T. J. de
Ruiter, Pentecostal Pastor and Bibleteacher in The Netherlands
1. The Jewish expectation of the kingdom of God in the time of Jesus
Several years before Jesus Christ began with his public ministry John the Baptist, a lonely figure coming from the desert, preached that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He called the people to repent of their sins and prepare themselves for the Kingdom of God. He said: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand," (Matthew 3:2). It is interesting to know that about 400 years earlier one of the last prophets under the old covenant had announced that the LORD would set up his kingdom and rule over his people Israel and the nations, (1 Samuel 7:13; Isaiah 9:7; Micah 4:7; Zechariah 14:9,10; Luke 1:32)). Now John the Baptist renewed the hope of the realisation of the Kingdom. When Jesus commenced with his ministry He continued with this message of the Kingdom of God, declaring that the Kingdom was very close and could be grasped, (Matthew 4:17; 11:12-15).
The Jewish expectation of the kingdom of God contained a national restoration of Israel's independence with the Lord God Himself or a descendant of the house of David as the king. Many prophets had spoken about such a future restoration. John the Baptist and Jesus both preached in a time when many fervently desired the restoration of Israel as an independent, sovereign nation, for in those days it was a province of the great Roman Empire. It is not surprising that there were in those days frequent uprisings against the Romans, but they were all crushed down.
Jesus preached no uprising and the opportunities to become a king he rejected. His disciples also expected Him to set up the kingdom and throw the Romans out. Even after Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead his disciples still hoped for a soon restoration, (Acts 1:6). But Jesus ascended into heaven without fulfilling their hope. In fact, He said that only the Father in heaven knew the time when the Kingdom with all its wonderful promises would be realised, (Acts 1:7). Surely, the disciples must have been disappointed at that time.
Jesus did not fulfil the Jewish expectation of the Kingdom of God, why not? Was there anything wrong with their expectation? Not really, but they were not willing tot fulfil the conditions of it.
What were the conditions that the Jews had to fulfil in order to have the kingdom established?
a. Repentance of
b. Deciding to live a better, a godly life.
c. To believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the King of the kingdom.
If Jesus was going to rule as a King He needed a fully obedient people that with her whole heart wanted to serve God. For only when His people were willing to love and serve Him, God could establish His Kingdom. The common people were willing to believe in and submit themselves to Jesus, many had already repented of their sins in reaction to the preaching of John the Baptist. But the leaders, who were very proud, legalistic and hypocritical - as John the Baptist had already perceived - did not repent of these professional and other sins. They did not really oppose John but became increasingly antagonistic towards Jesus. Especially His claim to be the Son of God aroused their hatred, but they could also not accept that He was a son or descendant of David and that He as such had also a right to the throne, (Matthew 22:41-46). They wanted to get rid of Him and they succeeded. They had Him crucified by the Romans.
Jesus died, but God raised Him from the dead. However, at that time there was no future on earth for Him as nothing could change the heart of the majority of those Jewish leaders. He ascended into heaven but promised to return to take the throne and restore all things. He left behind a group of disciples that had been faithful and had loved Him. They were instructed to take the message of the love and forgiveness of God with the promise of His return as Lord and King into the whole world. And into the world they went, preaching everywhere. The people that repented of their sins, believed in Him as Saviour and Lord, began in his name a new life and formed local fellowships, churches, in Greek the 'ekklesia,' meaning 'the called out group,' called out by God from the world as His people that would prepare the coming of the King. This brings to the next subject: 'The Kingdom of God and the Church.'
2. The Kingdom of God and the Church
Jesus knew that He was going to be rejected by his own nation and He decided that He had to establish a new fellowship of believers to which He could entrust His message and the knowledge of the purposes of God as belonging to the Kingdom. In John chapter ten He referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd with His own flock, people that belonged to Him, recognised his voice and followed Him. He made that decision after the healed blind boy who was excommunicated from the synagogue. The healed blind boy believed in Jesus, after all, He was miraculously healed by Him. The religious leaders not only questioned his healing but also criticized his confession of Jesus as a man of God. Jesus found the boy and for the first time he saw his healer, (John 9:37,38). Jesus then realized that He had to form a new fellowship to give those that believed in Him a new spiritual home. This was the background of his message about the Good Shepherd and His flock, (John 10).
The Church then is the fellowship of believers of which Jesus is the head and who recognize his call to prepare themselves for the coming Kingdom of God. They will try to live by the rules of the Kingdom whilst living in the world that more than likely will reject the message of the coming King and the kingdom way of living. Jesus foretold them that they would be hated as He himself was hated and rejected, ( John 15:18,19). Church History shows again and again the truth of that prediction. Those that really want to live a godly life and abide by the standard of living of the Kingdom have been persecuted and some have even been killed. This situation continues to this day.
