After John, the Baptist, was arrested and taken into custody, Jesus began His public ministry in Galilee (Mark 1:14). Jesus proclaimed the good news that the appointed time had finally arrived, and God’s Kingdom was, at last, approaching (Mark 1:15). As the reader may recall, the Prophet Daniel had prophesied that in the last days, the God of Heaven was going to set up a Kingdom that would never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44). The Prophet Daniel also taught that one like a Son of Man was going to be given “dominion, honor, and a [K]ingdom” such that all of humanity would serve Him (Dan. 7:13-14).
At the birth of Jesus, the Maji came from the East to worship and bring gifts to Jesus, the newly born King (Matt. 2:1-2). It had been foretold that a great ruler was going to be born in Bethlehem of Judea (Matt. 2:4-6). When Jesus Christ started His public ministry, He announced the coming Kingdom, but He did not immediately announce that He was the King. He was going to let the Spirit and His deeds reveal His true identity. As His ministry progressed, He most often referred to Himself as the Son of Man, which was a roundabout way of referring to Himself as the coming King prophesied by Daniel (Dan. 7:13-14).
Of great significance, the King was anointed by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:9-10). We must understand that Jesus conducted His ministry and His life under the guidance and direction of God, the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12). At Pentecost, Jesus’s followers were, likewise, given the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that they, too, could live in the Kingdom of God (Acts 2). Prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel had long prophesied that a day would come when the Holy Spirit was going to be poured out on God’s people (Isa. 44:3; Ezek. 36:25-27, 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Zach. 12:10).
However, before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus Christ was required by His Father to solve the problem of sin (Rom. 5:6-8,15, 6:10). Since the Fall, humankind had committed countless numbers of sins. There was a great barrier of sin between sinful humanity and the true, Holy God. The Father decreed the necessity of a great sacrificial death, which would atone for the sins of the world. At or around AD 30, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, submitted Himself in obedience to a sacrificial death on a Roman Cross. By this great act of sacrifice, God, the Father sought reconciliation with humankind. This sacrificial death was a necessary part of God’s coming Kingdom.
In the grand scheme of things, the Kingdom of God is God’s answer and solution to the Fall of humankind. We can only be obedient to God by God’s own power. God has made it clear that all of His enemies will be made subject to His rule and authority. After His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of His Father, where They rule. Again and again, we read in the New Testament that God, the Father, will put the enemies of Jesus under Jesus’s feet (Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:43; Acts 2:35; 1 Cor. 15:25; Heb. 1:13, 10:13). Given the reality of this ultimate subjugation, it only makes sense that we should voluntarily submit to His rule now. We voluntarily submit to His rule by entering into the Kingdom of God and voluntarily participating in Kingdom Living now.
In my view, the coming of the Kingdom of God included at least three additional developments: (1) The Kingdom had to be announced to the world, (2) The New Testament Cannon had to be completed, and (3) the Old Covenant had to come to an end. By this I mean that things like the dietary laws, special feast days, Levitical sacrifices, Sabbath observance, and the requirement of physical circumcision had to become passé. They were all only shadows of a greater coming reality. This could happen voluntarily as believers gradually understood the meaning and significance of the New Covenant between AD 30 to AD 70, or if believers were hard hearted and stubborn (which they were), God could end the Old Covenant by the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the destruction of the old Levitical sacrificial system in AD 70, by the agency of the Romans (which He did). With the coming of the King and the Kingdom of God, things were going to dramatically change.
From the beginning, God erected some artificial barriers between Jews and Gentiles, which lasted for about 1400 years. God created these barriers in order to protect Israel from the decadence of the Gentile world. With the coming of the King and the Kingdom of God (to include the enhanced ministry of God, the Holy Spirit), the barriers between Jew and Gentile had to be dismantled. The basic principles of the law were going to remain, but the artificial barriers like dietary laws were going to be removed. In light of the King’s sacrificial death, the Levitical system of sacrifices became unnecessary. Now, things like physical circumcision are a personal choice, with no religious significance (but remain a spiritual concept, i.e., putting off the flesh (Col. 2:11)). All of the special Jewish feast days have been or will be transformed into a system of Christian celebrations, such as how Passover coincides with the Christian celebration of Easter.
To properly understand the Kingdom of God, it is important for the reader to have an appreciation for the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit as compared to the Holy Spirit’s ministry under the Old Covenant. Under the Old Covenant, the ministry of the Holy Spirit was limited and specialized. Some kings, prophets, elders, judges, and priests enjoyed a limited assistance from the Holy Spirit in order for them to fulfill their specialized roles or duties (Num. 11:16-17, 27:18; Judg. 3:9-10, 6:34, 14:6). For example, after Samuel anointed David, we learn that the Holy Spirit rushed upon David from that day forward (1 Sam. 16:13). However, if King David was disobedient, he could lose his special indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In fact, we are told that the Holy Spirit left Saul because of his disobedience (1 Sam. 16:14). After the Bathsheba incident, King David prayed to God, “[D]o not take your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11). At the end of his life, David described and declared that the “Spirit of the Lord spoke through me and His word was on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). Without the Holy Spirit’s ministry under the Old Covenant, we would not have our Hebrew Bible. Additionally, as another example of limited assistance by the Holy Spirit under the Old Covenant, some of the artisans and craftsmen who worked on the construction of the Tabernacle received a special endowment of the Spirit to assist them in the design and construction of the Tabernacle and its various pieces of furniture, uniforms, and utensils (Ezek. 28:3, 31:1-4). However, under the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit did not generally indwell every believer.
In contrast, under the New Covenant, God, the Holy Spirit now permanently indwells every believer (1 Cor. 12:13; 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13). We received the indwelling Holy Spirit at the moment of first believing (Gal. 3:2,14). The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each believer is a key component of the New Covenant Spiritual Life. Every believer is told to walk by the Spirit (Gal.5:16). We may quench or grieve the Spirit by disobedience and sin (1 Thes. 5:19), but we will never lose the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The permanent indwelling by the Spirit in each believer is our guarantee that upon death, we will go to Heaven and be with Christ (2 Cor. 5:4-8). However, in order to enter into the Kingdom of God and experience Kingdom Living, we must experience consistency under the guidance and control of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). We must minimize any interruptions of our fellowship with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Of course, every human occasionally sins and breaks fellowship with God. When this happens, we must simply acknowledge our sin and get back into fellowship with God (1John 1:9). The presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to enter into the Kingdom of God and experience Kingdom Living (Rom. 14:17).
In summation, the coming of the Kingdom of God during the First Century consisted of the following: (1) the coming of the King, (2) the anointing of the King by the Holy Spirit, (3) the anointed King’s sacrificial death in atonement for the sins of the world, (4) the King’s resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father where They are ruling, (5) Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit, (6) the announcement of the Kingdom, (7) the end of the Old Covenant, and (8) the completion of the New Covenant Cannon of Scripture. Now, we are waiting on the Father to complete the subjugation of all of Christ’s enemies under the feet of Christ, which will be consummated with the return of Christ at the Second Advent.
The featured image on this page is titled “Sermon on the Mount” by Carl Henrich Bloch. Available on public domain. Courtesy of www.carlbloch.org.