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Alex's Blog for July 12, 2011 - The Spiritual Kingdom of Christ and Its Future (Amos 9:11-15)
By Alex Dodson
When does the Kingdom of Christ begin? Does it begin at the Second Coming or has it already begun? These are important questions for our day. Many are looking forward to a kingdom age when Jesus returns. The church will go down in defeat and be swished away by the rapture. A great tribulation will occur for seven years. Then, Christ will return and set up his millennial kingdom. To many Christians, that is when the Kingdom of Christ begins. Yet, does that really do justice to the Kingdom of Christ? What about the last two thousand years? Has not the Kingdom of Christ made any appearance in our age up till now? Of course, the answer is that it surely has. The Kingdom of Christ has been here since Christ's first coming. That might sound strange to some who are used to thinking about a future kingdom age. Yet, when Jesus began His ministry, He announced the coming of the Kingdom. In Mark 1:15 (KJV), Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." When Jesus was accused by the Pharisees of casting out demons by Beelzebub, Jesus replied that it was by the Spirit of God that they were being cast out. He further said, "But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you." (Matthew 12:28 KJV) Jesus announced that the kingdom of God had already come into their midst.
The Kingdom of Christ was set up at His first coming. We are not waiting for the Kingdom of Christ to begin in the future. It has already begun. Of course, there is the Heavenly Kingdom of the future which follows the Judgment and which all believers will inherit. This Heavenly Kingdom is the ultimate form of Christ's Kingdom. However, this does not take away from the fact that Christ's Kingdom has already been set up and is in progress. Jesus is now building a kingdom and in that sense we are now in the kingdom age. He will continue to build His kingdom right up to the end. I Corinthians 15:24-25 brings this out clearly, "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet." These verses point out that Jesus is reigning now and that He will continue to reign until all his enemies are destroyed. That is, He will continue to reign until Satan's kingdom and authority are completely conquered. I submit that this reign began at Christ's first coming and continues even now and will progress on into the future. It is not a reign of defeat but a reign of victory. Christ's Kingdom is being built and will win out in the end. This view is in contrast to modern day prophets who see the church going down in defeat and having to be swished out of the way leaving the world to be taken over by Satan's kingdom for a time.
There are three things we want to show from Amos 9:11-15. The first is that Christ's kingdom is set up at His first coming including the events surrounding and related to that coming. Secondly, there will be a time of blessing yet to come when Christ's kingdom will prevail in the world. The old Puritans and others who followed them called this the "latter day glory." Thirdly, there will come a time when the Jews will be converted in mass and will occupy the land of Israel. This time will be in association with the "latter day glory" and will not necessarily be at the end of that period but most likely will occur closer to the beginning of that period.
First, let us consider Amos 9:11-12 which says, "In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name, declares the Lord, who will do these things." These verses show that David's kingdom will be restored and that the gentiles or the nations will be brought into that restored kingdom. The Geneva Bible translates verse 12 in this way, "That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, because my name is called upon them, saith the Lord, that doeth this." The English Standard Version puts it this way, "'That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,' declares the Lord who does this." In other words, all the nations on whom the name of Christ is called will be brought into the Kingdom of God. We could also say wherever the gospel is preached to the nations, people will come into the Kingdom of God.
It is interesting to note that this same theme is brought out by Isaiah in Isaiah 61:4-6 which says, "They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated for generations. Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards. And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God. You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast." These verses, essentially, contain all that is in Amos 9:11-12. The kingdom will be rebuilt and established again. This time aliens and foreigners will be in that kingdom corresponding to the Gentiles. The wealth of the nations will be brought into the kingdom or the nations of the world will come into the kingdom of God.
We don't have to guess at what these verses mean. The New Testament gives us the interpretation in Acts 15:13-18 where James, the leader in the Jerusalem church, speaks up and refers to what was happening in his day to the Gentiles: "When they finished, James spoke up: 'Brothers, listen to me. Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things that have been known for ages.'" James is essentially quoting our passage in Amos. He is using the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament but the meaning is the same. He was saying that these verses were then being fulfilled. David's kingdom had come back and was being rebuilt. This is none other than the Kingdom of Christ which had just begun and was advancing as the gospel was already going out to the Gentiles just as the ancient prophet said it would. John Calvin comments on this passage in Acts saying, "But what follows immediately after in the writing of the prophet about the remnant of the nations, upon whom the name of God will be invoked, plainly shows that there will be one church of Jews and Gentiles, because what particularly belonged to the Jews alone at that time is given both in common….For God promises the restoration of the tabernacle that had fallen in ruins, that in it the Gentiles may be subject to the Kingdom of David, not merely to pay tribute, or to take arms at the King's command but to have a common God and be His one family…Therefore the promise that follows immediately after, that the throne is to be set up again, from which kings, the descendants of David, may rule over the Gentiles, strictly refers to Christ. Therefore when the Kingdom of Christ has been set up, what the prophet says at the same time is bound to follow, that the name of God must be invoked upon the Gentiles…For if the Kingdom of Christ can only be established if God is invoked everywhere throughout the whole world, and the Gentiles united into His holy people then it is absurd for them to be kept back from the hope of salvation; and the middle wall, by which they had been separated from each other under the law, must fall down." (pp. 46-47, Calvin's Commentaries, The Acts of the Apostles, Vol. II)
The setting up of Christ's Kingdom at the time of His first coming is the setting up of a spiritual reign of Christ. This reign continues even unto this day and will continue until the end of the age. Jesus pointed out that the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom. We read in Luke 17:20-21, "Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, 'The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." In other words, the Kingdom of God will not come in lead by a military army or like a great conqueror marching into a city to claim it. It will come as the hearts of men are won to Christ and His reign begins in their lives. They will advance the Kingdom of God as they influence the world around them living out kingdom principles in their lives. This spiritual reign of Christ advances as the Holy Spirit is poured out and men come under conviction and then repent and turn to Christ as Lord and Savior. This spiritual reign of Christ permeates throughout a nation as more and more people come under Christ's Lordship and then influence the society around them for good.
