Posted On January 18, 2022

The Two Kingdoms: How the Kingdom of Darkness Crumbles Before the Kingdom of Christ

by | Jan 18, 2022 | Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

In Matthew 24:2, Jesus says something that shocks all those around Him. Jesus is with His disciples near the temple, and as they admire its beauty, He says, “You see all these things, do you not? Truly, I say to you; there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

What is it about this statement from Jesus that is so shocking and scandalous? Why is it that this prophecy is enough to provoke the Jews to wrath and even secure the judgment of the Sanhedrin against Christ during His trial?

It is important to note the nature of two very different kingdoms to understand this. There is, first, God’s Kingdom, or what may be called the Kingdom of Light. As Christ’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Light is perfect, eternal, and ever-expanding. After all, as Isaiah 9:7 promised, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” The Lord will continually build His Kingdom by His own zeal and passion until Christ returns. Indeed, even now, Christ reigns. He is seated at the Father’s right hand, awaiting all things to be put beneath His feet (Ps. 111:1), and all authority and power have been given to Him (Matt. 28:18), and He rules and reigns over all things, both seen and unseen alike. He has, at the Cross, triumphed over Satan, and all rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame while simultaneously securing the redemption and salvation of His elect (Col. 2:13-15). And, in Revelation 11:15, the angels declare, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

While Christ’s Kingdom is eternal and none can oppose the King of kings and Lord of lords; still many continue to try to attack the King and His Kingdom. All other kingdoms can then effectively be placed under the category of the second kingdom, which we will label “The Kingdom of Darkness.” Those who belong to this Kingdom of Darkness are the spiritual children of Satan, enslaved to their sin, and have as their sole aim and focus in life the defiance of God and His commandments. These two Kingdoms are at war with one another.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bound Devil?

This war between the two Kingdoms has been a long and cosmic affair. While Christians recognize there are a plethora of unseen entities mentioned within Scripture, the spirit of rationalism has effectively dampened the witness of Scripture so that, though we know it to be true that there are such things as angels and demons, we often refuse to recognize the supernatural, even when it is staring us in the face. Of course, the early Church had no such qualms or troubles, so the Apostle Paul could freely write about unseen forces at war against us and even within our very souls. Take, for example, Ephesians 2:1-2: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience….”

Here, Satan is in view, and he is referred to as a prince of the power of the air. So, does this mean that Satan possesses a kingdom of his own? In a sense, yes, but it is not like Christ’s Kingdom. Christ’s Kingdom of Light is eternal, secure, and actual. Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness is constantly diminishing as the light of Christ goes forth into the world through the proclamation of the gospel. Praise the Lord that “In [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn. 1:4-5).

Jesus once explained, “How can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house” (Mat. 12:29). This is what Jesus has done. He is the one who is even stronger than Satan, who, during His earthly ministry, effectively bound the devil. Satan may have been a powerful demon and prince of the power of the air, but now Christ has tied him up. He is on a leash and can only go as far as Jesus will permit him to go. In the meantime, Jesus is plundering Satan’s domain. This He does through the salvation of sinners who, at the moment of their rescue, are delivered from the Kingdom of Darkness and made citizens of the Kingdom of Light. As Colossians 1:13-14 explains, “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Thus, every time the gospel is proclaimed and Christ redeems another one of His elect, Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness diminishes further, and Christ’s Kingdom of Light continues to expand.

Take, for example, the account of the seventy-two disciples returning to Jesus after He has sent them forth the proclaim the gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. They are, of course, elated. It has really worked! Even the demons obey! But Jesus responds by saying something strange: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Lk. 10:18). What does He mean? Simply that Satan, who is called the prince of the power of the air, has fallen. At one time, he could exert untold influence upon the nations. He could keep them in bondage to their sin, veiling their eyes so that they would believe his lies. But, now, he has fallen. While he can still exercise some influence over the lost sinners of the world (see: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6), his scope and power are supremely limited. This is because, as Jesus promised in Matthew 12:48, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The Kingdom of God is not merely near, not only at hand, but actually here. The Kingdom of God has come to the earth, and Jesus demonstrates that His Kingdom is here to stay because He casts out demons by the power of God! And, not only does He cast out demons, but so too do His disciples.

So, not that the Kingdom has come, Satan has fallen. Yet, Jesus looks at the disciples and says, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:20). In other words, even though Satan has fallen and through Christ we now exercise authority over even the devil himself, Jesus tells us that this is not the primary reason to rejoice. The primary reason to rejoice is that our names are written in Heaven. Our rejoicing should be centered in Christ and publicly declared because we have been made citizens of the Celestial Kingdom (Phil. 3:20), over which Christ eternally rules!

The Kingdom of Darkness Crumbles and Not One Stone Left Upon Another

Back now Matthew 24:2. Though it seems incredibly good news to Christians that Christ reigns and all other kingdoms fall and crumble at the breath of the King, those who belong to the Kingdom of Darkness are none too pleased with Christ’s triumph. So, when Jesus publicly said that the temple would be destroyed, it put the Jewish leaders into a tizzy.

