“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”” Mark 1:14, 15, NKJV.
Jesus came preaching the gospel; the good news of the kingdom of God. Jesus communicated the reality that the kingdom of God was near, at hand. What is the kingdom of God? What does it mean to say that the kingdom of God is at hand?
For our beginning definition, let’s say this: the kingdom of God is any time and any place when the rule of God is on display. The kingdom of God is any expression of the rule and reign of God. The rule and reign of God are expressed in eight major ways in the Bible:
- Heaven. Heaven is the ultimate expression of the rule of God. Ps 103:19, 2 Tim 4:18 (his heavenly kingdom).
- The Cosmic Kingdom. The Universe is God’s kingdom. From the farthest star to the tiniest atom, God rules over all. Isa 66:1, Ps 19:1, 150:1, Ps 47:2, Dan 4:34.
- The Jewish theocracy. When Moses first led the Jews out of slavery, they had no king. That’s because God was their king. They had a theocracy, the direct rule of God. The Jewish people were the kingdom of God. Ex 19:6, 1 Sam 10:19.
- The Jewish monarchy. Eventually, the Jews had a human king. God wanted that kingdom of the Jews to reflect on earth what the kingdom of God should look like. 2 Ch 13:8, Ps 22:28.
- The future kingdom. One day, Jesus will return and set up a literal kingdom on earth. This is called the Millennium. Zech. 14:9, Rev 20:6. The kingdom of God will have come to earth.
- The church/salvation. The Bible speaks of the church as God’s kingdom and all true believers as citizens. When you get saved, you enter the kingdom of God. Col 1:13 (transferred into the kingdom of his beloved son), Ac 28:23,31.
- The societal kingdom. Whenever the goodness of God, or the righteousness of God is put on display in society. Even giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty person can be an expression of the gracious rule of God. God’s rule expressed in society; the societal kingdom. Ps 82:3, Micah 6:8, Jas 1:27.
- The spiritual kingdom (within you). Jesus said, “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). What does that mean? [We’ll come back to this one in tomorrow’s post.]
When you go snorkeling, your face and body are immersed in water, but you have a pipeline into the atmosphere. You’re immersed in one element, but breathing the air of another element. All of these aspects of God’s kingdom breathe the same air. You are here, now, on earth, immersed in the affairs of life. But at the same time, you have a pipeline to heaven. You have the ability to draw down the atmosphere of heaven into your daily life.
That’s why, in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). We are to pray so that the atmosphere of God’s heavenly kingdom gets breathed into our earthly lives. If you could picture a bunch of Christians walking around with snorkels that go all the way to heaven, you might start to get the idea.
So whenever the Bible mentions the kingdom of God, you have to figure out which aspect of the kingdom it’s talking about. Is it salvation? Is it the Jewish kingdom of the Old Testament? Is it the coming millennial kingdom in the last days?
The way you tell is by looking at the context.
So which one is Jesus talking about in Mk 1:14,15 (at the top of this blog)? The context is pretty clear: he says repent, believe the gospel. Jesus is talking about being saved. About becoming a citizen of God’s kingdom (number 6 on our list).
And I might ask, are you a citizen of God’s kingdom? The Bible says that Jesus died on the Cross for you. The reason is stated in Col 1:13:
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,” Colossians 1:13, NKJV.
Every human being is either in the domain of darkness or in the kingdom of God’s Son. Which are you? Have you ever come to that day in your life when you personally have been transferred from one realm to another, spiritually speaking?
This is not a matter of maybe, or I hope so, or even I think so. It’s a matter of I know so. You can know for sure that you have done what Jesus is talking about here; that you have accepted God’s invitation to join his heavenly kingdom forever. You can know by simply telling God in your own heart that you are believing the gospel and receiving Jesus Christ right now.
The message of Jesus was the kingdom of God.
But notice that Jesus says, “the kingdom of God is near.” Why would he say “near” or “at hand”? Because Jesus himself is the King, and now he begins to show it. Mark now assembles four paragraphs that all show the authority of Jesus.
But even more, Mark is careful to connect Christ’s authority with our need. The authority of Christ extends to every category of human need. So Mark demonstrates…
- His authority to summon followers. vv. 16-20 We need a mission that transcends our self-centered lives; becoming fishers of men & women.
- His authority to teach. vv. 21,22. We need wisdom beyond our abilities.
- His authority to cast out demons. vv. 23-28. We need deliverance from evil powers.
- His authority to heal. vv. 29-34. We need healing for our deepest wounds.
Every category of human need falls under the authority of Christ.
What do you need today? Christ can take care of it. Christ has the power and authority to help. You see before you some big mountain that has to be moved. It’s overwhelming. Its size just takes all the wind out of your sails. You get discouraged, and almost want to quit. Maybe your mountain is your marriage, and you’re struggling to make it work. Or your mountain might be financial… you just can’t seem to get your spending under control. Maybe the dark cloud on your horizon is moral: you keep making choices that you know are wrong, and you just can’t stop. Ethical choices. Sexual choices. Violent choices. Sneaky choices.
What’s your mountain? your obstacle? your pressing need? Maybe your mountain is something emotional: you have an out of control temper; you are loaded with shame; you have chronic disappointment with life, depression, dismay, thoughts of just ending it all; your life is ruled by fear, or confusion about your future. Or perhaps you just worry about the direction the whole world is taking.
And with all of this the Lord Jesus Christ calmly steps up and quietly promises, “I can take care of that.”
Tomorrow: more on Kingdom Expression #8, the Kingdom of God WITHIN.