Posts Tagged ‘kingdom’

Who’s in the Ministry?

The final study in the current series is Ministry. What is ministry? Who‘s in it? How is it different from other work? Why focus here? We’re seeking the biblical perspective.

Ministry can refer to political as well as to religious work. For example, the prime minister isn’t an archbishop, but the head of government, at least in many countries. During the nine years I lived in the U.K., I’d sometimes fail to be clear. When learning that I was “in the ministry,” people would ask, “Which department?” (Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Defence, etc). Well, since I’m an American, obviously I wasn’t serving in the British government, yet I was serving on staff for the church we planted in London back in 1982. We were evangelists, interns, and women’s ministry leaders.

Now before we get any deeper into our study, let me be clear from the outset: We deeply need men and women who are willing to serve as full-time, paid church workers. Ministry staff play a vital role. In most places they are overworked and under-appreciated. I have the greatest respect for the talented men and women who have foregone rewarding careers in order to serve the Lord in this way.

Who’s in the Ministry?

The questions we need to address this series:

  • Who is in the ministry?
  • What is ministry?
  • Why is what we call it so important?

As a new believer I was taught that every Christian is in the ministry. Three passages frequently referenced were 2 Cor 5:18-6:1 (ministry of reconciliation, ambassadors for Christ, God’s fellow-workers), 1 Pet 2:9 (no priest class in the N.T., since we’re all a royal priesthood), and Luke 9:23 (everybody is called to discipleship, not just church staff). Strong emphasis was placed on total commitment, and that goes out the window when people have a choice between doing the work and simply spectating. I would imagine that nearly all my readers agree that the double-standard prevalent in popular Christianity is both unhealthy and unbiblical.

Some believers feel uneasy when “ministry” is the topic; they may feel more comfortable with the lingo of discipleship. Here nearly the same point would be made: Just as every true Christian is a disciple of Christ (Acts 11:26; Matt 28:19-20), every Christian is also in the ministry.

How about you? Are you in the ministry? If you want to be a Christian, you’d better be! Next week we’ll work toward a definition of ministry (the “what?”). And the following week we’ll discuss the implications (the “why?” of this series).


An alternative government?

We have already established that the kingdom of God is the future (heavenly) age breaking into the present age. (See the last two lessons, The King and The Message, if you want to review.) That’s why the kingdom of God may equally well be called the kingdom of heaven. It’s cosmic; it includes the quick and the dead, angels and men. This certainly isn’t a human institution — nor is it the church.

In one sense the kingdom is the entire universe, since God is King of all creation. In another sense it is the sphere of obedience to the perfect will of God. We aren’t “added to the kingdom” so much as that the Lord’s reign is extended to us. The kingdom is an attitude, an orientation, a new world. It’s also a government. And it is this last sense of “kingdom” that now needs fleshing out.

An alternative government?

Until the return of the King, we enjoy his kingdom, and strive to live in such a way as to please him. Our primary citizenship is not in Argentina, Belgium, or Canada, but in the kingdom of heaven (Phil 3:20). Yet this kingdom is only dawning on our world; it has not come in its fullness. That’s why we keep praying the Lord’s Prayer, with its vital words “Thy kingdom come.”

Our citizenship may be in heaven, but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t want us to be good citizens. We are commanded to respect and pray for our leaders (not slander them), pay taxes, go the extra mile when neighbors (and even strangers) need help, and so on. Yet it’s in the nature of human governments to demand obedience (not just taxes). This is where Christians historically have occasionally run afoul of the powers that be. Consider the following:

  • Every nation has laws, and no nation’s laws are biblical (although occasionally a biblical principle may be visible by its influence).
  • Therefore the laws of the kingdom (as in Matt 5-7) frequently and fundamentally conflict with human laws (in such areas as resolving disputes, treatment of enemies, sexual ethics, marriage and divorce, etc). Where Christians follow the commands of God, a new society is sculpted, standing in judgment on the ego, materialism, and injustice of the world. It is fair to describe disciples of Christ as working under cover, spreading the kingdom life and message, establishing an alternative government!
  • When my wife joined me in moving from Sweden to the United States, she became subject to U.S. laws. (Vicki’s a Briton.) Yet she can’t pick and choose which laws (Swedish, American, or British) to obey; that’s dictated by the government. Just as one cannot serve two masters (Matt 6:24; Luke 16:13), so Christians are first citizens of the kingdom, then residents of our native countries. That’s why we cannot pledge our (ultimate) allegiance to any authority but God. (Website members, click on “Law, Allegiance, and Revolution.”)
  • The Kingdom is not based on coercion, but on humility (Matt 5:3 etc). Nor are we to issue threats. Hence Christians have historically refused to take others to court — quite the opposite. (“Give to the one who asks you.”) As atheist Ayn Rand pointed out in Atlas Shrugged, enlisting the government to force others to give to you is in effect no different than demanding it at gunpoint. (Prison or worse awaits those who refuse to comply.) Kingdom thinking rests not on legislating morality, but on the Spirit, consent, and the will to obey our Sovereign. For more on this, see Q&A 1035: Lawsuits okay for Christians?
  • Sadly, nearly all “Christians” blend in with the world — with little difference between their lifestyles and those of their respectable religious neighbors. Whether it’s double-mindedness or plain hypocrisy, reproach is brought on the church by those who play by the world’s rules (2 Cor 10:4). Most church folks today implicitly believe that we may live a double life if such is authorized by the government. It is the notion that it is acceptable for a true believer to have two selves that I especially want to address.