Though members of the Church may be rejected by the world - that is the society that shuts God out of her affairs and lifestyle - their names are however already registered as citizens of heaven, (Philippians 3:21). The full realisation of this heavenly citizenship will be manifested when Christ returns and they shall be bodily transformed in the twinkling of an eye, (1 Corinthians 15:51,52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
3. Living now for the coming Kingdom of God
The apostle Paul pointed out the essential personal aspects of the Kingdom of God in this present age. He wrote in Romans 14:17: "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Let me enlarge a little on these essential aspects of the experience of the kingdom of God now.
Paul mentioned righteousness. Righteousness is the way of life as God wants it. Living in truth, in love and with respect for others, with integrity and in all things preferring the will of God, as Jesus did. If we live according to these principles God can call himself the King of our life. The result of God's rule in us will be peace and joy, generated in us by the Holy Spirit. This peace and joy are above our understanding for they are not coming from our own nature but of the presence of the supernatural Spirit of God in us, (Philippians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:8). In the so called 'Sermon on the Mount' as we find it in Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7, Jesus taught practical aspects of the righteous way of living. It is, no doubt, the way of living in the kingdom of God.
Believers living now should prepare themselves for the coming Kingdom of God. They believe that Jesus is coming again, will sit on His throne, reigning over Israel and the whole world. And the Holy Scripture tells that He will do much more. It declares that the Messiah will also restore the earth.
4. The Kingdom of God and the restoration of the earth
The first goal of Christ in coming to this planet was to reconcile mankind with God. This message of reconciliation He entrusted to his messengers of the Church (1 Corinthians 5:18-21). The second goal of Christ is to heal and restore all that has been defiled and damaged by the devastating rebellion of spirits in heaven and men on earth (Colossians 1:19,20). Christ shall, with His church, restore creation with the Creator. To ensure eternal success of his wonderful plans, God will at a certain point in the future put out of action all creatures that are not willing to submit to Him and become a partaker of His great eternal plans. When Christ will be King of the earth, He will restore the planet in its original beauty and with its original healthy environment. When the Lord is King over all the earth there will be peace and safety for men and animals, for the savage nature shall have disappeared ( Isaiah 9:5,6; 11:6-10)
Is it not wonderful to look forward to the future of the Kingdom, having the privilege to prepare yourself for it now and even be willing to endure scorn and persecution of the present, godless world?
5. The healing powers of the coming Kingdom
The Gospel of John
calls the miracles that Jesus
performed 'signs.' We understand that His miracles were all proofs or
of three truths:
a. His Messianic identity
b. His Sonship of God
c. His will to heal the sick and suffering
The Gospels tell us that the miraculous healing powers of the Spirit of God worked powerfully and without failure through Jesus. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and powerfully anointed, perfect in faith and knowledge and worked in a very close relationship with the Father. In and through Him we had a perfect foretaste of the powers of the Kingdom.
The ministry of healing continued in the ministry of the church up to this day. But we know that it does not as powerfully work as in the ministry of Jesus. Sickness even occurred amongst the first apostles and their fellow-labourers, (Galatians 4:13,14; 2 Timothy 4:20). There were sick people in the churches. Paul blamed sin and misconduct at the Lord's table for the many sick in the church of Corinth, (1 Corinthians 11:30).
The Spirit of God and his healing powers are still with us and all who are suitable and anointed channels or instruments of the Spirit will experience those powers work with and through them. Hebrews 6:5 confirms - though in connection with believers that have backslidden - that the powers of the coming age (The kingdom age) are tasted in this age or dispensation of the church: "And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world (age) to come." It is interesting here to study also the list of the gifts of the Spirit as found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, for in this list we have also the gifts of faith, healings and working of miracles.
I do point to a wrong teaching with regards to the blessings of the kingdom of God. There are those that teach that the perfect order of the kingdom can be realised by the Church in this, her age or dispensation while the King is not yet present. These preachers teach that in this age of the Church the whole world will be converted, sickness will be banned out and even death will be overcome. But a thorough study of the relevant Biblical passages show that this view is not really supported in the Bible. The full blessings of the kingdom of God can only be realised when the God appointed King is present.
We are still living in an imperfect world and age but we are still looking forward to the eschatological proclamation of Revelation 12:10: "The Kingdom of God, and the power of His Christ has come." But for now we still pray, as the Lord told us to pray: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, (Matthew 5:10).
"Lord, may Your Kingdom Rule soon become reality."
Jesus shall reign wher-e'er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
The Netherlands, 19 November 2007
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T. J. de Ruiter