The imagery of mountains is used throughout the Bible to illustrate God’s Kingdom—including His sovereignty in government, the Church and in our personal lives.
[Victor Kubik] Today, at the Feast of Tabernacles, I want to talk about mountains. I want to talk about their symbolism as we read about them in both the Old and New Testament and their special relevance to the meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles that we are observing right now. The Bible speaks about the mountain of the Lord. Sometimes it calls it My Holy Mountain or the mountain of the Lord's temple. There's also Mount Zion and there are other references to mountains in the Bible. The image, the figure of a mountain is powerful in itself. Mountains can be majestic, awesome, powerful, and beautiful. They could be rugged or they can be smooth. They could be covered with snow, with glaciers, or forests. Mountains make us lookup. They make us look up to greater and bigger things, and also if you're on top of a mountain, you can see over great distances. You can see things far away.
What's your favorite mountain? I've asked people before this sermon about what their favorite mountain was. For some, it was Mount Cook in New Zealand. For others, it was Mount Rainier with all its glaciers. For others, it was the Smoky Mountains. To me, two of my favorite mountains that I've seen from airplanes that I was just awed by was Mount Fuji in Japan: a perfect volcano, just a beautiful little circle on top and like a coat of white snow on a perfect mountain. The other mountain that I thought was just phenomenal was Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which rises 19,300 feet from the valley floor. It just kind of rises up out of nowhere, the tallest mountain in Africa. Or there is the iconic Matterhorn that has its very special look. Other mountains are like the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I've taken our youth there to hike in the backcountry. Just awesome. You could look at them. They're just wonderful.
There's Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, almost 30,000 feet, almost the cruising altitude of airliners. There's Mount St. Helens, and I had the privilege or the exciting opportunity to fly inside Mount St. Helens on a helicopter about two years after its explosion. And as you're hovering over the bottom of the crater, you just marvel at all the debris and everything that was spewed out of this mountain, the great power of this mountain. There are two special mountains in the Middle East, the Mount of Olives. I've seen the Mount of Olives from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I looked over the Kidron Valley and I looked at it and said, "You know, Jesus Christ is going to stand with His feet on that mountain someday not too far off." There it is right there, the Mount of Olives. Today, it's not the prettiest of sites. There's a hotel on top of it. But someday, it will be the place where our savior, Jesus Christ, will come back to this earth.
But probably the most interesting mountain that I've been on is Mount Nebo in Jordan. Mount Nebo, not particularly a high mountain. In fact, if you look up Mount Nebo on Google, you'll get Mount Nebo Ski Resort in Utah. And yet, Mount Nebo was very, very special in Jordan because that's the place where Moses looked out over the land that Israel, the tribes of Israel, had been wandering for 40 years, would cross the Jordan and settle.
As I stood there on this outcropping, I saw a scene that I still vividly recollect totally in my mind today. You look at the lowest place on the earth, you look at the Dead Sea, off to the left, glimmering into it is the Jordan River. You can see it glimmering up. That's the boundary between Israel and Jordan. At night, I was told, you can see the lights of Jerusalem. And this is the last scene that Moses had before God took him and before the Israelites crossed over the Jordan. It's an awesome scene because it's from the Bible. You see it and you say, "This is where Moses stood. I could have stood just a few feet away from where Moses had his last days or day on the earth."
What are we to learn from the imagery and the symbolism of mountains as they are used in the Bible? Well, through the prophet, Daniel, God revealed a fascinating prophecy about a stone that became a mountain that filled the whole earth. I'd like to tell you this story, but I don't want to tell you this story because it's best told by just reading it, verbatim from the word of God.
In Daniel 2, we read the following. And I'll use the New Living Translation as it brings the language very, very close to the way we speak. Daniel 2:1 Daniel 2:1And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, with which his spirit was troubled, and his sleep broke from him.
American King James Version×, "One night during the second year of his reign, king Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had such disturbing dreams that he couldn't sleep. He called on his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, astrologers, and he demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed. As he stood before the king, he said, 'I've had a dream that deeply troubles me, and I must know what it means.’ Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, ‘Long live the king! Tell us the dream, and we will tell you what it means.’ But the king said to the astrologers, ‘I'm serious about this. If you don't tell me what my dream was and what it means, you'll be torn limb from limb, and your houses will be turned into heaps of rubble! But if you tell me what I dreamed and what that dream means, I will give you many wonderful gifts and honors. Just tell me the dream and what it means!’”
