The Kingdom of Heaven: Crucial Implications
In our introductory article on the Kingdom of Heaven, we explained that Jesus took a well known term from the teachers of His day and used it for His own movement...
- proclaiming it's arrival
- teaching how to live in it
- illustrating it with parables
- demonstrating it with acts of healing and redemption
In other words, Jesus would use the phrase to refer to
- The person of Himself, for the King had arrived
- The power of redemption breaking in (through the Holy Spirit) to restore
- A people who voluntarily took up whole hearted dedication to this movement.
Central to Jesus, but is it central to us?
The very centrality of the kingdom of heaven to Jesus raises a whole set of questions:
Have you heard the kingdom of heaven talked about in your church?
Is is taught in your Bible study?
Is it a defining priority of your life? (Matthew 6:33)
Do other Christians you know talk about it?
In any of the "Christian" contexts you participate in, can anyone explain what it means?
If those of us who claim to know Jesus do not have the faintest idea, priority, or exposure to the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven, then are we really following Jesus at all?
For me, this is earth and church-shattering. I've had years of "Bible-based" education at both the undergrad and graduate level yet no one ever mentioned, taught on, or explained the implications of the Kingdom of Heaven!
What is the most important thing that followers of Jesus have to communicate? Many would answer "the gospel." But what is the gospel, or good news?
Many would answer that the gospel is that Jesus died on the cross for your sins so that you can go to heaven someday.
The problem is, you don't really see Jesus say this anywhere in any of the gospel accounts.
You don't really find it anywhere in the Bible.
Then why do we keep teaching it?
What really is the gospel?
The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven...
I would propose to you that the former defintion of the gospel is truncated, shortened, and cheap. The message of the gospel is much fuller and deeper.
In fact, the gospel writer Mark opens his account with...
"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God..." (Mark 1:1)
The good news about Jesus includes his birth, life, teaching, miracles, death, resurrection and acension. And Jesus proclaimed, explained, illustrated, and demonstrated this very good news.
The early church preached this gospel.
"But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Acts 8:12
"And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God." Acts 19:8
"From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Acts 28:23
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Ephesians 5:5
In fact, it appears that the gospel is indeed about being forgiven, but even more so about reconciliation and restoration.
Becasue of what Jesus has done, we are reconciled to God now. Our relationships are mended and restored. We become more like God intended us to be now. We enter into a lifelong process of growing into that aim.
The apostle Paul even contended that all of creation, in fact, all things would be healed through the work of Jesus. (See for example Ephesians 1:10 and Romans 8:20-21)
If this is all true, then how should it change the way we live and communicate the good news? How should it change your priorities and the priorities of our churches?
Kingdom of Heaven Questions...
Could the reason some many self-identified "Christians" live poorly is because their gospel has more to do with going to heaven someday than becoming part of Jesus movement now?
(In fact, the gospel has more to do with God coming down than us going up. But that's the subject of another article)
Does your understanding of the good news of the Kindom of Heaven align with Jesus'?
If we understood the gospel as the arrival of Jesus' kingdom, where we have covenanted with Jesus to...
...learn His teachings, walk in obedience to the King, to love God by loving our neighbor, and proclaim the healing of the cross and resurrection starting now, for "the Kingdom fo Heaven is at hand"...
...would the people of Jesus look different, live different, and become a better witness for the King of kings?
I invite your comments on this article...
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