OF THE ELDERS
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK
The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the New Testament Gospels and about 93% of its content is covered by Matthew and Luke. Where Mark differs from the others, however, is his provision of more vivid details and his emphasis on the super-human powers of Jesus, laying more emphasis on what Jesus did over what He said. Thus the divinity of Christ is, in the Marcan view, established by His miracles. It is a very condensed Gospel and like a motion picture, the author rushes from one dynamic scene to the next. He uses the words "immediately" and "straightway" about 40 times to make these rapid transitions. Judging by the lack of references to the Old Testament, his translations of Aramaic expressions, and the themes of power, it is fairly safe to conclude that Mark's Gospel was aimed that those who lived outside Palestine.
Very early tradition states that Mark, the son of Mary in Jerusalem1, wrote this Gospel. We know that John Mark was a cousin of Barnabas2 and may have been a Levite3. Many scholars believe that Mark was the youngest man described in Mark 14:51-52. He travelled with the apostle Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey4, but Mark turned back5. For this reason, Paul refused to consider taking him along on the second missionary journey6. Since both Paul and Barnabas had strong opposite feelings about the matter, they decided to go in different directions, Paul with Silas and Barnabas with Mark. However, much later, Paul felt differently about Mark7.
Each Gospel is its own unique testimony giving different insights from the others. We are especially fortunate in having four testimonies of the Good News of Christ (Gospels) in the New Testament because what one writer may miss out another may pick up. Each individual has his own particular interests and tends to emphasise those things which interest him the most, and Mark is no exception.
To understand Mark, as with any writer of scripture, it is important to read, reread, and reread again in order to get the author's original meaning. Even then this is not going to be enough because no matter how much a person writes one will rarely get a complete insight into his mind and heart. Scholars have been examining the scriptural texts for centuries and in their debating have tended to generate more smoke than light. Redaction criticism has not, as a result, shed a great deal of light on Mark or on what he reported as historical fact. The evidence that exists as to the origin of Mark's Gospel and to the way it has been preserved is scant and not sufficient to really draw any final conclusions about the man and his testimony. If we are to understand Mark then we must not only trust the Marcan evidence as being reliable but trust the patristic evidence also -- the alternative is to become agnostic, as is the general rule amongst redaction critics.
Mark was an eye witness of the life of Christ. And whilst modern authors may be able to tell us much about the historical Jesus, they tend, by the fact they were not eye witnesses, to conceal the living Christ from us, not by design but from pure circumstances. Even then we must remember that these eye witnesses, though they lived around Jesus continually, failed to recognise who He was for so long8.
Each of the Gospels is a complete literary, evangelistic unit, and not just a collection of sayings as in, for example, the Gospel of Thomas. This is important to realise from the outset for it will, if we are honest, prevent us from extracting sayings and events of Christ without due reference to their historical context as well as to the author's own overall message. Thus contents must be seen in context. It is therefore essential, no matter what scripture we read, to see it in its historico-cultural context, separating, for example, our own values and expectations from those that obtained in the context of the scripture.
I will give an example to illustrate how not to interpret scripture. I remember a Mormon girl once reading Luke 24:49 which says: "And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued (endowed) with power from on high"9. She immediately concluded that the word "endued" (endowed) meant that the disciples were to stay in Jerusalem and receive a Mormon-type "temple endowment", which is a series of ordinances supposed to guarantee the endowee exaltation in the celestial kingdom. In fact, as we all know, this was a reference to the Day of Pentecost when the believers received a special anointing of the Holy Spirit which gave them the gift of tongues (amongst other things)10. This girl had not bothered to check up the context of the saying nor bothered to understand the original Greek but had simply connected together two identical words with two totally different meanings without recourse to understanding the divergence of meaning that the centuries had produced.
It is vital, therefore, in reading ancient scriptures that we do not try to superimpose our own ideas, doctrines and understandings in order to effect a syncretisation, but rather let each author speak for himself. The concept of the Kingdom of God is a good one for this term means different things to different people, some maintaining that this is a purely spiritual kingdom, others a political one, and yet others both. Before we look at the nature and meaning of the Kingdom, I would like to give just one more example of how not to interpret a scripture, this time from Mark's Gospel, in order to underscore the absolute necessity of reading every scripture in context.
Let us take the well known incident of the Cursing of the Fig Tree in Mark 11:12-14. Many who have read this passage have come to the totally unwarranted conclusion that this was a case of wanton destruction by Jesus, a demonstration of supernatural bad temper. Certainly atheists would like to believe so. And even after Jesus's clarification in vv.20-21 many people still don't understand. What these people tend to miss is that this event is in two parts (vv.12-14 and 20-21) and that they are connected together by a third part, namely the Cleansing of the Temple11. Indeed, this is a literary device that is popular with Mark for he likes to split stories in order to convey a deeper spiritual meaning. In the case of the fig tree, this is but an illustration of Israel's waywardness and failure to bring forth righteousness (the figs). The cursing of the fig tree was therefore a living or active parable and was a typical device used by Israelite prophets of old, though their illustrations tended not to be so supernatural. Two similar active parables in the Old Testament would be Jeremiah's Parable of the Waistcloth12 and Ezekiel's Parable of the Siege, Exile and Famine of Jerusalem13.
The scriptures are full of hidden messages, hidden meanings, but they must be searched for with an understanding of the prophetic devices of the time.
The Kingdom of God
There are 14 references to the Kingdom of God in Mark's Gospel14 which we are going to look at in some depth with a view to obtaining a vision of Mark's view of the Kingdom apart from what we may believe it to be.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel"15.
Jesus did not begin preaching the Gospel until after John the Baptist's arrest, being restrained by God until that time. At no time were the two preaching simultaneously.
Q1: Why did God not permit John the Baptist and Jesus to operate simultaneously? Would not the impact of the Gospel have been greater if they had shared a common ministry?
Clue 1: They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And He would not have anyone know it; for He was teaching His disciples, saying to them: "The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days He will rise." But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him16.
