The Gospel That Jesus Preached, Pt. 3: “The Kingdom Is At Hand…” (continued)

Let’s pick up where we left off last week with this question…
 What does the Bible say about this Kingdom?

So if the Kingdom of God is not about Israel being a political world power, then what is it? Let me give you just a few things we know about the Kingdom and why hoping in the Kingdom should be at the forefront of our minds…First let me say this, this is a passion of mine… there is no way I could do it justice. Here are only just a few of my favorite things…

1 – Renewal & Restoration

Matthew 19:28 (NIV) – Jesus said to [His disciples], “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Jesus refers to His return as “the renewal of all things.” AMP = the renewal [that is, the Messianic restoration and regeneration of all things]

Revelation 21:5 – And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” John Eldredge points out that Jesus is careful to say “all things new” and not “all new things.” This is not some strange, alien reality but rather our world made new.

One of the major identifying features of the Kingdom of God is “the renewal of all things”! What does that mean exactly? Greek = palingenesia (again + beginning) Literally = Genesis again. Eden restored. Heaven and earth united into one space where God reigns through a new humanity and His will is done perfectly all the time – on earth as it is in heaven.

Revelation 21:1 – Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.

This idea not unique to Revelation… 2 Peter 3:12 – But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Also not new to the New Testament:  Isaiah 65:17 – “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”

What will it be like? The Bible gives us a few glimpses:

  • Isaiah 65: 19-20 – no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days
  • Isaiah 65:21 – They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
  • Isaiah 65: 23 – They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them.
  • Isaiah 65:24 – Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.
  • Isaiah 65: 25 – The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.
  • Isaiah 11:6-9 – ‘ The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’
  • Revelation 21:2-4 – And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 

Imagine an earth untouched, unspoiled, without death or decay or corruption.

Imagine earth as breathtaking and beautiful as it was the day God created it.

Now imagine living in it forever in perfect health without sickness, disease, or death to threaten you.

Imagine working at something you love and having it actually mean something.

Imagine being able to play with a tiger or wrestle a bear without fear – and they won’t fear you either!

What would you like to do first?  If you could dream for a second, let your heart go there! What do you want to do in the renewed creation?

I know there are some who would say: “That’s not very spiritual! We aren’t going to do any of that stuff! We are going to stand around in white robes singing ‘Holy,Holy,Holy’ forever. And we are going to like it!”

No disrespect but that is not what the scriptures say. And that’s not what’s written on your heart, is it? Yes, we will worship, but our worship will be our lives lived in His presence, experiencing His joy, bearing His image in everything He created us to do as we rule the new creation for His glory.

  • Imagine a world without grief, anxiety, depression, disease, evil, cruelty, hate, or death.
  • Imagine a world without Satan!
  • Imagine a world with direct access to God Himself…

 

  • Revelation 22:3-5 – No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

2 – Resurrection & Reunion

Don’t you love a movie with a happy ending, where all the characters reunite to celebrate the defeat of evil and the restoring of the kingdom to the rightful King and His marriage to the Princess? There’s a big feast with everyone together and it usually erupts into a dance party.

That resonates with me because that’s our story – but it’s not our happy ending, it’s our happy beginning!

Death in the Kingdom has been robbed of its sting – no more dread, no more fear, no more hopelessness.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

We will be all together with the Lord always. A glorious reunion of saints throughout all of history. I love the command of Paul to “encourage one another with these words.”

Revelation 19 reveals a great feast celebrating the consummation of Christ and His Bride, the church. The imagery of that is of a house full of guests where they will enjoy the best the Master of the House has to offer.

And Scripture tells us clearly that we will not merely be disembodied spirits floating around on the clouds strumming harps, rather we will have glorified bodies made especially for this new creation. The new earth is going to be so hardy and robust, these puny bodies will not cut it…

 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 – I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we know there will be a reunion of those we have loved and lost who are in Christ? Because Jesus said so…

Luke 18:29

“Truly  say to you,  there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time and in the age to come eternal life.”

Do you hear that? For the believer, nothing is ever lost!

Why don’t we ever talk about this stuff? Why don’t we encourage one another with these words? Why, when we offer a Bible study like All Things New where we will go into great detail about the Kingdom of God and all it means, do we not make it a priority?

