Monday, February 6, 2012

When Heaven Invades Earth

Matthew 6:10 and 33, Mark 1:14-15

I am struck by the fact that when Jesus began his ministry, as recorded in each Gospel, his message was "The Kingdom of God has come. Repent and believe the good news." He spent a great deal of time in the Gospels (especially Matthew) explaining what the kingdom of heaven was like (check out all those parables in Matthew 13). And yet, the modern church today says so little about the Kingdom.

First off, we should not get too hung up over the difference between the Kingdom of Heaven (used most often in Matthew) and the Kingdom of God (used mostly in the other Gospels). We are rather sure that Matthew was simply keeping to good Jewish form in not wanting to use the name of God and thus substituted Heaven. The concepts are the same for both phrases in all the Gospels. This can be seen in that the phrases--Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are used interchangeably. Matthew does use Kingdom of God (4 times: 12:28, 19:24, 21:31, 21:43) and when Matthew uses Kingdom of Heaven, the other Gospels use Kingdom of God. For example, in Matthew Jesus begins preaching by announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven has come (Matt 3:2) but Mark records him as saying that the Kingdom of God has come (Mark 1:15; and also Luke 8:1). So the terms seem to be interchangeable.

(I know it seems like I am making much of this, but a whole system of biblical interpretation has been built around the idea that the two are different.)

Secondly, it can be a bit hard wrapping our heads around this idea because it is rather meta-physical. Jesus was clear that we cannot see the kingdom (Luke 17:21) and John says to perceive of it, one needs to be "born again" (John 3:3). The Kingdom of God does not have geographical boundaries. There is no capitol, at least not here on earth. The Kingdom of God is a reality and exists whenever and wherever anyone crowns God in Christ as Lord and Sovereign of their lives. It is a spiritual reign, not a physical realm.

That said, one might be tempted to say that the Church is the Kingdom of God. The Church both is and is not the Kingdom. Let me try to explain. Scholars often talk about the true, invisible, Church and the physical church. The invisible Church is the collection of all genuine believers in Jesus and the physical church, or the visible one, includes a mixture of genuine believers and those who are attracted to the beauty and activity of the church, but fall short of true belief. Jesus spoke about this in the parable of the Drag Net in Matthew 13:47-52.

The Kingdom of God is the sovereign rule of God when and where ever it exists. The true, invisible, Church is the group of individuals who respond to that rule. So the Kingdom includes the true Church, but is not limited to it. God's coverings rule extends beyond the church.

The real purpose of this sermon is to help us think about choosing to live in the Kingdom by choosing to live by kingdom values. We actually live on the front lines of a battle field in which two sides are warring against each other. This is happening 24/7. Next week I will speak about the converse idea to Heaven Invading Earth--When Hell Invades Earth--and will look a bit at this war. However, being on the front lines, as it were, it is far to easy for us to vacillate from one side to the other.

Lord, help me choose Your Kingdom, Your will, everyday in every way!

Thanks for digging deeper.

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