"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.X No.VIII Pg.1-6
August 1948

The Kingdom Before And After The Cross

Early Arceneaux

Error feeds and fattens on ignorance of the Bible, while there is a Bible knowledge that is in the reach of everybody. But, to be familiar with the contents of the Bible, people have to read it. To understand it they have to read it with attention. Attention is the stuff memory is made out of. I trust that we don't have the same definition for memory that a boy in school did, when on written examination in answer to the question, "what is your memory"? he wrote: "The thing that I forget with." A great many people in this world have that kind of memory for what they read in the Bible. We are too much concerned often about finding some peculiar meaning in what the Bible says, instead of finding out what it says and believing that. I know of nothing more important than that and the emphasis that we ought to put on it now.

Every once in a while, (I am almost too modest to quote this) every once in a while somebody says, "you shoot over the heads of the people." Well, I think that is a compliment to me, but not much of a compliment to the people. Once, in West Texas, a few years ago, a man complained that he couldn't understand what I was talking about. This critic wasn't a member of the church. One of the brethren said to him, "You are the first man I ever heard of who said that about Early Arceneaux. I thought that was usually the trouble, they knew exactly what he was talking about." That was what was the matter with him. It wasn't that he couldn't understand what I was talking about; he understood too well. He didn't like it; it didn't suit him. Sometimes people say, "It was mighty plain." I say, "Yes, that is the most offensive thing about it." Some preachers never give offense, and I'll tell you how to accomplish that, if that is what you wish to know. Nobody will ever take offense before they find out what you are talking about. If they never find out, nobody will ever get offended at anything you preach. Men don't give offense because people don't find out what they are talking about.

Tonight I wish to give you a general survey of what the New Testament says on the subject, "what was true before the death of Christ and what is true since his death." The contrast, the sharp contrast, clearly stated in the New Testament on that matter is not a matter of deep preaching. The things that I shall give you tonight are not deep, you don't have to dig after them, you rake them off the surface as you read. They stick up like pot legs. People read the book through and don't know what it says. That's what is the matter with the world religiously, not the difficulty of understanding what the Bible says, but the failure to pay attention to what it says.

In the very opening chapters of the New Testament, we read, Matt. 3:2, "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." That kingdom had been the subject of Old Testament prophecy. Now John says it was closer, nearer the establishment of it, and he said the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Note, as we pass along that where Matthew said "kingdom of heaven," Mark says "kingdom of God," and Luke says "kingdom of God;" so, of course, kingdom of heaven in Matthew and kingdom of God in Mark and Luke mean the same thing, because they are quoting the same preacher. Jesus said "kingdom of heaven is at hand." I'll not make an argument on that now, simply direct attention to the fact that God had Jesus and the twelve back there preaching "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Now come on this side of the cross and hunt for "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." No matter what it means right now, before his death they said "kingdom of heaven is at hand," but after his death, nobody ever said that. Why didn't they keep on saying it if the situation is the same that it was then? But they didn't. At least, it is not on record that anybody said it was at hand after the death of Christ. Some say they quit it long before his death. We will find out about that before we are through tonight. It isn't so, but there is a difference between the proclamation concerning the kingdom before the death of Jesus and thereafter. At hand, back there, and a blank space after his death, whatever it means.

Now, another point, John the Baptist said, "the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus said it is "at hand." Some people say it was established when Jesus ordained the apostles. All right, 'now look: John the Baptist and Jesus pointed out to the future when they said "at hand," didn't they? Yes. Then he sent out the twelve and told them to preach "the kingdom of heaven is at hand," but according to the theory it had already been established. It was established when He called them. Then when it was established, "at hand" reversed its meaning, didn't it? How could John and Jesus mean it was future when they said it was at hand, but when the twelve said it was at hand, they meant that it had already been established? Of course, they didn't. Whatever John meant and whatever Jesus meant when they said "it is at hand," the twelve meant they when they said "it is at hand." If it was established when the twelve said it was at hand, then it had already been established before John the Baptist ever said it was at hand. And, if it hadn't been established when Jesus said it was at hand, then it hadn't been established when the twelve said it was at hand.

