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Kingdom of God

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After John the Baptist was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, “The time has come,” He said. “The Kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!” after He returned from Jerusalem.  Later, after He had left Nazareth, He went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali—to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah:  “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

However, it is interesting to see and note that He did not begin His preaching ministry in Galilee with the famous John 3.16-18, which He told Nicodemus when Nicodemus visited Him alone at night whilst He was still in Jerusalem attending the first of the three Passovers that happened during the time of His public ministry.  The other two Passovers were the one a year later about the time of the feeding of the 5,000 and the Passover before His crucifixion two years later.  As such, the often preached John 3.16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” did not form the public message of Jesus as He began to preach.

And while we are in Jerusalem, observe that from His first appearance at the temple in John 2.14 He made it amply clear who He was and by what authority He was and would be doing and saying what He would do and say.  For He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here!  How dare you turn My Father’s house into a market!”

From the beginning as He launched forth from His Father’s house, He made it clear who He is – the Son of God – and began doing signs and miracles. As such, the Son of God came first to clean His Father’s house and then when He began to preach publicly, He announced the impending arrival of the kingdom of His Father and His God – the Kingdom of God.  There was no mention of salvation in the message of Mark 1.15, but merely a command to repent and believe the good news… not bad news but good news, which is, “The Kingdom of God is near.”

It was not until later, after He had gone back to Nazareth and moved to Capernaum, did He take up John’s message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” See that Jesus never said that the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven is good news.  Rather, it was the nearness of the Kingdom of God that is good news.  Why?

What is the difference – that one kingdom’s nearness is good news so repent and believe, but the other’s nearness demands only repentance?  There is no good news about the Kingdom of Heaven to believe in… just repentance because of its nearness.  The key difference is that the Kingdom of God is the kingdom of power, joy, peace and righteousness, and not just of eating, drinking and talking, and is within those who are repentant and believe and will manifest amongst them as they put to practice the words that constitute the framework of the society that is the Kingdom of God… the very words that have come out of the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself.

Salvation, as Paul has revealed it, is by grace through faith.  However, see that salvation, which comes through Him, was not what Jesus was preaching to the Jews, but rather, He was calling them to repentance for two reasons.  Firstly, because of the good news that the Kingdom of God is near and then because the Kingdom of Heaven is also near.

Whilst the Kingdom of God has been likened to a man sowing seeds; a growing seed; a mustard seed; and yeast – four parables it shares with the Kingdom of Heaven – it differs from the Kingdom of Heaven… for in none of the parables of the Kingdom of God is there rejection.  The parable of the sower speaks of increase, the growing seed speaks of increase, the mustard seed speaks of increase, and the yeast speaks of increase.  However, about the Kingdom of Heaven, the parable of the wheat and tares speaks of the rejection of those that are tares to be thrown away.  The parable of the pearl speaks of rejection of the other pearls that did not make the grade.  And the parable of the net speaks of the rejection again of the bad fish that are thrown away.

Now if you look at the two kingdoms through what is revealed by the parables that speak about them, the Kingdom of God is by far the better kingdom to be in, for there is no rejection but only multiplication of what was sown; growth of what was planted; and the spread of what seemed small and insignificant to something that is significant.

Even though the four parables of the Kingdom of God are shared with the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, the Kingdom of Heaven is like that too… however, the parables that are uniquely about the Kingdom of Heaven speak of differentiation between the good seed and the bad seed, the pearl of great worth and the pearls of lesser worth, and the good fish and the bad fish.  There is bad news in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is why all Jesus could say about it when He also preached about it was to repeat the words of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Not only is there rejection in those parables, there is specifically death in the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven, for both the sons of the devil and of the kingdom are to be harvested, one for destruction and the other for storage in barns.  And of course the one parable that unmistakably warns that death is involved in the workings of the Kingdom of Heaven is the parable of the net:  “Once again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.  Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.” Fish thrown in baskets die; fish caught in nets die.  Whether the fish are good or bad, they both die.  Whether you are the wicked or the righteous in the Kingdom of Heaven, you all die… the righteous to await the resurrection to life and the wicked to eternal damnation… but you still have to die if you belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.

And in the second last parable of the Kingdom of Heaven where Jesus said, “At that time the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom,” this parable like the next one about the servants and the talents specifically speaks of the condition of the kingdom at the time of the end – rejection.  The five foolish virgins were rejected and the five wise ones were accepted.  However, have you not read this: “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep”? See that there is no difference between the wise and the foolish, for as they waited they all fell asleep.  That is, there is nothing they could do to bring the bridegroom to them, but they could only wait all dressed up doing nothing but waiting until they fell asleep.  The parable speaks of inactivity or rather, impotency to change their situation during this period of time, and so like virgins waiting for the bridegroom who fall asleep to be awakened, there is no change.  That is why there is no good news about the Kingdom of Heaven for those who have chosen to be part of that kingdom.

