The Kingdom of God (Part 1)

Series: Sword of the Spirit – Unit: The Rule of God
Lesson: The Kingdom – Topic 1: The Kingdom of God (Part 1)
Teacher: Colin Dye

Announcer: Welcome to Sword of the Spirit, written and presented by Colin Dye, senior minister of Kensington Temple and leader of London City Church. Sword of the Spirit is a dynamic teaching series equipping the believers of today to build the disciples of tomorrow. We pray that you find these programs inspiring, and a catalyst in deepening your knowledge of God, your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and your intimacy with the Holy Spirit.

Colin Dye: Hello, and welcome to The Sword of the Spirit, a school of ministry in the Word and the Spirit. Now our new topic for this series is the Kingdom of God, or as it’s properly titled, the Rule of God. Now notice, I’m not going to be talking about the rules of God; that’s a very different thing. I’m going to be talking about the rule of God. That is, His authority and His rule over you as an individual. What this means is that God is calling you to surrender your life to the kingdom of God. And I shall be saying throughout this series that the kingdom of God is the only kingdom that’s really worth extending. It’s talking about God’s personal rule through Jesus Christ in your life, which you receive by faith. Now, some of the topics we’re going to be covering are what is the kingdom of God, and what is the call of the kingdom of God in your life? What does it mean for you to surrender to the kingdom of God? And then I’m going to be looking at some of the attitudes of those who live in the kingdom who surrender to God’s wonderful rule. Then I’ll be looking at how the kingdom of God relates to the world at large and what’s our responsibility, as those who’ve surrendered to the kingdom, with respect to the world. Then we’re going to be looking at the righteousness of the kingdom—God’s kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness and His life that He gives to us is a spiritual life. You see, God’s kingdom is not a physical rule or dominion, but it’s the spiritual surrender to His kingdom in our lives. But it does have some physical aspects. The way that we live in the kingdom of God does affect how we behave—how we live. So we’ll be looking also at the physical aspect of living in the kingdom of God. Then I’ll be covering some important topics like the judgment of God in the kingdom and how do we live in the kingdom as people who are not judgmental but have to make evaluations concerning our lives and indeed, the actions of others. Then we’ll be talking the kingdom of God and His reality in your life. So let’s go to today’s teaching.

Hello, and welcome to this Sword of the Spirit teaching series. The topic we’re looking at now is the Rule of God—looking at the Kingdom of God—and I pray that as you study this together with me, you will find God’s power touch on your life and you’ll understand the kingdom of God as you’ve never understood the kingdom before. Now the title is The Rule of God. And it is absolutely essential that you understand that we are talking about God’s kingly rule, not His rules. That one little letter ‘s’ makes a great deal of difference in meaning to this whole thing. Now the period of time in the Bible, from the giving of the Law of Moses on Mount Sinai until the coming of Christ, were the age of the rules of God. In that age, because of sin and disobedience, God’s children could not know Him as personally and as intimately as we can in the kingdom of God. So they had priests to act as mediators between the people and prophets to pass on God’s Word and judges and later, kings to govern the people. And the law ruled over them all. But now in the time of the kingdom of God, we are not speaking so much about the rules of God, but since the coming of Jesus, the kingdom of God; the rule of God itself. Because Jesus’ perfect obedience as the great High Priest and the perfect revelation He brings to us as the Prophet of the Lord and His own kingly authority as the King of kings, personally means that He governs His people. He governs us with His grace and with His mercy and He rules supreme over all His people who submit to Him. And so we are called, not so much to follow rules, but to submit to the King of kings, to experience His mercy and His pardon; not to live by some collection of rules. But it’s tragically sad today that so many Christians and Christian leaders still try to bring us back into rules and regulations. We call this legalism. And they urge us as believers, sometimes, even to try to keep the Old Testament laws, the Old Testament rules, or even a tiny segment of them, and they even introduce their own rules—church rules, church laws, Christian rules, Christian laws, and the truth is, we are not called to serve under rules, but to submit to the rule of God. And so this teaching series and this training seminar to equip you in your ministry, to raise you up in your leadership and bless you in your spiritual life, is to introduce you more and more to the kingdom of God, that you would submit in your life to His rule. And so I encourage you to open your heart as we come to this topic. I encourage you to open your heart to the rule of God that you would more consciously submit to Jesus Christ and to be directed by Him in everything in your life. And I pray that as we study together, you will experience everything that this training manual and this training series brings to you.