"Thy kingdom come," Matt. 6:10, in what is commonly called "The Lord's Prayer." Just the other side of the cross you have another big blank space. You don't find anybody praying that way after the death of Christ. Do you learn anything from that? I'll not stop to make an argument on that. It ought not to be necessary.

John 16:24, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name." The 26th verse, "In that day ye shall ask in my name." What happened between the time they asked not in his name and when they should ask in his name, and the law should be in force, which says, "whatsoever ye do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." Col. 3:17. We will find out as we go along what it was that made that difference. And note: in what they call the Lord's prayer back there when they said "Thy kingdom come," the name of Christ was absent. On this side of the cross, "in his name." Nobody prayed that way after his death - nobody prayed "Thy kingdom come." Why? Why didn't they pray "thy kingdom come?" Well, you say, "People pray that way now." Yes, I know, in ignorance of what the New Testament says. "They don't agree with you about what it means." It doesn't make any difference what it means. I'm talking about what it says.

Before his death Jesus says they didn't ask in his name, but he said "in that day ye shall ask in my name." Then you can't memorize and recite that little prayer called the Lord's prayer and pray scripturally according to Christ now. And on the other point too, "Thy kingdom come," you don't have to do any explaining, just read what it says. That is all.

In the verse between those two, John 16:25, Jesus said "hitherto, I taught you in proverbs," and sometimes that is translated "parables." It is not the word Matthew, Mark and Luke used for parable; and Matthew, Mark and Luke never used the one John used. "Proverb" or "dark saying." "I've taught you, hitherto," up to this time, that was right before his death, "I've taught you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no longer speak unto you in proverbs." I'll quit doing that and show you plainly of the Father. I wish to give you one illustration of that. Jesus said to Nicodemus, "A man must be born again." Nicodemus did not understand what he meant and that's a dark saying. It is figurative language, of course. I heard a sermon in Houston, Texas, once, by a very distinguished man. (I was very curious to hear him; I invited myself to go.) He was preaching to a colored audience. I think I was the only white man there except the preacher, possibly. I had a very courteous reception, ushered to a front seat, and when I went in all of the windows were put up, for two reasons, and I appreciated both of them. I was interested in seeing how he would address that audience. I knew they needed simple, plain, easily understood preaching; and they are about as smart as we are. The man said "My subject is the new birth," and I suppose that in forty minutes, at least twenty times, he said "The sinner cannot do anything to get himself into Christ. He must be born again." Over and over and over that was repeated. Preaching the dark saying of the personal ministry of Jesus and ignoring the plain speech given later. When he had spoken forty minutes he paused and asked this question: "What is the one indispensable condition of being born again." If I had had $300.00 in my pocket to pay for disturbing religious worship, I would have stood up and cried out, "'There is no condition, sir. You've already abundantly established that." The idea of a man talking about condition of being born again when he had asserted over and over and over that a sinner can't do anything to get himself into Christ. He gave an illustration, and his illustration was a good one. It made crystal clear what he meant. I already understood it, but he gave an illustration. He said, "You put a fish out here on dry land. He can't swim into the river. That's the sinner. He can't do anything to get himself into Christ; but you take that fish and put him in the river. He can swim in it." And he asked, "What is the one indispensable condition of being born again?" He answered: "That you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." So he made his own theological fish swim right down the dry bank into the river. And that's not the first time, of course, men of that type have met themselves coming back before they were through one sermon. I just give you that in passing as an illustration of John 16:25 "Hitherto I've taught you in proverbs; but the time cometh, when I shall no longer speak unto you in proverbs." I'll quit that and tell you plainly.

