The Kingdom of God Has Come Near!

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST is good news: The kingdom of God has come near!1 The King of kings and Lord of lords has come into the world He created—the world that rejected Him as its Ruler—and set up His heavenly rule in our hearts. The Holy One against whom we sinned, and from whom we alienated ourselves, has come for us in love—not to condemn us or to punish us, but to rescue us, to heal us, to adopt us into His kingdom family, to make His home with us in holy matrimony.


God with us

To accomplish this, God in heaven has stooped all the way down, down, down to earth and shown Himself to be ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). He has sent His one and only Son to save us from our sins and reconcile us back to Himself. Jesus, who was with God in the beginning, has come to be with us—our Brother and Friend forever. He did not come as merely God or as merely a human being, nor did He come as a ghost or an angel or some kind of halfway measure. He came as the fully human ‘Son of Man’2—our bona fide blood relation—and as the fully divine Son of God. He was uniquely qualified, therefore, to reveal God to us with divine authority and to stand before God as our human representative. His Great Rescue Mission would require Him to do both.


Sacrificial death

Though Jesus was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15), He came in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering for us (Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He showed us God’s love and taught us to love God and neighbour—a tutorial that reached its pinnacle when, in obedience to His Father, He went passively to the cross. There He suffered physical torment, public disgrace and spiritual defilement while dying the dishonourable death of a prize rebel. He took the blame for every ungodly thing we have ever thought, felt, said or done—and for every ungodly thing we will ever think, feel, say or do. He absorbed it all into His being, bore the full weight of its shame, and crucified it in Himself, destroying forever our sin-stained flesh and the evil that it produces. His last words—‘It is finished’ (John 19:30)—were good news for sinners. Debt paid in full. No more to pay. Thank You Lord Jesus.

But He didn’t stop there.


Death defeated

Having put our sins and our corrupted flesh to death, Jesus went on to conquer death itself. Through the power of God’s indomitable Spirit, He broke free of death’s vice-like grip and rose from the grave to embrace new life. Not only had He suffered sin’s inescapable consequence of death, He had overpowered death by way of a bodily resurrection. The disciples were His witnesses: He appeared to them personally, ate food in their presence, and allowed them to see and feel His wounds (Matthew 28:9-10,16-20; Mark 16:9-18; Luke 24:13-50; John 20:14-27; 21:4-23; 1 Corinthians 15:4-8). But that’s not all they saw; He was taken up into heaven before their eyes—a spectacular confirmation of His triumph over evil. Though He had sopped up the sins of all humanity across aeons of history, not even a speck of dirt had stuck to Him. He was spotlessly clean, for God had received Him into the inner sanctuary of heaven.


Our representative in heaven

When Jesus did all this, He wasn’t acting for Himself; He was acting for us. And He wasn’t just acting for us; He was acting upon us; He was doing something to us. By destroying His own flesh on the cross, He destroyed our flesh too—our former, sinful self.3 By defeating death in Himself and rising to eternal life, He defeated death in us, re-created our human essence in His own perfect image, and gifted us with new life in Himself—life that we can know today as a foretaste of our shared future in eternity.4 When He entered heaven, He did so as our human agent—in effect, as Him-and-us-together.5 The temple curtain has been torn in two. We are with Jesus in the Most Holy Place, where God Himself dwells.


Unity with God

What Jesus has accomplished for the human race is truly earth-shattering. Our estrangement from God has been permanently dissolved; a new and never-ending age of unity between God and human beings has dawned. Through Christ’s spilt blood, atoning death, and ongoing life, whoever believes in Him is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and has been made holy and blameless—fit for God’s hallowed presence, both now and in eternity. We who trust in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord are members of His resurrected body through faith, and are included in His eternal union with God. Through Jesus, we have been bonded to God so completely that we can join with Jesus in calling God ‘our Father.’6 That relationship is as enduring as God Himself, for it is grounded in the immortal being of His Son, in whom the fullness of God is joined inextricably to the fullness of humanity.


God in us

Our communion with Jesus Christ, signified by our sharing in bread and wine together, isn’t just an abstract theological fact. It is living, breathing truth to be taken and eaten in such a real way that it produces within us recognisable fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). It is truth that God ministers to us personally through His Holy Spirit, who is not just ‘God with us,’ but God in us—the fulfilment of age-old prophecies (Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:27; 39:29; Joel 2:28-29). From His home in our hearts, the Spirit’s evocative pangs for ‘Abba,7 Father’ reach all the way up, up, up to heaven, drawing us gently, patiently, powerfully into the inmost life of God even though we are on earth. As we submit to the Spirit’s creative work in us and among us, He draws us together with ties of love so that we grow into Christ’s mature body8—His compassionate heart, His discerning mind, His welcoming eyes, His authoritative mouth, His diligent hands, His unwavering feet. As one body, we learn to live out our King’s commandments of love, righteousness, justice and mercy while doing the good works of Christ: feeding the hungry, inviting strangers in, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, visiting those who are in prison (Matthew 25:35-36). With each new step in obedience, we enter more completely into all that belongs to Christ: His faith and hope, His joy and peace, His truth and freedom, His forgiveness and grace, His sufferings and glory, His fellowship with the Father through the Spirit.