Two selves?
Obviously an individual Christian can never invade a country, decimate its inhabitants, or any of the other actions that are entailed in war. Yet since the 4th century the majority of church members have accepted that some actions unthinkable if done by a private citizen are fully permissible — even praiseworthy — when carried out by a citizen acting for and in the name of his government.

We’re so used to the idea of acceptable levels of violence — I refer to Christian conduct, not actions undertaken by governments, such as capital punishment (Rom 13:4) — that the thought of killing another human being does not seem odd at all. For this reason, to illustrate the point let’s consider a different action: adultery. What if you worked for the government (perhaps as a soldier or a secret agent) and your superiors instructed you to sleep with the ambassador’s wife in order to gain access to the enemy’s state secrets? I doubt many of us would respond, “Sure, I’d seduce her for the good of my country.” But if it wouldn’t be you committing the adultery, but the government acting through you, why would you be guilty? Because Christians have one standard, the holy living found in the life of Jesus Christ! In the same way, Christian actors don’t use profanity on the pretext that it isn’t they who are using vulgarity, but the characters invented by the playwright. Sin contaminates us. It affects our hearts and minds (Eph 4:17-18), and acting (or play-acting) otherwise doesn’t change this fact. We are always to live a in submission to our Superior, and there are no exceptions.

Naturally there’s a lot more to consider with respect to the political implications of being a Christian. (Sorry, it isn’t within the scope of this newsletter at this time to explore the issue of “Just War” vs. pacifism vs. passivism.) Hopefully we now appreciate the importance of the kingdom of God, and are thirsty for more. Two books that I can highly recommend were penned by Tom Jones and Steve Brown. The first is The Kingdom of God: The Future Breaks in. This is a comprehensive study of the kingdom, while the sequel volume, The Kingdom of God: The Sermon and the Life, explains how to live the kingdom life — taking seriously the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount. These books are worth their weight in gold.

Are you part of the Resistance?
The early church knew this truth, and occasionally paid a heavy price for not blending in or obeying Caesar when he opposed the will of God. Yet since the Middle Ages, most groups have taught that as we are citizens of two kingdoms, how we should behave depends on which king we’re serving at the moment. How different this is to the kingdom living envisioned by Jesus — Christians, in their loyalty to God (not Caesar), to some extent are subversive. This makes for no bland lifestyle, but an exciting vision and mission!

Bonus section: One kingdom or two?
Before exiting this mini-series, may I ask you to consider one more idea? There are two dominions now, one led by the prince of this world (Satan), and the other by the true King of Kings. Yet ultimately there will be only one kingdom. At the end of history, God will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28). Satan and all those who follow him will be destroyed (Matt 10:28).

Why, then, do nearly all church groups teach that the kingdom of darkness will endure for all eternity? That those who reject the sovereignty of the King of Kings will live forever? After all, the Bible teaches that, unless we are in Christ, we are mortal (Rom 6:231 Tim 6:16; 1 Cor 15:53). Unless I have seriously misread the scriptures, one day the only beings that exist will be those who have decided to obey God. There will be no second kingdom lurking in some corner of the universe, since God will be all in all. At that time, the kingdom will have fully come, the entire universe transformed and brought into obedience to his will! (If this vision leaves you with questions, take a look at Terminal Punishment, a paper I wrote 25 years ago, and which many Christians have found liberating.)

Upcoming: Who’s “in the ministry”?

Our recent series of series (so far, 3 lessons each on Discipleship, Baptism, Falling Away, Church, and Kingdom) will conclude with a study on Ministry. How did “ministry” become the province of professional church leaders, when in the N.T. everyone’s in the ministry? Learn why “ministry” lingo is so damaging to the church of Christ. That’s the subject of our next mini-series.

