Jesus, his apostles, as well as the early church proclaimed a message revolving around the good news of the kingdom. After Jesus’ death and ascension, preaching shifted to Christ and the kingdom.
This kingdom proclamation contained a message for the present. Through Christ, God’s power was overcoming all the binding weapons of evil to usher in a new manifestation of God’s rule. Christ brought release. People were to live with kingdom values and behaviors. Upon Jesus’ resurrection, he was exalted as Lord.
However, their proclamation also included a message regarding the future. At the end of time, some would inherit the kingdom while others would not.
How does today’s preaching compare with their message?
Both Jesus and the New Testament writers announced that current behavior will influence future reward. The repetitive nature of this message reveals its critical importance for our understanding today. To summarize this aspect of their kingdom message, we learn that:
- How people respond today to the message about the kingdom determines their future reality (Luke 14:15-24). Some will understand the kingdom’s value and respond appropriately (Matthew 13:44-46), while others will allow various life experiences and situations to override and squelch its transforming impact upon their lives (Matthew 13:18-22);
- When the Son returns unexpectedly, the kingdom will be comprised of some who have wisely prepared for his return, while other citizens will discover they are woefully unprepared (Matthew 25:1-13).
In light of the events that will transpire with the kingdom at the end, how are people to prepare?
- Preparation involves being faithful in handling their “nobleman’s” business. This will determine whether one will be blessed or lose everything/ be cast out. Furthermore, those who reject the nobleman-turned-king will be slaughtered (Luke 19:11-27; Matthew 25:14-31).
- Citizens of the kingdom prepare for the future by showing compassion during their lifetime. This results in storing up treasure for themselves in heaven. Accordingly, they will inherit eternal life in the kingdom. On the other hand, those who fail to demonstrate love toward others will be sent to the eternal fire prepared for the devil (Luke 12:32-34; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Matthew 25:31-46).
- By pursuing godly virtues and works of faith, God’s people can make certain their calling. Thus they can anticipate their entrance into the eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1:10-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:12).
Part of the good news is that when citizens of the kingdom faithfully live for God obeying him, they can look forward to belonging to God and being under God’s reign at the end of time. However, we are also told that some people at the judgment will be lost because they chose to reject Christ and the gospel. Furthermore, some who professed Christ will be lost because they failed to obey God’s will or to pursue righteousness (Matthew 13:36-43; 13:47-50; 5:15-23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12).
In the end, death itself will be placed in submission to the Son. At that time the Son will hand over the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). God’s reign will be absolute.
To be sure, more can be written about the future kingdom. Nevertheless, the fact that current behavior impacts our future reality is certainly one central and significant message about the kingdom.
If this emphasis by Jesus and the New Testament authors upon doing makes us nervous, we need to remember this is what they taught and what they wrote. How then do we reconcile such a message with the call to rely upon Christ for salvation?
For starters, let’s remember that these were not teachings to pagans informing them how to either become a part of God’s covenant people and thus members of God’s kingdom, nor how such individuals could save themselves based upon their own actions. To those outside of Christ and outside of the new covenant promises Jesus’ death made possible, the gospel invited them to rely upon Christ crucified in order to be saved.
Rather, the message about paying attention to how one lives was directed by Jesus’ teaching ministry as well as the New Testament letters toward those whom God had already claimed as citizens of his kingdom by covenant (Exodus 19:4-6; Colossians 1:12-14; Hebrews 8:6f.; Ephesians 2:12,13,19). God’s people are to fulfill their purpose of doing good and working with the Spirit, not against him. Accordingly this message of doing was/is the encouraging message God desires his people to hear from his inspired communicators, in order that his people might fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. It also simultaneously warned them and warns us to not fall off the wagon by pursuing darkness.
The next article in this series is: Releasing The Captives
The first article in this series was: Thy Kingdom Come – The Synoptic Gospels’ Perspective