What Is the Gospel of the Kingdom? (Part 3)

We have received the gospel (good news) of the kingdom, and we now have unbroken fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. What’s next?

 

The gospel of the kingdom is a gospel of power — because our fellowship with the King produces a continual flow of His power in and through us. The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians, “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). Earlier in that same letter he said,

For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
— 1 Corinthians 2:2-4

Note that Paul wasn’t impressed with slick, polished preaching. He wanted tangible evidence of what it produced in people’s lives.

The closing verses of Mark’s Gospel give us an idea of what this “demonstration of the Spirit and power” should look like:

And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature…. And these signs shall follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover….”

And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.
— Mark 16:15, 17, 18, 20

Jesus also promised, “He who believes on Me, the works that I do will he also do. And greater works than these will he do; because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). We are to emulate Jesus, Whom “God anointed … with the Holy Spirit and with power: Who went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38), and Who “destroy[ed] the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

In addition, we demonstrate the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23), thereby revealing the character of Jesus to the world. We can do these things only through the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us.

We must understand that the power of God’s kingdom is quite different from that of the world system. The carnal nature wants power over people to force them into thinking and acting in prescribed ways. In the kingdom of God, we are not to lord it over others, but to serve them. When Jesus sets His physical foot on the earth, that will change. He will rule His enemies with a “rod of iron” (Revelation 19:15). There will be no tolerance of rebellion or wicked behavior then. But we are not yet at that stage of the kingdom.

Much of the apostolic/prophetic movement today is focused on advancing the kingdom of God through gaining positions of power and influence in what are referred to as “the seven mountains” of society — government, education, business, media, entertainment, religion, and family. They believe if we just have enough Christians holding these positions, we will be able to bring “transformation” to our society. (Secular people also use the seven mountains terminology, but with the opposite agenda.) So far, I don’t think it is working very well.

We are supposed to “occupy” until the Lord comes (Luke 19:13), and being involved in leadership in these various areas is certainly God’s purpose for some. When we abdicate our responsibilities to be involved, we end up with tyranny such as we currently see happening. So, yes, if you are called to run for government office or to speak into it — or any of the other areas of society — by all means take your place.

But never forget that this is temporary and limited, and that we cannot force the kingdom of God on people through gaining the reins of power. When we try to apply an outward kingdom to unchanged hearts, it not only doesn’t work, but because Christians still deal with a sin nature, we are in danger of enforcing a religious tyranny every bit as oppressive as what we had before. Read the history of Oliver Cromwell’s takeover in Britain if you have any doubts.

The kingdom of God is within you, and advancing its boundaries is primarily about helping others to have the kingdom within them, too. This gospel is focused on delivering people from the power of darkness and translating them into the kingdom of God’s Son, as mentioned in Colossians 1:13, not on just giving them a better life now.

Some have responded to the extremes of transformation (seven mountains) theology by saying, “Well, if we focus on evangelism, enough people will come to the Lord, so society WILL be transformed. Heart change will equal society change.” I would agree — as long as we realize lots of people coming to Jesus doesn’t always mean having a godly government, education system, business world, etc. It could, but it may not work out that way. Multitudes of people are coming to Christ around the world, but some continue to live under extreme oppression, with evil people still holding the reins at the top. Think in terms of the Roman Empire in Paul’s day, or China and Iran right now.

Our challenge is to keep God’s kingdom in right perspective, remembering that at this point in time, it is still a spiritual kingdom. We carry it with us wherever we go, and it spills out from the spiritual into the natural realm as we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. Our main goal is to let others know through our words and deeds that they, too, can be part of the kingdom, with all its benefits, but especially having eternal, unbroken relationship with God.

Next time we will talk about the kingdom of God’s future.

Part 1

Part 2

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names of God

The Names of God,
by Lee Ann Rubsam
An alphabetical list of the names and titles of God, as found in the KJV

What Is the Gospel of the Kingdom? (Part 2)

In our last post, I gave a simple definition of what the gospel (good news) of the kingdom is, as preached by Jesus: God desires to dwell with man in unbroken fellowship.

In John 14:6, Jesus explained that HE is the only way to enter into this kingdom fellowship with God. He also said, in John 10:9, “I am the door: if any man enters in by Me, he shall be saved….” So, we see that in order to be part of God’s kingdom, we must initially enter it through Jesus.

