WHAT WE BELIEVE – THE KINGDOM
Jesus begins his Great Commission with the most staggering claim, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). With these words, Jesus says he is the King of the Universe. He, today, God in the flesh, alive not dead, is King over everything. This is why we follow him, why we believe in him, why we go for him, seeking to baptize others in his name and teaching others to believe and live everything he commands and teaches us in his Word.
Because Jesus is King, the kingdom of God couldn’t be more important for us. This is why Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God” before we even seek the basic necessities of life like food and shelter (Matt 6:33). This is why Jesus tells us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on this earth, just as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10). This is why Jesus preaches the gospel of the kingdom of God, and tells us to do the same (Mark 1:15). What we need, more than anything, is to be rightly related to the King and brought into his kingdom. The kingdom of God determines our truth, message, methods, values, witness, worship, and priorities, because Jesus is King.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states this concerning our understanding of the Kingdom: “The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.”
When Jesus says the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15), he means that God’s rule and reign over his universe is at hand, it has broken into the present in his presence, because he is the king who brings the kingdom. What the kingdom of God means is explained in the Old Testament. God has always intended that his creation be his kingdom. He made us to rule and reign with him and for him in his kingdom, this universe.
This is why God placed our first parents in a garden, to steward this world for his glory, to live in and extend his kingdom throughout his creation. God has always been the one who reigns over his creation and his people. He is exalted above all else, he alone rules in majestic splendor, he gives directions to his people in his law on how to live for him and with each other (e.g., Psalm 47).
Of course, our first parents rebelled against God and his kingdom purposes. However, even as God justly casts them out of the garden because of their sin, he promises to send a redeemer, a descendant of that first woman, who would crush sin and evil, put death to death (Gen 3:15). This redeemer would be a king who would sit on an eternal throne (e.g., 2 Samuel 7:14), making it possible for us once again to live with God and for God in his kingdom.
As God works to fulfill this promise, he calls Israel to be his “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:4-6), his people who would demonstrate his kingdom power and presence by their lives and witness, extending the kingdom to others. However, like our first parents, they did not do this. Instead of wanting God as their king, they called for another king. God in his grace grants their request, calling on the king to lead his people to be his kingdom in this world.
However, yet again, the kings and the nation did not do this. But God always keeps his promises. Through his prophets, he continued to proclaim that a Messiah, a king, a redeemer, would come and usher in the promised eternal kingdom of God, when all things would be as they should be, without sin.
The kingdom of God refers to the reign of God, and specifically to that time when the Messiah will reign as over this earth as King. Jesus’s message is, “that’s me, that kingdom is found in me.” He is the promised Messiah. When Jesus came, the kingdom of God came near in him. We can now enter the kingdom of God because of Jesus, through repentance and faith in him.
The rest of the New Testament fills out this understanding of the kingdom of God for us, as we come to understand that the kingdom comes through the perfect life of Jesus, his death on a cross that cross pays for our sin, and his resurrection from the dead on the third day to proclaim his victory over sin and death.
The moment we believe in Jesus we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God. The kingdom isn’t here in its fullness yet, but we are already citizens of the coming kingdom. As a church we are a kingdom outpost, meant to be a preview of the kingdom, to live out the values of the kingdom, and share the good news of the kingdom.
There is coming a time when Christ returns in glory, and his rule and reign will be instituted everywhere and recognized by everyone (1 Cor 15:25-28; Phil 2:9-11). So we live for the kingdom now as we await the kingdom to come, trusting that the King is coming, as ultimately the kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the full consummation of his purposes. Praise the Lord!