The Coming Kingdom (2)

Christ is the coming of the Kingdom.

“But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.” Daniel 7.18

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18.36

The lesson of the Old Testament
The Old Testament histories are among the most dour and disappointing reading in all Scripture. Whether we’re reading about the united kingdom under David and Solomon, the northern kingdom of Israel, or the southern kingdom of Judah, the story line is one of brief periods of faithfulness, blessing, and hope interspersed unevenly among extensive seasons of drift, rebellion, disillusionment, and captivity.

Rather like what is said sometimes about those of us who are of Irish descent: The Irish have an abiding sense of tragedy that sustains them through intermittent bouts of joy. The Old Testament kingdom of Israel managed an abiding tendency to drift from God and rebel against His Law, interspersed with seasons of undeserved blessing and grace.

Overall, reading the histories from Judges through Esther, and the prophetic literature that appeared within that framework, one conclusion above all stands out: The kingdom established by David and passed down to his heirs was, in the main, a colossal failure.

Precisely as God intended.

Except that the Old Testament kingdom experiment accomplished two important objectives in the divine framework of grace. First, it established the mindset and heartset of a coming Kingdom, a Kingdom that would incorporate even the Gentiles, and would bring everlasting peace to God’s people. Hence, the Old Testament kingdom of Israel established a habit of kingdom among the people of God, and a longing for the coming Kingdom in which the promises of God’s covenant would come to full flower.

Second, the Old Testament kingdom made it plain that thinking about kingdom the way the nations of the world think about kingdom is seeking the kingdom through the wrong end of the telescope. It’s a vision too small, seen through an improper lens, and sought and carried out by sinful, selfish people for primarily material ends. Thus, by the time of the restoration from Babylon, it was made crystal clear to the leaders of God’s people that no earthly kingdom was to be sought; for no earthly kingdom can satisfy the hopes and promises of God’s coming Kingdom of grace.

The promise of the New Testament
Jesus Christ was sent to earth with one overarching mission: To bring near the Kingdom of God. He announced this at the outset of His ministry (Matt. 4.17), and He was still working for it when He stood before Pilate and insisted that He was the Sovereign in God’s Kingdom. By embodying and proclaiming the Kingdom – God’s rule of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14.17, 18) – and by absorbing the wrath of heaven’s King against the sins of men, Jesus brought the rule of God to the beachheads of the earth. From there, on the first Christian Pentecost, the Spirit of God would launch the new order of the ages toward the ends of the world.

The Kingdom of God as revealed in the New Testament is “not of this world”. It doesn’t originate in this world. It does not take the form of earthly kingdoms, is not subject to earthly political powers, cannot be stopped at the geographical borders of nations, and pervades and restores all of creation, from the souls of men to the luminaries of the vast cosmos.

The parables of Jesus were intended to capture the imagination of those habituated to thinking about a kingdom, but to launch their imaginations into a new dimension, a spiritual dimension, where the rule of Christ, such as He demonstrated during His incarnation, works through the souls and lives of people to make all things new.

The Kingdom promised, launched, and advancing throughout the New Testament is a realm of holy spiritual power (1 Cor. 4.20) which no amount of politics, racial differences, cultural confusion, or linguistic barrier can suppress or resist. It comes like light into dark places, works like leaven in a loaf of wheat, and preserves like salt all that is good in the world by the grace of God.

What the Old Testament saints failed to realize in their own strength and by their own wits, New Testament saints entered as born-again into a new realm where righteousness rules.

A Kingdom coming all of grace
This Kingdom comes to us all of grace. It was first given to Jesus Christ, Who earned the Kingdom as God’s faithful Ambassador and Messiah. God gave the Kingdom to Jesus, and invited Him to sit at His right hand and begin the work of spreading that glorious rule over all the earth (cf. Dan. 7.13, 14; Pss. 2, 110; Is. 9.6, 7; Dan. 2.44, 45).

Jesus received the Kingdom which is not of this world, and now He is giving it to those who believe in Him by grace through faith (Dan. 7.18). We do not earnthe Kingdom; Christ gives it to us. We do not cause the Kingdom to advance; the Holy Spirit is the operative power of the Kingdom for righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 4.17, 18; Acts 1.8). Our calling is to seek the Kingdom as the overall priority and objective of every aspect of our lives, that God may be glorified as His grace spreads along with His rule (1 Thess. 2.12; 1 Cor. 10.31).

Graciously called to and given the Kingdom of God, believers come by grace to be transferred into it, into a sure framework of a Kingdom that cannot fail (Col. 1.13). In the Kingdom, we enjoy the privileges of citizens – to know and serve our King unto righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit – and we embrace the obligations of ambassadors – to represent our King and His Kingdom in everything we are and do.

Jesus was sent to bring near the Kingdom of God. Now He sends us, according to God’s gracious covenant, and within the domain of His gracious rule, to bring that Kingdom near to the people in our lives, by every means and at every opportunity (Jn. 20.21).

For reflection
1. What is the lesson of the Kingdom of God from the Old Testament?

2. What is the lesson of the Kingdom of God from the New Testament?

3. What does it mean for you to be a citizen and an ambassador in the Kingdom not of this world?

Next Steps – Transformation: Where are you seeing the Kingdom of God – righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit – increasing and advancing in and through your life? Write down your response to this, and offer it back to the Lord with praise, thanksgiving, and pleading for grace to help you in your time of need.

Grace flows from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The better we know Him, the more His grace will do its work in us. Our book, 
To Know Him, can help you in drawing closer to Jesus and increasing in Him. Order your copy by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore