August 7, 2014 Broadcast

The Announcement of the Kingdom

A Message by R.C. Sproul

How would you explain the gospel to someone who asked? Could you describe the wide scope of the Good News, or would you stumble for words? In this lesson, Dr. R.C. Sproul explains why the Apostle Paul referred to the gospel as “scandal.”

From the series: Meaning of the Gospel

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    The Kingdom Inaugurated

  2. article

    The Coming of the Kingdom

  3. article

    Kingdom

The Kingdom Inaugurated

Despite the socio-political implications for living in the kingdoms of this world that come from acknowledging the kingdom of God as our highest authority, it must be admitted that the kingdom of our Father is currently hard to see. The dominion mandate to take charge of the earth for the Lord’s glory (Gen. 1:28) is a spiritual command to make all things reflect more clearly and beautifully the reign of our sovereign God. Adam and all his posterity lost the capability to exercise this holy rule when he violated a spiritual command (3:17–19). Furthermore, David and the nation of Israel continued to be unable to make fully manifest God’s kingdom because of their unrepentant sin, and the Lord sent them into exile (2 Kings 17:7–23). Zerubbabel’s less-than-stellar reign after the return of Israel from Babylon only shows that the spiritual problem of faithlessness to the law of God continued among His people even after they were restored to their homeland.

Though it is plain that the Lord’s kingdom is currently a spiritual kingdom, many Israelites in the first century AD associated the kingdom of God almost wholly with an earthly realm that would conquer whoever oppressed them at the time (in this case, Rome). That explains why many Israelites in that day did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah who inaugurated the kingdom and restored righteous dominion to Israel. Since they lacked a clear understanding of the spiritual nature of the kingdom, they did not understand why the Messiah first had to overcome the spiritual hindrances to the kingdom before it could be manifested in physical form.

Christ’s entire life of obedience, atoning death, resurrection, and ascension are the means by which He inaugurated the kingdom of God, and one of the most important events that stands out within this entire complex of events is His encounter with Satan in the wilderness. We lost our right to citizenship in this kingdom when we succumbed to the serpent’s temptation in Adam, so in order to get this citizenship back Jesus had to overcome the Devil’s wiles and win our place in His holy realm. Once our Savior succeeded in the wilderness where Adam failed in Eden (Mark 1:12–13), the stage was fully set for Him to do all that was necessary for us to rule and reign with Him forever, just as He always intended (Deut. 28:1; 1 Cor. 6:3; Rev. 20:4).

The Coming of the Kingdom

R.C. Sproul

The gospel of Mark is notable for its lack of extended accounts of Jesus’ teaching. Furthermore, Mark gives us noticeably fewer parables than do Matthew and Luke. However, in chapter 4 of his gospel, Mark records four parables. He begins with the lengthy parable of the sower, then follows with three short, pithy parables, each clearly communicating one central idea, as do most parables. All three of these parables teach us something about the kingdom of God.

In 4:26–29, Mark writes:

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

In this parable, as in the parable of the sower, Jesus taps the metaphor of sowing and seed. Here, however, Jesus does not talk about the different soils into which seed is sown, but about one of the most remarkable dimensions of nature. We plant seeds and go to bed. Overnight, rain falls on the seeds. The next day, sunlight warms them. Germination occurs and tiny green shoots emerge from the ground. Soon, the crop is ready for harvesting. Jesus said the spread of the kingdom of God is much like this process. It begins small, but while our attention is elsewhere, so to speak, the kingdom grows. Like the growth of a seed, it is a mysterious process.

I find it comforting to know that this is how God’s kingdom works. This parable teaches me that the things I say and do, though they seem infinitely insignificant to me, may have eternal significance as God uses me in the building of His kingdom. Of His own good pleasure, He works through what we do and say not to exalt us but to glorify Himself.

Once, when I was standing at the church door after a service, a young man came up to me and began to tell me that he had heard me speak fifteen years before at a small church in Pennsylvania. He told me that following that service, he had asked me a question, and he was able to repeat my answer to him verbatim all those years later. He said, “When I went home, I could not get your words out of my head, and God used the comment you made that day to convict me to go into the ministry.” As I reflected on his story, I wondered how many other words I had spoken to people that had helped them or, perhaps, wounded them, leaving scars on their souls that they carry to this day. We have no idea how powerful a simple word can be, for good or ill.

Every year in the United States, thousands of pastors leave the ministry. Some leave for moral reasons, but most leave because they feel unappreciated by their congregations. They feel like they’re spinning their wheels, that they’re preaching their hearts out but nothing is happening. They need to hear this parable. Or they need to listen to Paul when he says, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7). God can and does use their faithful preaching of His Word, though the preachers themselves may never see their words’ effect.

