“Thy Kingdom Come” Part I

"Thy Kingdom Come". (Part 1)

"OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN"


CHAPTER 4 – OUTLINE

SUBJECT: Pray This Way – "Thy Kingdom Come". (Part 1)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 6:9-13

TEXT: "Let Your Kingdom come". (Matthew 6:10)

INTRODUCTION:

"To grasp what is meant by the Kingdom of God is to come very close to the heart of the Bible's gospel of salvation." (John Bright)

PROPOSITION:

Before we can appreciate Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom of God, we must spend considerable time studying the development of the idea in the Old Testament.

I. Misinterpretation of the 'Kingdom of God'

A. Development of the Messianic Concept

1. Formulation of Messianic Concept

2. Prophetic Development of Messianic Concept (8th century prophets)

3. Exilic Development of Messianic Concept

4. Post-Exilic Development of Messianic Concept

B. Development of Covenant Concept

1. Israel's Election

2. Israel's Covenant Obligation

3. Israel's Abuse of Covenant

4. Israel's Rejection by God

CONCLUSION:

Herein lies the misinterpretation of the 'Kingdom of God' – identifying the coming Messiah as a great son of David, and assuming that the Kingdom of Israel is the Kingdom of God. It was with these two false conceptions that Jesus had to deal in His teachings regarding the Kingdom of God.

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CHAPTER 4 – OUTLINE

SUBJECT: Pray This Way – "Thy Kingdom Come". (Part 1)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 6:9-13

TEXT: "Let Your Kingdom come." (Matthew 6:10)

INTRODUCTION:

Says Barclay: "The phrase 'Thy Kingdom of God' is characteristic of the whole New Testament. There is no phrase which is used oftener in prayer and in preaching and in Christian literature. It is, therefore, of primary importance that we should be clear as to what it means." (Barclay's Matthew; v. 1; p. 210)

Mark's Gospel begins with the significant words: "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying: 'The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.'" (1: 14-15) Jesus often spoke of the Kingdom of God and spoke of it as being of paramount importance. And yet Jesus merely assumed that all who heard the phrase would understand it, as indeed the Jews did. However, to modern man, the phrase has little meaning.

The importance of understanding this phrase cannot be emphasized enough. Indeed, as John Bright has pointed out, "To grasp what is meant by the Kingdom of God is to come very close to the heart of the Bible's gospel of salvation." (The Kingdom of God; p.7)

One cannot appreciate the phrase – The Kingdom of God – as it is used in the New Testament without some understanding of the Old Testament history behind this concept. In fact, it is this concept – The Kingdom of God – which gives an overall unity to the Bible. It is this concept, with all of its development that ties the Old and the New Testaments together.

PROPOSITION:

In this message we will seek to trace the development of the concept through the Old Testament, and show how the idea of the 'Kingdom of God' was misinterpreted. Before we can appreciate Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom of God, we must spend considerable time studying the development of the idea in the Old Testament. To appreciate its proper interpretation, we must first seek how it was improperly interpreted in the Old Testament.

I. Misinterpretation of the 'Kingdom of God'

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To understand how the idea of the 'Kingdom of God' was often misinterpreted in the Old Testament times, we must trace the development of the Messianic concept, and we must also note the development of the Covenant concept.

A. Development of the Messianic Concept

1. Formulation of Messianic Concept.

The formulation of the Messianic concept was wrought about through the wistful longings of the Israelite people during the dark days of their nation's decline. Israel wistfulling longed for a king who would reign like King David. David was Israel's greatest king and it was David who reigned during the Golden Age of Israel's history. David was idolized as the ideal king who gave Israel military, political, material, and spiritual success. Ever after David, the people of Israel looked back upon his age as the ideal age and upon David as the ideal King.

R.V.G. Tasker well summarizes the early beginnings of the Messianic idea. "At first after the establishment of the monarchy, because Utopia is usually fashioned after the form of government familiar to the dreamer, it was thought that the Kingdom when it came would be inaugurated by an ideal king born of the lineage of King David, who would be the visible representative on earth of God Himself, God's anointed one, or 'Christ,' who would always seek to do God's will, ruling in no self-seeking spirit, but solely for God's glory. So the coming of the Kingdom is usually associated in the days before the exile with the coming of a Messiah, a son of David, a Christ." (The Nature and Purpose of the Gospels; p. 63)

2. Prophetic Development of Messianic Concept (8th century prophets)

At the time that the great 8th century B.C. prophets (Amos, Micah, and Isaiah) spoke, Israel had descended to a level of complacency and indulgence. Society was sick with many diseases – social injustice, personal indulgence, religious corruption, political violence. Religious ceremony was a substitute for sound, ethical practice. There was a naive confidence that God was for Israel and therefore there was no reason to be alarmed.