Clue 2: (Jesus said): "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and spit upon Him, and scourge Him, and kill Him; and after three days He will rise"17
Clue 3: "For the Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born18.
There is a direct parallel here between the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ as between the mortal ministry of Christ and the post-ressurection ministry of the Comforter19, or Holy Spirit. The passage in Mark 9:31 is the second phase of the three-fold unfolding of the Kingdom of God. Thus the Kingdom comes about in three distinct stages and is represented by three different beings: (1) The mortal John the Baptist (whom Jesus calls the greatest prophet that ever lived20); (2) The mortal visible Messiah, Jesus Christ; and (3) The invisible Spirit of the immortal Messiah, the Comforter, or the Holy Spirit21.
In the passage in Mark 1:15 Jesus says two things about the Kingdom of God: (1) That "the time is fulfilled" for it to be preached and for a response to be given by the people -- it is the right season22, and (2) it is "at hand", or very close by.
We observe Jesus going through Galilee announcing the coming of the Kingdom much as a proclamation of the emperor's birthday might have been made in those days. There was no television, radio, newspapers, or other media of communication in those days -- they didn't even put up posters save under special circumstances. Jesus therefore went through the countryside much as a herald would have done anciently, anouncing the Good News or Gospel.
What is this Good News? What type of good news might the more spiritually enlightened of Jesus's day have been expecting?
Clue 1:But now, thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Sheba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in My eyes, and honoured, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by My Name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made."
Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! Let all the nations gather together, and let the people assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to justify them, and let them hear and say, It is true. "You are my witnesses", says the Lord, "and My servants whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me. I, I am the Lord, and besides Me there is no Saviour. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are My witnesses," says the Lord. "I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is none who can delivere from My hand; I work, and who can hinder it?"
"Thus says the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King: "For your sake I will send to Babylon and break down all the bars, and the shouting of the Chaldeans will be turned to lamentations. I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King." Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie doww, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honour Me, and jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people, the people whom I formed for Myself that they might delcare My praise.
"Yet you did not call upon Me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of Me, O Israel! You have not brought Me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honoured Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense. You have not bought Me sweet cane with money or satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities.
"I, I am He, who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Put Me in remembrance, let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right. Your first father sinned, and your mediators transgressed against Me. Therefore I profaned the princes of the sanctuary, I delivered Jacob to utter destruction and Israel to reviling23.
Clue 2: Behold, I send My messenger to prepare the way before Me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His Temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts24.
The "Gospel" is, as these two Old Testament passages clearly show, the good news of the coming of God as prophesied by Isaiah and Malachi. John the Baptist was the messenger preparing the way before God, and Christ was God in the flesh. A King does not speak before His messenger has delivered His message! Thus John the Baptist and Christ could not minister together, because the one was announcing the other. And yet God in Christ is also making an announcement -- that of the Kingdom. The messenger announces the coming King and Kingdom, and the King proclaims that the Kingdom has come.
Q3. In what ways were the repentance of John and the repentance of Christ the same or different?
Clue 1: John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins25.
There is essentially no difference between the repentance of John and of Jesus. Both called the people to repentance and both taught that this involved a change of mind, a conscious turning, a coming to one's senses and a change of conduct. This is portrayed in its most intimate detail in the Parable of the Prodigal Son26. Here in Mark 1:15 Jesus is calling the people to believe that the hoped for Kingdom is not only imminent but has also arrived. He uses what theologians call a sympathetic parallelism by saying the Kingdom is at hand and the Time is fulfilled. The two are one. Thus one could equally say that the Kingdom is here. There is a simultaneous looking backwards and forwards.
And (Jesus) said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables27.
"Let the children come to Me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it"28.
In these passages Jesus makes two things very clear about the Kingdom: (1) When Christ proclaims the Gospel, the Kingdom comes near. (2) The Kingdom is present -- it is already given. There are, however, two senses in which the Kingdom is present:
"Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the Kingdom of God has come with power"29.
It is clear from this reference that the Kingdom comes in two senses: (1) It comes spacially (as opposed to temporally) wherever Christ is present physically because Jesus is the Kingdom Himself. Thus Jesus not only announces or proclaims the Kingdom but brings it in His Person. (2) The Kingdom comes to individuals in a spiritual sense in different degrees of power. This spiritual quality is emphasised when Jesus equates child-like innocence and love as pre-requisites to entry into the Kingdom30. But it is more than than that and we are led to understand that the full vision or understanding of the Kingdom is a spiritual mystery which does not yield itself to unbelievers31.
"This is what the Kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seeds on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps of gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces corn -- first the stalk, then the ear, then the full kernel is the ear. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come"32.
"What shall we say the Kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted. it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade"33
In virtually all His discourses on the Kingdom, Christ centres on the spiritual nature of the Kingdom by pointing out its qualities, which qualities are personified in Himself. Like a tiny seed, the Kingdom is revealed at first as something small which grows into something great and wonderful. Without a man understanding its mechanism or the processes that make up the Kingdom, it grows in the human soul like a plant until it reaches its fullness.
Q4. What is the fullness of the Kingdom? What implications does this have for those seeking after the Kingdom?
Clue 1: Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect34.
Clue 2: Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected35.
Clue 3: I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me. amd I in thee, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. The glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may become perfectly one...36
Clue 4: Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God37.
The fullness of the Kingdom is Christ Himself, as Mark established at the beginning. The full revelation of the Kingdom is the full revelation of Christ, which is perfection, the same perfection to which His followers have been called. This perfection occurs by degrees, growing like a mustard seed into a huge plant.
"To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven38.
Q5. Why is the Kingdom of God secret?
Clue 1: "But when you pray, go to your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (openly)"39.
Clue 2: Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; He did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophets, "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things (secret/)hidden since the creation of the world"40.
Clue 3: "Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, He (Christ) is in the desert; go not forth: behold, He is in the secret chambers; believe it not41.
Clue 4: "For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear"42
Clue 5: "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret43.
