What is the Mission of the Church? Part 4: Your Kingdom Come
April 8, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
While thinking and speaking about the mission of the church, the concept of kingdom often comes up. Language such as “establish the kingdom,” “build the kingdom,” or “grow the kingdom” is often used in the context of the mission of the church. And the concept of the kingdom is applied to all sorts of areas, including the environment, social needs, and politics. Some clarity on what the Bible teaches on kingdom is beneficial for our discussion on the mission of the church.
- The Kingdom of God is spiritual, not geographical. For most, this is a statement of the obvious, but it is easy to forget. Throughout church history, Christians of various groups associated the kingdom of God with specific geo-political nations or locations. Unfortunately, this mentality was part of the motivating force behind the crusades, seeking to reclaim the “Holy Land” for God. But the Bible speaks about the kingdom in relational and spiritual terms. Take, for example, Colossians 1:13, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” The domain of darkness, in Paul’s language, in the spiritual realm of bondage to sin and death. Therefore the kingdom of the beloved Son is the spiritual realm of salvation and life. This is why Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36). This is also why the apostles spoke of being “strangers and exiles” in this world (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11).
- The Kingdom of God is centered on her king, Jesus Christ. Jesus arrives one the seen preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). The kingdom is at hand because Jesus is at hand. He concludes his earthly ministry by reaffirming his authoritative role as king, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt. 28:18). As quoted above, Paul identifies the kingdom as being “of his beloved Son.”
- Entrance into the Kingdom of God is conditional upon our response to the King. Jesus speaks about entrance to the kingdom in the context of welcoming children, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mk. 10:15 & Lk. 18:17). Paul warns that those who practice unrighteousness and the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9 & Gal. 5:21). Then Jesus says in John 3:3, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” What is the sum of these and other such texts? The promise of Scripture is that those who have been transformed in Christ by his saving work through faith will enter the kingdom of God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). Only those who have received Jesus by faith and submitted themselves to his Lordship enjoy the kingdom.
- The Kingdom of God is associated with the age to come but is breaking into the present age. There are many prophecies about the coming age of the kingdom of Messiah (e.g. Is. 9; 11; 65:17-25 & Joel 2:28-29). These are yet to be fulfilled in the coming age, the new heavens and new earth. Yet, we have seen in the ministry of Jesus and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, elements of these kingdom promises breaking in now. The blind see. The lame walk. The dead are raised. But not all of the blind or lame or dead. That comes later. What Scripture describes is this present evil age (Gal. 1:4) and the promises of the coming age (Eph. 2:7). With Jesus’ first Advent, the coming age has begun to break into the present age.
- The Kingdom of God will not be fully established until Jesus returns. The consummation of the kingdom is depicted in Revelation 21-22. Sin and death are eradicated. The promises of the Old Testament about the perfect, eternal reign of the Messiah are totally fulfilled. All of this is contingent on the second coming of Christ when he brings final judgment and justice on all sin. The Church (institutional and organic) cannot bring or establish the kingdom. Jesus does that.
- The Kingdom of God is manifested in the Church during the present age. So if the kingdom is spiritual and centered on Jesus, where do we find it? The kingdom of God is visible in the Church, the gathering of all those who profess faith in Jesus. Jesus speaks about the church having authority in the kingdom of God in Matthew 16:19. The keys of the kingdom represent the entrance. The church “acts as a sort of embassy for the government of the King…the church is meant to manifest the life of the kingdom of God to the world around it” (DeYoung & Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church? p. 127).
- The Church’s primary duty to the kingdom is proclamation. The church does not grow, establish, or bring the kingdom. God does that through Christ. The church, as we have seen in the Great Commission, is called to proclaim the Good News of the King and invite people to submit in faith to the King. Our good works, whatever they may be, are good, but they do not expand or establish or bring the kingdom. They bear witness to the goodness of the King and his transforming power in our lives (cf. Matt. 5:16).