Living for the Kingdom
The modern Western church has presented the world with a gospel that caters to individualism and, therefore, treats an individual’s justification as the only focus of gospel. Don’t get me wrong, this is a major aspect of the gospel, but the multifaceted message of Jesus contains much more than individual justification.
Those that have put their faith in Christ have already been declared righteous in Christ before God. Is that all we are to experience in our walk with God? Are we to merely have a one-time experience of coming to faith in Christ and then wait until our death or His return? Jesus has already provided an answer to this question.
The first words that Jesus spoke as He started His ministry are found in Matthew 4:17, where he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” A few verses later, we are told that as He went throughout Galilee healing diseases and afflictions, He was proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom (v.23). From the very start, Jesus had God’s kingdom in mind as He preached the good news. To understand the relevance of the kingdom that Jesus preached, we have to go back to the promises of God in the Old Testament concerning God’s kingdom. One place that is most clear on this is Daniel 17:13-14,
I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; and his kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.
We can see that the kingdom as described by scripture is the rule of the Messiah in power and authority. The text tells us that Jesus Christ is presented before the Father and given dominion, glory, and a kingdom. All throughout Jesus ministry, He preached this gospel of the kingdom, the good news of His reign as King. Christ reigning now, and has He established His kingdom yet?
In Matthew 12, Jesus healed a demon-oppressed man that was blind and mute. The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by demonic power, rather than by divine sovereignty. After telling them that Satan’s kingdom cannot stand if he were to use his powers against himself, Jesus says, “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (v.28). We know that the kingdom of God came with Jesus’ first coming, because He cast out a demon prior to this conversation with the Pharisees. So, at a basic level, we know that the kingdom of God came with Christ, evidenced by His own proclamation that if He cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has indeed come.
We know that the kingdom is being established and has, in some way, been inaugurated during Jesus’ time. We have looked at the prophecy in Daniel 7 about how the Messiah will indeed be given an everlasting kingdom that will not be destroyed. How do the ideas of the coming of the kingdom and Christ’s rule as King connect to each other? They are brought together in a glorious display of the power of God in Jesus’ ascension. The scene is set up after Jesus raises from the dead and is with His apostles.
In Matthew 28, Jesus gives the great commission for all believers to
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
Every follower of Christ has received the command to evangelize and disciple the nations, but Jesus tells us something right before the commission that we tend to forget. He says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore…” Because Christ has been given all authority in heaven above, and on earth below, we therefore go and make disciples. Jesus gives His followers the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit in order that they might evangelize the world.
After Jesus tells his followers this, we read in the first chapter of Acts that,
Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.
As the disciples were standing there, witnessing the Son of Man ascend into heaven, we can be certain that they were remembering the words in Daniel’s prophecy,
…with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom…
The prophecy of God the Son being brought before God the Father to be given all authority everywhere happened at Jesus’ ascension. Jesus has established His kingdom and is seated at the right hand of the Father. This is the gospel of the kingdom that Christ proclaimed all throughout His ministry. When we realize that Christ rules the world, our outlook on the world and the Church’s engagement with the culture as a whole should be transformed.
Living for the Kingdom
Christians can rest in the hope found in the risen Christ who has defeated sin and death on our behalf. The good news of this message should be ready to bounce off our lips at every opportunity. If we keep the kingdom of Christ at the forefront of our minds, then evangelism and discipleship no longer seem like weighty commands. When we view God’s commandments in light of Christ’s dominion, it becomes apparent that these are not done out of obligation in hopes of appeasing the Father, but of joy in hopes of expanding His kingdom.
If we truly believe that Christ is ruling and reigning at the right hand of the Father now, then we have further motivation to live our lives to the glory of God and with the fullest hope possible. Our hope is in the promise that God is working out all things for His glory and our good (Rom. 8:28). This hope also rests in the knowledge that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit that lives within us and gives us life (Rom 8:11). When you reflect upon your life, at one point in your life, the gospel was explained to you and the Holy Spirit softened your heart and granted you faith in Christ. The same Spirit that changed our hearts now lives within us. Due to this, we should be confident in sharing the good news that God has worked in us and hold dear to our hearts the truth that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Rom 1:16)
These truths that are clearly laid out in Scripture should change our engagement with culture. If the gospel is God’s power to save, then it is only the gospel that will change people’s hearts and cause them to submit to Christ in all facets of life. Rather than taking a neutral approach to cultural issues and arguing over scientific evidence or basic morality, why are we not bringing the gospel to the front of the conversation? We should stand our ground as Christians, meet people where they are, and provide them with the hope of salvation that is only found in Christ alone.
Let us remember that once God saves us, He isn’t done with us. God has given us time to be made more like Him as we work for His kingdom. Let us use this time wisely, proclaim the good news of the gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ to the world around us, and trust that God will do the saving.