The Citizens of the Kingdom
The second essential element that is needed to have a kingdom is a citizenry. The Kingdom of God has citizens, those who serve God and the King that He has appointed to rule the earth. Today they are called “Christians,” though not everyone who calls himself a Christian is actually a citizen of the Kingdom as far as God is concerned. God looks at the heart, not at the label.
The concept of citizenry is the main focus of the Fruitfulness Mandate of Gen. 1:28, “be fruitful and multiply.” Adam and Eve were to bring forth children that were in the image of God. If they had produced children before they sinned, they would have brought forth the Sons of God. However, in begetting children after they had sinned, they begot children in the likeness of human flesh. The distinction is made in 1 Cor. 15:47-49,
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
The name “Adam” literally means earthy, because it comes from the Hebrew word adama, which means “earth.” In the above verses Paul contrasts the first Adam with the last Adam, Christ. The first Adam gave us an earthy image, but the last Adam gives us the heavenly image that God had intended from the beginning.
The citizens of the Kingdom, then, are destined to bear the image of the heavenly, that is, the image of Christ. This is the idea of Sonship. The process by which they attain this Sonship and are found to have the image and likeness of Christ in their character is set forth in various ways in the Bible. The best description of this three-step process is seen in the feast days of Israel.
I explained these three feast days in detail in my book, The Laws of the Second Coming. These three feasts commemorated the main events in Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land in the book of Exodus. They also prophesied of our individual “journey” from the dominion of men's kingdoms into the Kingdom of God.
The three feasts represent three stages of development in our journey. Because Passover was the day that Israel left Egypt, it represents the time when an unbeliever becomes a believer and, in effect, “leaves Egypt.” This is the feast day that makes one a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and it is by faith in the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
The second feast day is Pentecost, which commemorates the day that God came down upon Mount Sinai and gave the Ten Commandments to Israel. Pentecost is the feast that represents the training of citizens to become rulers in the Kingdom. This training is designed to bring spiritual maturity to the believer and to instill in his heart the principles of biblical law by which he may govern and judge the people wisely, justly, and mercifully.
The third feast day is Tabernacles, which was the day that Israel was supposed to enter the Promised Land. Israel was not ready to enter Canaan at that time, for it prophesied of a later day, after God had trained many rulers over the centuries to rule in the Tabernacles Age to come. The feast of Tabernacles will be fulfilled by the manifestation of the Sons of God, who are destined to rule under Christ's headship.
Citizenship in the Kingdom of God requires only faith in Christ, as seen in the feast of Passover. Rulership requires maturity that is learned by obedience as portrayed in the feast of Pentecost and finally attained in the feast of Tabernacles.
Tabernacles prophesies of the manifestation of the Sons of God, when the mature citizens of the Kingdom are fully transformed into the image of Christ.
These three steps can be summarized by the key words: faith, obedience, and agreement. The journey to Sonship begins with faith. It moves then to obedience during which time a believer’s human nature must learn to be subject to the will of God. He learns to hear God’s voice and to be led by the Holy Spirit.
During this time, there is gradual change in the heart of the believer. Obedience implies submitting to the will of God, whether or not one’s own will agrees with the law or command of God. But as one develops understanding of the ways of God, obedience is replaced by agreement. Agreement is when a person no longer needs to be commanded to do something, because the person already knows to do it by nature—an inner motive.
The goal of Sonship, then, is neither faith nor obedience, but full agreement with the mind of Christ. This is accomplished by the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles.
Citizenship in the Kingdom of God is different from citizenship in a Christian nation. The Old Testament nation of Israel was set up essentially as a Christian nation by Jesus Christ, appearing as Yahweh to Moses. This is shown by Exodus 15:2 and Isaiah 12:2, which both tell us that “Yahweh has become my Yeshua.” In other words, Yeshua (or “Jesus”) is the earthly incarnation of Yahweh, the Lawgiver who formed the nation of Israel through Moses.
So even though the word “Christian” was not yet in use during Moses' time, it is applicable to that time. In fact, Christ is the Greek term for Messiah, or The Anointed One who was to rule Israel. So in that sense, though Jesus Himself had not yet appeared as the final Anointed One, there were others like David who occupied His throne temporarily.
Israel was set up as a Christian nation. It had certain flaws under the Old Covenant, which proved to be fatal in the end. First, the Old Covenant was based upon the citizens themselves, who had vowed to obey the law (Ex. 19:8), and this based their salvation upon obedience. It was a prescription for failure.
Secondly, the nation's laws made outward conformity to religious rituals the condition of their continuing citizenship. The law was weak under the Old Covenant in that it could not prosecute someone for his heart condition, but was limited to the person's actions. For instance, hatred is a sin (Matt. 5:22), but a person had to actually commit murder in order to be prosecuted under the Old Covenant arrangement. Under the New Covenant, however, one must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees (Matt. 5:20), because by this arrangement hatred itself is cause for expulsion from the Kingdom of God.
The law was not put away. In fact, the requirements of the law were raised to include attitudes and motives of the heart.
