Monday, May 12, 2014

Until John

Until John
Did you know that the phrase “kingdom of God” is not mentioned in the Old Testament? The first time we read about the kingdom of God is in the book of Matthew, and it is mentioned 69 times in the New Testament. Why is this important to know? 

In Luke 16:16, Jesus says, the law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached.
The purpose of the law was to cleanse Israel from sin. Since sin entered the world through Adam, the relationship between God and man has been broken. In the Old Testament, the law was the handwritten requirements spoken of in the first five books of the Bible. Because of sin, these decrees were mandatory for Israel to keep if they were to remain in a sinless relationship with God. But when these laws were broken, when the people sinned, animal sacrifices would have to be made by the high priests annually in order to restore relationship between Israel and God. 

But sin would always separate man from God, and the law made nothing perfect. So, the Godhead (God the Father and Jesus Christ) foreknew that a sinless sacrifice would have to be sent in order to completely restore the relationship between God and man (Hebrews 10:1-25). For the law, having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year after year, make those who approach perfect…For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins (Hebrews 10:1, 4).

Then the prophets spoke about a coming Messiah that would not only deliver Israel, but Gentiles as well, from the bondage of sin and the penalty of death (Isaiah 53). He would restore the relationship between man and God the Father by nailing the requirements of the law in His own body on the cross once for all for all eternity (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10:10). But the law and the prophets were until John, and since that time, a new message has been preached…the kingdom of God, made possible only because of Christ.

John the Baptist came preaching: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! (Matthew 3:2). No longer was the kingdom of God out of reach, but it was right within their grasp. Mark 1:15 reads that after John the Baptist was placed in prison that Jesus went out and preached about the kingdom of God being made available. He, along with the twelve, went through every city and village bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God to the people (Luke 8:1). His mission was to get the word out that the kingdom was no longer out of reach. Because of Jesus they would have clear access to the kingdom of God without animal sacrifices. He was to become the fulfillment of the law. He was to become the ultimate High Priest for all mankind. 

There is no other way but through Jesus to gain access to the Kingdom. Jesus said it Himself. He was the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the Father but through Him (John 14:16). The message has not changed, but there are many today who deceive people into believing that there are other gods, ways, and truths that can deliver them and bring them access to Heaven. 

Rooted in the Old Testament was a promise of a Messiah (a king) who was to come and offer mankind hope. The people knew this promise and waited expectantly. Isaiah 2:4 speaks of a place where men no longer will live in strife with each other; a place of peace and where the word of the Lord will go forth. The people had been waiting for this very day and now it had come. 

The kingdom of God is a kingdom prepared for us since the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34); a place where we would be forever in the presence of Almighty God. Who wouldn’t want to be in a place where God Himself resides? Jesus was so excited about having us join Him in the kingdom that He shared His plans about going back and preparing a place for us before His second coming (John 14:2). He says that there are many mansions in His Father’s house and that He was going to prepare a place for you. We are His special guests! He wants us to receive all that He has for us…not in this world…but in the world to come. 

Jesus’ biggest desire is that where He is (the kingdom) we may also be (John 14:3). Did you get that? He wants us to be where He is at. That is why the message of the kingdom is such good news. Jesus was so determined that we wouldn’t miss out, that He laid down His life so that that would be possible. Man, if that isn’t something to jump for joy about! That is why the people followed after Him so enthusiastically. They had been waiting for thousands of years for the promise and when He came they weren’t about to let it pass them by.

The question now is: Are you as purposely following after Him? Are you grasping what He has offered you? Are you excited about what He has gone home to prepare for you before coming back again? For Eye has not seen, no ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man, the things (plural used here) which God has prepared for those who love Him (I Corinthians 2:9). We cannot even wrap our minds around what that could possibly be, but are you willing to take the chance in missing out?

In 1956, there was a television show that aired called The Price Is Right where contestants had to choose between two items that were being veiled either by a curtain or a box. They didn’t know which of the two would give the greater payout, but they had to choose none the less. To some the payout was big, like a car or a trip, to others it was a loss, winning an old cart being pulled by an old mule. 

We don’t have to guess at what our greatest payout is. Jesus was and is the greatest prize of them all, and you know what, He came personally to tell us what we are going to win. So, don’t waste another day trying to figure out what is behind the curtain, for the curtain has been torn in two from top to bottom and revealed the presence of the Most High God and His kingdom prepared and waiting for us to join Him (Mark 15:38, Hebrews 10:19-21).

Blessings, Beth