The Good News of the Kingdom of God

The Good News of the Kingdom of God

Introduction

If you had to tell someone in 1-3 words what the life, teaching, and ministry of Jesus Christ meant, what would you say?

Some might say love. Jesus certainly talked about love, but when looking at the gospels I don’t think you’ll find love as the dominant theme. Some might say forgiveness. But when we look at what Jesus actually taught and said, I think one theme stands above the rest.

In his Gospel, Mark explains introduces Jesus’ ministry with verses 14 and 15 of chapter one.

Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14–15

When Jesus launches His ministry in Galilee region, He went from town to town preaching this message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

So is this verbatim what Jesus said every time? When into every town and gave 18 English words-worth of Hebrew to them, and then had the pianist start an invitational song?

No! Mark’s intention is to sum up the content of Jesus’ preaching by giving the gist of the message that He preached.

When Jesus preached the Gospel, He preached the kingdom of God. The Gospel is a call to people to become a part of God’s kingdom. If you do not have the kingdom, you do not have the Gospel. If we do not understand the kingdom of God, how can we claim to understand His Gospel?

If I were to ask you to explain to me what the kingdom of God is, how confident would you be in your answer?

I want to make myself clear. I do not want to indicate that this is merely my perspective, or a unique angle on the Gospels that is trendy right now. Jesus often taught on the kingdom. I think there is a good case to be made that it was His primary theme from the number of occurrences alone.

Kingdom
Synoptic Gospels- 102 occurrences
All four Gospels - 105 occurrences

Love
Synoptic Gospels - 22 occurrences
All four Gospels - 58 occurrences

I believe, in fact, that you have this theme of God’s kingdom woven throughout the story of the Bible. Looking at the narrative of the Scriptures as a story of God’s kingdom helps us to weave the whole thing together. As much as we say that the whole Bible is about Jesus,  that He is the King who was bringing His kingdom to this world.

So what? What am I getting at? I want to explore what the Good News of the Kingdom of God means. Jesus brought GLAD TIDINGS of the kingdom according to Luke. For the believers in this room, if someone who does not know Christ were to ask you this simple question, how would you respond? Here is the question: Why is it good news that God’s kingdom is coming?
‌‌
To answer that question, first of all, let us ask this: what is the kingdom?

The kingdom of God is “the King’s rule over the King’s people in the King’s place.”

In studying for this message, I came across what seemed to be a helpful description of the kingdom of God from Shreiner. The intention of this little blurb is to set up three ideas about the kingdom of God: power, people, and place. We might bring to the conversation some ideas that overcomplicate things for us so this explanation may be key for us.

This statement tries to get across what we might intuitively understand about other things, like when it teachers. I am a teacher in a school so I can use my professional knowledge of pedagogy to clarify the finer details. (Pedagogy is technical jargon for the method of teaching.)

So here is the complex and profound truth about teaching: when a teacher teaches, he teaches real people in a real place. A teacher isn’t teaching if there aren’t students to teach. And a teacher can’t teach someone if they aren’t in a classroom. What is a teacher without students or a classroom? (A classroom doesn’t have to be in a conventional school building.)

God is king whether we honor Him as such or not, but God’s kingdom in the way that Jesus presented exists in whatever place His people bring His rule. This helps to understand what it means to live for the kingdom of God. Do I want to see more people living out God’s reign in the real world?

The kingdom of God ceases to be esoteric, and now, the mission of the kingdom is starting to become more clear. Can you see how this is good news? How the Gospel message intertwines with the story of the kingdom?

To make a people on earth, God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, and He rose again the third day. Now, He is the king of all who will repent and believe the Gospel. That is why Jesus preached, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel.” The kingdom is here, therefore repent!

This is the Joy to the World: He comes to make His blessings known far as the curse is found! He rules and reigns! Repentance is admitting that any other kingdom is curse, and that God’s kingdom is one True one because only in His kingdom does He truly reign.

