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The Kingdom of God
MAJOR PURPOSE of REVELATION
1. Demonstrate the supremacy of God’s kingdom and Christ the king. And therefore, to help the church see just how big is God’s everlasting kingdom.
2. Critique the Roman Empire’s power… and show the fall of Rome. However, not to be blind to the current power of Rome.
3. Equip Christians/church to worship and witness, to remain faithful, endure, and be willing to suffer as a faithful witness to Christ the King.
4. To empower 1st century Christians with HOPE of the return of Christ and the renewal of all things (or, the final and full realization of God’s kingdom).
5. To instruct Christians/church of all times with a MAJOR perspective of evil empire and how to be citizens of God’s kingdom while also citizens in a fallen empire.
INTRODUCTION to the KINGDOM OF GOD
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!
Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?
Acts 1:6, the disciples question to Jesus.
Jesus teaching on the Kingdom of God (after this I will often abbreviate it as KofG) for 40 days. That is natural since KofG was at the heart of Jesus ministry.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:1-10
But seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33.
Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news… Come, follow me…”. Mark 1:14,15,17
The disciples were confused about that kingdom.
The Importance & Meaning of “kingdom” or basileia (Greek).
The theme of God’s kingdom is one of the core theological themes in the Bible. It was one of the most important themes for Jesus. It is so pervasive through redemptive history, that it is difficult to explore and explain it in one session.
Kingdom refers to the “rule or reign” of God. This is the most essential meaning. It secondarily refers to the “realm” that God rules.
As rule and realm, the KofG is where God’s presence dwells, where God’s power and authority are displayed, where God’s will and way are done, and where God’s character is manifest. When we talk about the “realm” God rules, a realm is a place and a people, a space.
Luke 17:20-21. The kingdom of God is in your midst… or among you. The Kingdom of God is bigger and wider than the church. A church where the followers of Jesus gather, is a concentration of the Kingdom… an outpost… an oasis…
The terms, “people(s),” “earth,” and “nation” enters into the discussion.
A nation is a geographical territory where a people live, bonded by culture, custom, language, history, and a type of “rule.”
A “kingdom” or an “empire” is the territory that belongs to one nation, but also may include territory which has been assimilated by conquering other nations. The dominant empires of the biblical world were the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Mede-Persian empires. Later the Greek and Roman empires would emerge.
Finally, in the Bible, you will often hear of a “city” where a city is virtually synonymous with a nation. So Babylon is a city synonymous with the Babylonian nation-empire. Rome is a city synonymous with the Roman empire. But the word city may be symbolic or representative of a nation or kingdom.
City and “country” are used interchangeably in Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16… the
better country or city
The ”kingdoms” of the earth are kingdoms in rebellion against God… or kingdoms disconnected from God’s rule, will, ways, values, purposes…
The language of “temple” is worth noting. For, on earth, in the OT times, the temple was the place of God’s presence. Now, God’s presence was certainly far greater than the temple, but still, the temple was the place where God’s presence was concentrated and celebrated. The Apostle Paul uses this theme and applies it to the NT people of God – the church in Ephesians 2:19-22. Add to this, the idea that as God’s people were remade in His Image, and as God’s own character was manifest in their lives, as a “people” they would be the place where God would dwell. God dwelling with, in, and through His people who are called by His Name. Back to Paul in Ephesians, who uses the language of people and temple and describes the people of God as the temple of God, the place where God dwells by His Spirit. All this anticipates Revelation 21 & 22.
KINGDOM IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Here are just a few of the hundreds of OT passages that speak about the Kingdom of God.
Psalm 22:11, 17; 86:9
Isaiah 2:1-4; 19:19-25; 40:9-11; 60:3
Zechariah 8:22; 14:16
1. God is King and God has a Kingdom.
1 Chronicles 16:31; 29:11-12; Psalm 47, 48; 95:3;
2. The kingdom of God is universal, and over all the earth.
Psalm 9:7-8; 45:6; 47:6-8; 103:19; Isaiah 40
3. The kingdom of God is localized in a particular place, space, people – Israel, and mediated by a human King. The language is that of the Davidic Kingdom. 1 Kings 1-9 emphasizes this. The Mt. Zion language of Psalm 2 & 48
4. The kingdom is eschatological – or it has a future expression and fulfillment. The prophets especially looked forward to a future experience of God’s Kingdom come on earth.
Psalm 145:11-13; Isaiah 52:7; Zechariah 14:9
SUMMARY OF THE STATE OF THE KINGDOM AT THE END OF THE OT
At the conclusion of the OT, God appears to be king in title only but not in reality. Israel did not obey God their king, nor did the nations acknowledge Israel’s God as king (except for a few striking instances like Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel and when Nineveh repented in Jonah).
Intertestamental Times (400 BC – 30 AD)
JESUS AND THE KINGDOM
When Jesus came, there were at least six significant political-religious options present in his time/culture (Romans, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Herodians, Essenes). Jesus would not fit into any of those groups or affirm their views.
Mark 1:14-15. The kingdom of God is near…
Matthew 6:9-10. Thy kingdom come…
Matthew 6:33. Seek first the kingdom of God.
See the many Parables of the Kingdom
Misunderstandings about the Kingdom by the disciples.
• Confusion about the “way of the King,” Matthew 20:20-28
• Palm Sunday and the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Matthew 21:1-11
• Jesus in the Temple, Matthew 21:12-17
• Jesus before Pilate, John 18:33-40; 19:1-16, 19-22
• Luke 24:21, on the road to Emmaus and “we had hoped…”
SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT JESUS AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
(1) Jesus came to inaugurate God’s Kingdom, in the midst of the fallen kingdoms of this world. In this sense, the KofG was a challenge to all existing kingdoms.
(2) The KofG as Jesus “announced and brought it” is:
Already and Not Yet. Already here, already present, already growing…
But not yet fully here, and certainly not yet realized or achieved.
(3) And the KofG and of Jesus is an upside down kingdom. It simply does not work in the ways of the world, and it seems out of place according to the ways of the world. Even the Beatitudes seem to be nonsense, when they are simply the way the KofG works.
(4) To say, “Jesus is Lord” (during the time of Jesus and then during the time of the early church) was a radical and subversive stance toward the status quo. Especially, the status quo that said “Caesar is Lord.” This is why Jesus was crucified by Rome.
(5) After the experience of Pentecost, the understanding of the first disciples was upgraded. You can see this in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:24-36. This is from Psalm 110 and anticipating Revelation 11.
(6) And the Book of Acts ends (ironically or prophetically) with Paul under house arrest in the city of Rome, at the heart of the Roman empire, and for two years teaching and proclaiming about the Kingdom of God and its Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 28:23-31). Paul was at the heart of the Roman Empire and teaching the subversive counter-cultural Kingdom of God. With boldness and without hindrance.
The Setting-Situation: Remember that historical and cultural context matters.
At the time of Revelation (90-100 AD) Rome and its emperors are the dominant EMPIRE of that time. Rome is at its peak from 95-120 AD. It is a vast empire, composed of many nations. It demands tribute and worship from the citizens of those nations. Christians are feeling pressure in the face of Rome’s might. Pressure to worship Caesar, to participate in the religious rites of empire, to follow the economic celebrations of Rome. (Revelation 18:9-20 is a description of God’s judgment on the unjust economic policies of Rome.)
Emperor worship is standard and the emperor is seen as divine.
The worship of Roma (the feminine expression of the city of Rome, or the “Way of Rome”).
Christianity no longer a sect or a part of Judaism.
Nero and the Nero legend/myth.
Roman Emperor Vespasian (who as a general of Rome, led the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, 66-70).
Domitian (emperor at the time of Revelation) who would begin a more widespread persecution of Christians.
Penalties and/or Persecution // tribulation
Confusion and compromise about what to do and where is Jesus?
John’s Use of Throne language
“Throne” is found in the NT 59x but Revelation has 38x. Not all these thrones and not all the references to kings are about God and heaven. There are other rulers and thrones, competitors and enemies of God’s kingdom. However, John’s dominant use of “throne” is to portray God Almighty as King and Jesus
as King, and infinitely greater than Rome and its Caesars.
King and Kingdom language
1:5. Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
1:5-6. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
1:9. I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
5:10. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
11:15. “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
12:10. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
15:3. “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.
17:4. They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
19:16. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.
MAJOR KINGDOM CONFLICT is Revelation
Revelation 11. The inspiration for the church be a faithful witness to Jesus.
Revelation 12. The cosmic conflict of Satan against the people of God (the church) and Satan loses in direct spiritual onslaught.
Revelation 13. Now Satan turns to use the power of Rome’s political and military might (beast from the sea) and Roma-Emperor worship (beast from the land). And the number of the beast is 666. While we will cover this when we talk about the “anti-Christ” in a few weeks, I’ll just say here -John’s readers knew John, using 666, was referring to Emperor Nero and the Nero myth-legend that Nero had died and returned to life.
Revelation 17, 18, 19 is about the Fall of Babylon (Rome) and the defeat of all the kingdoms of the world that are against the Kingdom of God.
A POWERFUL WORD OF PROMISE FULFILLED
Revelation 21:24-26. The glory and honor of the nations are brought into the city of God.
Revelation 22:2. The healing of the nations
The Abrahamic Blessing of Genesis 12:1-3, God’s promise to bless all the nations is finally fulfilled and described in Revelation 21 & 22.
WHAT IT MEANS AND HOW IT APPLIES FOR US TODAY
Romans 13 is not the only word on how a follower of Jesus understands and lives in the kingdoms of this world as a citizen, and it is not the final word in the Bible. Revelation 11-19 is a powerful word about kingdoms/governments that are corrupt and evil, and opposed to God.
Our dual citizenship, in a democratic nation, makes our response complex and allows a diversity of responses.
Christians, wherever they live and however much they love their homeland, MUST love God’s Kingdom even more.
Christians participate in God’s global kingdom and love their fellow “citizens of the kingdom in all those other nations.”
There is no kingdom on earth and no political party within a nation that truly represents the ways of God’s kingdom. Every nation and every party falls very short of God’s Kingdom ways.
Christians can and should work for the values of God’s kingdom to come, even as we pray they come, in our own nation as they are in heaven. This will be a long and difficult labor. Christians should not be surprised if a nation looks unfavorably on those who choose the values and ways of God’s kingdom as more important than that of a local nation. Again, in a democracy, followers of Christ have more room for how we do this, then those who live in a nation that is repressive of and/or hostile to Christian faith.
Christians in the United States have been largely spared the consequences of kingdoms in conflict, until more recent decades. What we now experience has been much more common (and painful) for Christians through history and who live in non-democratic nations where freedom of religion is not followed. It MUST be understood that what we become “end-time panicky” about ,is being in a situation that has been the norm for many followers of Jesus through history. They have already been enduring, what we may be prone to see as “end times” situations. It is just as likely that there situations are simply new (and undesirable) for us.
This is the enduring legacy of faith, hope, and love that Revelation has for all Christians and for all church in all nations through all times. There are lessons of faith, endurance, allegiance, loyalty and trust we must learn from Revelation. There are warnings of compromise which need our attention.
And many more understandings and applications can be discovered.
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