Kingdom Uprising

Reclaiming Jesus' Hope, Gospel, and Way

Month: May 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Pray for Renewal, not Removal (Matthew 6:9-10)

Time and again, Jesus proclaimed in words and actions the reality that one day, “God is going to make everything wrong in the world right.”

That in itself, the message and enactment of the coming kingdom of God, is incredible.

But what is even more amazing is that God allows us to join him in the process!

Consider Matthew 6:9-10 (NASB):

“Therefore, you should pray like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.”

Through prayer, we can participate in what God is now doing, and will do, here on the earth.

Let’s break down what Jesus is saying.

First, he is telling us to petition our Father in heaven to make his name, all that he is and stands for, be set apart, holy. How do we do that? Well, when we pray that God would be honored as holy, he changes hearts and our perspectives to help us to live in a way that glorifies him.

Second, Jesus is telling us to petition God establish his kingdom and enact his will here on planet earth. This prayer has both a present and future component: when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying for God’s reign, his will, to manifest in our lives today, and we are also praying for the establishment of the physical, earthly kingdom which shall come to fruition at the return of King Jesus, which he himself so often spoke of and demonstrated.

There is one thing that I would really like you to notice here: namely that God is concerned about the present and future state of the earth, and that his desire is to transform the misery and corruption that is our current experience. His plan is for the renewal of the earth, through you and I (and ultimately Jesus), not our removal from the earth after death.

That’s some great news, right?

So let’s make an earnest effort to follow in the teachings of Jesus and to participate, through prayer and action, in the restoration of all things!

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The Kingdom of Heaven Defined (Matt. 4.23)

Matthew defines for his audience what he means by the phrase “kingdom of heaven”.

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. ( Matt. 4.23) NASB

After reading in Matt. 4.17, that Jesus began to preach the kingdom of heaven, Matthew defines what the kingdom of heaven actually is. According to Matthew, what Jesus was preaching and teaching was the kingdom of heaven as gospel. The kingdom of heaven is not a code phrase for going to heaven as some might think. Rather the kingdom of heaven is synonymous with the kingdom of God (see article on Matt. 4.17). How Matthew defines kingdom of heaven is by calling it gospel or good news. The good news is the kingdom. There are two aspects to the kingdom of heaven or God, and that is a present aspect and a future aspect. Matthew 4.23, shows the present aspect of the kingdom. Verse 4.23 and 24 tell us about all sorts of people coming from all over the area just to see Jesus and be healed. Jesus brought a piece or a glimpse of the kingdom with him in the present. Hebrews 6.5 helps explain this further. In verse 4 the author talks about those who have been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and partakes of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus fits into that category. Verse 5 says that they have tasted the word of God (the New Testament definition for ‘the word of God’ not the Bible, rather the gospel) and the powers of the age to come. Jesus brought with him in his ministry the powers of the age to come, we saw this through his ability to forgive, heal the sick, raise the dead, and preforms miracles. Jesus was preaching and teaching in the synagogues this gospel of the kingdom continuously. The kingdom message has power for people now, as we see in Jesus’ ministry to those who believed it.

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The Inaugural Statement of Jesus’ Ministry (Matthew 4.17)

The first words of Jesus’ public ministry outline and provide a foundation for his ministry that changed the world forever.

Matthew 4.17 [NASB]
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’

In the gospel of Matthew these are the very first words of Jesus’ public ministry. Up to this point in Matthew’s narrative, we have read about his birth, baptism, and temptation in the wilderness. But one of the accounts covered in the first four chapters of Matthew does not directly involve Jesus, but rather John the Baptist. His story is in chapter three, and one of the very first things we learn about John the Baptist is that he was preaching “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3.2).  Now fast forward to Matt. 4.12, we learn that John is taken into custody, he is arrested and is not able to preach “the kingdom of heaven” as freely as he once could. And we read in Matt. 4.17,  that “from that time”, from the time that John is taken into custody, Jesus takes the responsibility of preaching the kingdom of heaven upon himself and starts proclaiming it.  Six verses later in Matt. 4.23, Matthew tells us that the Kingdom of heaven Jesus was preaching is the gospel or good news.

Next I want to look at the phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’. This phrase is unique only to Matthew, the other 65 books of the Bible when they mention the kingdom, it is the ‘kingdom of God’. But even in Matthew’s Gospel there are a few instances where he uses the ‘kingdom of God’ instead of the ‘kingdom of heaven’.

Matt. 6.33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ESV

Matt. 12.28 – But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. NASB

Matt. 19.23-24 – And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. NASB

Matt. 21.31 – Truly I (Jesus) say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. NASB

Matt. 21.43 – Therefore I (Jesus) say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. NASB

Even though Matthew primarily uses kingdom of heaven, he uses kingdom of God a few times. They are the exact same thing. They are not two different phrases meaning two different things. For Jesus and his contemporaries the gospel was about the kingdom of heaven/God. And for Matthew, this is his summary statement about Jesus which is unpacked in the rest of the gospel.

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Please Him in the Present World to Receive the Future World (Polycarp)

Polycarp was a very early Christian author and leader who wrote a letter to the Philippians between the years a.d. 110 and 140. According to Irenaeus who had heard Polycarp speak once in his youth, Polycarp had been a follower of the Apostle John. As an old man, the government arrested and executed Polycarp on the charge of professing Christianity. Here is what Polycarp says about the kingdom. Unsurprisingly, it sounds very similar to what we find in the New Testament:

To the Philippians 5.2-3
2 Similarly, deacons must be blameless in the presence of his righteousness, as servants of God and Christ and not of people. They must not be slanderers, not insincere, not lovers of money, but self-controlled in every respect, compassionate, diligent, acting in accordance with the truth of the Lord, who became a servant of all. If we please him in this present world, we will receive the world to come as well, inasmuch as he promised that he will raise us from the dead and that if we prove to be citizens worthy of him, we will also reign with him–if, that is, we continue to believe. 3 Similarly, the younger men must be blameless in all things; they should be concerned about purity above all, reining themselves away from all evil. For it is good to be cut off from the sinful desires in the world, because every sinful desire wages war against the spirit, and neither fornicators nor men who have sex with men (whether as the passive or as the active partner) will inherit the kingdom of God, nor will those who do perverse things.

To the Philippians 11.2
But how can someone who is unable to exercise self-control in these matters preach self-control to anyone else? Anyone who does not avoid love of money will be polluted by idolatry and will be judged as one of the Gentiles, who are ignorant of the Lord’s judgment. Or do we not know that the saints will judge the world, as Paul teaches?

[Polycarp, The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians, trans. Michael Holmes, 2007]

In Polycarp’s mind, how we live plays a great role in determining where we will end up. In other words, he does not separate our hope from our lifestyle. Because of our destiny to inherit the kingdom, we should live righteously in the present. Our aim is to please the Lord in this age so that we will receive the future age when resurrection happens.

Notice how Polycarp thinks temporally rather than spatially. He does not talk about going “up” to heaven or “down” to hell at death. Rather he looks “forward” to when the future kingdom arrives. He looks forwards not upwards. The question is not “Where will I spend eternity?” but “Will I enjoy the future age?” He understands, as Paul teaches, that those who turn away from sinful lives in the present will judge the world in the future.

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Jesus’ Kingdom Ministry in His Inaugural Sermon (Luke 4.16-21)

What was Jesus up to in his ministry? What did his miracles mean? We don’t have to guess, because he told us what he thought he was doing in his inaugural sermon in his home town of Nazareth.

Luke 4.16-21 [ESV]
16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

In order to truly understand what Jesus is saying, we need to familiarize ourselves with the context of the Isaiah prophecy that Jesus quoted. Here is a more extended quotation, which begins before Jesus started and continues beyond where he left off:

Isaiah 60.18-61.7 [ESV]
60.18 Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. 19 The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. 21 Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified. 22 The least one shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the LORD; in its time I will hasten it.

61.1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion– to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6 but you shall be called the priests of the LORD; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy.

What I find so interesting about this Isaiah prophecy is that it pertains to the kingdom–a time when God’s people rebuild ancient ruins, when strangers maintain their possessions, when all of them become priests of God, when they will enjoy the wealth of nations, when they will possess the land with joy. God plans on redeeming his people and restoring them to glory in the land. However, if this Isaiah 61 prophecy relates to the kingdom in its original context, why did Jesus quote it and say it was fulfilled?

Before answering this question, consider the various aspects of Jesus’ ministry. He healed people, cast out demons, preached the gospel, invited in the outcasts, taught ethics, and attended dinner parties. Typically, we think of these various avenues of ministry independently or perhaps as ways he loved his neighbor as himself. Nevertheless, we don’t need to guess what Jesus thought about his ministry activities. According to him, he was doing Isaiah 61.

Now, some see here a redefinition of the kingdom, as if Jesus is somehow coming against the notion of God setting up an actual monarchy on earth like the kingdom of old. However, that is impossible since it would make liars out of the prophets. What Jesus is doing here in his inaugural sermon is providing a context or framework for his entire ministry. He is doing kingdom work. He brings about signs of the age to come in the present to testify to the future God will one day bring. Surrounding Jesus, wherever he goes, is a bubble of the kingdom. If he encounters someone with a sickness, he heals him or her. If he runs across an outcast of society, he restores their dignity. If he finds a demon-possessed boy, he casts that demon out. This is because in the kingdom there are no sick, outcasts, or demons. Jesus was a living advertisement proclaiming and demonstrating in a small way what God will one day do globally. Would we expect anything less from the Messiah–the one destined to rule on the kingdom throne?

