The mystery of the Kingdom

Series: Sword of the Spirit – Unit: The Rule of God
Lesson: The Kingdom – Topic 3: The Mystery of the Kingdom
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 our topic is the Rule of God, or the kingdom of God—God’s personal rule in your life. Now this kingdom comes with a call—a personal call for you to respond and surrender to the rule of Christ in your life. And in this session, we’re going to be talking about that call. What it means to respond to God in your life and personally to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord, and your Savior, and your King.

Hello and welcome to this session of the Sword of the Spirit series, The Rule of God. We’re looking at God’s rule. Remember it’s not rules that govern us, but God that governs us. It’s His kingdom. It’s the person of Jesus Christ that we submit to. And in our teaching right now, we are in the process of looking at what the kingdom of God is. And general aspects of the kingdom we find from the Bible. We discover that the kingdom, number one, belongs to God. It’s God’s kingdom. He initiates it. He rules. He governs. We looked at the fact that the kingdom is dynamic and powerful. God is the living God. So whatever He does, He does it with life and dynamism. We also see, number three, it’s established by Jesus. It’s He, Jesus, who occupies David’s throne. It’s that kingdom that shall never end. We see that it is, number four, the kingdom that brings salvation. The kingdom shows God’s kingdom rule reaching to save, and bless, to touch people’s lives. And so many different miracles take place in the kingdom of God—healings and deliverances—but forgiveness of sins is the most prominent miracle and the most prominent proclamation of the kingdom of God.

Now I want to deal with a topic called the Mystery of the Kingdom. We read about it in the parables. And in many ways, every aspect of the kingdom is a mystery. But I’m using the word the way the Bible uses it, not the way we use it in our common language. When we talk about mystery we talk about something that’s, we don’t understand. It’s mysterious. It’s hidden. It’s strange. It’s complex. It’s vague. We’re not sure about it. That’s not the word here. When we speak about mystery in the Bible, it means something very precise and technical. It means, that which was previously hidden, but is now being made manifest. It’s that which is previously disclosed, but now has been revealed. So when Jesus came, He came to bring the mystery of the kingdom. In other words, the revelation of the kingdom. Mystery is another word for revelation. But when He speaks about knowing the mysteries of the kingdom, He is talking about the specific revelation concerning the kingdom that was previously hidden in Old Testament times, but is now being revealed by Jesus’ teaching and the revelation of the New Testament. So for example, in the Old Testament, they understood that the king would come and establish his throne. That was the revelation of the kingdom in the Old Testament. But the mystery form of that, that which was not revealed specifically and clearly in the Old Testament, and is revealed specifically and clearly in Jesus was that the kingdom would come first of all in an ambiguous form. In other words, it wouldn’t come instantly, totally, and openly in the final form, but that in advance of the final form of the kingdom there would be another form—a mystery form, a new revelation concerning the kingdom that it would come first of all secretly, and it would not come outwardly with outward show or demonstration, certainly not in the final sense. And then the things that did show the kingdom were called signs. When you have a sign, you don’t have the full reality. You just have a pointer towards the full reality. So the kingdom coming, first of all, not in full and final form, is the mystery of the kingdom. Now in the gospels, Jesus reveals many of the mysteries of the kingdom through His teaching. Now in Mark’s gospel, chapter 4, when Jesus is about to expound the parable of the sower He says, “But when He was alone,” this is Mark, chapter 4 and verse 10. [complete reference is Mark 4:10-12] “But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked him about the parable. And he said to them ‘To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, the secret is revealed to you. But to those who are outside, all things are done in parables. So that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand.’” Now, what this is saying is that Jesus taught in parables, so that those who were hungry for the real revelation of the kingdom would come and say, “What does this mean?” He aroused their curiosity so that those who were hungry and humble of heart would come and hear the truth. Now in the parallel passage in Luke’s gospel, chapter 8, it speaks about the mysteries of the kingdom. So there’s the mystery of the kingdom, which is the kingdom has come in an incomplete, ambiguous form, but then later it’s coming in its full and final form. That’s the mystery of the kingdom, but there are many mysteries of the kingdom. Everything that Jesus came to reveal about the kingdom is the mysteries of the kingdom manifested into their lives and into our life, too, as we come and seriously seek Him.

