Title Page. Lesson Five. Matthew 1:23. Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 3:1-2. Matthew 3:1-2
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world. His kingdom is an eternal spiritual kingdom born within the hearts of mankind, and internal through the new-birth experience.
The very mention of the word kingdom conjures up visions of elegant palaces, regal robes, jeweled crowns, royal throne rooms, and graceful pageantry. Perhaps reflections of the splendor of Solomon’s Temple and palace were in the minds of the Jewish people during the time of Jesus, which boosted their desire for their own king to rule them. Pageantry and elegance were not the most forceful desires in their lives, however, for they desired to be free of the tyranny of the Roman emperor.
History bears out the rarity of any nation that is content for an external force to rule over it. Something innate within mankind causes us to desire leadership from among our own. Even people subjected to tyrannical dictatorship from within, when liberated by an external army, desire a new leader from among their own people.
The Jewish people of the early first century were no different. For over four hundred years, monarchies of various invading and conquering rulers had subjected them to undesirable conditions. However, prophecies foretold of a coming Messiah, a special one sent from Jehovah God, to rule over them in a time of peace and tranquility. In the minds of the Jewish people, the time for the establishment of such a kingdom was right. Thus, when John the Baptist appeared on the scene proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand, his message captured their attention.
The prophet Isaiah, author of the largest prophetic book in our Bible, recorded perhaps the most memorable messianic prophecy of ancient history. (See Isaiah 9:6-7.) Possibly every Jew living during Jesus’ time could quote that prophecy, and he probably did so with a gleam of anticipation in his eye. Considering Rome’s tyrannical rule, the hearts of the Jewish people understandably longed for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words. Eager anticipation caused them to accept with great expectation any word of the establishment of a new kingdom. In their finite understanding, they did not realize that the Messiah would not, at that time, usher in an earthly kingdom.
Within the confines of the New Testament are references to the “kingdom,” the “kingdom of heaven,” and the “kingdom of God.” Synonymous with the other two terms, the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is limited to the Gospel of Matthew, and we should not misconstrue it to be a separate or different entity.
From seeming obscurity at an unspecified point of time between AD 27 and AD 29, John the Baptist appeared on the scene proclaiming the kingdom of heaven to be near. (See Matthew 3:1-2.) Perhaps it was John’s brusque and forthright manner, or possibly his appearance, that intrigued the people. However, the people’s hunger for deliverance from Rome most likely caused them to listen to his proclamation.
John, in his own unorthodox way, preached that though the kingdom of heaven was near, repentance was necessary to gain admission. Since God’s ways and mankind’s ways are diametrically opposed to each other, the only way that humanity could possibly enter into the kingdom of heaven was by changing its ways and way of thinking to align with God and His ways. (See Proverbs 14:12; 16:25; Isaiah 55:8-9.) Since the fall of Adam and Eve, repentance on the part of mankind has been a prerequisite for drawing near to God.
Following the forty-day period of His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus began His preaching ministry by proclaiming the same message that John the Baptist had heralded—the kingdom of heaven is come. (See Matthew 4:17, 23.) It would do little for humanity to know that the kingdom of heaven was among us if there were no instructions for entry. Therefore, from the first proclamation that the kingdom was at hand, the qualification for entry was repentance.
The Greek word translated as “repent” or “repentance” in the New Testament is metanoeo, which signifies “a changing of one’s mind and purpose in life.” Repentance is therefore a complete turning around in one’s thinking and in one’s direction in life. Sin, which beforehand was acceptable as both normal and right, upon repentance becomes both abnormal and wrong. It is interesting to note that in the armed forces of Great Britain, when the officer in command desires the troops to march in the opposite direction, the command is one simple word—repent!
In His dialogue with Nicodemus, Jesus gave a more complete set of instructions regarding entry into the kingdom of heaven. (See John 3:1-7.) Repentance is only the initial step in approaching the kingdom; actual entry requires being born again of the water and of the Spirit as Jesus told Nicodemus.