It was the prophetic duty to shake the people out of their complacency and to warn them of God's justice and judgment. A few heeded; most didn't. It was the prophets' thankless job to tell Israel that God's judgment would be severe on the unrepentant nation, and that Israel's enemies would be God's instruments for that punishment! God's

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purpose would not be frustrated however, for there would always be a purified remnant through which God would work out His purposes.

Because the period of the eighth century (B.C.) prophets was a period of national decline accompanied with the decay of the monarchy (which up to this time had been the source of inspiration for the Messianic concept), "It was very natural that, when these prophets painted their word- pictures of the Kingdom of God, less emphasis should be given by them to the king of the house of David who should inaugurate it, and that the description of that blessed Messianic age should be given in more general terms." (Ibid; p. 66)

The description of the Messianic Age was given in more general terms mainly because there was a lack of confidence in the possibility of a human agent having the ability to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. In this uncertain time, when the foundation of the monarchy was quaking and cracking, there was the feeling that no son of David could establish the Kingdom of God, but that only God Himself could bring salvation and deliverance. During this eighth century the 'Kingdom of God' became less and less associated with the monarchy and with a human agent, and was described more and more in general terms with God Himself as the agent for its establishment. As Tasker says, "The idea of a king, the son of the house of David, falls more and more into the background." (Ibid; p. 66)

3. Exilic Development of Messianic Concept.

During the period of the exile the idea of a coming Kingdom underwent the most profound changes. The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the exile of the majority population, and the resultant consequence of no longer being able to worship according to the old ways, all were happenings which caused a radical re-thinking of Messianic idea. As Tasker says, "It was obvious that the old narrow Messianic hopes of an earthly king reigning at Jerusalem had to be modified under the momentous changes, which had taken place in the national life … But with the exile in Babylon, not only did the cultus of the Temple services cease, thereby opening the way for the emphasis laid by Jeremiah and Ezekiel upon personal religion, but the monarchy ceased as well … The more such prophets stressed their teaching of the new covenant, in which God dealt immediately and directly with each individual soul without any mediator, the more clear it became that the Kingdom of God could not be inaugurated by any being who in the least resembled an earthly king, even the great King David; but that it would only come by the direct intervention of God." (Ibid; pgs. 66, 67, 68)

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4. Post-Exilic Development of Messianic Concept.

In the early post-exilic period, the Jews realized that the Kingdom of God could not be inaugurated or established by a human being, but that God Himself or some mysterious divine being appointed by God could only establish the Kingdom of God. In the book of Daniel, the description of a son of man is given. This mysterious son of man is given. This one is described as coming on the clouds of heaven to receive the kingdom: "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14) It was this title – Son of Man – which Jesus preferred more than any other Messianic title. It was the term used to designate the Divine being who would inaugurate God's Kingdom.

In later post-exilic times – the period just before Christ came to earth – laws were codified (arranged in systematic collections) and religion became more legal, formal, and rigid than ever before. "The old idea of the Messiah as an earthly king who would slay his enemies, not only lingered, but became again the most popular one … No longer were the prophets but the scribes of the Pharisees the religious teachers of the multitude; and they were laying upon men's shoulders burdens too great to be borne." (Ibid; p. 71)

We have endeavored thus far to gain a better appreciation of the Messianic concept as it developed throughout the Old Testament history of the Israelite people. One is justified in carefully tracing that development when one realizes that much of Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom was built off of Old Testament concepts. To understand what the Jews believed about the Messiah and about the Kingdom of God, is to better appreciate Jesus' teachings regarding the Kingdom, for Jesus was a Jew and He spoke in Jewish categories, assuming that His Jewish hearers had an understanding of popular Jewish concepts. What has been said, is for the purpose of supplying basic and popular Old Testament concepts which will aid us in developing a proper understanding of the New Testament idea of 'The Kingdom of God'.

Before we can discuss the New Testament idea of 'The Kingdom of God', we must further lay the foundation. To better prepare us for a study of the New Testament phrase 'Thy Kingdom Come', we will look at one other Old Testament concept – The Covenant.

