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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus: Kingdom Struggle

Kingdom presence is not easily attained.

The Kingdom Presence: New Testament (7)

He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.”
Matthew 13.37-39

Resistance and persecution
We’re looking at the evidence from Jesus’ teaching that He expected the Kingdom of God to expand and increase on earth as it is in heaven. Temporal expansion and increasing fruitfulness are both in the mind of Christ as He unfolds His Kingdom. He came into the world to bring a Kingdom that would spread throughout the world, bringing righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit to all the world.

The book of Acts—and the rest of the New Testament—shows us that Jesus’ vision was compelling and accurate with respect to the presence of the Kingdom of God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom increased on earth according to the template Jesus laid out in Acts 1.8: Holy Spirit power, working in believers, to spread the Kingdom throughout the world.

Such increase does not come easily, however. Jesus taught His followers that they should expect to be opposed, even to the point of persecution, by advocates of the prevailing worldviews (cf. Jn. 15.18-25). These words do not appear to have been intended only for His immediate circle of disciples, any more than was His prayer in John 17 (cf. v. 20). The first Christians were persecuted in conjunction with the growth and spread of the Christian faith, as it challenged the religious, political, social, and cultural beliefs and practices of the day. If the Gospel had not spread, and if it had not promoted a way of life which challenged the existing worldviews, the Christians would have been left to their religion, just like all the other cults and sects of the day.

But it was the expansive nature of the Gospel, coupled with the radical and all-encompassing claims of the Kingdom, and the dramatic power of the Spirit, that provoked advocates of the settled worldviews to persecute the Church, as they have done in every age. Men will not sit quietly by while their familiar way of life is being turned upside-down (Acts 17.1-9), unless, of course, they have been subdued by a love which they cannot ignore and transformed by a power they cannot resist.

Jesus knew His followers would be persecuted in every age because He foresaw the continuing enlargement and advance of His Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven, as a powerful presence challenging and overthrowing every pretense of men (cf. Dan. 2.44, 45).

The parable of the wheat and the tares
The parable of the wheat and the tares is perhaps the most paradigmatic of Jesus’ parables concerning the Kingdom of God (Matt. 13.24-30, 36-43).

In this parable Jesus envisioned the impact of the Kingdom through all of time, from the first sowing of the Gospel to the final harvest of the saints. He spoke in terms of the whole world and envisioned it as a field throughout which the Gospel is sown and the Kingdom brings forth fruit over all the earth. He understood there would be opposition—symbolized by the tares—but, in the end, when the angels return to harvest the field, the world will be, as Jesus saw it, a wheat field, ready to be harvested, and not a weed field, waiting to be burned.

Jesus brought a new era, a new realm and power, into the affairs of men and nations. And He was persuaded that nothing, not even the gates of hell, would be able to prevent the progress and growth of this new Kingdom which His coming heralded and brought near (Matt. 16.18). He gave everything He had to ensure that His vision would come to pass, and His vision was realized by those first believers against continuous opposition and brutal persecution.

Two implications attend to this aspect of Jesus’ vision. We may state these succinctly.

First, Jesus did not envision His Kingdom coming in its full and complete form prior to His own return in glory. While the Kingdom will make progress as His followers evangelize the world, increase in Him, and build the Church, the full realization of that promised realm awaits the consummation of history, the day of judgment, and the new heavens and new earth. The Kingdom comes fully in the there and then, and it expands toward that daily in the here and now.

So we must not be overly confident concerning how much real progress we may expect to achieve in this life.

At the same time, the followers of Christ must always strive to live up to His vision of progress along the various fronts we have considered in this study, realizing more of the presence of the Kingdom in our lives and life spheres, even in the face of stiff resistance. We must continue to call people to repentance and faith, urge them to press their way into the Kingdom, and promote growth in the righteousness and love of the Kingdom, regardless of how our adversaries may seek to discourage, disparage, and destroy us.

Second, the progress of the Kingdom reinforces the priority of the Kingdom and makes seeking the Kingdom and its righteousness all that much more important as the commanding perspective of the life of faith (Matt. 6.33). When we understand, as Jesus taught, that Kingdom increase is inevitable and irresistible, we will devote ourselves even more earnestly to seeking that increase in every area and aspect of our lives.

Jesus did not come to bring a faith with merely personal and subjective applications. He came to bring near a Kingdom, a Kingdom that is filling and transforming the nations of the world, and He calls us to seek that Kingdom as a mighty struggle, in the full expectation that progress can be achieved, even if complete victory must wait.

For reflection or discussion
1. How do you expect to see the Kingdom of God increasing and expanding in and through you?

2. Why must we nurture and sustain a clear and compelling vision of the full coming of the presence of the Kingdom at Jesus’ return?

3. How would you explain the relationship between the vision of the Kingdom, the priority of seeking the Kingdom, and the progress of the Kingdom as Jesus taught it?

Next steps: How do you expect your life in the week to come to realize a greater presence of the Kingdom? What are your plans? What are you praying for Christ to do in you and through you?

T. M. Moore

Two free booklets can help you realize more of the presence of the Kingdom in your life. Order your copies of The Gospel of the Kingdom and Joy to Your World! by clicking here and here.

A companion book to this study of “The Kingdom Presence” is available at our bookstore. Listen to an excerpt from The Kingdom Turn, by clicking here. Then order your free copy.

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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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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