The Kingdom, the Seed and the Church (1)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Kingdom of God

 

The phrase the kingdom of God is only found in the New Testament.  It appears 68 times in the KJV[1] of the Bible in the Gospels, the book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul to the various Churches.  The other expression which is synonymous with the kingdom of God is the kingdom of heaven . It occurs 31 times in the Gospels alone.

 

Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries with the following words:

 

Matthew 3:1-2 (NKJV[2])

 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Matthew 4:17 (NKJV)

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

 

As I mentioned earlier the expressions kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are interchanged, this we notice from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.

 

Mark1:14-15(NKJV)
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

 

According to the Strong’s Concordance[3] the meaning of the word repent is to think differently or a change of mind[4]. If I could paraphrase what John the Baptist and Jesus said it would sound something like this:

 

Here’s some good news.  There is a new kingdom coming.  Not like the earthly ones you are used to – like the kingdom of Israel or the Roman and Greek kingdoms.  This one will come from the heavens and is from God.  But to be able to comprehend and understand this new type of kingdom, you have to have a new paradigm of thinking.  The old way of thinking and doing won’t help you in this new kingdom from God.  Furthermore, to enter this kingdom, there are prerequisites.

 

This message of God’s kingdom preached by John the Baptist and Jesus was called the gospel of the kingdom.  Surely for something to be good news there had to be some kind of benefit to the hearers of this message.  And if both John the Baptist and Jesus preached the same message, a message of a heavenly kingdom, we certainly need to know what it is all about!  We need to understand the principles, the ways and dynamics of this Kingdom.

 

Matthew 4:23 (NKJV)
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

 

Matthew 9:35 (NKJV)
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

 

Matthew 24:14 (NKJV) 

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the entire world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Not only did Jesus preach the gospel of the kingdom but when He gave His twelve disciples authority and sent them to preach, heal the sick and drive out demons in Matthew 10 verse 1, he gave this command in verse 7:

“And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

In like manner when He sent out the seventy others in Luke 10, He gave them the same instructions.

Luke 10:1, 8-9 (KJV) 

After these things the LORD appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.  And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you: And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

Apart from doing miracles, healing the sick and raising the dead, Jesus taught the people in the form of parables and stories to elaborate on this concept of God’s kingdom.  Before anyone can try to understand anything concerning the kingdom of God, that person needs to be born again[5] as stated in John 3:3.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

 

According to the Strong’s Concordance[6] the meaning of the word see[7] is: to understand, to comprehend, behold, perceive or be aware.  Therefore, not one single person during Jesus’ three and a half years of ministry could understand one word of this new kingdom – the kingdom of God.  Because, until His appearance to the disciples in John 20:19-22[8], there could not a single person be born again.  The crowds followed Jesus because He spoke with authority and with power He cast out demons, He multiplied the bread and performed many other miracles[9].  And in doing all these things, Jesus was demonstrating what the kingdom of God is all about, although no one saw the significance between what He did and this new kingdom.  The powers, glory, love and authority – to name a few things – of Heaven’s kingdom was demonstrated by Him as well as His disciples.

 

Jesus and Paul

In order to understand the stories, parables and sayings of Jesus concerning the kingdom of God, one needs to look at the rest of the NT.  Paul was given the gospel to the Gentiles[10], preaching and explaining the doctrine of Christ to them.  This gospel Paul preached does not stand apart from what Jesus taught, as Jesus himself appeared to Paul, explaining and clarifying the gospel to him[11].  Therefore, we will compare their teachings to gain some insight into the kingdom of God.

                                                                                                                                                                       I.      The Gospel

As we’ve seen, Jesus called His message the gospel of the kingdom. Four times this expression is found in the NT[12].  The Apostle Paul does not make any mention of the gospel of the kingdom.  However, he calls the gospel he preached, the gospel of Christ.

Romans 1:16 (KJV) 

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Romans 15:18-19 (KJV)

For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ[13].

Therefore, the good news of the Kingdom, according to Jesus, is the good news of Christ preached by Paul

                                                                                                                                                                II.      The Mystery

Jesus said to His disciples that he will explain to them the mysteries of the kingdom of God.  Just like all the other people they did not understand Jesus’ stories and parables concerning the kingdom of God, until He had given them the ability to comprehend what the rest could not.

Luke 8:9-10 (KJV)[14] 

And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand[15].

In the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, he does not expound on the mystery of the kingdom but rather speaks of the mystery of Christ.

Ephesians 3:1-4 (NKJV)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).

