Thursday, July 31, 2008

An Undivided Kingdom

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:25-28)
Jesus healed a man who was demon-possessed, blind and mute. He cast out the demon so that the man could see and speak (Matthew 12: 22-23). When some of the Pharisees heard of this, they came and accused Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebub (literally, “Lord of the Flies”) whom they considered the ruler over demons (v. 24).

Now, if it had been just one or two demons that Jesus expelled, they might have been able to make a good argument that satan was causing a few demons to retreat in order to gain some sort of advantage. After all, satan is a schemer. But this was far more than a few. Everywhere Jesus went He was casting out demons from the multitudes that followed, doing major damage to the kingdom of satan. Indeed, this was one of the reasons He came: to destroy the works of the devil (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8).

Jesus answered their charge with a spiritual logic that turned the table on them. First, He pointed out that a kingdom or house divided against itself cannot stand. That being so, He then asked, if satan drives out satan, how can the kingdom of satan possibly stand. The Pharisees’ accusation was logically incoherent — it made no sense.

Second, if Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, then by whose power did their “sons,” their own exorcists, manage to cast out the few demons they were haphazardly able to expel? A small handful of exorcisms might be a demonic strategy, but Jesus was the one who was casting them out wholesale, running roughshod over satan and all his works. The Pharisees were being hypocritical, as Jesus pointed out by adding, “Therefore they [the “sons”] will be your judges.”

Third, if Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit and power of God (as indeed He did), then it was a sign that the kingdom of God had come into the world, for the Jews believed that when Messiah came, satan would be bound. Now here it was happening before their eyes, but in addition to the Pharisees being incoherent and hypocritical, they were also faithless.

Jesus was casting out demons everywhere He went, and He did it by the Spirit of God, as Peter later proclaimed: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). This was a demonstration that the kingdom of God had now come into the world.

The kingdom of God is an undivided kingdom. Though it would be a losing strategy for satan to divide his own kingdom, as Jesus pointed out, the kingdom of God not only has the power to divide it but was doing just that. Jesus added,
Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. (Matthew 12:29)
By the Spirit of God, Jesus came into the “house” of the “strong man,” and binding him, was able to “plunder his goods,” that is, to destroy the works of the devil and loose his captives. In this way, Jesus divided the kingdom of satan.

Having answered their charge, Jesus then addressed the Pharisees with sobering words about the undividable nature of the kingdom of God:
He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:30-32)
The implication was clear. If Jesus was casting out demons by the Spirit of God, and the kingdom of God had now come upon them, then a dividing line was clearly drawn. We must embrace Jesus and His gospel of the kingdom, or else we will be working against both. They cannot be divided. To reject Jesus is to reject the kingdom of God as well.

Jesus also cannot be divided from the Spirit of God. To attribute His works to the “Lord of the Flies,” is to blaspheme, or speak evil against, the Spirit by whom those works were done. To reject Jesus, as the Pharisees were doing, was to reject the Spirit of God, and there would be no place for them in God’s kingdom. With such a stern warning, it was now time for the Pharisees to make a decision. There was nothing halfway about it; it was either all in or all out.
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:33-37)
Up to this point, the Pharisees had shown themselves to be a “brood of vipers” who could not speak anything good about Jesus and the kingdom He preached because their hearts were full of evil. If they did not change their words, they would soon have to give account for them, and would be condemned by them. To change their words, they would need to change their hearts and do as Jesus preached from the beginning: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:17).

The kingdom of Heaven on Earth is an undivided kingdom. It cannot be separated from Jesus and the Spirit of God. The kingdom of satan is broken. The Lord Jesus has bound him and destroyed his works, and is loosing his captives.



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

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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