For the Jewish Sanhedrin (those religious leaders who exerted the most influence and power over the Jews of Jesus’ day), their authority and power were intertwined with and connected to the temple. As long as the temple stood and all its Levitical rituals and rabbinic teachings continued, the Sanhedrin would exercise power. Now, had they belonged to the Kingdom of Light, the coming of Jesus and His Kingdom into the world would have been received with great joy. After all, the ceremonial laws and rituals that God had delivered to the Jews through Moses were only a temporary shadow of the glorious reality that was to come. They were effectively to act as “guardians and masters” (Gal. 4:2) to teach the people about Jesus until the time that Jesus would appear. When the Messiah came, He would fulfill those ceremonies, laws, and rituals. The Kingdom of God, seen only in part in the land of Israel up until that time, would suddenly be on glorious display throughout the entirety of the world. There would be no need for the physical temple in Jerusalem because Jesus would reconcile the elect to God permanently. No more sacrifices would be needed for, “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26) and, “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Heb. 10:18). No more priests to offer sacrifices would be needed for, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”

Those who belonged to the Kingdom of Light would receive the coming of Christ, and the fulfillment of the Levitical ceremonies and laws, with great joy. The problem was that many of the Jewish leaders were not part of the Kingdom of Light but belonged to the Kingdom of Darkness. They saw the triumph of Jesus not as a glorious reality to be embraced with joy but as a threat against them and their power. As Christ’s popularity expanded and more disciples amassed around Him, the fear of the religious leaders increased.

This is nowhere clearer than in John 11. Here, Jesus calls Lazarus, who has been dead for four days, back to life. While some see this miracle and believe it, many others do not. There are some Jews who see the miracle and, in anger and fear, rush to tell the Pharisees what Jesus has just done. This is not because they want the Pharisees to come to a knowledge of saving faith in Jesus but because they want something done about this man who claims to be God and backs up His statements with miraculous actions. They want Jesus dealt with, and His followers destroyed before they really begin to mess up the status quo. After all, though they are waiting for a Messiah to come and conquer the Roman forces occupying the land, things aren’t all that bad for those high-ranking Jews. The Jewish council of the Sanhedrin basically expresses this in John 11:48, “Guys, if we don’t do something soon about this Jesus, then He’s going to amass more followers. He’s going to have a Kingdom. And Caesar is not going to like another King in his territory. He will send Roman legions to come and deal with us. We’ll lose our place of power and influence. Think of it: What will become of this council? What will become of our Temple? What will happen to our power?”

The answer, of course, is that they were never meant to wield power and influence over the people in the way they desired. Christ was to be King, not the Sanhedrin. Yet, they cannot bear the thought of losing their power and influence over the people. The destruction of the physical temple is inconceivable to them. What would then become of their own kingdom? So, in John 11, the high-priest Caiaphas steps forth:

“But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on, they made plans to put him to death. (Jn. 11:49-53)

Yes, Jesus would really begin to upset things if He continued His ministry unchallenged. After all, He preached the good news of salvation, healed the sick, cast out demons, and challenged the religious leaders’ illegitimate teachings and false authority. He was really going to mess things up for the Kingdom of Darkness. So, Caiaphas enacts a wicked plan. He believed that if they could kill the King, His Kingdom would assuredly crumble.

So, they arrest Jesus and hold their mock trial in Matthew 26:57-68:

Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

The outrage of the Council was simply this: Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple. More than this, He prophesied of their own authority and power coming to an end, while He would only continue to increase. After all, He would sit at God’s right hand and would return on the clouds of Heaven. All things and people would be beneath His sovereign rule and authority.

Despite their shaming Him, hitting Him, taunting Him, and eventually crucifying Him, they could not stop the prophecy from coming to pass. In 70 AD, just as He had promised, the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem. The Roman legions entered the city and trampled down the temple, not leaving one stone upon another. Suddenly, the authority and power of the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sanhedrin crumbled.

But, while the Kingdom of Darkness was suffering blow after blow, the Kingdom of Light was expanding. Caiaphas had been right. It was better for one man to die for the people than for all to die. Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the Kingdom of God is established, and all the elect, from every corner of the earth, are gathered together into one people in Christ’s Kingdom of Light.

The Ever-Expanding Kingdom of Light

If the power of the Sanhedrin was interwoven into the temple, then Christ’s own power and authority are demonstrated in the resurrection of His own Temple. In John 2:19, Jesus told the people, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” This, then, is the difference between the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Light. The Kingdom of Darkness suffers one fatal blow after the next and can never hope to recover. When territory is lost, it is permanently lost. The Sanhedrin, when they lost the temple, permanently lost their power.

On the other hand, Christ received a blow that appeared fatal upon the Cross. The temple of the body was destroyed upon Golgotha. But, three days later, His Body—His Temple—was resurrected. His power and authority are proved to be certain and true forevermore.

The Sanhedrin, as part of the Kingdom of Darkness, had killed Jesus in order to save themselves. After all, if Jesus was gone from the picture, they imagined His Kingdom would also crumble. It is hard to amass followers when buried in a tomb. But quite the opposite occurred.

Caiaphas was right that one should die than for all to die, but Jesus did not accomplish the salvation Caiaphas desired. He wanted to rule and authority for himself. Instead, Jesus died to pay the sin debt of His people, accomplishing their salvation, and establishing the rule and authority of His own Kingdom of Light. And, the salvation of Christ does not merely benefit the Jewish people, but all people of the world so that, in Christ, we are gathered into one people and Kingdom. This is the glorious plan of salvation that Caiaphas and the others were too blind to see, but that God graciously makes known to us today!

Now, Christ’s Kingdom of Light continues to expand. He continues to plunder Satan’s domain and, day-by-day, through preaching His gospel, adds to the number of citizens within His Kingdom. Not only has the darkness not overcome the light, but it has been defeated by the glorious and triumphant light of the King of kings and Lord of lords.

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