Sermon preached on April 3, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
On September 14, 1901 Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States. He assumed the presidency when President McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo, New York. Roosevelt was Vice-President and when McKinley died, Roosevelt automatically became President. What was interesting about the story is that at the time he become President, Roosevelt didn't even know it. He was hiking in the Adirondack Mountains and after McKinley died the news took almost 12 hours to reach him. McKinley died at 2:15 in the morning and at the time Roosevelt was camping near Lake Colden in the Adirondack wilderness. When Roosevelt got up that morning he had no idea he was President. If he had, he would have headed to Washington, D.C. Instead, he set out with a small group to climb Mount Marcy. After spending the morning climbing it, in the early afternoon they descended and stopped for lunch at Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds, a very small lake at the foot of Marcy. As they were eating sandwiches they saw a ranger running towards them, clutching the yellow piece of paper that was a telegram. It was the news that McKinley had died and that Roosevelt was President. Roosevelt had been President for half a day and didn't even know it.
Now, of course that was unavoidable. In those days communications were slow and poor—and the last bit could only be as quick as that ranger could run.
But if you're a Christian and you don't realize that you have a kingdom in Jesus, that you share in that kingdom, that you rule in that kingdom—then you're missing out on one of the grandest aspects of the Christian life. Verse 9 of Revelation 1 tells us that because we are 'in Jesus', we experience and participate in the life of Jesus in three ways. One of them is that we share in the 'kingdom'. John wrote, (Revelation 1:9)
"I, John, your brother and companion
in the suffering and kingdom
and patient endurance
that are ours in Jesus,"
In Jesus, we Christians have a 'kingdom'.
I don't want anyone to misunderstand me. There is certainly a 'not yet' aspect of the kingdom of God. It is not going to come in its fullness until Jesus comes again. That's going to be a great Day. Then the kingdom will be fully realized. But we should not think that the kingdom is all in the future. It has come.
In a very real sense, at the present time, we live in the kingdom of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. When Jesus was on earth 2000 years ago in a certain sense He inaugurated the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God broke through when Jesus came to this earth 2000 years ago. In Luke 11 Jesus drove a demon out of a man and they accused Jesus of driving out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Jesus denied it and said that a kingdom divided against itself will not stand. He added, (Luke 11:20–22)
"But if I drive out demons by the finger of God,
then the kingdom of God has come to you.
When a strong man, fully armed,
guards his own house,
his possessions are safe.
But when someone stronger attacks
and overpowers him,
he takes away the armor in which
the man trusted and divides up the spoils."
The kingdom arrived in a certain sense when Jesus came.
But not only that, but kingdom has been given to us. In Luke 12:32–33 Jesus said to His disciples,
"Do not be afraid, little flock,
for your Father has been pleased
to give you the kingdom."
Colossians 1:13 says of the Father,
"For he has rescued us
from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom
of the Son he loves,"
And in verse 6 of Revelation 1 John wrote that Jesus,
"and has made us to be a kingdom
and priests to serve his God and Father…"
We see an illustration of this in Luke 11. Jesus appointed the 72 and sent them out two by two, ahead of Him. He said to them, (Luke 10:9–12)
"Heal the sick who are there and tell them,
'The kingdom of God is near you.'
But when you enter a town
and are not welcomed,
go into its streets and say,
'Even the dust of your town that sticks
to our feet we wipe off against you.
Yet be sure of this:
The kingdom of God is near.'"
When the 72 returned, they said to Jesus, (Luke 10:17–20)
"Lord, even the demons submit
to us in your name."
"I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
I have given you authority to trample
on snakes and scorpions
and to overcome all
the power of the enemy;
nothing will harm you.
However, do not rejoice that the spirits
submit to you, but rejoice that your names
are written in heaven."
But Jesus' statements that I just mentioned were forward looking—to His death and resurrection. It wasn't so much Jesus' coming that caused Satan's downfall—but Jesus' work, especially His work in suffering and rising again. It was by His death and resurrection Jesus ultimately defeated and conquered Satan. In John 12 Jesus said that He would not ask the Father to save Him from 'this hour', for He had come into the world for that very hour. He then asked the Father to glory His (the Father's) name. The Father spoke from heaven and said that He had glorified it and would glorify it again. Then Jesus said, (verses 31-33)
"Now is the time for judgment
on this world;
now the prince of this world
will be driven out.