“They said again, ‘Please, your Majesty. Tell us the dream, and we will tell you what it means.’ The king replied, "I know what you're doing! You're stalling for time because you know that I'm serious when I say, “If you don't tell me the dream, you are doomed.” So you have conspired to tell me lies, hoping I can change my mind. But tell me the dream, and then I will know that you can tell me what it means.’ The astrologers replied to the king, 'No one on earth can tell a king his dream! And no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked such a thing of any magician, enchanter, or astrologer! The king's demand is impossible. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live here among the people.' The king was furious when he heard this, and he ordered that all the wise men of Babylon be executed. And because the king's decree, men were sent out to find and kill Daniel and his friends.”
“When Arioch, the commander of the king's guard came to kill them, Daniel handled the situation with wisdom and discretion. He asked Arioch, ‘Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?’ So Arioch told him all that had happened. Daniel went at once to see the king and requested more time to tell the king what the dream meant. Then Daniel went home and told his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what had happened. He urged them to ask the God of heaven to show them His mercy by telling them the secret, so they would not be executed with the other wise men of Babylon. That night the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said, 'Praise the name of God forever and ever, for He has all wisdom and power. He controls the course of the world events; He removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though He is surrounded by light. I thank and praise You, God of my ancestors, for You have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of You and revealed to us what the king demanded.’"
“Then Daniel went in to see Arioch, whom the king had ordered to execute the wise men of Babylon. And Daniel said to him, ‘Don't kill the wise men. Take me to the king, and I'll tell him the meaning of his dream.’ Arioch quickly took Daniel to the king and said, ‘Hey, I've found one of the captives from Judah who will tell the king the meaning of his dream!’ The king said to Daniel (who was also known as Belteshazzar), ‘Is this true? Can you tell me what my dream was and what it means?’ Daniel replied, ‘There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or fortunetellers who can reveal the king's secret. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the future. Now I will tell you your dream and the visions you saw as you lay on your bed.”
“While your Majesty was sleeping, you dreamed about coming events. He who reveals secrets has shown you what is going to happen. And it is not because I'm wiser than anyone else that I know the secrets of your dream, but because God wants you to understand what was in your heart. In your vision, your Majesty, you saw standing before you are a huge, shining statue of a man. It was a frightening sight. The head of the statue was made of fine gold. Its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs were bronze, its legs were iron, and its feet were a combination of iron and baked clay. As you watched, a rock was cut out from a mountain, but not by human hands. It struck the feet of iron and clay, smashing them to bits. The whole statue was crushed into small pieces of iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold. Then the wind blew them away without a trace, like chaff on a threshing floor. But the rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth. That was the dream. Now we will tell you the king what it means.”
“Your Majesty, you are the greatest of kings. The God of heaven has given you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. He has made you the ruler of all the inhabited world and has put even the wild animals and birds under your control. You are the head of gold. But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place. After that kingdom has fallen, yet a third kingdom, represented by bronze will rise to rule the world. Following that kingdom, there'll be a fourth one, as strong as iron. That kingdom will smash and crush all previous empires, just as iron smashes and crushes everything it strikes.”
“The feet and toes you saw where a combination of iron and baked clay, showing that this kingdom will be divided. Like iron mixed with clay, it will have some strength of iron, but some parts of it will be as strong as iron, other parts will be as weak as clay. This mixture of iron and clay also shows that these kingdoms will try to strengthen themselves by forming alliances with each other through intermarriage," or as the New King James has it, "To mingle with the seed of men. They will not hold together, just as iron and clay do not mix."
"During the reign of these kings," verse 44, "the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands that crushed to pieces, the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. This dream is true and its meaning is certain."
What a story. To me, this is one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible itself, talking about the future of civilization. We see Daniel, the person, one who praises God for answering his prayer and he gives thanks to God for wisdom and strength. He acknowledges that God controls the course of world events. Also because of Daniel, all the wise men were spared, an act of kindness on Daniel's part. And Daniel was humble and did not take credit for anything in that dream. For interpreting the dream, it was God who did it.
Here are a few key elements of this narrative. The mountain is called the Kingdom of God. This kingdom would have its origin in God and be a kingdom that replaces, not works within or is approved, certified, or registered by man's kingdoms. The rock was cut out of a mountain without human hands. It's outside of human involvement by an entity other than humans. This rock grew and became a huge mountain that filled the whole earth. It was universal. There was no competition from anyone else. This rock was it as far as world government. This kingdom would crush all other kingdoms and would last forever. It was a cataclysmic and sudden clash and crash because the statue toppled over right away suddenly and the standing powers, whatever they may be, the beast power, whatever countries are left, China, Russia will cease functioning at that time.