I’d like you now to turn to Part One in the manual, Looking at the Kingdom. Now the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, is the main theme of Jesus. He teaches more on the kingdom than on any other topic. Now we know that in some parts, it’s spoken of as the kingdom of heaven—that’s in Matthew’s gospel—whereas Mark and Luke speak of the kingdom of God. But I want you to have a look, first of all, at Matthew chapter 3 and verse 5, [correct reference is Matt. 5:3] and we see there straightaway where it says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Notice Matthew is using the phrase, ‘kingdom of heaven.’ But the parallel passage in Luke—Luke chapter 6 and verse 20—says, “Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples and He said ‘Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’” Two passages, parallel passages. Matthew records Jesus saying Jesus saying, “the kingdom of heaven,” Luke records, “the kingdom of God.” Basically, these two things mean the same thing. When speaking to Jews, who didn’t like to use the word ‘God’ because they were so respectful of it, recording as ‘kingdom of heaven.’ But to the Gentiles who understood the phrase, ‘kingdom of God,’ then that’s the phrase that is used. So these two phrases—kingdom of heaven, kingdom of God—mean the same thing. But what exactly is the kingdom? The Greek word for kingdom is ‘basileia,’ and it’s derived from ‘basileus,’ which means ‘king.’ basileia means sovereignty, it means royal power, it means dominion—kingdom authority. It’s the activity of ruling. It doesn’t refer, primarily to the realm over which the kingdom rules or even the people which are ruled by the king. In English and in England, we think of the United Kingdom, which is the realm belonging to the territory known as Great Britain. So the United Kingdom is a kingdom, but that’s not the way the Bible uses the word. Kingdom is not so much the realm, but the rule—the rule of God. It means God’s reign. It focuses our attention away from ourselves onto Him. And it’s a very important truth. Now the use of this word ‘kingdom’ as God’s ruling activity, we find several places in the Bible, In the Old Testament, Psalm chapter 22 and verse 28 says, “For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nation.” God’s rulership over the nations is His kingdom rule. And Psalm 103 verse 19, “The Lord has established His throne in the heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Daniel 4 verse 25 of the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar, “They shall drive you from men. Your dwelling place shall be with beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven and seven times shall pass over you till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whoever He chooses.” Now the idea of a ruling activity is especially clear in the New Testament. Take Matthew chapter 6 and verse 10. It says, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” Can you see how God’s kingdom is paralleled with the thought of obedience to His will? His kingdom is His rule, and His rule is when His will is done. And so the kingdom has to do with God’s will being done. In other words, submission to His rule, acknowledgement of His ruling authority and His royal power. Now when we have a look in the Old Testament Jewish background to the use of the word, we find that God is King over Israel. That’s where His sovereign rule and His kingdom concept is introduced. He says in Isaiah chapter 43 and verse 15, “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” then in 1 chronicles chapter 29 verse 11, it says, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,” here is David praising the Lord at the end of his life, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty. For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as Head over all.” And so it’s so important to grasp this teaching that God is Lord and rules and reigns over all things. His kingdom is established over all the earth, His kingdom is established over the nations, but He begins to reveal His kingdom authority in the nation of Israel. He is Lord of all, but He chose Israel to demonstrate His lordship. Now those two things—God’s general rule over all things and all nations, and His intervening rule in Israel—demonstrate an important truth which is brought out more fully in the New Testament with the coming of the kingdom through Jesus Christ, and that is this—that the kingdom is, in a sense, both present and future. God’s kingdom rules and reigns now, but there is coming a time when that kingdom will break into the world in a full and final form. And so in the Old Testament, God is presented both as the present ruler and the ultimate ruler of men and women. That the time is coming when, as the prophets said, the king would come and God would demonstrate His kingdom in a visible way. That’s the thought behind Isaiah chapter 24 and verse 23. “Then the moon will be disgraced the sun ashamed, for the