A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Gospel Message. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gospel Message. Show all posts

August 14, 2023

Part 1: Why We Need to Understand & Preach the Gospel of the Kingdom

I want to present an idea that is clearly explained in the Bible, yet we, as the Body of Christ, often don't recognize it. As elucidated in Luke 4:43, the purpose of Jesus's coming was to announce that the Kingdom of God would be established on earth. Christians today, however, tend to focus on His message of Salvation, and we rarely proclaim what He taught about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, which are the same thing. Remember that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”(Matthew 6:33).  Salvation was not his primary focus ... the Kingdom of God was. 

Jesus is teaching His disciples the importance of knowing what He meant by the Kingdom of God, and making sure they knew it was His purpose; why He was sent. And when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, He spoke in terms of a real government—a structured, organized entity with the very authority of God behind it. (Certain rulers who heard Christ's message recognized the political implications and viewed His words as a threat to their own power. This became a factor in Christ's eventual crucifixion).  

But God is a God of order. To Jesus and His disciples, the term "Kingdom of God" meant a government that would be established on earth. They anticipated that its arrival would amount to nothing less than a sweeping, overwhelming change in the world order. And those in power could not let that happen. The powerful still don't want to recognize the supremacy of His government!

We also need to recognize that there are two different fulfillments we need to consider when discussing the Kingdom of God: 1) The Bible shows that when the Kingdom comes in the future, the returning Christ will take His place as divine ruler of the earth. It is a literal Kingdom on earth, with Jesus as the ruler.  2) Since the Kingdom is wherever the King is ruler, if He is the ruler of your heart, then the spiritual Kingdom of God exists in you HERE AND NOW.  

In light of these two fulfillments, it is important that we contemplate the chapter of Matthew 13, which consists entirely of parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples asked Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And He answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Notice that He doesn't say you have been given the knowledge of Salvation ... No! He was teaching them about the significance of the Kingdom of Heaven and why it was important, both in the present and in the future.

In each of the parables in Matthew 13, Jesus presents an argument that begins with, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like...".  I don't know about you, but for years, I read those parables in terms of what moral lesson He was trying to teach me. I never made the connection that they all pointed to the Kingdom of Heaven. As I looked for a lesson in each one, I missed that He was giving us valuable information that pertained to Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.  Let me give you a short synopsis on each of the parables and why it was important to Jesus that we get this concept. I recommend that you read these parables in Matthew, Chapter 13, with a new spiritual eye towards The Kingdom of God.

The Parable of the Sower:  Each soil represents one of four responses to the teaching of the Kingdom of God. With each response, but one, the message is lost. 

The Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Weeds):  There was corruption in the Kingdom, but it will be sorted out at harvest time.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed:  (This is the most fascinating to me, and is an alternate view of the one most often presented!)  This parable accurately describes what the kingdom community became in the decades and centuries after the Christianization of the Roman Empire. In those centuries the Church grew abnormally large in influence and dominion, and was a nest for much corruption.  Close study of birds as symbols in the Old Testament, and especially in the literature of later Judaism, shows that birds regularly symbolize evil and even demons or Satan.

The Parable of the Leaven: Three measures is far more leaven than is needed to make bread, and represents the addition of corruption and impurity through “paganizing influences” introduced into the Kingdom.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure: The man is Jesus and this parable speaks of how highly the King values the people of His kingdom.  The treasure that is so wonderful that Jesus would give all to purchase is the individual believer. This powerfully shows how Jesus gave everything to redeem the whole world to preserve a treasure in it, and the treasure is His people.

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value: Again, Jesus is the buyer and the individual believer is the pearl that He sees as so valuable that He would happily give all to have it forever. To the ancient peoples that Jesus was speaking to, a pearl was the loveliest of all possessions; Jesus is telling them that the people of His Kingdom are the most valuable thing to Him.

The Parable of the (Drag)Net: Jesus shows that the world will remain divided right up until the end, and the Church will not reform the world. The King will return, the angels will assist the King in the work of judgment, and He will establish His Kingdom on earth.

As I have studied further about Jesus's teachings on the Kingdom of God, I now understand how the early Church might have been confused about it's significance, and how that has translated to near ignorance on the part of the modern Church. 

In fact, the hope of the early church was that the Lord would return in the clouds to establish a Kingdom of peace and justice. That is what Jesus preached! They had yet to learn that the Kingdom was in them! The Disciples believed in the literal return and reign of Christ on earth. Jesus, Himself, said in Matthew 25:31, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.” He goes on to say in verse 32, that He will then judge the nations, separating the sheep from the goats. But He also told them in Luke 17:21:  "You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you."  We can see both the future and the present Kingdoms of God presented here.