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B. Development of Covenant Concept

1. Israel's Election.

At the very heart of Jewish faith was the belief that Israel was God's chosen people. "The Bible story traces this history of election back to Abraham, but it was in the Exodus events that Israel saw her real beginnings as a people. The memory of the Exodus towered over the national consciousness for all time to come." (The Kingdom of God; p. 27) God elected Israel as His special people through whom He sought to accomplish His purposes in history. "And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians." (Exodus 6:7) The writer of Deuteronomy says to Israel: "For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 7:6)

2. Israel's Covenant Obligation.

God made a covenant with Israel. Israel was chosen by God from all the nations of the earth as God's special instrument through which He would work out His purposes. However, it is important to note that Israel was not chosen on the basis of her own merit or on the basis of any inherent worth that she possessed. God's covenant relationship with God was an act of God's grace and love and was not made with Israel because she was any better than any other nation.

Israel's Exodus from Egypt was the outstanding event of God's grace and favor by which Israel became solidified as God's chosen people. It was this great historical act of mercy which was meant to constantly remind Israel of God's loving kindness.

God's covenant with Israel was a bilateral contract – not between equals – but nevertheless a contract involving mutual obligations. God promised to deliver Israel from her enemies and to preserve her as His special instrument, if Israel would simply pledge loyalty and show gratitude to its God.

Israel enjoyed an unprecedented privilege – the honor of being God's chosen people and of enjoying God's protection and defense. However, Israel's covenant with God assumed a major obligation – Obedience and Gratitude.

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3. Israel's Abuse of Covenant.

What was the main failure of Israel? Israel failed because of her preoccupation with her special election combined with an accompanying disregard for her covenant obligations. "In short, the whole notion of covenant and election had been made a mechanical thing, the deeply moral note inherent in it blurred and obscured. It had been forgotten that the covenant was a bilateral obligation, requiring of its people the worship of Yahweh alone and the strictest obedience to his righteous law in all human relationships. Or if the obligation was remembered at all, it was imagined that lavish sacrifice and loyal support of the shrines discharged it … And religion was accorded an altogether pagan function: to coerce the favor of God by the sedulous manipulation of the ritual so that protection and material benefit might be secured for individual and nation." (Kingdom of God; p. 64)

Israel was substituting lavish sacrifices for moral rectitude and justice. No amount of religious ceremony can take the place of justice and righteousness.

21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; 
I cannot stand your assemblies. 
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, 
I will not accept them. 
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, [a] 
I will have no regard for them. 
23 A way with the noise of your songs! 
I will not listen to the music of your harps. 
24 But let justice roll on like a river, 
righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:21-24)

Israel failed because she failed to be guided by her covenant obligations – brotherly love, mercy, justice, humility, and gratitude. No amount of religious ceremony could substitute for these qualities.

6 With what shall I come before the LORD 
and bow down before the exalted God? 
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, 
with calves a year old? 
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, 
with ten thousand rivers of oil? 
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, 
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

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8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. 
And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)

Not even the prophetic challenge could crack Israel's naive and false confidence in her special election. Israel failed to realize that her covenant relationship was not automatic and mechanical but that it was bilateral and moral. Israel failed to realize that her special election involved moral imperatives. Israel's election was for responsibility. Therefore, to flaunt these responsibilities brings special judgment. Said God to Israel: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:2)

4. Israel's Rejection by God.

The exile proved to Israel that her covenant with God had moral stipulations and requirements, which, if flaunted or disregarded brought their judgment and punishment. God's rejection of the Israelite state taught the Jews that the Kingdom of Israel was not identical with the Kingdom of God. How shocking was God's prediction of Israel's destruction: "Behold the eyes of Lord Yahweh are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth." (Amos 9:8 a; Bright)

God's rejection of Israel by God is not final or complete, for God will always have a purged remnant through which He will accomplish His purposes. As the pages of Old Testament history pass over into New Testament reality, we learn that the Church of Christ – the New Israel – becomes that cleansed remnant through which God works His redemptive purposes.

CONCLUSION:

We have traced the Messianic concept through the main periods of Old Testament history. The Messianic concept took on various forms with the ebb and flow of historical events. We briefly summarize those various forms: (a) After the formation of the monarchy and the ascendency of David to the throne of Israel, Israel's glory declined and her territory became the battleground for sectional strife. During these days of darkness and decline, Israel's hope of a Messiah was described in terms of a great son of David. (b) Because the monarchies was cracking at its very foundation, and because Israel's kings were corrupt, the coming Kingdom was described in more general terms with less emphasis upon the coming Messiah as a great son of David. (c)

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During the exile, the monarchy was destroyed and confidence in a human agent as the establisher of the Kingdom was shattered. If the Kingdom of God was to ever be fully realized, God Himself would have to be the Agent and Inaugurator. (d) In the early post-exilic period it was thought that God would appoint some mysterious being – the son of man as Daniel called him – who would establish the kingdom. (e) During the time just before Christ came on the scene of history, the Messianic concept had relapsed into the old idea of the Messiah as an earthly king who would slay his enemies. It was this concept of the Messiah that was popular when Jesus came forth into Galilee preaching about the Kingdom.

