Prophecy in the Old Testament spoke of blessings to Israel and to Gentiles of a kingdom purely of righteousness.
DAN 7:13 "I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
DAN 7:14 "And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.
“The longing after deliverance, and after the full appearance of divine salvation and the divine rest, pervades the whole history of the Israelites … and this longing more or less prevails in the predictions of all the prophets, and forms the horizon to which every glance is directed.” [Bleek]
That the Jews did, for many centuries, look for a great King to arise in the line of David, who should establish a perfect kingdom of God upon earth, is beyond dispute.
Differences of opinion might exist regarding the time of His coming, or the signs of it, or the nature of His person, or the characteristics of His kingdom, but no Jew doubted that the Messiah would come and reign on earth.
LUK 2:25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
LUK 2:26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
LUK 2:27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law,
LUK 2:28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
LUK 2:29 "Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart
In peace, according to Thy word;
LUK 2:30 For my eyes have seen Thy salvation,
LUK 2:31 Which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
LUK 2:32 A light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Thy people Israel."
LUK 2:33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.
LUK 2:34 And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed —
LUK 2:35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul — to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
When the Magi came to Jerusalem the chief priests and scribes revealed their expectation of “the Christ” being born in Bethlehem.
Even the Samaritan woman who had five husbands was expectant of a Messiah.
In the glow of the early monarchy of Israel, under David and Solomon, the kingdom of Israel seemed enough at the time and occupied the people with its power and glory, but as the kingdom rapidly declined, the nation split between north and south, the growing corruption in all its ranks, the people began to long for that promised kingdom of glory. That longing was never really lost in Israel, though they didn’t all wait for it in the righteous fashion that Simeon did.
The earliest prophets - Elijah, Joel, and Amos - have nothing to say of the ideal kingdom or its Ruler. But in the middle of the 8th century, Micah and Isaiah - such allusions are frequent.
Elijah, Joes, and Amos speak of deliverances from present distresses, and they admonish the people regarding the causes of these destresses, but the name and work of the Messiah are not once alluded to.
For certain reasons, partly due to human nature, prophetic writings have not received from the ordinary Bible reader the attention they deserve. I think that it is for the same reason that most people don’t like poetry outside of a catchy advertising jingle.
The writings of the prophets can be unintelligible the first time through. They are full of rapid transitions, obscure allusions, and highly imaginative representations. The reader gets irritated and demands that the lines be simpler so as to make complete sense the first time he reads them.
ISA 18:1 Alas, oh land of whirring wings [Egypt or busy world?]
Which lies beyond the rivers of Cush,
ISA 18:2 Which sends envoys by the sea,
Even in papyrus vessels on the surface of the waters.
Go, swift messengers, to a nation tall and smooth [Ethiopians or “long standing and fighting trim”?],
To a people feared far and wide,
A powerful and oppressive nation
Whose land the rivers divide.
ISA 18:3 All you inhabitants of the world and dwellers on earth,
As soon as a standard is raised on the mountains, you will see it,
And as soon as the trumpet is blown, you will hear it.
Why would the messengers of this land tell the world of God’s standard? (likely that this is what Isaiah would want them to say)
Is God hiding it? In a way, I think, yes. What comes easy to us we devour without care. God has said that we should search for Him with all of our hearts. One of the most fun things to do as a child is a treasure hunt, even an Easter egg hunt. What if you set off on an Easter egg hunt, left the front door of your house and there piled on the porch right in front of you were all of the Easter eggs? Would Raiders of the Lost Ark have been a hit if Indiana Jones found the ark in the first place he jabbed his shovel? Though, I wouldn’t say that God is trying to give us the thrill of adventure by making understanding prophecy a work of patience. I think He is asking us to be patient because the discovery is so wonderful, and therefore asking us if we think what we will find is wonderful, and so are we willing to be patient.
Without patience we desire quick and easy answers and this often leads us to the realm of human reasoning and conjecture and we develop false doctrines. This we must not do.
