The central message of Jesus Christ was the message of “the Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven”. This message, when understood, is the most relevant message for the needs of humanity. It is a highly attractive message, and will produce the greatest results of any message one could give. This message must once again become the central theme of preachers and teachers in these last days.
When the message of the Kingdom of God is given correctly, the results will be dramatic, just as they were for our Lord and for the apostles of our Lord. For with the proclamation of the Kingdom comes the power of the Kingdom. Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 4:20 “for the Kingdom of God is not in word but in power“. Anyone who dares to produce theological tomes on the subject of the Kingdom of God without demonstrating something of the reality the power of the Kingdom has missed the mark and does not know as they ought to know. The Kingdom of God is not in word but in power.
John the Baptist Preached the Message of the Kingdom
“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1,2).
Jesus Preached the Message of the Kingdom
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17).
“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sicknesses and all kinds of diseases among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.” (Matthew 4:23,24).
Many other references could be given from the gospels demonstrating that this was in fact the principal message of Jesus Christ. Many of Jesus’ parables were about the Kingdom. He gave the secrets of the Kingdom to his apostles.
Paul preached the Kingdom
“And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.” (Acts 20:25).
Jesus called Men to preach the kingdom
“Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:60)
Jesus Predicted the Continued Preaching of ‘This Gospel of the Kingdom’ until His Second Coming
“And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14).
Not only do we have Jesus and Paul as examples in this matter of preaching the Kingdom. We have the assurance from Jesus’ own lips that this message of the kingdom should be preached ‘as a witness’ or ‘with demonstration’ to all the world. This is the main task we the church have.
What is the Kingdom of God?
Some view the Kingdom of God as an alternative term for “heaven”, but Jesus taught that it could be in our midst on earth, and come to us now through His ministry – for example – the ministry of casting out demons by the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28). When Jesus spoke of entering the Kingdom he was not merely saying “going to heaven when you die”. He was talking about entering into the Kingdom life here and now. This includes heaven later on, and whatever plans God may have for us on the new earth, but it is far more than that. The Kingdom of Heaven is not about “pie in the sky when you die”.
The Kingdom of God is the place where Jesus is King. It is a spiritual, invisible kingdom which has made its presence felt to a degree in the affairs of this earth, but only to a limited extent. It is not confined to a particular geographical location, nor to a particular religious organisation. The Kingdom is truly present in a place to the extent that Christ is honored as Lord and his will done there.
There is an opposing kingdom at work. Jesus spoke of Satan’s kingdom (Matthew 12:26). The Scripture declares that “the whole world lies under the sway of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Satan is called “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “the prince of the power of the air” and “the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Satan, operating through a vast hierarchical network of fallen angels, evil spirits or demons as they are variously known, exercises a stupendous influence on the hearts and lives of men, women, boys and girls. The existence of Satan’s kingdom accounts for the hatred, the wars, the stupidity and selfishness of mankind, the existence of false religions and philosophies and the presence of every kind of perversion and deception on the face of the earth. Satanic influence is very effective because it operates in the background, and is generally not openly displayed. It is almost always covered under another name or philosophy.
The kingdom of God is in perpetual conflict with the spiritual kingdom of Satan. These are the two spiritual kingdoms which dominate the affairs of mankind and influence the lives of multitudes. They are totally opposite in nature. There is no third kingdom. The kingdom of God only advances through the destruction of the works and influence of the devil.
What are the results of the Kingdom?
Paul said, “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17). That is to say, God’s kingdom in someone’s heart will produce a state of righteousness before God, and the peace and joy of God will be known by that person. If people only understood and believed this, then they would make every effort to welcome the Kingdom of God into their lives, instead of looking in all the wrong places for the happiness and fulfilment they desire. This comment applies to Christians as well as unbelievers.