Now then, go to the book of Acts of Apostles, the New Testament book of conversions. How many times did an inspired man ever tell a sinner he must be born again? If they ever did, it is not on record. Well, is that supposed to teach us anything at all, or not? It seemed to be a very clear commentary on what Jesus said. "I'll not use proverbs any longer, but will tell you plainly of the Father." A different manner of teaching then, before the death of Christ and since. In Matt. 16:18, Jesus said, "Upon this Rock I will build my church." Coming this side of the cross, Acts 8:1, we read, "The church which was at Jerusalem." Back of the cross, "will build;" after the cross, "was built." Future tense before the death of Christ; after his death past tense. Matt. 16:18, "will build;" Eph. 2:20, "you are built." I will not stop and make an argument on that. It makes itself. On the night of the betrayal, Luke 22:18, Jesus said, "I shall not henceforth drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come." Then, on the night of the betrayal the kingdom had not come. Come to this side of the cross, Col. 1:13, Paul said to the members of the church, "God hath delivered you from the power of darkness," that is the kingdom of Satan, "and hath translated you into the kingdom of his dear Son." Rev. 1:9, John said, "I am your brother in the kingdom of Jesus." On the night of the betrayal, "the kingdom shall come." Later in both Paul's and John's writings they declared men were in the kingdom.

Now right at this point, I want to spend just a moment or two on another matter, another passage. Somebody says, "What about Luke 16:16, "The law and the prophets were until John," John the Baptist, "since that time the kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it?" Some men, those who teach the kingdom was set up when Christ ordained his apostles, used to quote that. They don't quote it any more. They've learned better. Why? Because that, if that passage tells us when the kingdom was established it puts the beginning of it way back yonder before they say it was established; and proves too much to suit them; therefore, they can't use it. I want your careful attention to the parallel reading in Matt. 11:11-13. "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; yet he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John." "For the law and the prophets prophesied until John. Since that time the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and men of violence take it by force." In Luke they pressed into it, the revised version says "entereth violently into it." Matthew says they "took it by force." It suffered violence. Men of violence took it by force. Question: Is that the way men normally get into the kingdom, by violence? "Entereth violently into it." "The kingdom of heaven suffered violence." Second: The kingdom of heaven was preached. What did John preach about it? That it is at hand, but the passage is quoted to prove that it had been established and that men had entered an established kingdom. If they did, they entered one he didn't preach. He didn't preach an established kingdom. He preached a kingdom at hand. How did they get into an established kingdom when he preached a kingdom at hand? And, another thing, how did his converts get in and John himself did not? John, great as he was, was not in the kingdom. "He that is least in the kingdom is greater than John." There is a figure in that passage. They are represented as trying to take the kingdom by storm, and that idea is clearly brought out in many passages in the gospels. The key to them is John 6:15. Jesus knew they were about to come and take him by force, and make him king. He withdrew, so they couldn't find him. They had an idea of an earthly temporal kingdom and they were trying to rush the inauguration of it. Remember the last time, the triumphal entry, they shouted, "Hosanna, to him that cometh in the name of the Lord." They thought, "Now this will be the inaugural ceremony. He hasn't established it yet, he certainly will now." And, Luke 19:11-12, Jesus spoke a parable, as they went up to Jerusalem, because they thought the kingdom should immediately appear and the parable begins, "A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return." And I catch some writers adding "return to establish his kingdom." It doesn't say anything of the sort. But he comes back and judges men who would not let him reign over them. Doesn't say he came back to establish a kingdom. I want your attention to some other passages of scripture. Dan. 7:13-14, Daniel said, "I saw in the night visions, one like unto the Son of man, and he came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given unto him a kingdom, and glory and power that all nations should serve and obey him." Sometimes we are told that is still future, Note that be is to be given a kingdom, and glory and power. 1 Pet. 1:21, Peter said, " God raised him from the dead and gave him glory." But that wouldn't necessarily establish the order. Just keep that thought in abeyance for a moment or two. Luke 24:25-26, after his resurrection, Jesus said, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: (now watch what the prophets spoke) that the Christ must suffer and enter into his glory." But he was to receive glory and the kingdom when he went back to the Father. Matt. 20:21, James and John requested that they might sit one at Christ's right hand and one at his left hand in his kingdom. Mark 10:37 quotes "That we may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left hand, in thy glory." Kingdom and glory are used interchangeably, and the prophets taught he must suffer and enter into his glory. I am not arguing that necessarily means that he had to suffer before he entered his glory, but we'll see whether or not that is what it means, and I'll not do the explaining. I'll read: 1 Pet. 1:10 to 12. Note: "Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow." Now we won't have to explain which was first, the glory or the suffering. "Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached unto you the gospel by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into." What was the prophet talking about? Salvation. The things that are brought to you, announced in the gospel of Christ. That's what Peter says the prophets were talking about. Look at Luke 24:44. We will begin with that verse, and note carefully the reading of this passage. This is the language of Christ, the record of what he said. "And he said unto them, These are my words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things (note, all things) must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms concerning me." That would be just about everything that was written about him in the Old Testament, wouldn't it? "Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures." "Law, prophets and psalms." And he said unto them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." That is what Jesus said of the "all things" concerning him in the law, the prophets and the psalms. The same thing that Peter says is salvation, and that it was, revealed to the prophets that it was reserved for them to whom the gospel of Christ should be preached. But, we pass on.