So, how have we come to lose the importance of Jesus's message about the Kingdom of God?  It began to change through the centuries as follows: The Church began to limit the idea of the Kingdom of God to just mean the 1,000 year reign of Christ in the Millennial Kingdom. While The Kingdom of God and the Millennial Kingdom aren’t the same, they do overlap. Then theologians began arguing if the Millennial Kingdom was literal or allegorical. The early Church fathers Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian believed in a literal Millennial Kingdom. In the 3rd Century, Origen was the first to present the allegorical theory. Then just a few years later, Augustine changed the theory even more.  He “identified the Church with the Kingdom of God and maintained that the millennial age had already come”.  In his highly influential book The City of God, Augustine wrote: “Therefore the Church, even now, is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven” (Book XX, Chapter 9). In essence, Augustine taught that the Church in this present world is the Kingdom of God, and “the thousand years stand for all the years of the Christian era”. 

We need to remember that the Hebrew prophets showed that the arrival of God's Kingdom on earth would bring worldwide peace, physical abundance and divine righteousness.  Isaiah 2:4 tells us that He will judge among the nations, and rebuke many people; that people will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; and that nations won’t lift their swords against other nations, and man will learn war no more.

But history shows us that the “Christian era” or “the Church era” that Augustine equated with God's Kingdom has been a time of violence, war, death, starvation and widespread lawlessness. We certainly can’t say mankind is no longer learning war! So the Church, in this "Age of Grace," has obviously not spread Jesus’s Gospel Message about the Kingdom of God! 

Continuing from the historical perspective, in the 18th Century mankind adopted “the Age of Reason”, and instead of basing all knowledge in Biblical revelation, they tried to build on the foundation of human reason.  Theologians that adopted this concept believed that “Western civilization was establishing Christ's earthly rule”. And they began to teach that Mankind was “improving” and through our human power and ingenuity we could establish a righteous world. (SIDE NOTE:  We’ve left the “righteousness” part of that world equation behind, and now through our human power and ingenuity, we’re going to “improve” through transhumanism, including man merging with machine).

Those theologians also taught that as the Church, we should set good examples of Christian living, which would influence society and culture… we haven’t done a very good job of that if you look at our society today. And even though that idea was preached by the theologians of the day, the Church received no commission to politically reform the society by seeking God’s righteousness, and from the Roman Empire on, we have NOT seen the governments of the world conform to what Jesus said the Kingdom of God was: a structured, organized entity with the very authority of God behind it.  And throughout the centuries, the Church has not preached that as a goal!  Instead, church members heard from their leaders that they should hope and pray for God's Kingdom to come [in the future], while concentrating on the Salvation message.

That literal Kingdom on earth WILL COME and Jesus WILL be the Divine Ruler of His Kingdom on earth.  In that sense the Kingdom of God is future and we look forward to our inheritance. BUT the Kingdom of God also refers to the King’s realm into which we may now enter to experience the blessings of His reign in our hearts.  REMEMBER:  the parable of the Sower is all about what is sown in our hearts; that’s the personal realm that Jesus concentrated on and wants to be King of.

So, in this earthly realm, it is perhaps easier to comprehend that the Kingdom of God exists in our hearts.  Our spirits give us hints that He is there, and our souls (our minds, emotions and will) will show us He is real and there is evidence of Him --- IF WE SEEK THE KINGDOM OF GOD FIRST.  

As for the literal establishment of God’s Kingdom at the return of Christ, God's timetable may differ from man's. God does not allow man to foresee the chronological details of His plan, but the outcome is certain. God will do what He has promised. 

Finally, here is the really important concept I hope you will grasp ... After the true biblical teaching of the Kingdom of God was removed, the gospel message was changed from the message about the Kingdom to a message primarily about Jesus Christ.  It would become a message that Christianity would triumph over its enemies in the world. And it was a message that faith in Jesus would yield eternal salvation ... both true, but these were not the "Good News" that Jesus had come to preach, nor the purpose for which He was sent.  (Read the Scripture that follows). In other words, Christianity kept the name of Jesus Christ, but abandoned His message.

Part Two of this topic will take a look at what Jesus meant by the "secrets" or the "mysteries" of the Kingdom.

Luke 4:43   But He said, “I must preach [the good news of] the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because I was sent for this purpose.”

December 28, 2020

A Testimony For Our Times

I write this blog post with a keen sense that I have come full circle since I began writing in December of 2011. The very first post I published expressed the reasons why I felt called to begin this journey ... "I am writing for all people, who like me, do not want to sit on the sidelines while our country and this world go down the tubes. I am writing for everyone whose instincts tell them something is wrong, terribly wrong, and are ready to throw off the shackles of fear and claim their personal power; to overcome the paralysis of panic and dread, and take command of their lives and their circumstances. And the foundation of that power is the saving grace of Jesus Christ in my life".