Whose kingdom rules in your life? If you do not know Christ, I repeat His message to you, leave all other kingdoms behind and put your faith in the one True King.

The coming of the kingdom of God was a function of ruling, not of place.

As we have said, when Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God, He is not talking about a figurative place where God rules in some esoteric way. The kingdom of God is not a reference to some theoretical domain. It is a function of God’s rule.

When Jesus says, the kingdom of God is at hand, He is saying the rule of God has come in a new way.

‌When Jesus says, the kingdom of heaven is like… He is saying:
  • When God rules in people’s lives it looks like this.
  • This what life looks like when people are submitted to the kingdom of God.‌

The way that we normally use the word kingdom presents a problem. When I say, the kingdom of Queen Elizabeth, you most likely think of the sum of the total geographic area where people recognize Elizabeth as queen. But we should instead think of it this way: the kingdom of Queen Elizabeth II was from 1952 until her death in 2022. Kingdom is that which a king does as a king.

It is like the word fandom, when we would refer to Pastor Will’s fandom of Washington Sports. My fandom is only real if it is expressed in real lives in the real world, but it is not really bound by geography. I express my Nationals fandom by having a bobblehead of pitcher Stephen Strasburg in contrast to Pastor Thomas’ bobblehead of some irrelevant Mets player. My fandom is that which I do as a fan.

The kingdom of God is the reigning of God as a king over real people in a real place. As John Piper says, God’s kingdom creates a people and creates a place, but it is not equivalent to those things.

The Gospel calls us to bring the reign of God over God’s people in the physical world.

Before Mark introduces Jesus, he writes of a forerunner, someone who prepared the way. You very well may know who this is, John the Baptist. There are multiple Johns in Scripture, two primary ones being John the Apostle and John the Baptist. John the Apostle was one of the Twelve, but John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus, and fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. We see this is in the Gospel of Matthew.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’ ”
Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. Matthew 3:1–6


John the Baptist came to tell of the one who would bring the kingdom. He too preached the Gospel of the kingdom. And look what he called people to do, we see this also in Mark 1. “Baptism for the remission of sins.” Today, we baptize people to identify them with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is a public proclamation of faith in Christ. But to the Jewish culture in which John was baptizing, it meant something very different. Baptism symbolized cleansing and it was a part of the process to become part of the Jewish people. It was a public statement that you were desiring to be cleansed from your moral impurity.

It was a very pronounced form of repentance. The visceral nature of the water washing away that which was unacceptable about you was a profoundly humbling experience. When John preached that people should repent, they had to put their whole reputation where their mouth was in the midst of an honor/shame culture.

God used a very tangible process to teach the followers of John how tangible God’s rule is in the lives of those who truly know Him. God’s kingdom today is still one that is tangible.

 “If the mission of the church is reduced to an intellectual assent of a sovereign God but does not mold how we use our hands and feet, then the church and the kingdom become a monastery rather than a world-forming force.” - Patrick Shreiner

Is the kingdom (the rule) of God shaping how you use your hands and feet? When Jesus called people to repentance, it was not merely to agree to some propositional truths of the Gospel. No the Gospel is the good news of God bringing His kingdom to the earth through the life and death of Jesus Christ the Son of God. He didn’t suffer, experience the pain of death, and smash the grave just so that we could pray a prayer and go to heaven. He died so that He might reign in your hearts, and from your hearts, bring the kingdom into the physical world.

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20–21

God reigns wherever His people choose to submit to his rule in real life. If we were to use your life as a litmus test for the reality of God’s kingdom, what would your choices tell us? Who reigns in your home? Who reigns in your interaction with your spouse? Who reigns at your workplace? Who reigns in your social media? Who reigns in whatever content you choose to consume? Who reigns in the spiritual disciplines of your family? Who reigns in your mind? Who reigns in your heart?

Another question we might ask is, who reigns in your life when it comes to your Gospel outreach?

