Nearly 2000 years ago an announcement was made by the last of the Old Testament prophets. His name was John the Baptist. His mission was to prepare the way for the Son of God by commanding Israel to repent and make ready for a new form of government in the earth. Today however, many people are completely satisfied to view the coming of the kingdom of God as only a future event, even though both Jesus and John declared that it was at hand in their day.
A question remains to be answered. What happened with the fulfillment of these prophecies from Jesus and John? Were they postponed to a later date, or did we miss something? It was obvious that the apostles were still anticipating something substantial. In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, they asked the risen Jesus, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He answered them by saying, "It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father has put in His power, but you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, Judea, even unto the uttermost parts of the earth!"
Notice that He did not dispute their belief in the kingdom as a physical expression of the rule of God. He merely pointed them to the immediate action that He had purposed in them. Have you ever noticed that the Spirit of the Lord usually releases information to us on a "need to know" basis? Before this time, Jesus had taken special pains to implant into His disciples the more important principles that would later result in the operation of His Kingdom in them. Then, when the time was right, He filled them with the greatest and most powerful resource that had ever been given to man -- His own resurrection life!
They became witnesses unto Him! That is, they expressed in a very convincing manner the fact of His life, His teachings, His Lordship and, most controversial of all, His death and resurrection! All of this was only possible because of the power of the Holy Spirit within them, which constantly kept the memory of Him alive. More than that, it maintained the reality of His Presence in their lives on a daily basis. By it they became living demonstrations of His Kingdom as they broke the chains of sin, sickness and death from the people.
Today, there is a longing in many to walk in that living reality of His presence, as did the early disciples. As they hunger and thirst after His Righteousness, they have the promise from Jesus that they are being filled. As it was with the early disciples, these are being taken through a process that will ensure His purpose will be produced in them. There is a power connected with this relationship that is a great responsibility, and this process or baptism prepares them for it.
Earlier in the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus was demanded of the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God should come. He answered sort of vaguely by saying, " the Kingdom of God comes not with observation, neither shall they say, 'Lo here,' or 'Lo there,' for behold, the Kingdom of God is within you!" (Luke 17:20-21) Some scholars found it difficult to believe that the kingdom of God could be within those religious men, so they dug into the Greek and found that within here means, "in the midst." Even so, we know from other scriptures that there is an inner nature to the kingdom of God, which is "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Romans 14:17)
Before I go any further into this, I would like to let you know where I am going. The holy writings of both the Old Testament and New, are very clear on this. The rule of God is coming to this earth. That rule begins with repentance or the changing of our minds. What follows is the filling of our hearts with His Love, His Nature, His Will, His Power and purpose. All of this happens within us, but must eventually find expression in the visible world.
A gross error has prevailed in Christendom for centuries. This concept has kept the Kingdom of God as a mysterious, life-after-death, dimension, and sometimes a temporary spiritual high that certain mystics have found. Others expect to see it only in the distant future, but I declare unto you that God's Kingdom is coming now, and His will shall be done in the earth, as it is in heaven! This planet was created to glorify God, and Jesus began the changing process 2000 years ago. It is time for this generation to repent, and prepare our hearts for what our sovereign Lord desires to do. Then we can also be witnesses unto Him to our time.
The kingdom of God is not a mind-trip where we can escape the cares of this life, even though there is a need for this at times. More accurately, the Kingdom of God is the dimension where God rules in our lives from His heavenly sphere. He has lifted us up into the heavenlies, to be sure, but for what purpose? His purpose has never been to simply make us feel good. He has a grand design for His Creation, and He desires to implement that design through those who know of a higher life. That higher life is for everyone, and He is raising up in this hour some mighty witnesses to this truth!
First of all, righteousness, peace and joy must prevail in us. This may sound negative and shocking to some of you, but all too often we have become comfortable with the reality of unrighteousness, strife, and gloom within our lives and the lives of others. My point is not one of guilt and condemnation. It is merely the voice of His Truth, coming to liberate us from all bondage! His Word is powerful and alive within us, to challenge and consume our failures -- for His Glory!
When the righteousness of God prevails in the lives of individuals, they become standards that expose the injustice in the world around them. They become beacons of His Light! Instead of condemning others who still walk in darkness, they reveal humanity as God intended. Does this challenge frighten you? It should, but in a positive way. It should make us aware of our desperate need to know and experience Christ in reality. It should remove our religious coverings from us that we might trust in His righteousness alone.
How often have we been reluctant to face the starvation, the abuse, the racial strife, the crime that is filling our land, simply because we felt helpless to do anything about it? Let us all retreat to our comfortable pews and soothing gospel music, to drown out the cries of the hurting people out there. Instead, why not repent of our lack of courage and faith in the Almighty God, Who gave us the Good News of His Kingdom! He is our source! He is our message! He is our mission! He will empower us as we commit to the destiny He has planned for each of us!
Jesus taught us to love those who abuse us, but He never taught us to tolerate the abuse of others. While economic, religious, and social injustice prevails all around us, the church world has become pre-occupied with itself. Comforts and security are within reach, and we reason that they should be pursued, for us and our families. Even though these may be worthwhile, they can run counter with the call of discipleship. Moreover, they are very fleeting goals.
Those who know Him, have forsaken their plans for a much more substantial form of security. The promise of his abiding presence guarantees both an inner and an external security. You and I have the power within us to change ourselves and the world around us. That power is the Word of God and the person of Christ. We must allow it to consume us and our selfish desires. When we are ready, the time for the Kingdom of God to appear to our generation will begin. That time is now. His Kingdom is at hand. It is not a passive, coping with evil and oppression. This may need be for a time according to the Father's will. But ultimately the Conquering One must present Himself through us in daily struggles against sin, disease, and the oppression of the helpless.
The peace and joy of the Lord are available in abundance to those who hear and obey His Voice. Their hearts have become free from fear, for they are on His side -- the winning side. They have submitted to His correction in a day when confrontation and correction are greatly discouraged and resisted. But His correction brings the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Hallelujah! The joy of the Lord also abides in those who envision His Kingdom becoming established in this earth, and they love to participate with Him in it.
The King is coming! All hail King Jesus! His Kingdom is at hand, and He is about to appear in a mighty demonstration of His power to our generation! Where will He find you my friend? Will you be hiding off in some remote corner, dreading the possible loss of your personal security? Or will you be found obedient to His command, occupied in your Father's business? Let us carry His message to our generation, preparing the Way of the Lord, with a lifestyle that thrills in glorifying Him and His righteous truth! Then we will also experience the power of His gospel to transform us all!
In closing, let us consider the exhortation of Paul to the Philippians, concerning the reign of God within: