Knowledge of this coming divine government provides real hope beyond the dismal news and traumas of our present day.
There was a Hollywood movie, The Kingdom of Heaven, that told the story of the crusader kingdom in Jerusalem and the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. Europeans liberated the Holy Land from Muslim control and attempted to set up a kingdom based on their vision of God and Christianity. It did not work and it did not endure for long. War and strife continued to tear and rip at the well-intentioned effort to create the Kingdom of God on earth.
All such human efforts to create, on this earth, the Kingdom of God have failed. And there have been many through the years. What prevents this? What exactly is the Kingdom of God, a subject talked about throughout the Bible? You need to understand, because the Kingdom of God is your future.
Join us on this edition of Beyond Today as we look closely at just "What is the Kingdom of God?"
The gospel of the Kingdom of God contains vital truths that unlock the understanding of our times and provides us with hope beyond all the discouraging news and the traumas of our present period. We are living in a time of change and upheaval among the nations. A list of the crisis/crises confronting the nations and the world leadership at present, really make you wonder whether our world will ever be the same again.
There's the financial crisis in Europe and America that drags along recession, and threatens to dampen economic growth for many years to come. Political tensions inside nations and between nations abound. Revolutions within the Arab world, like the "Muslim Spring," likely leading to the rise of the extremist groups in countries like Egypt or Jordan, and overturning the balance of power in a number of Middle Eastern nations.
But it won't always be this way.
We have also extreme weather conditions in recent years that highlight just how quickly climate can change and impact regional economies. In our interconnected world, what happens in one part of the world can impact the economy of another.
The American Southwest has been in a drought that experts compare to the Dust Bowl years. Droughts in Africa cause upheavals of whole populations and starvation for thousands.
Flooding in Australia and the Mississippi River drainage area demonstrate the raw power of massive amounts of water roaring through a region, causing damage to agriculture and property.
But, it won't always be this way.
Now you can say that there's always been upset weather, so why get all worked up? I'd say well that's true. But you know, our modern political world is so delicately balanced with inter-locked systems, that a sudden catastrophe could trigger a collapse in the economy creating sudden shifts of power.
About a year ago, a massive storm swept rapidly across the United States from the west coast to the east. It stretched from the southern border north to the Canadian border. It spawned tornadoes, storms, snow and large electrical storms. Meteorologists had not seen any system like it and called it the equivalent of a land hurricane.
Should something like this occur again at a critical time of harvest, it could bring devastating consequences. The point is that Jesus Christ warned of such times in His prophecy of Matthew 24, where His disciples ask of the signs that would exist at the time of His appearing as the returning King, with the Kingdom of God in tow.
Now, the prophet Isaiah, in the Old Testament of the Bible, recorded one of the most captivating images in all of the Bible about a time when the world's troubles will come to an end. Let's read it. It says:
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11.6).
This beautiful, descriptive scene visualizes a time of peace where even the nature of animals is changed and there's an absence of conflict and strife. This scene has been used to picture an idyllic state of harmony. Lots of paintings, such as the one done by Edward Hicks called The Peaceable Kingdom, attempt to depict this very scene from Isaiah. It has inspired countless movements by well-meaning people, attempting to create settlements and communities based on the ideal of this one scene from the book of Isaiah.
Notice what is at the center of the picture here in Isaiah. It's that of a little child. It says, "A little child shall lead them"
What does this have to do with the Kingdom of God? Well, let's go to the New Testament. Let's look at what Jesus Christ said in the book of Luke.
"Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and [He] said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it'" (Luke 18:15-17).
Here in Christ's teaching is the key to understanding all we might say about the Kingdom of God. It is in the attitude of a little child that we really begin to learn what the Kingdom of God is all about. We'll come back to this scene in a moment, but there are some other elements that we should first understand about the Kingdom of God.
The Bible tells us Jesus Christ came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Gospel is simply another word for "good news" and in Christ's day and for His audience, the Kingdom of God was something more easily understood than for you and I today. You see in the ancient world, a kingdom was understood to be a large and a vast land inhabited by people. It had a system of laws administered by a king or a caesar as in the case of the Roman Empire. All of this is quite different from our modern world with presidents and prime ministers and elected representatives.
The main monarch of note in our own day is Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain. The British royal family captures the attention of the public every time they roll out their pomp and circumstance in a wedding or in a funeral.
So when we speak of the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, it can seem like something very old or something that really doesn't seem to fit in our modern times. Yet, the idea of a kingdom is very, very relevant to today. The biblical truth of the Kingdom of God is the most important message you could have today. Get this right and you get life right. Understand the gospel of the Kingdom of God and you can understand how your life is supposed to work.
