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Philip Preaches the Kingdom of God

02 May
Dry Tree

from Bing Images

For some time now, I have been studying about the nature of the Kingdom of God. While some futurists (premillennialists, postmillennialists and amillennialists) may agree that the Kingdom of God, as it exists today, is a spiritual Kingdom, they would also tell us that it will morph into a physical Kingdom, when Jesus returns in a physical body to reign on a physical throne in physical Jerusalem. They might put it in different words, but in essence that is what their claims are. There are indeed subsets of those groups that would deny the above, saying Jesus simply returns and destroys the heavens and the earth—all of creation and takes his own to be with him, but the majority of those groups in essence teach something similar to the above.

After the first deadly persecution broke out against the Hellenist believers at Jerusalem during the first century AD, Philip, one of those believing Hellenist Jews, fled Jerusalem to Samaria (Acts 8:3-5). Jesus did this from time to time, when his own persecutors sought his life (John 4:1-4). Jews in Judea considered the Samaritans unclean and many, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees, would rather travel the long way around Samaria to enter Galilee and vise versa to go to Jerusalem. However, while traveling through Samaria, Philip began to preach the Kingdom of God, and many believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12).

Why would this be important in my study of the nature of the Kingdom of God? Well, many futurists believe the Kingdom of God (with Jesus physically reigning out of physical Jerusalem) was delayed due to the unbelief of the Jews. Nevertheless, if the Kingdom was delayed, Philip made no mention of that “fact”. He preached as though the Kingdom were near and the Samaritans could partake in it. The Samaritans were a mixed race (part Jew and part gentile), and were not welcome in the physical kingdom of Israel, as found in first century AD Judea. Samaria was a kind of symbol for apostasy and uncleanness in first century Judea (cf. John 8:48). Nevertheless, they were welcomed into the Kingdom of God by Philip and the Apostles, Peter and John (Acts 8:14-17). So, was the ‘Kingdom’ into which they were welcomed a physical one or a spiritual one? Were they able to worship unafraid at the Temple in Jerusalem? If not, why not (cf. John 4:20-24)? Wasn’t it is because the Kingdom is spiritual?

After these things, Philip was told by God to go to Gaza, southwest of Jerusalem, and join himself to a man riding in a chariot (Acts 8:26-29). The man was an official, having “great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians”, and he was a eunuch (Acts 8:27). Foreigners and eunuchs weren’t permitted to participate in Temple worship, but had to remain in the “court of the gentiles” under penalty of death. The reason for this was very simple. The Kingdom of Israel was for the children of Abraham, and it was populated by physical descendants of Abraham. While foreigners and eunuchs could attach themselves to Israel, they had no inheritance in the land. They were considered “dry trees” because it was impossible for them to physically produce children for the Kingdom. Nevertheless, the prophet said:

Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. (Isaiah 56:1-3; emphasis mine)

Notice that Isaiah is prophesying of a time when “salvation is near to come” when the Lord’s righteousness is revealed (verse-1). The point is, at that time the eunuch wouldn’t be a dry tree, because the children of the Kingdom of God are not born by the flesh or the will of men, but of God (John 1:13). Those who receive Jesus are the children of the Kingdom (John 1:12). Therefore, not only could the eunuch become a child of God by faith, but he could produce children of God by preaching the Gospel, and when others believe, they are the fruits of his labor. In other words, he is no longer a dry tree! So, is this a physical Kingdom or a spiritual one? Is it populated through physical means, i.e. human birth, or is it populated spiritually through the Gospel and faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:26)?

 

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2018 in 70 AD Eschatology

 

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