But I, when I am lifted up from the earth,
will draw all men to myself.
He said this to show the kind of death
he was going to die."
Jesus tied the driving out of the prince of this world to His death. It was by His death Jesus defeated Satan. Indeed Hebrews 2:14 tells us,
"Since the children have flesh and blood,
he too shared in their humanity
so that by his death he might
destroy him who holds the power of death
—that is, the devil…"
The devil has been defeated. The devil's fate has been sealed. Colossians 2:13–15 also speaks about how Jesus saved us from our sins and made us alive in Christ—and how He completely defeated the forces of evil. It says about God,
"He forgave us all our sins,
having canceled the written code,
with its regulations,
that was against us and
that stood opposed to us;
he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
And having disarmed
the powers and authorities,
he made a public spectacle of them,
triumphing over them by the cross."
The scene is described from a different perspective in Revelation 12. We are told of a great and wondrous sign that appeared in heaven— a woman was clothed with the sun and had a crown of 12 stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Before her was an enormous red dragon with 7 heads and 10 horns and 7 crowns on his head. His tail swept a third of the stars of heaven out of the sky and flung them to earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment He was born. The woman gave birth to a son, who will rule the nations with an iron scepter. Her child was snatched up to God and to His throne. The woman fled into the desert. We then read, (Revelation 12:7–13)
"And there was war in heaven.
Michael and his angels
fought against the dragon,
and the dragon and his angels fought back.
But he was not strong enough,
and they lost their place in heaven.
The great dragon was hurled down
—that ancient serpent called the devil,
or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.
He was hurled to the earth,
and his angels with him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
'Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them before our God
day and night, has been hurled down.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives
so much as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.'
When the dragon saw that
he had been hurled to the earth,
he pursued the woman who had
given birth to the male child."
Jesus, His coming and His work—defeated and conquered Satan. Donald Macleod says, (A Faith to Live By, p. 288)
"the New Testament consistently defines the cross in terms of the victory of Jesus Christ over all the forces of evil."
The point of all this is that Jesus rules right now. He has been exalted to the right hand of God. He rules all things for the church. In a very real, powerful and significant way, His kingdom has come. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. He reigns. Ephesians 1:19–23 speaks it. It talks about the working of the Father's mighty strength,
"which he exerted in Christ
when he raised him from the dead
and seated him at his right hand
in the heavenly realms,
far above all rule and authority,
power and dominion,
and every title that can be given,
not only in the present age
but also in the one to come.
And God placed all things under his feet
and appointed him to be head
over everything for the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of him
who fills everything in every way."
He is ruling—both in this present age and forever. He rules for His glory and for the church.
The kingdom has come. Herman Ridderbos writes, (The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 55)
"This does not mean… that there is no room for the future of the kingdom… but it means that the one great kingdom of the future has become present… It is the great kingdom, the coming of God into the world for redemption and judgment. The future, as it were, penetrates into the present. The world of God's redemption, the great whole of his concluding and consummative work pushes its way into the present time of the world."
This has great implications for us.
It means we are to live kingdom lives.
G. K. Beale says of Christians, that they (Revelation, p. 201)
"participate in the kingdom as kings…"
We have a kingdom now. That fact has great implications for how we should live now. That's one of the great points that the apostle Paul made in 1 Corinthians 6:2–4 when he rebuked the Corinthian Christians for taking their disputes to the world's courts. He said to them,
"Do you not know that the saints
will judge the world?
And if you are to judge the world,
are you not competent
to judge trivial cases?
Do you not know that
we will judge angels?
How much more the things of this life!"
The age to come has broken through and we should realize our standing in Jesus. We should live kingdom lives.
2 Timothy 1:7–9 is in some ways parallel to our text and summarizes kingdom living. It reads,
"For God did not give us
a spirit of timidity,
but a spirit of power,
of love and of self-discipline.