When Philip the evangelist preached Christ in Samaria, “there was great joy in the city” (Acts 8:8). Today we need such a manifestation of the Kingdom of God in our cities. The message of the Kingdom of God applies not only at the individual level, but also at every corporate level. The key to it is the kind of faith that recognises and esteems Jesus Christ as His presence above all else. Such faith esteems the Word of Christ above all other authorities, influences or suggestions. The result in every community is the practice of justice, mercy, love, faithfulness, favor and blessing. These are exactly the things that people in the world long for. Because the church has largely failed to demonstrate and to preach these things of the Kingdom people have been willing to look for them in other directions. Satan has thus been able to capture the hearts and minds of men with all kinds of false movements and philosophies such as communism, islam and the New Age movement.
Divine Healing is a Sign of the Kingdom
When God made Adam and Eve, no sickness was present. Sickness is a breakdown in the created order. When the body is no longer in divine order, sickness is the result. However, when the Kingdom of God manifests in a person’s body, divine healing and health is the result. Every divine healing done through the power of the Holy Spirit is a manifestation of the Kingdom of God.
It is a matter of record that many, if not most, of the healings done by Jesus were done for those who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38). In reality, most sickness is caused by demons – either directly or indirectly. Because large portions of the church have been ineffective in dealing with demons, there has been a corresponding ineffectiveness in dealing with sickness in the name of Jesus. Sickness represents the kingdom of satan in a person’s body. When sickness is driven out in the name of Jesus, the Kingdom of God advances. These healings are done by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves in with his power when we really believe and operate in faith. This faith is the gift of God – it comes through the recognition of Jesus, the reality of God’s Kingdom, and through personal relationship with the Godhead.
Since physical healing is something that people can see in the natural realm, it is therefore also a sign of the Kingdom of God. It is a biblical tool for evangelism. Divine healing accompanied Jesus constantly as he preached and taught about the Kingdom. This was not only done as authentication of his Messiahship (Matthew 11:4-6), but also as a demonstration of the truth of the message of the Kingdom of God. Divine healings were also done because of the Lord’s compassion (Matthew 8:1-4), and His desire to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and to do the will of God in all things. All these considerations relate to the message of the Kingdom of God.
What is the Fruit of the Kingdom?
If the Kingdom of God means God’s effective rulership in things, then what is the fruit of the Kingdom? The fruit of God’s Kingdom includes every blessing man can enjoy. True justice in human affairs, love in human relationships, the absence of tormenting fear, as well as the manifestation of all of the fruit of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 are just some of the fruits. Spiritual revival is the result of a large scale penetration of the Kingdom message and power in a society.
In addition to these spiritual and social blessings, the penetration of God’s Kingdom will bring prosperity and success in natural affairs. Sin is extremely expensive to any people or nation. Just the use of drugs alone costs America more than 100 billion dollars per year. The cost of laziness, dishonesty in any society is beyond the power of any man to calculate in dollar terms. The penetration of the message of the kingdom progressively removes these factors. To the extent that the Kingdom manifests, people begin work in harmony with respect one for another. No one cheats or steals, or behaves foolishly. More people apply kingdom principles such as diligence, perseverance, faith and vision, resulting in greater prosperity and success.
All this is fine as long as people remain poor in spirit, thankful towards God and dependent upon God. The temptation to renounce the effective Lordship of the King and get into pride when all seems to be going well is well known in the history both of Israel and of many Christian nations. It always has serious consequences in the end. We are called to seek God when things are going well, as well as in times of trial.
Remove sin, and God’s blessing comes – even in ways that are unusual. God wants to bless families, individuals, churches and nations. Satan seeks to weaken all of the above, so that he can enslave, destroy, mock and torment. The good news is that God has not left us helpless against Satan and his powers. We have the Word of God himself, the power of His Spirit, and the authority of the name of Jesus. However, all of these must be understood, received and applied in our daily lives for us to reap the benefits.