Notice what Jesus focused on in His ministry. He preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Let's read it in the Gospel of Mark. It says:
"Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15).
You see, Christ, as the Son of God, came in the flesh to preach the good news of the Kingdom. This Kingdom had been long prophesied and expected by the Jews of the first century. The Hebrew prophets, like what we just read in Isaiah, painted vivid pictures of that world and people living under the way of God and all nations, all peoples living in complete harmony. They anticipated the appearance of this Kingdom at the same time Jesus came teaching about the Kingdom to come.
Now even then, there were many misconceptions about the Kingdom. For one, it was felt that the Kingdom would appear in their day.
In Luke 19 as Christ was entering Jerusalem, they felt—the people, the masses—that the Kingdom would immediately appear. And to counter that idea, Jesus gave a parable—a story with a point—to show that it would be some time in the future before the Kingdom would come. He spoke about a man going into a far country to receive a kingdom and leaving a work to be done by his servants.
On another occasion, Christ said the "kingdom of God is within you." This phrase is better translated, "in your midst." The Kingdom of God is really not some vague concept. Jesus, as the King of Kings, was right there in their midst teaching about the Kingdom, and finding resistance to the idea. People in Christ's day rejected His teaching about the Kingdom.
When Jesus Christ returns to earth, the Kingdom will again be in the midst of mankind! You may know Him as Lord, Master, Teacher, Savior, Messiah and even High Priest in heaven, but most importantly, Jesus Christ can personally be your King now! Christ as King of the Kingdom can be "in your midst"—in your life—today.
Jesus Christ constantly taught about the Kingdom of God. It was on His lips, wherever He engaged others in conversation or in His teaching. No one within the range of His voice was left out of an opportunity to hear the gospel.
When Christ taught, He gave definition to what the Kingdom of God was to become. To His closest disciples, He described the Kingdom as a government ruling the world and they would sit on thrones judging among the 12 tribes of Israel.
Then Jesus said to His disciples on another occasion, "'Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'
"When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, 'Who then can be saved?'
"But Jesus looked at them and said to them, 'With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'
"Then Peter answered and said to Him, 'See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?'
"So Jesus said to them, 'Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life'" (Matthew 19:23-29 ).
We see here that eternal life is also a part of the Kingdom. It's God's great gift for all the world at the appointed time.
He goes on in another location and He says, "...do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:31-33, version?)
"Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).
The question is: Will you today begin to seek the Kingdom of God and place it as a high priority? Christ spoke many parables about the Kingdom. One of them described a man seeking a great treasure. Notice what it says:
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matthew 13:44-46).
What are these verses telling us? The Kingdom should be the highest priority in our lives. You can seek God's Kingdom now—today!
You see, the knowledge and the hope of the coming Kingdom of God to this earth is the most vital need you can have at this time, or frankly at any time. It's the most important understanding that we can give you on this program.
The subject of the Kingdom of God is one of the primary themes of the Bible. We simply cannot cover all of it in one program here on Beyond Today. But to help you, we have prepared a free Bible study aid that we'd like to put into your hands.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is a booklet that will give you a very good start, a helpful start, on this crucial subject. You need to read this booklet. You need to study it alongside your Bible. Look up the scriptures it mentions and study them in your Bible. Study the scriptures around those scriptures. Prove for yourself the truth of what the Kingdom of God really is.
Call us at 1-888-886-8632 for a free copy of The Gospel of the Kingdom. Or go online to Beyond Today at BeyondToday.tv and download a free copy.
The message of the Kingdom of God is the core of all we discuss here on Beyond Today. We are looking at today's world and your life from the perspective of the world to come—beyond today. We offer you advance understanding of how you can access God's Kingdom, the power of that world to come, and to begin now, in this life, to live successfully in all areas. And even to help get you through the stresses and challenges that come at us from all angles.
Get this booklet. Begin the most fascinating study that you could ever make in the Bible: The Gospel of the Kingdom. Call right now: 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv. It's free.
Now let me also mention that the United Church of God is holding free Bible seminars in cities across the United States and around the world. You'll not want to miss these seminars—believe me—where you're going to learn when you go, you're going to learn more about the Kingdom of God. So go to BeyondToday.tv when you're there ordering the booklet. Look for the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars" link and register to attend. These live events are absolutely free. You're not going to be asked for anything. When you go there, you're going to also meet other people who understand these subjects and are seeking a closer relationship with God.
Christ's message. The hope of the Kingdom is what you need to hear. In the midst of all the bad news that you hear today, you need this positive, focused message of the Kingdom of God.
