Are You Prepared...for the Kingdom
Last week, we talked about Advent as a season of preparation for the return of Christ. We discussed being prepared for the end of time, and living a life set in that direction.
Today, we see two attributes of the Kingdom of God that the Jews struggled with. After 2000 years, it’s easy for us to look back at them and laugh at their lack of understanding, but I’d suggest that with our better understanding we still struggle with the same two features of God’s Kingdom.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God”? [non-rhetorical]
Do you know the Lord’s Prayer?
Jesus taught us to pray this way, and it includes:
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
John proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”
How many times does Jesus say, “The kingdom is at hand?” And what does ‘at hand’ mean?
In Matthew 4:17, Jesus starts teaching, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and the phrase is used 31 time in Matthew’s gospel. The phrase “Kingdom of God is used >50 times in the Gospels, so this concept is presented over 80 times in just the 4 books of the Gospels.
Maybe it’s a concept we should understand better:
Wesley’s Explanatory Notes:
The kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of God, are but two phrases for the same thing. They mean, not barely a future happy state, in heaven, but a state to be enjoyed on earth: the proper disposition for the glory of heaven, rather than the possession of it.
With Jesus walking around, it seems ridiculous to us that the religious leaders didn’t get that the kingdom was there! But Jesus walks around today ... in each of us, but we still have this notion of God’s kingdom only being a heavenly kingdom - despite the direct evidence that it’s both heavenly AND earthly.
We act as if we’re living in certain ways in order to gain admission into the Kingdom when we die, but we should be living in such a way as to BRING ABOUT the kingdom of God here and now! “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
How might that impact your life choices?
The other aspect of the kingdom that we laugh about is the inclusion of non-Jews. There is an unexpectedness to God’s kingdom. Paul tells of the “root of Jesse” mentioned in Isaiah’s prophecy being unexpectedly David ... the smallest, youngest of Jesse’s children. The people of his day would NEVER have expected God to choose the 90 lb. weakling to lead his nation ... but he did.
The Jews of Jesus’ day never would’ve expected God to open the kingdom to Gentiles ... but he did. And we laugh about their ignorance. After 2000 years of Christianity spreading mostly in Gentile circles, it seems funny to us that the Jews didn’t see God as caring about non-Jews.
But, do we have a wide enough vision of God’s kingdom?
►►► Mother Teresa We look at the work Mother Teresa did and think, “What a saint!” But do we consider that the people she helped were potentially part of God’s kingdom?
►►► Like Us When we close our eyes and think about the population of God’s kingdom, it’s natural to only see people we know ... but look behind the people we know ... and who are those people? Do they look just like the people you know? Is our concept of God’s kingdom lily-white; middle class; American?
We are subject to the same mental limitations as the Pharisees and Sadducees. We only see what we expect to see. John and Paul are challenging those expectations.
►►► Not Like Us
The kingdom of God includes both the future AND the present; the heavenly and the earthly. The kingdom includes white, black, yellow, purple and even blue (if they exist somewhere). It includes blue-collar, white-collar and no-collar. It includes the poor; the rich; and everything in between.
Jesus’ “all” doesn’t include the boundaries we set. Our notions of God’s kingdom are very limited, and we would be wise to broaden our understanding of the scope of that kingdom.
Christmas isn’t really about roast turkey and a truckload of gifts. It isn’t even about the birth of the Savior anymore, because that’s already happened.
Christmas is a celebration of the Kingdom of God - coming to earth 2000 years ago and continuing today ... through us - and culminating in a heavenly eternity. And everyone is given an invitation to God’s kingdom … here and now … and for the hereafter.
So how wide is your concept of God’s Kingdom? Are you working to bring about that kingdom here on earth “as it is in heaven”? Are you trying to understand the Kingdom? Are you prepared for something bigger than Christmas? Are you prepared for God’s Kingdom as HE sees it?