Summary: In Jesus the fullness of the Kingdom of God is realized. A study of Kingdom ideas in the four Gospels.
3. THE MESSIAH: THE KINGDOM IS HERE
A. The Kingdom is at hand
Gabriel’s message to Mary (Matthew 1:33) in the first chapter of the New Testament, is that the Kingdom of Her Son will know no end! The first words recorded of John the Baptist, only two chapters later: “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” According to Mark’s first chapter, Jesus’ initial message is exactly the same! ( Mark 1:15) Jesus even tells his disciples, at the very beginning, to preach the Gospel of “the kingdom” (Matthew 10:7, Luke 9:2,60). The Greek for “at hand” is engus, which means “near” whether in time or place. The Kingdom is very close to you now, and about to get a lot closer. Heaven has touched earth. My rule continues, and for some, begins.
B. The Kingdom is the Message of Jesus
Jesus’ Good News centers in this kingdom. This is what he and all the apostles, including Paul, preached (Matthew 4:23, 9:35 Mark 1:14, Luke 8:1, 9:11). It is this gospel of the kingdom that shall be preached in all the world just before the end comes (Matthew 24:14).
C. Jesus’ Description of Kingdom People
The beatitudes describe a meek lowly persecuted people who are in fact to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven ( Matthew 5). The meek here are not said to populate heaven at first, but to inherit the earth. We reign with Christ. Here. In this heavenly kingdom-come-to-earth, men who have honored God’s Word perfectly in our present condition shall be considered great in that kingdom, while popular but error-serving teachers now will be shamed then (Matthew 5:19). The formalities of righteousness will not be honored in that land, but only the inward graces (Matthew 5:20). Those who in this life started out for the kingdom but turned back, will not be considered worthy to enter (Luke 9:62). Kingdom people are to be occupied with the kingdom fully, praying its soon coming, and seeking it above all else (Matthew 6:10, 33). The one least in this Kingdom of Jesus will be considered greater than the public prophet, like John the Baptist, though John, in men’s eyes, is the greatest who has arisen so far.
D. Jesus declares the Kingdom has actually arrived!
In Matthew 11:12, Jesus indicates that the kingdom being experienced by the Jews now, i.e., the defunct reign of David, is in the process of experiencing severe violence. He refers perhaps to the violent dealings with the Baptist and Himself, two announcers of the Kingdom both persecuted for this daring word. Perhaps it is the spiritually violent who take the kingdom of God personally. He suggests in all of this that the Kingdom is alive, and He is its latest and greatest representative. In the next chapter an even bolder statement, arguing that His power over demons is a clear proof that the kingdom has come! Here He defines the kingdom as the authority and power of God in the Name of Jesus. His continued power over disease, nature, and evil spirits, confirm His claim to be the King of Israel.
E. Stories of the Kingdom
Parables are said by Jesus to be none other than explanations of the mysteries surrounding the kingdom of heaven. Viewed in this manner, they soon take on a definable shape. They begin to seem very similar. Each story tells about life now, life later, and the connection between the two. We are told how God’s subjects live here, and the rewards they receive there. Disobedience and its punishment are also a part of many stories.
1. Matthew 13: 1-23.
The sower is sowing the word of the kingdom, now. The word prospers or fails, now, in the human heart. The results follow later.
2. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.
The wheat and tares. Here the seed is the kingdom man. The weeds are Satan’s folks. The sowing is now, in our world, in our church. Seeds are allowed to grow to maturity. Harvest is at the end. Justice takes place. His Kingdom will be stripped one day of these evil men, carried away by angels. Here is introduced a furnace of fire. Wailing. Gnashing of teeth. So the kingdom for now is merely sowing and waiting. There is confusion, strife. But in contrast, when the fulness of the kingdom comes, no evil is left. This like many of the kingdom parables finds its parallel in the reality of Matthew 25, when Jesus comes and simply divides humanity into two parts. It’s that simple.
3. Mark 4:26-29.
The growing seed. Planting, growing, waiting, are all our duties in this present age. But at maturity of time comes the sickle. The harvest. The judgment. The pattern is the same.
4. Matthew 13: 31-32.
Mustard Seed. Now the planting, the growing, starting from nothing but later filling the garden, later still becoming a place of beauty and rest . Least becomes greatest. He was cut off, crucified, made the least. But one day He rules the world. Not the Medieval world. Not our present “One-out-of-every-3–people–is-a-Christian” world. The whole world.