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Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Building the Kingdom." To view all parts, click the link below.
Believers in general make up the citizens of the Kingdom, but the overcomers among them will rule with Christ. Not every citizen is a ruler, because there must be citizens to rule. In that day all citizens of the Kingdom must swear allegiance to King Jesus and follow the laws of the Kingdom. Hence, the rulers (or overcomers) will not rule over non-believers, but believers.
In Christ’s message to the Seven Churches of Revelation 2 and 3, each message is given to the church as a whole, but the special blessing is given “to him who overcomes.” This implies that some will not overcome. I have a book called How to Be an Overcomer, where I discuss briefly the qualifications and characteristics of an overcomer, so I will not elaborate further now. It is enough for now to see that believers and overcomers are two different categories of Christians.
In the Old Testament, we see how God divided the Israel church in the same way. The common people formed the largest body, and these were allowed access to the outer court. One had to be a priest of the house of Aaron to gain access to the Holy Place. One had to be a high priest to gain access to the Most Holy Place. This pattern was retained in the New Testament church, where we see the common people, the overcomers, and finally Christ, our High Priest.
The main difference is that the nature of the priesthood itself changed from the Aaronic order to the Order of Melchizedek. The Aaronic order was dependent upon one’s genealogy, but the Melchizedek Order was not. So the original Melchizedek was presented in Genesis 14:18-20, seemingly with no father or mother, no birth record and no death certificate, and with no genealogical credentials that were recorded in Scripture.
Hebrews 7:6 calls him “the one whose genealogy is not traced.” The Greek word is genealogeo, which is defined by Strong’s Concordance: “to recount a family's origin and lineage, trace ancestry.” We know from history that Melchizedek was actually Shem, but the Scriptural silence in Genesis 14 makes him a type of Christ.
So Christ Himself “was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests” (Hebrews 7:14). Jesus was therefore not qualified to be a high priest after the Aaronic Order. He has established an entirely new order that is not dependent upon one’s physical genealogy. In the Kingdom era, He will not be attended by Aaronic priests, for it would be unlawful for Him to be the high priest of that old order.
In Revelation 5:10 we see the “elders” singing a new song about the overcomers, saying,
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth.
Then the rest of creation was pictured in Revelation 5:12, everyone united with Christ, “saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain’.” These are not the rulers but the citizens of the Kingdom, for they are not referred to as priests but as “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea” (Revelation 5:13).
This pictures the end of the story, when all are reconciled to God. All are then part of the church.
The Example of Abraham
Abraham had two wives, as we read in Genesis 16:3, “Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.” From the book of Jasher we know that Pharaoh had given Sarai one of his daughters as restitution for taking her into his harem (Genesis 12:18, 19). Hagar, therefore, was an Egyptian princess, whereas Sarai was a spiritual princess, after being renamed Sarah, “princess.”
The two princesses in Abraham’s household each produced a child, but only the one birthed by Sarah was the heir. Ishmael was a child of the flesh, born not through the promise of God, but through natural childbirth. Paul explains that this was a biblical allegory of the two covenants (Old and New), and the children of each covenant. Galatians 4:22-26 says,
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son of the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.
A biblical allegory is not mythology, as we see in pagan Greek religion. This allegory was rooted in history but the characters represented something greater than themselves. In this case Hagar represented the Old Covenant, while Sarah represented the New Covenant. Hagar produced a child of the flesh; Sarah produced a child of promise. Each son believed that he was the one chosen to be the true heir, but only the child of promise was actually chosen by God.
Because both sons were children of Abraham; the difference was their mother. There are various layers of meaning and application in this allegory, but the one most relevant to us today is that there are two types of believers. There are Old Covenant believers and New Covenant believers. To tell the difference, one must know the difference between the two covenants.
The Old Covenant is man’s promise to God (as in Exodus 19:8), where salvation depended upon man’s will and decision to follow God and be obedient. The New Covenant is God’s promise to man (as in Genesis 15:5, 6), where God made a promise according to His own will, and Abraham simply believed that God was fully able to fulfill what He had promised (Romans 4:21, 22).
The essential difference was where one’s faith lay. Old Covenant believers have faith that the Holy Spirit will help them fulfill their Old Covenant promise to God and thus become the sons of God and heirs of the promise. This level of faith is seen in the majority of the citizens of the Kingdom. On the other hand, their true heirs—those who are priests of God who reign with Christ—are those whose faith is in God’s ability to keep His promise. John 1:12, 13 says,
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood[line] nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
Children of the flesh are those who think that they qualify as sons of God through their bloodline and by the power of their own free-will decision and vow to follow Christ. These follow the pattern of the Israelites at Mount Sinai, Paul says, where the (sincere) people vowed to follow God and then prayed for His help to fulfill their vows.
Children of promise are those who have faith in God’s ability—not in their own ability—and understand that their own decision to follow Christ is a response to the will of God that caused Him to call us before our own will was even involved and activated.
Does God Have Two Wives?
In observing the church, it is apparent that God has two types of children: those who are fleshly minded and those who are spiritually minded. This implies that they come from different mothers, even though they have the same heavenly Father. Many of His children live according to an Old Covenant mindset, not only in their belief that their own will saved them, but also in their view of prophecy.
For instance, the idea that biological children of Abraham are chosen heirs is repugnant to Paul’s teaching, particularly in Galatians 4 and in Romans 9. So we often hear the assertion that “The Jews are God’s chosen people.” Again, we hear that Christ is coming again to rule in the earthly Jerusalem and that He will be served by Aaronic priests who will renew animal sacrifices. The entire viewpoint assumes that the Old Covenant system of worship will be reinstated in the age to come, as if the sacrifice of Christ was only a temporary innovation.
Occasionally, we even hear that Jerusalem is the mother church. That expression alone ought to alert us to the fact that many claim that Hagar is the mother of the church. If Hagar is our mother, then we are yet the children of the flesh and do not qualify as heirs of the promise.
The fact is that Hagar represents the Old Covenant, and she is capable only of bringing forth children of the flesh. In the early church, the main distinction was between Christianity and Judaism. Those who followed the Mediator of the New Covenant were heirs, while those who remained in Judaism continued to adhere to the Old Covenant. The fleshly children, like Ishmael, persecuted the Isaac company. Galatians 4:29 says,
29 But as at that time, he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.
Paul himself was painfully aware of this, having persecuted the church in his early days in Judaism. He writes in Galatians 1:13,
13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.
Fortunately, Paul’s genealogy (of the tribe of Benjamin) did not lock him into the status of a child of the flesh. When he was converted to Christ, he changed mothers. No longer was he a child of the flesh that was born of Hagar, but he became a child of the promise, an heir, born of Sarah, the New Covenant. In like manner are we all to change mothers, for in the broad sense, we are all born as children of the flesh and must be begotten by the Spirit and born again as children of God.
Two Applications of the Principle
When Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians, he was speaking mainly of the distinction between Jews and Christians. Jews were the children of Hagar-Jerusalem, and Christians were the children of Sarah, the heavenly Jerusalem, comparable to Isaac (Galatians 4:25, 26, 28). But Paul’s epistle was a warning for Christians not to revert back to Judaism, lest they become spiritual Ishmaelites once again.
The danger was already present in Paul’s day, even as it is in our own time. For this reason, there is also a secondary distinction between fleshly and spiritual Christians. It seems that most of the church today has not understood Paul’s warning and has thus produced more fleshly children than spiritual. The Old Covenant mindset regarding salvation, along with an Old Covenant view of prophecy is now the view of the majority in the church.
Only the children of promise will rule with Christ in the Kingdom of God. In my view, the fleshly-minded Christians will be citizens of the Kingdom, but they are not heirs. The children of Sarah distinguish themselves among their brethren. They rise above carnal thinking, for their faith is in God’s promise, not in their own promises to God. They recognize the heavenly Jerusalem as their mother and the mother of the Kingdom—not the earthly Jerusalem.
This is the primary distinction between the church and the overcomers in our study of the citizens of the Kingdom.
Note: This blog post is part of a series titled "Building the Kingdom." To view all parts, click the link below.