The Rapture Force

The Word is a Light, and cuts like a Sword thru the Darkness

Archive for January, 2008


Living In The Kingdom Of God

posted by PrayerWarrior

I find myself daily waking to feel the extreme joy of a life handed over to the Lord. Almost seeing the kingdom in my peripheral vision. I am amazed daily by this feeling of already living in Eternity!! When we hand Jesus Christ our life back, in total surrender to his will for our lives, you begin to understand that you are already a part of his Kingdom. We trade our dreams in for his dreams. But not only that he rewards you for giving him your life,to use as He wills.He repays your faith with his faithfulness in bringing you life abundantly and more importantly it becomes a joyous life. No matter your pain your worry, you know it is all going to be ok, because You are filled with His Blessed Assurance that He will never leave you.Once he is invited in, He is there forever more.

“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” John the Baptist and Jesus proclaimed the nearness of God’s kingdom (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15). A literal translation is “has come near.” The long-awaited rule of God was near. This message was called the gospel, the good news. Thousands were eager to hear and respond to this message of John and Jesus.John and Jesus preached a soon-coming kingdom, something that was near in time totheir audiences. The message said something about what people should do now; it had immediate relevance and urgency. It aroused interest—and jealousy. By proclaiming that changes were needed in government and in religious teachings, the message challenged the status quo.

First-century Jewish expectations

Many first-century Jews knew the phrase “kingdom of God.” They eagerly wanted God to send them a leader who would throw off Roman rule and make Judea an independent nation again—a nation of righteousness, glory and blessings, a nation everyone would be attracted to.
Into this climate—eager but vague expectations of God-ordained intervention—John and Jesus preached the nearness of God’s kingdom. “The kingdom of God has come near you,” Jesus told his disciples to say after they healed the sick (Matthew 10:7; cf. Luke 10:9, 11).But the hoped-for kingdom did not happen. The Jewish nation was not restored. Even worse, the temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered. The Jewish hopes are still unfulfilled. Jesus’ kingdom was not like the popular expectation—as we might guess from the fact that many Jews wanted him dead. His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). When he talked about the “kingdom of God,” he used a phrase the people knew well, but he gave it new meaning. He told Nicodemus that God’s kingdom was invisible to most people (John 3:3)—to understand it or experience it, a person must be renewed by God’s Spirit (verse 6). The kingdom of God was a spiritual kingdom, not a physical organization.

Present condition of the kingdom

In the Olivet prophecy, Jesus announced that the kingdom would come after certain signs and apocalyptic events. But some of Jesus’ teachings and parables explain that the kingdom does not come in a dramatic way. The seed grows quietly (Mark 4:26-29); the kingdom starts as small as a mustard seed (verses 30-32) and is hidden like yeast (Matthew 13:33). These parables suggest that the kingdom is a reality before it comes in a powerful and dramatic way. In addition to being a future reality, it has reality right now.
Let’s look at some verses that indicate the kingdom is already functioning. In Mark 1:15, John announced, “The time has come…. The kingdom of God is near.” Both these verbs are in the past perfect tense, which indicates that something has happened and its results continue. The time had come not just for the announcement but also for the kingdom. Jesus said, after casting out demons, “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20). The kingdom is here, he said, and the proof is in the exorcisms.

 This proof continues in the church today, because the church is doing even greater works than Jesus did (John 14:12). We can also say, “If we cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is working here.” The kingdom of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is continuing to demonstrate its authoritative power over the kingdom of Satan.Satan still exerts some influence, but he has been defeated and condemned (John 16:11). He has been partially restrained (Mark 3:27). Jesus overcame Satan’s world (John 16:33), and with God’s help we are overcoming it, too (1 John 5:4). But not everyone does. In this age, the kingdom contains both good and bad (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50; 24:45-51; 25:1-12, 14-30). Satan is still influential; we still look forward to the glorious future of the kingdom.The kingdom active in the teachings”The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:12. And forceful people are laying hold of it. These verbs are in the present tense—the kingdom existed in Jesus’ day. A parallel verse, Luke 16:16, also uses present-tense verbs: “everyone is forcing his way into it.” We don’t need to decide who the forceful people are or why they use force—what is important here is that these verses talk about the kingdom as a present reality.
Luke 16:16 replaces the first part of the verse with “the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached.” This variation suggests that the kingdom’s advance in this age is, for practical purposes, roughly equivalent to its proclamation. The kingdom as—it already exists—and it is advancing by being preached.In Mark 10:15, Jesus indicates that the kingdom is something we must receive in some way, apparently in this life. How is the kingdom present? The details are not yet clear, but the verses we have looked at say it is present.

