In the past two weeks we have looked at Jesus' baptism and His temptation. Today we see Jesus beginning His public ministry in Galilee. It is only after He has come through the wilderness, it is only after He has been tested by God that His ministry begins. Even the Lord Jesus learned obedience by the things that He suffered:
Hebrews 5:8 (NASB) Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.
This literally reads, "Son though He was;" that is to say, "Son of God though He was, even He learned by suffering." "He learned..." - points not to intellectual, but to experiential learning. He "learned" it like you do, except to a greater degree - in the crucible of conflict and suffering!
Mark 1:13-15 (NASB) And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him. 14 And 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."
This reads like Jesus came from the forty days of testing right to His public ministry. But there is a time laps here. Nobody knows exactly how much time lapsed between the end of verse 13 and the beginning of verse 14. We know it had to have been months. As a matter of fact, much of the detail of what happened in this time gap is recorded in the Gospel of John. But for Mark's purpose he says nothing of it. Some believe it could have been as much as a year between verse 13 and verse 14.
Mark 1:14 (NASB) And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,
After John was put in prison: There is a detailed description of this and John's fate in prison in Mark 6:17-28. We'll look at that in detail in a few years when we get there.
Jesus lived most of His earthly life where? In Nazareth, a town of little significance in Israel. Outside the visit to the temple when He was twelve, we have no record of our Lord's activities. We can safely assume that He was faithful as a son and as a carpenter in Nazareth. But after His baptism and temptation, His earthly ministry began. Mark skips some of the earliest events as recorded in John's Gospel: the wedding at Cana, the first cleansing of the temple, the encounter with Nicodemus, and the visit to Samaria.
It was the end of John's ministry that signaled the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. How are these events related? Mark gives no explanation, but in another Gospel, John had stated that Jesus would become greater, and he would become less (John 3:27-36). The event of John's imprisonment provided the moment for Jesus to publicly step onto the stage set by John's preaching.
John has been arrested, and Jesus moves up to the northern part of the kingdom in the area referred to as Galilee. It helps to look at a map of the area to get a little bit of perspective as to where this is. Find the Dead Sea and then the Jordan River, which goes to the north, and then there's the little Sea of Galilee. Right on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee you find the city of Capernaum. That was home base for Jesus through much of what's called His Galilean ministry. Listen to how one historian described first-century Galilee:
Galilee was the center of a humming political and commercial life. It stood at the crossroads of the nations of the ancient world, through which the armies and the traders and the diplomats passed. There some of the greatest battles of the world had been fought. Galilee was the home of a thoroughly cosmopolitan population. Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic would all be heard in the markets. Syrian, Jew, Roman and Parthian mixed freely. It was the land of passing excitements and dangerous fashions, of barbarous dialect and offensive manners. - Stuart Blanch, Encounters with Jesus (Hodder & Stoughton, 1988)
According to the ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, Galilee was an area of about 60 by 30 miles and had 204 villages, with none less than 15,000 people. This means there were more than 3 million people in the extended region. Galilee was a place with a lot of excitement, a lot of life. And this is where Jesus launches His public ministry.
Capernaum was an unlikely place to establish His home and use as the base for His ministry. Jerusalem would appear to be the likely starting point, where one could find all the religious leaders and scholars in Israel compressed into that small geographic area. The temple was there, the Sanhedrin was there, and history seemed to follow Jerusalem as a launching pad for momentous events. But Jesus began quietly without the fanfare that many would have wanted for him.
Idolatry was more tolerated in Galilee than in the rest of Israel, as were other religious ideas. It was a key transportation route, seeing many more visitors than Judea, so the effects of foreign travelers with their ideas, philosophies, and religions seeped into the mind of the Galileans. Because of this, Jerusalem and the surrounding area of Judea looked down upon the Galileans. It was in this kind of setting that our Lord spent two years of His three-and-one-half year ministry.
The ancient prophet Isaiah made a point by anticipating this Messianic invasion of Galilee. We see this in:
Matthew 4:12-14 (NASB) Now when He heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying,
Then Matthew quotes:
Isaiah 9:1-2 (NASB) But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. 2 The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.
This passage, which in context addresses the work of the Davidic Messiah (Isaiah 9:6-7), indicates that He will work in Galilee of the Gentiles. So Jesus going to Galilee fulfilled the promise of God through the prophet Isaiah.
The entire prophecy of Isaiah, which runs from 7:1-9:7, is one of the great prophetic passages that continually returns to the theme of the Child to come. The Scripture here goes on in just a couple of verses (Is. 9:6-7) to speak of the Child being born:
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NASB) For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
It is quite justified to see in the great light of Is. 9:2 a reference to the Child, and the reference to the light dawning. Jesus' coming was prophesied and anticipated.
