Biblical Theology — 7

Biblical Theology — 7

The Proclaimed Kingdom

 

Review

Last week we learned that the Kingdom of God (God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule, and enjoying God’s blessing) had come but not in all its fullness. At the end of the Gospels we saw the final picture beginning to come into focus. We called that “The Present Kingdom”:

  • God’s people — New Adam; New Israel
  • Live in God’s place — True tabernacle; True temple
  • Under God’s rule — New covenant
  • Enjoying God’s blessing — Rest

Jesus taught His disciples that he would leave the earth and that there would be a delay before He returned. It is only when He comes again that everything will be put right and all discord will be banished forever. This next epoch (The Proclaimed Kingdom) looks at what the Bible teaches about what we can expect in the meantime, between Jesus’ first and second comings.

 

The Last Days

The Bible calls the time between the first and second comings of Christ “the last days” (e.g., 2 Timothy 3:1; James 5:3). This is the period in which the New Testament letters were written and in which we still live today. It lies in the intersection of two ages: “this present age” and “the age to come” (e.g., Matthew 12:32). The Kingdom of God is both “now” and “not yet.”

 

The Reason for the Delay

Peter predicts that skeptics will wonder whether Jesus will ever return: “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say ‘Where is this coming He promised'” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Peter encourages us by saying “do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9). He has deliberately delayed the return of the Lord Jesus so that more people have a chance to hear the gospel and repent before it is too late.

 

The Sending of the Spirit

Within days of Christ’s ascension, the first Christians receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Immediately they begin to preach the gospel in many languages. This is a very clear sign that the Spirit has been given for the specific purpose of testifying to us of Christ’s word, particularly, the gospel. God is at work reversing the effects of the confusion of languages, which was His judgment after the building of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11). In the past the nations were divided, but now, through the gospel, God is calling together a multinational family of people, united in the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter sees this as God fulfilling His promise through the prophet Joel: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:17).

 

The Work of the Spirit

The Spirit’s primary purpose is to testify of Christ’s words. He also performs these other very important works:

  • He brings new birth (John 3)
  • He equips us to serve Christ — we are filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8)
  • He equips us in our ministry to one another (e.g., spiritual gifts — 1 Cor. 12:12-31)
  • He produces holiness — He help us fight sin in our lives and become more like Jesus (1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2)

 

The Kingdom of God in the Last Days

During the last days, the Kingdom of God is spreading as the Spirit works through the proclamation of the gospel.

 

  1. God’s People
  • The new Israel is the Church — that is, all those who trust in Christ (1 Peter 2:9; Rom. 2:28-29)

 

  1. God’s Place
  • Jesus, the true temple of God, has now ascended to heaven but God continues to live in this fallen world. His temple now is not a holy building but a holy people (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God lives within us as a Christian community (Eph. 2:20-21; 1 Peter 2:4-5).

 

  1. God’s Rule and Blessing
  • We have the presence of the Spirit within us to help us live up to God’s standards (Romans 7:6).

 

The Kingdom of God

We have the first fruits of the Spirit: a taste of the blessings of heaven. We are adopted to be children of God (Eph. 1:5-6). We know something of what it is like to be holy, and we long for more. And we know something of what it means to know God through Christ and to be loved by Him, and we cannot wait to feel it more. That is why we “groan inwardly.” All of this is the inevitable consequence of the fact we live in this “in-between period”, in the intersection of the ages. We are citizens of heaven, who must, for the time being, live as “strangers” in the world (Phil. 3:20; 1 Peter 1:1). But we shall not have to live away from home forever. One day the Lord Jesus will return to take us to join Him in the perfected Kingdom.

  • God’s people — The Church
  • Live in God’s place — The individual believer; The Church
  • Under God’s rule — New covenant; Holy Spirit
  • Enjoying God’s blessing — Adoption

 

Biblical Theology Diagrams

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