Lord of Hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem before His elders gloriously.” Isaiah’s such a colorful prophet. Look, he says, “The moon is going to be ashamed, the sun is going to be ashamed. The sun and the moon are going to bow down because the King of kings is going to come and rule and reign.” Now by the time of Jesus, there was a widespread hope, an expectation amongst the Jewish people, that God Himself was going to decisively intervene in the nation and liberate them from their enemies and restore their fortunes. And they believed that Messiah would come, whom they called ‘another David,’ and He would come and prepare the way for the visible kingdom, or the visible rule of God among them. So Messiah would come, prepare the way, and God would show up and bring a visible demonstration of His kingdom amongst them. Some Jews also expected another ruler even greater than the earthly ruler, King David. They looked forward to the heavenly kingdom and the emergence of what they called the Son of Man, as foretold in Daniel chapter 7. Now the truth is, most people would not necessarily have a very clear idea of how all this would look like, and there were lots of different messianic expectations—lots of different expectations of the kingdom of God and what Messiah would do when He came. But they all agreed that Messiah was coming and He would introduce the kingdom of God to them. That’s why John’s announcement in Matthew chapter 3 and verse 2 was such a staggering, prophetic statement and a statement that announced and heralded a tremendous transformation for the people of God. He says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And this first announcement of John the Baptist that God’s kingdom was close at hand, it’s hard for us to realize how sensational this would have been as an announcement at that particular time. And the message of John, therefore, had such massive significance for the Jews because they understood that when the kingdom came, that would be the turning point in their history. It would be the restoration of the fortunes of Zion—of the nation of God. And they were right. It was. But the kingdom, when it came, did not come in the form that they expected. There was not this immediate, visible manifestation of the rule of God. There was not this glorious appearing of the heavenly Son of Man, the moon did not bow down, the sun did not bow down to the coming of the King in the presence of the kingdom. They were right to assume that, of course, that when the kingdom came and when the Messiah came, that God’s reign would come close, He would not just be ruling and reigning from a distance, His throne would not just be seen in heaven. They were right to understand that the throne of God would come and there would be an authority of God established, but they failed to understand that when God came in His kingdom, He would not continue to reign through rules and regulations, through the Law. And they also failed to understand that when He came, He would not come in His kingdom and immediately bring the kingdom’s fullness into the earth realm. And there would come a time, even now as believers, two thousand years following the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are still waiting for that final manifestation of God’s kingdom. They also failed to understand that although the King would come and God would rule and reign personally, they failed to understand that He was going to do it through His Son and by the Holy Spirit. They were also correct to understand that when the kingdom came, there would be victory for the nation of Israel, but sadly, they didn’t understand their real enemy. They thought it was Roman occupation. That’s the liberation they were looking for, but Jesus came to set us free from the power of Satan and the spiritual forces that held us and gripped us. and so in Christ Jesus, the kingdom came so that God would not come merely to impose His rule upon all people, but His rule also upon those who would willingly accept His reign and who would submit to His kingdom and deal with sin in their lives and allow Him to destroy the power of Satan in them. Now there are two key passages which we won’t read now, but I want you to note in the manual, Matthew chapter 3 verses 1-12, and Luke chapter 3 verses 7-20. And those are two good summary passages which show what John the Baptist taught concerning the coming kingdom of God, or His rule. It shows us that when the kingdom came, there would be judgment. Speaks of fire. John the Baptist was speaking about sifting and of purification for all people. When the kingdom came, there would be a change in people’s lives. The kingdom brought a moral and a spiritual challenge that could not be ignored. Also, the kingdom is connected with Jesus. John the Baptist announced the coming of the greater one, the Messiah, Jesus bringing the kingdom. And it also meant through John’s teaching, that people have to repent and be baptized.