The kingdom is among us

Some Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom would come (Luke 17:20). You can’t see it, replied Jesus. But Jesus also said, “The kingdom of God is within [NIV footnote: among] you” (verse 21). Jesus is the King, and because he was teaching and performing miracles among them, the kingdom was among the Pharisees. Jesus Christ is in us today, too, and just as the kingdom was present in the ministry of Jesus, it is present in the ministry of his church. The King is among us; his spiritual power is in us, even though the kingdom is not yet operating in its full power. We have already been brought into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13). We are already receiving a kingdom, and our proper response is reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28). Christ “has made us [past tense] to be a kingdom” (Revelation 1:6). We are a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9)—already and currently a holy kingdom—but it does not yet appear what we shall be. God has rescued us from the dominion of sin and transferred us into his kingdom, under his ruling authority.
The kingdom of God is here, Jesus said. His audience did not need to wait for a conquering Messiah—God is already ruling, and we should be living his way now. We don’t yet possess a territory, but we do come under the reign of God.

The kingdom of God is yet future

Understanding that the kingdom already exists helps us give greater attention to serving others around us. But we do not forget that the completion of the kingdom is still future. If our only hope is in this age, we don’t have much hope (1 Corinthians 15:19). We do not harbor illusions about bringing the kingdom with human efforts. When we suffer setbacks and persecutions, when we see that most people reject the gospel, we gain strength from the knowledge that the fullness of the kingdom is in a future age.No matter how much we try to live in a way that reflects God and his kingdom, we cannot transform this world into God’s kingdom. It must come through dramatic intervention. Apocalyptic events are needed to usher in the new age. Satan must be completely restrained.
Numerous verses tell us that the kingdom of God will be a glorious future reality. We know that Christ is a King, and we yearn for the day he will exercise his power in a great and dramatic way to stop human suffering. The book of Daniel predicts a kingdom of God that will rule the earth (Daniel 2:44, 7:13-14, 22); the New Testament Apocalypse describes its arrival (Revelation 11:15, 19:11-16).

We pray for the kingdom to come (Luke 11:2). The poor in spirit and the persecuted await their future “reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:3, 10, 12). People “enter the kingdom” on a future “day” of judgment (Matthew 7:21-23, Luke 13:22-30). Jesus gave one parable because some people thought the kingdom would become powerful right away (Luke 19:11). In the Olivet prophecy, Jesus described dramatic events that would come before his return in power. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus looked forward to a kingdom in the future (Matthew 26:29).Paul speaks several times of “inheriting the kingdom of God” as a future experience (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21;. Ephesians 5:5), and otherwise indicates by his language that he thinks of it as realized only at the end of the age (1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; Colossians 4:11; . 2 Timothy 4:1, 18). When Paul wants to focus on the present manifestation of the kingdom, he tends either to introduce the term “justice” or “righteousness” along with “kingdom” (Romans 14:17) or in place of it (Romans 1:17; for the close association of the kingdom and the justice of God, see Matthew 6:33), or (alternatively) to connect the kingdom with Jesus Christ rather than God the Father (Colossians 1:13).
 Many “kingdom” scriptures could apply equally to the present kingdom or to the future fulfillment. Lawbreakers will be called least in the kingdom (Matthew 5:19-20). We leave families for the sake of the kingdom (Luke 18:29). We enter the kingdom through tribulations (Acts 14:22). The important thing for this article is that some verses are clearly present tense, and some are clearly future tense.

