Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Kingdom of God is Now Here

From the very beginning, and throughout His ministry, Jesus preached about the kingdom of God, that it was now present. After His baptism, and the temptation in the wilderness, Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). In Mark’s Gospel, we read:
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.” (Mark 1:14-15)
To say that the kingdom is “at hand” is to say that it is now here. The appropriate response it to repent and believe, to receive it by faith. This was the message He was sent to preach. “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43).

When Jesus sent His disciples out, He sent them out to heal sicknesses, cast out demons, and to preach. What were they to preach? The kingdom of God:
Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Luke 10:8-10).
The miracles and acts of deliverance were signs that the kingdom of God was present in their midst. Later in Luke’s Gospel, when He was accused of casting demons by the power of the devil, Jesus replied, “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

Jesus described the kingdom of God as a seed:
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the lest of all the seeds, but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in the branches. (Matthew 13:31-32)

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened. (Matthew 13:33)

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. (Mark 4:26-27)

To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is small than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade. (Mark 4:30-32)
The kingdom of God starts out as a seed that is sown, then it takes root and begins to grow, continually expanding. It becomes a tree shooting out large branches and starts to bear fruit. The fruit ripens and is harvested. That is how it is with the kingdom of God, and with everything that is sown into the kingdom. In another place, Jesus said,
Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not received a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
Jesus is describing an exponential growth of the kingdom of God. Notice that it is “now in this time,” as well as in the life to come. Surprisingly, many Christians overlook the magnificent expansion of the kingdom “now in this time” and see only the persecutions.

Now, the gospel Jesus is talking about is the gospel of the kingdom of God, for that is the gospel He preached:
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 4:23)

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 9:35)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
The kingdom of God has been growing and expanding ever since Jesus came into the world. Jesus said,
Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:11-12)
The NIV has this as, “The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it.” The kingdom of God is not in retreat; it is forcefully advancing, moving forward in a powerful way, becoming more and more what Jesus often described it as becoming.

The kingdom of God is here and now and is continually growing and expanding. We lay hold of this kingdom by faith in Jesus Christ, who has “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13). The old kingdom of the present age, and the god of this age are passing way. The new kingdom, the kingdom of God, is advancing and increasing. The apostle John said, “Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

This forcefully advancing kingdom is present within everyone who believes in Jesus Christ: “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:2-21).

It does not come militarily or politically. It is not marked on a map; nor can it be geographically contained. The kingdom of God is much more pervasive than that. It is within the people of God, and everywhere they go, that is where the kingdom is. Wherever Jesus is preached and the works of Jesus are being done, the kingdom is in manifestation. God is bringing it forth through His people.

The kingdom of God is not a symbolic kingdom, or a figurative one. It is a real kingdom — the dominion of the King, the rule and reign of God. It is here in this world and now in this time. It has not yet become all that it is going to become, but it has already begun. The seed has been planted and has been growing for two thousand years.