Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stages of the Kingdom

At first glance, it seems that the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus preaches for three years is different from the message the apostles preach after Pentecost. Whereas Jesus declares the arrival of the kingdom, the apostles preach Jesus as Lord.

How do we make sense of this? It is necessary to understand how the Scripture narrative unveils God's kingdom plans in stages. 

Genesis1-3 shows how God creates male and female in his image and commissions them to fill and rule the Earth. They are to rule under God and carry out his will.

The serpent, representing Satan, tempts the couple to forsake their allegiance to God. Instead of listening to God's voice, they ironically obey the serpent over whom they have been given dominion. In doing so, they relinquish their authority to him. As a result, another kingdom emerges that rivals God's. Humans can now choose to obey Satan or God. 

As God gets ready to send Adam and Eve into exile, he first speaks to the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel" (Gen 3:15).

Here we learn that two opposing categories of people will emerge--Satan's seed and the woman's seed. In cryptic fashion God declares that one of the woman's offspring will deliver a death blow to the serpent's seed. Known as the protoeuangelion, this is the first promise that speaks of Satan's defeat.

Jesus is the promised Seed of the woman, sent to defeat Satan and restore the kingdom (Matt. 1:16-23; 2:5-6). God appoints Jesus at his birth to be the newly established king. He empowers Jesus for this task at his baptism by giving him the Spirit. Jesus immediately goes forth in the power of God, announces the arrival of God's kingdom and demonstrates it by overcoming Satan in the wilderness and setting captives free from all sorts of demonic bondage. Each healing, miracle, deliverance, resurrection 1) testifies that the locus of the kingdom has come in the person and work of Jesus (Matt 12:28: Luke 11:20; Acts 10:38), and 2) is an enacted parable, which graphically points to a day when the entire world will be delivered.

When Satan, the power behind the Throne, moves the Jews and Romans to arrest and execute Jesus for crimes against the State, it looks like Jesus' kingdom agenda has failed. In actuality, through his death Jesus secures a victory over Satan's kingdom, thus fulfilling the promise in Gen. 3:15 (Col 2:15). When God raises Jesus from the dead three days later, the victory is evident. As the hymn declares, "Up from the grave he arose with a mighty triumph o'er his foes." Jesus then announces, "All authority is given me in heaven and on Earth" (Matt 28:18). His reign begins! 

With Satan defeated, Jesus is now ready to send forth his emissaries into the world to announce the victory and call for the masses to align themselves with the new kingdom (vv 19-20).  

Luke tells us that Jesus ascends into heaven, takes his place at God's right hand and sends the Spirit upon his believers to carry out the Kingdom agenda (Acts 1:3-10). In his Pentecost sermon Peter announces that Jesus has been enthroned (Acts2:29-36). He has been inaugurated as God's king (Acts 3:12-21; 4:30-32; 7:55-56; 1 Cor 15:23-28; Eph 1:19-23; Phil 2:8-11, etc.). 

 To come under the reign of Christ one must repent (renounce allegiance to the kingdoms of the world) and believe (pledge allegiance to King Jesus), which is demonstrated through baptism. The new follower receives the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38-39). S/he then joins a Spirit empowered community, the locus of a new humanity, where kingdom reality is experienced.

So we see that God appointed and anointed Jesus to be king, before he authorized Jesus to take the throne and begin his rule over heaven and earth. Whereas, the kingdom was manifested through the Spirit in and through Jesus when he walked the earth, it is now manifested worldwide through the Spirit wherever churches are located. 

[Next, we will discuss the role of the church in the kingdom. To learn more about the kingdom, read "HEAVEN ON EARTH: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now" available on Amazon and at other Christian book sellers. Download as eBook and start reading within 30 seconds].

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