“In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross.” – AW Tozer
“The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” – Jesus Christ, as recorded in Mark 1:15
Jesus has been ministering across Israel for a year or more. His team of disciples had been called and were following Him on a part-time basis. The events of the first 3 chapters of Matthew and the first 4 chapters of John had already taken place. Jesus had been teaching, healing, and training His followers in preparation for the launch of the Kingdom.
Jesus has been waiting for His cousin John’s ministry had to be completed before the launch of His Kingdom. Now John is in prison, so Jesus moves to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee and begins to announce the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Kingdom of God is a term that is not defined in the New Testament, but it is described and illustrated often. John Bright wrote: “The concept of the Kingdom of God involves…the total message of the Bible. The Bible is one book. Had we to give that book a title, we might with justice call it “The Book of the Coming Kingdom of God.” That is, indeed, its central theme.” Throughout history, the flow of our God’s work among humans has been to prepare creation for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
A Kingdom is a realm ruled by a king, and requires a king who has authority, and subjects over whom the king rules. In the Kingdom of our God, Jesus is the king. He has been granted all authority in heaven and on earth as the ruler of the Kingdom. It is a spiritual Kingdom, yet it is every bit as real as the air we breathe and the chairs on which we sit.
The citizens of the Kingdom are those who have rejected the world and chosen to accept the rulership of the King. Collectively, the Bible refers to these citizens of the Kingdom using the Greek term, ekklēsía – a people called out from the world and called to God. The ekklesia of the Bible is a congregation of people who have turned their backs on the world – all of the world, not just the ugly parts. They no longer identify themselves as citizens of this world. They have heeded the call out of this world and all of its systems. They still live among these systems but make no investments of allegiance or affection in them.
This is why John the Baptist and Jesus both announced His Kingdom with the word, “Repent.” In the Greek, the word Jesus used means to “choose to think differently afterwards,” or “to have a change of thinking.” Jesus’ message was this: “Think differently people, for now the Kingdom of God is at hand.” To join the Kingdom of God is to think differently about all the kingdoms and systems of earth. It is to leave them out of our affections and allegiances.
The scriptures are clear on our calling out from this world, and the choice to leave all allegiances and affections for this world behind. John 15:18-19 – “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” 1 John 2:15 – Love not the world or the things in the world.” And Paul carries this theme in Philippians 3:20 – “But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our calling out of this world and its systems requires of us a true change of thinking, a true repentance.
We are also called into a consuming relationship with the King Himself, one of complete fixation and total surrender. Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith….” The call of Jesus out of the world systems is a call to liberation and freedom. Nothing in the world can compare with the richness of life found in the Kingdom.
If we are to join in the life of a true citizen of the Kingdom, we must deal with the command to repent, to change our thinking about the world, its systems, and our relationships with them. All of them. If we do, if we switch all of our allegiance and affection to our King, we can begin to experience the primary relational feature of the Kingdom of our God on earth – oneness with Him.
“You will never know the fullness of Christ until you know the emptiness of everything but Christ” – Charles Spurgeon