This is the same message as the gospel of salvation, which is why I said in the last post that I disagree with those who say the salvation gospel is inferior to the kingdom gospel. Jesus was all about bringing people to the Father through belief on the Son. He died on the cross so that we could enter into restored fellowship with God, which had been lost in the Garden of Eden.

I think perhaps there is a misunderstanding among those who claim to be “kingdom-minded” about what the salvation message really is. It is definitely not about saying the sinner’s prayer and then going on in an unchanged lifestyle. Serious Christians across denominational lines realize that once we enter God’s kingdom we are supposed to continue growing in Christ. That’s why we have all the discipleship/Christian growth resources that we do.  It is not only those who identify with kingdom theology who desire to see the “equipping of the saints” (“perfecting of the saints,” in the King James), mentioned in Ephesians 4:12.

Unfortunately, there are people who want to go on living unsanctified lives, who deceive themselves into thinking they know Jesus. Even sadder is that some churches are fine with this! But it was never the way God intended things to be, as most of us know.

It is worth noting that the apostle Paul referred to the gospel he preached as the “gospel of Christ,” not the “gospel of the kingdom” — yet Paul did speak about the kingdom of God, usually in the context of how to live a lifestyle worthy of heaven. Again, this is the message of salvation and how it should evidence in our lives. I invite you to investigate for yourself by looking up “kingdom” and “gospel” in a concordance, and then checking what comes up in Paul’s letters.

So, what did Paul preach? He preached “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Everything he said focused on, and was anchored in, Christ and His atoning work on the cross. For those who did not yet know Who Jesus was and what He had accomplished, Paul revealed Him as the way into fellowship with God. For those who had already entered into that fellowship, he instructed them in detail in what being citizens of God’s kingdom should look like.

Essentially, both Jesus and the apostles spoke of the kingdom’s three phases:

Entering into it

We believe on Jesus, and the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. This is “the kingdom of God is within you” stage, mentioned by Jesus in Luke 17:21. Paul says God has at this point “sealed us, and given us the earnest [down payment] of the Spirit in our hearts” (1 Corinthians 1:22). 1 John 4:13 tells us, “Hereby we know that we dwell in him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”

Living it out

This is what we do, after we have received Jesus, during our mortal time on earth. We act as salt and light to those around us. We tell others the good news that they can know Jesus too. We progressively become like Jesus. We listen to how the Spirit directs us and carry out God’s will as He has specifically purposed for each of us to do.

What is ahead

This is our future after this life — enjoying heaven with the Lord UNTIL it is time for Jesus to physically reign on the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20). We will be with Him back on earth then, in our resurrected bodies, because the kingdom is about forever being with the Lord. Revelation also speaks about the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven and God living there with His people forever.

Whatever your end-times theology happens to be, my point is that Jesus will, at a specific moment in history, return to earth and reign here physically, and we will be with Him — again, that unbroken fellowship with the Lord.

We see that from the time we enter into God’s kingdom through embracing Jesus as our Savior and Lord, through our mortal life on earth, and from there into eternity, God’s plan is to live in us and with us. Through all of the phases, we will enjoy His kingdom in a spiritual sense, but in the future we will also experience the physical, material kingdom of God here on earth and in the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21 and 22.

“Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) is always our reality, but we will not see it in its completeness until the return of Jesus. Next time, we’ll talk more about the kingdom of God as we are meant to live it out now.

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What Is the Gospel of the Kingdom? (Part 1)

In apostolic/prophetic circles, there is much talk about the “gospel of the kingdom” as preached by Jesus. We are often told that this is different from the “gospel of salvation” most of the Church is focused on, and that salvation is just a small portion of the kingdom gospel.

We are told that, in preaching the gospel of the kingdom, Jesus was speaking of believers transforming society by getting into positions of influence so they can change the system. While I am all for bringing the light and truth of Jesus with us everywhere through our words and deeds, this “kingdom” message never sat quite right in my spirit, especially in how winning souls was minimized.

For a long time, I continued to ask the Lord here and there, “What is the true gospel of the kingdom?” I felt that He finally gave me the understanding I was seeking, and this is it in a nutshell:

The gospel (good news) of the kingdom is that God desires to dwell with man in unbroken fellowship.

There are different phases in the journey to His goal. Our human thinking tends to focus on the things we experience with our five natural senses, while the material world is secondary to the spiritual with the Lord. Thus, the Jewish people of Jesus’ time looked for an earthly Messiah-King, who would overturn the oppressive government they were currently under. When Jesus began His ministry by saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15), they assumed He was on their wavelength. When He didn’t deliver on that expectation, they rejected Him. They did not understand God’s timeline or His perfect order in fulfilling His kingdom on earth.

When the religious leaders demanded to know when He was going to set up His kingdom, Jesus attempted to correct their notion by saying, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation. Neither shall they say, ‘It’s here!’ or, It’s there!’ for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20, 21). The kingdom of God starts in our hearts, by believing on Jesus. When we do that, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of us, planting Christ’s kingdom within. The kingdom of God within us is about having continual communion with Him.

This is why the salvation message is not inferior at all to Jesus’ kingdom message. They are one and the same. Let’s go back to our nutshell definition of the gospel of the kingdom of God: God desires to have unbroken fellowship with mankind. It is not about gaining power over territory, governments, and world systems. These are only outward manifestations. A kingdom is never a kingdom without people. The Lord desires for as many people as possible to know Him and to have communion with Him. He wants to live within us and among us forever. This is why one of His names is Immanuel — God with us. It is the longing of His heart.

The kingdom of God starts as a spiritual reality, which will ultimately become a natural reality as well. It is a process from one to the next — but there will be a very sudden advent of its completion, when Jesus comes to physically rule on earth from His capital city, Jerusalem.

Yes, we are to bring God’s kingdom into our world right now. Jesus said we are to be salt and light. We should actively oppose evil and bring His goodness to bear in our natural realm.

But don’t ever let anyone tell you that the Church is the sum total of the physical reign of Christ, and that there will never be a bodily return of Jesus. This is modern-day Gnosticism. Gnosticism was a serious heresy in the early Church. The apostle John spoke of it when he said false prophets were teaching that Jesus had come spiritually, but that He had not actually come in the flesh (1 John 4:1-4). In our time, a few in the prophetic/apostolic community are going so far as to teach that Jesus will not come again in the flesh. They spiritualize His second coming by saying that the Church as His body is the only physical appearance Jesus is going to make. Run from them!

If I’ve raised more questions than I’ve answered, please keep in mind that this post is a beginning overview for a series. I hope as we delve deeper into the gospel of the kingdom, the points I have made will become clearer.  Until next time!

Next (Part 2)

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intercessor training

The Intercessor Manual,
by Lee Ann Rubsam

Eyes Up Here!

Many conservative Christians are succumbing to a temptation right now — to believe and speak the natural conclusions they are reaching from the negative events we see happening around us…

… instead of speaking what they have genuinely heard from the Holy Spirit. It is easy to mistake these natural assessments for God’s agenda. We might incorrectly think we are speaking for the Lord in mouthing them. They might sound prophetic — but not be. These words, by the sheer frequency of how often we are bombarded with them lately, are powerfully affecting the Body of Christ in a negative way.

Many once had strong hope for a quick overturning of a fraudulent election. When that didn’t happen in the expected time or way, and evil agendas of powerful people in our government became increasingly entrenched, hope was abandoned. People caved in to despair. Afghanistan seemed to be the final straw for some, so that now we’ve got a lot of, “This is the end and we will all be martyred shortly” talk. Or, “America is done for.” Or (once again), “Stockpile food, get your ammo, and head for the hills.”

I don’t know how everything is going to play out and in what time frame. But I do know that the despairing assessments I see and hear are not exactly resonating inside. So, I’ve continued to ask the Lord to give me His understanding of what He is currently doing and what to look for in the days ahead. He hasn’t given me specifics yet, and He may not. I think the Lord is holding His plans close to His vest, so to speak. He’s not telling any of us a lot of details right now.

And, He gave me this word for the Church yesterday:

“Eyes up here.”

He wants us to get into that secret place of His presence, stop gazing so intently on the stuff happening all around us, and fix our eyes steadfastly upon Him.