This is not a church. It's not a feeling or a movement and we have nothing to do with its origin. This is an invasion. This is about government and politics in one sense. This prophecy is about the Kingdom of God and tells us clearly what the Kingdom of God is, how it comes about, and its interaction with the kingdoms of this earth. And this answers the second petition in the model prayer by Jesus Christ, “Thy kingdom come.” Well, here it is. It's right here and Daniel 2 explains how it happens.
Our distinctive understanding of the Kingdom of God is one of the greatest truths that I have come to understand. It's about the government of God coming to this earth and replacing world governments. Great hope. At the Feast of Tabernacles, we celebrate this Kingdom of God and come to appreciate it more fully year by year. The Kingdom of God is the hope of mankind and civilization. It is the intervention to the madness on this earth. And it's not just about crushing the world's political systems, it's about healing a groaning, an abused, hurt planet. It's repairing the environment. It's eradicating poverty and giving knowledge to where there was ignorance.
Most of you know the story about Anne Frank who was a young Dutch girl, Dutch-Jewish girl who her family, during the time of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands were in hiding for two years, right under the nose of the Nazis in central Amsterdam. They were there for more than two years. I visited their museum, which is well worth seeing. If you have read the diary, you go through the museum and you live through all that had happened right there, the real thing.
But when reading the diary of Anne Frank, one of the most poignant narratives is when at night, as they huddled around a radio, quietly listening to the BBC in London, they would listen to what the news was from outside of Europe. They were looking for the days when the allies would invade and they would say, "When are they going to do it? When are they going to do it? I know they're going to do it. I know they're coming, but when is this going to happen?" And that story is told several times through the diary of Anne Frank, how that was their hope. Their hope was liberation by the allies of Nazi-occupied Europe. That was her hope.
Finally, it did come in June of 1944 and they rejoiced quite silently in their hidden hiding place. Unfortunately, that whole group was betrayed a few months later and most of them died except for the father of Anne Frank. We live in Satan-occupied territory. We're just like in the hiding place ourselves. This is Satan-occupied territory and we're waiting for liberation in the same way. We're waiting for that stone. We're waiting for that government. We're waiting for the Allies to come. We know it's coming. It's just a matter of time. Just like for those in the hiding place, they knew that the allies were coming, it's just a matter of time. The prophecies of the Bible give us hope.
This prophecy, though, in the book of Daniel about the growth of the Kingdom of God has fed evangelical and mobilized missionary forces in their works. In the First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening in the 18th and 19th centuries, they read this and said, "You know, there's got to be some mission for us in all of this," as they read Daniel 2. And this spawned a missionary movement unlike any other. The 19th century was called the century of missionary movements. Coming to North America, they perceived this as a great opportunity to convert the American Indians. And British missionaries traveled to Africa and Asia. Eighty percent of our missionaries in the 1800s were British English-speaking. The 1800s is called the greatest century of missions.
My wife and I, after the Feast last year, went to Mizoram, a state in Eastern India, which is 80 to 90% Christian. We asked, "How did this all happen?" "Oh, it was British missionaries in the 1890s that came here." And Mizoram is one Christian denomination after another. The United Church of God is there. There are other Sabbatarian churches. It's really just unreal as to how in the middle of an area between Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and mainland India, so to speak, you have this enclave of people who are Christian.
However, there was a flaw in their thinking, the missionaries, as well-meaning as they were because they connected Daniel 2 about this mountain filling the whole earth with Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×which reads, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. The earth would be soaked in the knowledge of God.” And just like as you pour water into a pail, a tub or a whatever, when you pour water into that kind of a place, it fills everything in that space. It's like waters covering the sea, water in the seas. There's not just a puddle here or lake there. It covers it completely.
And they saw Daniel 2, this stone that filled the whole earth, as knowledge and they felt the responsibility of going to evangelize and become missionaries and saving as many people as possible in their lifetime. Missionaries truly and sincerely believed that the world could be converted by saturating it with the word of God and Satan would be packing. Just a few quotations from some theologians of that period or of this period. Theologian Edward Joseph Young in commenting about this verse of Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×writes, "Men will know the Lord when once the land will thus be filled with knowledge, then men will cease to harm one another. Before there could be peace, there must first be knowledge."
