(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.
2 thoughts on “The Secret Kingdom”
Do you think the Jewish people were wrong (as in, it was sin) to believe that the arrival of the messiah would usher in a new age with real geopolitical benefits and freedom from political oppression? If this was a reasonably acceptable conclusion do we look at folks like Simeon and Anna and say that they had some divine extra-biblical insight into the true nature of the Messiah or did they simply recognize the Messiah and perhaps still assumed he would somehow bring about The New Age?
Maybe that’s beyond what we can deduce from the scriptures but I’ve always wondered whether the Jews had what they needed to fully understand Christ’s arrival. Luke 16:29 would imply that they should have enough from the OT to “get it”, but then I guess you pair that with the fact that all saving faith is from the Lord opening the eyes of the blind.
I don’t think the Jews were wrong, per se. In my mind, the Old Testament or the revelation they had was not too clear as to the dual timing of Jesus’ coming to earth. I put a lot of stock in John the Baptist’s doubts for that observation. At the same time, Jesus basically identified Himself as the Messiah (fulfilling Isaiah 61 in the Lk 4 passage and others) and the attesting miracles did lead some to identify Jesus as the predicted Prophet of Deut 18 (see Jn 6:14) and/or the Christ (Jn 7:40-41). So there was enough knowledge and revelation to come to faith in Christ as some obviously did.
What I think is interesting is how the Jew’s situation was so similar to our own. Both then and today, the evidence for Jesus as Messiah was not overwelming, but clearly enough to provide a basis for our faith. This suggests it all comes down to faith. Both then and today, when people are faced with identical evidence, some will believe and some will not. Where the faith to believe, both then and now, comes from is another discussion.
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