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THE KINGDOM OF GOD

(Part II)

by Buddy Sheets


Whenever you open the pages of the New Testament, one of the first things that you are struck by is the apparent war in which Jesus is immediately engaged. John the Baptist proclaimed that there was one coming (Jesus) in which the Age of the Spirit would come. The words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark clearly denote that the Kingdom had arrived with Jesus. The words and works of Jesus together form a divine unity in which the Kingdom of God is first spoken about and then demonstrated. In Jesus we have the presence of the future. Jesus has brought the Rule and Reign of God from the future into the present. In other words, we now live in the presence of the future. This expression was often used by the late Dr. George Eldon Ladd to express Kingdom reality. He often said that the Church lives between the times; she lives between the inauguration and the consummation of the Kingdom.

This "now-but-not-yet" concept is seen throughout the New Testament. Matthew illustrates it at 12.28 when he writes, But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15.24, Then the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. John writes in 1 John 3.2, Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. What Jesus did was every bit as important as what He said. Twentieth century western Chrstians are often more preoccupied with what He said, too often forgetting that what He did carries the same message. He taught as much by doing as He did by saying.

It is fair to ask the question: What did Jesus do in His ministry? Mark's Gospel makes it clear that the mission of Jesus was to destroy the activity of Satan in the world. He gave His hearers an optical illustration of the Kingdom in His ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons. Jesus and Satan were in a cosmic conflict that was being fought for the ownership and rule in the lives of men and women. In like manner other battles were afoot:

  1. Hunger - John 6:1-14 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed Him because they saw the miraculous signs He had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with His disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"  Another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, He said to His disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.".

  2. Natural catastrophes - Mark 4:35-41 That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, don't You care if we drown?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to His disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!"

  3. Sickness - Luke 7:21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.

  4. Death - Luke 7:11-17 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and His disciples and a large crowd went along with Him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out-the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, "Don't cry." Then He went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

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Matthew's Gospel also clearly demonstrates that the war between Jesus and Satan is not a civil war within a kingdom. Rather, it is a battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, the Kingdom of Light and the kingdom of darkness.

Matt 12:22-31 Then they brought Him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. "Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

The strong man, Satan, is bound (deo: to bind—a metaphorical term indicating the curbing of power) by the life, ministry and sacrifice of Jesus so that the strong man's house (Satan's kingdom) may be plundered. The power is curbed, but not rendered completely powerless (Ladd. A Theology of the New Testament. 1974. 66)

Matt. 16:23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

Mark 8:33 But when Jesus turned and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" He said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

In his book The Real satan, Dr. James Kallas says, "A war is going on! Cosmic war! Jesus is the divine invader sent by God to shatter the strengths of Satan. In that light, the whole ministry of Jesus unrolls. Jesus has one purpose - to defeat Satan. He takes seriously the strength of the enemy" (Kallas. 175, 60). Jesus won the war, but there are battles still left to be fought. Jesus gave His disciples the mission of continuing to bring the Rule and Reign of God into the world in their lives and proclamation.

Luke 10:8-9 "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.'

In their preaching and miracles Jesus saw Satan's defeat demonstrated.

Luke 10:18 He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

The last words of Jesus to his disciples when He left Acts 1:1-8 demonstrate that He would empower His disciples to continue in the cleanup of the war.

Acts 1:1-8 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God. On one occasion, while He was eating with them, He gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." So when they met together, they asked Him, "Lord, are You at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. 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."

An illustration from Oscar Cullmann's book Christ and Time will help us understand this concept of cleanup. He shares a story from World War II's D-day and V-day. D-day was June 6, 1944, a day when it was obvious that the result of the war was decided, that the Allies would be victorious. However, the war did not officially conclude until May 7-8, 1945, on V-day (Cullmann. 1964. 84). Between these two dates, for almost a year, there were still battles being fought and allied lives being lost. In fact, more lives were lost during this period than any other period during the war. Even though the battles went on, and even thought there were still casulties, there was no doubt who the winners were going to be, the war had already been decided. So it was with Jesus. The earth was His. In His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension God had overthrown Satan. God planted His flag in the form of a cross and Jesus said, "It is finished." The war is over, but the aftermath still continues and will until the return of Jesus.

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To understand the Kingdom of God, with its present and future aspects, is to clearly understand the theme from which the ministry of Jesus and the all of the writings of the New Testament flow. We live in the presence of the future, the "now-but-not-yet." When we view any passage of Scripture in the New Testament, we must put on our "Kingdom of God glasses" and ask questions of that passage with that set of presuppositions.

The Kingdom of God was clearly taught in the Old Testament. It can be clearly demonstrated that the Kingdom is seen in events like the Exodus and Israel's captivity in Babylon. God acted in kingly power to deliver and judge His children. But the Kingdom came into history once-and-for-all in its clearest expression in the person and works of Jesus.

Two Ways to View the Kingdom in The New Testament
There are two ways in which the material of the New Testament concerning the Kingdom can be viewed: the Satanward view and the Godward view.

The Satanward view takes seriously the idea that Jesus came into the world to wage war against Satan. The tendency of the Western Christian is to accept the supernatural events which happened in Scripture in one of three ways:

  1. The events happened then, but they do not happen today.

  2. The events happened then and they still happen today.

  3. The events never happened as they are reported, therefore, they cannot happen today.

When the New Testament material is observed from the perspective that the ministry of Jesus was indeed aimed at Satan in a cosmic war fought on earth, it is called the Satanward view. This term was coined by Dr. James Kallas and is meant to demonstrate that Christians should take Satan seriously as God's enemy.

The second manner in which the material of the New Testament can be seen is called by Dr. Kallas as the Godward view. In this view the mission of Jesus was to bring us salvation and return us to fellowship with God with the ultimate goal being that we as the redeemed, the "citizens of the Kingdom" would be prepared to rule throughout the eternal ages as the Bride of Christ - the eternal companion of the Glorious Son of the Living God!.

Both the Godward and Satanward views are legitimate. According to Dr. Kallas, the following approximate percentages are found:

Again, both interpretations are true. It is a fact that Biblical truth can never be discerned by choosing one truth over another! In this instance, both truths must be held together in tension. "When the two are separated," states Dr. Kallas, "it is not that one has half a truth, but that one has no truth, but distortion."

To accurately understand the Kingdom of God, we must be committed to the Satanward view of Scripture as well as the Godward view. Within the Satanward view the Church is seen as the army of God which continues the cleanup mission until the return of the King, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to the poor, performing signs and wonders which are the by-products and the calling card of the Kingdom, healing the sick and yes, even raising the dead!. In the Godward view the Church is seen as the functioning Body of the King left on earth to minister redemption to those outside and to care for those inside the Body, as she prepares Herself for the physical return of Her King and for the climax of all the ages - a glorious wedding!


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