by T. Austin-Sparks
Reading: Hebrews 1, 12:26-29.
We must remember that the Kingdom is always referred to as something being already in existence and that as complete. It is not something now being formed, constituted, or built. It is something which, already being in existence, is to come to be received, to be entered into: "Thy kingdom come." Receiving a Kingdom: "Except ye receive the kingdom as a little child, ye cannot enter therein." Here the word, as we have already pointed out, indicates that, so far as we are concerned, the Lord's people, it is a matter of progressively receiving the Kingdom, receiving that Kingdom more and more. The Kingdom is complete, it is full, it is a realised thing, but for us it is a matter of receiving that Kingdom in ever-growing fulness.The governing factor about the Kingdom is the element of finality, the accomplished fact, the established thing, the unshakeable truth and reality; therefore the sons of the Kingdom should be characterized by this particular and dominant feature, assurance. If we have rightly understood and apprehended the Kingdom, we ought to be the most assured people in God's universe, for a real spiritual understanding and apprehension of the Kingdom will destroy all uncertainties, will put aside all doubts and questions, will deliver us from all that weakness and paralysis resultant from a question, an uncertainty. It will make us at the centre of our beings an established thing: we shall be taking our spiritual character from the very Kingdom to which we belong, and that is what it means to be in the Kingdom, and to be sons of the Kingdom. We take our character therefrom, and it is this element of finality which is predominant in the matter of the Kingdom.
Having said that, it remains to be explained what this finality is, and this letter to the Hebrews sets forth finality in three directions or connections. We may only get a little way at this time in seeing it; if we have every step established it will be worthwhile. Finality is shown in three connections in this letter: firstly, as to the Person; secondly, as to His work; thirdly, as to the calling and position of the Lord's people.
You know how the whole letter bears upon that, but even that has to be looked at from more than one angle. Turning to chapter 1 we have right at the outset a declaration concerning the finality of the person in God's appointment. The Son is God's final appointment: "Whom he appointed heir of all things". He appointed the Son heir of all things. All things are His inheritance. You cannot get outside of all things, and there is nothing after that. Finally Christ inherits all things by the eternal appointment of the Father, of God. Upon that all our faith hangs. The whole question of faith is immediately raised by that first finality. Do we believe that the end which is fixed, and the thing about which there is no question at all is that Jesus is going to inherit all things? Do we believe that, in spite of all the course which this world's history has taken, and is taking, and all that seems to be so much to the contrary; in spite of all the grasping for world possession and world dominion; in spite of all the disputing and the quarrelling over the inheritance in this earth; in spite of all the apparent grip that Satan has upon things; in spite of the deeply rooted and apparently established order of things, which it sometimes seems so nearly impossible to change, to root up, to destroy? That is the first question for faith. It has been the challenge to faith all the way through.
Of course, we are so largely spectators. We have been very nearly more than spectators, and we find ourselves in the position in which a large number of the Lord's people are today, in the havoc, the chaos, the evil consequences of evil, the very Devil's work; in a position of utter impotence, helplessness, driven, no home, no place of rest, nothing here but all around the terrific pressure of evil, the domination of iniquity. This is where the challenge to faith comes. It is in conditions like that that the big question arises. But this letter, and, of course, much more in the Word of God, brings at the outset this before the people of God for their faith, that in the appointment of God, His Son is the heir of all things, and He will have His inheritance no matter what intervenes. This very first presentation to faith links with the whole of chapter 11, for that chapter, that great survey of faith through the ages, is linked with the ultimate issue for the people of God, and that issue is the complete, universal sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son. That is the inheritance.
Now that is the first factor of the Kingdom which cannot be shaken. To these Jewish believers, who were passing through such deep trial, persecution, suffering for the faith, for the testimony, receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken meant that they were to rest upon and be established in the fact as a living thing in their own hearts, that finality is bound up with Jesus as heir of all things, and it is presented to us in the same way. Let us remember that all the conflict of history circles and rages around that one thing, and as history grows and the times near completion, the end draws nigh, the one thing which will rise clear in definition out of all other things will be this finality of issue: Who is Lord in God's universe? Who is God's appointed and eternal King? Who is the inheritor of the earth? And that issue is being steadily urged today. This question of world lordship is centred not now in a great number of lords but in one. It is being narrowed down, it has come to a very few, and the question is a very, very hot one; the pursuit of this thing is very feverish. Let us not be deceived. Oh, we thank God for respite, we thank God for a little postponement, but do not let us be deceived. We are probably today at a point of far greater seriousness than we were some time ago, for we are obviously very much nearer that point when: "They shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh...". God has sought to stir us to the depths by allowing things to go that far in order to bring us up and make us realise that at any moment our testimony may be suspended. Therefore let us give the greater diligence for the time is short. Any day we might have to say, It is the end, no more can be done. Then for utterness for God until that time comes!
