When Jesus Brought Heaven’s Kingdom Into the World
When Jesus came, straightway He began heralding the Kingdom of God—or, as Matthew put it, the Kingdom of Heaven. In fact, that’s just about all Jesus talked about. In the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—there are only two verses in which He mentioned the Church, whereas there are well over a hundred in which He spoke of the Kingdom. I believe the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are the same. If some should want to find a difference, we might put it this way: The Kingdom of Heaven places emphasis on where the Kingdom has come from. The Kingdom of God places emphasis on Whose Kingdom it is.
In Matthew 4:17 we see just how Jesus began ministering.—From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Oh, how full this verse is! Most of the words in it are pregnant with meaning.
First, we take note of the word preach. It is from the Greek keruśso, which means to herald or announce openly and publicly. Jesus announced, openly and publicly, like a herald, that the Kingdom of Heaven had drawn near. He could do this because He was the bearer of the Kingdom. He did not just represent the Kingdom, it was in Him. Where He was the Kingdom was. It was in Him. He was in it.
It is to be noted that He did not preach about the Kingdom. Nor was there any “sermon” involved in what He did. In fact, the word ”sermon” does not appear in the entire Bible, so there is no word that actually means, “to preach a sermon.” There is the word from which “evangelize” comes, however, that is often translated “to preach.” It means, “to announce the good news.” It was frequently associated with the Kingdom, making it means, “to announce the good news” of the Kingdom.
But Jesus announced the presence of the Kingdom. Then He said something. Take note again of the words from Matthew’s account of what Jesus did. He began to preach and to say... Here are three actions. John the Baptist shortly before then had said the same thing that Jesus said. But there was a difference. Jesus was the Bringer of the Kingdom. He was the promised Messiah. The proof of the Kingdom was in Him. So, the words He began in Matthew 4:17 tell of the start of the Kingdom’s work.
We find the word about John the Baptist heralding the Kingdom back in Matthew 3:1In those days came John the Baptist, preaching ...2And saying, Repent ye: for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. But, the word began was not in the record of John’s ministry. John did no miracle —John 10:41. It was with Jesus that the energetic force of the Kingdom started. So, when the words He began reach our eyes, they tell of a far greater beginning than had ever been known. It was the beginning of Heaven’s Kingdom, with all its work of redeeming grace, finally at work in the world. The last Messianic Prophecy of the Old Testament has a strange, but wonderful, connection with what Jesus began to do. We see it in Malachi 4:2—But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings (beams); and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. The Hebrew word shemesh, translated Sun, points to the appearance of the promised Messiah Whose Day was rising like the sun in a dark world heralding the new Day of His Kingdom. It was fitting that Matthew should say that Jesus began to preach. It was, indeed, the beginning of a new Day for the world.
When Jesus sent His Apostles forth, He commanded them to preach, or herald exactly as He had ...saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 10:5-7). His last Word recorded in Matthew’s Gospel before He returned to His Father was ...Go ye therefore, and teach (Greek, matheteúo, make disciples of) all nations...teaching (Greek, didaśko) them to observe (teréo, to keep close watch upon) all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (unto the consummation of the age). Amen—Matthew 28:19,20.
After God raised Jesus from the dead, He spent forty days—it is apparent He spent them mostly with His Apostles—speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God—Acts 1:3. This would validate the importance of their continuing to herald the Kingdom after He was gone. The fact that He gave orders to the Apostles to make disciples of all nations would indicate that the Gospel of the Kingdom was to be heralded in every nation. And, it is apparent that what they were to teach others included everything Jesus had taught them.
At no place in Scripture is there indication that any Word of the Kingdom was to be withheld from the nations. When God made the Covenant with Abraham, Paul saw that it included all nations. See this in Galatians 3:8—And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen (ethnos, nations) through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, “In thee shall all nations (eth’nos) be blessed.” This is from Genesis 12:3.
What was Paul’s conviction? He was called to be the Apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). How did he stand with regard to the Kingdom of God? To find out, let’s follow him through some of his ministry recorded in Acts. After being sent forth from the church in Antioch, and suffering much at the hands of both Jews and Gentiles, he dared to return to the very places he had been ill treated. See here how he and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, …confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God—Acts 14:22.
Then see how reluctantly he left off ministering to the Jews as, in Ephesus, ...he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading (trying to make believers) the things concerning the Kingdom of God—Acts 19:8.
After much travel, he returned to the region and called for the elders from Ephesus to come and meet with him in Miletus. Exhorting them along with an amazing survey of his teaching, he said, ...And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching (heralding) the Kingdom of God, shall see my face no more—Acts 20:25.
When we come to the end of Paul’s story as it is revealed in Acts. See this powerful statement about what he testified to some inquisitive Jewish elders who visited him while he was incarcerated in Rome. And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the Prophets, from morning till evening—Acts 28:23.
Paul expounded on the Kingdom. This means he explained what was meant by it. He then testified the Kingdom, which is actually a legal term. It obviously means that he made a solemn and earnest declaration of what the Kingdom was meaning in his own life. Then there is the term persuading which means he was doing his best to make believers out of the men who came to inquire of him. He used the Scriptures of Moses and of the Prophets in presenting his case before these men. This went on from morning till evening. What an enlightening and power filled day that must have been! (See the book Framework of the Inner Man for more detailed study.).