A Christian nation is essentially an Old Covenant way of applying the laws of the Kingdom in the earth. As long as the citizens abide by the law, they are not prosecuted in court. The idea of prosecuting “hate crimes” is a novelty in the history of the world. It is not very practical, because it is a secular attempt to regulate or change the hearts of men apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. It will only succeed in causing repression of hatred. The law applied externally can never change the heart.
Israel discovered that the laws of God were not enforceable when the majority of the citizens did not agree with God's law--that is, when the laws were not written on the hearts of the citizens. The natural tendency of the people was to go their own way. Even the priests and teachers of the law began to torture the law into saying things that God never intended for it to say. Thus, the “traditions of men” replaced the law and actually nullified the law (Mark 7:9). We will say more of this later.
Eventually, the temple itself was turned into a “den of robbers” (Jer. 7:11), that is, a hideout where robbers could feel safe from the law of God. That is the point when God brought in the Babylonian army to destroy the nation and to bring its citizens into exile. The same occurred in the New Testament, for Jesus quoted Jeremiah's words and applied it to that temple (Matt. 21:13). Within 40 years, the Romans had destroyed the temple and the city.
The point is that a Christian nation is a nation that utilizes the laws of God, but it does not have the power to change the hearts of men. This is its fatal flaw. The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, is a New Covenant idea. It appears in the Old Testament time frame, along with the concept of the New Covenant (prophesied in Jer. 31:31-34), but its manifestation would require the coming of the Messiah as the Lamb of God to die on the cross in order to ratify this New Covenant by blood.
And so, whereas under the Old Covenant, citizenship in the nation of Israel was based upon a person's actions, under the New Covenant, citizenship in the Kingdom of God is based upon a person's heart.
In fact, in both cases citizenship is based upon circumcision. Under the Old Covenant, it was fleshly. Under the New Covenant it is of the heart. Under the Old Covenant, circumcision of the flesh became largely meaningless because the outward sign did not usually reflect one’s inward heart condition.
Yet the religious and political leaders viewed circumcision as the sign of one's citizenship in the nation. The New Covenant abolishes outward signs and goes straight to the heart. When Paul says that a Jew is NOT one who is outwardly circumcised, and that a Jew IS one who has a circumcised heart (Rom. 2:28, 29). he is defining citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Paul was saying that one had to have a heart circumcision in order to be a citizen of the Kingdom.
This directly contradicted the requirements set up by the priests in the temple, who had posted guards at the door of the courtyard to keep non-Jews and women at a distance. All who went through that door had to show the guards that he was circumcised in his flesh in order to prove his citizenship in Israel. Their tradition was that only such men were worthy to approach God. No one was asked or examined to see if his heart had been circumcised.
The only reason that Israelites or Judahites were considered citizens was because of their circumcision, normally performed on them at the age of eight days. Yet in the law, even a full-blooded Israelite could lose his citizenship if he violated certain laws as, for example, the law of sacrifice.
Lev. 17:1-7 says that a citizen who offers a sacrifice must bring it to the tabernacle (or temple) and present it to God in the proper place. Verse 4 says that if he fails to do so, he could be “cut off from among his people.” That is a loss of citizenship.
Under the New Covenant, with Jesus as the true Sacrifice for sin, a person loses his citizenship in the Kingdom of God by refusing to bring the blood of Jesus to the place where He has put His name. In other words, the blood of Jesus must be applied to our foreheads, for we are now the true temple where He has placed His name (Rev. 22:4). Anyone who does not do so is not a citizen of the Kingdom of God.
“The law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14). It is to be enforced in the Kingdom of God, but not in the same manner as under the Old Covenant.
The New Covenant revealed a truth that had always been true, but which had not been known generally. It was the truth that citizenship with God was based upon the heart, not upon the flesh. The ratification of the New Covenant made it clear that anyone with a mere fleshly circumcision was NOT a citizen of the Kingdom of God. It made it clear that to be a citizen involved the lawful requirement of fulfilling the law of sacrifice. Men had to accept and offer the true Sacrifice of Christ and apply His blood to the true temple, which is their body.
Anyone who refused to do this was NOT a citizen of Israel or Judah. Hence, Paul says that such a one is NOT a “Jew” (or Judahite citizen). This had nothing to do with one's race or genealogy. It was a matter of law as applied in the context of the New Covenant that had now been ratified.
It has always been the case that non-Israelites could become citizens of Israel. Under the Old Covenant, they had to be circumcised. Yet even then, they were usually treated as second-class citizens, and so this discouraged many from doing it. Under the New Covenant, all must receive heart circumcision, regardless of their genealogy, and when they do, they are equals in the Kingdom of God. Gal. 3:28 says,
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
All have equal opportunity for citizenship, and all obtain citizenship in the same way. No one can set forth his genealogy or family tree, nor his fleshly circumcision, as the basis for citizenship. Every person has the right to progress from Passover through Pentecost and into the manifestation of the Sons of God in the feast of Tabernacles. There is equal opportunity for all.