John Gill comments on Amos 9:11 saying, "Not in the day of Israel's ruin, but in the famous gospel day, so often spoken of by the prophets, and this prophecy is referred to the times of the Messiah by the ancient Jews…and so the apostle James quotes it, applies it to the first times of the gospel (Acts 15:15-17). The Targum interprets this 'tabernacle' (tent) of the kingdom of the house of David: this was in a low estate and condition when Jesus the Messiah came, he being the carperter's son, but it is to be understood of the spiritual kingdom of Christ, the church; Christ is meant by David, whose son he is, and of whom David was an ancient type, and is often called by his name (Hosea 3:5); and the church by his 'tabernacle,' which is of his building, where he dwells, and keeps his court; and which in the present state is movable from place to place: and this at the time of Christ's coming was much fallen; and greatly decayed, through sad corruption in doctrine by the Pharisees and Sadducees; through neglect of worship, and formality in it, and the introduction of things into it God never commanded; through the wicked lives of professors, and the small number of truly godly persons; but God, according to this promise and prophecy, raised it up again by the ministry of John the Baptist, Christ and his apostles, and by the conversion of many of the Jews, and by bringing in great numbers of the Gentiles, who coalesced in one church state, which made it flourishing, grand, and magnificent; and thus the prophecy was in part fulfilled, as the apostle has applied it in the above mentioned place; but it will have a further and greater accomplishment still in the latter day, both in the spiritual and personal reign of Christ…" (www.biblestudytools.com)
The next verse (Amos 9:13) talks about a future time when there will be a time of great blessing. The verse says, "'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from the hills." A similar description is found in Joel 3:18 which says, "In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water. A fountain will flow out of the Lord's house and will water the valley of acacias." Both passages seem to point to future blessing. Amos points out that this is something in the future and also in context will follow or come as a result of what is described in the previous two verses. Amos describes a situation when the harvest will be so abundant that it will be almost continuous. They will not have time to complete the harvest before planting time comes again. Harvest will still be in process when it comes time to plant seed again. It will be so abundant that the juice of the grapes will drip and flow from the mountains and hills. A very similar passage is found in Leviticus 26:3-5 where God promises to bless his people if they are obedient. There we read, "If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commandments, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and trees of the field their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land." The note in the Geneva Bible on Amos 9:13 says, "Signifying that there shall be great plenty of all things, so that when one kind of fruit is ripe, another should follow, and every one in course."
Now, when will this blessing come? The verse simply says, "The days are coming…" This means in the future as related to the time that Amos gave this prophecy. This could be at anytime in the future from then. However, we can be more precise. This verse follows in context verses 11-12 which talks about the setting up of Christ's Kingdom and the subsequent calling of the Gentiles into the His Kingdom. This blessing promised in verse 13 would surely follow the event or events of verses 11-12. Christ's Kingdom was set up at His first coming and the gospel did go out to the Gentiles and has gone out for the last two thousand years. The blessing then could describe what happened as a result of the setting up of Christ's Kingdom and the carrying of the gospel to the Gentiles. Certainly many have been blessed as a result. However, it is most probable that the prophecy looks further into the future and describes a day of blessing yet to come when the Kingdom of Christ will blossom as never before. This blessing would also be associated with what is described in verses 14-15.