The Message of the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God

The Kingdom Message

Past, present, future
The Jews expected God to make his kingdom manifest when the Messiah returned and the new age was inaugurated. The age to come was to be marked by extraordinary political and economic prosperity. God’s enemies would be vanquished, Israel would be exalted as top nation, and there would be no more sickness or death. Yet rejecting the Messiah (the King), they failed to realize that this kingdom was inaugurated by Jesus. (And although it’s not always obvious, we are living in the Messianic age right now.)

Most evangelicals have adopted a view similar to the ancient Jews’, through “premillennial” theology: Jesus will return and reign on earth for 1000 years. Some even hold that Jesus must have “failed” to set up his earthly kingdom — since it is not yet visible, and sin and violence are still rampant all over the planet. Yet this is a misunderstanding.

Already, but not yet
What is the error? It’s a failure to grasp the relationship of the two ages — the present age and the age to come. The “last days” come not at the end, as the rabbis (like many modern believers) supposed, but rather in the midst of this present age. The kingdom of heaven breaks into history, causing an overlap. Or we could say that the end runs concurrently with the final phase of human history. Thus we experience both ages; the kingdom is “already, but not yet” — a familiar kingdom perspective. Please listen to this explanation if you need clarification about this paradoxical truth.

With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that the Bible speaks of the kingdom as past, present, and future. It’s always been here, it’s present today, and it will be revealed in ultimate glory at the end of history. This is also true of our Christian lives. We have already been brought into the kingdom (Col 1:13); we enjoy kingdom blessings now; and yet we pray for God one day to guide us to his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim 4:18; 2 Pet 1:10-12).

Then what about Pentecost? Isn’t that when the kingdom came? In one sense, yes, it did “come” at Pentecost, or was made manifest. Yet it has always been here. This may help. In Exodus 19:5-6 God makes Israel to be a kingdom of priests. The kingdom came at Sinai — even though God was already ruling as King. And he did the same for us (Rev 1:5-6)! The kingdom came, even though it was already there. (Back to “already, but not yet.”)

Kingdom in the New Testament
The coming of God’s kingdom is a major theme in the O.T. prophets (e.g. Mal 3:1; 4:5), as well as in the Gospels (e.g. Matt 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). This kingdom is not political (John 6:15; 18:36), nor is it visible (Luke 17:20-21). It is entered spiritually (John 3:3,5,7). As more and more embrace the message of the good news, the kingdom grows (Matt 13:31-33). (Click for clarification about a commonly misinterpreted kingdom passage.)

Jesus came to this earth. Since he’s the king, his reign (kingdom) naturally accompanied him. Although in some sense God’s people have always been under his kingship, only now under the new covenant are we “in the kingdom” (Matt 11:11). We enjoy the indwelling Holy Spirit, a better covenant, and many other aspects of kingdom life that were unavailable before the death, resurrection, ascension, and accession of Christ. Don’t miss the point: As a church we help each other to live and proclaim the kingdom life.

What, not visible?
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst” 
(Luke 17:20-21). This means:

  • It is an exercise in futility to monitor political and meteorological events in an attempt to predict God’s final intervention in the world.
  • Though its effects are powerful, the presence of the kingdom is subtle. The fanfare of those who equate large numbers and decibels with God’s kingdom is misguided.
  • The so-called “millennium,” derived from an overly literal reading of Rev 20:4-6, must not be construed in a way that conflicts with the teaching of Jesus that the kingdom is invisible. Rather, this figurative number symbolizes the victory of Jesus’ redemptive death and the power of his reign.
  • No institution, no group can be identified with the kingdom.

Further implications

  • First and foremost, the king has a claim over our lives 24/7. He isn’t our sovereign at church; he’s on the throne continuously. We shouldn’t procrastinate or plan to give God our all once Christ returns to reign. He’s already reigning (Rev 19:6)! Since we are living in the final age of history, obeying the Lord is a matter of utmost urgency.
  • The kingdom (in the sense of God’s rule) is where God’s will is done, a sphere always increasing as the sovereignty of God gains universal acceptance. Our planet is under enemy rule; we are the advance troops sent to prepare the way for the Messiah. Working together with Christ, we are helping to create pockets of resistance where His will is done. We answer ultimately not to the governors of this world, but to a higher power.
  • The kingdom isn’t the church. (Click for a full explanation.) It would be more accurate to say that the church is part of the kingdom, or that it reflects the kingdom. In one sense the church is the kingdom — just as Jesus is God — yet to leave it at that is to invite confusion, since we don’t mean that the church is the entire kingdom, any more than we mean that Jesus is the Father, or the entire Trinity.
  • We are ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven. Ambassadors reside in a foreign country, representing their own nation. So too Christians are foreigners in the world, representing a different government than the one in charge where we live.
  • A whole set of implications of the doctrine of the Kingdom is political — the subject of next week’s issue.

