Kingdom Conflict

Kingdom Conflict Summary Image

The Kingdom of God: Already and Not Yet

The story of humanity unfolds over this backdrop: God created the cosmos and everything in it, and it was all good. He created humans and they were in fact very good. Then, sin marred it and introduced what Jesus called “This Age”, illustrated below as the Kingdom of Darkness (more properly termed, the “Domain of Darkness”, because the Kingdom of Darkness has no king. It has a prince). 1

A “kingdom”, by the way, means the rule and reign of a sovereign, not a bordered territory. The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, then, means the rule and reign of God, not another dimension (i.e., God rules and reigns perfectly in heaven).

The promise given by the Prophets after Sin marred everything is that in “The Age to Come” everything would be good again: no sin, no sickness, no death, no problems… Paradise! This is the Kingdom of God, where everything that happens is God’s will, and since God is good and light, it’ll all be perfect. We might call it “heaven on earth.”

In the meantime, the creation and humans’ interaction with it and each other will be a mess.

With Jesus’s first advent, Jesus declared “The Kingdom of God is near;” and then, “The Kingdom of God is here” and “the Kingdom of God is coming.” Sound confusing? Don’t you want to ask Jesus, “Can’t you make up your mind? Which is it? Near? Here? Or future?”

Yeah the 1st Century Jews were confused too.

Jesus declared in many ways clearly understood by his audience, both the commoners and the religious elite, that he was God in human form. Not just a good moral teacher. Not just a miracle man. But the God of created everything. He stated God is good, and God is light, and in him there is nothing bad, no evil, no darkness.  His moral code was radically different than what even the Jews believed, based on their sacred scriptures, the Hebrew Bible.

The author of the Book of Hebrews explained that in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament), God spoke through many prophets and in many ways, but what emerged was not a clear picture of God. In Jesus, however, a perfect imprint of God’s nature was revealed, and it revealed that God is good. Jesus shockingly declared that bad things come from either the devil or the working of sin (what he called the “thief”), and good things come from God.

With the onset of his ministry, Jesus announced that the Age to Come was breaking into the present, from the future. It was here now, but not fully here yet. The now and the not yet.

The Kingdom didn’t come like the Jews expected – their worldview was marred by the imperfect picture of God they received in the Old Testament. Jesus’ first command was to “change your worldview, change your perspective on reality” (i.e., repent), because the Kingdom of God was in fact here now! And then Jesus proved the Kingdom had come by healing and saving people, casting out demons, ending injustice, and generally overturning the works of sin and the domain of darkness everywhere he went.

Jesus declared the rule and reign of God was there, and he proved it with his works.  

Except the Kingdom wasn’t and isn’t fully here yet, and won’t be until Jesus comes again, as he promised he would.

Until then, we live in the overlapping ages, the tension of the kingdoms, a war zone. When we pray for people for the healing of their sickness, and someone gets healed, the future kingdom has broken into the present: their future bodies are manifesting in the present. (Notice how healing prayer isn’t a function of faith, but of kingdom warfare).

Jesus proved that it is always God’s will to heal. And it’s by his stripes that we are healed, the stripes from the whip that he endured during his execution process.  That healing doesn’t always manifest is a function of kingdom warfare.

When we pray for people and they don’t get healed yet, the future did not break in. It’s by Jesus’ stripes that we are healed, but in the case when healing doesn’t happen in the present, they’re already healed in their future state.

Sometimes when people come to Jesus and they’re saved, they’re saved not just from hell in the future after they die but also from their addictions and hurts and bad behaviors right away: you can tell by the radical transformation of their lives.  Their future state in the Kingdom has manifested more fully in their lives. Other people get saved, but their lives don’t show such a dramatic change. They show a gradual change over time. They are “working out their salvation” in the present life, although their future life, they are saved.  The future hasn’t fully manifested in their present lives yet.

This Kingdom conflict provides the backdrop, the worldview of every spiritual and physical battle that goes on.

From the days of the last prophets in the Old Covenant, “from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”  The domain of darkness has the world in its sway, and the Kingdom of God is invading, one person saved/healed, fed, and clothed at a time, slowly expanding, becoming salt on the meat of the planet to preserve and change it, shining as light in the darkness, exposing evil, and overturning the works of evil.

The agents of change are those in the Jesus’ church. Jesus mentioned his church just twice in all four Gospel accounts. In both situations, it was in the context of binding and loosing on earth and in heaven, to bind up evil and loose heaven’s resources: to pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it in in heaven.”  The verb tense that Jesus used in those verses indicates that sometimes the binding and loosing comes from heaven first and Jesus’ church cooperates with it. Other times, its the church doing the binding and loosing, according to God’s purposes. The job of Christians is to participate in the binding and loosing, either in initiating it or responding to when God initiates it: to pray God’s Kingdom come, God’s will be done. Amen and amen!

Jesus declared that all authority has been given to him, and then he instructed his followers to go into the world and do what he did. He has authority, and we go, acting as his extensions of who he is, and as such his authority is implemented through us.  Not everything has been brought under his subjection yet, but ultimately, it will be when he comes again, ending this Present Age and ushering in fully the Age to Come.

