Thursday, March 10, 2016

An Optimistic View of the Kingdom: Part 2

Remember, when we talk about having an optimistic view of the Kingdom of God, we are discussing an idea of a future reality or eschatology. The word eschatology means the study of last things or end things or last day things. When we discuss an optimistic view of eschatology, we are talking about postmillennialism. Ken Gentry on defines postmillennialism as:

Postmillennialism holds that the Lord Jesus Christ establishes his kingdom on earth through his preaching and redemptive work in the first century and that he equips his Church with the gospel, empowers her by the Spirit, and charges her with the Great Commission to disciple all nations. Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of men living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.

Matthew 16:18-19 says, 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” If the gates of hell will not prevail against the Lord’s Church, this means we have victory today! We might not see a victory in every battle, but the war is won already. Satan is a defeated foe. So what does a victorious Kingdom look like?

The Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom of God, though seemingly small will greatly increase.

Matthew 13:31-32 says, “31 He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches’”

First, the working of the Gospel might seem weak, small and insignificant at first. Matthew 13:31-32 reads, “…is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds…” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 says:

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

God does not choose the wise, the mighty, and the honored by men, but he chooses the foolish, the weak, and the lowly because He does mighty things with the things that are small and insignificant. Isaiah 40:10-11 says, “ Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” It is not necessary for us to be able face all things on our own in regards to the Gospel, because out Great Shepherd carries us. When we lack faith and we struggle in weakness, Scripture tells us that he will, “supply what is lacking in faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:10) and “the Spirit help us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26).

Second, the effect of the Gospel, like seed, has a disposition to grow. In our theme passage, Matthew 13:31-32 says, 31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown… Everything in God’s purpose and will, regarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ, has a disposition to grow. Scripture tells us, “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Proverbs 4:18). Yes, the path of those who live in the righteousness of Christ, grows brighter and brighter. The light of the Gospel grows in God’s people and in such a way that it overcomes the darkness (John 1:5) because the Gospel is the power of God (Romans 1:16).

Third, the end result of the Gospel is one of great strength, purpose and significance. In our theme passage it reads, “but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32). Our example regarding this passage is Psalm 80:8-11 which tells us:

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. 10 The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches. 11 It sent out its branches to the sea and its shoots to the River.

Matthew Henry, in his Commentary of Bible wrote:

“The church, like the vine brought out of Egypt, has taken root, and filled the earth. The church is like a great tree, in which the fowls of the air do lodge; God’s people have recourse to it for food and rest, shade and shelter. In particular persons, the principle of grace, if true, will persevere and be perfected at last: growing grace will be strong grace, and will bring much to pass. Grown Christians must covet to be useful to others, as the mustard-seed when grown is to the birds; that those who dwell near or under their shadow may be the better for them.”

God’s Word tells us that when we repent of our sin and dwell in His Lordship, we flourish and blossom (Hosea 14:4-7). This is the work of the Gospel. It calls us to repentance, but it does not leave us there. It calls us and causes us to grow.

The working of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is like leaven!

Our theme passage  says, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33). The Gospel is like yeast that is inserted into flour.

First, it is the duty of the worker to insert the Gospel. The example of the theme passage is done by a woman, which is extremely important for us to take in view. When it comes to the insertion of the Gospel into the lives of others, it is a task that all believers, including women, are called to do. Women are heirs with us men and are one with us in Christ Jesus (1 Peter 3:7, Galatians 3:23-29). Therefore, when it comes to the proclamation and insertion of the Gospel into lives around us, it is the duty of all believers.

Second, before the leaven is introduced, there is preparation of the meal. Matthew Henry wrote:

 The heart is, as the meal, soft and pliable; it is the tender heart that is likely to profit by the word: leaven among corn unground does not work, nor does the gospel in souls unhumbled and unbroken for sin: the law grinds the heart, and then the gospel leavens it. It is three measures of meal, a great quantity, for a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. The meal must be kneaded, before it receive the leaven; our hearts, as they must be broken, so they must be moistened, and pains taken with them to prepare them for the word, that they may receive the impressions of it.

Therefore, the Gospel must penetrate the heart of the unbeliever. The leaven of the Word of God must be hidden in the heart of the individual for it to work its way through the whole thing and change the person (Psalm 119:9-11). In doing so, it will sanctify and consecrate them (John 17:17-19).

Third, once the leaven of the Gospel is mixed into the heart of man, it works quickly and powerfully. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”(Hebrews 4:12). The leaven of the Gospel works quickly, just as, the passing of the torch/the mantle from Elijah to Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21). The leaven of the Gospel works silently and indiscernibly, but yet strongly and irresistibly. We know when it its working has been fulfilled because it bears fruit (Mark 4:26-29).

The work of the Apostles bears witness to the working of the Gospel throughout time. The Apostles turned the world upside down (Acts 17:1-6). How did they do this? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 says:

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

They said that we as believers are the aroma, the fragrance of Christ before a lost and dying world by proclaiming the leaven of the Gospel. They understood that there was nothing more valuable than the purpose of preaching the Gospel (Romans 15:18-21).

When the Gospel is applied to the heart of man, a change occurs. Romans 8:5 says, “ For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” When a person is born-again, the heart’s desire is no longer of sin, but of righteousness (Romans 6:14-18). Where there is a change in the heart and in the mind, there is a change in the way one lives and how one responds. This change is initiated by the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

In closing, Matthew Henry wrote, “When the dough is leavened, then to the oven with it; trials and afflictions commonly attend this change; but thus saints are fitted to be bread for our Master’s table.” This is an example of Communion or the Lord’s Supper. The bread of Communion is no longer unleavened because the Gospel of Jesus is the leaven that has been inserted into our souls and has brought about life and growth. In the same way, the reason we have wine is not so we can be more proper, but that the juice has fermented and has now become a whole new thing…wine, which reveals that we are now a new creation because of the shed blood of Jesus. God’s work is never finished in us. He will continue to work and to change and to perfect His people from what began with the leaven of the Gospel.

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