The Reign of God. Understanding the Kingdom of God

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1 The Reign of God Understanding the Kingdom of God

2 This leaflet is part of our sermon series on spiritual warfare. Understanding the Kingdom of God is vital to understanding many things within the Bible and none more so than this issue of spiritual warfare. One of the main themes of the Bible is the Kingdom of God. It is certainly the central theme of Jesus teaching. It is vital for those of us who follow Jesus to understand what he meant by this phrase and what it means for us today. Throughout the Bible the Kingdom of God is also referred to as the Kingdom of Heaven, "the kingdom of Christ and God" (Ephesians 5:5), "the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Colossians 1:13), everlasting kingdom (Dan 7:27). They all refer to the same thing. The Old Testament The Old Testament does not include the phrase Kingdom of God but the idea of it permeates many of the Books. In Genesis the book begins with a clear statement of who created the world and therefore who it belongs to. Within chapters 1 and 2 we also see God handing over dominion of the world to humanity (Gen 1:26-30, 2:15). By chapter 3 we see the devil tricking Adam and Eve into sin, effectively handing what God had given them over to Satan. The rest of the Old Testament then sees God beginning the process of restoring his reign over the earth. This is primarily through his chosen people, Israel. In Exodus we see God asserting his Kingship over his people by releasing them from slavery. The books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy outline the moral and religious boundaries of his rule. We then see his rule established through the Judges and especially King David. So the psalmist declares, The 2

3 LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all (Ps 103:19). We then see a process of his rule being challenged by the people of Israel by their repeated rebellion against his ways. During this time we see in the writings of the prophets their call to the people of Israel to restore the rule of God in their lives and in their nation. There is a growing sense of anticipation in the prophets of not just God s rule being returned but also of a King who would reign over Israel. In Zechariah 9:9 the prophet encourages his hearers to look to this coming king Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Isaiah talks of this coming King in chapter 9 and how his government will keep on increasing and never end. It will be a kingdom of justice, righteousness and peace. At around the same time as Zechariah Daniel talks very definitely of God s Kingdom (Daniel 4:3,6:26) as something real and eternal. For all the prophets the Kingdom of God is expressed in away that makes it clear they saw it as a political and geographical realm. For them God s Kingdom coming was about a restoration of the nation of Israel, a return to the glory days of King David. 3

4 The New Testament In the NT the idea of the Kingdom of God becomes more fully developed, mainly within the teachings of Jesus but also within the other books. The Gospel of Mark has Jesus beginning his ministry with a declaration of the coming of God s Kingdom (Mark 1:15). After Jesus baptism Matthew says From that time on Jesus began to preach Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near. The Kingdom was the central theme of many of Jesus parable the kingdom of God is like. It also forms a key part of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. However, there is also some difficulty over the teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom. There are times when he clearly says that the Kingdom is coming, that is has not yet arrived but is near or at hand. There are also other times when Jesus says that it has come (eg Matt 12:28). Christians have taken different stances on this issue. There are some who would say that the whole of the Kingdom has come. This is known as Realised Eschatology. In practice this would imply that everyone should be healed, that we live with all the benefits of the Kingdom now. Often this is expressed within some prosperity teaching. Sometimes this belief can be expressed in extreme ways, eg Christians should not be poor or sick. However, this is not what we see in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus did not heal everyone he came across. In his hometown, not many people were healed and at the pool of Bethesaida there would have been many sick people around the pool but it is recorded that Jesus healed only one The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news person. Mark 1:15 There are others who believe that we shouldn t see anything of God s Kingdom now Unrealised Eschatology. In other words we should not expect to see anyone healed or delivered. There should be no prophecy, no pushing back of the evil in this world. These things will only happen when Jesus returns and brings God s Kingdom with him. Again when we look at the ministry of Jesus he clearly did expect these things and more importantly expected his followers to do them as well (John 14:12). So we are left with a conundrum, the Kingdom is here but not yet! So what is the best view to take? There are now many who believe that the Kingdom has come but not fully. Known as Inaugurated Eschatology, this encourages us to see that we are in the process of seeing the Kingdom of God come, a process that will be completed on Jesus return. In this we believe that we will see the things that Jesus did increasing as we approach the end of the age. When Isaiah declared of the increase of his 4

5 government there will be no end that this is what he meant. He was looking forward to the day when the new King would arrive and begin to establish a new Kingdom that would allow the reign of God to increase over the world. We see from church history that this is being seen, even in our age. This is a time of unprecedented church growth, despite the decline in the west. However, even in the west there has been a growing regularity of revivals. These are times when the reign of God becomes focused on one geographical area and results in an increase of salvation and healing, as well as a decrease in things like crime and violence. Throughout the Old Testament the expectation of the Kingdom of God is that it would be a geographical realm, a new beginning for the nation of Israel. However, in the New Testament this expectation is fulfilled in a completely unexpected way. Instead the Kingdom is expressed more in terms of God s reign breaking through into the lives of individuals who are then brought into a new relationship with God and with each other. God s reign is not manifested in a geographical area but is a spiritual and relational reign. People enter the kingdom spiritually (John 3:5, 1 Cor 15:50) and live a new kind of life in a new relationship with God. Paul puts it this way For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17) 5

6 The Kingdom of Darkness To enter any kingdom you also have to leave another and scripture makes it clear that we move from the kingdom of darkness to enter the Kingdom of Light (1 Peter 2:9). The whole world is described as being under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19). At the fall (Genesis 3) the devil seized control of the world that God had placed under the authority of humanity. The devil is described as leading the whole world astray (Rev 12:9), encouraging people to draw away from the ways of God. He is the liar who leads people into deception, the tempter who leads people into sin, the destroyer who leads people into destructive behaviours, the thief who steals lives. This has become normal life in a world ravaged by sin. The consequence of this is that most people live most of their lives unaware of the goodness of God. Paul said the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4) The devil is able The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy John 10:10 to exercise his influence and even rule over everyone born into this world. The Battle Wherever God s reign begins to break through into this world it pushes back the kingdom of darkness. In his ministry Jesus showed us what it means to live and minister within the Kingdom of God. Everywhere he went he would see the darkness pushed back in the lives of people he met. Finally, in his death he brought about the defeat of Satan and his kingdom and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col 2:13-15 The table on the next page looks at some passages from the Gospel of Mark and shows how Jesus has defeated every work of the devil. There is nothing that the devil can do that has not been overcome by the cross. The defeat of the kingdom of darkness is final and fatal, but the battle continues until the day that Jesus comes back to bring an end forever to all that the devil stands for. For now every time we see salvation, healing and deliverance the darkness is pushed back (Matt 12:28). 6

7 Conclusion Jesus tells a parable (Matt 13:24-30) about a man who planted good seed in a field but during the night his enemy came and planted weeds amongst the good seed. As the wheat grew so did the weeds. When the man s servants came to tell him about the weeds he told them that his enemy did this and that they should let the wheat and the weeds grow together until the day of harvest. On that day the weeds would be gathered and burned and the wheat harvested and brought into his barn. For now God is prepared to allow the kingdom of darkness to continue until the last day in order to bring into His Kingdom as many people as possible. He looks to us to be the agents of his Kingdom. Through us He chooses to bring his reign to bear upon our world and upon the kingdom of darkness. It is our task and responsibility to be His servants in His Kingdom and to continue to serve Him until Jesus returns. At that point we, God s people, can look forward to a new Heaven and a new earth and God s reign over all His creation will be completely restored (Rev 21). 7

8 Rev Steve McGanity St Andrew s Church Queens Drive Liverpool, Merseyside L13 0AL

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