During the second year of His earthly ministry, Jesus ordained the twelve apostles and sent them to preach that the kingdom of heaven was near. The literal translation of the term “at hand” (Matthew 10:7) indicates the approach of the kingdom, not that it had arrived already. Since the new-birth experience was not available at the time, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles all were preparing the people for the nearing arrival of the kingdom of heaven.
The only biblically recorded sermon of Jesus is the one referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. (See Matthew 5–7.) Many scholars believe that Jesus preached this sermon sometime during the second year of His ministry. Within the context of this message, Jesus set forth the principles of the kingdom of God.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word principle as “an essential truth upon which other truths are based.” A study of the principles espoused in the Sermon on the Mount is essential to a good understanding of the kingdom of God. In this lesson, we will briefly examine two of these important precepts.
1. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). Someone has stated that the Beatitudes should be called the “Be Happy Attitudes,” for they truly show the way to heartfelt happiness. The King James Version begins each of the nine beatitudes with the words “blessed are the . . .”; the New Living Translation uses the phrase “God blesses those who . . .”; and the Amplified Version expands this phrase to “Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are. . . .” Establishing and building our attitudes upon the foundation of the Beatitudes will produce a right spirit within us. (See Psalm 51:10.)I. Announcing the Kingdom of God (B)
2. “Ye are the salt of the earth. . . . the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-16). The principle that Jesus promoted in these verses is one of effectiveness—His church is to have an effect upon the world. In looking at the analogies that He used, one can understand that food does not affect salt; rather, salt affects food. Likewise, darkness does not affect light, but light affects darkness. If we as disciples of Jesus are to uphold these principles of the kingdom of God, then we must affect our world for Him. To be ineffective is to be of no value to the kingdom or to the Master. (See Matthew 5:13.)I. Announcing the Kingdom of God (B)
The Greek word parabolee, most commonly translated as “parable,” literally means “an aphorism or a proverb.” Jesus frequently employed parables in His teaching for two reasons. In some cases, He wanted to be sure that those listening to Him understood His message; therefore, He used a parable that would clarify the teaching to them. In other cases, He used parables to prevent certain ones from understanding all the hidden meanings of His teachings. (See Matthew 13:10-11.) In these situations, He made certain that the chosen Twelve had a clear understanding of His meanings.
The thirteenth chapter of Matthew contains five parables, each of which Jesus began with the phrase “The kingdom of heaven is like. . . .” Each of these five parables demonstrates a particular aspect of the kingdom of heaven. The parable of the mustard seed attests to the fact that the beginnings of the gospel would be small, but that it would grow to great proportions (Matthew 13:31-32). Jesus taught the parable of the leaven, which demonstrates the life-changing ability of the gospel.
His parables of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price reflect the same principles. These two parables each accentuate the value of the gospel—everything else pales in comparison and value to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus further taught that the kingdom of God was to be far-reaching—reaching across lines of gender, race, and nationality.
The Jewish people of Jesus’ time, under the iron-fisted rule of the Romans, desired to be a nation governed from within. Therefore, when John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles began heralding the approach of the kingdom of God, the Jews anticipated a tangible, earthly kingdom. They failed to grasp the fact that God’s primary focus is spiritual rather than temporal.
Over the ensuing centuries, little has changed in the thought pattern of humanity. Within the pages of Holy Writ, God promised abundant blessings to the faithful (Luke 6:38). But when those blessings occur spiritually rather than materially, humanity often is disappointed. Humanity’s primary focus is on the things of this life, that which we can see and touch. While it is true that God does give His people material blessings, His center of attention is on the spiritual and that which is eternal.
The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom that began in eternity and will end in eternity. Time and materialism began with Creation and will culminate with the renovation of the earth by fire. However, the kingdom of God, which existed before Creation, will continue to exist after the grand finale of this earth.
Due to the kingdom of God being spiritual rather than temporal, one must view it from the spiritual aspect in order to comprehend its values and precepts. Jesus declared to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). When Jesus told Pilate this, He was speaking of a physical confrontation between humans.
Indeed, there is a warfare going on for the kingdom of God, but “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (II Corinthians 10:4). God’s kingdom does not wage battles with swords, spears, guns, and missiles. Rather, one must fight these battles with the Sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—and with prayer.