Mission

We are called to participate in the unstoppable revolution through which that kingdom is being revealed to others—a love-impelled movement out into the world for the purpose of spreading the good news and making disciples. It is shocking but true: God makes His impassioned appeal to the world through us. God’s message is our message: Come to Jesus Christ, one and all. Repent of your sins and believe the good news: The kingdom of God has come near! Throw off the emptiness and banality of self-centredness. Leave behind the unclean things that drag you down. Abandon your futile attempts at self-righteousness. Choose instead to look into the friendly face of Jesus. See and sense the mercy that He has stored up in His heart for you. Take His hand of friendship in your hand, and accept His invitation to be part of the greatest love story ever lived. Be united to God’s eternal Son, your human brother, in humble faith—faith that God will gladly credit to you as righteousness. Then begin living fruitfully in God’s holy embrace as a member of His kingdom family, for whom Jesus died and among whom He lives.


Destiny

We who have entrusted our hearts to Jesus stand among a great multitude of believers from every epoch of history. With Christ’s mystical assembly and with Christ Himself, we are co-heirs of God’s eternal kingdom (Romans 8:17). Our lives thus unfold against an immense backdrop: the glorious future that we have together with God. On a magnificent day yet to come, our precious Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, will raise each of us into the resurrection life that He has won for us. ‘Come,’ He will say, ‘you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’ (Matthew 25:34). With pristine spiritual bodies that radiate God’s glory and can never perish, we shall awaken together into the heaven-on-earth existence for which we are graciously predestined—a realm of perfected love, unblemished holiness, ageless beauty, and face-to-face intimacy with God.

Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ good news? You better believe it.

Greg Denholm



Notes

  1. This was the good news proclaimed by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2) and by Jesus (Matthew 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15). It was also the message that Jesus instructed seventy-two of His disciples to announce when He sent them out in groups of two (Luke 10:9-11).
  2. ‘Son of Man’ was a title that Jesus applied extensively to Himself. Superficially, it denoted ‘member of the human race.’ Yet Jesus was using this term intentionally to portray Himself as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. He was the Son of Man whom God would raise up for Himself to sit at His right hand (Psalm 80:17); and He was the Son of Man who would receive authority, glory and power from God, who would be worshipped by people throughout the world, who would have an everlasting dominion, and whose kingdom would never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus’ use of this term as a designation for Himself was later reinforced by the apostle John, who saw an apocalyptic vision of the end times featuring ‘someone like a Son of Man.’ The mysterious figure is described in such a way that He can only be the ascended Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:13-18).
  3. The apostle Paul wrote that ‘our old self was crucified with Him [Christ]’ (Romans 6:6). Elsewhere he wrote that ‘Christ … died for all, and therefore all died’ (2 Corinthians 5:14). He understood himself to have been included in the death of Christ in such a way that he, Paul, had also died: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live’ (Galatians 2:20).
  4. Jesus spoke about the general resurrection of the dead when answering a question from some Sadducees, who didn’t believe in it (Luke 20:35-38). He also spoke repeatedly of His own role in raising the dead to life (John 5:28-29; 6:39-40,44,54; 11:25). The apostle Paul had a lot to say, too, about the general resurrection. He saw Christ as the first of many to be resurrected (Acts 26:23; Romans 8:29), as a promise that we will be resurrected (Romans 6:5), as a necessary prerequisite for our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-23,29), and as the embodiment of our resurrection (Ephesians 2:6).
  5. The apostle Paul declared that God, after raising Christ up, ‘seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:6)—words that portray Jesus as our present-day embodiment in heaven.
  6. Jesus instructed His disciples to address God this way when He taught them how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13).
  7. Abba’ is an Aramaic word for ‘father’ that Jewish children in biblical times typically used in an intimate family setting. Jesus used this word when imploring God to take away the ‘cup’ that He was about to drink (Mark 14:36). Significantly, the apostle Paul taught that the Spirit of God within us enables us to cry out to God as ‘Abba’ (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6), the very same term used by Jesus.
  8. The apostle Paul depicted the church metaphorically as the body of Christ. It is one body with many parts which, though diverse, are unified by virtue of their common membership of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:29; 12:27; Ephesians 4:12,15-16; Colossians 2:19).