The kingdom and the gospel

When we hear the word kingdom, we are reminded of the kingdoms of this world. Kingdom in this world is associated with authority and power, but not harmony and love. Kingdom can describe the authority God has in his family, but it does not describe all the blessings God has in store for us. That’s why other metaphors are used, too, such as the family term children, which emphasizes God’s love and authority.Each term is accurate, but incomplete. If any one term could describe salvation perfectly, the Bible would use

 that term consistently. But all are metaphors, each describing some aspect of salvation—but none of the terms describes the complete picture. When God commissioned the church to preach the gospel, he did not restrict us to using only the term “kingdom of God.” The apostles translated Jesus’ sayings from Aramaic to Greek, and they translated them into other metaphors, especially metaphors that were more meaningful to a non-Jewish audience. Matthew, Mark and Luke use “the kingdom” often. John and the epistles also describe our future, but they prefer other metaphors to do it.
Salvation is a more general term. Paul said we have been saved (Ephesians 2:8), are being saved (2 Corinthians 2:15) and shall be saved (Romans 5:9). God has given us salvation, and he expects us to respond to him with faith. John wrote of salvation and eternal life as a present reality and possession (1 John 5:11-12) and a future blessing.Metaphors such as salvation and family of God—just as much as kingdom—are legitimate although partial descriptions of God’s plan for us. Christ’s gospel can be called the gospel of the kingdom, gospel of salvation, gospel of grace, gospel of God, gospel of eternal life, etc. The gospel is an announcement that we can live with God forever, and it includes information that this is possible—through Jesus Christ our Savior.When Jesus talked about the kingdom, he didn’t emphasize its physical blessings or clarify its chronology. He focused instead on what people should do to be part of it. Tax collectors and prostitutes enter the kingdom of God, Jesus said (Matthew 21:31), and they do it by believing the gospel (verse 32) and by doing what the Father wants (verses 28-31). We enter the kingdom functionally when we respond to God with faith and allegiance.

In Mark 10, a man wanted to inherit eternal life, and Jesus said he should keep the commandments (Mark 10:17-19). Jesus added another command: He told him to give up all his possessions for the heavenly treasure (verse 21). Jesus commented to the disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (verse 23). The disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” (verse 26). In this passage, and in its parallel in Luke 18:18-30, we see several phrases used to indicate the same thing: receive the kingdom, inherit eternal life, have treasure in heaven, enter the kingdom, be saved.

 When Jesus said, “follow me” (verse 21), he was using another phrase to indicate the same thing: We enter the kingdom by orienting our life to Jesus.In Corinth, Paul preached nothing but Christ and his crucifixion (1 Corinthians 2:2). In Acts 28:23, 29, 31, Luke tells us that Paul in Rome preached both the kingdom and about Jesus and salvation. These are different aspects of the same Christian message.In Luke 12:31-34, Jesus indicates that several phrases are similar: seeking the kingdom, being given the kingdom, having a heavenly treasure, giving up trust in physical possessions. We seek God’s kingdom by responding to what Jesus taught. In Luke 21:28, 30, the kingdom is parallel to redemption. In Acts 20:21, 24-25, 32, we learn that Paul preached the gospel of the kingdom, and he preached the gospel of God’s grace, repentance and faith. The kingdom is closely connected with salvation—the kingdom would not be worth preaching if we couldn’t be part of it, and we can enter it only through faith, repentance and grace, so those are part of any message about God’s kingdom. Salvation is a present-tense reality as well as a promise of future blessings. The kingdom is relevant not merely because it is our future reward, but also because it affects how we live and think in this age. We prepare for the future kingdom by living in it now, in accordance with our King’s teachings. As we live in faith, we recognize God’s rule as a present reality in our own experience, and we continue to hope in faith for a future time when the kingdom will be filled to the full, when the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.

Love in Christ Jesus to all my brothers and sisters.
Prayer Warrior/Tammy


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