We also see that the mystery of the kingdom speaks about a certain growth that will take place. If the mystery of the kingdom is Jesus coming first of all, quietly, speaking His word, and then leaving that word to work like a seed growing—and the fullness will be when He comes to bring that seed to complete fruition—what is happening in the meantime? The seed is growing. Growth is a key theme of the kingdom. The parable of the sower speaks about growth. The wheat and the tares—growth; the mustard seed speaks about growth. And the mustard seed is this small piece of seed, this tiny seed, the tiniest of all seed, which grows nevertheless into a big tree—a very big plant. And so this is speaking about the amazing growth that is taking place. The mystery of the kingdom speaks also about the hidden nature, the secret working of the kingdom. Like yeast leavening dough. It speaks about the kingdom of God acting like yeast. And yet the outstanding results of this yeast that works is exactly how the kingdom operates. God starts with something small and insignificant and it works in a hidden kind of way. And yet the results are powerful and staggering and earth-shattering, and life-changing and world, bring a world revolution. Now that’s the very opposite of worldly thinking and practice. If you’re going to do something significant, you have to do it big. And it’s always got to be outwardly strong. But no, the kingdom works secretly and the growth of the kingdom takes people by surprise. They didn’t know that it was working. And when Jesus Christ returns and people acknowledge the kingdom coming in its final form and they’ll see it’s been with them all this time and they didn’t give it any time or attention and they ignored it when the preachers preached and the churches witnessed to Jesus Christ. And things were happening in the city and the city was being moved by the power of God, they ignored it. Now they won’t be able to ignore it because it will come in that way. And also, mystery of the kingdom speaks about the great value of the kingdom, that which God values. It may be hidden but it’s revealed according to His will to the hungry of heart to those who want to know His truth. And so, in the parables of the treasure and in the parable of the pearl of incomparable value show the kingdom is to be valued. We also see in the mystery of the kingdom that there is a puzzling mixture. The parable of the dragnet and the tares show that the righteous and the unrighteous stay mixed up in the world until the end of time. That was a revolutionary concept. Because when the kingdom comes, as far as they were concerned, when the kingdom comes, the harvest would mean that the wheat and the tares would be separated and that there would be the righteous and the unrighteous and God would bring that judgment. But you see, it doesn’t happen instantaneously. It won’t happen like that until the end. In the meantime, the righteous and the unrighteous live side by side. The devil still is able to work in the world and wicked people still are able to flourish. When God’s kingdom comes in the mystery form it doesn’t mean that evil is automatically totally overthrown. But the time is coming when it will. And in fact, in the meantime God says you cannot pull up the tares because you will destroy the wheat. So God is the only one who can act as king and act as judge. And He alone can be trusted to distinguish correctly, and not to damage the righteous people by mistake.

We also see that the kingdom is international in its nature. The mystery form of the kingdom show that it was not just a kingdom coming to Israel but the way the kingdom works as God’s rule and reign over the hearts of people shows that God was wanting to touch the hearts of all people. The kingdom of God is not just for Jews, but for other people of other nations. We may get back to this passage sometime in the series. But in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 21 we have the parable of the vineyard. Where the vineyard owner planted it, and then he expected fruit from it and he sent his messengers to pick up the fruit and to get the gain, pick up the gain from the harvest and they beat them, and persecuted them, until finally he sent his son until those to whom he’d leased the vineyard killed him and said, “Now we’ll take the inheritance.” And Jesus says, “Won’t the owner of the vineyard come and over throw them completely. And in the same way, the kingdom is going to be taken away from you and given to a nation bearing its fruits.” This was spoken against the chief priests and the scribes and the Pharisees; those who were being rejected and who had indeed rejected the kingdom themselves. We also see that the mystery form of the kingdom demonstrates that it is an act of willing repentance and obedience to the will of God. That’s the key to it. It’s not that just when God comes in all His fullness in the second coming of Christ that every knee will bow. No. Now we bow by submitting. We make it our choice to do so. We respond in repentance and obedience. And even tax collectors and sinners who repent will get there before others if they fulfill the conditions. And so there are many, many strong warnings that come in the mystery form of the kingdom showing that if we accept God’s kingdom now, we’ll be rewarded in the future manifestation. If we reject God’s kingdom now then we have lost it. And these strong warnings, though they relate to the future and speak about the coming, the second coming of Jesus, nevertheless, the challenge touches our lives here and now. And so in this mystery form of the kingdom, we know there is opposition and persecution we must stand strong in and stand strong against those things. So that God’s kingdom will be established in our lives. And that will not be the case when the kingdom comes in its full and final form.

