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First, the Kingdom (part 2)

Post Title: Clarity Amidst Confusion


I suggest that as we begin a new year, one of the most important things is to get before our mind and our hearts clarity and understanding about the kingdom. What exactly is it, and how does it apply to me?

For the purpose of this teaching, here are some essential truths about the kingdom of God as Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated it.

First, for Jesus, the emphasis upon the kingdom was of its present breaking forth, not its future arrival. The kingdom is a present reality that will come to a glorious future conclusion. When he says the kingdom is at hand (the literal rendering), it is the Hebraic way of saying the kingdom is here.

Second, the terminology "kingdom of God" and "kingdom of heaven" is the same concept, using different phrasing. In Yeshua's day, kingdom of heaven is the Jewish way of speaking about the subject while avoiding saying the personal name of God (Yahweh). Adonai is used in Jewish communities today for this same reason. Heaven is a substitute for God as when we say, "Heaven, help me."


There is no difference between Matthew's kingdom of heaven—a Hebraic figure of speech—and how Mark, Luke, and John use kingdom of God.

But what is the kingdom? That critical question leads to my third observation. Nowhere in the Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh), do you find the terminology kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven. Outside of the New Testament, do you know the only other place in all of the ancient literature where you find these important phrases? In the rabbinic writings, the written traditions of the Jewish sages.


It was a concept at the very heart and focus of their teachings. Indeed the language itself, the kingdom of heaven (malkut shamayim), was a favorite phrase of the Pharisees. Jesus, drawing upon their insights, takes this terminology and fills it full with both his meaning and his person.


What Jesus meant by the kingdom is a biblical truth with many facets that I am summarizing in four words, each beginning with the letter P to aid your memory.


1. When Jesus speaks of the kingdom, he is speaking of a PERSON.

He is drawing attention to the fact that he is the king. Yeshua Melech, Jesus is king. "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).

2. When Jesus speaks of the kingdom, he is speaking of a POWER.

A power with which he is presently ruling and reigning in the lives of his followers. That power is none other than God's Holy Spirit. If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20)


Matthew helps us understand the Jewish idiom finger of God here, if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matt 12:28) When Jesus speaks of the kingdom, the emphasis is not on a geographical or static realm. It is not even just about himself though he is the anointed king. He wants us to grasp the powerful way in which God is ruling and reigning through Him!

God's kingdom breaks into human affairs with a redemptive agenda and supernatural rescuing power.


God reveals his will by showing up in Jesus with the power to set captives free, open blinded eyes, unstop deaf ears, straighten crooked limbs, and raise the dead. The power of his presence in Jesus comforts those who mourn and encourages those who are contrite and humble. The kingdom is the power of God redemptively intervening, ruling, and reigning in our lives. The kingdom is a person and a power. Hallelujah!

3. When Jesus speaks of the kingdom, he is speaking of a PROCESS.

It is ongoing, constantly growing, and expanding. Yet it is not always something very visible or necessarily something earth-shaking. Indeed, Jesus illustrates it like this, The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened. (Matt 13:33) It works its way through human hearts the world over like yeast through dough. Jesus says this is the way the kingdom works; it is a process of growth.

Here is a crucial point that you need to get. The kingdom reality manifested by Jesus is distinct from, and in contrast to his supernatural return, what he calls the coming of the Son of Man. That will be a sudden, totally sovereign act by which the heavens will be rent, and every eye will see.


One reason the church speaks so little about the kingdom of God is they have confused it with the second coming of Christ (Messiah). For centuries they mistakenly talked about the kingdom as a future reality that Jesus will set up when he returns. Yet, in his teaching, Yeshua contrasts these two things.

  • The coming of the Son Man will bring judgment, yet the kingdom is good news.

  • The coming of the Son of Man will bring punishment for the wicked while the kingdom brings hope, healing, salvation, and encouragement for the humble.

  • The coming of the Son of Man will be sudden, like a thief in the night, but the kingdom grows like a process, constantly ongoing.

  • Nobody knows when the coming of the Son of Man will be, save the Father, but the kingdom is announced to everyone. The kingdom is here.

Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel 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)

King Jesus came out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit to proclaim and explain, illustrate and demonstrate the kingdom of God.

The kingdom is a present reality that will grow and expand, and for that, you pray. You pray for God's kingly authority to be extended more and more. Said another way, when you pray Your kingdom come you are praying, "Father, your will be done more and more, in every dimension of my life. With my pocketbook, with my mind, with my heart, with my body, with my relationships."


The kingdom is a present reality that draws attention to the person of Jesus as King and the work of the Holy Spirit—the powerful way in which he rules and reigns. Before exploring the implications and applications of all this in our daily lives, I need to give you the fourth P that summarizes the kingdom.

We'll pick this discussion up next week.


 

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.


Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.


Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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