The Kingdom, by Witness Lee

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In chapter fourteen we are told that Herod the king killed John the Baptist. When the report of this was brought to the Lord, He simply retreated into the wilderness. Remember that this is a book of the revelation of the kingdom. Since the Lord Jesus repudiated everything natural and made the kingdom a mystery, the religious people rejected Him and the kingdom, and the political people persecuted and killed those who accepted the kingdom. Hence, He went into the wilderness. If you had lived at that time and had wanted to follow Him, you would have had to go to the wilderness.

What does this mean? Chapter thirteen through the first part of chapter seventeen is a section showing us the period of time from the rejection of the Lord Jesus and His kingdom until the full coming of the kingdom. During this period between His rejection and the full manifestation of the kingdom, the kingdom people must follow Him by leaving religion and politics and going into the wilderness. We are still living in this period today, for it began at the time of Matthew 13 and will continue until the full manifestation of the kingdom. At the full coming of the kingdom, there will be the real and full transfiguration of all the kingdom people.

The transfiguration of the Lord Jesus on the mountaintop in Matthew 17 was a miniature of the full coming of the kingdom. It was the coming of the kingdom on a small scale. The full coming of the kingdom will occur in the future. The section of Matthew which we are presently considering goes from chapter thirteen until the full coming of the kingdom in the future. During this period the kingdom people must follow the Lord Jesus by going into the wilderness. The background for this move into the wilderness was His rejection by religion and His persecution by politics. If we mean business with the Lord for the kingdom, we will certainly be rejected by religion and persecuted by politics. Do not expect anything more. There can be no friendship from religion and no kindness from politics. To be the kingdom people means that we will undergo opposition from religion and persecution from politics. As we have seen, the synagogues rejected Christ, and King Herod killed John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. When the Lord Jesus heard of this, He did not fight or say anything. He and His disciples retreated into the wilderness. What does this mean? It means that the kingdom people are a people out of this world, out of religion, and out of politics. In a sense, until the kingdom comes in full, we are in the wilderness. In reality we are the kingdom people and we are in the kingdom, but outwardly speaking we are living in the wilderness.

(The Kingdom, Chapter 24, by Witness Lee)