Now let’s look at the present form of the kingdom. I’ve already established that the kingdom has come in Jesus, and yet the kingdom is still to come in the future. So let’s look at the present aspect of the kingdom. Jesus came proclaiming that the kingdom had come. Mark’s gospel, chapter 1 verses 14-15. “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.’” Think of the announcement. This is Jesus preaching—his first preaching. “The time is fulfilled. The kingdom is at hand. Repent and believe.” The time is fulfilled. All that the prophets spoke about the coming of the kingdom is being fulfilled. That time of the kingdom has come. And He says, “The kingdom is at hand.” And I’m grasping as I do this, showing you what He meant. When the kingdom’s at hand, it’s close by. If I reach down now and take that microphone, it’s ready for me. It’s at hand. And a PA person has put it there in case my tie mike fails. I can just take it straightaway. That’s what it means when it says, “The kingdom of heaven’s at hand.” You can reach out and take it. It’s here. It doesn’t mean to say it’s somewhere down the road, it’s coming round the corner, no, it’s here. It’s at hand. And it means then that we can be sure that God’s kingdom is working in our lives. Another crucial passage—I want you to become familiar with it; it’s a very pivotal verse—is Matthew’s gospel chapter 12 and verse 28. And here, Jesus says, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” And so He’s speaking about the present activity of the kingdom and the deliverance from demons is, according to Jesus, one of the most graphic pointers to the fact that the kingdom has come. And there’s a good reason for this, because it’s so clear to see whose side the demons are on. The demons are fighting for the kingdom of darkness. They are part of the devil’s kingdom. They are part of this present, evil age, and if Jesus casts those demons out, it means He’s pushing back the powers of darkness, He’s pushing back the kingdom of Satan, He’s destroying Satan’s kingdom because God’s kingdom is coming in. so we’re talking about the present manifestation of God’s kingdom. It means that the rule of God is breaking in and overthrowing the rule of the evil one, and the true king is coming. Now that’s exactly what Jesus told His disciples to preach. Luke’s gospel, chapter 10, the full passage is verses 1-20, and here, we have the disciples being sent out to preach the kingdom. They were called to announce the arrival of the kingdom. And as a result, Jesus says, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” And as they went, they were to cast out demons; as they went, they were to preach the gospel, they were to heal the sick, and they were to announce the kingdom of God has come. And so the gospel itself, the gospel of the kingdom, the signs of the kingdom—healings and miracles, deliverance of the kingdom, the driving out and expulsion of evil spirits, demonic spirits—all these things point to the fact that the kingdom of God has come. This is very, very clear when Jesus received a delegation from John the Baptist. In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 11 verses 2-5, we read about it. You know of the incident, don’t you? When John the Baptist was in prison and he was beginning to doubt whether the one he’d pointed to and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is the one, this is the Messiah.” He began to doubt whether his words were actually true. Now at one level, a human level, we can understand John the Baptist’s doubt. There he is. He announced the arrival of the King. The kingdom had come. And what does John experience since then? His ministry diminished. He understood that was correct, but I’m not so sure that John understood that the kingdom coming for him meant that he would lose his head, that he’d be put into prison. And he thought, “What’s happening here? Where is this great liberator? The kingdom has come, and here am I in prison. Did I get it right?” and this was not just, of course, John the Baptist’s problem, it was the problem of many of the Jewish people of the day who had a very outward, external understanding of the kingdom of God, how they thought that Messiah would come and immediately break the yoke of Rome and that He would immediately bring in what we call the apocalyptic form of the kingdom. Apocalyptic means the unveiling. That’s the open revelation of everything to do with God’s glory. But Jesus came, born in a manger, grew up in obscurity, lived the life of a Galilean peasant, preached the gospel, was rejected wherever He went—of course, the common people heard Him, but the religious rulers rejected Him—until finally, He was crucified on the cross and the only crown He wore was a crown of thorns. My, my, this is the very antithesis of kingship. And many of the Jewish leaders and the Jewish people surely can’t be totally blamed for thinking there’s something wrong here. And so John the Baptist sent a message. Read about it in Matthew 11 verses 2-5. “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Jesus, he sent two of his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go, tell John the things which you hear and see.’” Now in Luke’s gospel, chapter 7, Luke actually records at that very time, Jesus was healing the sick and many wonderful things were happening. And so Jesus says, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear. The dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. Blessed are those that don’t take any offense in me.” How marvelous! And the same thing happens today. I’m smiling right now as I feel the blessing of God in this and as I’ve preached the gospel in different nations all over the world, the most marvelous privilege you have as you proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, that it’s not just a gospel in word only, but you can preach the gospel and you can point to the blind eyes that have been opened, the deaf ears that have been opened, and the lame people that are walking and you can say, “This is the kingdom of God. God is here and wherever God is, there’s life, there’s healing, there’s deliverance, and that’s why these are signs of the kingdom, because this is what God does. He breaks into this evil world and saturates it with His glory and overwhelms us with signs of His presence and tokens of His goodness.” that’s the kingdom of God. And so they point to the facts—these signs and wonders and miracles—and even the gospel itself points to the fact that the kingdom is present. Because as the gospel is preached, the kingdom comes, because as His Word is received, His rule is established.

I do hope that you’ve enjoyed this teaching on the kingdom of God today and that you’ve felt the power of God’s kingdom in your life. After all, the kingdom of God is the only kingdom that is really worth extending, first of all, in your life and then through your life to the others around you. We’ll be back next time for more teaching on the kingdom of God.

Recommended reading

Dye, Colin. The Rule of God
Kensington Temple, 2007

Additional reading

Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
Eerdmans, 1984