Mark 1:14 (NASB) And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,
The word "preaching " is from the Greek word kerusso, which means: "to herald or to proclaim." It was the ancient term used of the herald who announced the tidings of the King. Jesus assumed the mantle of the herald, announcing the revelation of heaven concerning the good news.
Jesus is preaching "the gospel of God" - The word "gospel" is from the Greek word euaggelion which means: "good news."Jesus is preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Mark has told us that his entire book will be "good news" about Jesus the Son of God. Here we can see that the message about Jesus and the message of Jesus are the same in the mind of the inspired author.
Mark 1:15 (NASB) and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
"The time is fulfilled" - There are two ancient Greek words that can be translated time. One is chronos, meaning simple chronological time. The other is kairos, which means "the strategic opportunity, the decisive time." Jesus used this second word when He said, "the time is fulfilled." His idea was, "The strategic time for the kingdom of God is now." The time appointed for sending the Messiah had come.
God's people knew that God was going to send a Messiah. God's plan of redemption was prepared before the world was created (Eph. 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8). God had a plan to redeem sinful people before Adam took his first breath. And from the beginning, God made His plan of redemption known; He said:
A Deliverer who would deal with sin and the devil (Gen. 3:15).
A Descendent of Abraham who would bless all people (Gen. 22:18).
A Prophet to be listened to and obeyed (Deut. 18:18-19).
A Suffering Servant who would bear the sins of all people (Isa. 53:5-6).
A Savior who would die (Dan. 9:26) but will rise again (Psalm 16:8-11).
A Covenant-Maker offering forgiveness of sins and new life (Jer. 31:31-34).
Did God tell His people when Messiah would come? Did those faithful believers have any idea as to when Messiah would show up? Yes! In Daniel, chapter 2 God tells about a statue that represents four kingdoms, and He says:
Daniel 2:34 (NASB) "You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them.
This stone was the Lord Jesus Christ:
Daniel 2:44 (NASB) "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
Daniel said, "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom..." As he interprets Neuchadnezzar's dream, he says that Nebuchadnezzar was the first of four kingdoms. It was in the days of the kings of the fourth kingdom that the eternal kingdom, which would take in all other kingdoms, was to be set up. Most agree that this was in the days of the Roman empire. Christ was prophesied to come during the Roman empire. It was the time "appointed by the Father." All that the Old Testament prophets expected, and all that the people of God have been longing for had arrived in Jesus.
The Greek word kairos has several senses, but the recurrent note, which may derive from its use for the cyclical change of seasons, is something like "moment of ripeness." Here in Mark the sense seems to derive from Jewish eschatology, and the notion that this world-age will come to an end, and a new world-age or "new creation," often translated as "age to come," will succeed it. Jesus' message of proclamation here is clearly that the turn of the ages has come; the new age is about to dawn.
Jesus' earthly ministry proclaimed the fulfillment of God's plan. The time of the Savior was fulfilled. God is faithful to do everything He promised.
Jesus said that the kingdom of God was "at hand" - What does "at hand" mean? The Greek word for "at hand" is eggizo. It is the perfect tense here, which literally means: "has come near." This phrase, "at hand," introduces a state of affairs which is already beginning.
We see this same Greek word used in:
Matthew 26:45-46 (NASB) Then He came^ to the disciples, and said^ to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand [eggizo] and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 "Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand [eggizo] !"
Now notice verse 47:
Matthew 26:47 (NASB) And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people.
Jesus tells His sleeping disciples, "Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand [eggizo]" . And "while He was still speaking," Judas came up to betray him. So "at hand" introduces a state of affairs which is already beginning.
Jesus was preaching that the kingdom of God was at hand - The entire Bible is the story of the prediction, rehearsal, arrival, and consummation of the Kingdom of God. So we need to have an understanding of what the kingdom of God is. This is an important subject, so let's ask and answer some questions regarding the Kingdom of God.
When is the kingdom to come? Is it here now or is it yet future? We saw that when Jesus began to preach, He said that the kingdom of God was "at hand" - it was near!