The last two verses of Acts reveal what was going on as he continued there as a prisoner in Rome. There’s something unusual about. The way the last verse is recorded in the Greek is not grammatically correct for the ending of a sentence. Could this but mean that the story was not yet finished? Is the last sentence yet to be written? I believe so.
We can’t know how close he was to his end, but we can know that all he had been through for the sake of the Gospel had not dampened his spirit or quietened his testimony. See this in Acts 28:30And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, 31preaching (heralding) the Kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence (boldness), no man forbidding him. Take note of his two themes: •the Kingdom of God and •those things, which concern the Lord Jesus Christ.
What Jesus began and imparted to His disciples, Paul picked up and continued on till his end. But, they all heralded the Kingdom of God. And remember this, one cannot herald something unless it is present, right there, at hand. Jesus commanded His Apostles to teach among ALL nations...ALL things. By no means was the message or the method to be, shall we say, watered down. In the Greek New Testament the word that means all occurs four times in the last three verses of Matthew’s Gospel. In verse 18 we find pasa exousía—all authority. In verse 19 we find panta ta eth’ne—all the nations. In verse 20 we find panta ósa—all the things, and finally, pasas tas hemer’as—all the days. The spelling of the Greek words translated “all,” are changed according to Greek grammar to agree with the words with which they occur. In no way is the meaning of any one of them changed to mean anything other than all. And what part of all do we not understand?
Let us see now how Jesus ministered, keeping in mind that He taught both by precept and by example. The first words He spoke to the men He was choosing to be His disciples are recorded in Matthew 4:19. They are, follow Me. These come from three words in the Greek, maybe best interpreted as “come after me.” The words were strong. They left no room for halfhearted commitment. Jesus later, in teaching about the Kingdom, said, The Kingdom of Heaven (of the heavens) is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field—Matthew 13:44. Following Jesus and being part of the Kingdom that He was heralding meant that one must sell all that he hath, and with the proceeds, “buy the field.” Becoming a son or daughter of the Kingdom comes at a dear cost. The price is the same for every person. It is simply and clearly all that he hath. Oh, but what returns come for the investment!
Now, let us lay aside all theological argument and, like a child, begin learning all we can from Jesus, by watching Him, by hearing Him and by yielding to His indwelling Life. As we move along with Him, we begin to observe a pattern as to the way He ministered. We see there were three phases to His ministry, particularly when among those who were just becoming acquainted with Him. We see this expressed by three words in the following verse, Matthew 4:23—And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. The three words we mentioned are, teaching, preaching and healing.
Many who claim to be followers of Jesus have found every argument imaginable to alter His method and “explain away” His commission. In doing this, countless people remain on church roles whose lives are in a total mess, who come time and again to meetings with some faint hope of deliverance or healing or guidance or release from oppression, only to go away just as they came, sometimes in even worse condition because their hopes are banished, or they’re led to believe that God’s Kingdom offers them nothing now.
Let’s look into what Jesus led His disciples to do as they ministered. We find a ministry similar to His Own. First came the teaching. We’ve learned this is not the same as the preaching. Teaching means laying out principles of truth to lay hold on and apply to living. Preaching means heralding, or announcing the Good News.
There are two important matters to take into consideration. First is finding what one is to teach. The best method for this is the most simple. It is spending time with God’s Word till it lays hold on one’s own soul. It doesn’t work very well for a Teacher or Preacher to study the Scripture just to get something to teach or preach. If one is going to minister something that grasps the heart and soul of others, it must be something that first has grasped one’s own heart and soul. This takes time and requires the help of the Holy Spirit.
Years ago, the Lord spoke to my heart that in studying the Scripture, I was not to try to lay hold on it. I must, instead, let it lay hold on me. When this happens, something more than a lesson can be taught and imparted to those who hear. It instead becomes a living demonstration of what the words are declaring.
After the teaching, comes the preaching. Jesus preached the Kingdom, as did His disciples. So also did Paul. Let’s become very aware that this is not just a sermon but, what did it mean? It meant they announced (or heralded) the presence of the Kingdom, with its power to change lives and to heal—sick bodies, sick minds, sick emotions, sick wills, and the sick conscience of many a person whose inner man has been bent out of shape since childhood.
This reaches over into the third phase of the ministry into which Jesus led His disciples. There was the teaching, and then the preaching followed by the healing. One day as I was studying Matthew 4:23, 24 in the Greek New Testament, I became aware of the types of maladies that Jesus reached toward and that the power of the Kingdom He proclaimed reached into and healed. There were at least eight categories of sickness, some of which begin in the soul and spread to the body.
We began teaching that healing is part of the ministry and life of God’s Kingdom. We dared to herald that the Kingdom is present now and that its healing power is still available. There is a fact that makes its healing all the more powerful. The prophecy of Isaiah 53:5 met its fulfillment in the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus. We will look further into this powerful Isaiah passage in the accompanying “prayer starters.” But let us take note now of one statement from Isaiah, then let us see how Peter made reference to it in his first Epistle. Note this carefully—and with His stripes we are (shall be) healed (from Isaiah 53:5). Peter brought this into his teaching, but with a slight difference. He said, ...by Whose stripes ye were healed (from I Peter 2:24). Isaiah told of a work yet to be finished; Peter told of a work done.
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