Last week we covered Acts 1. Verse for today is Acts 1:3 – 3After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
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?
We will be covering the kingdom of God over the next 4 weeks. Here are 12 observations related to the kingdom of God.
Part 1: When did the kingdom of God begin, what is the kingdom of God, how do I enter the kingdom of God?
1. The kingdom of God is near but not quite here during Jesus’ public ministry. The kingdom of God was inaugurated by the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
2. The final picture of the kingdom of God is described in Rev. 21 as heaven coming down on earth, or a new heaven and a new earth.
3. One can enter the kingdom of God through repentance and receiving forgiveness of sins.
Part 2: Obstacles to entering the kingdom of God and being forceful about entering it
4. It is very difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
5. Chief priests, Pharisees and elders cannot enter the kingdom of God because they lack repentance, belief and fruit.
6. We need to preach forcefully as well as to be forceful and intentional about entering the kingdom of God (removing all obstacles to entering the kingdom of God).
Part 3: Feasting, Unity, Joy, Love, Children
7. The kingdom of God is a place of feasting, unity and joy.
8. You need to be childlike to enter the kingdom of God.
9. Centrality of love in the kingdom of God.
Part 4: Powerful spreading of kingdom, urgency of spreading it, expect opposition
10. The kingdom of God is power and it grows powerfully.
11. Urgency of proclaiming the kingdom of God and focusing on people who are open to its message.
12. There will be opposition when you preach the kingdom of God.
Today: 3 questions – when did the kingdom of God begin, what is the kingdom of God, how do I enter the kingdom of God?
PART I: KINGDOM IS NEAR, NOT YET HERE (during Jesus’ ministry)
When did kingdom of God begin?
The simplest definition of the kingdom of God is 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.
Mark 1:14-15 – 14After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15″The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
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. Then a reference to the kingdom of God being near.
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.
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.
Satan is defeated but he is still kicking and screaming. And so in this life, we will experience this class 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
What is the kingdom of God? Or maybe let’s start with where do we get our conceptions regarding the kingdom of God?
For me, it’s hymns and funerals.
Abide with Me – Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away; Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows fleee
Close to Thee – Lead me through the vale of shadows, bear me over life’s fitful sea, then the gate of life eternal may i enter, Lord, with thee
Day by Day – Help me, Lord when toil and trouble meeting, ever to take, as from a father’s hand, one by one, the days, the moments fleeting, till i reach the promised land
Higher Ground – My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay; though some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim is higher ground; I want to live above the world, thou satan’s darts at me are hurled; for faith has caught the joyful sound, the song of saints on higher ground.
At funearls, we hear sermons about how the deceased has gone to a better place. A place where our soul can rest and no longer needs to suffer and struggle and strain.
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.
Rev 21 – 1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
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 event.
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 okay.
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?
Luke 24:45-49 – 45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
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 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders
10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
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 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Problem is that there is a disconnect between what we profess – I am a sinner – and the way we live.
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.
He who lovercomes, holds onto the basics. The impure cannot enter the kingdom of God but every time we repent we are covered by the blood of Jesus and we are made pure.
And out of that 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.