Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Promised Kingdom


Nicodemus came to Jesus and recognized Him as “a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). Jesus spoke to him about the gospel of the kingdom of God. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God, His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. God had long promised His people, Israel, that He would anoint a King would come and rule over Israel and the nations. Jesus recognized Nicodemus as a “teacher of Israel” (v. 11), and as such, Nicodemus would have been aware of the various prophesies of the kingdom, such as the following, from Psalm 2.
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed.
(Psalm 1:1-2)
Yahweh’s Anointed is the Messiah (“Messiah” means Anointed One; in Greek, it is Christos). God says of Him, “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion” (v. 6). This is the Son, to whom God says,
You are My Son, today I have begotten You.
Ask of Me, and I will give You
The nations for Your inheritance,
And the ends of the earth for Your possession. (vv. 7-8)
The one God calls “My Son” is the Messiah, the one anointed to be King. Not just king over Israel, but over all the nations of the earth. The prophecies about Messiah are about the kingdom of God inhabiting all the earth. Isaiah spoke of a coming messianic king and a kingdom of ever increasing dominion and endless peace.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)
This is the gospel God promised would be announced. Isaiah tells of those who would bring the good news, and also what the content of that good news would be:
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation*,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
(Isaiah 52:7)
The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, uses the word for “evangelize,” to gospel or to preach the gospel, twice in this verse. It is a proclamation of peace and salvation, and the content is about the kingdom. It is the declaration, “Your God reigns!” (*The Hebrew word for “salvation” here is yeshuah, which as a name is Yeshua, the name of Jesus in Hebrew.)

Daniel also prophesies of the promised kingdom and the “Son of Man” (which is how Jesus often referred to Himself), to whom would be given everlasting dominion over all the nations of the world.
I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.
(Daniel 7:13-14)
Jesus not only announced, from the beginning of His ministry and throughout, that the kingdom of God was at hand. At the end of His ministry, He declared, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). The promised kingdom, the rule and reign of God on earth, had begun.

Nicodemus would have known about the promised kingdom, though he did not recognize that he was in the presence of the King. The question he would ask, however, was not about the kingdom. What perplexed him was why Jesus would be talking to him about being “born again.” There is another important prophesy about the kingdom that he apparently had not understood. We will look at that in the next post.