Monday, March 11, 2013

The Kingdoms of This World


Every good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Consider for a moment the story of the kingdoms of this world that can be told in three passages from the book of Matthew — one from the beginning, one from the middle and one from the end.

First there is the story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. It begins after the baptism of Jesus, where the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. The Spirit led Him out to the wilderness in order for Him to be tested. Three times the devil comes to put Him off His purpose. The third temptation was this:
The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:8-11)
Notice carefully that Jesus did not argue over whether satan had the right to all the kingdoms of the world. He accepted the premise that they were the devil’s to offer. It was the condition He rejected, that of falling down and worshiping satan. Only God is to be worshiped.

When Jesus returned from the wilderness, He began preaching about a different kingdom, the kingdom of God, announcing that it was now at hand (Matthew 4:17).

In the middle of the story, we find Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons. The Pharisees accused of Him of expelling those demons by the power of Beelzebub, that is, by satan. Jesus answered:
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. 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 12:25-29)
Jesus was casting out demons by the power of God, not of satan, and that could only mean that the kingdom of God had now come into the world. Jesus was binding the “strong man” and plundering his house. In other words, He was binding up satan and taking away everything that belonged to him. The kingdoms of this world would no longer belong to the devil but to God.

Near the end of the story, after the cross, where the victory over satan and all the principalities and powers was ultimately won, and God raised Jesus from the dead in triumph, Jesus appeared to the disciples and announced:
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18)
All the kingdoms of the world now belonged to Jesus, God’s anointed King. With the authority He now possessed, He sent the disciples out to make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them everything King Jesus taught (vv. 19-20).

In the beginning of Matthew, the kingdoms of the this world belonged to satan. At the end, they belonged to Jesus. As the voices of heaven announce in Revelation 11:15, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”