Better known commentator, Matthew Henry, that we probably have his commentary available to us, writes, "Some are willing to hope that it, the preaching of the gospel before Christ, shall have a further accomplishment in the latter days when swords will be beaten into plowshares. They shall thus live in love for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, which shall extinguish men's hearts and animosities. Satan shall be chained, the dragon bound, for dust will be the serpent's meat again."
This is timing and it's prior to the return of Jesus Christ. This has never happened, just soaking the world with knowledge. There are a hundred million Bibles printed every year. In fact, this year, I believe it's 120 million, I heard one figure, 120 million Bibles printed, by far the most published book. That's a lot of knowledge. Has it changed the hearts of men? Does it have Satan scampering away? No. Christianity is actually receding among the world's great religions, so to speak. Satan is more vicious than ever before. He knows his time is short. He laughs at all of these efforts of mankind.
This type of teaching is called post-millennialism and it's naive that just by soaking the world in the knowledge of God, we'll have peace and we will have a change of nature because that has never happened. The world has never been… has come to conversion by the mere preaching of men and Satan is more active than ever. He knows his time is short. He's more vicious. There'll be more deaths before Jesus Christ returns, more violence, more wars than ever before.
What is the truth? The truth is that the Holy Days give us not only the meaning of each of the Holy Days in itself as to the progression of God's working with mankind, starting with the Passover and giving you the Holy Spirit, the return of Jesus Christ, but they also give us a chronology. They give us an order of how these things will occur. And, you know, I wonder sometimes if this that simple? I mean, it doesn't take much to figure that out. You're given a series of seven Holy Days. Most people don't know squat about any of the meanings of those days, but when you understand what those days mean, but also how they fit with one another and what the chronology is, one day leading to another, to God's plan, starting with the Passover, personal redemption to salvation, open to all.
When you have that compass and you have that guide, you know that the Feast of Trumpets is a representation of the return of Jesus Christ. It's placed before the Feast of Tabernacles. It's placed before the Day of Atonement. It's very, very important exactly where the Feast of Trumpets is placed because that is necessary to get things going. That is that stone. That is that stone that comes from nowhere, not by human hands. That is that stone that becomes the mountain. That's where we have to start. We can't start by the evangelical efforts of human beings. We can't start by just our efforts and hoping that it will happen. We have to look to God for what He had in mind and the way He clearly points this out in Daniel 2 in other prophecies.
After the Feast of Trumpets, we observe the Day of Atonement, which very clearly spells out the putting away of the one who is the enemy of this world, Satan, the devil. He's not going to leave by just holding evangelistic meetings. He's not going to leave just because everybody owns a Bible. No, he's going to actually use that against us. Satan is the most clever, evil, devious being on this planet. And even if the elect, the very elect, could be deceived, it would be. And we've seen deception in all quarters. But Satan has to be removed. His influence is broadcasting. His occupation of this planet will have to be removed. Just like when the allies came, invaded Europe and removed Hitler and the Nazi regime, nothing short of that will work.
Finally, after we have Christ return, Satan removed, then the world is open for this stone to grow and to becoming a mountain that filled the whole earth, and Daniel identifying it as the Kingdom of God. How simple can it be? I marvel as to how some of the greatest truths of God are the simplest of all. And it used to be said, even a little child can understand these things.
Well, let's talk more about some of the imagery of mountains in the Bible. Isaiah 2, and we have many, I couldn't possibly cover them all. Isaiah 2:1 Isaiah 2:1The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
American King James Version×."This is the vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days, the mountain of the Lord's house will be the highest of all— the most important place on the earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob's God. There He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths.'" But this is after Christ's return.
"For the Lord's teaching will go out from Zion; His word will go out from Jerusalem. The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes." It won't be done by the United Nations. It won't be done by the World's Court. It will be done from the work that comes from Zion, Mount Zion, which we will talk about here briefly. "They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore." But it's going to take Jesus Christ's return to create the environment where people will want to do this and enthusiastically support this.
What is Zion? What is Zion? Zion appears 152 times in the Bible. Certainly, it's a very, very important term by its usage, but also by the symbolism of it. Zion is one of seven hills in Jerusalem. It started as the city of David in 2 Samuel 5:7 2 Samuel 5:7Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David.
American King James Version×. It's not where the Temple Mount is. The Temple Mount is 900m away from Mount Zion, and that's where David built his house. That was the seat of government. That was where the government was established originally in Jerusalem, Mount Zion. It was called the City of David.