Jesus clarified that the kingdom of God is not a physical, tangible entity but rather something that is within an individual, a matter of the heart and mind. (See Luke 17:21.) When the kingdom of God becomes the focal point of a life, it produces an entirely new set of values and convictions that result in the individual becoming a new creation. (See II Corinthians 5:17.)
Three basic human characteristics—impulses, the will, and habits—all must succumb when the kingdom of God enters a life. Further, the kingdom of God generates new ideals of one’s self and one’s concept of God. In essence, when one embraces the kingdom of God through the new-birth process, he acquires an entirely new set of values and aspirations. The individual who merely changes his outward appearance to conform to a particular doctrine or a set of rules has not truly encountered the kingdom of God.
When Jesus ordained the Twelve and sent them forth to preach, He gave them three explicit instructions. The first instruction was to go and proclaim the message. Second, Jesus told them the message that they were to proclaim: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7). In writing the Gospel of Mark, the author indicated that the apostles coupled the message of repentance with their preaching of the kingdom. (See Mark 6:12.)
The third instruction Jesus gave to the apostles before they embarked on the preaching tour was, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). The kingdom of God is not deficient in its power and abilities. It is, after all, the kingdom of the almighty, omnipotent God of all creation.
Within the realm of the kingdom of God is the power to heal all manner of sickness. From the most minor infection to the more catastrophic illnesses of cancer and heart disease—all are subject to the kingdom of God. Leprosy and all its woes and heartaches cannot flourish in the kingdom of God if God chooses to heal the affected individuals. Devils must relinquish their hold on lives when the kingdom of God comes near and resurrects that which was dead! Jesus told His followers that if they had faith as a grain of mustard seed, then nothing would be impossible to them (Matthew 17:20).
Every kingdom must have a gate through which access to that kingdom is possible. The kingdom of God is no different. Jesus instructed His disciples to enter at the “strait,” or narrow, gate (Matthew 7:13). Two facets of this instruction are important to understand:
Late one evening, Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin court, came to Jesus seeking greater understanding about the things Jesus taught. When Nicodemus approached Jesus, acknowledging that Jesus was at least a teacher anointed of God, Jesus immediately responded with the basic instruction for entrance into the kingdom of God. (See John 3:1-5.)
“Jesus’ words were confusing to Nicodemus. Dr. George Lamsa, in translating the Bible from the ancient Peshitta (Aramaic), notes that the phrase ‘born again’ is northern Aramaic meaning to change one’s thoughts and habits. Dr. Lamsa further stated that Nicodemus spoke southern Aramaic and therefore did not fully comprehend Jesus’ statement” (Holy Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text, A. J. Holman Co., 1968, 1054).
The Greek definitions of the phrase “born again” clearly show that it means to be born from above, or a heavenly birth. Jesus did not stop with the simplistic Aramaic meaning of the phrase “born again” or even with the Greek definitions, but He expanded it to encompass repentance of sins, water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and receiving the Holy Ghost. According to the teachings of Jesus, without the full new-birth experience, one cannot even see the kingdom of God. The word translated “see” in John 3:3 does not indicate a visual contact, but literally means “to know, to understand, or to perceive,” indicating that without the new-birth experience it is impossible to understand or comprehend the kingdom of God.III. The Door to the Kingdom (A)
One day during His third year of ministry, Jesus quizzed the Twelve as to what they were hearing about His identity. The answers varied, for some were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected, while others were saying that He was Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other great prophets of old.
After hearing the various answers, Jesus posed a pointed question to the Twelve: “But whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Immediately, Simon Peter spoke up: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
The Master then responded, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19).
Although Jesus’ words to the apostle Peter have been misinterpreted by many people, an in-depth analysis of His response yields total clarification. When Jesus acknowledged Peter as the one having just spoken, He referred to him as Petros, the Greek term meaning “a small detached rock.” As Jesus continued to speak, He spoke of building His church upon this “rock” using the Greek word petra, which indicates a mass of rock, much like the rock of Gibraltar and a direct reference to Jesus as being that rock (Vine’s New Testament Expository Dictionary).
