Authors: Todd Hudson
Tags: #Religion, #Christian Life, #Spiritual Growth, #book, #ebook
I have studied, the more I have become convinced that when Jesus began His ministry with the proclamation “the kingdom of God is near,” it was the central thesis statement of His entire ministry. Everything else Jesus taught and everything else Jesus did was simply commentary on what He meant when He said the kingdom of God is near.
In some translations of the Bible the phrase “the kingdom of God is near” reads “the kingdom of God is at hand” (
). When Jesus said, “The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near.” (Mark 1:15), I believe it is a clear indication that the time had been fulfilled for His kingdom to come and replace another kingdom that was already in place. This is definitely how the Jews in Jesus’ day understood it. They had been watching and waiting for centuries for the Messiah to arrive and usher in the kingdom of God here on earth.
So when Jesus arrived and pronounced the kingdom was near, at hand, or arriving on the scene, what was He talking about? Let me explain first what He was not talking about. He was not talking about the church. The church is not the kingdom. The church is people. We are citizens of the kingdom but we are not the kingdom. The kingdom is the rule and reign of God on the earth. That’s what Jesus came proclaiming. That is what Jesus came to usher in. Jesus came as God in the flesh and He is the king in this kingdom. His kingdom—His rule and His reign—had come to replace the rule and reign of someone or something else that was already in place. I really should not say He came to introduce the kingdom of God to earth, but actually He came to
the kingdom—the rule and reign—of God to the earth.
is made up of two words—
. When we speak of the kingdom we speak of that which is under the king’s domain. The kingdom—the rule, and reign of God on the earth—was here before; but what happened to it and why did Jesus need to come to reintroduce the kingdom? To discover the answer to this question, we must go back to the beginning, back to creation.
Creation starts with God. God is by very definition an eternal being who has no beginning and no end. The very word
carries with it the concept of self-existing One or self-sufficient One. God is not a name we simply give to the Almighty One. It is who He is. It is a description of His character. And because He is the only eternal, self-existent, and self-sufficient One with no beginning and no end, He alone qualifies to be given the name “God.” God has always existed in this realm that is invisible to us called heaven.
We also know from the Bible that there are angels who live under His authority and serve in His kingdom. At least some of these angels seem to have been delegated a certain amount of authority by God, the King, to use in carrying out His will for His kingdom. For instance, in Daniel’s vision recorded in Daniel 12, we learn that Michael is an archangel who serves as Israel’s prince. Christian and Jewish scholars alike take this to mean that God assigned Michael the responsibility to be the protector of Daniel’s nation, the nation of Israel. God delegated that authority to him. Gabriel, another high-ranking angel, was repeatedly called upon to communicate messages from the King to mankind. For instance, Gabriel was sent to announce to Daniel a message about the end of days (Dan. 9:27–27), and in the New Testament we find him being sent by God to announce the births of both John the Baptist Luke 1:11–21) and Jesus (vv. 26–37). He was given authority and responsibility by the King.
Then there was the angel named Lucifer. He was also one of the archangels. Some speculate that he might have been the highest ranked archangel of all. Scripture seems to indicate that he was given authority over worship. He was the worship leader in heaven in eternity past. One day, he became consumed with pride and began to think, “I should be the king of this kingdom.” He convinced some of the angels to join him as he led a rebellion against the King, God. Of course, he was unsuccessful in his rebellion, and the Bible tells us that he was kicked out of heaven along with a third of the angels who had joined him in this rebellion. (See Isaiah 14:12–14; Ezekiel 28:12– 17; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:3–9.) He then went about setting up his own kingdom. As we read Scripture, it seems to indicate that God allowed Lucifer, this fallen angel we know as Satan, to retain at least some of his power and he utilized this to develop and advance his own kingdom.
At some point after this fall, God expanded His kingdom by creating a new visible kingdom called earth. He culminated His creation with the masterpiece of all of His creation, human beings, made in His very own image. God created Adam and then Eve and He placed them in this beautiful place, the ultimate expression of His beauty and peace, called the Garden of Eden. When the King, God, created Adam and Eve and placed them in this new visible kingdom called earth, He gave them a commission. We read about this in Genesis 1, and this section is absolutely foundational if we are ever going to understand the idea of the kingdom that Jesus came to reintroduce to the earth.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock, and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
When God created Adam and then Eve, He stated His purpose for them in this world. It was not just for them individually, but this was God’s purpose and intent for all of mankind. In verse 26 before He created man, God stated this purpose, “Let us make man in our image and let them rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the livestock and over all the earth.” Then after God created mankind, He stated this purpose directly; basically saying, “I want you to subdue the earth and rule over it.” Some translations use the phrase “take dominion.” Dominion speaks of the rulership of a king over a kingdom. The definition of
can be stated this way: “To be given dominion means to be established as a sovereign, kingly ruler, master, governor, responsible for reigning over a designated territory, with the inherent authority to represent and embody as a symbol, the territory, resources and that constitutes a kingdom.”
When God gave mankind dominion on the earth, what did that mean? God was delegating to mankind the authority to rule and reign on the earth on behalf of the King of this universe. There was a divine transfer of power and authority that occurred. This is very important for us to understand if we are going to get our arms around God’s original intent and purpose for mankind.
