First the Kingdom part 8, The Time is Fulfilled
It has been said that in the Old Testament the New Testament is concealed, and in the New Testament, the Old Testament is revealed. This is not immediately evident. This realization comes over time and after much searching and illumination of the Holy Spirit. The writers of the New Testament almost force us to this conclusion. Because they had to deal with the biblical scholars of their day, they went to great lengths to show how everything that had transpired in the life of Jesus had been foretold in the Scriptures.
Jesus Himself pointed out that He came to fulfill everything that was written about Him in the ancient writings. (Luke 24:44). Paul also basically said that everything He came to teach and proclaim was based upon what was written in the sacred Hebrew scriptures. (Acts 26:22)
These things were concealed in such a way that even His disciples first missed them until Jesus “opened their understanding.” (Luke 24:45) Paul explained how this was the operation of the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” that is available to believers who receive it. Many of the prophetic predictions concerning Jesus and the coming Kingdom we have discussed in the previous lesson.
There are many fascinating studies of the Old Testament references to Jesus and His ministry which the writer to the Hebrews called “shadows” and “types.” Special events and the Levitical system of animal and grain sacrifices depict the manner in which Jesus would finally atone for our sins and give us an example to follow. Even the stories of many Old Testament individuals like Joseph, Moses and David would also become examples of some of the traits that Jesus would fully display in the New Testament era.
This series is mainly focusing on the importance of the Kingdom of God in the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament looks forward to it, the New Testament reveals the way in which it is fulfilled. In fact, Mark’s Gospel states this from the start. After telling of John, the forerunner baptizing Jesus, and the following temptation of Jesus, he writes:
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ” The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Let us look at this closely. We know that God has always been sovereign over His creation. There has never been a time when He was not in control. However, the coming of the Kingdom of God is related to this specific time. Something was near that was not so near before! Change was coming to that place and in that time, according to Jesus and John. There seems to be two tendencies when people think of the Kingdom of God. One is that the Kingdom has to be more like an earthly authority that is exercised by force, the other is that it is only like a personal spiritual experience.
Even among those who followed Jesus there was confusion about what to expect. In fact they were shocked when He told them that He would be crucified in Jerusalem, and even more shocked when it happened! After His resurrection they were of course relieved, but He continued to explain the Kingdom to them during the 40 days up to His Ascension! They must have understood things somewhat better then. Earlier when He told them He would have to leave in order for the Holy Spirit to come, they were full of sorrow. Now, when His physical form was taken from them, they were actually rejoicing! From that time forward they proclaimed Him as Lord and King, ruling from heaven, and sending them forth to declare His Kingdom had come!
It would be difficult to deny that Jesus did come to bring a spiritual experience. My problem is with those who limit it to that. As I have pointed out, there is a time element to the Kingdom of God. It was alluded to in the book of Daniel. In the days of the kingdoms that came down to the days of the Roman Empire, the God of Heaven would set up a kingdom that would consume all other kingdoms and be established forever! We cannot disconnect the words spoken by God before from the Words of Christ Who came to fulfill them. We are concerned with the whole counsel of God!
It does take a spiritual experience, being born from above to see the Kingdom of God has come! And yet, the same Holy Spirit can and will transform our lives to the extent that others can see it too! Moses had to prove to Pharaoh that his was the true God. Jesus proved He was the Messiah to His own people by undeniable miracles and teaching with great authority. But the nation of Israel as a whole did not see the truth because Rome appeared to still be in power in the end.
If they had understood the parables of Jesus they would have understood that Rome’s days were truly numbered. The Kingdom of God did come in power 50 days after the Crucifixion and religious Jews from all over the Roman Empire witnessed it! Thousands of pilgrims who came to the yearly ceremonies were caught up into the wonderful presence of God along with the early apostles and disciples. Jerusalem was the first “beachhead” to borrow from a World War II analogy. Later, Samaria, Antioch, Ephesus, Alexandria, and Rome itself would become infiltrated with the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!
There were both great explosions of supernatural transformation and small, unnoticed advances as well. Jesus explained that growth often takes place in the darkness of the earth and in the chemical reactions between leaven and bread. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. All the while the great Rock is rolling over the kingdoms of hatred, jealousy, murder, and injustice around the world, even impacting the political forces that express them, until the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea! (Isaiah 11:9).
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