Your New Home

(8 of 8 in a series)

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” (Col 1:12-13).  When we embrace the gospel message of Jesus Christ by faith, we enter into the kingdom of God; right here, right now.

“[He] qualified us.”  We have a right to be here.  We have our papers, if you will.  We have the qualifications, in Christ, to be here in the new kingdom.  “He delivered us.”  He rescued us.  He saved us from the penalty and ongoing power of sin.  “[He] transferred us.”  We have been transferred to a new kingdom.  We have left the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of Satan, and arrived at our new home in the kingdom of “His beloved Son.”  We have not had a new wing added to our old house.  We have been plucked from our old habitation and dropped into an entirely new castle of our king.  We have been “dragged and dropped” into our new home.

Our new home.  Does that sound familiar?  If you have been following these posts for some time you will recall seeing the word new in about half the titles.  Okay, maybe not that many.  But we have had plenty to talk about regarding our new beginning, our new identity, our new heart, our new Spirit, our new nature, our new disposition, our new power, our new arrangement with God, our new relationship with sin, and on and on.  This focus on new is not by accident.  Jesus Himself said of His ministry, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and the skins as well; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.” (Mk 2:22).  Jesus did not just add something to our Old Testament understanding; our Old Covenant arrangement.  He ushered in something brand new.

So what does it look like here in our new home?  The parables and teaching of Jesus go on to describe what the kingdom of God looks like as well as how the citizens of that kingdom behave.  We will start through the specifics of what Christ said about life in the kingdom of God next post.

Entering the Kingdom

(7 of 8 in a series)

We enter the kingdom of God by faith.  We often think those who saw Jesus in person must have had an easier time embracing Him than those of us who came after and must come to Him by faith; not having seen, heard, or touched Him in the flesh.  But the faith requirement was just as real for Jesus’ contemporaries as it is for us.  We require faith because we did not see Jesus in the flesh.  They require faith for the very reason they did see Jesus in the flesh.  Look at this exchange in John chapter 6.  “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst…For I have come down from heaven…’  The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ And they were saying, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does He now say, “I have come down out of heaven”?’ “ (Jn 6:35,38,41-42).

Their faith requirement was to overcome the fact that they knew Jesus’ beginnings, or so they thought.  Jesus is making the basic proclamation, teaching the crowds in John chapters 5 and 6 and announced loudly at the feast in chapter 7, that He is indeed the giver of eternal life, the Messiah come down from heaven.  To the Jews this makes no sense.  The Messiah will come explosively and with power.  We know where you came from Jesus.  You are the child born to Joseph and Mary of Nazareth.  Besides knowing Jesus as a child, they also were sure that “the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He?” (Jn 7:41).  They knew where Jesus grew up among the common citizens of Nazareth.  In the Jewish mind, to quote the late Keith Green, “Messiahs don’t grow up from little boys.”

The entry on “faith” in The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary sums up well the first century faith requirement.  “A principal reason for the word faith appearing so often in the New Testament is the New Testament claim that the promised Messiah had finally come, and to the bewilderment of many, the form of the fulfillment did not obviously correspond to the Messianic promise.  It required a real act of faith to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah.  It was not long before “to believe” meant to become a Christian.  In the New Testament, faith therefore becomes supreme of all human acts and experiences.”

I believe one reason Jesus public appearances following His resurrection were so rare, at least in what we have documented, is because we too have a faith requirement to enter His kingdom just like the first century believers.  “To believe” is to enter the kingdom of God by faith.  Faith that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, and faith that His finished work on the cross, confirmed by His resurrection, paid the price for our sin.  We enter the kingdom of God by faith.

The Secret Kingdom

(6 of 8 in a series)

This framework of how Jesus did and did not fit the expectations of His first-century audience and how Jesus, the secret king, set up His secret kingdom brings so much depth to our own understanding of Jesus’ words, actions, and events of the Gospels.  And it explains the reaction to Him that sometimes puzzles us.  The Jews, including John the Baptist, tried to interpret the coming of Jesus with a distinctively Old Testament mindset.  Of course, this was entirely appropriate as this was the revelation they had.  And it was God’s revelation. 

Throughout the Scriptures, God’s revelation is always true, but not always complete.  We cringe at the idea of God’s revelation being progressive.  We don’t want to hear anything that may alter our understanding of our eternal God; the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Please understand the difference.  The character and attributes of God have never changed and will never change.  He is without beginning and without end, always the holy and unique God of creation.  There is nothing progressive about God’s character or attributes.  But His revelation is progressive and at the time of Christ, most Jews – scholars included – were totally unprepared for Who was coming and the manner in which He came.

This chart from the book, The Parables of Jesus by David Wenham, shows the Old Testament view that most Jews of Jesus’ day were operating under. The Jews, both scholarly and simple, expected the Messiah to arrive explosively and carry out His judgment and restoration immediately.  The arrival of the Messiah would be the clear demarcation between the old age and the new age.  Both a casual or detailed reading of the Old Testament fit this picture.  Given the advantage of hindsight regarding our Lord Jesus Christ and the explanation of the New Testament writers, Jesus’ coming to earth looked more like this (from The Parables of Jesus).The Old Testament was actually announcing two comings.  Sometimes even in the same verse (Isaiah 61:2).  At His first coming, Jesus came to usher in the kingdom of God through His death on a cross thus providing the way for us to be saved from our sins and to become citizens of God’s kingdom.  Judgment was not the goal of Jesus’ first coming which He made clear in both word and action.  Jesus’ second coming will fulfill all the Old Testament prophesies regarding vengeance, judgment, and His righteousness covering the earth.  That is why studying Revelation alongside the Old Testament enhances its understanding.  Satan’s kingdom will be brought to an end and God’s kingdom, currently underground if you will, will become public in dramatic fashion and will continue forever.  The secret king will be worshipped by all and take His rightful place on a public throne.

So, with all this in mind, it is no surprise that Jesus’ first coming brought mixed reactions from His audience and similarly the operation of His secret kingdom today can be confusing without careful study and spiritual understanding.  That is why it is so imperative that we understand what exactly Jesus said about His kingdom of which we are citizens.  We need to know.  How are we to live in the kingdom of God, in the here and now?  Understanding the principles of how the secret kingdom operates in the church age and how we are to live accordingly is what the next several posts are about.