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Christ’s Universal Kingdom

 

Matthew 16:13-28; Acts 1:6-8; Acts 2:22-47

 

Jim Davis

 

The coming of the Messianic kingdom was the subject of the Gospels. Matthew says, “Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 4:17 NIV). Many of Jesus’ parables consistently sought to explain the nature of his kingdom. He taught parables of the kingdom, worked the miracles of the kingdom and lived the life of the kingdom.

 

Jesus came proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.

 

Mark 1:14-15

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" NIV

 

Matthew 4:23

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. NIV

 

Jesus’ kingdom was to be established on the truth that he was the Christ, the Son of the living God.

 

Matthew 16:16-20

16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

 

17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. NIV

 

Matthew 16:24-28

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." NIV

 

After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and moments before his ascension to heaven his disciples met with him and asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"(Acts 1:6.) The question was a natural response to Jesus’ teaching they had heard from the moment he had called them. Jesus’ teaching concerning the coming of his kingdom was so emphatic that the mother of James and John came requesting that her sons sit on his right hand and on his left when he established his kingdom.

 

There is no doubt in my mind but what the disciples misunderstood the nature of the kingdom Christ was to establish. They were thinking in terms of an earthly rule they thought Jesus came to establish. However, they had every reason to expect the kingdom of God to come in their life time, for this is what Jesus promised (Mark 9:1).

 

Acts 1:6-8

6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

 

7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." NIV

 

The kingdom of God’s Son came in the apostles’ life time for they were brought into it.

 

Colossians 1:13-14

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. NIV

 

The Kingdom of God

 

The universal kingdom of God upon the earth is simply an extension of God’s reign in heaven that rules over all. The Old Testament writers saw God in light of his universal reign. God’s reign was a mere extension of his heavenly dominion. The men and women of ancient biblical history took courage by recognizing that the God of Israel was ruler of everything in heaven and on earth.

 

Ps 103:19

19 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. NIV

 

God’s rule has been prevalent in every age. Saying the kingdom of God has been prevalent in every age is the same as saying that God has ruled in every age. God’s kingdom existed as Jesus walked the earth.

 

Luke 17:20-21

20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." NIV

 

Matthew 12:24-28

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons."

 

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. NIV

 

Jesus taught those he met that the kingdom of God was already in their midst—Jesus taught them that “the kingdom of God is within you”—“the kingdom of God is upon you.”  All that Jesus did while he was on earth was an expression of the power and reign of God. He taught the parables of the kingdom, performed miracles of the kingdom and he taught about the spiritual nature of God’s kingdom. He told them that the kingdom of God was already in their midst.

 

When we come to the New Testament the Jews are looking for a Messianic king, a Messiah that would ascend to the throne of David. They were looking for God to establish his reign on earth through the Messiah. However, they were looking for a king that would overthrow earthly powers in order that God’s reign would be reestablished through the Jews. However, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. It is a spiritual kingdom. It is the rule of God in the hearts of his people.

 

John 18:36

36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." NIV

 

When Jesus died on the cross God resurrected him and seated him on the throne of David. This was in fulfillment of the Messianic promise was that God would raise up a king to sit on the throne of David.

 

Acts 2:22-33

22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:

 

"'I saw the Lord always before me.

Because he is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.

26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will live in hope,

27 because you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

28 You have made known to me the paths of life;

you will fill me with joy in your presence.' 

 

29 "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. NIV

 

The basic foundational truth about Jesus Christ is that he now rules on earth as well as in heaven.

 

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." NIV

 

Ephesians 1:19-23

That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. NIV

 

What a church teaches about the kingdom of God can tell you much about that church’s doctrine. Among many church doctrines is the idea that the church is not the kingdom. This has been the result of misunderstanding the word “church” and the word “kingdom.” Many believe the church and kingdom of God are two different things. They believe that the church exists during an interim period that precedes the coming of Christ kingdom.

