Lessons in Growth Meditations: 22. About the Kingdom
Mt 3:1,2 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Mt 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
The focus of the kingdom: We concluded the previous study saying that the ‘kingdom of God’ is an all-important concept when we are considering Jesus’ activity now at the right hand of God in heaven. It is, and we need to understand it, because our lives are to be in alignment with Jesus and if his life is focused on bringing the will of God to earth, we need to understand that in respect of our own lives and what he wants of us. Many Christians seem to focus on their own ‘rule’ or their own desires and goals in life, with little thought to the bigger picture. This means that our lives may be out of kilter with Jesus’ heart as he works to bring God’s will through the kingdom. Heaven forbid!
As we see from our verses above, it was the focus of both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ preaching when they started their ministries. A few verses on we read, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” (Mt 4:23) We might suggest that healing was a demonstration of the power, authority and thus the expression of the rule of God through Jesus, heaven’s will being expressed and seen on earth and shown through the Gospels.
Kingdom of ‘Heaven’: Matthew, writing for the Jews, uses the expression ‘kingdom of heaven’, while the other three Gospel writers use the expression, ’kingdom of God’. Perhaps it is that because the Jews did not appear to have a very clear picture of life after death, Matthew was seeking to emphasize to them that there is an existence in the presence of God – heaven – that they can look forward to. In his ‘theology’, if we can call it that, Matthew has in mind a place where God’s presence exists and His rule is expressed, hence we find the use of the word ‘enter’ in respect of the kingdom, suggesting a location (e.g. Mt 5:20, 7:21, 18:3, 19:23,24, 21:31, 23:13).
Basics of a Kingdom: There are various facts about a kingdom of which we should be aware:
- First, the big thing about a ‘kingdom’ is that it has a king (or a monarch) who rules over it.
- Second, it is actually all about a place or existence where the reign of a ruler presides over the citizens of the kingdom.
- Third, another thing about such a rule is that there are clear rules for life in that kingdom. In modern democracies the citizen knows that life within the country is determined by agreed rules or ‘laws’.
- Fourth, because we live in a fallen world where Sin prevails, there are likely to be many people who resist the rule of the king.
Dealing with Enemies: That is what is behind that teaching of Paul we noted yesterday: “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:24,25) i.e. there are enemies of the king and part of Jesus’ activity is to destroy or subdue them. Because he goes on, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death,” (v.26) it is clear that his ‘enemies’ are not necessarily people. In Rev 21 we read of the new heaven and new earth, “There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain,” (Rev 21:4) and so we may assume that death, sickness and anything that detracts from God’s original perfect creation where total peace and harmony reigns, will be removed – including sin in any form.
God’s Goal: Now do you see the enormity of this? THIS is what God is aiming for and what Jesus is working for NOW. Now you may look at the world and your experience of it so far and ask, how can you say Jesus is working for that perfect goal now, in our present existence? I have two answers.
The Goal declared: First, because of what we have just recently read: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” i.e. he is reigning NOW and will only stop and hand it all back to the Father when he has accomplished all his objectives – to get rid of those things that prevent perfect people and harmony. THAT is his PRESENT objective and it is an ongoing process. This is what all the talk of ‘kingdom’ is about
Second, because Paul’s verses simply confirm David’s prophetic verses from Psa 110: “The Lord says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The Lord will extend your mighty sceptre from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!” (Psa 110:1,2) It was on God’s heart from the beginning! I have commented a number of times that there are at least seven verses in the New Testament that indicate that the plan to send Jesus to redeem us and work on this kingdom, was formulated before the Creation of the world.
The Need: The Godhead knew that mankind would sin, would exercise their free will to rebel against God and His design for mankind, with all the consequences that would follow. All of this, Jesus came to work against. The big, and hardest thing, would be to die on the Cross and all that that entailed, but after that, having established a new people, he would then work into the world and through his people – and that is where you and I come in.
Present Activity: Yes, there will come a time when Jesus will come a second time to the earth, a time of power, exercising the sovereignty of God, but in the meantime Jesus presides over this age and seeks to draw men and women to himself so that this peace and harmony can rule in their lives and they can work to bring it more and more in the earth. Now you may be gasping at the enormity of this (or maybe not taking in the enormity of it) and so we will pause up here and continue tomorrow in the next study.
Homework: Pray and ask the Lord to enlarge your understanding: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength.” (Eph 1:17-19) Increased understanding is a sign of growth.