3 – Reward and Recompense

 Revelation 11:15-18:

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,

“We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

There is a very strong connection in the Bible between the Day of the Lord, when Christ comes in power and His Kingdom is fully realized, and reward and punishment.

Over and over Jesus spoke of rewards for His faithful followers:

  • Sermon on the Mount – “your Father who sees in secret will reward you…”
  • Another place in that sermon he says to “store up for yourselves treasure in heaven.”
  • 16:27 – the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
  • Parables of Talents, Minas & others – built on the very premise that God will reward those who are faithful to Him
  • Letter to the seven churches in Revelation – “to the ne who overcomes, I will grant….” multiple amazing and extravagant rewards.
  • Revelation 22:12 – Jesus says, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”
  • Colossians 3:23-24 – Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
  • Hebrews 11:6 – God “rewards those who seek Him.”

We are uncomfortable with the idea of seeking a reward from Christ. Feels mercenary. Ought we not just serve and obey Him because we love Him? Isn’t that reward enough?

John Eldredge, All Things New, p.115

“I think a false humility has crept in; I think we somehow see ourselves above our forebears in the faith when we ignore the category entirely and set out to live the life given to us in Scripture. It is entirely untrue to the nature of God, and to human nature.

“ ‘Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does nit drink the milk?’ (I Corinthians 9:7)

“God seems to be of the opinion that no one should be expected to sustain the rigors of the Christian life without very robust and concrete hopes of being brazenly rewarded for it. Now yes, yes – there is a place for altruism, no doubt about it. But we have in our pride or in our poverty let a false humility creep in.”

In Psalm 27 David rightly says if he could ask God for one thing it would be to be in His presence forever.  So there is a sense in which Christ Himself is all the reward we would ever want. Amen!

Nevertheless, God seems intent on rewarding us even beyond that! Who are we to argue?

4 – Right Now… & Not Yet

All this is great, but remember Jesus said the Kingdom of God was “at hand.” That means it’s here now. It has arrived. But He also said, “At the renewal of all things when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne…”

Well, which is it: Now or Later? Answer: Yes.

Yes, the Day is coming when death and suffering and pain will be no more, and we already see the power of Christ changing lives… but there is still pain, suffering, death… people in this room right now are staring the “Not Yet” in the face. John Eldredge calls it ‘living in the partial.’

I believe when the Kingdom comes
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I’m still running.
You broke the bonds
You loosened the chains
You carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for… – Bono,  I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, U2.

It has never been more obvious that we live in the “Not Yet.” If we don’t understand this, it can cause us to lose hope. Jesus was very clear about one thing: the space between His victorious ascension to prepare a place for us and His return is marked by one thing: suffering. Especially of His followers. Hated, hunted, maligned and misunderstood, even killed for His names’ sake.

2 Timothy 3:12-13 – Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

We must not lose sight that we live in the “not yet,” but with the full expectancy of His return.

In a trio of parables, Jesus unpacks the both-now-and-not-yetness of His Kingdom:

  • Matthew 13:31-32 – He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
  • Matthew 13:33 – He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
  • Mark 4:26-29 – And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

 The common thread = beginnings vs. full maturity.

Something small, seemingly insignificant, barely noticeable like seed or leaven, over a prolonged period of time grows into something very large, supremely significant, and undeniable.

James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, p. 181-182:

“A reordering of creation has already broken into creation in the person of Jesus Christ, and we are gathering as a people in order to practice for the arrival of the kingdom in its fullness – and thus in order to be trained to be a kingdom-kind-of-people in the meantime, as witnesses to that kingdom, in and through our work as cultural agents.”

“Resisting a presentism that can only imagine “living for the moment,” the church is a people with a deeply ingrained orientation to the future… we are called and formed to be a people of expectancy – looking for the coming (again) of the Messiah. We are a futural people who will not seek to escape the present, but will always be somewhat uneasy in the present, haunted by the brokenness of the “now.” (p. 157-158)

The Kingdom of God broke into the world in Jesus Christ, the God-man. As he proclaimed this gospel, He did things like heal blind, deaf, lame, raise the dead, cast out demons like He owned the place. These were not random miracles, just to flex His muscle or give legitimacy to His message. The miracles WERE the message: inextricably tied to the proclamation that the Kingdom had arrived was the demonstration of the effect that was to have on the world.

When John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus to confirm that He was indeed the Promised Messiah, listen to how Jesus answers Him:

Matthew 11:4-5:

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.

Jesus was bringing the Kingdom to bear on the brokenness of humanity and the falleness of creation in the authority of the Father. Now He sends us out in His authority to bring the Kingdom to bear in this world.

When the Holy Spirit fell at Pentecost and tongues of fire appeared over each believer that was temple imagery from the Old Testament. It signified that each believer was not only a priest but also a temple.  At that moment, each follower of Jesus became a mobile temple, filled with the presence of the Lord, a place where God’s space and our space come together.

And He commissions us to go take that out into the world and make more mobile temples. He called them disciples. J

Paul calls this the ministry of reconciliation:

 2 Corinthians 5:18-20

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

I love Paul’s imagery of an ambassador – a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative.

Jesus gave us His full authority to represent Him in this world, and His presence goes with us everywhere we go. Each ne of us is a space where Heaven and Earth overlap and the two spaces are reunited into one. Our churches are embassies – a place where people should be able t catch a glimpse of what the kingdom will be like when it comes in full.

We carry in us the hope that was meant to be the anchor of our souls. I fear we have spent very little time on the whole considering the implications of such a hope.

What difference does that make in our lives today?

  • We need to get serious about hope.
  • We make His return our focus.
  • We must live and love with the reckless abandon of people who have nothing to lose!
  • We must abandon all other agendas and get on the Kingdom plan.

 Tony Evans, Kingdom Agenda, p. 97-98

“The church is the most important formal institution on earth. The church, and only the church, has been commissioned by the sovereign Lord to be His representative agency in history. It has been given sole authority to unlock the treasures of the spiritual realm so that they can be brought to bear on the realities of earth.

“Thus, as the church goes, so goes everything else. God designed the church to be the epicenter of culture, and the church’s strength or weakness is a major determining factor in the success or failure of human civilization.”

If anyone is ever going to stop us and ask, “Hey, why do you seem so hopeful when everything seems so hopeless?” then we are going to have to start living like we have that hope.

You can’t fake it; it has to be genuine. We have to actually desire the Kingdom. It has to be the thing that gets us up in the morning and keeps us going in the face of suffering and opposition. It has to actually be the anchor of our soul.

Eldredge, All Things New, p. 198 – 200

“If you really want to make a difference I the world, the best thing you can do is exactly what the Scriptures command you to do – grab the promised Renewal with both hands and make it the anchor of your soul…

“If you woke each morning and your heart leapt with hope, knowing the renewal of all things was just around the corner – might even come today – you would be one happy person. If you knew in every fiber of your being that nothing is lost, that everything will be restored to you and then some, you would be armored against discouragement and despair. If your heart’s imagination were filled with rich expectation of all the goodness coming to you, your confidence would be contagious; you would be unstoppable, revolutionary.”

And, may I add, dangerous to the Enemy, Which is why he wants to distract you from your ultimate hope with a thousand other petty things that seem more important in the moment, but have absolutely zero value in the Kingdom.

 The greatest enemies of our hope today are comfort and distraction.

  • We have grown lazy about our hope because we are so comfortable and content with what we have; we have numbed ourselves to our soul’s innate hunger for God. Settled for snacking instead of sitting down to the feast God has prepared. Anesthetized ourselves against hope in the Kingdom by building our own Kingdoms here. We “seek first” a Kingdom alright, but it isn’t God’s!
  • We keep ourselves busy and distracted by a thousand different pursuits. I believe we are running from something. As long as we can stay busy, we will never be still enough to hear the restlessness in our hearts, to face the emptiness of what Solomon calls “Vanity under the sun.” It’s Martha wanting Jesus to make everyone get on her plan instead of Mary sitting still and quiet at the feet of Jesus, just listening.

The call of the Kingdom requires we give ourselves over completely to hope, at all costs.

It requires we REPENT.

 We will talk about that next week…

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