Sunday, July 03, 2016

Kingdom of Heaven primer

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 10:1-20

 "'And heal the sick there and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you.'" Luke 10:9

If there is one subject of Jesus' teaching that is mysterious, fascinating and exciting all at once it is His teaching about the Kingdom of God. "The Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus' preaching," says a New Bible Dictionary article on the subject. It goes on to give an overview of the Kingdom of God (Heaven) as it spans history.

Though there are intimations of this kingdom in the Old Testament (borne out by their teaching of a deliverer, Messiah), it really comes into focus in the New. John the Baptist proclaims that the Kingdom is at hand - thus his emphasis on repentance, because God is coming as King to purify, sift, and judge (Matthew 3:1-12).

Jesus takes up the message from John adding to the repentance theme the aspect of salvation. He declares that the kingdom is already among them (Matthew 12:28). "His whole preaching and ministry are marked by this dominant reality. In Him the great future has already become 'present time.'" The Kingdom in his ministry is characterized by His casting out of demons (Luke 11:20), healing of sickness (our focus verse today) and actually breaks Satan's grip of control on this world (Luke 10:17,18).

But in Jesus' teaching, the Kingdom of God also has a future, mysterious, hidden aspect. In His parables (the whole purpose of which, He explains, is to teach about this Kingdom - Mark 4:10-12) the Kingdom is seed growing secretly, leaven, a tiny mustard seed, a hidden treasure, a pricey pearl (Mark 4:26-29; Luke 13:20,21; Mark 4:30-32; Matthew 13:44, 45, 46).

"Indeed the hiddeness of the kingdom is deeper still,"
says the Bible Dictionary entry. "The King Himself comes in the form of a slave….The Kingdom has come; the Kingdom will come. But it comes by the way of the cross before the Son of man exercises His authority over all the kingdoms of the earth (Matthew 4:8; 28:18) He must tread the path of obedience to His Father in order thus to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15)."

 And so the Kingdom has an ongoing history. The whole world is vulnerable to it (Matthew 13:38). It spreads to all nations (Matthew 28:19).

We in the church age are a part of it:

"The Church is the assembly of those who have accepted the gospel of the kingdom in faith, who participate in the salvation of the kingdom…. They are also those in whose life the kingdom takes visible form, the light of the world, the salt of the earth; those who have taken on themselves the yoke of the kingdom, who live by their king's commandments and learn from Him (bold mine).

The Church as the organ of the kingdom is called to confess Jesus as the Christ, to the missionary task of preaching the gospel in the world; she is also the community of those who wait for the coming of the kingdom in glory, the servants who have received their Lord's talents in prospect of His return. The Church receives her whole constitution from the kingdom..." New Bible Dictionary, Op. Cit.

Do you begin to see the bigness of this thing of which you and I are a part, yet still anticipating? It loads the phrases which we repeat so glibly from the Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:1-4): "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" with a weight of added meaning. It makes me want to give myself to kingdom pursuits with renewed passion, so that it could be said to those in my sphere of influence: "Know this, that the Kingdom of God has come near you."

PRAYER: Dear God, help my inadequate mind and spirit grasp the truth of Your kingdom. Help it to be evident in my life in wisdom, power, humility, love and all its manifestations. Amen.

All quotes taken from The New Bible Dictionary (Eerdmans, © 1962, reprinted 1979) pp. 693-695.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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