Later in His ministry, Jesus said that the kingdom had arrived:
Matthew 12:28 (NASB) "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Now, if the kingdom of God had come in the first century, then it should be clear that the nature of the kingdom was spiritual. Time defines nature. Jesus said that the kingdom "has come" - TIME- so the NATURE of His kingdom must be spiritual. I think that Jesus tried to stress this point by saying that the kingdom did not come with observation:
Luke 17:20 (NASB) Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed;
Luke 17:20 (YLT) And having been questioned by the Pharisees, when the reign of God doth come, he answered them, and said, 'The reign of God doth not come with observation;
The spiritual nature of the kingdom is easy to understand if you see that the kingdom is the church. I believe that the kingdom and the Church are synonymous. The two words are used as synonyms in Matthew:
Matthew 16:18-19 (NASB) "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it. 19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Here Jesus discusses the kingdom and the Church almost in the same breath. Jesus tells Peter, "The confession you just made will be the foundation of My Church, and I'm going to give you authority in the kingdom." When Jesus told Peter He was giving him authority in the kingdom, was Peter being given power of something that he would never exercise? Would this exercise of power not happen in his life time? Had the kingdom really come? Jesus said that the kingdom "had come."
If you accept the concept that the Church and the kingdom are one, then lights should begin turning on. We could say that when a person enters into a Covenant relationship with God by faith and becomes a member of his church that he also gains citizenship in Christ's Kingdom.
Colossians 1:12-14 (NASB) giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The kingdom of the Son, kingdom of light, and the redemption and forgiveness of sins are present tense. Rescued from the dominion of darkness is past tense. Why is the kingdom of the Son and the kingdom of light present tense? Because the kingdom had come, and it was present when Colossians was written.
So, let's look at how the Bible describes the kingdom and the Church. We receive redemption and forgiveness in the Church. Speaking of the church, Luke writes:
Acts 2:47 (NASB) praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
We also see that redemption and forgiveness of sins happens in the Kingdom of Christ:
Colossians 1:13-14 (NASB) For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
So redemption and forgiveness of sins happens in the Church and in the Kingdom of Christ. Why? Because they're the same. Could you have redemption in one and not the other? NO! The kingdom is the church, and the church is the kingdom.
Matthew 19:23-26 (NASB) And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 "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." 25 And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" 26 And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Their question, "Who, then, can be saved?" revealed the connection in their mind between entering the kingdom of God (v. 24) with being saved (v. 25). To enter God's kingdom is to be saved, and to be saved is to be in God's kingdom.
Both the Church and kingdom are spoken of as being present tense. Both are spoken of as where we receive redemption and forgiveness of sins through Jesus. Both the kingdom and the Church are headed by Christ.
To elaborate a little further on "when" the kingdom was to come, let's look at the Greek word mello. The Greek verb "mello" in the infinitive means: "to be about to" (see Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, New Englishman's Greek Concordance). With this in mind, look at what Paul said to Timothy in the first century:
2 Timothy 4:1 (NASB) I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to [mello] judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
"Is to" here is translating the Greek word mello. Paul is telling Timothy that the judgment, the resurrection, the second coming, and the consummation of the kingdom were all "about to" happen.
Paul also told Felix that the resurrection and judgement were "about to" happen:
Acts 24:15 (NASB) having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be [mello] a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.
Paul uses the word mello here, "There is about to be a resurrection." Please keep in mind that Paul said this in the first century.
Acts 24:25 (NASB) And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come [mello] , Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you."
Notice that Felix understood that judgement was to come soon, because he was afraid.
Ephesians 1:21 (NASB) far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come [mello].
Paul, in the first century, said that there was a new age "about to come." It is very important to understand the meaning of "this age" (Old Covenant) and "the age about to come" (New Covenant). The New Covenant age is the kingdom, which is the Church.
So, we see that the kingdom was set up in the first century. As you read various writer's views on the kingdom of God, you will come across what many call the "already, but not yet" view of the kingdom. Those who hold this "already, but not yet view" approach the study of the kingdom, with the presupposition that there is at least a spiritual kingdom, which is already established, and a physical kingdom, which is yet to come. This view accepts the spiritual nature of the kingdom and the time statements that clearly teach that it arrived in the first century, but they still hold to a future physical kingdom, also. They do this because they don't understand the distinction of the "ages" or the clear Scriptural teaching concerning the transition period. During the first century, the kingdom was "already" inaugurated, but "not yet" consummated:
Hebrews 12:28 (NASB) Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;
The word "receive" is from the Greek word paralambano, and it is in the present tense showing progression. The kingdom was being brought into its fullness during the first century by progression. This "kingdom that cannot be shaken" is the church of Jesus Christ, it is the New Covenant, it is Mount Zion the heavenly Jerusalem.
This "already, but not yet" was only a first century condition. The kingdom was fully consummated in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple:
Luke 21:21-22 (NASB) "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
Luke 21:31-32 (NASB) "Even so you, too, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.
Luke ties the destruction of Jerusalem with the appearance of the kingdom. He also states the kingdom will arrive in its consummated state before that generation standing there dies off.