The temple was built on Mount Moriah. But also biblically and symbolically, Zion also meant the place in Jerusalem where the temple was located by saying Zion also included all of Jerusalem. Zion was a term that was stuck. We use Capitol Hill. We say, "Capitol Hill has said," "From Capitol Hill, we heard this." You know, well, it's more than just from the Capitol building in Washington D.C. It's really meaning from the government of the United States. When they said, "We hear now from Washington D.C.," such and such, while we're talking about something that comes from the president or the government or the Congress, "Washington D.C. says," well, Zion is used much the same way.
Sometimes it means the place where God is present with His people. Sometimes it means Jerusalem, the city where the temple was built. It has various connotations and meanings. Zion, as I said, appears 152 times. Half of these occurrences come in two books. Isaiah, 46 times and Psalms, 38 times and appears 7 times in the New Testament, which is very significant because there are significant and important references to Zion and New Testament Christians. Zion represents the government, and eventually, by talking about it being the place where the temple was, it represented everything about the Kingdom of God.
Let's go to Isaiah 11, Isaiah 11, which we just read one verse from earlier in this sermon, Isaiah 11:1 Isaiah 11:1And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:
American King James Version×, "There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 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 the fear of the Lord." This is the prophecy of the return of Jesus Christ, very, very clearly.
"His delight," verse 3, "Is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the world with the rod of His mouth and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked." This is the collapse of the statue in Daniel 2.
Verse 5, "Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness, the belt of His waist." And then the iconic scripture in verse 6, "The wolf shall also dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and young lion and fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion eat straw like the ox."
You know why? Satan has been removed. That vicious nature of this world, that competitive, vicious nature of this world, has been removed. Christ has returned. Satan has been put out of place. The Kingdom of God is established and we have an entirely different environment. Verse 8, "The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den." Verse 9, "They shall not hurt or destroy in my holy mountain."
It's an earth that's being healed, not hurt anymore and not destructive. No more wildfires, no more rising sea beds. No more environmental issues that we have today. No more global warming, whether it's true or not, we hear about this environment go into pieces. But in the world tomorrow, “They will not hurt nor destroy in My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
And this is very clear as we've seen the context after the return of Jesus Christ to this earth, the same thoughts I repeated in Isaiah 65. All this imagery is proclaiming the Kingdom of God coming to this earth with his world capital in Jerusalem. Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 9:6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
American King James Version×. I'd be remiss not to quote this verse because it really shows the sovereignty, supremacy, and the rulership of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 9:6 Isaiah 9:6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
American King James Version×, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." I'm looking forward to a sure world of this sort and there's nothing… I think that all of us in the church of God realized that we can't trust what's out there in this world. We can't trust political leaders, we can't trust world leaders. Nobody can bring this world to peace and now they have the means of blowing us off and blowing all of civilization off this planet. Again, without this intervention from God, there would be no one left.
Verse 7 of Isaiah 9, "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 justice and judgment from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." To me, that's real hope. That's a surefire invasion coming to redeem us from occupation of this satanic world.
But the Kingdom of God, the message of the Kingdom of God was also the prime message of Jesus Christ when He came to this earth. His keynote address, Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×. In Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×, Jesus Christ comes out very, very clearly with this keynote address of what He was addressing and His purpose for being. Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
American King James Version×, "Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.'" Okay, now we have already made clear to us, the Kingdom of God coming in power, something smashing to bits the kingdoms of this world, realigning civilization, saving it. But now we have Jesus Christ coming and talking about the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent.
Let me tell you a few parables. Let me give you some beatitudes about the Kingdom of God. Doesn't that really sound a little bit different from that kingdom to this Kingdom? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” One of the beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek, the teachable, humble, for they shall inherit the earth. And blessed are the poor who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Or the Kingdom of God. How does this all fit in? Then we have the parables. We have the Parable of the Mustard Seed, which is a slow-growing process. In fact, it illustrates, the mustard seed parable, about the mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds, particular mustard plant or tree, actually, in the Middle East, that is so big that it even is able to have birds' nests in it. It's something which starts small and grows.
Also, the Parable of the Leaven where a little bit of leaven put it into a batch of dough leavens the whole lump. When you put leaven, yeast into dough, you don't have just a part of it be leavened and the rest of it just kind of stops. It just leavens until it fills up everything. He talks about the Kingdom of God as a pearl of great price of something that you seek, something that you are wanting to find. You're looking, and looking, and looking, and looking and so many of you, so many of you, the stories that you have told me, that you were searching in your life for something, you were empty, and you finally found it. And truly, I have been baptized for many, many years, since '66, 53 years ago. I still know I found the right thing. I found it, the pearl of great price.