Hebrews 8:4. "If Christ were on earth he should not be a priest at all." Back of the cross Christ was not a priest. This side he is a "priest forever after the order of Melchizedec." (Hebrews 5:10) Peter wrote to Christians and said, "You are a royal priesthood." But Christ was not a priest on earth. Was the church established while he was on earth? If it was it didn't have any high priest. Christ couldn't be a priest on earth. If Christ had undertaken to serve as a priest on earth, he would have been a sinner. He would have been violating the law of Moses. He wasn't of the right tribe, and the Levitical priesthood was still in force. Christ was of the tribe of Judah, "of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests." Hebrews 7:12-14.

A few years ago, some man wrote a little leaflet in which he said that Christ was an Israelite, but not a Jew. Somebody sent that to me and asked me to comment. I took a pencil and wrote in the margin, Hebrews 7:14 and mailed it back to him. Christ was of the tribe of Judah. That spells "Jew." Well, of course, there is not any use, much, to argue with anyone about a thing like that; but that settles it.

Before Christ died the New Testament was not in force, Hebrews 9:16-.17. "Where there is a testament there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." A testament is in force after men are dead. I don't have to guess about this. I don't have to tell you what it means. "A testament is in force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no strength at all, while he that made it liveth." The Revised Version says, "it doth never avail while he that made it liveth." We all understand that. A man's will is not executed while he lives, but after he dies. "Before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith." "Before faith came," that is the faith, "we were kept in ward under the law." The law was in force until Christ died. Col. 2:14. He nailed it to the cross and took it out of the way. Then before that the faith had not come. Now imagine the advocate of faith only establishing his church before Christ died. "Before faith came, we are kept in ward under law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed." Gal. 3:23, 24. But now, this side of the cross (and that "now" used in that sense in the New Testament never goes back of the cross, don't forget that.) "Now that faith is come." "The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ." "To bring us" was supplied, however, and that is the thing that is nearly always emphasized. That's the thing Paul didn't say. The law is our tutor unto Christ. There wasn't any use to supply anything. The law was our schoolmaster unto Christ. That is plain enough. That is what Paul said. "Now that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." I don't need to spend time on that. That is a matter that all of us are perfectly familiar with, but it is a very clear distinction between what was true before Christ died and what is true now. I think that I can give you a pretty good summary of the main ideas that I am trying to get before you by simply reading another passage of scripture. Eph. 2:11, "Wherefore remember, that once;" and I'm asserting that once is back of the cross. "Well, your assertion doesn't prove anything." All right, watch the reading now. "Ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision in the flesh, made by hands, that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ." You get the line there between at that time and now, don't you? "Ye who once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both one." Both what? Jew and Gentile. "Made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might," (now watch, he brought the Gentiles nigh, he made peace between them and the Jews, he broke down the middle wall of partition, abolished the enmity, even the law) "that (in order that) he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace." That forever explodes the theory that the church was established before Christ died. Paul says he died that he might create it; but again somebody says that you are asserting. How do I know that one new man means the church? Read the next verse: "and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body." We don't have to guess about these things if we take what the book says and are willing to let God's word settle these issues. The body is the church. (Col. 1:18)