Discovery in the word of God demands patience, for without it the student loses much of what is important and stirring in the word of God, and for this he must blame himself and not the writers or the prophets.
There is a scope and fulfillment of all prophecy as a whole. As difficult as it can be at times to make sense of individual prophecies, we have the entire mass of them as one shining light pointing to a coming King and His kingdom. That is not difficult to understand.
It is up to us each to sort them out over time.
To us will unfold the wonderful decree of God that has revealed the King, and which is more than predictions of events alone. It is the unfolding of God’s goodness and mercy to mankind.
The phenomenon we have to account for is that of a series of men, each claiming to be God’s messenger, and certainly speaking the truth of God, each adding to what his predecessors had uttered, and all agreeing in predicting an end and consummation so strange that their words were neither wholly understood nor believed, and which yet was eventually realized, and when realized proved to be the most important epoch in the history of our race.
So it is with the ministry of John the Baptist. In preparing Israel for the King and kingdom that is at hand, it is important that we go through it many times in order for each of us to understand.
So, with John’s preparation, it should be clear to all who heard that they were all unfit, and that the Son of God would have to take away their sins - cleanse them.
But not all accepted this.
MAT 21:23 And when He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?"
This is Jesus’ final week. He has cast the money-changers and merchants out of the Temple. He has healed many who came to Him in and around the Temple. The children have praised Him.
MAT 21:24 And Jesus answered and said to them, "I will ask you one thing too, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.
MAT 21:25 "The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Then why did you not believe him?'
MAT 21:26 "But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude; for they all hold John to be a prophet."
MAT 21:27 And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." He also said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
MAT 21:28 "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go work today in the vineyard.'
MAT 21:29 "And he answered and said, 'I will, sir'; and he did not go.
MAT 21:30 "And he came to the second and said the same thing. But he answered and said, 'I will not'; yet he afterward regretted it and went.
MAT 21:31 "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The latter." Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you that the tax-gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you.
MAT 21:32 "For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax-gatherers and harlots did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.
What does the kingdom of God consist of? Is it a bunch of pretty people in a perfect environment with no more war or sin? I suppose that’s part of it. But it is much more.
It was not for a gradual development into a more spiritual worship that the prophets looked. Their gaze was to an end time or end of days. They expected not a religious reformation but a renovation, the fulfilment of their prophetic idea, the Messiah and His kingdom. However, the prophets did not know the manner or the time of their fulfillment.
PHI 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
PHI 4:9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.
Jesus said to the Pharisees that when the tax-collectors and harlots believed in John and turned to that which was honorable and right, the Law, they did not feel any remorse so as to believe also.
The kingdom of God is full of divine love, unity, peace, righteousness, goodness, faithfulness, and all other divine virtue.
The end goal of our salvation is not only eternity in paradise, though yet it is, if we understand what makes up paradise. Heaven is the abode of God, meaning it is filled with His glory. It is filled with that which is good, honorable, lovely, pure, excellent, righteous, which are not things that refer to existing, but to doing or living outwardly from that which is inwardly divine. It is simply living like Christ.
The mystery - Christ, Christ in you, and a perfect brotherhood - has been given in this age so that the kingdom of God may be in us and in our fellowships.
And all of it under grace, meaning that the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world is the One who has done it all. All sin is forgiven. Even when I fall, I do not lose my position in God’s kingdom. I am a sinner. I openly confess it, not per se as John had Israel do so, that was unique to their preparation for the Messiah, but I do not hide the fact or try to hide the fact that I’m a sinner, either from God or from people when need be. Because we are forgiven and cleansed, we have the courage to live without self-condemnation. Therefore, we live in this wonderful kingdom of God, though we still commit personal sin.
By grace God has empowered us through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to live holy lives worthy of the kingdom of God.
The mystery - this spiritual life would be in operation without the earthly kingdom of Israel or the King on David’s throne, but that the King would be fully revealed, dwell in His people, and unite them in love.