The Gospel of the Kingdom: A Basic Introduction

“But He [Yeshua/Jesus] said to them, ‘I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose”Luke 4:43.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

The kingdom of God/Heaven was the central theme of everything that Yeshua/Jesus did and taught, but not only that, but according to Him in Luke 4:43, it was the purpose for which He was sent.  But what is “the kingdom of God/Heaven”?  If we look through the Bible, we will not find it defined anywhere in the text.  However, throughout the Scriptures, God is referred to as King.  For example,

Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to Thee do I pray. (Psalm 5:2)

The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land. (Psalm 10:6)

I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. (Psalm 43:15)

In Hebrew, the word for “King” is melekh, and what a King does is He malaks (rules or reigns), and His malak is His malkhuth (or Kingdom).  In other words, in English, the word “kingdom” is a noun (it’s a place), but in Hebrew, it is much more dynamic; it is an active verb (an action).

THE CLOSEST EQUIVALENT

The closest equivalent to the phrase “the kingdom of God” is found in I Chronicles 29:23:

And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons), He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.  [emphasis mine]

The phrase “the kingdom of the LORD” is the English translation of the Hebrew malkhut YHWH.  The four letters, YHWH, denote God’s covenantal name, and by the time of the Second Temple period of the first century, C.E., the name YHWH was only used by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur (“the Day of Atonement”).  Consequently, to make reference to God, other terms – referred to as “evasive synonyms” – were used in place of His name, for example, “heaven,” “God,” or “Power.”  Therefore, the phrase “the kingdom of YHWH” in I Chronicles should be seen as equivalent to the terms “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven.”

LAW OF FIRST MENTION

One of the rules that is used when interpreting Scripture is known as “The Law of First Mention.”  This means that if we want to understand the basic, primary meaning of any term, we must examine it the first time we find it used in Scripture, and then from that point forward, see how the idea is developed and built upon; however, later developments of the idea may never violate or contradict its original base meaning.

THE FIRST MENTION OF THE KINGDOM

The first reference to God’s Kingdom is found at the end of “The Song of Moshe (Moses)”:

And the LORD shall reign forever and ever. (Exodus 15:18)

The phrase “shall reign” in English seems to denote a future time period; however, the phrase in Hebrew is much more dynamic and active: YHWH yimlokh l’olam v’ed (“YHWH reigns forever and ever”).  It is not that YHWH (“the LORD”) shall reign, but that He has reigned, He is reigning, and He shall ever reign forever and ever.

What is interesting about the context of this first reference is that it occurs in a song sung by Moshe (Moses) to God glorifying Him over the victory that He had just demonstrated by His defeat of the kingdom and military of Egypt.  In other words, the context is a political one, rather than a religious one.  God’s Kingdom is political, it has a king, who rules and reigns over His dominions (all that He has created), and He rules and reigns over those within His kingdom through the use of His teachings, commands and laws found throughout the entire Bible (from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelation).

A COMMON MISUNDERSTANDING

A common misunderstanding that many people have is that if they can obey all of God’s laws, then those acts of obedience will result in them being citizens of God’s Kingdom. But this is not true on several levels.

First of all, God never intended anyone to obey every single command in Scripture.  There are some commands for Kings, some for the High Priest, some for the priests, some for farmers, and some for men and some for women.  Now, I am not a king, so I am not expected to obey those laws; I am also not the High Priest, the Priest, or a farmer, for example, so I am not expected to fulfill those laws.  And since I am a man, I am not expected to fulfill those laws that are intended for women.  I am only expected by God to fulfill those laws that specifically deal with me.

Secondly, we can obey every single command that does apply, and God is still not obligated to make you a citizen of His Kingdom.  Even in the United States, if an immigrant comes to the U.S. and obeys every single law, his obedience to those laws will not make him a U.S. citizen.  Instead, the U.S. has its own process by which immigrants can become legal U.S. citizens, and the same goes with God’s Kingdom.  Obeying God’s commands will not make you one of His citizens, He has a special process in place by which each individual can become a legal citizen of His Kingdom.

PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS!