Does that mean we don’t pray about Afghanistan, the election, the exposure and abolishment of evil, and the preservation of freedom? Of course not. Our prayers were crucial months ago, and they are now, too. They are making inroads and releasing miracles, some of which we can see now and some of which will appear later. God expects us to persevere in prayer for these things.

But we must also do it with the understanding that He has everything under control. As shaking goes on, He is not shaken. He’s got a plan, and He is systematically carrying it out. He is completely calm and assured of the outcome — short-term and long-term. He knows exactly what He’s doing.

We must also maintain an eternal perspective. This world as it now stands is not all there is. Jesus will come for His Church, perhaps sooner than we anticipated. Jesus will physically set His feet on earth to rule and restore all things. And there is even more beyond that, stretching into forever, which we know little to nothing about yet.

Continue to persevere in prayer concerning earthly events. As long as we are here on this planet, we are called to do so, expecting mighty answers. Don’t give up. It’s not over yet. But be careful to speak only what you hear and see from the Spirit, not from what your natural eyes and ears tell you. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and place your hope in Him. He’s got it.

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He Calls You Beloved booklet
— A listing of the names God calls us, from the KJV

Free list webpage

names of God

The Names of God
650+ names as found in the KJV

Two Arks

Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

The Lord has been speaking to me in recent days about staying in the safety of the ark of His presence during the events we currently see happening around us. He approached the idea by reminding me of the two arks mentioned in Scripture. The first ark appears in Genesis 6 — Noah’s ark. The second is the Ark of the Covenant, which is also called the Ark of the Testimony and the Ark of God.

There is an unusual correlation between Noah’s ark and the Ark of the Covenant. Both were representations of God’s covenant with the people they involved. Both were places of safety and refuge. Both provided a testimony of His intervention and protection. And, both spoke of God’s presence with them.

We understand from the Bible that God’s presence physically rested within and upon the Ark of the Covenant. His presence was in that boat with Noah and his family, too.  God Himself closed the door of Noah’s ark, shutting Noah into safety and shutting out the evil which would soon be taking place around it. Those who were in the ark were completely protected from harm. All the same, we can imagine how terrifying it must have been to feel the violent shaking and rocking going on outside the boat, while not being able to see what was happening.

The Lord is calling us, too, into a place of safety. It is the place of His presence, where we are securely hidden in Him from all danger. Psalm 27:5 expresses it this way: “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion. In the secret of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me up on a rock.” Psalm 91 gives us a full picture of what it looks like to be hidden in God’s presence. No wonder it is one of the most beloved passages of Scripture!

How do we come into this place of complete rest and safety? It is rightfully ours by God’s irrevocable covenant with us in Jesus’ blood. We are invited into His presence, and we appropriate it simply by coming to Him, being with Him, and determining to trust Him to hide us. He promised us, “…Your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). The key to being rock-bottom sure that we are hidden safely in His care is given in the verse just before that: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Even as we feel the shaking all around us, and even if we don’t understand all that is happening, we have His promise: He will take care of us. Noah didn’t need to know all the details of what was going on outside in order to remain safe. He just needed to stay in God’s arms within the boat. That’s what we must learn to do, too. Noah had the Lord’s promise that He would bring them through; the same promise belongs to us.

Staying hidden in the ark of God’s presence does not mean we hunker down in a corner and do nothing. No, being hidden in His ark is partly about expecting God to physically care for us (because His Word says He will). But even more so, it is a spiritual mindset. Except in situations of extreme chaos, we can continue to do whatever He calls us to  — win the lost, stand for what is right, speak truth into our sphere of influence, or relentlessly use the battering ram of intercession against the devil’s schemes. In other words, we “occupy until He comes” (Luke 19:13). This is not a place of inactivity, but of rest in our inner man. We keep on following Ecclesiastes 9:10‘s advice: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it will all your might” — as long as we do it by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Abiding in the ark of God’s presence will bring us into a deeper, sturdier trust in Him than we have yet known. That is one of the purposes He has in allowing us to go through shaking — to build our trust in Him. When we trust deeply, we love the One we trust more intensely than before. On the other side of all the shaking, we will know HIM more intimately. And that is priceless treasure.

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