Most believers don't understand that we live in a different age than Paul did. Paul lived in what the Bible calls the "last days"- they were the last days of the Old Covenant. Most modern Christians believe they are living in the last days. But the Bible teaches that the "last days" arrived with the coming of Christ:
Acts 2:16-17 (NASB) but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: 17 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS;
Peter says that what was happening at Pentecost was a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy - it was the "last days". Those "last days" began at Pentecost and ended at A.D. 70 when the Jewish temple was destroyed. We now live in what the Bible calls "the age to come," which is the New Covenant age - the kingdom. This forty year period, from Pentecost to Holocaust, was a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In this transition period, the kingdom of God had been inaugurated but not consummated. It was a time of "already, but not yet."
So the answer to the question, "When is the kingdom to come?"- it was inaugurated at the coming of Christ, and it was consummated when Christ came in judgement on Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The kingdom of God is the Church! And all Christians are kingdom citizens.
Kingdom of God vs Kingdom of Heaven
Another question that we have to seek to answer is, "Is the kingdom of God different from the kingdom of heaven?" We simply have to look at several passages that show that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are synonymous:
Matthew 4:12 (NASB) Now when He heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;
Matthew 4:17 (NASB) From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Now let's compare that with what Mark says:
Mark 1:14-15 (NASB) And 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."
Are Matthew and Mark speaking of the same event? Yes, they are; that should be quite obvious. That is why Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the "synoptic gospels." Synoptic comes from two Greek words, which mean: "to see together" and literally mean: "able to be seen together." The reason for that name is that these three gospels each give an account of the same events in Jesus' life. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are the same.
Matthew 5:3 (NASB) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 6:20 (NASB) And turning His gaze on His disciples, He began to say, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
The result of being "poor in spirit" is inheriting the Kingdom of God or heaven. If you study out all the uses of kingdom, you will find that several things are true. You will see that the kingdom of God is identical with the kingdom of heaven. You will also see that the kingdom of God is synonymous with the kingdom of the Son. Therefore, we must conclude that the Kingdom of the Son is synonymous with the Kingdom of Heaven, which is synonymous with the Kingdom of God. You will also see that the Kingdom of the Son is the same as the Kingdom of the Father. They all are referring to the same kingdom. It must follow, then, that any passages that speak of the Kingdom of the Son must be the same as the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of the Father, and the Kingdom of Heaven.
What is a kingdom?
It is customary to speak of a kingdom (basileia) as being made up of two component parts: 1. an authority to rule, and 2. the realm or territory over which the king's reign is exercised. Vine, for example, speaks of the kingdom as being: " sovereignty, royal power, dominion; and  the territory or people over whom a king rules". Strong similarly states that the kingdom consists of "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule; and the territory subject to the rule of a king."
The kingdom of God is the rule or reign of God. The rule of God where?
John 18:36 (NASB) Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm."
It is a spiritual, not geographic, kingdom. God reigns in the hearts of people! What do you need to have a kingdom? Only two necessary components: a king and subjects. You don't need a geographic realm. During World War 2 some of the "kingdoms" of Europe were controlled by Nazis. Kings & Queens were in exile. Did they cease being kings/queens because they didn't have a country? No. They still had loyal subjects!
While serving in Laos, a missionary discovered an illustration of the kingdom of God. Before the colonialists imposed national boundaries, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese. The exact location of a person's home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited. So it is with us; we live in the world, but as part of God's kingdom, we are to live according to his kingdom's standards and values.
The idea of "kingdom" in both the Old and New Testaments is primarily dynamic rather than spatial. It is not so much a kingdom with geographic borders as it is a "kingdominion," or reign. In the Scriptures, the spatial meaning of kingdom is secondary and derivative. The kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven is, quite simply, the rule and reign of God. Christianity is the kingdom of God.
We live in a democracy. And as good as democracy is for a government, it raises certain issues with us about authority. If we don't like who is in authority, we vote them out. But a kingdom isn't like that. These people would have understood that a kingdom means that the king is in charge: the king makes the rules; the king breaks the rules; the king establishes whatever needs to be established. And there isn't anything you do about that. You just surrender to the will of the king. That's the way a monarchy works.
One of the dangers when living in a democracy is that we start to take that same concept and apply it to our theology - as if God is kind of a democracy and let us have a talk about this. But the kingdom of God is not a democracy; it's a monarchy. God is in charge, and that's the way it works.
To be born again is to be a kingdom citizen:
Colossians 1:13 (NASB) For He delivered us (saints - Colossians 1:2)from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
All believers, and only believers, are kingdom citizens.
Jesus' message of the Kingdom was, "Repent and believe in the gospel"
Mark 1:15 (NASB) and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
What is repentance?
Is repentance necessary for salvation?
This is an extremely important question, and we'll answer it next week.
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