Some of you were looking and some of you stumbled upon the Kingdom of God, just like the person who was walking through a field, found a treasure. The land was for sale. He says, "I'm going to buy this property because I saw something in there that's of great value." And we gave up all. We gave up a lot in order to be part of something much greater and something more beautiful.
Also, Jesus Christ illustrated the Kingdom of God by the illustration of little children. In Mark 10:14 Mark 10:14But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said to them, Suffer the little children to come to me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×, He talked about the nature of those who will be in the Kingdom of God. Little children were brought to Jesus Christ and His staff around Him shooed them away saying, "Christ has important big things to tell people. Let's not have Him be troubled by these little children." But Christ was displeased in verse 14 of Mark 10, “'Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.’ And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”
So are we talking about the same thing in the Old Testament, the Kingdom of God and what's in the New Testament? Daniel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, tell us what the Kingdom of God is. Very clearly what the Kingdom of God is. Jesus Christ tells us what it takes to inherit the Kingdom of God, what it takes to receive it, that it's at hand. It's available, and what you need to know to get there. That's what the New Testament message of the Kingdom of God is. It's the same Kingdom.
Because we're not called just to be spectators and just watching world empires topples and say, "Wow, look at that. That nation collapsed." And we just watch like in a stadium, some big spectacle. No, we're called to be part of that. We're called to be participants in the Kingdom of God. We do our work together with God. We're very much involved in the Kingdom of God. We're invited to be doing something. Christ will return and He returns to this earth with being the stone that we had just read. In Daniel 7:17 Daniel 7:17These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
American King James Version×, there's an inkling there of something very important about His return, in Daniel 7:17 Daniel 7:17These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
American King James Version×. He's not just coming alone solo and we are standing by just watching all this happen, perhaps, even cheering it on saying, "There goes China, yay! There goes the beast. Yay!”
Daniel 7:17 Daniel 7:17These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
American King James Version×, "The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever— yes, forever and ever." We're going to be put to work right away with Jesus Christ. We're the saints. We're not going to just be standing by and watching and be spectators. In the book of Revelation towards the very end of the Bible, Revelation in the first chapter, in verses 5 and 6, "To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood and He's made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever."
We're going to be kings. I'm sure that at this Feast of Tabernacles, you'll be hearing about how to prepare to be a king. You'll hear sermons about character, about what's required in your nature. And so much is required, to be like a little child, to be humble, to be one who mourns, to be one who is looking for treasure, one who sees these greater things.
We see references to Mount Zion in the New Testament in a few very notable places. I'll just turn to a few. Hebrews 12:22 Hebrews 12:22But you are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
American King James Version×, "You have come to Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels." That's what we in the church have come. We've come to Mount Zion, to the general assembly and the church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven. Not going to heaven, we're registered in heaven, "To God and the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of a sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel."
Now, while the Bible teaches that the Church is not the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of God. It's the sovereignty of God Himself and Jesus Christ ruling. We've also been taught, as you may recall, maybe we haven't had this spoken too much in the past few years. But we've been taught in our lifetime that the Church is the embryo of God's Kingdom. It's the fetus that will be born. It starts small, very small as a sperm and an egg, and it grows like the mustard seed. It will become a fetus and it will be born. That's the smallness. That's the humility on our part of that. The greatness is from God and what He has for us.
Let's take a look at 1 Peter 2:4 1 Peter 2:4To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
American King James Version×. It's amazing what these writers understood of the Old Testament because to them, what we have and what we call the Old Testament was the Bible. 1 Peter, Peter couldn't quote Peter, you know? Paul couldn't quote Paul. They quoted very, very openly from the Holy Scriptures.
1 Peter 2:4 1 Peter 2:4To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
American King James Version×, "We are coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men." And here he quotes from Psalm 118, "But chosen by God and precious." But also look at this. Look at this. Verse 5, "You also, you as living stones, are being built up, a spiritual house, of holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is contained in the Scripture…" and here he quotes, "Therefore, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone." This is quoting from Isaiah 28:16 Isaiah 28:16Therefore thus said the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believes shall not make haste.
American King James Version×, "Elect and precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame. Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.’" This stone, Jesus Christ, coming as a stone that becomes the mountain, His government, is the chief cornerstone in the house of God.
