The Kingdom of God

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:1-6 ESV).

When Matthew announces the coming of John the Baptist he makes a simple declaration of his purpose. He was to declare “the kingdom of God is at hand.” Having been a preacher for over forty-five years I can identify with John. There really is only one message. It is much simpler than most of us make it to be. God has never desired to make that message so complex that we could not understand who He is and what He has done on our behalf.

We see a key in the Greek word that Matthew uses for “kingdom.”  It is basileia, which can be defined as kingship, sovereignty, authority, rule, especially of God, both in the world, and in the hearts of men. It points fundamentally to the realm in which a king sovereignly rules His people. It does not refer to the realm over which He rules, but His subjects. This is a reference to the kingdom where God’s will is done. This is of particular interest when we remember that Jesus taught the disciples to pray “Thy kingdom come, they will be done” (cf. Matthew 6:9-13).

In its fullness it includes not only human obedience to God’s word, but the triumph of God over physical evils, particularly over death. In the expectation found in contemporary Jewish teaching, the kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish. Thankfully they were incomplete in their understanding!

Jesus came preaching a gospel of life, not death. We now have access through His work on the cross to this kingdom that does not condemn us to an eternity of loss, but a present and future full of gain. We are approaching a New Year. Perhaps your past year has been one full of difficulty and challenge. The message of this time of the year for all of us is that all of those difficulties and challenges are merely within the purview of our sovereign King who delights in working all things to our good. This is the kingdom that has now come to be. It is not yet to be, it is now present. Of course, there is much more yet to be revealed in the working of God’s kingdom on earth; but, now we have been ushered into the protection and reign of the One who has won for us the ultimate victory.