In continuing to speak to the apostle Peter, Jesus stated that He was giving Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and that whatever Peter made binding on earth would be binding in heaven. Therefore, his words were historic and mandatory when Peter stood up with the eleven on the Day of Pentecost and proclaimed the way to gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
Peter revealed that one must repent of his sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins, and receive the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking with other tongues. This constitutes the new-birth experience, and it forms the “strait,” or narrow, gate of which Jesus spoke. No one has the authority to alter this basic premise.
While the kingdom of God, the church, is a spiritual kingdom that dwells within the heart of mankind, a physical kingdom of God is yet to come. The prophecies of the Old Testament concerning this kingdom are probably the reason that the Jews of Jesus’ time misunderstood the proclamations of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles. In part, this misunderstanding comes from the fact that the prophets of the Old Testament did not see the church age. These prophets foresaw events leading up to the church age and events after the close of the church age, but God did not reveal to them the period of time that we sometimes call the dispensation of grace.
Even today, with the ability to examine and understand the past, there are still those who espouse the “kingdom now” theology, believing that the literal kingdom of God is here and now upon the earth. A close examination of biblical prophecies concerning the coming physical kingdom of God reveal, however, that this kingdom is yet in the future.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of the great Babylonian Empire, dreamed one night of a massive statue and of a stone, cut from a mountain, falling upon and breaking the feet of this statue. Troubled by the dream and yet unable to remember the content of it, Nebuchadnezzar called for the wise men of his kingdom to reveal the dream to him and interpret it. Of all the wise men available to the king, only Daniel, who relied on God for his wisdom, was able to reveal the dream and interpret it. (See Daniel 2:36-45.)
Daniel revealed that the toes of this statue represented ten kings who would rule the earth during the end times. The stone cut from the mountain that crushed these ten toes, Daniel understood to be the future kingdom of God, which God would set up on the earth at the culmination of all things. This kingdom would then exist forever.
Daniel, in a later vision that occurred during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, again saw the coming physical kingdom of God. This time, God revealed more to Daniel concerning the events that would take place during the reign of the Antichrist and during the last days, the culmination of which was the physical arrival of the kingdom of God.
The key to understanding Christ’s second coming is to understand that it is divided into two parts. The first part of the Second Coming is the rapture of the church, when Jesus will only come in the clouds and receive the church from the earth. (See Acts 1:11; I Corinthians 15:51-57; I Thessalonians 4:16-17.) From that time on, those who are born again will be with Jesus Christ.
The second part of Jesus’ second coming will occur after the Rapture when He physically returns to the earth to establish His millennial kingdom. The church will at that time return with Him to rule and reign on the earth for a thousand years. (See Daniel 7:18, 27; Revelation 5:10; 20:6.)
When Daniel foresaw the coming of the physical kingdom of God, he actually saw the establishment of a two-part kingdom, the first part being the millennial kingdom and the latter part being the eternal kingdom. At the end of the great tribulation, the Lord will return with raptured believers to wage war against the kings of the earth in a valley called Armageddon.
Upon subduing those who would war against Him, the Lord will establish a kingdom on this earth over which He will reign. During this millennial kingdom, Jesus Christ and His saints will rule over the earth for one thousand years. During this time, Satan and all his imps will be bound and unable to deceive or affect anyone on earth. At the end of this millennial period, however, the Lord will loose Satan for a short time, when he will try to deceive whom he may. The Lord will then cast Satan and all who follow him into the lake of everlasting fire, and the physical kingdom of God will then reign forever, undisturbed.IV. The Coming Kingdom (A-C)
The kingdom of God, during the church age, is a spiritual kingdom with entrance limited to those who experience the new birth. John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles heralded the coming of this spiritual kingdom. The physician Luke penned a descriptive account of its arrival on the Day of Pentecost, ushering in the greatest dispensation in the history of mankind (Acts 2:1-39).
Never before had mankind possessed the opportunity to experience the kingdom of God. Although the gate is “strait,” the apostle Peter opened the door wide for any and all to be a part of God’s kingdom by announcing that the promise was to those present, to their children, and to all “that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). It is imperative that everyone enter into the spiritual kingdom now, for all who do so receive the assurance of a place in the coming physical kingdom of God.