Again, John 16:12, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot hear them now." Just before his death. Next verse, "But when the Spirit is come He shall guide you into all the truth." John 7:39, "the Spirit was not yet given," (That is, before the death of Christ) "because Jesus was not yet glorified." The Spirit was not yet given. Jesus was not yet glorified. Before his death he was in his humiliation, "he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.

Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him." Phil. 2:7-10. And right there, when he went back to the Father, the New Testament says he was exalted, crowned, glorified, and sat down on the throne, was made high priest, given to be the head over all things to the church, given a name that is above every name. Named of God a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, made both Lord and Christ, angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him, and all things were put under his feet, at the time he went back to the Father.

Again, this is just a matter of getting together in one view everything the New Testament says on the subject, and accepting them. In these studies, you understand, I've already been trying to put emphasis on method, proper method in Bible study. Just in the moment or two that I have, that I shall use now before I close, I want your attention to what I consider some important principles. First, and that is already indicated in the things I have brought before you, things I have read. It is a misuse of Old Testament prophecy whenever anybody goes back there trying to make the New Testament teach something you can't read in the New Testament. You just save yourself years of toil in trying to sift out false theories on that subject, if you will just understand it is a misuse of the prophets whenever anybody is trying to make an Old Testament prophecy make the New Testament teach something the New Testament doesn't say. And whenever you go to a parable to prove a doctrine that you can't read somewhere in plain speech, you will make the parable teach something it doesn't teach and something the Bible doesn't teach. When you go to the symbolical language of the Book of Revelation trying to prove a doctrine that is not plainly taught before you get to the book of Revelation, you are making Revelation teach something it doesn't teach and make it contradict what the Bible does teach. Some men go to the 20th chapter of Revelation to prove the kingdom is future. Well, long before that, before John began to prophesy at all, he said, "I am your brother in the kingdom." All of that just comes under the head of the old fundamental principle that the symbolical or the obscure passages must be interpreted in the light of the plain, and not the other way around. I want to give you one illustration, on that misuse of Old Testament prophecy. Men go back and quote Ezekiel 36:25, "I'll sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean." Therefore, sprinkle means baptize. Prove it by Ezekiel's prophecy. Come over here to the New Testament and say baptism is the fulfillment of Ezekiel. Well how do you know it is? Nobody would ever have thought it was if he hadn't been trying to prove that baptism means "sprinkle." If baptize fulfills Ezekiel, why did Ezekiel use one word and the New Testament writers always use a different word? None of them ever used sprinkle, when they were talking about baptism. Suppose I were to invite you down to a river and say, "I'm going to fulfill Ezekiel's prophecy." Suppose Philip had done that, if he had had an audience. Ezekiel said, "I'll sprinkle clean water upon you," and Philip would have said, "I'll show you how that is done. They both went down into the water, both Philip and the Eunuch, and he baptized him." Why did they go down into the water if they were going to fulfill Ezekiel's prophecy concerning sprinkling? And suppose you had been there, and Philip reached down and got water in the palm of his hand and sprinkled or poured it on the man's head. Would you have written Col. 2:12, "buried with him in baptism, wherein also you were raised with him?" You never would have described what you saw that way.