There is great confusion as to the meaning of the word "secret" both in Mark and elsewhere in the scriptures, some maintaining that everything should be done openly, no matter what, and others maintaining the opposite. But what Jesus teaches in the Gospels is that every unrighteous thought or deed will be exposed and that He has never plotted or performed any wickedness in secret places as conspirators do. But He also maintains that some things are too sacred to be given to unbelievers save in parables, and thus the mysteries of the Kingdom are hidden up:
"Cast not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under theor feet, and turn again and rent you"44.
Much of the deeper mysteries of the Kingdom are so sacred as to be revealed by God only to those who are trustworthy. That is why Jesus spoke publically in parables about the Kingdom but only explained their meaning in secret to His disciples. The Kingdom is too precious to be publically flaunted but is to be revealed piecemeal to those who believe. Thus to the wicked and unbelievers, God says:
"Go, and say to this people: 'Hear and hear, but do not understand; see and see, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed`"45.
Nevertheless, the scriptures do indicate that there will be a time in the future, at the consummation of history, when all things will be revealed, both the good and the bad, that ignorance and sin may finally be banished. In the meantime, there is a sharp distinction between the believers and the "mob". Because the "mob" don't understand what the Kingdom is, understanding it to be something political rooted in time, they cannot recognise who Christ is, the embodiment of the Kingdom. Yet there are some, like the scribes, who understand perfectly what Christ means but their belief is blatant -- though they do actually believe, they yet refuse to believe because they will not repent. They end up calling Christ demonic, accusing Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan, thus denying the Holy Spirit, a characteristic of the sons of perdition46.
Thus two classes of people hear Jesus's parables on the Kingdom. When confronted with a similar event, the dull and blind see only a disturbing enigma. Parables are given as revelations to hard hearts, to gently prize them open. Mark 4:26 is a parable unique to Mark for the emphasis is placed in the germinating seed. Just as a seed grows automatically and invisibly, so too does the understanding of God's Kingdom on the soft and receptive heart. A great occult knowledge is not required to understand the Ways of God for a true understanding of the Kingdom comes only through a right heart, like that of a trusting child.
The Kingdom of God is, to Mark, a CONDITION OF BEING. There are some who try to make a distinction between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, saying that the former is temporal and the latter spiritual. But this is not the message of Mark, and elsewhere in the other Gospels, where Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are used interchangeably. When men and women receive the Kingdom of God within their hearts then, like Christ, they bring that Kingdom into material space. Christ warns against churches and organisations who say that they "have" or "are" the Kingdom because of some set of external given "authority"47 or credentials when He says:
"The Kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, `Here it is`, or `There is it`, because the Kingdom of God is within (or among) you"48.
What, then, of the political Kingdom on which so much emphasis is laid in the Old Testament? From the time of Moses, God established a Theocracy, a unified political-spiritual kingdom called Israel. A theocracy has always been God's ideal but was rarely achieved because of spiritual darkness. There are, in the Old Testament, three kinds of theocracy: (1) The Patriarchal Order, such as was established through the Covenant of Abraham; (b) The Tribal Confederacy, a loose political association of the 12 Tribes of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant under the spiritual government of the High Priest and a Judge (who was frequently a military commander also); (c) The Monarchy, a centralist government with a combined spiritual-political head, the King (the best examples of which are the kingdoms of David and Solomon).
Jewish aspirations in the time of Christ were of the restoration of a Jewish monarchy and in the long sought for Messiah the expectation was of a political revolutionary. But the message of Jesus was contrary to these Messianic expectations for, as we have seen thus far, his emphasis was almost exclusively on the restoration of a spiritual kingdom. Of the two branches in the stream of Messianic prophecy, the one of the Kingly Messiah and the other of a Suffering Messiah, Jesus came to fulfil the latter only (see diagram below):
Q6. Why were not the spiritual and political kingdoms of Israel restored by Jesus simultaneously?
Clue 1: "No-one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no-one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins"49.
Clue 2: "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little"50.
Clue 3: "When a farmer ploughs for planting, does he plough continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? When he has levelled the surface, does he now sow caraway and scatter cummin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot, and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way"51.
Clue 4: "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..."52.
Clue 5: "...You will ever be hearing but never understanding; you will ever be seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes..."53.
The teaching that Jesus brought was but a small seed that would require many centuries before it would grow up into maturity. There would be times when it would not be properly cared for, would become stunted, and die, because the soil was not properly prepared54. The seed would need to be replanted many times before the conditions of people's hearts were right enough for it to grow to its full maturity.
The history of Christianity is vivid testimony of these things. Though the Kingdom of God was present from the beginning, and has always been present, the soil of the human soul has rarely been properly prepared or tended. There have been many political kingdoms since the first advent of Christ, but none of these have been a true Theocracy, even though many have assayed to be such.
Thus there is indeed to be a Theocracy, a Political-Spiritual Kingdom, but it is not yet.
And yet wherever there are men and women with true hearts, there is a sense in which both the spiritual and temporal kingdoms find their manifestation on the earth in small communities of true believers. This "theocracy" is, however, manifested within the medium of human governments and philosophical systems. True Christianity has always therefore been a "kingdom within a kingdom"; it cannot be a complete theocracy because the saints will always be subject to earthly governments in one form or another, though this is not sufficient reason, according to Mark, to postpone the restoration of divine theocracy. Jesus gives parables of farmers sowing fields that summonse to memory the call of God through the prophet Joel:
Swing the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, trample the grapes, for the winepress is full and the vats overflow -- so great is their wickedness!55.
Even though the Kingdom of God has not come to spiritual Israel as a whole -- an as independent, theocratic nation -- it comes to every soul. Judgment has therefore come in the person of Christ, and everyone who hears the Word is to be measured as though this were the end time. For indeed it is -- for each soul who hears the Word, the end time has come, for it is a time of measuring and of reackoning. Jesus is both sower and reaper, the proclaimer and the judge:
If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in His Father's glory with the holy angels56.
At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory57.
