Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Kingdom—already, not yet

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 10:1-15

TO CHEW ON: " ' And as you go, preach saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.' " Matthew 10:7,8

Jesus spoke a lot about a spiritual kingdom (sometimes called the kingdom of heaven, sometimes the kingdom of God).
  • He promised that the poor in spirit and the persecuted would inherit it (Matthew 5:3,10).
  • He taught us to pray for its coming (Matthew 6:10).
  • He told Nicodemus the way to enter it was to be born again (John 3:3).
  • He told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
  • And yet here, He tells His disciples it is "at hand" ("has drawn near").

It's interesting to notice the details of the job on which Jesus sends the disciples and what they say about the kingdom. I think we can conclude, by Jesus' job description, that some things are incompatible with His kingdom:

- Sickness ("heal the sick").

- Leprosy ("cleanse the lepers"). How was leprosy different from other sickness? For one it was a chronic condition or conditions. Two - it made those infected unclean outcasts. There is no place for such stigma in the kingdom.

- Death ("raise the dead").

- Demons ("cast out demons"). I don't know how much power and influence in this world and our society we credit to the demonic. That its influence is more pervasive than ever I have no doubt, given modern curiosity about and fascination with the paranormal.

Though the kingdom is something we have yet to see in its full flower, we do see glimmerings of it now in the operation of Christ's body on earth—the church. For Jesus said while still on earth, " '… the Kingdom of God is within you' " - Luke 17:21. And He commissioned the disciples (who became the church) to be witnesses to Him and His teachings, which included this message of the kingdom (Acts 1:8).

May the kingdom of heaven find fertile ground in my life and yours!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I long to see and experience kingdom life to the full, as much as it's possible here on earth. May its presence be operating in and through my life. Amen.

MORE: The Kingdom—"already," and "not yet"

Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine quotes George Ladd on this topic. Ladd summarizes five ways the church and the kingdom are related (I'll just quote the points; he elaborates on each point and supports with scriptures):
1. The church is not the kingdom.
2. The kingdom creates the church.
3. The church witnesses to the kingdom.
4. The church is the instrument of the kingdom.
5. The church is the custodian of the kingdom.

Grudem concludes:
 "Therefore we should not identify the kingdom of God and the church, nor should we see the kingdom of God as entirely future. … 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 to 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 - Matthew 12:28; Romans 14:17; and "not yet" here fully - Matthew 25:34; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pp. 863, 864 (emphasis added).

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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