Monday, April 21, 2008

The Gospel of the Kingdom and the End of the Age

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)
In Matthew 23, Jesus denounced the scribes and Pharisees because of their great hypocrisy. He pronounced a series of woes upon them, ending with the judgment that would soon befall Jerusalem because of her corrupt leadership. In Matthew 24:1-2, Jesus speaks also of the coming destruction of the Temple. For the Jewish mind, the Temple would stand as long as the world endured; its destruction would signal the end of the age. Recognizing the import of Jesus’ warning, the disciples asked, “When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (v. 3).

The balance of chapter 24 is Jesus’ answer. As with many prophecies in the Bible, there seems to be a double fulfillment in view, one sooner, one later, with an indiscernible length of time in between. Exactly where one ends and the other begins has been the subject of much controversy among Bible interpreters.

Most are generally agreed that the first fulfillment occurred with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. God poured out His judgment on the Temple system and the faithless Jewish leadership that rejected Messiah and the sacrifice He made. This destruction made the Temple sacrifices no longer possible, but it also underscored the truth that the Cross had already rendered them unnecessary. The second, and final, fulfillment has yet to occur.

“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.” This likewise appears to have a double fulfillment. The “end” He speaks of is the “end of the age,” for that is what the disciples were asking. Which age was He talking about? The age of the old covenant, including the Law of Moses, the Temple and the sacrifices. It was about to end; its purpose had been fulfilled.

God created Israel and covenanted with her to be a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6) whose purpose was to represent Him before the nations and the nations before Him, bringing forth the Word of God and revealing Messiah to the world. Though this system had become corrupted by unbelief, and the ruling Jewish authorities failed to recognize the Messiah, God’s purpose was fulfilled nonetheless and the gospel of His kingdom was “preached in all the world as a witness to the nations.” Paul, especially called by God to be an evangelist to the Gentiles (the nations), demonstrates the reach of the gospel:
I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8)

But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18)

Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit. (Colossians 1:5-6)
Within a few years, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and the age of the old covenant was complete.

But there is yet another fulfillment of this prophecy, for there is yet another age that must pass away. It is the present world system of which satan is the god (2 Corinthians 4:4). It has its own wisdom that is opposed to the wisdom of God, but God shows it to be foolishness (1 Corinthians 3:19). The Lord Jesus Christ “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4). This age is being overtaken by the age of God’s kingdom, which has been forcefully advancing ever since Jesus came. As John said, “The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

The gospel of the kingdom will continue to preached as a witness to all the nations, for Paul said, “Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles [nations] has come in. And so all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26). The nations shall be redeemed and Israel shall even embrace her Messiah. Thus comes the end of this present evil age, for the kingdom of Heaven on Earth will then be here in all its fullness.
And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9-10)



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.