tree, nor his fleshly circumcision, as the basis for citizenship. Every person has the right, then, to progress from Passover through Pentecost and into the manifestation of the Sons of God in the feast of Tabernacles. There is equal opportunity for all.
This is the third part of a series titled "The Four Elements of a Kingdom." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones