Last week we covered Acts 1. Verse for today is Acts 1:3.
Q1: What are some general impressions or misconceptions about the kingdom of God?
Q2: What are some things you notice about the kingdom by reading various passages in the NT?
3 questions – when did the kingdom of God begin, what is the kingdom of God, how do I enter the kingdom of God?
1) PART I: KINGDOM IS NEAR, NOT YET HERE (during Jesus’ ministry)
When did kingdom of God begin?
Kingdom – wherever Jesus is king. But then this would mean that as soon as Jesus arrived, so did the kingdom. This is not what Jesus said.
During Jesus ministry, we read that the kingdom was not here quite yet, but it was near. With the start of Jesus’ ministry and calling of
the first disciples, the first thing Jesus declares is that the kingdom of God is near. So kingdom of God is an important theme throughout the gospels.
Word choice used here is proclaiming the good news.
Proclaiming the good news = preaching the gospel = preaching the kingdom of God
Acts 1:3 – focus is on kingdom of God. Rest of Acts, in several places, the focus is the kingdom of God. Read final verse of Acts
talks Paul preaching the kingdom of God boldly and without hindrance.
In order to have a kingdom, you need a king with actual authority.
Great Commission – All authority in heaven and on earth. Creation – humanity had authority over creation. With the Fall, humanity lost that authority. Satan became the new authority on earth. But at the cross, Jesus bound up Satan and reclaimed the authority on earth and gave it back to His church.
So this life is a clash of 2 kingdoms. The kingdom of this world or of Satan or the powers and principalities and the kingdom of God.
And the cross event is the decisive moment which inaugurated the kingdom of God.
2) PART I: NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH
Where do we get our conceptions of the kingdom of God?
Answer: hymns – heaven – lyrics from Higher Ground:
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on Heaven’s tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground. I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground. I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”
How many people think, the kingdom of God or heaven or whatever you call it, is a place that our soul goes to when we die? How many think the kingdom of God is going to be a transformed earth?
I think the answer, provided Jesus doesn’t return before we die, is both.
God’s redemption plan unfolding throughout the dawn of time: OT – God as king of Israel (theocracy), people reject God and want human king (monarchy), whole time God is working with a single nation and interacting with them in human history. From that point, a Messiah is promised from the line of David. Davidic king. Jesus arrives. He hints at a coming kingdom here and there throughout his ministry. Then he is crucified on a cross and during the 40 days before he ascends, he concentrates all of his teachings on the kingdom of God.
I wish the Bible were more clear as to what precise message Jesus gave during those 40 days. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t reveal it
but whatever it was, it was so clear that God’s church in the first century preached boldly about the kingdom of God. And from the rest of the NT literature as well as Jesus’ own words in the gospels I think we can piece together a pretty good picture regarding this kingdom of God. And I think one place we have to start is at the end of the Bible, Rev 21.
I think it is important to know that heaven is going to come down on earth. Why is this important?
Plato – body is a prison of the soul. What I do in the flesh is irrelevant. What matters is my soul. Gnostics – heresy that was
prevalent in the time of Acts in the first century – divine souls trapped in a material world. 40 days after the resurrection, Jesus made it a point to appear before his disciples and various crowds of people. He ate with them.
He drank with them. He told Thomas to touch him and so I think we forget that Jesus resurrecting is a spiritual as well as a physical
Q: What is the kingdom of God? A: heaven coming down on earth or new heaven and new earth.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: CONCRETE OBEDIENCE MATTERS
This is an obvious point, but the way we live in this world matters. We have the same danger of Gnostic tendency in our society by
an overemphasis on faith or belief or doctrine or orthodoxy. As long as I believe the right thing, I’m okay.
With this model, the focus is the mind. Correct understanding of Scripture.
And if this physical world doesn’t matter, then I say yes, our soul is all that counts. If it is only about our souls, then why should I
care about society. Everything in this world is going to fade anyway.
Why care about the poor or injustice? This fallen world will be completely obliterated, right? It’s so easy to fall ito this mindset.
It is just me and God and feeling devotionally close to God, that’s what I need to take care of.
Being a Christian has nothing to do with my role in society. It has no say in the actual decisions I make. It has no bearing on what
vocation I choose. I just go to church on Sundays, I share my faith when I can to people I like, I don’t steal or commit overt sins, I’m
But God says, no, this world that is fallen and messed up, I am going to redeem. I am going to redeem humanity, and all of creation
and in fact my heaven is going to come on earth and I am going to lay a new heaven and new earth.
This has radical implications. The choices I make in this material word actually matter. It is not okay as a Christian and I was living
in the era of slavery and for me to not say anything about it. It is not okay for me to discuss the bible with someone and then draw the
line and say, for all of your physical needs, you are on your own.
Christian life, in the end, is much larger than me and God. It is about advancing God’s kingdom on earth. And this kingdom is going to
be about light, and justice, and grace, and peace and forgiveness and worshipping around a throne with people from every nation and tongue.
The kingdom of God that is clashing and breaking into this kingdom of the world tears down all barriers of racism, and social stratification and economics and culture.
Jesus says in Rev 21 that he is going to make everything new. New heaven and new earth.
3) PART I: CONTENT OF PREACHING: HOW TO ENTER THIS KINGDOM THROUGH REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS/BORN AGAIN
How do I enter the kingdom of God?
We enter the kingdom of God through repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
This highlights humanity’s chief problem. We are sinners. And sin is not mainly a moral failing. Sin is a relational problem. It speaks
about breaking our relationship and rebelling against God our Heavenly Father.
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
Q: How do I enter the kingdom of God? A: Through repentance and receiving the forgiveness of our sins. Keep that in mind as we read the next set of verses.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: ENTERING KINGDOM OF GOD – LIFELONG JOURNEY – TOO MUCH STRESS ON SINGULAR MOMENT OF DECISION
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
How do we reconcile gaining entry into the kingdom of God through repentance and forgiveness of sins with those who live like this will
not inherit the kingdom of God.
Similar language is used in Rev 21:6-8, 22-27.
Problem is that there is a disconnect between what we profess – I am a sinner – and the way we live.
Almost sounds like we can lose salvation – you have entry but later on based on how you live, you can lose your inheritance.
As sinners, we fall short – repentance and receiving God’s forgiveness is a daily process.
So much emphasis is placed on a moment of salvation, that salvation decision. Esp among Baptists who come from a tradition where you have to be at an age where you can willfully decide to become a believer and be baptized rather than being baptized as an infant.
What we can learn is that salvation is a lifelong journey more than it is a singular decision.
God is the judge – only God knows whether someone is saved or not. These actions or adultery or greed are indications then that their
decision for Christ was not genuine to begin with.
You can’t look at your life or judge another person by seeing a singular point in time. But over the course of your life, is there a
validation of our decision for Christ through our actions and deeds?
Some call this sanctification. Others call this fruit.
Out of forgiveness and grace and gratitude, fruit flows out as a natural consequence. And this fruit validates authenticity of your
decision for Christ
In Phil 2:12, it says to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Don’t be smug or be overly confident about a decision you made 5-10 years ago. The important thing is today, have you repented and asked God for forgiveness? Do your actions demonstrate a growing love for holiness and righteousness and do you have increasing love and burden for others. Has the lustful things of this world still gripped you or do you notice a weakening grip of all that glistens and allures us in the world? Has your tastes been elevated to desire the things of God?
It is hard to tell because maybe you had a bad day or a bad week or a bad year. But over the course of a period of time, is there an
increasing trajectory in your life toward fruit bearing.
Are you different in terms of your character or your love or your heart of serving or overcoming sins now more than you were 6 months ago? Are we more selfless this year than last year? If so, can we point to concrete ways? I think we need to start asking ourselves these types of tough questions.