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The Kingdom of God Has Come upon You (Matthew 12.28; Luke 11.20)

When Jesus was casting out demons, dealing catastrophic blows to Satan’s kingdom, some Pharisees, seeing that they couldn’t refute Jesus’ spectacular authority over unclean spirits, accused him of casting out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons. What Jesus said next may surprise you.

Matthew 12.22-28 [NASB]
22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Luke 11.14-20 [NASB]
14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 16 Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven. 17 But He knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. 18 “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 “And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. 20 “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

When the kingdom comes, God will bring his final judgment upon Satan and the unclean spirits who serve him. As a result, those living in the age to come will enjoy harmony with God, without dealing with the temptations and machinations of the prince of the power of the air. Jesus’ contemporaries would likely have agreed with this description of the future. However, Jesus’ point is that this coming kingdom is already somehow present in his exorcism ministry. For Jesus, casting out demons is not merely an act of compassion or grace; it is linked with his beliefs about the kingdom of God. Jesus interprets his own battle with Satan’s kingdom as the encroachment of God’s kingdom.

Some Christians allege that Jesus redefined the kingdom from a political reality to a spiritual one and use this text to make that point. However, if Jesus changes the kingdom from the time when God reestablishes the throne of David in Jerusalem with his Messiah on it forever, then what are we to do with all of the prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures? Should we call Isaiah and Daniel false prophets? Should we dismiss David’s messianic psalms as irrelevant to what the messiah will actually do? Rather than such a radical reinterpretation, a simpler explanation is that Jesus fully expected a future kingdom to come, but in his own ministry he was already bringing forth fresh signs of the kingdom as a way of validating his own role as messiah as well as giving people a taste of what the kingdom will be like.

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Kingdom for Lusts Gone Wild (Gaius)

Gaius was a presbyter in Rome living in the early third century who wrote against another Christian named Cerinthus. He may be the first mainstream Christian to write specifically against the kingdom coming on earth. His reason for denying an earthly hope resulted from his own cultural bias. Here is what Gaius wrote:

…Moreover, Cerinthus, through revelations supposedly penned by a great apostle, offers us false tales of wonders allegedly shown to him by angels. After the resurrection, he says, the kingdom of Christ will be on earth, and humanity living at Jerusalem will again be enslaved to lusts and pleasure. He is the enemy of the Scriptures of God and, in his anxiety to deceive, claims that the marriage festivities will last a thousand years…(Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.28, trans. Paul L. Maier, 2007)

According to Gaius, Cerinthus believed that the kingdom would be on earth after the resurrection with people living in Jerusalem. This aligns quite well with dozens of scriptures from the prophets. For example consider this text from Micah:

Micah 4.1-2 [ESV]
1 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, 2 and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Why should Gaius oppose such a biblical idea? We don’t have to wonder; he tells us himself. He is concerned with lusts, pleasure, and marriage festivities. In the ancient world, many people thought that all pleasure was inherently evil, an idea called asceticism. This notion is not native to the Jews or the bible, but was very common in the Greco-Roman world. Although Gaius embraced an ascetic mindset, it is clear from the scriptures that God is not against pleasure, whether the enjoyment that accompanies eating rich foods, drinking alcohol, or even marital intimacy. From the Garden of Pleasure (Eden means pleasure) to the bold poetry of the Song of Songs, to Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, the bible affirms the goodness of both our bodies and the built-in pleasures our bodies experience while at the same time placing boundaries on our enjoyment. To learn more about how asceticism influenced some Christians to reject the kingdom, read How the Kingdom Was Lost 2: Too Hedonistic.

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Continuity of Message from Jesus to Disciples and Beyond (Clement of Rome)

Clement of Rome wrote and epistle to the church at Corinth between a.d. 80 and 100 because the younger generation ousted the established leadership. In the course of his epistle he mentioned the kingdom twice:

1 Clement 42
The apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ…Having therefore received their orders and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and full of faith in the word of God, they went forth with the firm assurance that the Holy Spirit gives, preaching the good news that the kingdom of God was about to come. So, preaching both in the country and in the towns, they appointed their first fruits, when they had tested them by the spirit, to be bishops and deacons for the future believers.

1 Clement 50
…All the generations from Adam to this day have passed away, but those who by God’s grace were perfected in love have a place among the godly, who will be revealed when the kingdom of Christ visits us. for it is written: “Enter into the innermost rooms for a very little while, until my anger and wrath shall pass away, and I will remember a good day and will raise you from your graves.”…

The first of these quotes shows that Clement recognized Christ’s disciples performed the same ministry as Jesus. Mark described Jesus’ own gospel message with the following words:

Mark 1.14-15
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

It is hard to miss the continuity between how Clement describes the disciples and what Mark said about Jesus himself. They both preached the kingdom as gospel. Furthermore we can also observe that Clement does not believe the kingdom came during Jesus’ ministry or even on the day of Pentecost. The disciples carried on the ministry of preaching the kingdom gospel right up until the time when they appointed overseers in the various churches that were present in Clement’s time.

The second text attests not to the proclamation of the kingdom message but to Clement’s own expectation. He looks for the time “when the kingdom of Christ visits us.” Thus, for Clement, the kingdom was undoubtedly a future expectation.

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Jesus Destined to Rule on David’s Throne (Psalm 2)

Psalm 2 is a short, but powerful psalm which effectively dispels the common notion of many believers today that “heaven is our home.” Let’s take a look and see what it says.

Psalm 2

1 Why are the nations in an uproar,
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against Yahweh* and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

7 “I will surely tell of the decree of Yahweh:
He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.'”

10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
11 Worship Yahweh with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry,
and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.

[quotation from NASB]
*Note:“Yahweh” substituted for “the LORD”  throughout psalm for clarity

In verses 1-3, the psalmist begins by rhetorically questioning the foolish behavior of the nations and the kings of the earth. Together they plot, seeking to free themselves of the dominion of the sovereign God and his messiah, (an anointed, earthly representative of God), the king.

The second section, verses 4-6, contains God’s response to the uprisings of the nations and the kings of the earth: derisive laughter. (It’s never a good thing when the God of the universe laughs at you with contempt!) Did the nations of the earth seriously think that their rebellion against the exalted Lord, the one enthroned in heaven, would succeed?

Yahweh’s mocking laughter leads to action, and God utters a decisive statement in his anger, in which he affirms the authority of his messiah: “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

In this statement, he not only affirms the authority of this king, but he gives us the locality from which he will reign: Zion, God’s holy mountain. Zion is another name for Jerusalem, the city of David (1 Kings 8:1).

According to God’s decree, this anointed king will reign on the earth, from Jerusalem.

In verses 7-9, the third section, Yahweh’s anointed declares the decree of the Lord, which further enforces the legitimacy and locality of his reign.

In verse 7, we read that the anointed king is considered to be “God’s Son.” This language of sonship recalls the covenant that God made with King David, in which God promised to raise up a descendant after him, the throne of whose kingdom, centered in Jerusalem, would be established forever:

 “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-16 NASB)

Though David had many descendants, the fulfillment of this promise ultimately came to pass in Jesus (See Paul’s sermon in Acts 13:20-33). Thus, Jesus is the anointed king who will reign from Jerusalem, of whom this psalm speaks.

Verse 8 further confirms the reality of Jesus’ earthly reign, for in it, God announces that upon the request of his anointed, he will give to him the nations and the ends of the earth as his inheritance and possession!

Jesus is promised by God to reign over an earthly kingdom, centered in Jerusalem!

Typically, believers today are promised eternal life in Heaven, God’s abode, by their well-meaning pastors.

However, according to Jesus (and Psalm 2), this is simply not the case.

John records the promise of Jesus to believers in Revelation 2:26-28 [NASB]:

 “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father; and I will give him the morning star.”

According to Jesus, his followers who overcome will share in his authority and earthly rule! (Notice where this verse is coming from: Psalm 2:9!)

He also writes in Revelation 3:21 [NASB]:

 “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

Believers will reign with Christ. Where will Christ be reigning? Earth.

Heaven is not our home.

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Kingdom Ethics in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)

The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) is the most comprehensive and well-known teaching about how we should follow Jesus. In it Jesus addresses topics as diverse as anger, lust, divorce, retaliation, prayer, fasting, forgiveness, and handling anxiety. Jesus clearly meant for his disciples to immediately put into practice the instruction he gave them in this sermon. All of this is non-controversial and generally well-known, which leads me to my question. Why does Jesus feel compelled to mention the kingdom eight times in a sermon that has nothing to do with the future? Before moving on, here are the texts:

Matthew 5.3
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5.10
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5.19-20
19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Mattehw 6.10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6.33
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 7.21
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Beyond these explicit 8 usages of God’s coming “kingdom,” we find these 2 additional references to the age to come:

Matthew 5.5
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Matthew 7.13-14
13 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Altogether we find 10 references to the kingdom in Jesus’ teaching on ethics. This wouldn’t surprise me if I were examining, say, Jesus’ Olivet Discourse in which he details the events at the end of the age, but to find so much kingdom focus on a sermon on daily living really grabs my attention.

The simple fact is that Jesus cannot separate his present from his future or his ethics from his hope. He sees them together. Because of the coming kingdom we need to live this way now. We should feel the pull of the future in the present such that we already begin conforming our lives to a new standard, beyond what Moses had commanded. We seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness in the present. As we do this we testify to the coming age when God makes everything wrong with the world right.

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