There are usually a number of reasons for any given book to be written. One of my reasons, I must admit, is that I love sharing the Gospel with others! In fact I am as energized when I write about it as when I first heard it! God has done and continues to do wonderful things through His creation. What a terrific future He has planned for us all!
Yet there is another even more important reason for my writing. Earlier on I mentioned the principle of the paradigm shift. There is a great and needed paradigm shift taking place among the people of God today. For many centuries our focus has been mostly on our needs. We need forgiveness from our sins, and Christ has provided that for us in the Cross. Please don’t misunderstand, we should never diminish that in any way! Much of the New Testament was written to demonstrate the wonderful love and grace of God that is revealed in Christ! Yet, the message that Jesus brought concerning the Kingdom of God is often either ignored or misunderstood. I thank God and am greatly encouraged that more believers are thinking about life in the Kingdom of God today. We are in the beginnings of a great paradigm shift in the church of Jesus Christ that will have a powerful impact on the rest of the world! It is time to focus on what God Himself is after!
After I first read that Jesus instructed His followers to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, I began to see this theme everywhere in the bible. The apostle John wrote that Jesus was the Word made into flesh, human from, which existed in the beginning and created all things. (John 1:1-14). So we know He was active in Genesis and all the way through to Malachi in the Old Testament. What was He saying then? How do all these writings relate to what we so appreciate in the New Testament? The paradigm shift that I am referring to involves our understanding how the purposes of God as revealed in the Old Testament connect with the many fulfillments noted in the New Testament. Going further, we will see how the Old Testament prophecies can also enlighten our understanding of the New Testament prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled!
So far in the Old Testament we have learned that:
God created humanity to be a reflection of Him, to multiply, and to rule the earth.
But our ancient parents disobeyed, and brought a curse upon themselves and the whole earth.
So God began to work through individuals like Enoch, Noah and Abraham in the process of restoring His original blessing.
He called out Abraham and chose him to raise a family that will worship Him and eventually bless all the families of the earth.
Abraham believed God. He even obeyed God’s command to offer up his only son. When his son was spared we received a picture of God instead providing His only Son as a sacrifice for all mankind.
When Abraham’s descendants found themselves in Egypt as slaves, The LORD sent Moses to deliver them. Moses would foreshadow Jesus, who would save the world from the slavery of their own sin.
Then came the shepherd David who had a heart after God, He would eventually shepherd all the 12 tribes who descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God promised to raise up from David’s descendants an even greater king over Israel, even Jesus, the Messiah, or Anointed One.
Eventually, Prophets like Isaiah and Daniel would begin to describe how just God would bless all the families of the earth through the children of Abraham. Through Christ He would establish the Kingdom of God on the earth. It is my conviction that these events are crucial to our understanding of the new testament. Together these writings can bring about a paradigm shift like the one that took Israel from focusing on themselves and on to the view that God had plans for all people of the earth. Today He is shifting our focus from getting people into our churches so they can later go to heaven. He is calling us to Kingdom citizenship and to bringing others into a life of righteousness, peace and joy right here on this earth. As we look for His future appearing, we are advancing with Him and declaring His Lordship over all today! God gets what He desires and has planned from the beginning. In turn we receive a purpose for our existence and the satisfaction of being part of His plan!
Before the coming of the promised Messiah, Israel would be divided into 2 kingdoms. Both would be defeated and ravaged by other nations. The survivors of the southern kingdom would be taken back to Babylon. During this time they would struggle to maintain their identity and would learn to treasure the Word of God that had come down to them from the beginning of their existence as a people. This was the period where the faith of the prophet Daniel was tested and that his relationship with His God was vindicated. He was the only one of the king’s counselors who could tell him what he had dreamed and could give him the meaning of the dream as well. The interpretation of this dream is very important to us today. It will no doubt inform us in our understanding of Jesus, and His mission in the Gospels.
31 “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue — an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king.
37 You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
39 “After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron — for iron breaks and smashes everything — and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.
41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
This is an amazing account of the history that took place from Daniel’s time up until the time of Christ. Babylon was represented by the head of Gold. The chest and arms of silver depicted the Medio-Persian empire which invaded Babylon. The conquests of Alexander the Great came to spread the Greek culture over an even larger area. In the dream his domain was seen as the belly and thighs of bronze. Finally, the Roman Empire is described in the statue as the legs of iron with feet of iron and clay. We know from the bible and from world history that as Rome had risen in power it became consolidated under one man, namely Caesar Augustus, around the time Jesus Christ was born.
44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands — a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”
Now let us jump forward about 400 years to these words recorded in the Gospel according to Mark:
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, ” The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
So what are we to make of all this? It seems obvious to me and evidently it was obvious to many in that time, that Jesus was expecting to see fulfilled what was written in the prophetic book of Daniel concerning the Kingdom of God. Certainly the timing was right. They were in the period of the forth kingdom. My question is this: Was He wrong? Did God fail to fulfill the expectation of Jesus? Were both John and Jesus wrong about the timing of this event? Let’s move ahead in the New Testament to find out!
Great numbers believed John or at least hoped that he was speaking for God. Many came out to hear him and to be baptized by him. Soon after, Jesus began working miracles and calling the nation to believe, repent and follow Him. He explained that the miracles were a sign that the kingdom had come (Luke 10:9). At the same time He rejected all attempts to take the kingdom by physical violence. In fact He demonstrated a power that was the least expected. His power was in the spiritual realm, not in the physical. His authority was of the highest of all, the very One Who brought the material universe into existence! He would command evil spirit to leave their victims. He would command diseases even to flee. His mission was not to destroy lives but to save them!
At the root of all the corrupt kingdoms of this world there is but one source: sin. All who desired to be free to live in this new kingdom could simply come to Jesus for deliverance. Each heart would be transformed from a selfish, sinful heart to one that loves both God and humanity. The kingdom, or reign of God is established IN THEM! (Luke 17:21, Philippians 2:13). Everything Jesus taught was concerning this kingdom. He urged His followers to see the immense value of living free and sharing the good news of this freedom in the kingdom! It was more valuable than all earthly treasures. By seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, we gain heavenly treasures while still here on earth, and our earthly needs will be supplied! Matthew (6:33).
It was important then and it is yet today important to seek Christ whole-heartedly and without hesitation or reservation. These conditions make room for the full power of the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts, our behavior and the world around us! We are here to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world! This is how the Rock that was cut out of the mountain crushes all evil kingdoms — from within! The Lord Jesus Christ is that Rock (Romans 9:33, 1 Corinthians 3:11, 10:4, Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:4-8) For two thousand years this Rock has been crushing the evil that lives within us. This kingdom was demonstrated first in some simple believers who knew Him as absolute Lord over all. They faced the most powerful rulers of the world and defeated them with their faith! Yes, many of them were murdered for simply not denying His Lordship. Their murderers have been long gone and their power has dissipated, but these heroes of faith stand victoriously with Christ to this day!
The Kingdom of Christ has continued to expand from a small number of believers in an obscure part of the world, to the untold billions who know Him today. The full impact of His work in their hearts is yet to be seen, but it is as sure to come as the dawn of a new day!