We have also traced the development of the covenant concept. (a) The Jews believed that they were the chosen people of God. They were elected by God. (b) Israel's covenant with God involved obligations as well as privileges. (c) Israel's failure was her naive preoccupation with election at the expense of forgetting her covenant obligations. (d) God's rejection of Israel proved to Israel that she was not the true Kingdom of God.

Herein lies the misinterpretation of the 'Kingdom of God' – identifying the coming Messiah as a great son of David, and assuming that the Kingdom of Israel is the Kingdom of God. The former mistake was corrected at times during Israel's history but was continuing to persist as the New Testament narrative was begun. The latter mistake was corrected by the exile but the rudiments of this false conception were still existent in the New Testament. It was with these two false conceptions that Jesus had to deal in His teachings regarding the' Kingdom of God. With the background of this message, let us not attempt to understand the true meaning of the Kingdom of God, as Jesus taught it. To this subject we move in the next message. (Thy Kingdom Come – Part II)

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“Thy Kingdom Come” Part II

"Thy Kingdom Come" (Part II)

"OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN"


CHAPTER 5 – OUTLINE

SUBJECT: Pray this way "Thy Kingdom Come" (Part II)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 6:9-13

TEXT: "Let your kingdom come." (Matthew 6:10)

INTRODUCTION:

Why did so many Jews refuse to see their hopes and dreams fulfilled in Jesus? It was because so many Jews had relapsed back into the old and incorrect ideas regarding the Messiah and the Kingdom.

PROPOSITION:

It is the true meaning of the 'Kingdom of God' that we are concerned in trying to understand.

I. Meaning of the 'Kingdom of God'

A. King of the Kingdom

1. Miracles

2. Parables

3. Messianic Titles

4. Resurrection

B. Members of the Kingdom

1. What really is the meaning of the Kingdom of God?

2. Who really are the members of the Kingdom of God?

CONCLUSION:

"To pray for the Kingdom of Heaven is to pray that we may submit our wills entirely to the will of God." (William Barclay)

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CHAPTER 5

SUBJECT: Pray this way "Thy Kingdom Come" (Part II)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 6:9-13

TEXT: "Let your kingdom come." (Matthew 6:10)

INTRODUCTION:

We have seen how that for centuries the Jews longed and looked for a Messiah who would establish his reign of righteousness and power. At times during Israelite history, the Jews expected the coming Messiah to be a great son of David who would establish a Golden Age greater even than that which David established. At other times when the monarchy was weak or non-existent, the Jews lost confidence in the possibility of a human agent and turned to God as the only possible Agent for the establishment of the Kingdom of God. At their best, the Jews realized that the Kingdom of God was separate from the Kingdom of Israel, and at their best the Jews realized that the Agent for the establishment of that Kingdom would have to be God Himself or at least some mysterious divine being which God would appoint.

It is to the New Testament that we must turn in order to see the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes and dreams. Why did so many Jews refuse to see their hopes and dreams fulfilled in Jesus? It was because so many Jews had relapsed back into the old and incorrect ideas regarding the Messiah and the Kingdom. The old idea that the Kingdom of God was in some way inseparably connected with the Kingdom of Israel, and the old idea that the coming Messiah would be a great human heir of David, both regained popularity in Jewish thought just preceding the ministry of Jesus.

To understand these popular Jewish beliefs regarding the Messiah and the Kingdom of God, is to better understand the difficulty Jesus had in convincing the Jews that He indeed was the fulfillment of all of the Messianic hopes and dreams.

PROPOSITION:

To the subject of the 'Kingdom of God' as it was taught by Jesus, we must now turn. It is the true meaning of the 'Kingdom of God' that we are concerned in trying to understand. To understand Jesus' teaching regarding the Kingdom, we can more intelligently pray 'Thy Kingdom Come.' The simple outline for the message is as follows: (a) King of the Kingdom, (b) Members of the Kingdom.