Colossians 4:2-3 (NKJV)

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,

As Jesus gave the twelve disciples the ability to understand the mystery of the Kingdom, God also endowed Paul with the spiritual knowledge and understanding regarding the mystery of Christ.  This expression the mystery(ies) of the kingdom is not to be found anywhere else in the NT, except in the Gospels. Again, where Jesus used the word kingdom, Paul replaced it with the word Christ.

                                                                                                                                                                    III.      The Place

All kingdoms exist within certain boundaries.  They demarcate a geographical location for the citizens of a specific kingdom.  There came a day when the Pharisees came to Jesus in order to enquire the exact position and timing of the kingdom He was preaching and teaching about.  His answer was not what they expected.

 

Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV)
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; or will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

 

AMP Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He replied to them by saying, The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display, Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].

 

Jesus clearly defined the whereabouts of the kingdom of Heaven.  It is not in a far of place outside of one’s reach, neither is it to be found within external geographical borders.  The kingdom of God is established in the hearts of people.  And wherever such a person goes (one who has the kingdom of God) there he carries the kingdom with him.  This is the reason why a new manner of thinking is required in order to understand Heaven’s Kingdom.

The Apostle Paul never spoke of the kingdom of God which will be found in our hearts.  In the letter to the Churches in Corinth, Ephesus and Colossians, Paul wrote of Christ who will be in our hearts.

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

AMP Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves [not Christ]. Do you not yourselves realize and know [thoroughly by an ever-increasing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you–unless you are [counterfeits] disapproved on trial and rejected?

Ephesians 3:17 (NIV)

So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

AMP May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,

 

Colossians 1:27 (NIV)

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

AMP To whom God was pleased to make known how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ within and among you, the Hope of [realizing the] glory.

The Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul both spoke about the same subject.  If this was not so, there would be a contradiction in Scripture.  The coming and establishing of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven only started when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and appeared to His disciples in John 20 verses 19 to 23.  This is the reason why John the Baptist as well as Jesus used the words; “the kingdom of heaven is at hand/is near.”

                                                                                                                                                                       IV.      Seeking

The Lord Jesus requires of His followers to do all they can to know what the kingdom and right standing with God is about.

Matthew 6:33 (NLT)

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

(NKJV) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 

In Matthew 5 to 7 Jesus was addressing the multitudes, teaching them some principles of the new kingdom.  Chapter six focuses on the topics of giving, prayer, fasting and faith.  Coming to the end of the chapter He concludes His instructions to the crowd to not seek after material things.  The world, He said focuses on the physical and tangible stuff. The focal point should be the kingdom of God and righteousness.  As a fringe benefit, the material things will also be taken care of.

Coming to the writings of the Apostle Paul, we do not find him teaching or instructing Christians to seek after God’s kingdom, but rather to seek after Christ.

Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

(AMP) IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.

We can therefore conclude that the kingdom of God/heaven which was preached by Jesus, and Christ which was preached by Paul, is one and the same thing.  If we have Christ dwelling within our hearts we also have the kingdom of heaven within us. To become part of God’s kingdom is also to be part of Christ.  Jesus Christ not only heralded the Kingdom of God but also demonstrated ways of the kingdom, teaching the truths of the kingdom and living as an example the life of the kingdom.  When we study the life and teachings of Jesus, it brings us to a revelation of the kingdom life.  When we carefully read, examine and scrutinize the writings of Paul and Peter, it leads us to the knowledge of Christ[16].

This certainly is a different way of thinking and can not be understood unless one is born again.  The full meaning of all the parables relating to the kingdom of God can not be comprehended unless the concept of the kingdom is fully understood, which again can not happen unless one enters the kingdom by being born of the water and the Spirit[17].

In three of the four Gospels we find Jesus talking about specific aspects of the kingdom which is then followed by the exact event. The words He spoke are these:

Luke 9:27 (NIV)[18] 

“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

 The event that followed those words was the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, when He took Peter, James and John with Him.  There, before their eyes as he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning[19]. Later in the second letter of the Apostle Peter, he explained what had happened on the mountain as they were seeing the glory and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ[20].  As they looked upon Him, they suddenly realised the extent of the power and glory of Christ and the kingdom of God – He personified heaven’s kingdom.  Through revelation, Paul understood this as well and could therefore say; but when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles[21].  Jesus said to the Pharisees that the kingdom of God is found within a person and Paul explained that it is Christ within him, which must be shown to the world.

The kingdom of heaven which Jesus came to introduce and demonstrate was not an external and physical – see with your eyes and touch with your hands – kingdom, but rather an internal and spiritual – what is experienced with the heart and spiritual senses – kingdom.  I close with the words of Paul in Romans fourteen verse seventeen from the New Jerusalem Bible; “…for it is not eating or drinking (the external things) that make the kingdom of God, but the saving justice, the peace and the joy  (internal qualities) brought by the Holy Spirit.”

Conclusion

When I was a child our minister – and my parents – told me Jesus lives in my heart.  And as a child I did not question this idea although it was strange that another person could actually fit into my heart. The reason he lives in my heart is because I invited him in.  This I did at the age of 5 or 6 when my mother took me to my room, we knelt besides my bed and I followed her in prayer.  I did not question her or the prayer we prayed.  As a child, whose reasoning faculty has not been developed, I had no problem in believing Jesus lives in my heart. Then I was also told that when I die, I – and all those who have Jesus in their hearts – will go to heaven.  The only relation between the Lord Jesus Christ and the kingdom of heaven was the fact that I could go there (and He would also be there) because He lives in my heart and I am His child.  Thus, Jesus was in my heart but to me heaven was a very far away place only reachable through death.

However, as I began to study Scripture during later years, I stumbled across all the abovementioned verses.  Slowly the idea of heaven as a far away place began to diminish. I also came to the understanding that Jesus was the physical person and Christ was not his surname but actually the Greek word for “the Anointed one”.  Progressively the connection between Christ and the kingdom of heaven dawned on me and I started to comprehend that I am already part of the kingdom of heaven because the kingdom of heaven is within me.  There is no reason to anxiously wait for heaven’s benefits in the sweet bye-and-bye if I have access to all it has through Christ who is in my heart.

But to have access to heaven’s provisions and benefits there are a few prerequisites

Summary

  • John the Baptist as well as Jesus started their ministries with the words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • The phrases kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God are used interchangeable.
  • Jesus’ message concerning the kingdom is called the gospel of the kingdom.
  • Jesus preached, taught and demonstrated the kingdom.
  • Although Jesus and Paul do not use the same words, that does not mean the Bible contradicts itself.
  • Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom and Paul spread the gospel of Christ.
  • Jesus spoke to His disciples about the mysteries of the kingdom, and God disclosed the mystery of Christ to Paul.
  • Jesus said the kingdom of God will be placed within us and the apostle Paul more than once elaborated how Christ is to dwell and abide in us.
  • Seeking after material things is futile according to Jesus’ teachings.  It will, however, be given to me if all my heart is after God’s kingdom and right standing with Him.
  • Two thousand years ago there already were people that saw and entered the kingdom of God before they passed away.
  • For the past two millennia millions of people have experienced God’s kingdom within in them while living their day-to-day lives.

 

To be continued…

 


 

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[1] King James Version

[2] New King James Version

[3] Strong, James (L.L.D.)(S.T.D) 1990: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, USA.

[4] “There are two Greek words in the NT which convey the idea of repentance, metanoeo and epistrepho.  These words derive their moral content not from Greek, but from Jewish and Christian thought, since nothing analogous to the biblical concept of repentance and conversion was known to the Greeks. Metanoeo presents repentance in its negative aspect as a change of mind or turning from sin while epistrepho presents its positive aspect as turning to God.  Both, however, have much the same content of meaning.” Zodhiates, Spiros (Th.D) 1993: The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary NT, AMG Publishers, USA.

[5] See following chapter for an exegesis on what it means to be born again.

[6] Strong, James (L.L.D.)(S.T.D) 1990: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[7] It is the Greek word eidon. It implies not the mere act of looking – the use of the eyes – but the actual perception of the object.

[8] See Entering the Kingdom: Born Again, pg 11

[9] See Matthew 12:15, 19:2; Mark 1:22,27; John 6:2

[10] Acts 22:17-21,  26:15-19; Galatians 1:16, 2:8; Ephesians 3:8; 1Timothy 2:7; 2Timothy 1:11

[11] 2Corinthians 12:1-6. It is believed by most Bible scholars that Paul is speaking of himself in this passage of Scripture.

[12] Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14; Mark 1:14

[13] Also in Romans 15:29; 1Corinthians 9:12, 18; 2Corinthians 4:4, 9:13, 10:14; Galatians 1:7; Philippians 1:27; 1Thessalonians 3:2

[14] Also found in Matthew 13:10-11 and Mark 4:10-11.

[15] Jesus quoted from Isaiah 6:9.

[16] Ephesians 3:4, 4:13; Philippians 3:8; 2Peter 1:8, 3:18

[17] John 3:8

[18] Also in Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1.

[19] Luke 9:29 (NKJV)

[20] 2 Peter 1:16-18

[21] Galatians 1:15-16

About Edgar Phillips
Husband, Dad, Ordained Minister and Missionary who loves God, Pastoral & Functional Therapist, Imago Professional Facilitator, EFT practitioner.

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