Now we need to look at other parts of the New Testament that describe the kingdom. We’re going to do this very briefly and the full teaching is there for you in your manual. But we’ve noticed that the theme of the kingdom of God is the dominant theme of Jesus’ teaching, especially in the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But also in the rest of the New Testament, we find that the kingdom is a central theme. Although the terms ‘kingdom of God’ or ‘kingdom of heaven’ are not often there. But the concepts that lie behind these terms are. The concept of God’s active, personal rule in Christ and freedom from rules and regulations, run right throughout the whole New Testament. When we think of phrases like ‘the lordship of Christ,’ that’s the kingdom. Time and time again, we think of the authority of Jesus Christ. That’s the kingdom. And so in the wider New Testament we hear the kingdom established. In the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus speaks much about the kingdom. Even in John’s gospel, the term kingdom doesn’t appear very, very much. But we do find out a great deal about the kingdom. We find out in John’s gospel, chapter 3 that without being born again you cannot see the kingdom. Without being born of water and the Spirit you cannot enter the kingdom. And the kingdom of God, in John’s gospel, chapter 18, we learn about it from the conversation that Jesus had with Pilate. Jesus makes it clear that the kingdom of God is not a political kingdom. He said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not from this world. Otherwise my children would fight. My disciples would fight now and prevent me from being arrested.” But no, the kingdom of God in this present form does not overwhelm; rather it testifies. In the book of Acts, we read about the kingdom. In the kingdom of God in the book of Acts, starts first of all in Acts chapter 1, and verse 3, it’s a very important passage because it shows us there that when Jesus was alive from the dead before He left to go back to heaven it says, verse 3 of Acts chapter 1, “To whom Je also presented himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” It was His conversation with them there. He was explaining to them about the kingdom of God. But they don’t talk in their preaching so much in so many terms about the kingdom of God. They don’t use that phrase a great deal. They, however, preach the gospel of the kingdom, which is the same gospel. And so what Jesus was saying was how the kingdom relates to life on earth after He left. That was Jesus’ teaching there in Acts chapter 1. And so we need to grasp that too. So that just because the term ‘kingdom’ doesn’t appear doesn’t mean to say the concept is missing. We find in Acts ‘the word of the Lord,’ the phrase ‘the word of the Lord,’ sums up preaching, which is basically the word of the kingdom. So we can say that God’s Word is His rule and He rules through His Word because when His Word is preached and people submit to the gospel, they’re also submitting to the kingdom. We have in Acts chapter 28 and verse 31 a summary statement, which shows that speaking about the kingdom is speaking about Jesus Christ. So when speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ it’s the kingdom that’s being taught. It says there, Acts 28, verse 31, “Preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ.” So when you’re speaking about Jesus, you’re speaking about the kingdom. When you’re preaching about Jesus, you’re preaching about the kingdom. In Paul’s letters, we find in Romans 14 verse 17, again another powerful statement, exactly the kind of teaching of Jesus. You see, Paul didn’t change Jesus’ teaching. Paul preached what Jesus preached. But there was a development of this preaching and teaching, but the same theme. “For the kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” showing that it’s not rules and regulations. 1 Corinthians 4 verse 20, “The kingdom is not just a matter of talk”. 1 Thessalonians 2 verse 12, it shows that the people who are members of the kingdom are those who are living a life worthy of God. They’ve submitted to the rule of God. So every statement in the New Testament, in which we are called to live a life of holiness, to live a life worthy of God, is a statement about the kingdom of God. It’s kingdom lifestyle. It’s the way in which we should live in obedience of God in His kingdom. We also read in Paul’s letters that the way we behave now builds up for us a future inheritance. So the basis of our moral behavior or the appeals to live a holy life—all these things—are to do with the kingdom. Have a look at this, in 1 Corinthians 6 verses 6 to 9. [correct reference is 1 Cor. 6:9-10] “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherent the kingdom of God?” You see so he’s saying, live a righteous life, because if you don’t live a righteous life you will not inherent the kingdom. “Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor coveters, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” So immorality and impurity will exclude us as believers from receiving our inheritance. If we live like the world, don’t think we are going to inherit; we are not going to inherit. And so we have so many of these ways in which the kingdom is taught in Paul’s letters. 1 Corinthians 15 verse 50 reminds us that the kingdom is not entered through human effort. He’s speaking about the resurrected body, which is not flesh and blood. “For flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.” And not only can flesh and blood can’t inherit the kingdom of heaven in terms of our body, but our fleshly activity doesn’t bring inheritance either. Colossians 1 verses 13 to 14 links the kingdom with salvation and forgiveness. The overthrow of evil powers in the gospels is the same as this. So in other words, if we receive the kingdom, we are receiving forgiveness and evil powers are being overthrown. 1 Corinthians 15 verses 24 to 28, describe Jesus Christ handing back the kingdom to the Father. For the main thrust of the passage is of the present rule of Jesus Christ. Now in the other letters in the New Testament, in the book of Hebrews, James, Peter and the others, they all speak of the kingdom in one way or another. Hebrews speaks of a future hope. James mentions inheritance. Peter speaks about entering the kingdom abundantly. The book of Revelation speaks of the kingdoms of this earth becoming the kingdoms of God. In other words, the vision of Revelation is all about the kingdom coming and the New Jerusalem is presented as the ultimate fulfillment of the Bible promises about the kingdom. And so we find, over and over again, in the New Testament from right the way through Matthew through Revelation, God is touching people’s lives by kingdom and He’s ruling and He’s reigning. And He is the Lord.