We are also stones, lively stones that are part of that structure as well. Isn't that beautiful? The Kingdom of God is not just celebrating prophetic things that happen and so we just want to get out of it alive, but that we're a part of it, that we were preparing for it. We have something meaningful to do. You know, I've been wondering too in my life, and I have lived a wonderful life. I'll be very honest. I'm so thankful for the life that God has allowed me to live. But after I'm dead, I want to do something meaningful. I don't want to just sit around. I want to take part in what's happening. I want to take part in the Kingdom of God. I want to do some of the things I'm doing now. I would like to be able to help people. I'd like to serve. And that is being taught by the principles of Jesus Christ who came representing the Kingdom of God on this earth.
“The stones which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” verse 8, "And the ‘Stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,’" which He is right now, Jesus Christ, to the Jews, is a stumbling block. To the Greeks or to the Gentiles, nonsense, but believe me, it's very strong. The day is coming. It's just a matter of time, brethren before the world will understand this. It's not just quite ready today. “They stumble, being disobedient to the word, which they were also appointed. But you” this is what Peter writes to the Church, "You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." Do you realize the wonderful state that we're in? Let's be grateful for that. We have been invited to become part of the mountain, that Kingdom and that culture that comes from above.
There's one more interesting fact about the stone that we are. It's in Colossians 2:10 Colossians 2:10 And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
American King James Version×. Remember the stone in Daniel 2? It was a stone that was cut out of a mountain without human hands. It was something out of the control of any human effort, thankfully. Well, he talks about us as living stones, a very important aspect of our being because he speaks of the completeness of our nature.
Verse 10, Colossians 2:10 Colossians 2:10 And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
American King James Version×, "You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised and the circumcision made without hands." And physical circumcision requires a surgical procedure. You know, it's done by hands. It's got to be done by a surgeon, a priest, whoever does the circumcisions. But our circumcision, our conversion is done without hands. It is done outside of anything any human being does. And frankly, your conversion is not something that you worked up or had seven habits that you've developed or any other progress. It is something that was made without hands, something outside of human control. Our circumcision, our conversion was done without human hands by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ. So we have without hands in the Old Testament, without hands in the New Testament.
God is calling and molding us right now to be a kingdom of priests that will serve His purposes. The molding is taking place right now. There will be a time when the Kingdom of God, the mountain of God, fills the whole earth. And I love this passage in 1 Corinthians 15. It's a very short verse, but it contains so much meaning because it really underlines what we're talking about today.
1 Corinthians 15:28 1 Corinthians 15:28And when all things shall be subdued to him, then shall the Son also himself be subject to him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
American King James Version×, "When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son will also be subject to Him who put all things in subjection under Him, that God may be all in all." He will be the leaven that'll spread through the whole universe. Right now, we live in occupied territory while we're waiting for that liberation day when that grip will be taken off and that the time will come, God will be all in all.
So what do we do now? What do we do now? There's also a mountain answer for that. Isaiah 52:7 Isaiah 52:7How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace; that brings good tidings of good, that publishes salvation; that said to Zion, Your God reigns!
American King James Version×. Isaiah 52:7 Isaiah 52:7How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him that brings good tidings, that publishes peace; that brings good tidings of good, that publishes salvation; that said to Zion, Your God reigns!
American King James Version×, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!’" Isn't that the work that we're to be doing, preaching the gospel, the good news?
Now, we're told in Matthew 28, you know, the mission of the Church is to go into all the world, preach the gospel, make disciples, preach the gospel, preach the good news. That's our job. That's what Jesus Christ is using us to do right now. Then He says in verse 8, "Furthermore, your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices, they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when the Lord brings back Zion.” The Mount Zion, “Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted His people." In this world, we live with our trials and troubles, but God comforts us, encourages us, gives us reason for going on. He has redeemed Jerusalem. “The Lord has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God."
You know, to me, this describes more beautifully than any other words, the work of God that we're doing today. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news.” That's what we do. Right now, we preach the gospel. That's what we're doing in the meantime as preparing ourselves and also having something to do. Our two-fold job is to preach the gospel into all the world, not necessarily to make converts. God decides whose hearts are open to that. Our marketing plan is not to just have so many things go out and have a return that's very predictable. It's whatever God decides to do. We are preaching the gospel. We are preaching it to the formula that we have in the Bible. Our job also is to care for the people whom God has called and our ministers are very dedicated to serving their congregations, large and small around the world. We're doing that. We're putting out a tremendous amount of content.
