In these articles (parts 1-?) I want us to take a look at the Kingdom of God, as viewed through the New Testament paradigm. Much of the church in the Western world today has lost sight of the Biblical view of the Kingdom of God as Jesus and the New Testament writers proclaimed it. But in these last days, the Holy Spirit is breathing on, renewing these truths and restoring the church back to her original standing and awareness. As Dr. Bill Hamon says, "God made the Church the way He wanted it, and He wants the Church the way He made it!"
I suggest that as you read through the material presented in these lessons, that you take the time to study and meditate on the biblical text(s) that are presented along with it. All Scriptures quoted are from the New International Version unless otherwise stated.
Jesus's teaching was Kingdom centered. His Kingdom theology was deeply rooted in the writings of the Old Testament prophets. The prophets had declared for hundreds of years that the Kingdom of God was coming; a day in which all of mankind, men and women, boys and girls and people of every race and nationality would live together in peace, in a world where social problems would be solved and all evil would pass away "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." (Isa. 2.4) "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them." (Isa. 11.6).
Throughout the New Testament and central to the teachings and ministry of Jesus, was this concept of the Kingdom of God. The authors of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) filled their books with teachings about the Kingdom. They often summarized the material they presented, as the beginning of Mark's Gospel illustrates. "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1 :14-15). Mark's brief summary demonstrates the disciples understanding of both the words and works of Jesus. Matthew summarized in a similar fashion. He likewise, as Mark did, succinctly shows the ministry of Jesus as it centered on the Kingdom, "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people." (Matt 4:23). and, "Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matt 9:35-36). Jesus also summarized the message of the Kingdom when He gave instructions to His twelve disciples (Matt. 10.5-15).
"These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. (Matt 10:5-15)
The gospel of the Kingdom is the only gospel that He instructed His disciples to preach. When Luke recorded the sending of the seventy disciples, it was in the context of the Kingdom; "After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town." (Luke 10.1-12). The term Kingdom was frequently on the lips of Jesus and the idea of the Kingdom was central to the proclamation(s) of Jesus.
His words were designed to demonstrate for us how to enter the Kingdom "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5.20) and again, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt 7.21). His works authenticated that the Kingdom was present in His ministry, "But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Matt. 12.28). His parables informed us about the mysteries of the Kingdom, "He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them." (Matt. 13.11). His prayers modeled for His disciples the desire of His heart, which was that the Kingdom would come to earth, "...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt. 6.10). His death, resurrection, and ascension made us the instruments of the Kingdom, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1.8). His Second Coming promises the consummation of the Kingdom for His children, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory..., Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." (Matt. 25.31, 34).
In history, the Kingdom of God has been interpreted many ways. Here are a few examples:
C.H. Dodd taught that the Kingdom of God was realized fully in the ministry of Jesus. The Kingdom of God is an earthly place where there is righteousness, peace, and joy. These are the benefits for those who live yielded lives to the Rule of the Spirit. The Kingdom as a present reality is based on such passages as Matthew 12.28; Romans 14.17; and Isaiah 2.4.
"But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit"
"He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation,nor will they train for war anymore."
A second way the Kingdom is viewed is that it is a place of future blessing which occurs at the Second Coming for the people of God (1 Cor. 15.50; Matt. 8.11; 2 Pet. 1.11; Matt. 25.34). The followers of Jesus enter the Kingdom when He returns. The coming Kingdom would bring about an end to the old order of humanity and begin a new existence in a heavenly order. Thus, the Kingdom is altogether future and supernatural.
1 Cor 15:50
"I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable."
"1 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."
2 Peter 1:11
"And you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world."
Adolph Von Harnack suggested another theory. For him, the Kingdom was reduced to a subjective realm. It is an inner spiritual redemptive blessing (Rom. 14.17). The Kingdom is expressed by the new birth (John 3.3) and is an inward power which enters into the human spirit and takes hold of it.
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit"
"In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
Yet another view of the Kingdom of God was created by St. Augustine. He believed that the Kingdom and the Church were the same thing. This view is still common as suggested by our current language. We talk about bringing people into the Kingdom, which is a synonym for church. He believed that as the church grew, so the Kingdom grew. As the church takes the gospel into the world, the Kingdom is extended. Still other views emphasize: that the Kingdom of God should be likened to the governments and nations of the world (Rev. 11.15); that the Kingdom is a realm into which one must enter now (Matt.21.31); the Kingdom is a realm into which one must enter tomorrow (Matt. 8.11); the Kingdom is at the same time a gift of God given in the future (Luke 12.32), and a gift which must be received in the present (Mark 10.15) .What is the Kingdom?
"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever."
"Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you."
"I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."
"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."
"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
A Kingdom is normally understood as a realm over which a king rules. A modern day example of this idea was the United Kingdom which was made up of many nations: Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, etc. People live in the Kingdom (a place) and are subjects of the King or Queen who exercises his or her authority over his or her subjects.
Another way to view the idea of Kingdom is found in its dictionary definition: "The reign or rule a king has over his subjects." This definition is closer to the primary meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words than the concept of realm. In Hebrew the word for Kingdom is malkût (mal-coot). The Greek word is basileia (bah-see-lay-a).
