Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Kingdom of God in the New Testament

Two weeks ago, I preached a survey of the entire Old Testament and showed that its unifying theme is the Mediatorial Kingdom of God. But does this theme also appear in the New Testament? Indeed it does, as we saw together on Sunday.

I believe the New Testament reveals three stages to the kingdom:

  1. The Kingdom is Presented (Matt. 3:2; 4:23-24; 10:5-8). With the arrival of the promised Messiah, the establishment of His Kingdom was immanent. John, the disciples, and Jesus Himself all announced that the King had come, and called the people to repent and embrace their Messiah. Throughout His teaching and miracles, Jesus affirmed the exact same aspects of the Kingdom foretold in the Old Testament: spiritual, moral, social, religious, political, and physical. In sections like the Sermon on the Mount, He certainly emphasized the spiritual realities of His kingdom, but He never redefined the kingdom as something exclusively spiritual. He was building on all the Old Testament had already revealed about it.
  2. The Kingdom is Rejected (Matt. 12:22-32; 13:10-13). From the very outset of His public ministry, Jesus aroused the suspicion and hatred of Jewish leaders. They challenged His authority, denied His claims, grew jealous of His following, resented His association with sinners, and rejected His call to humility and repentance. Tragically, God's people rejected His appointed Mediator, even going so far as to call Him a collaborator with Satan! Hence, Christ declared judgment on Israel, and the fulfillment of the Kingdom was postponed. At this point, Jesus began using parables to teach previously unrevealed mysteries of the Kingdom.
  3. The Kingdom is Postponed (Matt. 24:15-16, 21-23, 29-30; 25:31-34). As he approached His death, Christ laid out a clear timeline of future events. He said His second coming will be preceded by a time of unprecedented tribulation. Then, Christ will return in glory, judge the nations, and reign as the final fulfillment of the Mediatorial Kingdom. We still await this glorious promise! Only the timing of these events remains a mystery (Ac. 1:3, 6-8).
What does this mean for us today? How do we, the Church, fit into God's glorious Mediatorial Kingdom if it has been postponed? I will teach next Sunday on some very specific applications to this doctrine, but for now, here are some general truths for meditation and discussion...
  • We must study the Gospels, because the conditions to enter His Church and His future Kingdom are the same: faith, repentance, rebirth, poverty of spirit, meekness, etc.
  • We must live with urgency in holiness and evangelism because of the immanence of Christ's return, judgment, and reign.
  • We can celebrate our new birth into the royal family of God. We are children of the King and heirs to all His glorious promises!
  • We should realize that Christ is preparing us to rule together with Him. This should drive us to great stewardship and faithfulness. We will look at this more in depth next Sunday.
  • We can thank God that we are already recipients of some of the blessings of the coming Kingdom. We already have forgiveness, eternal life, peace with God, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and God's law in our hearts. These are the firstfruits of much more blessing to come.
(Sunday’s sermon has been uploaded to our podcast site and is available for free download or to listen online.)

May God help us apply His Word this week in our hearts, in our words, and in our actions.

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