Summary: There is a war yet to be fought, an enemy still capable of inflicting great harm...if we allow him to. We must equip ourselves by allowing the power of the Spirit to come into our lives and work through us to defeat the enemy.
The good news Jesus proclaimed was the gospel of the kingdom of God. Mark, in the first chapter of his gospel, summarized Jesus’ preaching at the beginning of his public ministry by quoting Jesus in vs. 15 "The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe."
Jesus was proclaiming the hope of Israel’s salvation, that God was coming to redeem and bless them and establish his reign over all the earth. Then for the duration of his public ministry, Jesus demonstrated that the kingdom of God was nearby healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead.
Every miraculous act had a purpose: to confront people with his message that the kingdom had come and that they had to decide to accept or reject it. Jesus was saying that the kingdom of God had come in Him. The authority of God had come to claim what was rightfully his. The kingdom of God was invading the kingdom of Satan.
Christ had a two-fold ministry that was repeated wherever He went: first proclamation, then demonstration. First He preached repentance and the good news of the Kingdom of God. Then He cast out demons, healed the sick, raised the dead...which proved He was the presence of the kingdom, the Anointed One.
Jesus came as a Jew to Israel, and kingdom rule was first offered to the Jews, but they rejected Christ and his kingdom. But while Israel as a nation rejected Him, a remnant did accept Him, and these were the foundation of the New Testament Church.
By choosing the twelve disciples Jesus taught that He was raising up a new people to replace the nation that was rejecting His message. Christ’s blessing of Peter and His giving him the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" is where the church entered into the covenant blessings of Israel.
Kingdoms have 3 elements: a king, authority, and subjects. If one of these is missing, we don’t have a kingdom. Jesus is our king; all authority in heaven and earth has been given him by his Father; and Christians are his subjects.
Some Christians who are unclear about the relationship between the kingdom of God and the church, confuse the two and teach that the church is the kingdom. This leads to serious error, such as equating church membership with salvation. The church can be an avenue to salvation, but it is not the source of salvation.
The church is the primary place of God’s rule, which means that the church witnesses to the kingdom. But it does not have the authority in itself to build the kingdom...only God has that authority.
It is when the church is confused with the kingdom that leaders begin to assume that God’s authority resides in their office...that they are the rule of God. This is where church leaders develop an authoritarian attitude...and also where cult leaders, like David Koresh, can speak and demand whatever they wish because they’re supposedly God’s earthly authority.
I have power...but it doesn’t come from my position of pastor...it comes from the kingdom of God, and that is what keeps me from leading in my own authority. Now, the church is also the instrument of the kingdom. The disciples not only proclaimed the kingdom, they demonstrated the works and miracles of the kingdom.
Jesus told Peter in Matt. 16:18 that "the gates of Hades (Hell) will not overcome the church." The "gates of Hades" are the strongholds of evil, death, and all the satanic powers that seek to destroy us.
As Christ’s instruments, we war against these strongholds, replacing their dominion with the kingdom of God. It was with this in mind that Christ commissioned the twelve (Matt. 10:5-15) The seventy-two (Luke 10:1-20) and now commissions us (Matt. 28:18-20).
Now, the proclamation of a faulty gospel will produce faulty, or at best, weak Christians. And this all too often the case today. Instead of a call to the lordship of Christ and membership in his kingdom, people are hearing a gospel that emphasizes self: come to Jesus and get this or that need met, be personally fulfilled, reach your potential.
While this may be evidence of having met Jesus in a personal way, it is not the costly kingdom gospel that Christ proclaims: "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the gospel will save it."
Often the kingdom is likened to a Caribbean cruise on a luxury liner. People change into their leisure clothes, grab their suntan lotion, and diddy-bop on down to the dock. What a shock it is when they find that entering the kingdom of God is really more like enlisting in the Navy and doing battle with the enemy.
And the enemy follows no rules of war. There is no Geneva convention. Satan considers nothing unfair, he is no gentleman. The sooner we understand this, the more serious we will become about being equipped and properly trained for the kingdom.