The Kingdom of God (Part 2)

Series: Sword of the Spirit – Unit: The Rule of God
Lesson: The Kingdom – Topic 2: The Kingdom of God (Part 2)
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. And the topic we’ve been looking at is the Rule of God. God’s kingdom; God’s rule in your life. I pointed out last session that it’s not about the rules of God. Living in God’s kingdom has nothing whatsoever to do with obeying rules. It’s about surrendering to the personal rule of God in your life. And that’s what makes it so exciting. Every day we can find something fresh about the kingdom of God as we surrender to the rule and the reign of Jesus Christ. In the last session, I spoke about some of the background that we find in the Old Testament to the teaching on the kingdom of God. It’s very clear that God’s ancient people looked forward to the coming of a kingdom. It was going to be greater than any kingdom they had experienced. And in their experience, the kingdom was an earthly kingdom; God’s rule through a king. The ideal king was King David, but we know from Old Testament scriptures, that the rule of David, even David himself, was not sufficient to represent fully the kingdom of God. And now we go further into the teaching on the kingdom of God.

Now, Jesus, not only promised miracles in the future, forgiveness on the Day of Judgment, he offered these things in the present through Himself. You see, the kingdom came in and through Jesus. Where Jesus is, He’s the King, that’s where the kingdom is. It’s the same for us today. He is with us by His Spirit and so the Spirit is the Spirit of the kingdom. Now in the early days, they didn’t understand so much about the Holy Spirit, but they had Jesus present with them. He is the long expected Messiah. And so Jesus is central to everything that the gospels announce about the kingdom. And the kingdom is central to everything Jesus teaches. Jesus is introduced as the beloved Son of God at His baptism, Matthew 3 verse 17. He is announced as the beloved Son of God at His transfiguration, Matthew 17 verse 5. He’s filled with God’s Spirit, Matthew 3 verse 16. He is invested with divine, full authority, Matthew 21 verse 27. Let me read that verse: “So they answered Jesus and said, ‘We do not know.’ And He said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” The scriptures are fulfilled, or completed, in His coming. Luke 4:21, one of the most, I think, spine-tingling moments in all of the gospel stories, Jesus read out from Isaiah and then He said, “Isaiah’s gospel.” Well it is Isaiah’s gospel, isn’t it? The prophet Isaiah when he said, “And the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor, to set at liberty the captives,” and Jesus read this out, and then He said these words, which as I read Luke chapter 4, virtually constituted the whole of His sermon. That’s what His sermon was about that day. “This day, today, this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” You see, when Jesus came, He didn’t just come as the prophet who would speak about the things to come, Jesus came as the fulfillment of the prophets and said, “I am the One about whom the prophets spoke and the kingdom that you’ve heard about has come. This day, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And that again, is the demonstration of the fact that Jesus is the embodiment of the kingdom. Wherever you see Jesus, wherever you see Him, that’s where the kingdom is. If you touch Jesus, you touch the kingdom; submit to Jesus, you submit to the kingdom of God. God’s kingly rule and authority is operating through Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s absolutely essential that we preach a Jesus-only message, because it’s only Jesus, only Jesus. And the kingdom of God the Father comes through God the Son and as He operates through the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Jesus came to announce the kingdom and rule of God. He also came to seek and save the lost, those who are outside of the kingdom, Luke 19 verse 10. “He came to serve others and give His life as a ransom for many,” Mark 10 verse 45. The secret of belong to the kingdom or rule of God lies in belonging to Him. Let’s look at Matthew 7:23. “And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” So if you embrace Jesus, you belong to the kingdom, you embrace the kingdom. If you reject Jesus, you reject the kingdom. So in teaching that the kingdom had arrived and come and was amongst the people, Jesus also taught that there was some violence associated with the arrival of that kingdom. Well it stands to reason: darkness and light are in conflict. Good and evil are in conflict. Now when the kingdom comes, it doesn’t just come as a force of good equal and opposite to the force of darkness, no. When the kingdom comes, it comes just as a light comes into this room. When light comes, darkness must go. You see, light is stronger than darkness. There’s