Thus we have an apparant paradox. On the one hand the Kingdom of God is to be seen as something that gradually develops over the centuries, being a divine seed implanted in human hearts and in the Church; on the other hand, the Kingdom is immediate and judgment is immediate. The Kingdom is immediately here in the person of Jesus as soon as we are confronted by His Word. The paradox is resolved when one understands that there are two levels of meaning both as far as the Church is concerned and as far as the individual is concerned. For both man and the Church the fullness of the Kingdom is there -- always -- and has simply to be received in faith. Equally, though, man does not bring this true faith to bear, but accepts the Kingdom in bits and pieces, seeks others who have accepted the same bits and pieces that he has, and organises a church around those bits and pieces. Thus the Kingdom of God is revealed in bits and pieces in all kinds of churches, but rarely in its fullness.
This state of affairs is consistent with scriptural prophecy. Human nature being what it is (weak and inconsistent), we would be suprised to find anything else. For this reason many Christians throughout the centuries have acknowledged that the Kingdom was only partially among them, and they therefore looked forward to a time when it would one day be restored in its fullness. This was clearly understood by the church father, Clement of Alexandria, who speaks of the Kingdom of God "coming around the corner", always close but never fully consummated58. So it is with us.
The people of God are God's crop, His harvest, and He is standing in the midst of us as the harvester. In that sense Christ's work is the fulfillment of the prophets; in the sense of earth's history, the seed was sown in the time of the patriarchs and grew during the dispensation of the Jewish people of the Mosaic Law. The harvest began with Jesus's mortal ministry and has been going on to this very day. It has never stopped. This is very much the sense of the message in Isaiah:
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it59.
It is a mistake, therefore, to believe as some Christians do that the Kingdom of God has been absent from the earth at any time since Jesus's proclamation of it in Palestine. Whenever a soul has been touched by God's Word, the Kingdom has drawn close to him and manifested itself in his life. Thus the Kingdom of God becomes incarnated. It would indeed be strange, and a poor reflection on the character of God, quite apart from being wholly inconsistent with the scriptures, if the Kingdom of God were to be absent simply because there was no visible, outward political kingdom or organisation upon the earth. For
God is spiritual: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth60.
Man has a tendency, because he dwells in the flesh, to gravitate towards the flesh. It is not unsurprising, therefore, to find men trying to build the vessel before they have acquired the wine. Many "Christian" Kingdoms have come and gone, showing little or no permanency, because man attempted to create the outer before the inner was prepared. That is why every attempt to build a political or temporal Kingdom of God has met with dismal failure. Whilst the inner essence of the Kingdom of God was present, such outward kingdoms or theocracies flourished, but once the Kingdom (Christ) began to wax cold, they became old, crystalised, outmoded and unendowed. There are many thousands of churches and organisations on the earth today, many claiming to be the Kingdom of God, that are empty shells, lifeless museum pieces, because the Kingdom of God is not in them.
It is no coincidence that amongst Jesus's disciples were two who typified the "outer-first" view of the Kingdom of God. Though none of the apostles was, at first, spiritually-minded, they were headed in the right direction. Both these men were zealots, members of a political party whose aim was the restoration of the Kingdom of David by armed insurrection: the first was "Simon the Zealot" (also called the Canaanite) and the other was "Judas Iscariot" (which also means "assassin" or "zealot")61.
The zealots were formed by a Pharisee rabbi known as Judas of Galilee in A.D. 6 when Rome took direct control of Judaea. It was a highly militant revolutionary group composed of both Pharisees and Essenes. They were not, therefore, a "sect" but a movement whose membership was drawn from a number of sects. By A.D. 44 their activity had so intensified that some sort of armed struggle was inevitable and in A.D. 66 this struggle erupted with a fully organised revolt. It was a futile conflict -- at Caesarea alone 20,000 Jews were massacred by the Romans. Within four years Jerusalem was raised to the ground and the Temple in ruins as Jesus had prophesied62. A mass exodus of Jews from the Holy Land began, followed by one more revolt in A.D. 132. The result was that Emperor Hadrian degreed the explusion of all Jews from Judaea and Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina.
The zealots were true messianists and sought for the High Priest-King Messiah who would supplant the puppet high priests established by Rome in Jerusalem. It is not surprising, then, that zealots should be counted amongst the followers of Jesus. They would have found little comfort, though, in Jesus's teachings of the Kingdom of God which were pacifist and non-political. There have always, though, been "zealots" in Christianity who, like their forbearers, have attempted to establish the Kingdom of God by force. They exist today in many guises and though amongst the majority of Christians wielding literal swords is no longer an accepted means of conquest any more, they wield different kinds of "swords"; any kind of religion that attempts to use coercision without the consent of the people may be said to be our modern equivalent of the Christian "zealot"63. They are typically those who wish to build the political or organisational Kingdom of God before the spiritual, and often do not understand what the spiritual is. Their's is often a very Old Testament attitude of "conquer by the sword" and they not untypically use militaristic language in their portrayal of the Gospel64. In recent times, we have seen the rise of "liberation theology", based in good measure upon a combination of traditional Christianity and secular Marxism, and Christians prepared to take up the gun and kill to combat injustice: these are perhaps the most literal modern equivalents of the zealots of old. Thus that two zealots were represented in the Twelve in Jesus's day is perhaps a reminder that Christian zealots will always be amongst us in various guises; instead of casting them out, though, they should be nourished and taught until they are able to think spiritually. One presumes Simon the Zealot did indeed some to spiritual enlightenment; Judas the Zealot did not, however, and by the same token we should not be surprised to find "Christians" who are not really Christians at all. They are, like Judas, in the end revealed by their works65 They often "run ahead" and "do not continue in the teaching of Christ"66. Like Judas, they become spies, envying the freedom the Gospel brings to God's people, and try to make them slaves67. Thus the zealot becomes an obstacle to, and enemy of, the real Kingdom of God. He seeks to impose it outwardly without having any real comprehension of its substance, its inward reality.