Through the Casting out of Demons the Kingdom of God Advances
The gospels reveal that Jesus spent much time casting out demons. Some foolish theologians feel this is basically irrelevant to Christian ministry today, but in doing so, they reveal their spiritual ignorance. In the matter of casting out demons, God has hidden these things from the wise and learned but revealed them to babes (Luke 10:17-21). The things of the Kingdom are often missed by theologians with doctorate degrees, while “unschooled and ignorant” men, women, and even children not only know them, but also effectively apply them. Jesus said to his disciples who wanted to know who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, that unless they became as little children they would not even enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a very relevant word for many present-day leaders of Christian denominations to whom the significance of this ministry of deliverance is hidden, just as Jesus said it would be from the “wise and prudent”. They may have elaborate theological arguments to defend their positions of spiritual powerlessness. However, on the day of judgement we will see whose word will stand – theirs or the Lords. The Kingdom belongs to the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3).
The reality is that the church has been subjected to a demonic invasion which has robbed it of most of the blessings of the Kingdom. These went on for centuries, but now, in these last days before the return of Christ, God is restoring the knowledge of the truth as contained in the Scriptures so that he might have a bride that is worthy of His name.
The Kingdom of God is not the same as the Church. There are churches where Satan has a large measure of effective control. The will of God is not done in these churches. This is evidenced not only by false doctrine, but also by a lack of love and the presence of all kinds of relational and personal sin. The Kingdom of God message tells us to bow the knee to Jesus and get the sin out of our lives. The presence of sickness in so many Christians is again evidence that the message of the Kingdom of God concerning divine healing has not been preached and demonstrated as it ought to be. Sin has opened the door to demonic oppression, and unbelief has held the church in bondage. The lack of true anointing in many churches is another proof that the church and the Kingdom are not the same.
Repentance and Faith is the Proper Response to the Message of the Kingdom
When we truly see with the eyes of faith, and understand the message of the Kingdom, repentance is the natural response. A true recognition of Jesus as King and Lord leads to voluntary submission or deliberate rebellion. There is no third option.
Many of the things of the Kingdom of God can only be perceived by faith at this stage. Faith is a powerful law of the Kingdom of God. Only by faith do we make progress in the Kingdom of God. The principles and laws of the Kingdom are often contrary to natural earthly wisdom and it takes faith and moral courage to apply them – but they really do work.
Principles and Laws of the Kingdom
There is much that can be written about this subject. Pat Robertson has written an excellent book on this subject called “The Secret Kingdom”. Even this book can’t give a complete picture of what is important in God’s Kingdom. We could teach all our lives on this subject and still not exhaust it. After all, God’s kingdom is eternal and he would not want us to get bored. God is creative and marvellous – and so is His Kingdom.
One of the most interesting and controversial passages anywhere in the Bible comes straight out of the mouth of Jesus Christ, and is recorded for us in Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!‘”
Many are teaching that calling Jesus Lord guarantees a person a place in heaven, although Jesus here denies it. According to Jesus, many will call Him Lord, and even have supernatural signs of knowledge and power following their lives, who will not even enter heaven. What a sobering thought!
Some use this passage to condemn everyone in the 20th Century who believes in speaking in tongues, the gift of prophecy, the casting out of demons and miraculous healing being worked in the name of Jesus. Such people would see these practices as sure signs that a person had entered into apostacy, and was a deceiver of the people. I believe that this is a wrong conclusion to draw from the passage for many reasons – not least of all, that it goes beyond what is actually written.
If this was the correct application of that Scripture, then surely Peter, John, Paul and the other apostles were guilty! They did all these things – prophesying, casting out demons and performing wondrous signs in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:43; Acts 16:18). Nor can we say that only the apostles ever did these things, for Philip the deacon (not one of the twelve) preached the gospel with miraculous signs following (see Acts 8:5-8). The Corinthian believers had spiritual gifts and prophesied, and Paul encouraged them to do that! (1 Cor. 14:1; 1 Cor. 1:7). Jesus said that anyone believing in Him would do these things (John 14:12; Mark 16:17,18). Those verses say nothing of being anything other than a believer.
Since church history provides strong evidence that these gifts and operations continued even in the sub-apostolic period and afterward to a lesser extent, we really don’t have any basis – Scriptural or otherwise, for saying that the Words of Jesus changed their meaning after the Canon was put together. Not unless we are prepared to assert that partial knowledge has also passed away and that we see the Lord face to face (see 1 Cor. 13:8-13).