Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mt 4:17-25 The Gospel of the Kingdom

Matt 4:17-25 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

One author wrote that if we would understand Jesus, we must understand the Kingdom of God. For from start to end, his Gospel (i.e. Good News) is not about His disciples going to Heaven but about the Kingdom of God coming to earth: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (4:17). And just before he ascended to the Father, he spent forty days with his disciples after his resurrection teaching them nothing but the kingdom of God, preparing them for the coming of the Kingdom presence and power through the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost: "He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). For Jesus, the coming of the Kingdom and the coming of the Spirit is synonymous: "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mt 12:28).

His kingdom priority is calling His disciples into the Kingdom who will in turn invite others into the Kingdom: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." So the disciples followed Jesus as He went throughout all Galilee to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel of the Kingdom. He healed the sick and demonized. Through his words and actions, Jesus demonstrated that the Kingdom has already come. For wherever the Kingdom is present, the 4D's of darkness, diseases, demons and death would have to go. In its place is righteousness, healing, freedom and life. Salvation is therefore deliverance from the Devil's 4D's now, not later: "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). The Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim is not some pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die. It's about deliverance from the personal effect of sin that leads to addictions, bondages, and dysfunctional lives by transferring us from the rule of Satan to come under the rule of Christ.

When I first became a Christian, I was told that when I put my faith in Christ, I will have eternal life. And eternal life is what I will get after I die. But I soon realized that was not what Jesus taught. For Jesus eternal life is having a relationship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ: "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3). Eternal life is not life later, but life now--it happens the moment we confess Him as our Lord and Saviour. This act of confession translates us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of light: "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Col 1:13-14). Note that Paul uses the present perfect tense, not the future tense to describe the change in our spiritual status.

This is the Gospel Jesus came to preach: that the Kingdom of God is not only coming but has already come: anyone can now be rescued from Satan's oppressive rule into the liberating rule of Christ. This freedom in Christ presumes that we submit our lives to Christ as Lord and Christ. If we may use the club analogy, believers are no longer members of the Devil's Club; we have become members of Jesus' Club, prepaid by His Blood as the membership fee. He is our new Manager and we now submit to His authority and rule in order to receive all the benefits of membership in this new Club membership. We are now under new Management with its new rule and obligation.

So, this is the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus and Paul preached. And this should be the Gospel we preach. Not life after death, but life before and beyond death.

Father, thank You that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, to set us free from social, spiritual and physical evils. Amen.

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