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.

The Kingdom Goes Underground

(5 of 8 in a series)

With the exception of the Last Supper and the Garden of Gethsemane, the passion week remained a public week for Jesus right up to His crucifixion.  His death was very public.  His trials bounced from leader to leader with stops before the crowds clamoring for His death.  He carried His cross through the public streets and died in a public place of execution.  His death made news throughout the entire city and beyond.  Remember the two disciples on the road to Emmaus the next Sunday who, not suspecting their guest was Jesus said, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here these days … concerning Jesus the Nazarene?” (Lk 24 18-19).  Christ died a very public death.

So less than a week after Palm Sunday, the king was dead.  Now silence.  The dead king is buried.  In the world’s eyes, the very public figure, who less than a week earlier accepted the multitude’s praise as Messiah King, is dead.  But something is stirring in our minds.  What are we to make of Isaiah 61?  Jesus said it referred to Him.  What are we to make of His claim to be God’s Son?  And what about His own prediction that He would be “delivered up to the Gentiles to mock, scourge, and crucify Him, and on the third day He would be raised up.” (Mt 20:19)?  What are we to do with “the king is dead” but wait?

What happens next is dramatic in more ways than just the awesome miracle of the resurrection, as powerful and incredible as that was.  The miracle of the resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith and without it we are of most men to be pitied (I Cor 15:19).  Its publicity, however, is the opposite of the Palm Sunday drama.  The drama of the resurrection is that it was witnessed by very few people.  It was basically a private event.  Have you ever thought about that?  We, including the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15, like to use eyewitness testimony to support our claim that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead.  And Jesus did make enough public appearances to provide a foundation for our faith.  But think about the numbers.  The best Paul can come up with at one time is 500.  What?  500?  Where are the appearances before 5000?  Where is the appearance in the temple, a place where Jesus had regularly addressed the crowds just a week earlier?  Where are the appearances before the skeptics, the Pharisees, and the rulers?  For some reason, following His resurrection, Jesus took His kingdom almost completely underground.

So to summarize the timeline of events surrounding the announcement of the coming of the kingdom we have the following.

  • Jesus’ early ministry:  announced the arrival of the kingdom of God.
  • Jesus’ earthly ministry:  public, but downplayed the King title.
  • Palm Sunday:  public, and embraced the King title.
  • Death:  public place of execution, witnessed by many.
  • Resurrection:  private, witnessed by very few people.
  • Ascension:  Very private, by invitation only.  And poof, Jesus was gone, back to heaven.

And this is where we live today; citizens of a secret kingdom.  Identifying the kingdom of God as a secret kingdom was a large part of Jesus’ teaching here on earth, particularly in His parables.  Following His resurrection, the secret kingdom became home for us, His people.  Understanding the secret nature of God’s present kingdom and our place in it has tremendous implication for not only how we interpret the gospels, but also how we live as secret kingdom citizens.  It is my experience that all kinds of topics from the believer’s relationship to sin, the growth of the universal church, the presence and power of evil in today’s world to prayer, politics, wealth, church life, etc. all come into clearer focus when understood in light of the secret kingdom Jesus inaugurated during His first advent.

Fleshing out the details what that looks like for new covenant believers will be the topic of the next several posts.

The King Goes Public

(4 of 8 in a series)

In the gospel of John, Jesus’ proclamation at the feast, His attesting miracles, His identifying Himself as one with the Father, and His announcement that eternal life is found only in Him are all leading to the recognition that He could indeed be the promised Messiah.  This momentum builds toward the Sunday before the Jewish Passover.  In an event we now call “Palm Sunday,” Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey in fulfillment of the prophet Zechariah’s words from circa 500 BC.  “Now this took place (the triumphal entry into Jerusalem) that what was spoken through the prophet [Zechariah] might be fulfilled, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted upon a donkey, even upon a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” ‘ “ (Mt 21:4-5 quoting Zech 9:9)

Luke further describes the scene, “And they brought [the colt] to Jesus, and they threw their garments on the colt, and put Jesus on it.  And as He was going, they were spreading their garments in the road.  And as He was now approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’  And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’  And He answered and said, ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!’ “ (Lk 19:35-40).

In a complete one-eighty to after the feeding of the five thousand when Jesus fled the multitude’s attempt to make Him king, He now embraces their praise and recognition that He is the promised king.  The crowds cry out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Lk 19:38), ascribing this title to Jesus, the Nazarene.  In fact, this day was so ordained for Jesus’ kingdom to become public that if the crowd were silenced, as the Pharisees demanded Jesus do, the rocks themselves would cry out the proclamation.

Now we enter the tumultuous passion week of our Savior.  The week starts with Jesus staying in the public eye.  “And [Jesus] entered the temple and began to cast out those who were selling , saying to them, ‘It is written, “And My house shall be a house of prayer,” but you have made it a robber’s den.’  And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him, and they could not find anything that they might do, for all the people were hanging on His words.” (Lk 19:45-48).  Jesus’ cleansing of the temple and daily teaching in the temple were very public aspects of His ministry during the passion week.

Of course, a dramatic turn of events as the passion week unfolds in our next post.