I. Meaning of the 'Kingdom of God'

A. King of the Kingdom

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When Jesus came into Galilee he said, "The appointed time has fully come. The Kingdom of God has arrived." Jesus was really saying that the far-off Divine Event which the Jews for centuries had longed to see, was now clearly before their eyes and was being fulfilled. He was saying that He was the fulfillment of Jewish dreams and hopes. In many passages Jesus stated that the Kingdom of God had arrived. "If I by the finger of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you." (Luke 11:20) "The Kingdom of God is in your midst". (Luke 17:21) "The tax collectors and harlots are going into the Kingdom of God before you." (Matthew 21:31) "Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it." (Matthew 21:31) "Blessed are the eyes which see, and did not see it, and to hear what you near and did not hear it." (Luke 10:23) The queen of the south will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here." (Luke 11:31) It was Jesus' teaching that the Kingdom of God had arrived. Jesus claimed to be the King of the Kingdom. Jesus' Kingdom power was manifested in various ways. Let us look at the words and works that were meant to demonstrate His Messianic power.

1. Miracles.

The miracles were not for the purpose of creating a sensational response to Christ. Nevertheless, in a real way, the miracles were meant to be signs which lended evidence that Jesus truly was the Messiah. The miracles were acts of compassion, but their purpose was even greater than this. The true purpose of the miracles was to actively demonstrate that the Kingdom of God had arrived. As A.M. Huner so well puts it: "The healing of the sick, the exorcism of evil spirits, the restoration of the maimed, the deaf, the dumb and the blind, the forgiveness of sins – all these were 'works' of the Kingdom … In one phrase, the miracles were the Kingdom of God in actions."

2. Parables.

The parables which Jesus told can only properly be understood as teachings regarding the coming Kingdom of God. Each parable talks about a different aspect of that Kingdom but each relates in some way to the Messianic Rule, and the true meaning of the Kingdom. The parable of the Mustard Seed serves as one example. Hunter points out that this parable essentially is saying: "The Reign of God, now like a small seed in your midst, will one day become a tree overshadowing the earth." (Ibid; p. 30) Each parable is meant to tell its hearers that the Kingdom of God is now actively working in their midst.

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3. Messianic Titles

The title by which Jesus most liked to be called was 'the Son of Man'. There are about three dozen examples of Jesus' usage of this title in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). We have seen in the preceding message to this one, that this title – Son of Man – was a Messianic title used especially in the book of Daniel: "13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus also assumed another title – the Suffering Servant – a title which is taken from Isaiah 52, 53. The suffering servant is described by Isaiah as one who really does God's will on earth. Jesus took this title to describe Himself.

Jesus did that which was unique, something which no one else had ever done – He combined the two titles of Son of Man and Suffering Servant and used these titles to perfectly summarize His ministry. To the Jew these two titles described two different concepts. 'Son of Man' described the triumphant Messiah. 'Suffering Servant' described the despised servant whose role was not earthly greatness but suffering and sacrifice. And yet Jesus used both titles when "He taught that the Son of Man must suffer." Says Father Hebert: "No one dared to think of the Messiah as suffering and dying, till He Himself did so. It is He (Jesus) who broadens out the Messianic idea, till it is seen to gather up in itself all Old Testament theology." (The Nature and Purpose of the Gospels; p. 70)

Thus, we see that Jesus' title of 'Son of Man' was a title of Messianic power. However, Jesus' combination of this title with the title of 'Suffering Servant' changed the concept of the Messiah drastically! Jesus power as the Messiah would not be in terms of military power, but quite the contrary – it would be in terms of the Power of love which would find its expression in the experience of suffering and sacrifice. Jesus came to show the true meaning of the 'Messiah'. The Messiah must suffer, not seek revenge. The Messiah must love, not hate. The Messiah must save, not conquer. The Messiah must rule by love in the hearts of men, and not rule by hate over the Jews' earthly enemies. The Messiah's Kingdom would be established on the foundation of suffering and sacrifice, not on the foundation of military force and arms. Jesus came to show the true meaning of the 'Kingdom of God'.

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4. Resurrection

Jesus' works and words and Messianic titles were all meant to be demonstrations of the King's right to reign. However, the most conclusive evidence of Jesus' Messianic power was the resurrection. Jesus conclusively demonstrated His power over Satan by His power over death. Thus the resurrection shows that Jesus is the true Messiah and that He alone has the right to reign over heaven and earth. Jesus' resurrection is the greatest demonstration of Messianic power, and spells the ultimate defeat of Satan. Jesus' resurrection has potentially put an end to death for every man, and potentially gives power to every man to become a member of the Kingdom of God.

B. Members of the Kingdom.

In our discussion thus far, we have talked extensively about the King of the Kingdom, but perhaps we have not yet satisfactorily answered the question, "What really is the meaning of the Kingdom of God?"

1. What really is the meaning of the Kingdom of God?

Let us offer a two-fold definition to the 'Kingdom of God'. First, as Hunter says, "To understand the phrase in the Gospels, we must remember that it means, linguistically, the kingly Rule of God and that it implies the Biblical idea of God, the God who acts, whose workshop is history and who is working out a great and gracious purpose in it to an appointed end." (Introducing New Testament Theology; p. 26)

The kingly Rule of God naturally results in kingly subjects; thus the Kingdom of God carries the secondary meaning of 'realm'. Those who submit to the kingly rule of God, are an intimate part of the Kingdom of God. In this connection, however, it is important to realize that "God's Reign exists, however men respond. (God's Reign) claims the obedience of men truly; but it is there before the claims are made, and it is still there if men reject them.") Ibid; pg. 26)

To better appreciate the latter definition, it would be to our advantage to ask the question: "Who really are the members of the Kingdom of God?"

2. Who really are the members of the Kingdom of God?

To answer this, let us go directly to The Lord's Prayer. Jesus taught us to pray: "Let your Kingdom come: Let your will be done, as in heaven, so also in earth."

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This portion of the Lord's Prayer is an example of parallelism. "The Hebrew tended to say everything twice. He said it in one way, and then he said it in another way which repeats or amplifies or explains the first way … We then have the perfect definition of the Kingdom of God – The Kingdom of God is a society upon earth where God's will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven." (Barclay's Matthew; pgs. 211, 212) Thus, everyone of all ages who have sought to do the will of God in their life are members of the Kingdom of God. Membership in the Kingdom of God is not limited to any certain nation, race, or age, but includes all people who have done and all people who do and all people who will do the will of God in their lives. Thus, we see how the Kingdom of God can be past, present, and future all at the same time. Membership in the Kingdom of God is dependent upon the quality of one's inner life. One becomes a member of the Kingdom when his heart is changed. Membership in the Kingdom of God was understood, at the best, in terms of keeping the covenant. It was finally realized, however, that a change of heart was essential in order to observe the covenant requirements of love and compassion. Thus Jeremiah 31:31-34, is a high mark of Old Testament thought and revelation:

31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, 
"when I will make a new covenant 
with the house of Israel 
and with the house of Judah.

32 It will not be like the covenant 
I made with their forefathers 
when I took them by the hand 
to lead them out of Egypt, 
because they broke my covenant, 
though I was a husband to [a] them, [b]" 
declares the LORD.

33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel 
after that time," declares the LORD. 
"I will put my law in their minds 
and write it on their hearts. 
I will be their God, 
and they will be my people.

34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, 
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' 
because they will all know me,

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from the least of them to the greatest," 
declares the LORD. 
"For I will forgive their wickedness 
and will remember their sins no more."

The coming of Christ and the creation of the New Israel were the fulfillment of the 'New Covenant' prophesies. God sent the Holy Spirit to shed abroad His love in the human heart which is the evidence that one has entered into the New Covenant. Love then, is the ethic or standard for the new pattern of living. Christ's death and resurrection established the New Covenant and the Holy Spirit enables one to enter into the New Covenant. The standard for the New Covenant which God established through Jesus Christ is Love and because of this new standard, there is a greater emphasis upon right internal attitudes. The Sermon on the Mount which is the design for life in the Kingdom of God, demands pure motives as well as respectable acts. The standard for membership in God's Kingdom is the standard laid down in the Sermon on the Mount. The Holy Spirit enables us to reach this standard – a standard which is greater than the Old Testament Law.

CONCLUSION:

We have learned that Jesus of Nazareth was the long-awaited-for Messiah. Jesus' Messianic power was shown by his works (miracles) and words (parables). Jesus' assumption of both titles – 'Son of Man' and 'Suffering Servant' – drastically changed the concept of the Messiah from a military hero to a loving Savior. Jesus' power over death resulted in destruction of Satan's works and ultimate defeat of Satan's Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God has two related meanings – Rule and Realm. God's kingly Rule assumes the presence of kingly subjects, but the Rule exists independent of man's response to the Rule. Members of the Kingdom of God include those of all ages who have and who are and who will submit their will to God's will. Thus, as Barclay has pointed out, "To pray for the Kingdom of Heaven is to pray that we may submit our wills entirely to the will of God." (William Barclay's Matthew; pgs. 212, 213)

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