Now I want to touch briefly on the relationship between the kingdom and the church. There is a connection, clearly, between the kingdom and the church. But the two are not the same. The kingdom is not the church and the church is not the kingdom. The kingdom gives rise to the church. The church testifies of the kingdom. The church can never ever be the kingdom of God. The church can never ever be the rule of God. It’s the rule of God in our lives that makes us who we are as members of Christ’s body, the church. The church is the assembly of all people who have submitted to the rule, those who are alive on earth and also those who are in heaven who are still part of the church of Jesus Christ. The kingdom is the whole activity of Christ in the world—of God through Christ in the world. It’s His rule over all things, it’s His manifest rule in the world, and it is His final rule over the world through Jesus Christ. So, the church, although it is not the kingdom, is central to the kingdom purposes because the kingdom brings the church into being and the church itself demonstrates marvelous truths about the kingdom. The kingdom comes and we become the bride of Christ. The kingdom comes and we become the body of Christ. And time and time again, we read how the church of Jesus Christ highlights the activities of the kingdom. That if we get saved, and the church is the community of those who are saved, then the kingdom is the kingdom of salvation. If the people of God get healed, the kingdom of God is a kingdom of healing. So the church reflects the kingdom. The church reveals the kingdom. And so, when we live under the rule of God we demonstrate the glories of that rule. The church is called to preach the kingdom and to pray for the kingdom to come in glory. We should always direct our activity towards the kingdom, and yet we can never, ever, ever become the kingdom. Christ is the King. And He is as much King when the church is weak or when the church is strong. He never changes. And so ever member of the church, every expression of the church, needs to be living in the kingdom; to be ruled only by God and Christ.

Now the rest of this training course is taken up with examining exactly what that means. I’ve given you, in the last two sessions, an overview of the kingdom of God, Jesus’ teaching, the principals of the kingdom. Now it’s going to be, we are going to be talking about the implications of kingdom, our response to the kingdom. Then later on we are going to show the lifestyle of the kingdom and spend most of the course speaking from the Sermon on the Mount on the Beatitudes. But now I’d like you to turn to Section Two in the manual, and we are going to look at The Call of the Kingdom. This is the call for our response. After John the Baptist had been put into prison, Jesus went into Galilee and He was proclaiming the good news of God. Let’s read it. Mark chaper1 verses 14 to 15. “Now after John was put into prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel.’” Now this was much the same message as the message preached by John the Baptist in the beginning, but this suggests very strongly that when the kingdom comes it’s not something that we can ignore. It brings a call. It brings a challenge. And it’s not merely an announcement: “Oh the kingdom’s come. There it is. So, now we know. Now let’s get on with our business.” No, when the kingdom comes, everything must change. It’s a challenge, first of all, for people to respond and both Jesus and John the Baptist made it clear that the kingdom of God was such a significant event that a change had to take place in the way people thought. A change had to take place in the way they behaved. Now Jesus announced the kingdom in very simple language. He said, “The time has come”. That the age of God’s personal rule is beginning. He says, “You are called to make a radical and personal response to the presence of God’s kingdom.” And He said, “God requires you totally to surrender to God. And totally to submit to His rule.” This means, in Jesus’ language here, that you must repent and believe. Now there is such an appalling ignorance of what both these terms mean—especially repentance—that I’m going to spend a considerable time going through it with you. Repent and believe. Now, we have to get back to this, friends. God is calling the church of Jesus of Christ to repentance. In this move of God, God’s holiness is paramount. Now it’s nothing more than a restoration of what the kingdom means. And we have backslidden from this, even in our preaching and teaching. And many, many churches don’t preach repentance. Don’t even really preach faith. God has raised up a faith movement to bring us back to faith. And He’s also now raising up a repentance movement to call us back to repentance.

I do hope that you have 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