John Gill seems to make this interpretation when he comments on verse 13 saying, "'Behold, the days come, saith the Lord' or 'are coming' and which will commence upon the accomplishment of the above things, when the church of Christ is raised up and established, the Jews converted, and the Gentiles brought in: 'that the ploughman shall overtake the reaper; or 'meet the reaper', or come up to him, or touch him, as it may be rendered; and so the Targum; that is, before the reaper has well cut down the grain, or it is scarce gathered in, the ploughman shall be ready to plough up the ground again, that it may be sown, and produce another crop; 'and the treaders of grapes him that soweth seed;' or 'draweth seed;' out of his basket, and scatters it in the land; signifying that these should be such an abundance of grapes in the vintage, that they would continue pressing till seedtime; and the whole denotes a great affluence of temporal good things, as an emblem of spiritual ones; Leviticus 26:5 is where something of the like manner is promised, and expressed in much the same manner; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine; or 'new wine'; intimating that there shall be abundance of vines growing upon the mountains, which will produce large quantities of wine; so that they shall seem to drop or flow with it; 'And all the hills shall melt' with liquors; either with wine or honey, or rather with milk, being covered with flocks and herds, which shall yield abundance of milk, by all which; plenty of spiritual things, as the word and ordinances, and rich supplies of grace, as well as of temporal things is meant." (www.biblestudytools.com)
Gill seems to look forward to a future time beyond the initial establishment of the Kingdom of God at Christ's first coming and the period following when the gospel is called out to the Gentiles. He seems to look on toward the latter part of that period when special blessing will come upon God's people and the world. This seems to correspond with the prophecy of Isaiah in Isaiah 2:2 which says, "In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it." Now this verse seems to go beyond the initial beginning of the church in Jerusalem with a small band of disciples to a much greater time in the future when the church or Mount Zion will be exalted above all other religions. Not only that but all nations will stream into it. This certainly seems to point toward a time of greater blessing for the church than we now currently see in the world.
We now come to Amos 9:14-15 which says, "'I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.' says the Lord your God." The blessings mentioned in verse 13 will be associated in some way with the Jews returning to their homeland to occupy it forever. Joel 3:20 points to that same event when it says, "Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations." This return to their homeland to live there forever probably also refers to a conversion of the Jewish people in mass to the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul in Romans 11 points forward to a time when the Jews will be grafted back into their own olive tree. In verses 23-24, he puts it this way, "And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?" Paul indicates that if they do not continue in unbelief that is unbelief in the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will be restored into the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Christ. Writing in 1680, the old Scottish divine, James Durham, writes, "Whatever may be doubted of their restoring to their land, yet they shall be brought to a visible Church-state. Not only in particular persons here and there in congregations; but that multitudes, yea, the whole body of them shall be brought, in a common way with the Gentiles, to profess Christ, which cannot be denied, as Romans 11 is clear and that will be enough to satisfy us." (quoted in The Puritan Hope, p. 61.)
Paul goes on to say in verses 25-27, "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.'" These verses seem to point to a conversion of the Jewish people in mass as a whole people. This conversion will take place in association with the blessing of the Gentiles. Verse 25 in the English Standard Version reads, "Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in." Verse 12 refers to the fullness of the Jews and its effect on the Gentiles when it says, "But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!" In both verses "fullness" seems to refer to blessing either on the Jews in verse 12 or on the Gentiles in verse 25. This blessing seems to refer to a large conversion taking place in both cases. Iain Murray comments, "'Fullness' in verse 12 means the large numerical increase of converted Jews, but not excluding the possiblility of others being subsequently added. So in verse 25 it is not necessary to believe that 'fullness' means anything more than a large addition of Gentiles, 'a multitude of the Gentiles', says Matthew Poole's Annotations, 'greater by far, than was in the apostles' days.'" (The Puritan Hope, p. 69) John Murray comments, "The contextual data, therefore, point to the conclusion that 'the fullness of the Gentiles' refers to blessing for the Gentiles that is parallel and similar to the expansion of blessing for Israel denoted by 'their fulness' (vs. 12) and the 'receiving' (vs. 15)….'The fullness of the Gentiles" denotes unprecedented blessing for them but does not exclude even greater blessing to follow. It is to this subsequent blessing that the restoration of Israel contributes." (The Epistle to the Romans, pp. 95-96) The point is here being made that the "fullness of the Gentiles" does not necessarily mean no further blessing for the Gentiles. It just simply means that the mass conversion of the Jews will come in association with a blessing on the Gentiles as indicated in verse 12.
The blessing promised in Amos 9:13, then, is associated with the conversion of and return of the Jews to their homeland in verses 14-15. We have noted that this conversion of the Jews is also associated with a blessing of the Gentiles in Romans 11. Taking the two passages together, it seems that a future blessing of both the Jews and Gentiles is in store.
Taking the whole passage of Amos 9:11-15 together, it would seem to cover the whole period from Christ's first coming to set up His Kingdom up to and including this blessing that will take place in the future. The blessing will include the conversion of and return of the Jews to the land of Israel. There is no reason to insert a second coming of Christ in this passage as His reign is a spiritual reign during this period. His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom which will eventually dominate the whole world. His second coming would come after this period is completed. We can look forward to a time of blessing on both the Jews and Gentiles that will effect the whole world as it says in Habakkuk 2:14, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." It is for this blessing that we look and pray for.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (1978) unless indicated otherwise
Calvin, John. Calvin's Commentaries - The Acts of the Apostles Vol. II, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1966.