The gospel preached in most American churches is not that preached by Jesus in His ministry on earth. However this is not appreciated by the great majority who worship in denominational churches. They are sitting under spiritual leaders who found themselves trained in bible schools and seminaries where seducing spirits entered and successfully distorted the teaching of Christ. It is that of which Jesus, Paul and Peter speak in warning about false apostles and those who’ll deceitfully masquerade as being ministers of righteousness. This is a deception perpetuated from one generation to the next. Meanwhile what Jesus describes as the gospel of the kingdom of heaven (or God) is ignored and manifestations of kingdom power are rarely in evidence as a consequence.
A Pharisee Nicodemas came to Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we know You are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him” (John 3:2). Familiar with history, Nicodemas knew those with God’s anointing not only preached of righteousness, but carried out supernatural acts. Moses had been used to part the waters of the Red Sea and bring rivers of water from rocks. Elijah brought down fire from heaven to vaporize the water-drenched sacrifice at Mount Carmel and eliminate hundreds of false prophets. Elisha was used as was Elijah to heal the sick alse raise the dead. These saints had “come from God” and miracles took place because God was with them and revealing His sovereignty and authority over matters of life and death.
Centuries had passed, however, without supernatural signs until Jesus made appearance. Now something extraordinary was taking place and the Pharisee was clearly puzzled! One may speculate as to his motives in coming to Jesus at night, but he certainly was curious as to the source of power manifested by this seemingly ordinary man from remote Nazareth in Galilee. When Nicodemas questioned Jesus as to the nature of what was taking place, Jesus replied, “I say to you. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (3:3). Unless one receives new spiritual eyes through rebirth, the kingdom of God is neither recognized nor appreciated for what it represents.
Confused by Jesus’ reply, Nicodemas questioned how a man can enter his mother’s womb a second time. To this, Jesus answered, “Unless one is born of water (a natural birth) and the Spirit (new birth by the Holy Spirit), he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (3:5). Jesus proceeded to explain that just as wind is identified by its sound and activity, so are signs and activity of the Spirit identified in those who enter the kingdom of God after a spiritual rebirth. It is of such Jesus preached together with healing the sick and expelling demonic spirits: “Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness…and those who were demon-possessed” (Matthew 4: 23,24).
A kingdom of which Jesus preached is mentioned 54 times in Matthew’s gospel alone but is given little attention today. Yet it’s a kingdom that has always existed. When confronted by Pharisees, Jesus rebuked them: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation producing the fruit of it” (Matthew 21:43). Such can be said of today’s church with its lack of manifested power against the works of the devil. The kingdom was already dismissed by the time the Church formulated the Apostles creed, Nicene creed (325 A.D.), Chalcedonian creed (451 A.D.), and Athanasian creed (500 A.D.). But the kingdom of God is to be the starting and ending point for all that takes place in the lives of those spiritually born again by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus referred to mysteries when disciples asked as to why He spoke in parables: “It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given…..Therefore I speak in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matthew 13:11-13). The words translated as “kingdom” in Hebrew malkuth and Greek basileia mean a place where a king rules. The kingdom of God refers to the authority of God to rule. It is only to those submitting to the authority and rule of God in their lives that ability to understand mysteries of the kingdom is given. Those resisting God’s rule do not see, hear or understand.
Being born again is the first step to entering the kingdom of God. But since earliest years, grace which enables one to be born again has been distorted by “ungodly men” who turn grace into a license to sin without consequences (Jude 3,4). They’ve used an OT definition of grace (Hebrew chen or unmerited favor) instead of the Greek charis which means God’s divine influence on a heart reflected in life (Strong’s Concordance #5485). “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:11-14). Cheap grace offers salvation without repentance or submission to Christ’s lordship (Acts 3:19), a counterfeit salvation without possibility of entering the kingdom.
Revelation of kingdom mysteries came by the coming of Jesus: “….the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generation, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among Gentiles: which is Christ in you” (Colossians 1:26-27). Jesus brought the kingdom as One “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). God knew in advance that man would fall into disobedience with loss of dominion over earth and power to combat Satan who would gain authority with the Fall (Luke 4:5,6). It was ordained from foundation of the world that a perfect sacrifice would be required to bring reconciliation between man and his Creator, a holy, righteous and just God.
It would be those convicted of sin and experiencing godly sorrow which brings repentance that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10) who would be born again so they might see the kingdom of God. Those who would then submit to the authority of Jesus to rule all aspects of their lives could enter into the kingdom to continue Jesus’ mission of destroying works of the devil: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested: that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). While Jesus was sent so those who would believe in Him might have eternal life (John 3:16), a broader purpose was to set man free from the works of Satan who comes to steal, kill and destroy in the lives of both believers and unbelievers alike (John 10:10).
Jesus began preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God at once in Capernaum where all the sick were healed including Peter’s mother-in-law and demons also came out of many. People tried to keep Jesus from leaving but He said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43). Note this is well before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, a message disciples were sent out to preach not only before but after Calvary. It was a gospel independent of what took place at Calvary. It is error to only preach the messenger (a crucified Christ) as commonly done, ignoring the message Jesus came to bring called the gospel of the kingdom. These lessons are intended to draw attention to what Jesus came to preach during His ministry on earth.
The good news of the kingdom draws attention to God’s authority to rule all aspects of our lives, not merely that we might like to surrender. It’s of interest Jesus told Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). This isn’t said to those accepting but to those rejecting His message. Jesus is saying ways of a kingdom of which He is King are built into man. Are we not created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)? The question is whether one submits to the lordship of Christ. False prophets dressed in sheep’s clothing with degrees from a seminary or bible school masquerade as servants of righteousness in many of our pulpits (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Jesus says these are known by their “fruits” (Matthew 7: 15,16). Their followers closely follow the ways of man instead of those of God.
