”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”(Matthew 4:17).
As these attitudes equip us for service in the kingdom, it is appropriate to discuss something about the kingdom.
Jesus began His ministry by preaching,”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”(Matthew 4:17). Many of the OT prophecies which relate to the Messiah also point to the establishment of a kingdom –
- ”And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom…from that time and for ever.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
- ”He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14)
- ”Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! See your King comes to you… He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.” (Zechariah 9:9-10)
These and other prophecies led the Jews to expect a King of the royal line of David to appear and establish His kingship over Israel leading them to time of peace, prosperity and blessedness that would surpass the Golden Age of Israel when King Solomon reigned and ‘silver was as common in Israel as stones.’ (1Kings 10:27). Great hopes were placed on the coming Messiah-King. But the Jews in Jesus’ day were disillusioned because they had short term goals and plans. Their enemy and oppressor was the Roman empire, not Satan. So Jesus, the ‘Suffering Servant’ who would die on the cross to redeem man from captivity to sin and Satan and who ‘by His knowledge will justify many’ brought scorn and rejection from them.
The Nature of the Kingdom
- The kingdom that Jesus spoke of is a spiritual kingdom. Paul writes that the Father has ‘rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.’ (Colossians 1:13)
- It is also a contemporary kingdom. The ‘rule of God’ prevails over the lives of Christians now.
- It is in the world, but not of it (John 18:27). It is distinct and stands opposed to the world system which is still under the dominion of Satan. We who belong to Christ have been called apart and warned that this system will use every means to mould us to its pattern and crush us if we yield to it.
- It is perceived by faith; it is not perceived or understood by natural senses or intellectual insight. There will be a time in the future when ‘the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He will reign for ever and ever.’ (Revelations 21:4). God’s rule will then be a visible and tangible reality because ‘the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea’. But for now we are to walk by faith and not by sight as we seek His kingdom. In our walk we need to depend on the Holy Spirit to reveal all things to us.
The King and the Citizens
On being questioned by Pilate, Jesus said to him, ”You are right in saying I am a king.” Jesus then is our king.
We become citizens of the kingdom (Philippians 3:20) when we are born again (John 3:5) by the Spirit of God. As Paul writes, ‘…the Father has qualified us to share in inheritance of the saints the kingdom’. He did this because of the death and resurrection of Jesus by which we have
- Redemption, the forgiveness of sins,
- Reconciliation with God the Father and
- Restoration to the position as sons of God which also makes us citizens, co-workers with God, co-heirs with Christ and enemies of Satan.
The Call of Duty and the Beatitudes
This position – whether as citizens, co-workers, co-heirs – has been bestowed on us entirely on the basis of Christ’s work on the cross and not because of any righteousness or faithfulness on our part. This position carries with it privileges and authority in the spiritual realm. It also requires us to be committed to do those ‘works of service’, which God prepared in advance for us to do. To avoid losing focus, we must work towards the goal that Christ has set us, that is, to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. To keep us from failing in our duty, He has shown us the attitudes we must possess.
The beatitudes therefore put us in the best place to be effective. They do so mainly for 2 reasons :
- They keep us in perfect alignment with God, with other members of the Body of Christ / the Church and in righteous alignment with the world.
- They flow out of our abiding in Christ, ‘the true Vine’ and they result in much fruitfulness as well as blessing for ourselves.