So do not be ashamed
to testify about our Lord,
or ashamed of me his prisoner.
But join with me in suffering for the gospel,
by the power of God,
who has saved us and called us
to a holy life…"
You rule with Jesus and are to live accordingly. Beale writes, (p. 201)
"The Apocalypse reveals that their reign, like Jesus' initial kingship, consists in 'conquering' by not compromising their faithful witness in the face of trials… in ruling over the powers of evil… in defeating sin in their lives… and in beginning to rule over death and Satan by identification with Jesus. Their endurance is part of the process of 'conquering'…"
G. K. Beale continues, (Revelation, p. 201)
"Believers are not mere subjects in Christ's kingdom. 'Fellow partaker' underscores the active involvement of saints not only in enduring tribulation, but also in reigning in the midst of tribulation."
Thus, first of all, this means that
you ought to live confidently, boldly, fearlessly.
I think this is best illustrated by the actions of the apostles in Acts 4 and 5. Peter and John had been arrested and put in jail. The powers that were arrayed against them was quite formidable. In Acts 4:5-6 we read,
"The next day the rulers,
elders and teachers of the law
met in Jerusalem.
Annas the high priest was there,
and so were Caiaphas, John,
Alexander and the other men
of the high priest's family."
But when Peter and John were brought before them, they couldn't believe their courage. (verse 13). They ordered them not to preach or teach in the name of Jesus. They had all the force of the civil and religious authority behind them and used threats against Peter and John. But they replied, (Acts 4:19–20)
"Judge for yourselves
whether it is right in God's sight
to obey you rather than God.
For we cannot help speaking
about what we have seen and heard."
The authorities thought they were in control. They thought they could control the disciples. They thought they had power over them. But they had no power at all. It didn't seem that way to earthly eyes. But it was the apostles who were in control. Peter and John knew it. So they acted like had the power of the kingdom with them—they were bold and courageous and refused to back down. When they were released they quoted from Psalm 2. (Acts 4:25–26)
"You spoke by the Holy Spirit
through the mouth of your servant,
our father David:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One."
Although we don't see it quoted in Acts, there's a good possibility that they quoted the whole psalm. In many places where the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, the verse that is quoted is just a pointer to that Old Testament context. The New Testament writers mean for us to go back to the verses they quoted and look at the context there. Psalm 2 continues about the nations and the kings of the earth, (verses 3-12)
"'Let us break their chains', they say,
'and throw off their fetters.'"
The psalm continues,
"The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
'I have installed my King on Zion,
my holy hill.'
I will proclaim the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, 'You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.
Ask of me, and I will make
the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will rule them with an iron scepter;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.'
Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him."
Who is really in control in this world? If Revelation shows anything, it shows that Jesus Christ rules. Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when Pilate was amazed that Jesus refused to answer him and said, (John 19:10)
"Do you refuse to speak to me?
Don't you realize I have power
either to free you or to crucify you?"
"You would have no power over me
if it were not given to you from above."
We need to always remember that God rules. How did the apostles continue in Acts 4 after they quoted from Psalm 2? They said, (Acts 4:27–31)
"Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate
met together with the Gentiles
and the people of Israel in this city
to conspire against your holy servant Jesus,
whom you anointed.
They did what your power and will
had decided beforehand should happen.
Now, Lord, consider their threats
and enable your servants
to speak your word with great boldness.
Stretch out your hand to heal
and perform miraculous signs
and wonders through the name
of your holy servant Jesus.'
After they prayed,
the place where they were
meeting was shaken.
And they were all filled
with the Holy Spirit
and spoke the word of God boldly."
They knew they had a kingdom. They knew Jesus was in control.
We can stand against Satan because we belong to the age to come. Satan has been defeated by our champion Jesus. The devil is still dangerous and still goes around like a roaring lion seeking to destroy people—but he is essentially a defeated enemy. We have to be wary of him because he is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short. But he is bound. We've see that already in Jesus's words I quoted from Luke 11—how a strong man defends his house until a stronger comes, overpowers him and divides the spoils.
