We have seen that 1:1-2 is the introduction to the book of Acts. Then in 1:3-26 we have the preparation both on the Lord’s side and on the side of His disciples. In this message we shall continue to consider Christ’s preparation of the disciples in His resurrection.
Acts 1:3 says, “To whom also He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many convincing proofs, through a period of forty days, appearing to them and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Here we see that for a period of forty days the Lord spoke to the disciples concerning the kingdom of God. What did the Lord say about the kingdom during that time? Luke does not tell us. Instead of giving us a full record of what the Lord taught the disciples concerning the kingdom, Luke simply says that He spoke to them about the kingdom of God for forty days.
Although we are not told in Acts what the Lord spoke concerning the kingdom, we may infer what He said by considering other portions of the Word. In the Gospels the Lord Jesus taught the disciples a lot concerning the kingdom. I doubt that during the forty days after His resurrection, He gave the disciples something new concerning the kingdom. Rather, I believe that the Lord repeated what He taught them in the Gospels. When the Lord spoke regarding the kingdom in the Gospels, the disciples were not able to understand what the Lord as their “professor” was teaching them. Therefore, I believe that the Lord Jesus repeated His teaching in the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension.
If we want to know, at least by way of inference, what the Lord taught the disciples concerning the kingdom in those forty days, we need to read again all He said about the kingdom in the Gospels. It is likely that the teaching during those forty days was the same as that recorded in the Gospels.
When the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about the kingdom before His death and resurrection, He was not yet in them, for He was still in the flesh. Because the Lord was not in the disciples at that time, they did not have the spiritual insight to understand the kingdom of God.
Knowing the kingdom of God requires spiritual perception, spiritual insight. Without spiritual insight, it is impossible for us to know the kingdom of God. Those who are lacking in spiritual perception may think that to enter into the kingdom of God is to go to heaven. In general, this is the natural concept of fallen mankind concerning God’s kingdom.
In the Gospels the disciples did not have the insight to understand the kingdom of God. But in John 20 they received the wonderful Person of the resurrected Christ into them as the life-giving Spirit. As a result, in Acts 1 they were very different. On the one hand, they were the same people; on the other hand, they were different because Christ, the life-giving Spirit, was now within them as their life and person. Because they had the life-giving Spirit within them, they were able to understand the Lord’s speaking concerning the kingdom of God.
At this point we need to ask an important question: What is the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is not a material kingdom visible to human sight; the kingdom of God is a kingdom of the divine life. The kingdom of God is the spreading of Christ as life into His believers to form a realm in which God rules in His life. The fact that the kingdom is mentioned in 1:3 indicates that it will be the main subject of the apostles’ preaching in their coming commission after Pentecost (8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31).
The kingdom of God is the ruling, the reigning, of God with all its blessing and enjoyment. It is the goal of the gospel of God and of Jesus Christ. To enter into this kingdom people need to repent of their sins and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15) so that their sins may be forgiven and that they may be regenerated by God to have the divine life, which matches the divine nature of this kingdom (John 3:3, 5).
All the believers in Christ can share the kingdom in the church age for their enjoyment of God in His righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). It will become the kingdom of Christ and of God for the overcoming believers to inherit and enjoy in the coming kingdom age (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5), so that they may reign with Christ one thousand years (Rev. 20:4, 6). Then, as the eternal kingdom, it will be an eternal blessing of God’s eternal life for all of God’s redeemed to enjoy in the new heaven and new earth for eternity (Rev. 21:1-4; 22:1-5, 14, 17).
The kingdom of God is the reality of the church brought forth by the resurrection life of Christ through the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15). Regeneration is its entrance (John 3:5), and the growth of the divine life within the believers is its development (2 Pet. 1:3-11).
The kingdom of God is the Savior Himself (Luke 17:21) as the seed of life sown into His believers, God’s chosen people (Mark 4:3, 26), and developing into a realm which God may rule as His kingdom in His divine life. We have seen that the entrance into the kingdom is regeneration and that the development of the kingdom is the believer’s growth in the divine life. The kingdom of God is the church life today, in which the faithful believers live (Rom. 14:17), and it will develop into the coming kingdom as an inheritance reward (Gal. 5:21; Eph. 5:5) to the overcoming saints in the millennium. Eventually, it will consummate in the New Jerusalem as the eternal kingdom of God and the eternal realm of the eternal blessing of God’s eternal life for all God’s redeemed to enjoy in the new heaven and new earth for eternity.
We have pointed out that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of the divine life. We may use the human kingdom as an illustration. Just as mankind is a kingdom of the human life, so the kingdom of God is a kingdom of the divine life. If we were not human beings, we could not understand the kingdom of human life. Dogs, for example, cannot understand the human kingdom, because they do not have a human life. But if a dog could receive the human life, it would then be able to understand the human kingdom. In a similar way, we know the kingdom of God by the divine life because God’s kingdom is a kingdom of the divine life.
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