Part 8 in the series
By: Tom Casey
We have been examining Biblical stewardship in light of the presence of the Kingdom of God. The physical appearing of the Kingdom of God on the earth was a widely accepted and anticipated event by the people of God. This appearing, revelation or apocalypse of the Kingdom on the earth, at the end of the age, would be accompanied by signs in the heavens and on the earth, as a testimony or witness of its coming.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, there was great expectation among the Jewish people that the Messiah, God’s conquering King was coming soon to defeat Israel’s oppressive enemies, the Romans, and establish His Kingdom on earth in the midst of His people. They were expecting an apocalyptic coming of the Kingdom, with apocalyptic signs preceding it (Daniel 12). Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43) but what He preached and taught about the Kingdom of God was not what the Jews, especially the religious leaders, were expecting.
Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the promised Messiah (Luke 4:14-21) but He did not come to defeat Israel’s enemies and rule the nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:6-12). He did not preach a gospel announcing His rule over the entire earth. He came to destroy the works of the devil. He preached a gospel announcing the rule of God in the hearts of men, confronting men’s hearts with the nature and character of God and His Kingdom. He emphasized this by telling those who followed Him that unless their righteousness surpassed that of the scribes and Pharisees, they would not enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20).
As Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and demonstrated the works of the Kingdom, as its steward and representative to mankind, the Pharisees came to Him demanding to see an apocalyptic sign which would prove that He was the Messiah (Mark 8:11). In their minds, the only appearing of the Kingdom, and therefore of the Messiah, would be a complete apocalyptic revealing of the Kingdom, including apocalyptic signs. Jesus responded to their demand for an apocalyptic sign by telling them that only one sign would be given to them and to this generation. It would not be an apocalyptic sign but a prophetic sign, in keeping with the prophetic nature of the coming Kingdom in this age – the sign of Jonah (Matthew 12:38-40). This prophetic sign pointed to His defeat of the powers of darkness through His death, burial and resurrection.
Jesus called these Jews who demanded an apocalyptic sign, an evil and adulterous generation because they were not seeking the will of God, but their own selfish desires. In their eyes, they were righteous because they saw themselves faithfully executing the works of the Law in their outward behavior. Yet, they were blind to their need for a new heart and for a new ruler in their heart, even though Jesus and their own prophets had declared this need to them (Ezekiel 36:25-27; Ezekiel 11:18-20; John 8:43-45). Therefore, they did not recognize that the Kingdom had indeed come. As a result, they chose not to enter the Kingdom that Jesus brought with Him and they did everything they could to keep others from entering the Kingdom, as well (Matthew 23:13).
Recognizing the current reality, nature and operation of the Kingdom in this age is critical for us as its representatives if we are to faithfully execute our responsibilities as stewards of the Kingdom of God to the world around us. We will continue this discovery of the realities of the Kingdom in my next post.