You ought to seek to bring everything under the rule of Jesus Christ. This world and everything in it belongs to Jesus. In a very real sense His kingdom has come. You are to exercise His rule over it. You are His representatives, His ambassadors, His co-rulers. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:21–23,
"All things are yours,
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas
or the world or life or death
or the present or the future—
all are yours, and you are of Christ,
and Christ is of God."
Be bold, be confident—in Jesus and through Jesus you have a kingdom.
The second thing this means is that
we should be bold in witnessing.
Living kingdom lives means, in great measure, that we should be bold witnesses for Jesus. One of the purposes for which Jesus reigns is to bring in the harvest. In John 17:2. Jesus said to the Father,
"For you granted him authority
over all people that he might
give eternal life
to all those you have given him."
Indeed, Jesus commands Christians to go into all the earth. In Matthew 28:18–20 He said to His disciples,
"All authority in heaven and on earth
has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples
of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age."
You'll also remember what Jesus said in John 4:35–36
"Do you not say,
'Four months more and then the harvest'?
I tell you, open your eyes
and look at the fields!
They are ripe for harvest."
We have a kingdom and it's all of grace and mercy. It's because of what our great Savior did. He is worthy. In Revelation 9 we read about the great multitude that no one could count standing before the throne in front of them Lamb praising God and the Lamb.
That's what we should desire to see—people being saved and coming to know and praise Jesus. We should be doing everything we can to witness to people so that they too can come to know Jesus. This is the time in the kingdom when people can be saved. As the apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:2,
"I tell you,
now is the time of God's favor,
now is the day of salvation."
But how does the church grow? One of the ways that God has ordained is through you telling others about Jesus. John Frame writes that he hasn't made a scientific survey of how people come to Christ, but that he has heard a great many testimonies and suggests that the issue keeping people away from Christianity is not primarily intellectual. He writes, (Apologetics to the Glory of God, p. 67)
"The issue was, rather, that the person was not yet motivated to repent of sin, seek forgiveness, and obey the Christian revelation. That motivation, supernatural in origin, came through various experiences—often merely a very vivid retelling of the gospel of Jesus, especially such a retelling connected by loving, winsome behavior."
Do you tell people about Jesus? Are you bold about it? If not, your life is not kingdom life.
The third thing kingdom living means is that
we should be holy.
We're not of this world. We belong to the kingdom. We should live accordingly. Belonging to the kingdom means that we should live righteously. Herman Ridderbos writes, (The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 286)
"It may be rightly said… that kingdom and righteousness are synonymous concepts in Jesus' preaching. The one is unthinkable without the other."
Jesus equated them because they go together. This means that we can and should say 'no' to sin and temptation, that we can overcome them and live kingdom lives. We were united to Christ in His resurrection. In a certain sense our new life is His resurrection life. As Michael Horton writes, (The Christian Faith)
"Having united himself to us in our flesh, in our sins, in our suffering and death, he now unites us to himself in his new-creation life by his Spirit."
We are united to Christ's life by His Spirit. Ridderbos writes, (Paul, An Outline of His Theology, p. 211)
"The thought is thereby that as in Christ's death on the cross the church has died to the powers of sin, world, and law, in the resurrection of Christ it has been set at liberty for Another, in order to live for him, under his government…"
Kingdom lives are holy lives. How holy you should be.
Fourthly, for Christians,
kingdom living means that your life will be full of praise for Jesus Christ.
What do the saints in heaven do? They praise and serve God. They are focused on praising the Lamb! So should you be. Your life should be about praising Christ. Is it?
Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,
what you should realize is that you don't have a kingdom.
The kingdom that Jesus inaugurated is glorious. It will be filled with glory, peace, harmony, joy, fellowship, rule—life to the full.
Unless you go to Jesus you will not share in the kingdom. You will be cast out. Unless you go to Jesus, your fate will be the opposite of a kingdom—instead of peace, there will be, anguish, unfilled striving; instead of joy, there will be misery and disappointment; instead of glorious rule, there will be miserable subjection and torment. Go to Jesus, avoid missing out on the kingdom.