Space might be limited so, be sure and sign up now. Keep watching and keep understanding what's going to happen. Go to the BeyondToday.tv, click on the "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars" link.
Now, let's go back to the image of a little child that Christ placed in the midst of His disciples.
"...They also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it" (Luke 18:15-17).
You know, there are many traits that children have that illustrate what Jesus is talking about in this story. He tells us to "receive the kingdom of God as a little child." If we don't, we will not enter the Kingdom.
I can imagine this child looking up at Him with a certain awe, admiration and wonder. Just like a lot of children look at their parent or an adult with love, as someone larger than life who loves them, cares for them and protects them. Trust, love and forgiveness come easily for a child that has not been changed by the hard knocks of life. Remember how you were? Remember how your children once looked at you as someone who could do no wrong? Remember when they saw you as Superman or Wonder Woman?
Life changes. We grow older, and sometimes wiser. Life comes at us fast and begins to throw us curve balls that keep us off balance and present challenges. All too quickly, we lose the child-like quality of life that I like to call "awe and wonder."
Christ said to receive the Kingdom of God as a little child. This means we look at God as a loving Father who carries us by His good grace through life. When we yield and change our lives through repentance and believe the gospel of the Kingdom of God, we must look upon God with the eyes of a little child and trust in faith that He is with us, through all seasons and phases of life. He is with us in good times and in bad.
This is the journey to the Kingdom of God. God promises us that He will stand with us and He'll carry us as a father carries a child because He loves us and wishes good things of peace for us—not evil. We have to see God with the eyes of a child. That's how we receive the Kingdom as a child. This is the first step in accessing the power of this world where God dwells and will one day come in its fullness to the earth.
Let me tell you a personal story.
I have a dear aunt, who when she was born had a club-foot. She was turned in such a way that she could only walk on the ball of that one foot. My grandparents, her parents, had a large family of 11 other/of their kids. Grandpa was a tenant farmer and logger. They never had a lot of money but they did have a lot of love for each other. The only hospital that could do the surgical treatments to her foot was over a hundred miles away. Getting my aunt to that hospital was not easy.
Grandpa did not have a car. Couldn't afford one. He would have to carry his daughter and walk several miles down the highway to the closest bus stop. There they would buy a ticket, get on the bus and make the long trip north to the hospital. That was a long walk. I know the road and it would not have been easy. But he loved his daughter and wanted to get the best treatment for her so he carried her.
Today she walks normally. When she tells this story, there is a tear of appreciation in her eyes. She looked at her father, my grandfather, and still does, with a deeply felt love for his care for her.
That is how you and I are to look at our spiritual Father when we repent and believe the gospel of the Kingdom of God. This is how we receive the Kingdom as a little child.
God favors His people today. He favors you and me. He is waiting to work with us and to show us deeper truths about our life, this journey, this phase of His ongoing plan of eternal salvation.
Can you put God first and seek His Kingdom with all your heart and your desire?
This is the essence of the Kingdom of God. To see God as a child sees a parent—with wonder and amazement, with a secure and contented feeling.
Christ said on another occasion, "Do not fear little children. It is God's good pleasure to give us the Kingdom (Luke 12:32-can't find version that says it this way).
On this program today we've offered you the booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom. We also want to remind you that we also are making you the same offer of our free monthly magazine, The Good News.
When you call and request today's booklet offer we'll also send you a free subscription to this magazine. Six issues a year. Each issue including subjects on prophecy, on Christian living and biblical teaching. Your knowledge of the Bible, and of God and of His great plan for your life will grow with each issue.
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I'm joined now with the Beyond Today fellow hosts, Steve Myers and Gary Petty. This fascinating, involved but important subject of the Kingdom of God, we could talk all day about it. But, let me ask you gentlemen this one question: Does the Kingdom of God exist today? I think that may be a good question place for us to start. Does it exist today?
Of course it exists. I mean, God is the Creator, the Sovereign of the entire universe and His Kingdom in exist. It's just that right now on this earth for a very short period of time in history, God has allowed somebody else to be, what Paul calls, the god of this world, Satan. We live in occupied territory, in which Satan has been allowed by God to be the god of this world. And so, God rules from heaven. His Kingdom exists in heaven and it will exist on this earth again in the near future.
That's kind of an interesting concept when you think of the idea of what that entails. That God is King. Jesus Christ the King of Kings and He's coming back. But that, we can have an opportunity to live in that Kingdom, in a sense, right now. You know, who controls our life? Who is in charge of our life? Who do we look to as the one who governs our life? And God through the Bible is saying we need to be a part of that Kingdom. Not just a future thing but a present reality too.
