~by Randy Bushey
Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this (Isaiah 9:7).
Israel of the 1st century was at the epicenter of a highly-charged political atmosphere, constantly on the verge of emitting seismic shock-waves throughout the Mediterranean world.
The Rome ruled much of the known world with a fist of iron. And that fist was controlled by Emperor Gaius Octavius.
He was declared by his faithful senators to be deity; hence he became known as Caesar Augustus.
Given their rich spiritual history, the nation of Israel chafed under the Roman rule of this man-god.
Jewish nationalism – heavily influenced by their religious conviction that they alone were God’s chosen people – caused Israel to be constantly on the lookout for God’s next prophet. The minds of the faithful clung desperately and stubbornly to the centuries-old hope of the Messiah – the One to seize power and usher in the kingdom of God.
And, hopefully by whatever force required, to evict the empire of Rome.
Into that milieu – rising with meteoric velocity – entered John the Baptist calling Israel to Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matthew 3:2).
The Jews were aghast! Why, of all people, were they being called to repent?
And hard on John’s heels came Jesus of Nazareth, preaching the good news of His imminent Kingdom and – unlike any other claiming the title of Messiah before or after – authenticating His message with irrefutable miracles by the power of God.
But the Kingdom of Heaven was not what most Jewish patriots envisioned. Jesus of Nazareth showed no intention of running the Romans out of the Holy Land.
What the majority failed to understand, but the minority – both Jews and Gentiles – came to recognize as the fulfillment of prophetic Scriptures from centuries past, was this: the Kingdom of Heaven was unlike any other realm that history had ever witnessed.
This kingdom would be evidenced in 3 dimensions.
PAST: God’s Kingdom on earth was inaugurated by Christ beginning with His rabbinic ministry in Judea and Galilee. The Kingdom exists wherever God is acknowledged as Lord. That’s part of what Jesus indicated by saying, the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21).
PRESENT: The gospels conclude with Christ ascending to heaven and to His coronation as the Cosmic King. Paul explains what the Father did as a result of the crucifixion: He raised Him [Jesus] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:20,21)
FUTURE: Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Conqueror charged with meting out the judgement of God at His appointed time. John describes it this way in The Revelation: I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose Rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God (Revelation 19:11-13).
Takeaway: As a citizen of that kingdom, does my life reflect the values of the invisible Kingdom of Heaven? Am I awaiting His return of my King. And, am I a prism through which the King’s glory is refracted to my world? Do I have an insatiable hunger to know and to value Christ – truthfully, accurately, biblically?
- this post originally appeared in September 2014.
~graphic by Vanessa Fitzgerald, freeimages.com