Thursday, March 24, 2011

And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' (Matt 10:7)

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." ~ Luke 17:20-21

It's been a desire of mine to be more intentional and focussed about my Bible study time. I have so much that I want to learn, by God's grace, and I won't have my undisciplined self keeping me from it! I want to dig deeper into my basic beliefs and allow the Spirit to challenge me by and through Scripture, as well as to be drawn into a deeper intimacy with my Lord. I desire to grow in a greater reverence for His living Word and to decrease in my regard for worldly things (a weighty desire, I must confess, that isn't as often accompanied with intense passion and devotion as I would like!). During my time at Ellerslie last summer, a simple, but very profound and significant truth was drilled into my heart: The Word of God in text should lead and draw you to the Word of God in person, namely Jesus Christ!
This week, my focus has been the Kingdom of God as I have been wanting a more real, in-depth understand of what it means to be 'delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son' (Col 1:13) . What is the Kingdom? What is it's purpose? How is it manifested here on earth? What is the behavior/lifestyle of those who live within it?
I've been using various commentaries and website (and hope to extend those sources), but for now this is what I have started with and my purpose is to build upon it. Although I do read and use commentaries, I hope to (during my private times of study) come to a real understanding of the Lord's Word not just by Christ-exalting theologians/teachers (thank God for them!), but through the Holy Spirit's guidance and confirmation.

Kingdom - Basilea (Strongs G932)
1) royal power, kingship, dominion, rule

a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom

b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah

c) of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah's kingdom

2) a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king

3) used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah

The deeper spiritual meaning of Kingdom - The rule of Christ within the soul of a man. The possession of the inner man by the Spirit of Christ. Christ the King of Kings making the heart of men his first claim upon this earth. He will make his second claim, returning in wrath and judgment, accompanied by the host of heaven to dispossess Satan once and for all of his claim on this earth. And every knee will bow, both in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every mouth confess that Jesus Christ is the rightful master, legal possessor, and true Lord and King over all earthly territories (both the lives of men and the physical lands of this earth). ~ Eric Ludy, notes from the message - Kingdom: The Ruling Domain

The Kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign or kingly rule of God, and, derivatively, the sphere in which the rule is experienced. In Biblical idiom, the Kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God's rule who enter it, live under it, and are governed by it. The church is the community of the Kingdom but never the Kingdom itself. Jesus' disciples belong to the Kingdom as the Kingdom belongs to them, but they are not the Kingdom. The Kingdom is the rule of God; the church is a society of men. ~ George Ladd

Five points summarized by Ladd:

(1) The church is not the kingdom (for Jesus and the early Christians preached that the Kingdom of God was near, not that the church was near, and preached the good news of the Kingdom, not the good news of the church).
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. ~ Acts 8:12
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. ~ Acts 19:8
And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. ~ Acts 20:25
And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. ~ Acts 28:23
Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. ~ Acts 28:31

(2) The Kingdom creates the church (for as people enter into God's kingdom they become joined to the human fellowship of the church).

(3) The church witnesses to the kingdom (for Jesus said, "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world," Matt 24:14).

(4) The church is the instrument of the kingdom (for the Holy Spirit, manifesting the power of the kingdom, works through the disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons, as he did in the ministry of Jesus).
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. ~ Matt 10:8

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. ~ Luke 10:17-19

(5) The church is the custodian of the kingdom (for the church has been given the keys of the kingdom of heaven).
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. ~ Matt 16:19

Therefore we should not identify the kingdom of God and the church (as in Roman Catholic theology), nor should we see the kingdom of God as entirely future, something distinct from the church age (as in older dispensational theology). Rather, we should recognize that there is a close connection between the kingdom of God and the church. As the church proclaims the good news of the kingdom, people will come into the church and begin to experience the blessings of God's rule in their lives. The kingdom manifests itself through the church, and thereby the future reign of God breaks into the present (it is "already" here: Matt 12:28, Rom 14:17; and "not yet" here fully: Matt 25:34, 1 Cor 6:9-10).
Therefore those who believe in Christ will begin to experience something of what God's final kingdom reign will be like; they will know some measure of victory over sin (Rom 6:14, 14:17), over demonic opposition (Luke 10:17), and over disease (Luke 10:9). They will live in the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:28; Rom 8:4-17, 14:17), who is the dynamic power of the coming Kingdom. Eventually Jesus will return and his kingdom reign will extend over all creation (1 Cor 15:24-28).
~ Wayne Grudem

The Christian's purpose is to bring about a full and correct portrayal of God's Kingly glory and lordship, to be fully possessed and given to Him and filled by Him.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
~ Rom 14:17

...we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
~ 1 Thess 2:12

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God...
~ 2 Thess 1:5

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. Pg. 863-864.
George Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament.


Nolan said...

It seems that as many times as I've come across the "Kingdom of God" mentioned in the Bible, I haven't truly dived deep into what exactly that encompasses. The excerpts describing the distinction between the Church and the Kingdom are most helpful! As well as to consider Grudem's point that we should recognize that there is a close connection between the kingdom of God and the church.

What hope news of the Kingdom brings!

Erika said...

Yeah, good thoughts! I decided to study the Kingdom of God precisely because I keep running across it in my readings. haha! Also, I've heard different teachings on the kingdom and have been uncertain about them. So, I really wanted to ask the Spirit to teach me instead of just remaining in my confused/uncertain state. lol