And when I talk about Satan being the occupier of this, of the earth right now, that's not because he took it away from God. It's because God allowed him to rule for a period of time. That's important, because we have to realize that God is the most powerful being in the universe.
So how do we access that Kingdom today?
Well part of it is, do we even know what the law of the Kingdom is? We have the King. We have Jesus Christ. But Christ said that if you love God, the evidence is that you keep His commandments. You live by the law of that Kingdom. It rules your heart. You live by that. You practice it. You center your life around it.
You know we access the Kingdom of God on our knees. We go before the Sovereign King, we accept who He is and we give our lives to the King. That's where we access the Kingdom of God.
That's what Christ meant when He said repent and believe the gospel.
That's exactly right.
That's the first step.
Yeah and I think you talk about access; well we've got to understand what was Christ all about. Who is our Savior? What did He do? What was His purpose? You know, what is it that puts us into the Kingdom of God? In the sense, Christ has to be the center of my life. You know, that begins to have my life focused around living in His Kingdom. But the ultimate reality though is down the line when He finally returns and that Kingdom then becomes a literal Kingdom on this earth. So I can live by those conditions now. And I'm looking forward to the time when He returns.
You know we talked about ambassador a few minutes ago. An ambassador represents one government to another government.
...and lives in that foreign land.
...and lives in that foreign land and that's what Christians are. We are to exemplify that Kingdom to all those people around us.
Which puts a very heavy responsibility upon us.
Well on anyone who claims that name of Christian, or to represent the Kingdom or even wants to talk about it, then that puts our life under scrutiny, doesn't it?
A magnifying glass.
Enormous responsibility before God. When we claim to be a Christian, we claim that when we act with other people, we are representing our King. And that leads to a question, how do we represent that King? You know, in a good sense? Or do people walk away from Christianity because they see our hypocrisy? That's the very important question that we have to face.
You know, the Kingdom of God is going to be brought to this earth. It is not here in its fullness. We want to be very clear about that. Yet, we've stated the Kingdom of God exists today, and a person can access that through the scriptural teaching, the scriptural methods that are there. When you fully understand, begin to realize that it does, it's a game changer for life—isn't it?
It has to be.
...which makes us have to do something. Which means, what does it really mean to us? What does it mean to you, Steve, when you talk about the Kingdom of God and its impact in your, in the way you live your life as a man?
You know I think when you start, if I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and my Master, I can't stop there because He's...
There's something you have to do...
He's the King of my life.
And as King, do I rule my life or does He rule my life? And He said, follow Me. Well what did He do? What did He teach? You know what way did He live His life? My goal better be to be sure that everything I do and say fall under His rulership. If it doesn't, then I better straighten it up, and I better find out and read the Bible and understand exactly what He was teaching, so I can live in that Kingdom.
And if we follow His example, then we are getting on our knees every day and saying to the Father, not my will be done, but Your will be done. We're actually seeking God's will in everything we do, every day. It's a life changer, 24-hours a day.
What is the hope that lies within us? It's that we have a different perspective on our life today. We're looking forward to when Christ returns to establish that Kingdom.
Remember the free offers that we're offering today on this program. The first is the booklet: The Gospel of the Kingdom. This booklet is going to open your mind and grasp these/this life-changing message of the Kingdom of God that Christ preached.
You can get this free booklet and begin a study with your Bible today. Read it online, download it at BeyondToday.tv or you can request your own copy by calling toll free: 1-888-886-8632 requesting your booklet. We'll mail it to you free of charge.
And don't forget our magazine The Good News and your free subscription to this magazine. A unique magazine in all the world. It's going to help you understand God's purpose with/for all kinds of articles that are relevant to your life.
Remember, all of our publications are provided free of charge as an educational service to you the public. It's a magazine that you will want to read and share with friends. 1-888-886-8632 or write us—you'll see the address at the end of the program. It's all free.
Let me also remind you, the United Church of God is holding free Bible seminars in cities across the United States. This is our topic on today's program—The Kingdom of God! That's what we're talking about in those seminars. And if you're interested in learning more about God's coming Kingdom, go to BeyondToday.tv. Look for the link "Kingdom of God Bible Seminars." Click on register to attend. Find out where the location is near you. These live events, they're absolutely free.
The message of the Kingdom of God is the most important message of our day. It's the most important message you can hear. It is the most important message you can respond to.
The true gospel of the Kingdom of God opens your life to new vistas of understanding. It will connect the dots of life. It is the key to making your life work and living successfully today.
God's coming Kingdom is the best news of hope that you will ever hear. Seize this opportunity now and may we all pray, "Thy Kingdom come."
For Beyond Today, I'm Darris McNeely. Thanks for watching.