no argument. The darkness doesn’t say, “Well I’m going to compete with you over this.” The darkness doesn’t just fight with the light and say, “I’m going to resist you.” No, when the light comes, the darkness goes. But it’s still a conflict image. An image of conflict. In Matthew’s gospel chapter 11 verses 11 and 12, in that same passage when Jesus sent the message back to John the Baptist saying, “Tell them what you see and hear,” He also went on to say, “Truly, truly I say to you, among those born of women, there has not arisen one greater than John the Baptist, but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. For from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.” Let’s look at these two verses in a little more detail very briefly. Jesus is praising John the Baptist. He is saying, “I tell you, out of all of the prophets and all of the people born of women, no one has arisen who is greater than John the Baptist.” Why is that? Well, because of his great ministry, and he was given the privilege of announcing the very arrival of Jesus and to prepare the way for Jesus. So this privilege was given to nobody else. All the other prophets who prophesied in the Old Testament prophesied from a distance. They announced the arrival of Christ a long, long way away. Moses prophesied about Him, Isaiah prophesied. But this one was given the privilege of being present when Jesus was present. It’s like the best man at a wedding. The bridegroom may have had many friends, but this one is privileged to be there in the presence of the bridegroom. And to be a great great one who prepares the way for Christ. And that’s exactly what John the Baptist’s privilege was. But then it says, “He who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Why? Because when Jesus came, there was a total transformation, a transition between Old Covenant and New Covenant. And the things that even John the Baptist knew and understood under Old Covenant experience is nothing by comparison to what the least of those within the kingdom of God experience under the New Covenant. Okay, then it goes on to say, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.” If you’re reading other versions, for example, the NIV, it says, “The kingdom of heaven forcefully advances and forceful people take hold of it.” And so you’ve got one verse or one verb actually, that is in the original that can be translated in two different ways. I like them both, frankly. One way of translating is that, “The kingdom of heaven is coming and it suffers violence.” If you suffer violence it means you allow violence. And so that translation suggests that when the kingdom comes, you must violently lay hold of it. That’s how the kingdom comes in your life. It doesn’t just come and invade you. You’re sitting there, saying, “Oh well, if it hits me, it hits me.” You have to rise up and take it by force. And the kingdom allows you to do that. The kingdom suffers violence and in fact that’s how you can take it. And if you don’t take it that way, you don’t take it at all. Now we understand the truth of that, don’t we? The promises of God don’t just come and hit us on the head. We have to lay hold of the promises, violently claim them, and at the same time, deal with the devil, push him back in the name of Jesus Christ and claim what is ours. The other way of translating it, the New International Version, says, “The kingdom itself is forcefully advancing.” Now don’t be concerned about these two different translations, the same verb, which has exactly the same form, in two different meanings. So it can be either, it’s just the word itself can be taken in either of these two ways. I like them both. Whenever I have this, I take them both. The NIV says, “The kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing,” which I like as a powerful image as well. It means when God’s kingdom comes, Satan’s kingdom must retreat. When God advances, the devil must run. And then it goes on to say, “And the violent take it by force.” So both thoughts come together then. When we rise up in the name of Jesus Christ and take the kingdom, we push Satan’s territory back, we deal with the devil, we break his power, and we move forward under the power and the blessing of God. So there is violence, but this isn’t physical violence, this is the hostility of the world to the kingdom. Now John had suffered and been in prison. That demonstrated the violence. Jesus was rejected and crucified. That demonstrates the violence. And we must expect hostility. Not just in the future, but in the present. But understand this: through that violence, victory comes. When Jesus was crucified, Satan was destroyed. And if there are any, we might say, apparent casualties of this spiritual war, know that they are more than conquerors, and an apparent casualty is actually a victory because we overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony.