Repentance prepares a person for the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is a repentance that brings no change during the course of their life until they die when they find out if they will be accepted or rejected, except that those who are wise brought along some extra oil to keep their lamps burning… that is, they carried with them more faith in the word of God, but their faith in the word does not make them any different from the foolish ones who did not bring the extra oil – the extra faith, the extra knowledge of His word and His life.  All fall asleep and awake unchanged.  A life unchanged by repentance to await the common fate of all men – to die once and then judgment to find out if you are accepted or rejected.  For it is not the Kingdom of Heaven that is the kingdom of power, but the Kingdom of God, as Paul has clearly revealed to us when he shared the revelations he received from the Lord in his letters. And when Jesus was living the good news of His resurrection amongst His disciples, it was not the Kingdom of Heaven that He taught them, but the Kingdom of God, as Luke recorded for us:  He (Jesus) appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the Kingdom of God.

You see, elect, the good news is associated only with the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Heaven.  Even the Resurrection Himself taught the disciples about the Kingdom of God only, after His resurrection.

Those of you who have been listening and know your word will now be thinking, “But you have left out the parable of the ten minas of Luke 19.12-27,” which surely is a parable about the Kingdom of God, for Jesus spoke that parable while He was in Jericho because the people thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear at once. Indeed, you are correct.  However, that parable does not liken the Kingdom of God to anything as do all the other parables.  Indeed, it is not a parable about what the Kingdom of God is like, but rather, about what the Kingdom of God is.

The Kingdom of God is not like a man of noble birth, but rather, the Kingdom of God is “A man of noble birth…” And yes, there is rejection from the Kingdom of God and even death according to this parable, but the rejection is that of a servant who is lazy, not of a subject, and the death is for the enemies of the King.  As such, that good news that is the Kingdom of God remains and continues, for the Kingdom of God has no rejection or death for those who are in it who are not lazy and in particular for those who work for the return of their King.

The King of the Kingdom of Heaven is not returning, but the King of the Kingdom of God is.  Those who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven must leave to join their King through death if they have the required righteousness to be accepted, but in the meantime as they wait for death, there is no change in their lives… like a person who is asleep does not change.

The citizens of the Kingdom of God are awaiting for their King to return.  As such, death is optional.  In fact, death can have no part in the Kingdom of God.  For the mustard seed does not die, but continues to grow.  If only you understand that Jesus offered it to Martha and to us by His word, “…and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?” “How can this be?” you ask.  This would seem impossible to all who have not entered the Kingdom of God to see it, to live it and to have it not only in them, but amongst them.  When you have healed the sick, driven out demons, walked on water, multiplied the food, done the impossible and experienced the power of the Kingdom of God… then and only then will you be able to see and understand that whoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die, if only they choose to believe, for after all, it makes sense… why die when your King is coming back?

Although the Lord clearly told us what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like at the time of the end just before He arrives on clouds of glory, as He was answering the questions of Peter, James, John and Andrew when they were sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, He did not tell us what the Kingdom of God would be like at that time… or did He?  Read and see, listen and hear, elect… this is what the Kingdom of God is like at the time near the end, which is now:  “The Bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the Bridegroom!  Come out to meet Him!’ “ Who was it who gave the cry to wake up those who are asleep, who stayed awake watching and waiting, and in their waiting kept working so that they would not fall asleep?  When the Kingdom of Heaven is asleep, the Kingdom of God is working, awake, watching and waiting.  So what is the Kingdom of God like at that time?  It is the faithful and wise servant whom the Master has put in charge of the servants of His household who has gone out into the night, into the darkness, to find what has delayed the Master’s, the Bridegroom’s, arrival, and having found out, assisted the Master (the Bridegroom) and then ran ahead back to the house to wake the household so that the Master is greeted in a manner worthy of Him.

So then it is not a question of whether you believe so that you may be saved, for that was never, never offered by the Lord.  Never was it preached by the Lord to Jews or gentiles, “Believe and be saved,” but rather, it was and always will be, “Repent and believe the good news, for the Kingdom of God is near.” But if you will not believe in the kingdom of power, joy, peace and righteousness in the Holy Spirit, then at least, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” And it remains to this day that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels in Heaven at the repentance of a sinner, not the faith of a believer.  Even the one who led us astray with his judgments and recommendations finally realised, as he wrote to the Jews:  You believe that there is one God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that—and shudder. No, faith does not cause rejoicing in Heaven in the presence of the angels, for who is God that we should not believe?  And who is God that He should need us to believe?  Rather, the truth is who are we that we should not repent?

So make no mistake, elect, know the kingdom you belong to so that when the rebellion manifests you will not be deceived, not even by the false prophet himself or his kind.  And prepare yourself for the work of protecting those who have no power to protect themselves until our King comes.

For it is “…repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His Name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” It is not and never was, “Believe and be saved,” but rather, “Repent…” before anything else is done or spoken.  It is always, “Repent…” first, last and always, for that is what God waits for patiently, and if He has waited patiently, then be sure He will rejoice when He receives what He has waited for.

Repent and you will bless God and give Him rest.

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