There are some other important observations we must make about Mark's use of the Parable of the Mustard seed in our understanding of the Kingdom of God68. It is no accident that Jesus compares the Kingdom with a little seed. It appears, at first, quite insignificant if ajudged by its size, and yet the seed, once established, is a virtual certainly. Thus size and certainty are contrasted. Herein is another lesson: size is in no way related to its real importance. Most of the greatest Christian enterprises have always started from humble beginnings. The truth worth of the Kingdom of God is not, therefore, determined by, for example, the size of a ministry (in terms of human numbers, for example) but in its quality. In employing the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus highlights the apparent insignificance of preaching:
"...I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there` and it will move. Nothing is impossible for you"69.
"If you have faith as small as this mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you"70.
The mustard seed was proverbial for its smallness -- is it any accident that Jesus likens it to the Kingdom? Yet consider the kind of tree that the mustard seed produces:
Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed71.
The prophet Daniel revealed this particular tree to be King Nebuchadnezzar himself72. The prophet Ezekiel describes Pharaoh, King of Egypt, in the same terms73. Jesus uses exactly the same imagery for the Kingdom of God and we can be fairly certain from the way the imagery is used in Daniel and Ezekiel that the mustard tree is referring to a person. And that person must be CHRIST HIMSELF. By the same token, those who receive the Kingdom and become fruitful become Christ-like themselves, or little replicas of the Kingdom.
Mark's Gospel, as we have seen, is principally aimed at Gentiles, and it should come as no surprise, therefore, to find many Gentile stories in his book. Mark is interested in the Gentiles coming to the Kingdom. He wants to assure them that although they are not a part of the stream of Jewish history and have not, therefore, been partakers of its blessings; and even though it was to the Gentiles that Christ was handed over for crucifixion74, yet the Gospel is available immediately to them -- they don't have to cue up behind the Jews any more. The parable of the harvest would therefore convey this meaning to them easily, showing them that the Kingdom is relevent to the immediate present -- their immediate present.
The Gentile Christians must have felt extremely disadvantaged when compared against their Jewish brethren though occasionally they had to be warned by Paul not to become too self-conceited and to remember that without the Jews they would not have the Gospel75. So here Mark tells them that they, too, are a part of the harvest -- Jesus has come to them too; the seed has also been planted in them but in a different way, with the law written in their hearts by a good conscience76.
Thus the Kingdom has fully come for Jew and Gentile. Yet how would this concept of an "immediately available" Kingdom have been understood by them when confronted with a parable of a growing seed illustrating slow and gradual development? The answer to this apparent contradiction must surely lie not in the mustard seed itself but what happens to the mustard seed. The Gentile is supposed to see the mustard seed and contrast this with the fully grown mustard treee: he is supposed, in this parable, to see a vision of the Kingdom of God. He is supposed to see what he can become. The seed is God's free gift in Christ -- the grace of God. His "works" are to prepare the soil of his heart and nourish it diligently. He is to make himself receptive to the Word, compliant in obedience, and faithful in the final consummation. God does the rest.
That first vision of the Kingdom is most important. And there are two parts of it: First, seeing what the Kingdom is -- its glory and perfection; and, Secondly, seeing the immediate reality of one's own condition. To this must be added FAITH -- the substance of what is hoped for, and the unseen evidence of the Kingdom in daily experience77 -- the faith to bridge the gap between the vision of the future and the reality of the present.
The beginnings of discipleship in Christ are very small, as small as a mustard seed; yet because of the potential of the mustard seed -- because infinity is hidden within it, that smallness is really greatness78. Mark is therefore also witnessing to the fact that where things look the weakest and most improbable, God is there at work. It is a matter of our perception and response (and thus our faith). Thus Jesus says:
"Consider carefully what you hear," He continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you -- and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him"79.
A person who judges or measures the mustard seed (the Kingdom) as being nothing will not receive it, and will eventually loose everything. But the person who estimates the humble mustard seed to be what it can become, will receive everything that it becomes! Paul conveyed the same spiritual truth when he declared:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself80.
Paul knew that the Kingdom of God was in every individual and it was simply a matter of recognising it and allowing it to take root in the human soul. The same principle was conveyed by Jesus in the Parable of the Talents81 where the Kingdom is likened to a financial investment. If we do not invest our faith in it, and our efforts towards promoting it, then we must eventually loose what we had. Faith must be cultivated and multiplied because it is faith that sustains and nourishes the human soul; it is our faith in Christ that brings the Kingdom of God to us and transforms us.
The Kingdom of God is freely given, but it must be received, planted, and allowed to transform the soul. Such is not a simple process -- the steps between the planting of a seed and its growth to glory as a full tree are, as any Botanist will tell you, extremely complicated. And along the way there are many kinds of dangers which Jesus illustrates in many diverse parables. Becoming the Kingdom is thus to be seen as a process of salvation and/or sanctification and a man, having seen a vision of the Kingdom, will not want to rest until he has witnessed that flowering in his own life.
The one in whom the Kingdom of God has taken root and is growing is characterised by many qualities best personified in the greatest sermon of all, the Sermon on the Mount, which is fittingly called by some the "Temple of Truth" (see following diagram). In this masterful sermon, Jesus first enumerates the eight progressive steps by which men and women reach the higher altitudes of spiritual life. He then goes on to expound the fundamental truths of the Kingdom of God. The diagram illustrates Jesus's matchless teachings under the figure of the Temple of Truth and the steps leading up to it. The windows represent the order in which He presented His great doctrinal principles.
Can a man witness the coming of the fullness of the Kingdom of God in his life while he lives? Jesus answers in the affirmative though His words do suggest that not many:
"...I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power"82.
This one passage has generated tremendous controversy in Christendom with many people erroneously concluding that Jesus made a false prophecy. Yet the Saviour was quite adament -- He said, "I tell you the truth", in other words, with the authority of God.