Yet sometimes God does give us a glimpse into how He has used us and our words to glorify Himself. Over the years, I’ve been a part of countless pastors conferences and seminars. It always amazes me how ministers in vastly different settings have similar stories about their preaching experiences. So often, I have heard preachers talk about those occasions when they stood in the pulpit and gave a sermon that they did not consider particularly compelling, even though they put their heart and soul into preparing for it. These same pastors have told me that those sermons are what their people remembered and benefitted from years later. God used what these preachers considered weak and unremarkable for great good. I can also testify that this has often been my own experience.

That’s the way the kingdom is. We often do not know what God does with our service. We plant the seed, go to bed, and, while we sleep, God germinates the seed so that life grows and eventually produces a full harvest. Then God Himself reaps for His own glory. We simply need to forget about trying to see the fruit of our service immediately. It does not matter if we ever see it. We are called to take the light and let it shine, then let God do with it whatever He pleases.

Kingdom

James M. Hamilton, Jr.

What is the kingdom of God? The answer cannot be reduced to a word study of the term kingdom. That would be a helpful exercise, but the Bible describes the kingdom even when the word is not used.

Any kingdom will consist of a king, his realm, its citizens, and the law that regulates their lives. This is true of God’s kingdom as well. What follows is a short overview of the Bible’s presentation of God’s rule over God’s people in God’s place according to God’s law.

God’s Rule

Adam is not called a king, but God gives him dominion (Gen. 1:26–28). From the garden forward, God exercises His authority through human rulers, whom He calls to act as His vice-regents. Satan sought to usurp God’s throne, and Adam betrayed the Ruler of the world (3:1–7). God spoke judgment on the Serpent, however, and in the word of judgment came also a promise of redemption (v. 15).

This pattern seen in the garden was repeated once Israel entered the Land of Promise. Just as God had given Adam dominion, so Israel inherited the land, God’s authority being exercised by the Word He spoke to them. Adam rebelled. Israel and her kings followed in his footsteps. God spoke judgment through the prophets, and as Adam was exiled from God’s presence in Eden, Israel was exiled from the land. Here, too, though, promises of redemption permeated the words of judgment, the prophets pointing to a glorious latterday restoration.

After the exile, Israel was restored to the land. Though promises were partially realized, the people continued to wait for the desert to bloom. Then the long-time-coming Messiah, the King of Israel, Jesus, arrived.

Jesus exercised God’s authority in word and deed, commanding unclean spirits and elements, rolling back disease and death. In the plot twist of the eons, Jesus conquered by being killed, gave life by being put to death. Being judged, He brought promised judgment on the Serpent, overcoming the treachery of Adam and Israel’s kings, casting out the usurper and laying claim to God’s kingdom by passing through death to resurrection.

Christ the King then gave gifts to His church, appointing men as Apostles, prophets, and evangelists, and giving pastors and teachers to shepherd His people until His return (Eph. 4:8–11). The undershepherds of the High King mediate His rule through the ministry of the Word. He will return, exercise everlasting dominion, and wear many crowns (Dan. 7:14; Rev. 19:12).

God’s Place

First, Eden was God’s place; after our exile therefrom, God met with Abraham and his sons at particular places. He then met Israel at Sinai, the mountain of God, before leading them into the new Eden, the Land of Promise. At Sinai, God gave Israel the tabernacle, which was later replaced by the temple. Then Jesus came and replaced the temple: in Him God was present, and He became the place where forgiveness of sins was made possible. Jesus gave His followers the indwelling Spirit and authority to forgive and constrain sin, making the church the new temple. Jesus will return and cause the glory of God to cover the dry lands as the waters cover the seas, and then, in the new heaven and earth, the new Jerusalem will be what the Holy of Holies was in the temple: the throne room of God and the Lamb.

God’s People

God speaks of the seed of the Serpent and the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15. In this context, He speaks the words cursed are youonly to the Serpent (Gen. 3:14). When these words are later spoken to Cain (Gen. 4:11), echoing over Canaan son of Ham (9:25), we see that those who continue in unrepentant opposition to the Lord and His people descend from their father the Devil (see also John 8:44; 1 John 3:8–15). By contrast, the seed of the woman are those who repent of their sin, believe the promises of God, embrace God’s authoritative Word, and keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 12:17).

God’s Law

When God made Adam His vice-regent, God’s Word regulated and empowered him, giving both permissions and prohibitions. We see this dynamic again in Israel, as her kings were to enforce God’s law, being subject to it themselves. Jesus came as the living Word. He was the embodiment of God’s teaching, and He fulfilled the law. God continues to exercise His authority through His Word in the current expression of His kingdom, the church. With the new covenant inaugurated, God’s law is written on our hearts (Jer. 31:33; 1 John 2:20–27), and when Jesus returns, “we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

God’s kingdom consists of God’s rule over God’s people in God’s place. God has established His King, Jesus, and by His Spirit He gives life to His people through His Word. God’s people are now sojourners and exiles, making their way through the wilderness to God’s place — the Land of Promise, the city with foundations, the new Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth. The kingdom belongs to the Lord, and He will rule over His people in His place according to His Word.

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