Discover the Kingdom of God or Heaven that Jesus came to establish is very different than the kingdom of this world. It is a Kingdom where the first will be last and the last will be first, where love and service are supreme and lordship disappears, where the Good News of the Gospel is this Kingdom that had already become a reality before Jesus had died on the cross. So much to understand as we become citizens of this Kingdom.
The Kingdom of this World and the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew uses “Kingdom of Heaven” to avoid the use of “God” since he was writing to Jews. The Jews at this time in their history did not use “God” since the 3rd commandment forbade the use of the name in vain. Mark, Luke and John use “Kingdom of God.” These are equivalent concepts for all practical purposes. John the Baptist was the first to announce the arrival of this new Kingdom. Matthew 3:2 ESV “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (John the Baptist) Repent means to change your mind. After Jesus was baptized, he announced: “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good Matthew 4:17 NLT From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” In Matthew 5-7 Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:1-3 ESV Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In verses 3 to 12 of Matthew 5 Jesus pointedly describes the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven: They covet the heart of God. They mourn for the wickedness and suffering on earth. They are humble. They thirst for justice and mercy. They are merciful. They have pure motives. They work for peace. They are persecuted for their allegiance to God. In the prayer He taught his disciples Jesus prayed for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven as follows. Matthew 6:10 ESV Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Our witness is to be that the Kingdom has arrived. Once we understand we will want to be part of this revolutionary new way. We will also want to share the news with others. Notice this accomplished before the passion of the Christ. The gospel is: Your sins are forgiven, God loves you, God wants to heal you. Matthew 10:7 ESV And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Mark 1:15 NLT News!” Luke 8:1-3 NLT Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, 2 along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; 3 Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. Luke 4:43-44 Jesus says he must preach the good news of the Kingdom Luke 9:6 NLT So they began their circuit of the villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick. He sends the disciples out to preach the Good News to the people and he has not died yet. So what were they sharing? They were not describing the good news as we do today for sure. The gospel of the Kingdom if Heaven is: Your sins are forgiven, God loves you, God wants to heal you. Jesus was insistent that the Kingdom of Heaven was new and different to the understanding of the Law and the Prophets. Luke 16:16 NLT “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the good news of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.” On the mountain of transfiguration Peter wants to honour Moses (Law) and Elijah (Prophets) but the voice from heaven commands attention to Jesus and Moses and Elijah vanish. Matthew 17:5-8 NLT But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” 6 The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. 7 Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.The kingdom of Heaven is entered by childlike trust or faith. Matthew 19:14 ESV But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Childlike trust is innocent faith, free from cynicism or doubt, eager to participate and share in the life around them. It is helpful to list the characteristics of these two different kingdoms.
The Kingdom of this World (Instituted when Adam and Even sinned.)
Reward and punishment are dominant motivators.
Order is achieved by rules.
Rules are enforced by violence.
The strong dominate the weak. (Sexism, Racism, Classism, Affluent, Professions, Religion)
Competition is seen as an essential, valuable part of life.
Beauty, Strength and Genius are the most admired phenomena. (Absalom, Samson, Solomon)
God is worshipped as the strongest, smartest, and everywhere present being in the universe. (Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent)
God is worshiped in specific places and at given times with sacred rituals and traditions. (Sanctuary, Jerusalem Temple, Church.)
Salvation depends on man’s actions (Leviticus 26). Remorse, repentance, ask Jesus to control you, (belief in God), reform your life (living by the Spirit).
The Kingdom of Heaven (Preached by John the Baptist and Jesus before the Cross)
Love and service are dominant motivators. (John 3:16-17; Matthew 20:28; Luke 12:37)
Order is achieved by love and service for each other. (1 John 4:7-21)
Love is propagated by loving each other. (John 13:34-35). Not by talking about love!
The strong care for the weak. (Luke 15: Shepherd, woman, father.)
Community is the essence of relationship. (Matthew 20:16; Luke 22:24-27)
Love, and unselfishness are the most admired qualities in the Kingdom of Heaven. (1 Corinthians 13:4-13)
God is worshipped as the source of love and service in the universe. (Revelation 5:9-10)
God is worshiped in truth and in Spirit. (John 4:19-21) There is no temple in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:22).
Salvation is all of God and has been achieved for every person (Romans 5:15-19). The life, death and resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the attitude of God. If one does not resist God (John 5:37- 39, 43)—the Spirit will accomplish a righteousness in us beyond our most daring dreams (Matthew 6:33).
The Kingdom of Heaven lasts forever.
Daniel 2:44 ESV And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
Daniel 7:27 ESV And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’
Relating to Social Issues
How does a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven relate to sexism, racism, rampant capitalism, and many more? Jesus was opposed to slavery with every fibre of his being but never spoke out overtly against slavery or the violence of Rome and the Sanhedrin. He trusted instead to the influence of those who grasped the characteristics of his kingdom. Can you believe it took 1800 years to finally deal with slavery in the Christian world and we still have not dealt with sexism and racism.
We are not expected to be passive but non-violent. We can speak out about injustice and unkindness but let Caesar be Caesar in matters of politics and policy. Gandhi and King are examples of objecting to unfair policy in non-violent ways.