But why has there been controversy? What have theologians disputed over? It has been wrongly assumed that Jesus was talking about the
Millennium in this passage, the political Theocracy that is to come to the earth during the thousand years of peace when Christ returns the second time, His Second Advent. To understand Jesus's meaning it is important to see how Mark puts this saying in context for immediately after this prophecy comes the Transfiguration Story83. Here Jesus demonstrates to three select apostles Peter, James, and John, who are to become the leaders of the Church after He has ascended into heaven, just what the Kingdom of God is. They see for themselves just what the power of the Kingdom is, and they see what will come to fruition in their lives if they remain true and faithful.
In its most direct sense, Mark 9:1 is fulfilled in Mark 9:2-13; three of those who were standing before Him when Jesus spoke His words in Mark 9:1 did indeed live (not taste death) to "see the Kingdom of God come with power". And it is perfectly logical and consistent to argue that many others saw the Kingdom of God coming in power at the Day of Pentecost84 (albeit in a different way) and in the subsequent miraculous events of the ministry of the first Christians recorded in the New Testament. Why make the interpretation any more complicated than that?
Some have concluded that "taste death" is a reference to "spiritual death":
"...I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps My Word, he will never see death"85.
"...I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?"86.
The problem with this line of agument is this: how can you suffer from spiritual death once you have been preserved from it? It makes more sense to take Mark 9:1 literally for he, unlike John, selects the more direct, readily comprehensible sayings of Jesus.
The proponents of the "spiritual death" theory further argue that the "standing here" is not to be understood literally but is a non-spatial conflation meaning "in this regard". Others say that the saying is not meant to be taken too literally but was given by Jesus simply to underscrore the urgency of repenting and gettting one's life in order, to simply to encourage the weak in the faith. But this smells too much of deception, of "the ends justifying the means" even if it means lying or exaggerating here or there. Such a notion may find its actuality in certain zealous Christians who feel that a little use of short-term darkness justifies the long-term goal of light but it is certainly completely out of harmony with the morality of every other teaching of Jesus. The proponents of "divine deception" will not find comfort in the New Testament.
Yet another group of commentators believe that Mark 9:1 is a prophetic reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and cite Mark 13. Others believe the coming of the Kingdom will be at the end of the world. And others, doubting Christ's prophetic gift, attribute the statement to misplaced optimism. There are many other "explanations" but few, if any, take into account the context.
The context suggests that Mark 9:1 is a reference to the Transfiguration and perhaps as a prophetic anticipation of the resurrection, since Moses and Elijah were present with Christ. In seeing the shining forth of Jesus's glory, the three apostles were given a glimpse of what was to come. Again Mark hammers home the message that the vision of such things is only for the few -- for those who have the faith to "move mountains". For most people, the Kingdom of God would remain an incomprehensible mystery -- an enigma -- and therefore would find it totally inaccesssible to them. The Transfiguration, whilst it might have been seen by hundreds of disciples, was in actuality seen by only three. Many hundreds saw the resurrected Lord, but only three were allowed to see the Transfiguration. Why?
When Jesus appeared as a resurrected Being before His disciples after His crucifixion, He did not appear as a Being of Glory but was as an ordinary man. This does not mean that He was not a Being of Glory, but merely that He concealed it, as God did when He wrestled with Jacob at Peniel87. To see the resurrected Lord was marvelous indeed, but to see His Glory is quite something else. Those who saw, touched and conversed with the resurrected Jesus certainly were shown something of the resurrection, but they did not behold its glory. That privilege was reserved for Peter, James, and John alone on the mount, and for John when He saw Christ on Patmos88. Many have since seen the glory of the Lord as well as Heaven. To these a sacred mystery is entrusted.
The next reference to the Kingdom of God in the Gosepl of Mark is eschatological, referring to the "end time":
"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where `there worm does not die, and the fire is not quenches'"89.
One has to be careful with this passage as it, and others like it, have been used by some to promote a Dante-like doctrine of "hell fire". The word for "hell" in this passage is "Gehenna" and is a reference to a rubbish dump in a valley on the outskirts of Jerusalem where the city's refuse was burned. It was constantly ablaze. Anciently, it had been the site in pagan days where infants were murdered and offered by burning to the god Molech. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah saying:
The people of Judah have done evil in My eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears My Name and have defiled it. They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire...90.
Thus Gehenna became the standard image of hell. The cutting off of hands and legs, and the plucking out of eyes is, of course, to be seen in the same light. It was not a Palestinian custom to speak abstractly. Thus if someone stole something, a Jew would not speak of the crime of "theft" but of the member of the body responsible for the crime. It is inconsistent with Jesus's other teachings to suppose that the cutting off of a hand would cure a person of the impulse to thieve; rather, Jesus is saying that the spirit of theft is what must be cut off together with all the ill-gotten gains of that profession.
These strong words are supposed to convey the sense that drastic action needs to be taken to avoid sin and qualify for entry into the Kingdom of God. Token repentance is not enough but a complete change in life, comparable to the "shock" of having a limb amputated or having an eye gauged out. The price for entrance into the Kingdom is therefore high for sinners, and the consequences of failing to pay that price as terrifying as being thrown into the burning rubbish tip at Gehenna where in the past the idolatrous Jews sacrificed their children to the heathen Molech.
Mark 9:47 is intended to shock. The reader has been given a picture of all the wonderful benefits of the Kingdom -- now he must understand the cost of discipleship. As the mustard seed must die before it can grow into the glorious Kingdom Tree, so too much a man's sinful ways, and by drastic methods if necessary. To withdraw out of fear of what must be sacrificed of the old life of sin in order to enter the Kingdom is, Mark reminds us, to be ashamed of Christ. And to be ashamed of Christ is to risk being turned away from Heaven when his hour comes91.
Having thus warned the people of the consequences of not changing direction in life when the Kingdom (Christ) comes close, Mark relates an incident where Jesus parabolically explains the way into the Kingdom:
People were bringing their little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.' And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them92.
This passage has traditionally been interpreted to mean that the Kingdom of God belongs to the pure and innocent, to the unselfconscious and receptive. Whilst all of this is perfectly true, and must be underscored, it means more, for it is a living parable of justification by grace, of coming into right relationship with God. Whereas disciples might be tempted to judge others and say they are unworthy of the Kingdom, God often sees a different perspective, because human judgment is imperfect. God alone can see into the human heart, and therefore God alone can judge a person fit for the Kingdom. Noone must be prevented from coming to Christ. Commentators often ommit to mention that it was not the children Jesus's disciples were trying to stop but the people who were bringing their children. The disciples were trying to stop the parents from bringing their children to be blessed. It was the parents the disciples rebuked, not the children. A parent who wants his children blessed does so out of the purest motives, because they love their children, even if in all other respects they may be selfish. The worst criminal can be softened by a child. In so sending their children to be blessed, a parent is infact presenting the pure and selfless part of his soul to Christ for blessing. This God can never turn away. It is this Christ-like nature that gains automatic access to the Kingdom of God. Thus while the story does indeed refer to the qualities of children it is also referring to a special quality of parenthood.
We see, as we look back at the various Marcan references to the Kingdom, that the Kingdom of God is both entered into and received. It is both a sphere (the Church) as well as a relational gift (Christ Himself, perhaps through the Holy Spirit). The Kingdom is in Christ to Whom the people it belongs to come. In this sense they are a single entity by common identification and possession -- the Church. Moreover, this Church is not "given" by men but by Christ Himself by entering into faith with Him. Jesus is the hub of the wheel, the spokes the believers, and the Church the ring that links the spokes together on the outside. This picture is, admittedly, an over-simplification and requires expansion elsewhere, but forms a convenient model of Mark's teaching on the Kingdom.
Having assured his readers that the qualifications for entry into the Kingdom are really quite simple, and having previously painted a vivid picture of hell, Mark then selects another Kingdom reference to warn us not to get too complacent:
"...How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is (for those who trust in riches) to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who, then, can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God"93.
Why were the disciples so amazed? Why were riches a barrier to entrance into the Kingdom of God? The disciples had been brought up on the Law of Moses which taught that wealth was not a bad thing provided it was not used selfishly but was shared with the needy on a voluntary basis, something the rich man who questioned Jesus had failed to do, and would not do94. The possession of wealth, the Hebrews believed, permitted the giving of generous gifts, and that it was a blessing to be able to do good works with one's riches. But the disciples have not understood. For Jesus has a deeper spiritual meaning which the disciples are finding hard to discern. As with the small children, He is emphasising the importance of justification by faith, and not the accumulation of good works. The rich man had done many good works in his life and by Jewish standards was a righteous man. But Jesus found him lacking, for his good works had made him proud. His wealth had caused him to fall into temptation by giving him a false sense of security. For many Christians the cheque book is a barrier to the Kingdom of God, because they love money more than God95. And they need not be particularly rich either. Money becomes a substitute God when people trust in it more than in God's providence. The rich young ruler tried to justify himself by all his good works but the bottom line was that he had more confidence in money than in God. It may not be money. But whatever it is, the Kingdom of God cannot be entered into unless one's complete faith and confidence is given to God's provision.
Note the contrast between "it is IMPOSSIBLE for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom" and "ALL things are POSSIBLE with God". It is impossible to trust in anything or anyone on this earth for salvation but in the Lord nothing is impossible. It is again grace that saves and not the works of the flesh.
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God"96.
The background of this statement concerns a teacher of the law who asked Jesus what the most important commandment of the Law of Moses was. Jesus's reply was:
"The most important one..is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength'97. The second is like this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself'98. There is no commandment greater than these"99.
The teacher commended Jesus and was in full agreement with Him, adding that these commandments were more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices100.
What was it about this teacher of the law which qualified him to draw near to the Kingdom of God? And what does Jesus mean by "not far" from the Kingdom?
The term "not far" is called a "special locative reference" and is used in several places in the scriptures101. One of the most helpful usages is in Ephesians 2:13 where it is used in a similar vein:
But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ102.
The teacher of the law was almost ready for the Kingdom because of his spiritual sensitivity but needed to take one more step towards actually entering it, namely, accepting Jesus as the Messiah. In the same way as the Ephesian Gentiles had been brought near to Christ by His atonement, they had but one step further to go in order to be saved, namely to accept Jesus as the Christ. Spiritual sensitivity is good and brings a person near to the Kingdom, but to enter in he must unreservedly accept Jesus as his Saviour and subject himself to the Way.
"This is My blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for many.....I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the Kingdom of God"103.
The reference here would appear to be a purely physical one, a looking forward on the part of Jesus to the establishment of the physical Kingdom of God on the earth, the millennial theocracy. On many occasions after His resurrection Christ partook of bread and fish, but it seems He did not partake of the fruit of the vine. Why? Why should it be necessary for Him to fast from wine?
The answer may perhaps be partly found in a pseudepigraphic book called The Book of Enoch which was held in high regard by the Jews of Jesus's day104:
And the Lord of Spirits will abide over them, and with that Son of Man shall they eat, and lie down and rise up for ever and ever105.
This can be directly compared with Paul:
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes106.
Christ is perhaps "fasting" from wine to intercede for His people and for those who have rejected Him107.
The last reference to the Kingdom of God is almost incidental:
So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the Kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus's body108.
This study of the Kingdom of God in Mark does not attempt to be exhaustive but to give an overview of what the Kingdom of God is from the Marcan perspective. For Mark, the Kingdom of God is a fulfilment of prophecy109. It calls for faith and repentance -- an acceptance of Jesus as Messiah and a learning to accept justification through faith. It witnessess of the suffering of Christ110 and calls upon the disciples to take up their crosses and be willing to suffer also111. It is a testimony of the sovereignty of God112 for the seed of the Kingdom grows by God's soverignty and not man's. Finally, the fullness of the Kingdom of God is a great secret that only the elect may know113.
What is that secret?
In (the last days)..."the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken114." At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens"115.