Well that is the present kingdom or the present aspect of the kingdom. There is only one kingdom. The present aspect of the kingdom. The kingdom comes in partial form. There are signs pointing to its full presence. But there is coming a time in the future when the kingdom will come fully, finally; in the present form of the kingdom there is ambiguity. They were saying, “Is this the Christ? Could this possibly be the Christ?” “Of course He’s the Christ.” “How do you know? There’s no prophet arising from Galilee.” But all the arguments and discussions, it was an opportunity for people freely to choose Him and to acknowledge whether He is who He claimed to be. They were to put their faith and trust in Him. It was their choice. They had to submit to the kingdom of God. It was to do with their choice and the decision they made. For the time is coming when the kingdom will come and the King Himself will come, in such as a way as they won’t say, “Oh, could this possibly be the Christ?” I’ll tell you my friend, when the moon bows down and the sun bows down, you will know who He is. There won’t be any debates. There won’t be any panorama discussions on television as to, “Is this the One? What do you think?” There’ll be no interviews and people sharing their opinion. We’ll all bow the knee before the One who comes whose brightness of His face shall be brighter than the noonday sun. Jesus Himself taught that the form of the kingdom that He brought was not the final form of the kingdom. The kingdom was not yet. For example in Matthew 5 verses 1-10, many of the kingdom benefits are set in the future. In the Beatitudes, we’re going to spend time on that later; we see that the blessings that come of the kingdom, they are very often the blessings of the future. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” These things are blessings that are coming in the future. Our comfort, our inheritance, mercy, and so on. These things are coming in the future. Also in the prayer that Jesus taught us in Matthew 6 verse 10, He speaks both of the present and future. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. May Your kingdom come. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” His name is honored, His kingdom is present, His glory and authority is here. But we are still to pray, “May Your kingdom come,” meaning that the kingdom had not yet fully come, even in the life of Jesus at that time in that manifestation. But there is coming a day, a future day of reckoning, when the kingdom will come in great power, and in great authority, in total, final, full, and unambiguous form. We see glimpses of this everywhere in the New Testament. Matthew’s gospel, chapter 8 and verse 11, “And I say to you that many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” So there is a time coming, when the kingdom would come in its fullness. So Jesus throughout His ministry looked forward for that day. In Matthew’s gospel, chapter 13 and verses 42-43, He speaks of that day as being a Day of Judgment. “And we’ll cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” And so the whole thrust of Jesus’ kingdom teaching was get ready for the kingdom of God. There is coming a time when the kingdom will come in its fullness. It now is here, but it’s not in its final form. Now you must choose. Now you must sacrifice. Now you must carry your cross. But then in the glorious day which is to come, there will be reward and inheritance and fullness, righteousness and judgment. And so Jesus warns us to be ready and to be prepared.

Now throughout this program of study on God’s rule, we must keep in mind these two elements: the kingdom is both present now, and it’s not yet here in its fullness. We can experience God’s rule now, but we must also look forward to knowing it fully in the future. There is much for us now to experience. Blessings now, but still much, much more to come. And so this would mean, of course, that we must work to establishes God’s kingdom now, but we should work only knowing that it will not be fully established until some future date. In other words, we cannot force God’s kingdom to come and we cannot bring it into its full and final manifestation.

Now it seems, tragically, that too many believers focus on either the present aspect of the kingdom or the future. Some people are saying, let’s just take healing for example; this will be an example to show you exactly what I mean. Take the subject of healing; some people are so focused on the future kingdom, the future manifestation of the kingdom, that they say, “Well there’s hardly any healing now if at all.” Some even say that there is none. You have to wait until heaven before you get healed. And judging from the way some people preach and pray for the sick, that’s probably true. But then there are others who exaggerate in the other direction and say, “No, no, no, healing is now,” and so if you don’t get healed instantaneously through their prayers, then it’s your lack of faith, my friend. There’s something wrong with you. There’s sin in your life. As if there is this sort of “Open Sesame” approach, that God is duty bound immediately to bring the full manifestation of healing instantly. Now where I stand is I believe healing is for now, but it’s not automatic, and there are those who never get healed, which is a mystery. But we do know this: That healing points, not to healing in heaven, like you won’t ever get flu in heaven. You won’t get headaches in heaven. You don’t get sick in heaven. There’s no cancer in heaven. You won’t need that kind of healing. What heaven speaks about is the total redemption of the body, of which is healing is but a part. Healing is a pointer. When the Spirit touches your physical body and heals you of some sickness, it is only a little hint, an indication of the day coming when the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead shall quicken your whole mortal body and you shall be raised to eternal life, physically. So, healing is for now. Resurrection is for later. And so the one points to the other. If you overemphasize God’s kingdom now, you can forget the whole purpose of life on earth is to prepare you for a greater thing to come. Some people are so preoccupied with serving God on earth, thinking about God’s kingdom on earth, which leads them to the point where they lack hope and joy and fail to look for the coming kingdom. I’ll tell you where your attitude lies to this, is demonstrated, in how much you’re expecting Jesus. How much you’re looking forward to the Second Coming. If you want to put that day off, you’ve got an unbiblical emphasis on the kingdom of God. If you’re saying, “Well I don’t need to worry about that. I’ve got everything I need now,” then you are not focusing your attention on the coming King. But if you’re so miserable now and you can’t wait for Jesus to return to rescue you out of your hellhole, then you’re not living in the victory of the kingdom. Some people are so preoccupied with the Last Day, that they have not even established anything on this earth. Some are so earthly minded, that they don’t bother with the coming kingdom. But a true understanding and application of both means that we must embrace both the present and the future just as Jesus Christ did.