Dr. James Kallas suggests in his book Jesus and the Power of Satan that Jesus never explained the Kingdom because the people to whom He was speaking knew what it meant or thought they knew what it meant (Kallas. 1968. 119). The Old Testament presents the Kingdom in the context of Jewish messianic expectation and eschatology. They believed that God would deliver them, which was their hope for the future. Israel reached its apex during the rule of King David and King Solomon. From that point forward Israel began to descend. At the death of Solomon the Kingdom divided into two Kingdoms with their own kings and governments. This division set in place a longing among the Jews for God to restore to them their past blessings. There were two ways which the Kingdom began to be understood. The first is called the Davidic concept and the Second the Apocalyptic Concept of the Kingdom of God.
Israel's hope was that God would send a king like David. Israel's focus was militaristic and geographic. Israel wanted a nationalistic kingdom to return. The prophets of the Old Testament began using a phrase "the day of the Lord," which was a two-sided belief system including restoration and judgment. Israel believed that the "day of the Lord" was a time when Israel would be fully restored (Amos 9.14; Isa. 11; Zech. 8.4-8). The nations would be judged (Amos 1). The message of Amos came to pass when the Northern Kingdom virtually ceased to exist after the Assyrian invasion. When the Southern Kingdom went into exile, the hope remained and glittered again during the Restoration Period when Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, became king. This hope is reflected in Psalm 126. The Davidic hope for a military and political power emerged again during the time of Zerubbabel. Judah hoped that the descendant of David was the one to return them to the glory of David's rule. Haggai and Zechariah mirrored the expectation which surrounded Zerubbabel. But when his kingship failed, hope began to wane.
"I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit."
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him--the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,the Spirit of counsel and of power,the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD-- and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy,with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb,the leopard will lie down with the goat,the calf and the lion and the yearling together;and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear,their young will lie down together,and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel;he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. 13 Ephraim's jealousy will vanish,and Judah's enemies will be cut off;Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah,nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim. They will swoop down on the slopes of Philistia to the west;together they will plunder the people to the east.They will lay hands on Edom and Moab,and the Ammonites will be subject to them. The LORD will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea;with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the Euphrates River. He will break it up into seven streams so that men can cross over in sandals. There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria,as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt."
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there." This is what the LORD Almighty says: "It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?" declares the LORD Almighty. This is what the LORD Almighty says: "I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God."
"The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa-what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. He said: "The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up,and the top of Carmel withers." This is what the LORD says: "For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth, I will send fire upon the house of Hazael that will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad. I will break down the gate of Damascus; I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden. The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir," says the LORD. This is what the LORD says: "For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom, I will send fire upon the walls of Gaza that will consume her fortresses. I will destroy the king of Ashdod and the one who holds the scepter in Ashkelon. I will turn my hand against Ekron, till the last of the Philistines is dead," says the Sovereign LORD. This is what the LORD says: "For three sins of Tyre, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood, I will send fire upon the walls of Tyre that will consume her fortresses." This is what the LORD says: "For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked, I will send fire upon Teman that will consume the fortresses of Bozrah." This is what the LORD says: "For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders, I will set fire to the walls of Rabbah that will consume her fortresses amid war cries on the day of battle, amid violent winds on a stormy day. Her king will go into exile, he and his officials together," says the LORD.
"When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him."
Once again during the Maccabean revolt these old nationalistic aspirations had a revival. However, the rise of a Davidic king, an anointed one to bring them to political power with military might, did not occur. When you turn to the pages of the New Testament, there is a remnant of those who still believed that God would restore a nationalistic kingdom to Israel (John 6.15; Acts 1.6).
"Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself."
"So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
The Kingdom of God was thought to be a Kingdom of this world which would be peopled by the Jews. There was nothing spiritual or future about it. The Kingdom was a dream of Jewish nationalism (Kallas. 1968. 119-121).
The second view which arose during the life of Judaism centered around the Intertestamental Period (404 B.C.6 B.C.). During this period there arose a new kind of writing within Judaism called Apocalyptic Literature and the term Kingdom of God came into popular usage. Hope did not diminish; it only assumed a new language with a modified meaning. The prophets hoped for a nationalistic kingdom, while the hope of the Apocalyptic writers was for a heavenly kingdom which would end this Present Evil Age. A new world would break into the present world and bring the rule of God.
This view developed a belief that Satan dominated this Present Evil Age; it was under his rule. When Antiochus Epiphanes unleashed his persecution on Israel (175-164 B.C.), this view began to flourish. This horrific deluge of evil could only be the result of a cosmic conflict. Evil was winning. Good was losing. The demonic and sickness were in control. It was here that the Jews' consciousness of evil spirits began to develop. The books of the Intertestamental Period give us a window to view the beliefs of the people in a specific period of time. In Enoch 54:3-6, Satan is pictured as the ruler of a kingdom of evil with many followers, the demons. The book of Jubilee 23:29 suggests a golden age to come in which God himself would usher in his kingdom reversing the evils of Satan. Good would triumph, healing would occur, the demonic would be defeated.