The Kingdom of God on Mission

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Matthew 3:2 says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” This was the central message of the ministry of John the Baptist, preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah. When Jesus the Messiah began His ministry His message was the same(Matthew 4:17).

Jesus preached on the kingdom often throughout His ministry and He demonstrated the Kingdom of God through miracles, signs and wonders. His disciples and the people of Israel were awaiting a king who would overthrow the Roman empire and their oppressive regime. On several occasions the people were about to make Jesus king by force, wanting to spark a revolution, but Jesus would not allow this as He knew His true calling as the lamb of God.

The people of Israel were waiting for an earthly kingdom and government to be set in place, through the lineage of King David. They were looking for a Messiah King who would set them free from the years of oppression. However, Jesus pointed to a spiritual kingdom and rule, one of love and forgiveness toward ones enemies. But Jesus clearly demonstrated God’s kingdom plan, one that was true to the covenant blessing and redemption from the Law.

Purpose of Paper

This paper will explain how the kingdom promised to David is developed as an OT theme, and of how this theme is continued in the NT as the basis for the message of Jesus. This paper will also explain how the message and demonstration of the kingdom is the basis for the Gentile mission of the church.

God’s Intended King

Yahweh had in His redemptive plan a monarchial kingdom. The discussion of the coming king or kingdom was stated in Deuteronomy 17 and to the patriarchs. Yahweh’s stipulations for a king were that the king will be chosen by God Himself, and will be a fellow countryman from among the Hebrews. Also, the king will not make forced labor or return to Egypt in order to increase commerce, and will not take many wives. The king will also have the Law copied and will read it everyday and follow its laws and statutes.

Philip Steyne shows how God promised Abraham that kings would descend from him(Gen.17:6), and the patriarch Judah was promised a coming king from his descendants(Gen.49:10). Steyne says, “God wanted to give Israel a king after His own heart. Until that man arrived, God would be their king, and His rule would be mediated by appointed agents” (Steyne 1992, 150).

God’s intended king was in no way like the kings of other nations; God’s king revealed His ways and will and pointed all nations to the just Ruler. As Steyne says, “The reign of the king that God ordained would reflect God’s own rule. The monarch would be a model of God’s character: righteousness, justice, and mercy.”

However, the nation of Israel rebelled and their desire for a king was instituted prematurely. God then granted them their request, but He used the hardships and lessons learned from the reign of Saul, the people learning what God’s intentions were. God’s redemptive plan was still coming to pass for His intended king.

King David

God wanted His intended king and kingdom to reveal Himself to the world, as well as point all people to the future kingdom. And God’s ultimate choice was found in a shepherd boy named David, who would become a national hero and a man after God’s heart.

2 Samuel 7:16 Yahweh promised to David through the prophet Nathan, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever”(NASB). This was a promise conveyed to David, and in his wisdom and poetic literature he conveyed the concept of God as King forever, who’s kingdom shall endure forever. David understood that his kingdom was part of the eternal kingdom, one which the Messiah would come forth from. It was understood that from the seed or lineage of David the Messiah would be born, the redeemer and King of all mankind.

Stanley Ellison says, “To fulfill His kingdom purpose, God chose David out of the same lineage(as Abraham’s) about 1000 BC and made a covenant about a kingdom and royal seed(2 Sam 7:12-17). This seed of David eventually would rule over the house of Israel forever. Besides ruling over Israel, it was later revealed that this anointed One would extend His rule over the whole world(Amos 9:12; Zech 14:9). Through the seed of David, God would fulfill His kingdom program by destroying the rebels and governing the world in righteousness”(Perspectives, 20).

Also, the kingdom of David incorporated the covenant blessing of Abraham, of being blessed by God to bless all the families of the earth(Genesis 12:3). David’s throne became identified as God’s ideal kingdom, and the ideal type of the coming Messiah.

David’s kingdom was a physical kingdom but was also compared to the spiritual kingdom. Kaiser says, “2 Samuel 19:21 he(David) was called the ‘Lord’s anointed’” and, “the theocracy and the Davidic kingdom, by virtue of their special place in the covenant, were regarded as one. They were so inseparably linked that in the future their destiny was identical.”

