THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
A brief exposition to encourage Evangelical believers towards signs and wonders
Darryl Stewart – 1989 and 1998
From the days of John the Baptist
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” Matthew 11:12
“The law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time the good news of the Kingdom of God is being preached and everyone is forcing his way into it” Luke16:16
John the Baptist ushered a new era into the world. He was a pivot point in history declaring that very soon something incredible was about to happen. He proclaimed that a heavenly, divine kingdom was about to invade earth. He knew that what was about to happen was supremely important. The people must be prepared. His message was:
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!” Matthew 3:2
To those who came to hear him but did not prepare their hearts for the coming invasion of the divine, he rebuked them with “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”
John’s message was urgent and powerful. His sense of mission was driving him to prepare a people for a new coming kingdom. The only adequate response to John’s preaching was to repent and to be ready for a confrontation with a holy power. He understood that another was to come along shortly “more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”
In due course Jesus walked into John’s life to be baptised by him. John knew then that this man was the one. The ministry was handed over. Jesus now began his ministry, repeating John’s exhortation:
“Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!” Matthew 4:17
John’s little band of prepared people turned their attention to Jesus. They watched to see how this Jesus would fulfil John’s prophecy. Where was the kingdom that they had repented in the face of?
They did not have to wait long.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people” Matthew 4:23
Later, from prison, John was to enquire if this ministry of Jesus really was what he had prepared people for. There had been no cataclysmic judgement on mankind, no fire from heaven. Where was the kingdom? But Jesus truly was preaching the kingdom, bringing heaven and heaven’s ways to men.
Jesus sent back to John,
“Report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor”
Jesus was assuring the baptiser that the kingdom that John had proclaimed was the one that he had announced, that all was going to plan. The kingdom was washing sin and disease from among the people, it was permeating Palestine, forcing light and healing into a world oppressed by Satan and his demons.
Repentance was now able to deny Satan’s right to a person. The presence of this new kingdom brought a whole new world to people’s lives. Healing, deliverance and freedom flowed as Satan’s kingdom was wrestled from him. John need not fear. The kingdom of heaven indeed was at hand, forcefully advancing.
The Gospel of Jesus
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, the epileptics and the paralytics, and he healed them”. Matthew 4:23-25
“The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” 1 John 3:8
The actions of Jesus were the evidence and outworking of the kingdom of God come among men. The demonstrations of the miraculous victories over the devil pointed to who Jesus was. Jesus encouraged his disciples to believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
The incumbent spiritual directors were under siege. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him” John 11:47
In the early days of Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees, there was a debate over his ministry of deliverance. The establishment accused Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus replied,
If I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” Matthew 12: 27, 28
The miracles of healing and deliverance were the outworking of the invasion of the kingdom of God among men. Jesus did not have to go into a detailed exposition of what was happening, it was obvious and self-explanatory. As Paul put it: “The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” 1 Corinthians 4:20.
The coming kingdom had values, a culture which Jesus demonstrated personally and through his teaching. He taught in parables which formed a sort of spiritual grid. The ones spiritually tuning into things of the kingdom understood, the ones whose hearts were hard and unbelieving couldn’t catch on.
“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have abundance”
Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. This is why I speak to them in parables” Matthew 13:11-13
The kingdom was for those with ears to hear.
The Gospel of the Disciples
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’”. Matthew 9.35-38.
To do what?
To continue and multiply the things Jesus was doing.
“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to cure every kind of disease and sickness” “…. as you go, preach this message, ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” Matthew 10.1.7.8
Jesus gave his disciples a one line sermon with dynamite illustrations, power demonstrating truth. Their gospel message could not yet contain any reference to Calvary or Pentecost as these events had not yet happened. All they did was to do the things that Jesus did, and explain it simply as “the kingdom of heaven is near” (Has come close to you)
“So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere” Luke 9: 6.
The message was the explanation of the ministry. The kingdom of heaven was wonderfully at hand.
A little later Jesus sent out seventy two of them to do exactly the same thing.
“When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you’” “….The seventy two returned with joy, and said ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name’. He replied, ‘I saw (I was seeing, i.e. while you were ministering the gospel) Satan fall like lightening from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you”. Luke 10: 8, 9. 17-19 (section in brackets, mine).
Jesus had multiplied his ministry by twelve and then by seventy two. The gospel was accelerating in making inroads into Satan’s territory. Jesus was watching his disciples win a war in the heavenly realms as they proclaimed their simple message with signs following. Heaven was invading earth.
Jesus had earlier taught his disciples to pray that this would happen just as it was now happening with the words, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. They were living the answer to that prayer. Heaven was being poured out on earth and they were in the thick of it.