There will not be a giving up of this grasping, or an abandoning of the programme. There is something more deeply at work than is seen. There is the drive of that one who must produce his Antichrist. It is in God's Word. It will come to pass. There will be one who sits in the temple of God announcing that he is God, and being worshipped as God, claiming the allegiance and worship of the world. The whole thing will be headed up into that one, and then the question will be between two only, between that one and the One Who has sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. There is no question about the issue when that clash comes: "Whom the Lord shall destroy by the brightness of his coming". God is going to see that it is all headed up to one, and then He whose right it is to reign will come and will smite with the brightness of His appearing the all-inclusive one of the Devil's producing. Receiving that, now receiving that! That is the basis of the Kingdom which cannot be shaken.
Finality is bound up with the Son of God as heir of all things, and that is where the Kingdom which cannot be shaken begins and ends - Christ the Son, God's final appointment.
Then the second thing as to the person is Christ, the Son, as God's final speech: "...hath at the end of these times spoken unto us in his Son...". He who in old time spoke by divers portions and in divers manners hath gathered it all up at the end of these days, and has spoken in fulness and in finality in His Son. So that the Kingdom which cannot be shaken is a matter of the utter government of the Lord Jesus Christ in what He represents as the embodiment of God's thoughts and expressions. I can put that much more simply. The Kingdom which cannot be shaken, which we are to receive, is a matter of the complete knowledge of the Lord Jesus. You and I have not got to learn all kinds of truths and doctrines, teachings and interpretations. It is not our business, our obligation to be familiar with all the different kinds of doctrinal truths in the Word of God. Of course, it is very useful in a subsidiary way to know these things, but if we know them all they simply become a matter of intellectual knowledge, and they can then become the ground of a good deal of discussion, argument, and dispute; but they do not get you further than that in a spiritual way. They never constitute for us a Kingdom which cannot be shaken: they constitute the kingdom which is never stable; this doctrinal kingdom, this point-of-view kingdom, even in the things of the Bible. The Kingdom which cannot be shaken is knowing Jesus Christ in our own hearts, God speaking in us in His Son.
I must remind you again that that is exactly what the apostle Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians. When God gave expression to His thoughts in the old dispensation He did so by writing on tables of stone: that is, it was an outward, objective presentation of obligations brought to rest upon His people. That is the old dispensation: that is past. Now, says the apostle, in this dispensation it is not so, but there is a covenant, there is an expression, there is a revelation of God's thoughts, God's mind, God's will for His people; but now it is upon the fleshly tables of the heart, written by the Spirit of the living God. And right in connection with that the apostle says: "God hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." God has spoken in His Son, and now it is a matter of our knowing Christ in an inward way by revelation of the Holy Spirit. That is the Kingdom which cannot be shaken.
I have marvelled at Paul many times, and I expect you have. I have said many times that I do not know how Paul managed to go on. How did he go through? How did you go through, Paul? You tell us all these things that befell, you give us these lists of happenings, and then I see that, after your long life spent to the last drop for your Lord, and being used so mightily, with such a wide range, I see you at the end shut up, held in a chain, in prison, and I know that you are getting news from the whole field of your life's activities that your work is simply being destroyed; it is falling to pieces, and all those for whom you were used to bring to the Lord are forsaking you. I hear you say: "All they in Asia be turned from me." Paul, how do you get through? How can you be so triumphant? How can you write so much about the heavenlies, and every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, with those conditions around you? And my answer is found in his first letter to the Galatians: "It pleased God... to reveal his Son in me." If Paul had adopted a system called Christianity and given a kind of mental assent to all the propositions doctrinally of Christianity, he would not have lasted a year. His first year would have put him out, and yet he went right through because of this: "It pleased God... to reveal his Son in me." That is the Kingdom which cannot be shaken. All other knowledge of the Lord will find us wanting in the day of the ordeal, when heaven and earth are shaken. We shall go to pieces; we shall collapse under the strain. Do take this to heart.