 

Matthew 16:13

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" NIV

 

Matthew 16:16-20

16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

 

17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. NIV

 

Matthew 16:24-28

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." NIV

 

Jesus promised to build his ekklesia, or called out ones upon the foundational fact that he was the Son of the living God.

 

1 Corinthians 3:10-11

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. NIV

 

I think many who read these verses come away thinking Jesus is teaching about two separate entities—the church—the kingdom. Sadly, many churches teach that the church and the kingdom of Christ are totally two different entities. Many teach Christ’s kingdom will be established when he comes in judgment. They fail to realize that the church and the kingdom are one and the same. The word church comes from the Greek word “ekklesia,” which means “called out.” In the first century it simply referred to a synagogue assembly, or Christians assembled in a congregation.

 

Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom"(Matthew 16:28).  Jesus not only promised Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, he told him that the kingdom would come in their life time.

 

Mark 9:1

9:1 And he said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power." NIV

 

The Nature of Christ’s Kingdom

 

The dividing line between the establishment of churches and the establishment of Christ kingdom is that the religious practices, the formulas and rituals have become the defining characteristics of God's people. The defining characteristic of Christ kingdom was that it would be a spiritual kingdom made up of those who are spiritually reborn.

 

John 3:3

3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." NIV

 

Nicodemus spent his life following religious practices, formulas and rituals, so he asks, “How can a man be born again when he is old.” This is what religion will do. When many of us explain Christ to others we explain him in terms what the church practices. We work on restoring the worship, and the steps to salvation, but does Christ rule in our hearts? Without Christ ruling in our hearts all is meaningless.

 

There are people today who are trying to revive the church through establishing new traditions. We want to change the way we do things at worship service—things inside a church building—we overlook the fact that it is hearts that need to be changed. Changing the way we do things without a change of heart is not worth the effort. Experiencing the deep joy of personal change as Christ rules within would take away the boredom we experience in what we have always done—it would also create new insights as to how to better do some things we are doing. A new birth would open our eyes to a new and exciting way of studying the Bible that would become relevant to everyday living.

 

The kingdom of God is about serving God in righteousness.

 

Romans 14:17-18

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. NIV

 

We may look at the coming of Christ kingdom as a one time event, but the nature of Christ’s kingdom makes it an ongoing task. Although Christ ascended to the throne of David on Pentecost the establishment of Christ’s kingdom is an ongoing event, for his kingdom must be established anew in each heart that is brought into the kingdom.

 

Christ admonishes us to take up our cross and follow him, but it is not a one time event. Christ admonishes us to take up our crosses daily and follow him.

 

Luke 9:23-27

23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God." NIV

 

We can continue to pray that God’s kingdom rule would be established more firmly in our hearts as we seek to do his will on earth.

 

Matthew 6:9-13

"'Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10 your kingdom come,

your will be done

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us today our daily bread.

12 Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from the evil one.'” NIV

 

In the simplest terms the kingdom is nothing more than God’s will being done on earth. We must continue to pray that God’s kingdom become more firmly established in each of our hearts. We make a mistake by thinking that God’s kingdom was established once and for all. It is true that Christ is on the throne, he is Lord of lords, and King of kings, but his reign continues to spread through the hearts of men and women as they are won to him one heart at a time through the gospel of the kingdom. The kingdom is still near for those seeking it, although many are already in it.

 

Conclusion:

 

The consummation of Christ’s kingdom will take place when Christ comes in judgment.

 

Matthew 25:31-36

31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 

34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' NIV

 

1 Corinthians 15:24

24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. NIV

 

Listen to what Peter told the Jews on Pentecost to do to be added to Christ kingdom.

 

Acts 2:38-39

38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call." NIV

 

Listen to what they continued to do to allow God’s kingdom to spread in their hearts.

 

Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. NIV

 

Remember, you may have gone to church all your life, but is it possible that you have never been born again—remember Nicodemus? You cannot see God’s kingdom without being born again.

 

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