Proclaiming the Kingdom
The proclamation of the Kingdom of God was Jesus’ central message as seen in the synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Luke 4:43, Jesus said He must preach the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 4:23 and 5:20, the Sermon on the Mount, as it is popularly known, is concerned with the righteousness that qualifies people to enter the Kingdom of God. Further, the entire teaching on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, is what I term ‘The Constitution of the Kingdom,’ with its preamble – the Beatitudes. Matthew 5:3-11, the collection of parables in Mark 4, and Matthew 13 illustrate the mystery of the Kingdom of God, which has been entrusted to us (Matthew 13:11, Mark 4:11). Matthew 26:29 and Mark 14:25 show the establishment of the Lord’s Supper and looks forward to the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
The message of the Kingdom was first introduced to the 1st century people and then the New Testament reader. What was this message of the Kingdom? Why did we not see it in the Old Testament? Some people believe that the Kingdom of God is a New Testament phenomenon. However, God was present in the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures as the King of Israel. When Miriam wrote her song after the deliverance from Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea, she wrote, “Our God reigns” (Exodus 15:18). God is King and stated that He will make Israel a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). It is clear that God is presented as King in the majestic or royal Psalms, as well as the King sitting on the throne in Isaiah 6.
The message of the Kingdom became clearer, however, during the Intertestamental period, or the ‘between the testament’ period. During this time, Jewish people suffered persecution under the leadership of a man named Antiochus Epiphanes (mad dog), who desecrated the temple of Israel and profaned the things of God. They believed that the only way that God could fulfill the prophecy that the throne of David would have no end would be to overturn the evil world. Thus, the phrase or concept “the Day of the Lord” emerged. This concept was believed to be a time when God would totally obliterate evil and turn the world over to the rulership of Israel under God – the fulfillment of the restoration of the throne of David. Even though temple worship was done away under Israel’s domination by foreign powers, they maintained their faith in God. It was during this period that religious sects, such as the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Qumran community, emerged. This was the time when synagogues were developed, due to the destruction and defilement of the temple, and worship was moved to a smaller context. These developments did not exist in the Old Testament.
It is really important to understand the historical context for the Kingdom message in order to understand some of the New Testament text.
Christ came preaching the Kingdom, the disciples were commanded to preach the Kingdom, and the 70 were sent to preach the Kingdom. The mission of the church was, and still is, to open the gates of the Kingdom, not the doors of the church!