I’d like to leave you with one parting thought. Currently there are two kingdoms: the dominion of darkness, led by the Prince of this World, and the kingdom of God’s Son (Col 1:13). And yet Paul teaches that ultimately God will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). It sounds as if there will be only one kingdom for all eternity. (You mean Satan doesn’t rule his subjects forever and ever? That’s right.) More on this next week.


Who is on the throne of the Kingdom? by @DouglasJacoby

Who’s on the throne?

The King
Of course the Lord God is the one on the throne (Judges 21:25; 1 Sam 8:7; Rev 19:16)! There’s never been a time when the universe has been left untended, so there’s always been a kingdom — frequently mentioned in the Old Testament (Psa 103:19; Isa 37:16; Jer 10:10). And by virtue of his resurrection, Jesus Christ has been enthroned. A crucial, yet too-often skimmed, section of Peter’s Pentecost message is Acts 2:29-36. Jesus began to reign after this series of events: Resurrection — Ascension — Accession. Because of his resurrection, he ascends to heaven to accede to the throne of God. Ultimately, according to Paul, Jesus will hand over the kingdom to the Father (1 Cor 15:24).

Since there has always been a king, it follows that there has always been a kingdom. But what exactly is a kingdom? After a brief digression, we’ll attempt to answer that question.

Kouame Koudou I
About 10 years ago, before thousands of Ivorians and on national television, I was made an honorary chief. The elders led me in procession, special robes were given, and I was enthroned under the (French African) name Kouame Koudou le Premier. (Kouame for Sunday, the day of the enthronement, Koudou — an antelope, presumably for my athleticism [kidding], and le Premier because I was first in my family to receive this title.) It was quite an honor. When my kids heard about it, they thought that was so cool. (“Guess what? My dad’s an African chief!”) But wait a minute. I may be a chief, who are my subjects? And where is my territory? And has anyone seen my throne?

Of course this sort of thinking isn’t like the message of Jesus. When he explained the kingdom, he never delivered tidy definitions or implied that the God’s kingdom is only a celestial version of our own earthly kingdoms. They are institutional, yet the kingdom of God can never be equated with an institution! Rather, Jesus began his explanations, “The kingdom… is like…” (Matt 13:24, 31, 33, 34, 45, 47; 18:23; 22:2). Which brings us to the second half of our lesson.

Kingdom: Rule vs. Realm
There are two meanings of kingdom we are concerned with. One is realm, the other is rule. The realm is all territory over which God is sovereign. It becomes clear that this means the entire universe. Since the Lord is king forever and ever (Psalm 10:16), this sense of kingdom does not change.

Whereas the realm is universal — even God’s enemies are in that kingdom — God rules the hearts of his subjects only when they are willing. His reign, or rule, comprises the sphere of obedience. Naturally in this sense the kingdom is far, far more than the church of Christ. It includes the quick and the dead — humans, obedient angels, and other celestial powers. Thus to limit the kingdom, as some do, to those alive today who are committed Christians is a narrow view indeed.

Instructor of angels?
13 years ago, in an effort to recognize a serious need for biblical teaching in our fellowship, a small group of men were publicly recognized as “kingdom teachers.” Understanding the kingdom to include myriad beings in the entire cosmos, we couldn’t help but chuckle (and never actually used our title). For to be a teacher in the kingdom would require us to teach angels, not just men; the dead as well as the living. (And the Bible forbids communication with the dead.) I opted for the more modest “Director of Education.” We may not like to hear it, but put bluntly, the kingdom is not the church — much less a single fellowship.

Thy kingdom come?
Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Note the parallelism: the kingdom coming is identified with God’s will being done. This is not a prayer for the kingdom to “come” at Pentecost, for the kingdom continues to come wherever and whenever God’s will is done. More on in the next lesson.

Kingdom has two senses. Every being in the world is in the kingdom in the broader sense — God’s realm. There are many beings within his realm — apparently the large majority — who are not living under his rule. Prizing their own autonomy, they refuse to honor Jesus Christ as Lord (Luke 19:27). God’s kingdom in the second sense is his rule, voluntarily accepted in the hearts of his subjects. When and where God’s will is done, there is the kingdom.

Having laid a foundation for going forward, hopefully now we’re prepared to appreciate the message of the kingdom. It’s vastly misunderstood, deceptively simple, exciting beyond our wildest dreams, and crucial to grasp if we are to be true followers of the King. Till next week…

Kingdom Kid Apologetics with Kate Oakes Hall

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Kate Oakes Hall as Kingdom Kid and Female Apologist on Relate4ever Publishing


Bautismo Hugo en Cristo

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Bautismo Hugo en cuerpo de Cristo en Ecuador