Jesus was often referred to as Son of David, because people understood Him to be the promised Savior, but also the Gospel of Matthew reveals Jesus’ human birthright through David. Thus, Jesus and His ministry was the fruition of the promised Kingdom to David, bringing redemption to mankind, yet awaiting His return to finally judge the living and the dead once and for all. His spiritual kingdom is established, but not completed until He returns physically to rule the earth.

Jesus and the Kingdom

Jesus continued the message of the kingdom and demonstrated God’s ideal through justice, mercy, kindness and righteousness. And Jesus lived the kingdom of God, being empowered at His water baptism with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him for His ministry. Jesus was God’s chosen king above all, and His kingdom intended for all mankind. David’s kingdom was a foreshadow of the kingdom of the Son of God.

The traits of God as revealed through Jesus were unlike earthly kings who subjected people, oppressed people and taxed them heavily in order to live lavish lifestyles and expand territory and armies. The Israelites in Jesus’ day could understand the language of kingdom, however, many did not see His spiritual meaning behind it, but only the physical meaning.

But Jesus’ ministry reached people in every possible way, healing them body, soul and spirit. They were fed physically and spiritually. This was part of the mission of Jesus.

Gordon Fee says in Called & Empowered, that mission cannot be divided into ‘spiritual’ and ‘physical’ needs, but “both constitute the global mission of the church”(1991, 17). He previously said, “When Jesus announced good news to the poor, His proclamation was for those who were needy in every sense of the term”.

And Jesus’ final command to His disciples conveyed His kingdom message. Matthew 28:18-20 says, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The New International Bible Commentary says concerning Matthew 28:18-20, “Now His authority was world-wide and absolute, so their(disciples’) commission was also world-wide(NIBC, 1154).”

Concerning Jesus’ authority the New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words states, “Jesus has total freedom to act(cf. Col 2:10), and He does act on behalf of His body, the church (Eph 1:21-23). Ultimately Jesus will exercise His freedom to act and will destroy every competing power, making everything subject to the direct, active will of God the Father(1 Cor 15:24-28)”(NIEBW, 93). These all reveal His authority to rule and reign, given to Him by Yahweh, being empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be king.

And now, His Spirit is given to His Church, who then proclaim the kingdom of God, as agents of the King, operating in the same kind of ministry He did. His ministry and message of the kingdom of God is paradigmatic and programmatic for the ministry of the disciples and Christians now entrusted with revealing His kingdom to all the nations of the world.

The Kingdom Message of the Church

With Jesus’ final words to His disciples, known as the Great Commission, He was including all nations in the redemptive plan of God’s kingdom. This was the purpose of the Abahamic blessing in Genesis, and the Davidic promise. All nations would hear of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The disciples were now empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2 to proclaim the same message with the same type of ministry as Jesus, with signs and wonders following, spreading His kingdom throughout the world. This was the message in the OT and continued through the NT that the Gentiles were to be included in the covenants.

Walter Kaiser, in his article Israel’s Missionary Call, reveals Psalm 67 having three stanzas which illustrate the point that Israel was to bring the peoples of the nations into God’s plan. He says, “This psalm was probably sung at the Feast of Pentecost, celebrating the summer harvest of first fruits. It is all the more remarkable that Pentecost is when God later poured out His Spirit on Jews from every nation and an unusual harvest began to take place-greater than agt any previous time. Deliberately, the psalmist refers to the gathering of the harvest as a down payment, a symbol of the spiritual harvest from every tribe, tongue and nation(Perspectives, 15).”

The disciples were merely following the kingdom program mandated by Yahweh traced back to the Abrahamic covenant(Gen 12). It was this kingdom that was promised to David, and instituted by Christ. With their obedience Christianity spread around the world, and to this present age is still expanding, awaiting the return of the King to once and for all destroy the enemy upon returning in His full glory, creating a new heavens and a new earth, where there will be no more mourning, nor crying, nor pain as the nations worship the King in His city(Rev 21).

Our Mission

The Church is now, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). George Eldon Ladd says, “It is in the present mission of the Church, as it carries the good news of the Kingdom of God unto all the world, that the redemptive purpose of God in history is being worked out”(Perspectives, 93). The mission of the Church in this present age is the continuation of the Kingdom program of God. And it is in love for the people of the world that we carry on the ministry and message of Jesus by the power of His Holy Spirit.