The Encourager

The Encourager

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A Kingdom Made Without Hands

Saturday, July 31, 2021

A Kingdom Made Without Hands

by Jeff Curtis

 

After Daniel had described the four kingdoms made with hands – that is, with physical military might – he then describes a fifth kingdom made “without hands” (Daniel 2:44-45). It would become a reality in the “latter” or “last days” (Daniel 2:28). While Rome, the icon kingdom, was very much in control, Jesus built on Daniel’s teaching, announcing, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).

 

The establishment of the kingdom that Daniel had prophesied about was, in fact, so close “at hand” that Jesus said some bystanders would live to see the kingdom of God “come with power” (Mark 9:1). That power came on the day of Pentecost, about 30 A.D., in the city of Jerusalem (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4).

 

On that day, for the first time, came the announcement that Jesus had gone to heaven to be seated on David’s throne (Acts 2:30). That throne had become spiritual, a kingdom made “without hands,” is not of this world (John 18:36).

 

Distinct even from David’s kingdom, Jesus’ kingdom is invisible, “within” its citizens (Luke 17:21). Essentially, it is in no way external, but wholly inward, a kingdom of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

 

At the very moment penitent believers in Jesus are “buried with Him in baptism” (Colossians 2:12), they are “transferred” into “the kingdom of God’s beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). Their “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), but they are recognized in this world as “God’s family” (1Timothy 3:15), called “the church of the living God” (1Timothy 3:15).

 

The church is the fruition of the “eternal purpose” of “the only wise God, through Jesus Christ,” the realization of “things into which angels long to look” (Ephesians 3:10; Romans 16:27; 1Peter 1:12). It is glory to Him and joy to the angels when they look down from heaven and see lost sinners born again and saved, being added to the Lord’s people, the church (Ephesians 3:21; Luke 15:10; Acts 2:47).

 

A British historian understood Daniel’s iron age to refer to Rome:

The arms of the republic, sometimes vanquished in battle, always in war, advanced with rapid steps to the Euphrates, the Danube, the Rhine, and the Ocean; and the images of gold, or silver, or brass, that might serve to represent the nations and their kings, were successively broken by the iron monarchy of Rome.

 

Isaiah and Micah had preceded Daniel in writing that “the mountain of the house of the Lord” would become a reality in the “last days” (Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1). Their prediction coincided with Daniel’s announcement that a stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” would become “a great mountain” and would fill “the whole earth,” and that this would occur in the “latter days” (Daniel 2:28, 35, 45).

 

The phrase “latter” or “last” days has become a description of the time span of Christianity. Peter quoted Joel as saying that what happened on the day of Pentecost (when the kingdom, the church, was established) was in “the last days (Acts 2:17). Later, Peter wrote that what Jesus did on this earth was “in the last times” (1Peter 1:20).

 

Also, the inspired author of the book of Hebrews wrote that “in these last days” God speaks to us by “His Son” (Hebrews 1:2). If he meant the days of Judaism, up to AD 70, after the “last days.” Obviously, he was referring to the Christian dispensation.

 

The fifth kingdom spoken of by Daniel is unique. (1) It was made without hands; (2) it was established and maintained without military force; and (3) it is invisible. Also, (4) it is indestructible. Even “the gates of Hades” cannot prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). So, really, Christians have received a kingdom that “cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28). It is established “with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:7). God has determined that “it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 244).

Feeding the Five Thousand

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Feeding the Five Thousand

by Jeff Curtis

 

Some people think the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand are two accounts of the same story that was somehow corrupted. A close study of the two miracles will show this to be untrue.

  1. Different Occasions. While we can’t be sure how time had elapsed between the two events, they were definitely separate occasions. When warning His disciples about “the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” Jesus clearly distinguished the two events (Matthew 19:9-10).
  2. Different Locations. The feeding of the five thousand took place near Bethsaida (Luke 9:10) and involved mostly Jews from Decapolis probably involved non-Jews.
  3. Different durations of time. The five thousand had been with Jesus one day (Matthew 14:15, 23), while the four thousand had been with Him for three days (Matthew 15:32).
  4. Different Amounts of Food. Jesus worked the first miracle with five barley loaves and two fish (John 6:9). Before the second miracle, seven loaves and few small fish were found (Matthew 15:34). Also, we see a difference in the amount of food retrieved after all had eaten. After the first miracle. Twelve small baskets of food were retrieved, (Matthew 14:20); but after the second miracle, seven large baskets were gathered (Matthew 15:37.

 

The books of Matthew and Mark feature both miracles. Why would the writers have recorded the same incident twice? Since they were guided by the Holy Spirit, they wrote the truth about each of these miracles.

 

What should we do? What can we learn from Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand? Here are four good lessons. (1) We must use what we have. Five loaves and two fish were not much for a multitude of people, but Jesus used His meager supply to perform His most recognizable miracle. (2) We must be willing to give what we have to offer. Andrew wondered how so little could feed so many. God can provide for any need. When we think we have nothing, God may be planning something. Faith is being able to see the invisible, believe the incredible, and receive the impossible. (3) We must obey the Lord’s commands even if we don’t understand them. Considering the amount of food available, the disciples must have thought it strange when Jesus told them to have the people to sit down on the ground. What seems impossible becomes possible with God. (4) We shouldn’t waste our blessings. All the leftovers were collected. Nothing was thrown away. If our Lord considered it necessary to conserve, shouldn’t we do the same?

 

 

The Many Sides of Jesus

author unknown

 

Jesus challenges the attention of this world by His many-sidedness. He meets the needs of all classes and conditions of men. As deep answers unto deep, so does He respond to the movings of each soul of men. Ask the worker of this world, “What think ye of Christ?” Their answers amaze us:

To the artist, He is the One altogether lovely.

To the astronomer, He is the Sun of Righteousness.

To the baker, He is the Living Bread.

To the biologist, He is Life.

To the builder, He is the Sure Foundation.

To the carpenter, He is the Door.

To the doctor, He is the Great Physician.

To the educator, He is the Great Teacher.

To the farmer, He is the Sower.

To the florist, He is the Rose of Sharon.

To the geologist, He is the Rock of Ages.

To the philanthropist, He is the Unspeakable Gift.

To the servant, He is the Good Master.

Who is He to you?

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