Tuesday, September 18, 2012
What was Jesus' Message? Pt. 2
What was Jesus' message? If you remember from part one, it is contained in the book of Matthew. Here it is again.
Matthew 4:12-17 (KJV)
12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
As Jesus began His ministry He began preaching, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." In part one I discussed how repentance is at the center of everything that Jesus was trying to convey to His followers. But at the end of Jesus' statement we find the reason for our need of repentance. He informed us something about a kingdom and something about it being at hand. Let's look at one of these items today.
The kingdom. Jesus called it the kingdom of heaven. What does this mean exactly? The first thing that we need to understand is that Jesus, His disciples, and His original audience were Jews. Because of this Matthew wrote in a very Jewish way. They realized that the name of God was holy and not something that was to be spoken or written in a casual manner. You can see this when you read Scripture. In English we often see the following:
Psalm 8:1 (KJV)
1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
Notice how the first "LORD" is spelled in all capitals, while the second "Lord" is spelled with a capital "L" and then the small letters "o", "r", and "d". In the Hebrew the first "LORD" is actually God's name, spelled with four Hebrew letters. The second "Lord" is just that, the Hebrew word for "Lord". The name of God was not usually spoken or rewritten outright, but another word would be used in Its place. In the case of the "kingdom of heaven" it is likely that "heaven" was also used as a circumlocution, a way of talking or writing around the actual word. Likely, "heaven" stands for "God" or His name. We see "kingdom of God" more commonly written in the book of Luke, but they probably mean the same thing. So this kingdom that Jesus is speaking about is God's kingdom.
But what is the kingdom of God? A kingdom is a realm that is ruled by a sovereign, in this case God. But what would constitute the realm that God is sovereign over? As creator of the world, it could be argued that He is sovereign over everything. But as we look at the world today, we see a lot of evil that doesn't appear to be directly addressed by God, nor does there seem to be any physical entity that falls under the jurisdiction of God either. Because God is a spirit we can look to the spiritual. If we believe in God then it seems likely that His kingdom is spiritual and beyond our physical senses. Jesus says this in John.
John 18:36 (KJV)
36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Jesus is telling us that, as God, His kingdom is spiritual and not physical. Yet the word "now" implies that His kingdom will one day be physical. This agrees with Old Testament teaching that says that Messiah (God) will one day rule a kingdom from Jerusalem.
Zechariah 14:9 (KJV)
9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.
But for now there is only a spiritual kingdom of God.
So who are King Jesus' subjects? After all, you can't have a kingdom without subjects. This brings us back to Jesus' message of repentance. It is through repentance that we can be saved. By being born again and aligning one's life with God we become those subjects and a part of God's kingdom.
My next post will deal with what "at hand" means. Stay tuned.
Previous: Part 1
Next: Part 3