So at this point, Adam and Eve were created by God and placed in this new visible kingdom called earth. The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth were one, and God delegated the authority to Adam and Eve to take dominion, to rule and reign in this extension of His kingdom on His behalf.
This new kingdom was one with the kingdom of heaven, and it was like heaven on earth. There was no disease, pain, or death. It was a perfect kingdom, God’s kingdom; and it was God’s intention for mankind to live in this perfect kingdom and take dominion over the earth. Originally, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth were one with God as the King; but God, the King, said to Adam, “I am delegating to you the responsibility to take dominion, to rule over the earth on My behalf.”
After Satan’s rebellion against God, instead of destroying him, God banished him from heaven. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). When Satan was banished from heaven, he began to work to establish his own kingdom. The problem he faced was that he had no domain, no place to take authority. He was looking for a kingdom to call his own. When Satan came to the garden that day to tempt Adam and Eve, he came looking for dominion. He came to entice Adam and Eve to rebel against God’s kingdom and thereby transfer to him the authority that God had delegated to them.
Satan came in the form of a serpent and convinced Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit that God said not to eat, they would become like God. In other words, they would no longer have to rule underneath God’s authority, in His kingdom, but rather they could have their own kingdom. Foolishly, Eve and then Adam agreed to doubt God, to rebel against and disobey their King, God; and in the process they became obedient to Satan. (See Genesis 3.) In obeying Lucifer, Adam and Eve gave away the dominion that God had given to mankind to rule and reign on the earth. All that was under Adam’s authority fell when Adam fell. His disobedience brought a curse on all creation and allowed Satan to usurp the authority that God had delegated to Adam and Eve and he took dominion over this world. Because of Adam and Eve’s fall, this world became Satan’s domain. The Bible tells us repeatedly that he has usurped dominion and become the ruler of this world. Jesus referred to Satan as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). Satan is referred to by Paul as “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), and as “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph. 2:2).
We even see Satan’s dominion over earth in the temptations of Jesus.
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
When Jesus responded, He said He refused to bow and worship anyone but God (v. 8), but He did not challenge Satan’s claim that the kingdoms of the world were his to give away.
So when Adam and Eve sinned, Satan usurped the dominion given to mankind. Notice that Satan didn’t come into the garden and forcefully take away the kingdom from Adam and Eve. He couldn’t do that. He had no dominion there. Dominion empowers; and since the King, God, had delegated this authority to mankind, the only way that Satan could get the dominion he desired was for mankind to give it to him. So the suggestion to eat the forbidden fruit was Satan’s attempt to get mankind to agree with him in his rebellion against God and transfer that authority that God had given to mankind to rule and reign in this world over to Satan—and it worked. God had given dominion over the earth to Adam; but when he chose to sin, he also chose to hand over that dominion to Satan. It was the greatest act of treason that has ever been committed. In that moment when Adam and Eve rebelled against God and chose to sin, mankind became a slave to a new king. All that Adam and Eve had been given, including the title deed to this planet and the delegated authority to take dominion and rule over the earth on behalf of the king, was handed over to Satan. And all of a sudden mankind was no longer living in the kingdom of God, enjoying the dominion God had delegated to them to rule and reign on the earth; but now they found themselves living in Satan’s kingdom, under his rule and reign. The result was pain, sickness, suffering, and death—all those things that represent that the kingdom of darkness now had dominion on planet earth. And the earth that mankind was created to take dominion over was now cursed and his authority was stripped away.
This is really important for us to understand. If we don’t understand that the kingdom was lost, that initially there was a position of authority given to mankind to take dominion over the earth that was usurped by Satan, then we won’t understand the importance of Jesus coming and proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand. Because in that declaration He was stating that He had come to take back the kingdom. He came as the second Adam, to take back the kingdom and reestablish the rule and reign of God on the earth. He came to defeat the kingdom of Satan and render it powerless. He came to make it possible for mankind to move back into the position God intended for us to have in the first place—to live in God’s kingdom and rule and reign with Him by taking dominion over the earth.
“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8,
). This is why Jesus came. He came to destroy, render powerless, the kingdom of Satan and reintroduce the rule and reign of God to the earth and give mankind back the dominion that had been delegated to him by God before the fall. That is why the kingdom was the first message Jesus proclaimed, and that is why this was the most consistent message He proclaimed.
When Jesus came proclaiming this message of the kingdom, He was clearly throwing down a gauntlet in the face of Satan. It was a declaration of war, because He came to take back the dominion that Satan had usurped over the earth when mankind sinned; and this is exactly how Satan perceived Jesus’ coming. There is no mistaking the fact that Satan knew exactly who Jesus was and he knew why He had come.
In Mark 1, shortly after Jesus’ proclamation that the kingdom was at hand, Jesus went to preach in Capernaum in the synagogue and a demon manifested in a man attending the church service that day and called Jesus out.
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
That demon knew more than anyone else in the synagogue that day about who Jesus was and why He had come. That is why demons often shrieked in the presence of Jesus and they asked questions like we see in this passage, “Have you come to destroy us?” They knew this was war. The demons trembled with fear at the message of the kingdom. They knew why Jesus had come. He came to reestablish and say in effect to Satan and his demonic forces, “Your kingdom is coming to an end. It is going to be rendered powerless.”