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Not Reigning Yet
19 September 2013
The two letters from the Apostle Paul to the followers of Yeshua (Jesus, Isa) living in Corinth were written in order to address some very fundamental and urgent problems which had arisen among the Corinthians. Among a number of other issues, Paul confronted problems like the misuse of spiritual gifts, tolerating sexual sin in the church, a religious-celebrity syndrome, and wanting to live a "victorious" life rather than a "crucified" life. Hmmmm ... sounds a lot like much of the modern American church, as well as significant portions of the worldwide church. Because each one of these issues would require a separate article in order to deal with them properly, today I want to focus our attention on the last item in my list.
Paul makes some very interesting statements in 1 Corinthians 4, verses 8 and 10 —
Using a good dose of irony, Paul contrasts their view of themselves with reality. He's also contrasting his own views and practices related to following Yeshua with their distorted, false views and practices. Let's look at each individual point he is making:
You think you already have everything you need. You think you are already rich. You have begun to reign in God's Kingdom without us! I wish you really were reigning already, for then we would be reigning with you.... Our dedication to Messiah makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Messiah! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed.
You say, "I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing." But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.... To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with Me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:17-19,21)After Yeshua rebukes them for attitudes similar to those of the Corinthians, He gives them an awesome promise: that they will actually rule and reign with Him, if they are victorious as He was victorious. And how was Yeshua victorious? He was faithful, obedient and submissive to God the Father, even through suffering and death, in order to accomplish God's will — and we are to imitate Yeshua (see Philippians 2:1-11). In Revelation 12:11, it says that we gain the victory by the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, and by not loving our lives so much as to shrink from death.
Well, back to Corinthians ... It seems that Paul himself might have been feeling that he was being somewhat sarcastic, because he added in verse 14: "I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children." Then he goes on to give them his own experiences as an example of what a true follower of Yeshua should look like, in verses 9 through 13:
It seems to me that God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor's parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world — to people and angels alike. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools... we are weak... we are ridiculed. Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don't have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home. We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us. We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world's garbage, like everybody's trash — right up to the present moment.All this really does not sound like the "reigning" Christianity that so many modern believers want to embrace. In fact, it sounds like the exact opposite of what many Christians are taught to expect in the "victorious Christian life" as they are "training for reigning." Could it be that Paul just didn't have enough faith to rise above his troubles and take dominion over them?
You might argue that the suffering Paul describes is only for apostles, and not for all followers of Yeshua. But then Paul fires a deadly shot right between the eyes — a real zinger — in verse 16: "Therefore I urge you to imitate me." Further on in the same letter Paul repeats this in chapter 11, verse 1: "You should imitate me, just as I imitate Messiah."
Rather than clinging to all of their false concepts which I listed above — vainly imagining that they are already reigning in God's Kingdom — Paul wanted the Corinthians to imitate him and embrace the crucified life of Yeshua instead, just as Paul himself had manifestly done. Writing to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul praised them for this very thing: "You became imitators of us and of Yeshua, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
Why is it so important to embrace a life of suffering, as Yeshua and Paul did? Because the ONLY way you can be prepared for reigning, and be found worthy to reign, is by having your character molded and refined by suffering. There is NO shortcut! This is the message of every author in the New Testament.
In modern "Spirit-filled" circles it's a popular belief that, because Yeshua suffered for us, we don't have to suffer — we can jump to the head of the line, skip all the suffering, and go straight to "reigning." But if you take a close look at what is taught over and over again throughout the entire New Testament, you will see that this all-too-common belief is absolutely false. Yeshua didn't suffer instead of us; He suffered for us, as an example: "To this you were called, because Messiah suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." (1 Peter 2:21)
In our Christian belief that Yeshua is God, who came to earth in a human body, I think we tend to emphasis His divinity at the expense of His humanity. It is so hard for us to grasp that Yeshua became completely human like us in every way, only without the human sin nature which we inherited from Adam and Eve. It was as a completely-human being that Yeshua was made perfect [complete, mature] through what He suffered (see Hebrews 2:10). Even though He was the Son of God, as a human He learned obedience from the things He suffered (see Hebrews 5:8).