Living for the kingdom means bringing more people under His rule.

‌The Kingdom of God is not some introspective project that helps us to actualize our best selves. The kingdom of God is bigger than ourselves. Our culture calls us to figure out our true selves and learn how to live out who we truly are, and God calls us to die and seek His kingdom before anything else.

I have mentioned this before in preaching, but it’s not just the corny Disney movies.  Any time that we engage in consumerist culture as Christians even we engage in self-actualization. Any time that we are looking for the Scriptures or a church to be what we want or what we believe we need, rather than that which helps me to be aligned with the kingdom of God and God’s purposes, we have made following Jesus about the kingdom of "me" and not the Kingdom of God. Far more important than the pastors’ style connecting with you, the music being just right for you to feel like you’re worshipping, or feeling like there is something for your kids is this: that the church is actually seeking God’s kingdom first and you can be a part of that.

This message of God’s kingdom and man’s mission of the kingdom is threaded not just in the teaching of Jesus but throughout the whole Bible. God’s intention has always been for man to expand His order in people throughout the physical world

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:27–28


We have people. (Be fruitful and multiply). We have place. (Fill the earth.) And power. (Dominion.)

This week I was having a conversation with one of our young adults about our work, no matter how spiritually inconsequential our work seems to be, is for the glory of God. I mentioned to him what I had been discussing with some coworkers: don’t just make an abstract statement that your work glorifies God. How does your work actually do good in the world, which brings glory to God?

For my friend, he is a mechanic for the glory of God. So he is doing good by fixing people’s cars, helping them to get vital transportation to work, and medical visits, and grocery stores. He prevents the decay of the cars with routine maintenance. He is blessing people by providing a good service and truly trying to help people take care of or repair their vehicles. The automobile is a crucial part of our economy. This is a very important job and is bringing order (his rule) in people’s lives in real places to the glory of God.

So what? How discussing  oil changes for God’s glory but really discussing about the mission of the kingdom to bring others in? The kingdom mission is not about some abstract domain, but it means bringing God’s rule to people in real places. And the ultimate way to do that is actually telling other people about the king and what His Gospel means for them, telling them that He died on the cross for their sin and rose again.

Living for the Kingdom is really believing and then living out this idea that my life is not about me. It’s about more people in real life submitting themselves to the rule of the only good King because He is worthy of that. Our motive to do this must not be because it makes me feel better about myself, or so that I don’t feel guilty. Kingdom living only truly happens when we follow Him because the King is worthy.

Conclusion

When we understand the teaching of Jesus in context, we see a clear presentation of what it means for God to rule in people’s lives on earth. We see people responding to that message as well. Many understood to what Jesus was calling them, and some committed everything, learning as they grew how that was fleshed out in their choices. But many still chose to continue living for some other kingdom. A rival kingdom to God’s. In the sense that has hopefully been made more clear today, everyone is living for a kingdom. What rule are you living out in real life?

Most likely there are some listening to me today that have not repented from other kingdoms and have believed the Gospel of the king. The king died and rose again for your sin!

But for those who do claim His kingdom, here is how we might tell if we are living for His Kingdom.

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” Revelation 11:15

How can you tell what kingdom you are living for? Well, what happens when you hear this revelation from John? Does your heart long for that which can only be completely fulfilled when all that is left is Jesus’ Kingdom? Or is that for which your heart longs tied to some other kingdom?

George Friedrich Handel wrote one of the most famous and most performed choral works in Western music. The Messiah is often associated with the Advent season with its focus on the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah’s coming, but it was not written as a Christmas piece.

In part two, movement 44, Handel curates poignant language from Scripture about Christ the king, including the passage above, Revelation 11:15.

Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.


With Handel and choirs through the centuries, can your heart say HALLELUJAH! God be praised because the all-powerful God reigns and the pitiful substitutes are no more? Do you really believe that the Kingdom of God is good news? If so, let us follow the king’s command and tell others.

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