First Posted: March 1, 2016
Below is a paper I just wrote for my class Jesus and the Kingdom at Life Pacific College for the Degree Completion Program. I’m sharing this because it speaks to thing I think we as the church in America can need to think about. The paper is a quickly written brief exploration of the topic, but I hope it inspires us to explore it more.
Bi331X Jesus and the Kingdom (online)
1 March 2016
Gospel of the Kingdom
2000 years ago Jesus Christ walked the Earth proclaiming that the Kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matt 7:10). As He did this he brought on 12 intentional disciples that He trained to do as he did, which include the working of miracles, mostly healings and exorcisms. These miracles were considered a part of this message now labeled the Gospel, which upon His departure, He commanded his disciples to proclaim in all the Earth. A reading of the book Acts reveals stories of their obedience accompanied by the hand of God, which stirred up the known world within a lifetime. Nearly 2000 years later this message that began with a group of less than 200 has been embrace to some degree by billions of people. However, for many the message has become polluted and/or diluted. This paper will depict a picture of this message and its execution as it would look unpolluted/diluted, demonstrating that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead lives in us and wants to get out (Rom 8:11).
The first thing we must address in order to return to the purest form of the Gospel, is what is the purest form of the Gospel. I would argue that Jesus’ definition of the Gospel would be the purest, and most be discover unadulterated by our current culture and thus find His message as intended for the culture of His time. According to Matthew 4:17, Jesus’ initial message was to “repent for the Kingdom of God is near”. And again Matthew 4:23 states that Jesus was “proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom.” A quick search in an electronic Bible (the Gospels) for the word kingdom reveals a plethora of hits written in red. Clearly the Kingdom of God was central to the message of Jesus. So the question is what is the Kingdom of God, and what did Jesus have to say about it? As I searched through my hits with the word Kingdom, it became clear to me that Jesus’ message about the Kingdom was largely focused upon entrance to the Kingdom, who is going to make it, and who is going to be appointed to authority. But there were also key stories that revealed its nature as well, this is the focus of the paper.
The first point of the nature of the Kingdom that I want to discuss is that of fellowship with the King. This is the most significant part of the nature of the Kingdom and all of creation, and because of this Jesus taught so much about entrance into the Kingdom. Over and over again he explained that a day will come where the final selection process will happen. A parable that captures this is that of the wedding feast found in Matt 22:1-14. Jesus speaks about a feast that the Father has prepared for His Son, and He sent out invitations inviting people to come. The Father is inviting us to the most intimate of fellowship, a meal. Time and time again through the entirety of God’s Word He is inviting people to fellowship, inviting them to be His people and He would be their God. He longs for this so much that He let Jesus get be beat, abused, tortured, mocked, and killed to pay for it. He gave it all for the pearl of Great price (Matt 13:45-46) It says in revelation that there will not be a temple in the new Jerusalem because God and Jesus will be the temple, we will have direct access to them, face to face like Moses. We won’t need a sun or moon because they will give us light. The beauty of the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached is that God made a way for broken sin laden people who were unworthy of entrance to His Kingdom and access to Him, to have it.
The other point of the nature of the Kingdom is that of its deliverance from the works of Hell. In John 12:31 Jesus says tate Satan is the ruler of this world. The popular understanding is that God gave us this position in Genesis, but we lost it to Satan when Adam sinned. As a result of this sin, death and decay entered the world. Beforehand, there was no sin, no death, no sickness, no hunger, no thirst, no deformities, no blindness, and the list goes on and on. These are all the work of Hell. On the other hand God is a good father who gives good gifts and all things that are good come from Him (Mt 7:11, James 1:17). In Mathew 12:25-29 Jesus is responding to accusation that He is performing His miracles with the power of Satan. He essential says this; that I have come and bound the strong man (Satan) and plundered him of his stolen goods, bringing freedom to those whom God loves from his devices, that this mean the Kingdom of God has come near. Thus the Kingdom of God is one devoid of all suffering.
The question about all this is if the Kingdom of God has come as Jesus puts it, then why are people still oppressed by the devil? The understanding is that if His Kingdom has come then Satan’s is no more. That brings us to the idea that the Kingdom of God is present but not yet. One day God’s rule will once again be established over all of creation, the angelic host, demonic forces, mankind, and the Earth. For the time being Satan and His posse have be given free reign in the planet (sort of), so thus their works that bring suffering are all around. However the reign of the hearts of men can only be given by the individual. Satan procures this through the means of deception, either through lies or by withholding the truth (Rev 12:9). One day God will banish him to the fiery lake but in the meantime he has power. The present aspect of the Kingdom of God is that the truth, His truth, has been revealed and accepted by some of the sons of man. For these the Kingdom God has now been given reign. The reality is for man war has been over territory and resources, but in the spiritual realm it is over the souls of men but territory is still an element. When Jesus said the Kingdom of God has come it was because He brought it with Him. He was like an elite special force soldier, better than even the folk lore of Chuck Norris, taking back territory from Satan.
As disciples of Jesus we have been called to follow Him, which mean doing as He did. In John 14:12 He even says that we will do greater things than He has. In the great commission of Mark 16, He tells His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation. And then he asserts that those who believe in Him will drive out demons, speak in new tongues, not be hurt by snakes or poison, and heal the sick. We are to be the elite Special Forces for the Kingdom of God, bringing freedom from the works of Hell to all that we come into contact with.
In my community I am aware of the following: sickness, poverty, enslavement to substance abuse, neglected children, abused children, people with cronic seizures, and the list goes on and on. People who are precious to God have been enslaved and bound by the enemy. It doesn’t matter what it is the Gospel address it all. The problem is we haven’t done was it necessary to have the Kingdom, and thus we aren’t brining it. We aren’t selling it all to get the treasure in the field (Matt 13:44). We aren’t living up to the requirements. In fact part of the requirements is doing what we can to alleviate these things with the talents we have already been given. We aren’t even really fulfilling the command to go and preach, ie being messengers inviting others to the Kingdom. And when we do they don’t see it, because we don’t really have it to the full. In Acts the power of God gave testimony to the message. For us even when we do, do our job His power isn’t present to confirm it. Before we can address the needs of the community with the Gospel of the Kingdom we need to submit to its requirements. The best thing we can do for our community is fall on our face before the King and admit our sin of complacency and devotion to other masters (Matt 6:24). We need to look deep within ourselves and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in correcting what we are doing.
In conclusion I want to state what an eye opening experience this class and exercise has been. I was unaware of how much development my understanding of the Kingdom of God needed. It wasn’t that I was off or anything but that I hadn’t been fully gripped by its reality. It is amazing how focusing on and studying the word or God can change us. I hope that I have been successful in communication the reality that this was the message of Jesus, that freedom from sin and the second death is only the beginning of His works. That what He did wasn’t only for the future ecological consummation at the end, a better after life, but it was for a currently life infused with the powerful Spirit of God Almighty. That we have been equipped to do all that is necessary to be part of God’s messenger squad for the Great Banquet. The Kingdom of God is something that He wants to make available to all, but we and those whom are invited must make a choice of whom we will serve. Unfortunately what this means is something that has not been discussed in this paper due to time and focus. The Kingdom of God will be fully established one day but the invitation secures our place in it, but also offers itself for the here and now. Also acceptance of the invitation requires our participation in inviting others.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001. Print.
The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.