We're among the top 15 websites for content of religious websites in the world. People say oftentimes, "You know if you want to know what you need to know about this subject, go to UCG. They've got it all." This last week I had to look up three or four different things that I was just interested in, even facts for this sermon, almost incognito and it came up on ucg.org. We have a tremendous amount of material out there and I'm just so proud of our content producers of all the articles, television programs, the internet work that we do, podcasts, whatever. We're grinding out a lot of material to the world and God is going to bless us and is blessing us for that. He's blessing us with our ministry. We have new ministers going into the field. We are so grateful for the new young men and women who've committed their lives to a future of serving God in the ministry which we are grateful for. We've had a number of them come through for training here at the home office and we love them all. We appreciate the work that they have done. Our work is small but significant and we should not shrink away from this commission.
"This gospel will be preached to all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." That's what it says in Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×. Does it really mean that or not? Of course, it means that. It means that this gospel, this good news will go into all the world. To what extent, by whom, and how? I'd like to give you one clue of how it will go out.
Sometimes I wonder what is a church of 10,000 people doing in a world of seven and a half billion people? What kind of an impact do we have? I'll tell you somebody who has some impact. Turn to Revelation 10. Revelation 10, and I'll just read a few salient passages from this section that's entitled "The Two Witnesses." You'll see some impact, some media impact here.
Verse 10, "Then I saw the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it." This is John. "And it was sweet as honey in the mouth.” It was very interesting. “But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.” Because it contained a lot of bad news. “And he said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings… And I will give power to my two witnesses and they shall prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days clothed in sackcloth.’ These have power," in verse 6, "To shut heaven.” And it's going to be a powerful ministry by these people “so that no rain will fall in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters that turn into blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.” But then at the end of three and a half years of this very special ministry, end-time ministry, they will go into all the world, there will be no question that a warning witness has gone out to the whole world.
“When they finish their testimony, the beast ascends out of the bottomless pit.” Satan is ever more hateful and insane as ever. “He will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which is called, spiritually, Sodom and Egypt. Then those," verse 9, "from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies for three-and-a-half days." Right now, it's so easy to do. They'll be on their phone watching the two witnesses lying in the streets of Jerusalem. When these passages were first read to me 50 years ago, how in the world can that happen? Well, right now you can see everything from anybody at any time.
"Then," in verse 11, "after three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell upon them who saw them." So this is a very, very exciting story just told here in brief, in the context of just before the return of Jesus Christ. In Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×, in His Olivet Prophecy, Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×, "Unless those days were shortened,” unless the days of this civilization here on this earth were shortened, “no flesh would be saved” or saved alive. “For the elect's sake those days will be shortened.” Because of the work of you and me, because of what we're doing and the way we're treating life and treating ourselves and treating one another, those days will be shortened. This will be the stone cut without hands, intervening and becoming the mountain of God.
So, brethren, let us come to the mountain of the Lord. Are you ready to come to the mountain of the Lord? I think it's a beautiful analogy, a beautiful symbol. It's a mountain of salvation, redemption, purpose, and peace. It's absolutely marvelous. It's a mountain from Daniel 2 that replaces this world's mountains and hills. It will solve all the heartbreak and wipe away all tears from this world. Its origin is the stone that originates from God and expands to fill the entire earth, but it's also the mountain of the Lord, Mount Zion, with Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone and we are lively stones in that structure, in that mountain. We are involved and that's being offered to us. It's at hand.
Psalms 121:1 Psalms 121:1I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where comes my help.
American King James Version×, from the "Elijah Oratorio." I almost can't read this without hearing the trio singing these beautiful words, "I will lift my eyes to the hills— from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." This little two-minute aria from the "Elijah Oratorio."
I'll conclude with a favorite verse from Bev and me. And I've given a sermon on it before at the Feast. Psalm 15, one of the shortest of all Psalms. So I'll read the whole thing here in less than 30 seconds. Psalm 15, "Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Who's going to be in your mountain?" That's the question. Answer? Verse 2, "He who walks uprightly, he who works righteousness and speaks the truth in his heart. He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor take up a reproach against his friend.” A decent person who is obedient when people are watching, and especially when people aren't watching “In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord. He swears to his own hurt and does not change; he does not put out his money for usury, nor take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be moved.” Grace and peace to you from our God and our Father and Lord, Jesus Christ.