Jesus began His earthly ministry with this proclamation, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15). That Jesus announced the kingdom of God has arrived should be of no surprise to us looking back since we believe that Jesus is indeed the Messiah King promised as the one to come by various Old Testament prophets. However, in real time 30 AD, it soon became apparent that Jesus was not fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy as His contemporaries expected.
Their familiarity with kings and kingdoms involved political and military might, subjection of populations, and ruling with power. Since Jesus avoided these power structures altogether, what kind of kingdom could He be proclaiming? And what is its nature? One of the more perplexing aspects of Jesus’ kingdom is its secret nature.
In the Old Testament, proclamation was made loud and clear that a Messiah is coming. And this Messiah carries with Him a strong political significance. Quoting the “Messiah” entry in The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, we read, “[The Messiah] is to destroy the world powers in an act of judgment, deliver Israel from her enemies, and restore her as a nation. The Messiah is the King of this future kingdom to whose political and religious domination the other nations will yield. His mission is the redemption of Israel and His dominion is universal. This is the clear picture of the Messiah in practically all of the Old Testament passages which refer to Him.”
In essence, The Messiah was to come with power and bring deliverance, judgment, and restoration. His future coming was called “the Day of the Lord,” and this proclamation, taking various forms and spokesmen, is a prominent theme throughout the Old Testament. Joel 1:15, 2:1,11,31, 3:14, Amos 5:18, Zephaniah 1:14-16, and Malachi 4:1,5 use this phrase – the Day of the Lord – with various adjectives such as great, awesome, and terrible. The summary of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah King is that He would appear at the great and awesome Day of the Lord.
How could Jesus fulfill these prophesies but at the same time appear to be on a different mission? Jesus’ first coming seems to be a highly muted version of a great and awesome Day of the Lord. It is beginning to look a lot more like a secret kingdom. Can this be true? We will investigate next time.