At the time, [and it seemed like overnight], all sense of security in my country, my government, and my future went up in smoke. This country was headed down the wrong track, and the conductor was taking us there as fast as he could! In 2008, my husband and I received heavenly promptings to re-evaluate everything in our lives ... to prepare for economic hard times and radical changes in our society. And it scared the living daylights out of me! But instead of giving in to the suffocating fear, I made a choice to face it. I would not give up that easily in all I believed in!

So, three years later, I decided to begin a dialogue with the people of this country, and in 2011 began writing this blog. We are now at the end of 2020, and these last nine years have seen many people arriving at the stage I was at all those years ago. And I will admit that we were not able to turn that train around. In fact, we are further down the tracks and ready to head into a long, dark tunnel. But, as I've done since the beginning, my goal is to give you hope and encouragement in the face of whatever evil we may face. 

We are not the first in history to engage in spiritual warfare with what seems like an invincible Enemy. I am the daughter of a WWII veteran, and not many years before I was born, a force of Evil, such as our modern world had not seen, was defeated with the help of Almighty God's support. That same anti-Christ spirit that existed in Adolph Hitler is still intent on capturing the world and forcing it into horrendous and despicable bondage. You may be experiencing the fear that comes with sudden realization that my words are not written out of ignorance or rashness. Perhaps you are just now receiving your own heavenly promptings, or having been enlightened for a few years now, are becoming weary of the fight and are struggling to endure. 

We all need encouragement and support! And if you are having difficulty hearing the voice of the Lord directly, I would like to offer the following testimony by Corrie ten Boom. You will hear the voice of the Lord through her humble words! And if you are unfamiliar with who she is, I exhort you to become familiar with her story. Hers is the remarkable legacy of surviving the Nazi death camps under the most dehumanizing circumstances, while offering the mercy and grace of Jesus in the midst of what was hell on earth. She would not describe herself as a hero of the faith, yet that is what she was; a woman who persevered against the deepest darkness, demonstrating her hard-learned trust and dependence on the Lord. Let her testimony, given at the First International Congress on World Evangelism in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974, give you hope and strengthen your faith. Here is her testimony, in her own words...

In the Bible we read in Colossians 1:11, ‘As you live this new life with Jesus Christ, we pray that you will be strengthened from God’s boundless resources, so that you will find yourselves able to pass through any experience and endure it with courage.’ God’s boundless resources are what we find when we obey the commandment, ‘Be filled with the Spirit.’ This is not a suggestion; the Bible has no suggestions, only commandments, and this is the most happy commandment of the whole Bible. When the Lord told us to witness and make disciples over the whole world, He promised, ‘You will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you.’

When I was a little girl, I remember that I talked with my father and I said, ‘Daddy, I will never be strong enough to be a real witness and a martyr for Jesus.’ And father said, ‘When you go to travel, when do I give you the train ticket, or the money for it—three weeks before?’ I said, ‘No, daddy, the day that I go to travel.’ And father said, ‘That is what God does. You don’t need to have the power to suffer for Jesus at this moment, but the moment that you will have the great honor to be a martyr for Jesus, the Lord will give you everything.’ And I’ve experienced that we have not a ‘spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind’, and the Holy Spirit is there always to do the job, to make us ready.

When I was in prison where my sister and 95,000 other women died, I experienced what Paul wrote to the Philippians when he also was in a terrible prison. The Holy Spirit had pointed Paul to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit also did the same for me. And I can say with Paul what he wrote in the text, ‘I count everything as lost compared with the priceless privilege’ (I read it from the Amplified New Testament), ‘the overwhelming preciousness, the unsurpassable worth, and the supreme advantage of knowing Jesus Christ, my Lord, and of progressively, more intimately, getting acquainted with Him.’ That happened when I was in that terrible prison. That can happen with you also, when you let the Holy Spirit turn your eyes more and more to the Lord Jesus even when we are perhaps entering a time of very great darkness and suffering over the world.

One of the most cruel things I have suffered was when in the concentration camp, we had to stand naked. They stripped us of all our clothing and I said to Betsie, my sister, ‘I cannot bear this. This is so terrible.’ But it was suddenly as if I saw Jesus at the cross. It was the Holy Spirit who turned my eyes to Jesus, and the Bible tells that He hung there naked, they stripped Him of all his garments and He hung there for me. By my suffering I could understand a fraction of the suffering of Jesus and it made me so happy, so thankful, that I could bear my suffering. The Holy Spirit will turn your eyes to Jesus, whatever happens, and then we are ready, we are even willing, and we are able to suffer.

