When you think of a Kingdom, what is the mental picture you see? The image that is most often conjured up is of a king inhabiting a castle from which he rules his realm. But is that the picture that Jesus wants you to see? What does Jesus envision when He says:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…” Mark 1:15
Does Jesus envision bricks being laid and spires on a grand edifice rising from the countryside in Israel? No. Unfortunately, this idea is a western-world concept most associated in America with the Magic Kingdom of Disney World.
What is the Kingdom of God?
When Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, He is referring to the rule of God that would now start to displace the Kingdom of darkness that had been brought about by the rebellion of humanity in the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 3). To Jesus, the Kingdom of God is a spiritual reality that is now breaking into the world and will eventually disarm and drive the powers of darkness from the earth completely. The Kingdom will initially advance in the spiritual realm and will eventually break into and, ultimately, result in a physical/visible reign of God on earth.
How Does God’s Kingdom Advance?
The Kingdom started to advance through Jesus taking back the territory that was given to the Enemy at the Fall by setting demon-dominated people free (5:1-20, etc.), healing the diseased and raising some who had died back to life (5:21-43). Jesus, expressing His role as King over creation, revealed His authority by commanding the forces of nature through calming the storm (Mark 5:35-41). In each of these areas, Jesus is taking back “land” that was lost in the Fall. The ultimate “territory” that Jesus’ will defeat is death itself and this will be accomplished through His resurrection (see 1 Cor. 15:26). The progressive nature of the Kingdom of God advancing is most vividly seen through the subject of death. Initially, death is rendered powerless in the lives of a few individuals (Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus) and then in all believers (those who place their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior) and then death will eventually and ultimately be eliminated entirely when Jesus returns. In other words, the curse of the Fall – everyone will die, will one day be completely vanquished. Why? Because the Kingdom of God will defeat the Kingdom of darkness along with all the consequences incurred by our rebellion.
Do you see the progressive nature of the Kingdom of God, slowly eradicating the effects of the Fall through the life and death of Jesus?
The Gospel and the Advancement of God’s Kingdom
The advancing of God’s Kingdom is a gracious response to the mess that humanity has gotten ourselves into. The pain we feel and see and hear of every day is a by-product of humanities quest to throw off the rule of God at the very beginning of creation. However, we can trace God’s redemptive rescue plan from the initial promise of God to send a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15) to the moment a person is told of the “good news” (i.e. “Gospel”) of Jesus. When an individual becomes aware of their condition as a sinner through being exposed to the Law of God and then of God’s loving provision of Jesus to take away his or her sin, the potential for the advancement of the Kingdom occurs in his or her life. When the good news of Jesus is presented, the character of God is initially revealed. If a person places their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior then a relationship begins and grows deeper over time. The process of someone moving from lost to found occurs in reverse from the Fall in Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve initially were in a relationship with God and then lost that intimacy due to their rebellion. Over time, humanity would grow further away from God and even forget completely about God and He would (graciously) bring about circumstances to were designed resuscitate humanities need for Him (e.g. The Flood, Gen. 6, etc.). In other words, from the moment Adam and Eve chose to be god instead of enjoying and obey God, the plan of the Lord was to reverse the curse that humanity had brought upon itself.
The Kingdom of God from the Inside Out
At first, God created an earthly (physical) Kingdom from which He would rule through humanity for His glory and our good. Rightly, it could be said that since humanity chose to rebel in their will (spiritually) and then in their actions (physically), so the Kingdom that Jesus brings will first come spiritually – renewing people from the inside and then physically – a visible manifestation in the world through a physical reign (see Rev. 21-22).
Do you see that the concept of the Kingdom of God is incredibly glorious? Do you see the fine-tuning of God’s plan to reveal Himself to humanity while never compromising His holiness or cheapening the cost of His love? As we continue to consider the Kingdom of God expressed in and through the life of Jesus, I hope you are both blessed by His grace and motivated to reach the people you know with this life-saving good news.