Let’s have a look at some of the general aspects of the kingdom that we find in the New Testament. And if we’re going to understand the kingdom correctly, we’re going to have to appreciate these four things. First of all, the kingdom itself belongs to God. It’s the kingdom of God. It’s an ongoing, sovereign activity of God. He’s in charge. He alone rules. It’s not a democratic kingdom. Hello? It’s not a rule of the people. It’s the rule of God. It’s a theocracy, not a democracy. A democratic government might be okay for human governments, but God’s government is established on who He is. He doesn’t have to be voted into power. His authority exists anyway. His right to rule exists. His mandate to rule exists within His own person. It’s not something that has to be given to Him. Neither is God’s kingdom an invitation simply to go about doing good and getting involved in social action. In other words, it’s not anything that is human based, or manmade. It’s not what man can do; it’s what God can do. When God’s kingdom comes in its fullness, man’s kingdoms are swept aside and God’s kingdom takes over. It’s not what we can produce. You see, the kingdom of God is not us building the Tower of Babel so that we can reach heaven. It’s heaven coming down to us. It’s more like Jacob’s ladder. It’s that ladder reaching down from heaven to earth. Heaven touches the earth. It’s not earth building up to heaven. This kingdom is God’s kingdom. It’s God’s initiative. It’s God’s activity. It’s God simply being who He is. The living God. The Bible contrasts the living God with the dead god of the idols. You know what a living God is? A living God is a God who acts, a God who speaks. Not the dumb, dead idols that needed to carried about on men’s shoulders, that have eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, lips that cannot speak, hands that cannot move; they have to be moved. That’s not our God. Our God is the living God and His kingdom is nothing more than God expressing that life that comes from Him. And without Him and without that life, His kingdom wouldn’t touch us. It’s God who acts in history and demands from us. Because it’s God’s kingdom, we cannot negotiate the terms. We can’t say, “I’ll tell you what. This is how Your kingdom shall operate.” No, we can’t dictate to God. God does what He wants to do, when He wants to do it, how He wants to do it, though whom He wants to do it without asking for your permission or waiting for our approval. God is the sovereign God.

Secondly, we know that the kingdom is dynamic and powerful. Nothing to do with God can be weak or ineffective. The kingdom isn’t some kind of tentative experiment, some temporary arrangement. It’s the permanent coming of the all-powerful King of kings to rule His people and to rout His enemies. I know we’re having a Bible study today, but can we shout Hallelujah? Now when Jesus speaks of the kingdom, He describes it in these terms as overcoming the strong man. Luke’s gospel chapter 11 verse 20-22. “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him and takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, he divides, and divides his spoil.” So here, Jesus is pictured as the stronger man who comes and overthrows Satan and overthrows the kingdom of darkness. So here we have the armed strong man coming with power and demonstration, coming with authority, overthrowing Satan’s power, overthrowing the demonic forces of the kingdom and establishing His kingdom, establishing His rule. This is the dynamic and powerful rule of God in your life. And as we bring this first session to a conclusion, let me remind you of that fact. We are studying the rule of God, but don’t let it just be a study in your mind. It is to be a submission in our hearts as we submit to the dynamic rule of Jesus Christ. That rule, which is stronger than anything else you and I will ever experience, stronger than anything that can ever be experienced, stronger than any problem you have right now or you will ever have. It is stronger to rescue you from the pit of hell, deliver you from every demonic bondage, set you free from every sin, set you free from death itself, raise you to life eternal, and enthrone you, along with Jesus Christ, on His very throne, ruling and reigning with Him throughout all eternity. That’s the kingdom of God. Amen! The next session, we’re going to pick it up exactly from here and carry on looking at the rule of God. God bless you until the next time.

I do hope that you’ve enjoyed this teaching on the kingdom of God today. And that you 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