The first problem we face in reconnecting with God and His Kingdom is to realize that human beings are born outside of God’s Kingdom.  Adam and Eve (Heb. Chavah) were placed in the Garden of Eden, which is a picture of God’s Kingdom.  However, when they sinned against God’s rule and reign over their lives, they were sent out from the Garden, which then becomes a picture of them being cast out of God’s Kingdom.  They had rejected His rulership and, therefore, since God is a God of love, He honored their desire for self rule.  Love does not impose its self on others, and if people choose separation from God, He will honor that desire.

Secondly, we cannot earn our way back into the Kingdom.  There isn’t anything that we can do, on our own power and abilities, to work our way back in.  Why?  Very simply, because we are dead.  Dead people cannot do anything; they’re dead.  And spiritually, we are dead.  When Adam and Chavah (Eve) sinned (broke God’s laws), they lost their intimacy with God; in fact, the Bible says when God asked Adam where he was, Adam answered,

I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself. (Genesis 3:10)

Adam and Eve (Chavah) were now afraid.  There was no fear in them before they broke His commands, but now that they had, something inside of them had changed.  They were now afraid of God, they hid from His Presence, and they felt guilt and shame.  The Presence of God that once indwelt them was now gone, and they were no longer connected to the source of life, so they died spiritually.  As a result, they were cast our of the Garden (Genesis 3:23) since God cannot dwell with anything sinful or unholy. Being cast out of the Garden then was a picture of being cast out of God’s Kingdom.

Thirdly, God created us “in His image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26), and when man sinned, that image was distorted, twisted, and corrupted.  Consequently, we no longer reflect God’s “image and likeness” accurately, nor do we have the power to do so because we are spiritually dead.

COVENANT – GOD’S RESPONSE

God’s responds to man’s need is through the use of His covenant.  Unfortunately, many in Christianity only see the covenant in terms of being a “legal process,” rather than understanding that covenant is all about relationships.  Biblically, covenants were made (1) to deepen or intensify an already existing relationship; (2) to resolve relational differences or conflict; and (3) to restore a broken relationship.

Yeshua/Jesus is that covenant.  He came proclaiming the good news of God’s Kingdom, which is that the doorway to intimacy with God and being restored to God’s Kingdom was now open and available through the person of Yeshua/Jesus Himself, and that doorway would be opened for all who would come in faith believing, Jew and non-Jew alike.

Unfortunately, there are many people – Jew and non-Jew – who do not understand the relationship between the covenants that God established in the Tanakh (or “Old Testament”) and the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua/Jesus (That’s a discussion for another article).  Most Christians mistakenly view His death as “setting aside,” “doing away” or “putting to death” the previous covenants; however, this is not the case.  He did not set any of them aside, He did not do away with them, nor did He annul any of them, but He filled up (and continues to fill up) their meaning, He re-established them on a historic event (His life, death, burial, and resurrection), and He becomes the new point of entry into these covenants.

By accepting the gift of Yeshua’s/Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection for our newness of life, we enter into covenant with God: We enter into intimacy with God, We experience His indwelling Presence, forgiveness, and liberation from the power and control of sin that was over our lives, and we enter into greater intimacy, love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace from a loving, Heavenly Father that’s more than any of us could ever possibly imagine, but we also enter into the privilege and responsibilities of one who is in covenant with God, meaning, i.e., that we now become active members of His Kingdom.

THE KING HAS STANDARDS

The Messiah Yeshua/Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, has laid down in the Gospels His standards for those who will make up His Kingdom.  For example, He teaches us in Luke 14, the following standards:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

To be “poor in spirit” means to be someone who acknowledges your need of Him in your life, that you are incomplete without Him.  Proud, arrogant people who will not come to Him, who will not acknowledge their need for Him, and who will believe that they can live their lives without Him and/or that they are better off without Him will not be those who will make up His kingdom.  Another example of a standard is the following:

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Yeshua/Jesus here is using a hyperbole to make the point that He needs to be first place in our lives, and our love for Him should exceed that of our love for our parents, wife, children, siblings, and even our own lives.  “Hate” does not mean have bad feelings towards them, but if a choice has to be made, you would choose Yeshua/Jesus rather than any of your family or even your own needs and desires.  He then reiterates this idea of dying to our own needs and wants with the following:

Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:27)

There is a definite cost to being Yeshua’s/Jesus’ disciple.  He illustrates this by saying:

For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”  Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and take counsel whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  Or else while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks terms of peace.  (Luke 14:28-32)

There is a cost to following Yeshua/Jesus and being His disciple.  This was true of the first century, and it is true today.  He then reiterates the point:

So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all of his own possessions. (Luke 14:33)

All that we possess, even our very life, we must be willing to hand over to Him for Him to use in accordance to His discretion, for His glory and honor.  However, these (and other) standards are often not taught in many churches because they believe that one can accept Yeshua/Jesus as their Savior without making Him Lord.  “Making Him Lord” is a higher level of commitment to Messiah, they say.  However, this clearly violates Scripture.  Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) writes to the congregation at Rome:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.  For with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9)

As we can see, our salvation is dependent on us accepting Yeshua/Jesus as Lord.  It is not another step, it is THE STEP.  But the word “accepting” doesn’t mean “to mentally accept something to be true,” as we would use the word today, but it means that the reality of that statement must permeate every aspect of our being, so much so that it flows out of our mouths, “for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

BELIEF IS NOT ENOUGH

You see, belief is not enough.  In English, the word “believe” usually denotes “mental agreement,” and although “mental agreement” might be a beginning step, it is not what the Bible means by “believe.”  Biblically, the word “believe” denotes our continuing active trust in and reliance upon God, and there’s a big difference between “mentally agreeing to something said about someone” and “trusting” and “relying upon” that individual.

For example, I can ask you, “Do you believe I would ever hurt you?” and there are many people who know me and would say that they “believed” that, but if I asked them if they would loan me their credit cards, not too many (very few, in fact) would loan them to me.  Why?  Because it doesn’t cost anything to mentally accept something to be true, but trust always costs.

Consequently, it is not enough to mentally accept the possibility that there is a God or to even say we believe in what the Bible says, or even just to say the words “Jesus is Lord,” but that reality must be true in every area of our lives.  If Yeshua/Jesus is truly living in us as Lord, then His image and likeness should flow out of us in every aspect of our lives.  But again, Yeshua/Jesus is a gentleman; He will not invade or take any part of you by force, but you must willingly hand each and every part of your life over to Him to use for His glory and honor in whatever way He sees fit.

“I AM NOT IN CHARGE”

By bending our knee to the Lordship of Messiah and making Him the ruler and king of our lives, we are acknowledging before God and ourselves that we are not in charge of our lives.  He is.  This is what it means to give our lives to Messiah.  Our lives now belong to Him for His use, His glory, and His honor.   This life, this body, and its needs no longer belong to me; they now belong to Yeshua/Jesus.  I am now a steward of them, but I no longer own them.

KINGDOM PEOPLE – OUR CALLING

We have been called to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” to God (Exodus 19:6; I Peter 2:5, 9).  This is not a calling just upon the Jewish people, but upon all people, languages, tongues, and ethnic groups that God brings into His kingdom in and through the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus, the Son of man:

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like the Son of Man was coming,and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, and to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Some skeptics or doubters might argue that it is only my opinion that the “Son of Man” spoken about here is Yeshua/Jesus.  But they would be wrong.  Yeshua/Jesus proclaimed it of Himself at His trial in response to the High Priest, who adjured Him “by the name of the living God, that You tell us [the Sanhedrin] whether You are the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God.” And this was His reply:

You have said it yourself; nevertheless, I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:64)

Yeshua/Jesus is the Son of Man, and His return is very soon, and we must prepare for His coming and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth.  It will be a time unparalleled in human history.   And as His people, we are to represent Him and His Kingdom, and live out the teachings, laws, commands, values, and beliefs that He has handed down to us throughout all of His Word, from Genesis 1:1 to the end of Revelation.  For the Scriptures teach us,

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome (or grievous).  (I John 5:3)

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