Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Jesus on the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:18)

’The time has come,’ Jesus said.
The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!
(Mark 1:18,

Jesus’ message concerned the “kingdom of God.” We find the phrase 14 times in Mark’s Gospel and over 100 times in all four Gospels. It is here in His first recorded message and in His last messages according to Acts 1:3.

Jesus’ parables were parables of the kingdom. What did Jesus mean by this? Is it a future kingdom? Is it the church? What does it have to do with us today?

At the time of Jesus, the idea of the kingdom was common in Jewish thinking. Scholars looked forward to a new age of peace and material well-being when Israel would be free from the oppression of Rome. Increasingly, the phrase “the kingdom of God” had taken on a highly political tone. It had become virtually a slogan for Jewish nationalism. Political activists and freedom fighters had begun to take things into their own hands. Such revolutionaries were called “zealots” (Jesus chose one among his disciples – Mark 3:18). Galilee, in particular, became a hotbed for such men. We can easily imagine the tension in the air when Jesus proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is near!” But Jesus’ understanding of the kingdom was different in a number of ways.

Firstly, for Jesus the kingdom was not national but personal. It was about God’s rule in a person’s heart. The kingdom was not a territory to be found on a map (like the United Kingdom) but God’s reign as king in an individual’s life. During His trial, Jesus explains to Pontius Pilate that his kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36). It’s another kind of kingdom.

Secondly, for Jesus the kingdom was not material but spiritual. It is not a place of earthly prosperity but spiritual blessing. When Jesus was asked by some Pharisees when the kingdom would come, he told them that the kingdom of God is “within you.” That is, it is an internal and spiritual kingdom, not an external and visible one (Luke 17:21). Paul, later in the New Testament, tells us in Romans 14:17 that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Thirdly, for Jesus the kingdom was not only future but here and now. With the coming of Jesus, God’s rule among men had begun. The day the prophets had dreamed of was here. The kingdom was here because Jesus was here!

And now, whenever a person confess that Jesus is Lord, by repentance and faith, the kingdom of God is present, for that person has made God king in his or her own life. Undoubtedly, there is also a future element to the kingdom of God. The Bible looks forward to a time when “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Revelation 11:15). But the first stage is here. Hence the challenge to repent and believe, for this is the way into God’s kingdom.

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