Jesus warns of those who teach God has one hand consisting of love, mercy and grace, and ignore His other hand of righteousness and judgment. If Jesus were to reign in the lives of most who make up the Church, there’d not be such strife, divorce, bitterness, immorality, disease and premature death among believers. Such are just as common in the Church as among those rejecting God. Forced to choose between family and loyalty to Jesus, Jesus is usually in second place. The same is true for prosperity, popularity, and worldly pleasures. Jesus is in second place even though He warns about trying to serve two master where one comes to love one and hating the other (Matthew 6: 24). Only those who cease serving two masters find the kingdom of God manifesting in supernatural power as well as manifesting with righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things will be added” is Jesus’ exhortation (Matthew 6:33). He makes the kingdom the first and last thing in the beatitudes, the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer, and what He spent 40 days teaching the disciples after His resurrection (Acts 1:3). It’s as though He’s saying “Get this matter of the kingdom of God right and everything else will fall in place. Just keep the first thing first.” He never preached another gospel, or sent disciples to do otherwise. Both before and after Calvary, the gospel of the kingdom was the message. There is universal failure to recognize this point. Few hear teaching about the kingdom of God despite what Jesus did: “He called His twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:1,2).
Should the same not apply today? Is it possible those who fail to preach about the kingdom are not in the kingdom where God’s authority to rule, heal the sick, and cast out demons is manifested? God continues to manifest His “power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.” It is heresy to claim the charge of Christ in Mark 16:17.18 no longer applies: “These signs will follow those who believe. In My name they will cast out demons…they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Christ tells us to continue preaching the kingdom of God and doing what He began in destroying works of the devil. In fact, Jesus says we can expect to do even “greater works” in speaking of the miracles attesting to the kingdom of God having come to earth (John 14:11-13).
Satan’s kingdom enters a crisis when such occurs and the Church is often just as reactive because many have been misled to believe the power of the Spirit to manifest in miracles does not take place today. But power and authority over works of Satan is just as related to the gospel of the kingdom as is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Perhaps a part of the reason is that entering the kingdom of God involves a cost not all are willing to pay. A narrow door must be entered, yet is open to all willing to pay the price…the price being oneself (Matthew 7:13,14). While Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, doing so incurs violence: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).
The kingdom of heaven suffers violence not only from the world and a kingdom ruled by Satan, bur from the established Church at times: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Opposition is guaranteed to take place and Paul warns that “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Those entering the kingdom must do so by force, turning from the world and self to be led by the Spirit. It isn’t for the persons who seldom pray or meditate on God’s Word. And it isn’t for any wanting to rest while waiting for heaven. It’s for those seeking to be transformed to Christ-likeness, irregardless of cost or sacrifice, so they might be ready for that which is prepared for them (Ephesians 2:10).
Jesus is specific that coming of the kingdom of God has a purpose beyond that of receiving forgiveness through His sacrificial death. When rebuking religious leaders accusing Him of casting out devils by the authority of Satan, Jesus tells, “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). The kingdom involves a mission to destroy the works of Satan, not simply in the believer but in others. Such was the commission given the Church. But the spiritual resources and power of the kingdom of God are not available until we stop acting like a god and submit to the sovereignty of God. We cannot compromise His authority to fit our own lifestyles, and make His kingdom into that which is relative instead of that which is absolute.
Satan, the enemy of our souls, would have us believe that ways of the kingdom of God are intended as idealism instead of realism. We buy the lie that obedience to the teachings of Jesus is impossible. It’s the same tactic Satan used in the garden of Eden: “Did God really say…?” We’ve been brainwashed by the idea sin is normal to our human nature instead of our being created in the likeness of God. We need to realize our destiny is to live under the sovereignty of God, serving Him with reverence and godly fear. Only then are we truly free. Obedience is not a form of legalism as many claim. Only when obedient are we blessed as told in the Beatitudes. It is then we are happy in ourselves with needs met as we seek first the kingdom of God, secure in His promise all necessary things will be added.
Jesus stands at the door of our heart and knocks. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with Me” (Rev 3:20). How amazing that the Creator waits for us to invite Him to share His kingdom. Being a disciple of Jesus is being a disciple of the kingdom, but what God joined together, man puts asunder. We’re called to be disciples of Jesus but supposedly not disciples of His kingdom. As a result, corporately, the Church is a poor witness to the world. Is it necessary to enter the kingdom? An answer is found in Mark 9:43-47. Jesus saya to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand if they cause sin. He is stressing we must do whatever necessary to remove that which hinders living in the kingdom. But we let us apply His teachings with understanding. Plucking out an eye does not cure lust. The mind must be renewed and thoughts taken captive to the obedience of Christ for strongholds such as lust to be demolished (2 Corinthians 10:1-5).
Many are finding their lives shaken or their needs unmet. We are told in Hebrews that God will shake all that can be shaken so only what is unshakable remains (Hebrews 12:27). This shaking takes place out of the love of God and His desire for us to reign with His Son both on earth today as well as eternally. The apostle writes, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:11,12). We cannot reign with Jesus during life on earth in the church age as long as we continue to insist on continuing as seems right in our own eyes. We must come to recognize and willingly accept that Jesus alone is the Way of victory in this present life as well as in the age to come (John 14:6).
To this end, a kingdom has been made available so we’ll not be hopelessly shaken and lose our bearings during the many inevitable conflicts which take place in life. “Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28). The Greek which is translated as “receiving” literally means to ‘come alongside.’ It’s in our coming alongside those ways revealed for us in the teachings of Jesus on a mountainside and in His parables that we can enter into the unshakable kingdom of God so the coming storms in life will not cause us to crash and burn instead of bringing glory to the Name above all names.