There are going to be shaking ordeals for every child of God. God has appointed it; it must be. It can be in our lives without great world upheavals. We can go through trial, through testing, we can be put into the fires in personal ways, but believe me we are all going into the fires in some way or another. God has appointed that we shall not be in a false position.
The question is: Have we got the unshakeable Kingdom within? That is, in a word, do we know the living Son of God in a living way within us? "God hath spoken"! Are we progressing in the knowledge of God in Christ? For He, the Son, encompasses all God's fulness. All that ever we are to know, to have of God, is in Christ. God has given Him, and with Him given all things. We have to learn Christ, and learn Him in an inward way, and as we learn Him inwardly, what He is, how He expresses God's own thought, desire, will, purpose, nature, the Kingdom which cannot be shaken is taking root in us, so we are receiving that Kingdom. To receive the Kingdom is to be progressing in the inward knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in all the comprehensiveness of God's fulness dwelling in Him.
Now we close with this word as to the Person. He is the finality of God's appointment; He is the finality of God's speech; and our learning is simply a learning of Christ. Christ is our finality of responsibility. It is not, What did Moses say? What did Elijah say? What did Isaiah and all the prophets in whom and through whom God spake in old time say? It is now just the Lord Jesus. Our responsibility is for Him. Responsibility begins and ends with Him. We are responsible for the Lord Jesus.
The apostle draws the distinction between God speaking on the earth through Moses, and Israel being responsible for God speaking through Moses on the earth. Now He says, How much more when it shall be a speaking from heaven, and that through the Son. What a great responsibility it is when God speaks from heaven through the Son. "God... hath... spoken in his Son." Our responsibility lies there. God has spoken, and God has spoken in Christ. Now all responsibility is summed up and bound up with that in this sense: we are not going to have to answer for any other thing before God than for our response to His voice in Jesus Christ. I think many people have an idea that when they stand before God and are in judgement the whole question of the ground of their judgement will be spread over quite a lot of ground. How many sins did you commit? How much better or worse you were than someone else! They seem to think that they are going to stand a much better chance in the judgement if they have not committed quite as many sins as someone else, if they have not done certain things that other people have done. If they have been an improvement on certain fairly poor types of people their judgement will be according to the degree of their goodness or their badness: and if, therefore, they can so curtail their bad deeds as to bring them to a minimum they are going to stand quite a fair chance in the judgement.
You may smile at that, but that is the inveterate habit of this nature of ours, and that is why so many wear worried looks. As Christians they are always poking around inside to find something good, and because they find so much bad they are miserable; and they have never come finally to God's conclusion about the whole matter of what they are, that in them dwells no good thing, and they are always trying to find some good thing, and, not finding it, they are miserable. We are already in spirit standing before a judgement seat of God, bringing ourselves under judgement, under condemnation, and it is a false judgement seat. It is something of our own imagination or of Satan's projecting. Let me say now, quite definitely and precisely: the ground of all judgement is our reaction to God's presentation of His Son, not how many sins, be they few or many, or how much badness, little or much. It is this: God has spoken in His Son, and what have you done? That is where responsibility begins and ends. Judgement is simply a matter of our response to God in Christ. It simplifies the whole matter, gets rid of a great many difficulties.
What is your heart attitude to the Lord Jesus? If you can answer that, then you have got the answer to your standing before God. It is there that responsibility begins and ends; it is final. You and I can say, Oh yes, in me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing, I am the chief of sinners; nevertheless, my heart is all towards God's Christ, and by God's grace I am going on to respond to everything that God will make known to me of His will in Christ. That is the only ground of responsibility which lies at our door, and there it ends. That is all God's requirement. It is very simple, very blessed. Let it be remembered that it is just where we refuse to respond to the voice of God in Jesus Christ that we have to take the responsibility, but inasmuch as we give a full and hearty response to the Lord Jesus, God takes all the rest of the responsibility, and, of course, that is the gateway into the very next part of this consideration: finality in the work of the Person.
This is the Kingdom which cannot be shaken. May the Lord find us unshaken in these days.