This is the example Yeshua left us to follow: to learn obedience, and to become perfect, complete and mature, through what we suffer. Why is it so important to share in Yeshua's sufferings? Because "if we are God's children, then we are His heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Messiah, sharing His inheritance with Him; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory." (Romans 8:17)
And what is Yeshua's inheritance? The Messianic Psalm 2 quotes God as saying to His Anointed One (which is what the word Messiah means):
"I have installed My King on Zion, My holy mountain." I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh: He said to Me, "You are My Son; today I have become Your Father. Ask Me, and I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; You will dash them to pieces like pottery."And then Yeshua Himself promises His followers:
"To the one who is victorious and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations — that one 'will rule them with an iron rod and will dash them to pieces like pottery' — just as I have received authority from My Father." (Revelation 2:26-27)Thus we can clearly see that the inheritance of Yeshua is to rule the entire world, and He will share that inheritance with us if we also share in His sufferings and do His will to the end.
So why are large segments of modern Christendom so prone to believe that they can skip all this suffering business and jump straight into the reigning part of things? I think a major reason is that, like the Jews in Yeshua's day, they confuse the prophecies about Yeshua's first and second comings. These prophecies are so intertwined throughout the Old Testament that it is easy to be mistaken about the timing of their fulfillment.
For example, when the Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, they asked, "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him." When King Herod asked the religious leaders where the Messiah would be born, they quoted from a prophecy in Micah 5: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel." (See Matthew 2)
This single short prophetic quotation contains details about both the first and second coming of Yeshua. The fact that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem relates to His first coming. The fact that He will rule over Israel relates to His second coming. But can you see how easy it would be to assume that when He came the first time, He was coming to rule there and then? This was the same mistake many people of His day made.
As recounted in John 6, after Yeshua fed the five thousand, the crowd "intended to come and make Him king by force." In John 18, when Yeshua was on trial, the Roman governor Pilate asked Yeshua, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Yeshua replied, "My kingdom is not of this world.... at the present time My kingdom is not from this place." There are a number of other passages in the Gospels which demonstrate the people's expectation for the Messiah kick the Romans out of Israel and to restore King David's throne.
Even after Yeshua had been crucified and resurrected, and "He appeared to the apostles over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3b), they STILL didn't get it! As He was about to be taken back to heaven, they asked Him: "Master, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6b) After all they had been through with Yeshua and all that He had taught them, they STILL didn't realize that He would not begin to rule His inheritance until He came back at the end of the age.
So it is with many Christians today. Because Yeshua IS a king, and because many of the Biblical prophecies talk about that kingship, they mistakenly assume, like His early followers did, that His rule and reign will be established at this time — and that they will reign in this age. The way to escape this confusion and misunderstanding is to keep the purposes of His first and second comings clear and distinct.
He came the first time to bring salvation to mankind through His suffering and death. During this present age until His return, our calling is to follow His example and help bring His salvation to mankind through our suffering service and perhaps even our death in His service. It is not until His second coming that the prophecies of His rule and reign will be fulfilled. At that time He will begin His reign, and we will begin to reign with Him, if we are found worthy of this inheritance by suffering with Him.
Yeshua has not entered into His inheritance yet, so therefore neither have His followers. When Yeshua was tempted by the devil at the beginning of His earthly ministry, "Satan led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, 'I will give You all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.'" (Luke 4:5-6) Yeshua did not dispute Satan's claims! Even after Yeshua's death, resurrection and ascension, Paul refers to Satan as "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4).
No, it's not until right before Yeshua returns to earth to receive His inheritance, during the judgment of the Tribulation, that it is declared:
"The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign for ever and ever. We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign." (Revelation 11:15,17)Paul wished that the Corinthians truly were reigning already, for then he would be reigning with them. This difficult life of suffering would be over, his race would be run, and having reached the finish line, Paul could enter into his inheritance with Yeshua and reign with Him and the other redeemed ones. But Paul, like the rest of us, has to wait until Yeshua's return. This is what he wrote to remind the Corinthians of.
"Spirit-filled" Christians would do well to lay aside their Corinthian pride and the presumption that they have already "begun to reign in God's Kingdom" (as the Corinthians mistakenly believed), and instead follow the example of their humble, lowly Messiah, who suffered and died so that others might find eternal life. As I quoted from Peter above, THIS is what we are called to. THIS is the preparation we must undergo if we want to "inherit the Kingdom prepared for us from the creation of the world."
This article is 1st a series of articles on this Web site related to Exploring New Testament Realities
On September 30, 2013, Mike Bower wrote:
This is an excellent article! I've been a Christian for nearly 30 Years. 20 of those years I was Word of Faith. Seeing things through dispensational eyes I saw our current dispensation as a complete return to the garden (before the fall). I'm beginning to understand how stupid that sounds now. Lately, it seems like God has been dealing with me about this and your article really helped me understand the process of restoration. I look forward to reading your other articles!