The world is very sick, very ill. Who is it that overcomes the world? He who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. I am sure that all of us believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That means that you and I, that we all have to overcome the world—and that is hope for the world. The best is yet to be. Jesus is coming and He has said, ‘I will make everything new’, and that this world, yes, this sick, ill world will be covered with the knowledge of God like the waters cover the bottom of the sea. What a joy to know from the Word of God that God has no problems, only plans. There’s never panic in heaven, and we have to be right with God and we know it. That is because of the finished work of Jesus at the cross. And we have to be right with men also because of Jesus’ presence. The love of God, He will bring into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us (Rom 5:5).

Once, when traveling the world, I came to Germany and sometimes I find people who have been cruel to me in the concentration camp. Once I saw a lady in the meeting and suddenly I thought, ‘That woman was the nurse who was so cruel to my dying sister,’ and there came hatred and bitterness in my heart; but when I felt that there was hatred and bitterness in my heart, I knew I had not forgiven her. And I know, and you know, that Jesus has said (you can read it in Matthew 5), ‘If you do not forgive those who have sinned against you, my heavenly Father will not forgive you your sins.’ But I said, ‘Oh Lord, I cannot, I am not able.’ And suddenly I saw it. I cashed the check of Romans 5:5. I said, ‘Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have brought into my heart God’s love through the Holy Spirit who is given to me, and thank you, Father, that your love in me is stronger than my bitterness and hatred.’ I could go to that nurse and I could shake hands with her, and I had the joy to be used by the Lord to bring her to this decision for the Lord Jesus. What a joy.

This is only part of the remarkable testimony of Corrie ten Boom, an ordinary woman who lived in an extraordinary time. At the start of WWII, Corrie was single, in her 40s and living in her parent's home. Her father, Casper, a watchmaker in the small town of Haarlem in Holland, was a devout Christian who made a decision that his family would become involved with the Dutch Resistance and help smuggle Jews out of  Holland, putting his family in grave danger. After a neighbor betrayed them and the family was arrested, Casper died ten days later in prison. Corrie and her older sister Betsie, would eventually arrive in Ravensbruck, the notorious women's labor camp in Germany. 

Through what can only be described as a miracle, Corrie smuggled a Bible into the camp. While all the other women were strip searched, Corrie walked into Ravensbruck without being touched by a guard. She and Betsie would share the comfort of Scripture in a widening circle of women who found their way to their bunk in the midst of the horrors of the camp. Corrie would say, "The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God". God had given these two sisters a mission, a purpose and a ministry in one of the darkest places on earth. 

All through their time in the Concentration Camp, Betsie shines to Corrie like a lighthouse of Jesus's love. Corrie has rage against her oppressors; Betsie is compelled by love and forgiveness. Through the love of Jesus, the bunker in which they stayed was transformed from a selfish place where women would fight each other for scraps of food to a place where prisoners developed an overwhelming love for one another. But the deprivation in Ravensbruck became too much for Betsie. As her body became weaker, and just before she died at the age of 59, Betsie said, “We must tell the people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”

And that is the lesson we must take from their testimony. We don't know what our future holds, and I pray it never becomes as dark as what Corrie endured. But it's becoming clear to me that the same winds of evil are on the horizon, and we must be as determined to represent God as did the brave and faithful ten Boom sisters. We must let the Gospel messages of Salvation and the Kingdom define our lives. We must let the love, mercy and power of our Lord Jesus increase in us during the rising tide of spiritual warfare we are experiencing. We must identify with the Lord no matter how heavy our Cross becomes; being His instrument in the battle against Evil and proclaiming that He can overcome all. Corrie ten Boom is evidence of that truth ... Because of a clerical error, the Nazis released Corrie ten Boom from Ravensbruck 12 days later. Exactly a week after that, everyone her age was sent to the gas chambers and murdered. 

God had a purpose for Corrie's life! And He does for each one of us, too! Betsie ten Boom's purpose was to offer hope and compassion to the women in that Ravensbruck bunker, and to uplift the spirit of her sister, so that Corrie would survive, and go on to tell their story and her journey toward forgiveness. It's a story that defines her legacy, and mirrors the reason that I began writing this blog in the first place, and why I will continue to write it until the Lord tells me to stop --- no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in; no matter how chaotic and evil the world becomes; we have a Victor in Christ. He and the Holy Spirit will show us the way if we stay focused on them, and lean on them. We have no promise that it will be easy or comfortable; only that we will be strengthened to endure and persevere for the sake of the Gospel. There is a Kingdom that has arrived and that Kingdom will soon have dominion over all the earth. We are designed and planned to be a part of that! Be convicted, be bold, and be all in for the Glory of the Lord!

John 3:19-21    And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.