1 Acts 12:12
2 Colossians 4:10
3 Acts 4:36
4 Acts 12:25
5 Acts 13:13
6 Acts 39
7 2 Timothy 4:12
8 John 14:9
9 King James (Authorised) Version
10 Acts 2
11 Mark 11:15-19
12 Jeremiah 13:1-11
13 Ezekiel 4:1-17
14 Mark 1:15; 4:11,26,30; 9:1,47; 10:14-15,23-25; 12:23; 14:25; 15:43
15 Mark 1:14-15, RSV
16 Mark 9:30-32, RSV
17 Mark 10:33-34, RSV
18 Mark 14:21, RSV. This passage is a very clear statement of the verity of a spiritual pre-earth life (pre-existence). How could it be better for someone who is not born if there is no pre-mortal existence? The alternative explanation, that non-existence would have been better than for Judas to have carried his burden of guilt for eternity, really has no meaning, since there is no way that which is experienced can be compared with that which precludes any experience. When, for example, a parent says to its child: "It would have been better if you had stayed at home then you wouldn't have got into trouble", it is clear that there was a time and consciousness before the troublesome event. Similarly, Jesus is telling Judas that it would have been better for him if he had never been incarnated in this world, implying a conscious existance before birth.
19 John 14:16,18,26; 15:26; 16:7. The "comforter" or "paraclete" is literally "the one who walks alongside". In Acts 9:31 Luke speaks of the "comforting (Gk.paraklÚsis) of the Holy Spirit" which means the "exhortation or encouragement of the Holy Spirit". Thus the "Comforter" refers to a particular aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and is not a separate Being or power from the Holy Spirit itself. Therefore the Holy Spirit "walks beside us" invisibly today as Christ walked visibly beside His disciples in His earthly ministry
20 Luke 7:28
21 The relationship between the Zadokian, Enochian and Patriarchal Priesthood Ordders is immediately apparent
22 In this connection, see Mark 9:12-13: Elijah does come first to restore all things; and how is it written of the Son of Man, that He should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.
23 Isaiah 43, RSV
24 Malachi 3:1, RSV
25 Mark 1:4, RSV
26 Luke 15:11-32; E&MS 33:2-11, Special Spring 1991 Issue, "Ruin and Reconcilliation"
27 Mark 4:11, RSV
28 Mark 10:15-16, RSV
29 Mark 9:1, RSV
30 Footnote 28
31 Footnote 27
32 Mark 4:26-29, NIV
33 Mark 4:30-32, NIV
34 Matthew 5:48, NIV
35 Luke 13:32, KJV
36 John 17:20-23, RSV
37 Hebrews 6:1, KJV
38 Mark 4:11-12, RSV
39 Matthew 6:18, RSV (with KJV clarification)
40 Matthew 13:35, RSV (with KJV clarification); Psalm 78:2
41 Matthew 24:26, KJV
42 Mark 4:22, NIV; also see Luke 8:17; John 7:4
43 John 18:20, NIV
44 Matthew 7:6, KJV
45 Isaiah 6:9-10, RSV
46 Mark 3:20-28. For perdition, see John 17:12; Philippians 1:28; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 2:3; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8,11
47 Mark 11:28-33
48 Luke 17:21, NIV; the RSV says the Kingdom is "in the midst of you"
49 Mark 2:21-22, NIV
50 Isaiah 28:10, AV
51 Isaiah 28:24-26, NIV; also see vv.27-29
52 Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV
53 Matthew 13:14-15, NIV; cp. Isaiah 6:9-10
54 Mark 4:3ff
55 Joel 3:13, NIV
56 Mark 8:38, NIV
57 Mark 13:26, NIV
58 1 Clement 23:3-4
59 Isaiah 55:10-11, NIV; also read vv.12-13
60 John 4:24, author's translation
61 Mark 3:18
62 Mark 13:2
63 This word has, unfortunately, assumed a different meaning in our day, and can refer to anyone who is overly enthusiastic about something
64 This is not to say that militaristic language is inappropriate but like all things it is a question of emphasis or balance
65 Matthew 7:16,20
66 2 John 1:9, NIV
67 Galatians 2:4
68 Mark 4:30-32
69 Matthew 17:20-21, NIV
70 Luke 17:6, NIV; this tree has very deep roots
71 Daniel 4:12, NIV
72 Daniel 4:20-22
73 Ezekiel 31:6
74 Mark 10:33
75 See Romans 3, for example
76 Romans 2:15
77 Hebrews 11:1
78 Matthew 13:32 cp. Luke 9:48
79 Mark 4:24-25
80 Philippians 2:3, NIV
81 Matthew 25:14-30
82 Mark 9:1, NIV
83 Mark 9:2-13
84 Acts 2
85 John 8:51, NIV
86 John 11:25-26, NIV
87 Genesis 32:24-30
88 Revelation 1:12-18
89 Mark 9:43-48, NIV
90 Jeremiah 7:30-31, NIVBR>91 Mark 8:34-38
92 Mark 10:13-16, NIV; cp. Mark 9:35-37
93 Mark 10:23-27, NIV
94 Mark 10:17-22
95 1 Timothy 6:10
96 Mark 12:34, NIV
97 Deuteronomy 6:4-5
98 Leviticus 19:18
99 Mark 12:29-31, NIV
100 Mark 12:32-33
101 Luke 7:6; Acts 17:26
102 Ephesians 2:13, NIV
103 Mark 14:25, NIV
104 Other pseudepigraphic and apocryphal books are quoted in the Bible, such as the Assumption of Moses in Jude 1:9,16,18 and the Wisdom of Jesus the son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) in James 1:5-6.
105 Enoch 62:14, R.H.Charles translation
106 1 Corinthians 11:26, NIV
107 Mark 9:29
108 Mark 15:43, NIV; cp. Luke 2:25,38; Matthew 27:57; John 19:38
109 Malachi 3:1
110 Mark 14:25
111 Mark 8:34; 10:21
112 Mark 1:14-15
113 Mark 13:27
114 Isaiah 13:10; 34:4
115 Mark 13:24-27, NIV