Jesus modeled healing and deliverance, and he rarely did things the same way each time. The power isn’t in the practice but the presence. The healing isn’t in the formula but in the Father, who wills for everyone to be healed and saved.  Jesus only what he saw the Father doing, and through the Holy Spirit, he empowers his followers to do the same thing with love and power.

Changing Your Worldview to Match Reality

Many people who are “saved” do not experience the proof that the Kingdom has broken into the present. They don’t experience healing when they pray.

Some prophets and even politicians announce the God will judge America for its sins. These declarations reflect an outdated view of God, a view of God revealed by certain Old Testament prophets, but not of God as revealed in Jesus.

So God Changed?

Am I saying God changed? That the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New?  No. What changed is how God related to humanity. God relates to humanity through sacred agreements called “covenants.”  In most of the Old Testament, God related through His people through a works-based agreement made between the humans and God. The agreement mandated that God had to bless the humans in a particular nation (Israel) if they did certain things and that God had to curse those same humans if they did certain other things. God admitted this wasn’t a good covenant and he desired a new one.

So Jesus, being both God and Man, fulfilled the requirements of the Old Covenant, and then volunteered to pay the penalty for all who failed or would fail to uphold that agreement, and then he initiated a New Covenant in 30 AD. (God then poured out his wrath on the Old Covenant in 70 AD).

In this new agreement, when people believe in the Lord Jesus by faith, they are sealed in the agreement between Jesus (God the Son, who was also fully Man) and God (the Father). God therefore relates to people in the new agreement differently: through blessing.  In this covenant, God forgives all sins, relates to people individually (not through a special priests) and gives people new hearts with his law written on them (instead of trying to follow laws written on stones).  This is all done by faith. He doesn’t particularly relate to folks outside the agreement at all, although their sins are forgiven, except in trying to draw people to him. God’s desire is for everyone to accept the forgiveness and be in relationship with him by faith, and in doing so, he makes them new creatures.

God’s is for Love. The Enemy’s for Judgement.

Once, two of Jesus’ disciples were rejected by a town, and they asked Jesus if they should judge that town by calling down fire from heaven, a.k.a. Sodom and Gomorrah.

Jesus rebuked them, and declared they were acting out of a spirit that was not from God. 2 In fact, God did punish that town for their sin, but Jesus volunteered to take that punishment on himself.  Jesus paid the penalty that town – and all towns and in fact the whole world- incurred on the Cross. God no longer holds the sins of the world against it. 3

But My Experience Says…

Your experience should not shape your theology or your thinking of what God has promised and declared through scripture.  So many people have not experienced the miracles declared in the Bible, so they believe those things aren’t for today. Or they thing God is mad at them (scripture says he isn’t). Or that God’s wrath will be poured out on them (that’s already happened).

Others have seen abuses and errors and hypocrisy and sinful behavior by Christians, and think therefore the Message of God is flawed.  No. Messengers are flawed, but the Message is true. Gifts can be abused. That doesn’t devalue the gift, but exposes the errant use.

The biblical account is not meant to limit, but to unleash the power of God against the enemy.

Repeat after me the words of Jesus: The thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy. But I came that they may have life and have it abundantly!

Meditate on that. Think on it until it gets into your brain and renews your mind.

What we experience around us is a perpetual battle that rages between the two kingdoms.  Someday, the King will return and permanently end the battle. Until then, we are to occupy and go, sharing the Good News that the Kingdom has come and God no longer is angry at us.

Notes:

  1.  Sometimes when Jesus talked about ‘This Present Age’, he meant Israel under the Mosaic Covenant, what Christians call the “Old Covenant.” Jesus came to establish a “New Covenant“, and the old one lingered until 70 AD, when Jerusalem, the Temple, the priests and all the records established to maintain the old covenant were destroyed. Literally, the temple elements melted with the heat of the fires, although the New Covenant remains. See this page to read about there terms of the New Covenant between God and humans.
  2. Luke 9:53-54
  3. Colossians 1:20, 2 Corinthians 5:19

Comments

    • Thank you. I just updated the page with a link to a long (30 page) paper (still in draft form) that will be part of a book I’m writing, explaining the conflict in detail, with the scripture references omitted on the website. Also provides some historical perspective. t

  1. Perhaps you might read these two articles that present a different opinion than standard theology presents.
    http://www.justifiedfreely.com/?p=372
    http://www.justifiedfreely.com/?p=531
    You have to read by his stripes we are healed in context.
    1 Peter 2:21-25 KJVS
    [21] For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: [22] Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: [23] Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: [24] Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. [25] For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    We are healed from our sinful natures, Acts 3:25&26.

    • Thank you for the comments. I read both articles, and while there were some useful thoughts, overall, it was a painful exercise. In short, the articles rely on poor translations, errant use of concordances, and outright misunderstanding of many passages. I highly recommend the author, who is obviously sincerely wrestling with the purpose and cause of evil and the suffering of believers, to read “The Unseen Realm” by Dr. Michael Heiser. I reviewed it below. Understanding the scriptures in their own context will revolutionize this author’s understanding of scripture and cause him to better hear God’s voice regarding his bible study.

      Here are some examples of what I mean. In the “Behold, the man has become as one of us” article…

      “… Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
      Years ago the above scripture verse jumped out at me from the pages of Genesis and I am still contemplating the implications and questions that arise in my mind concerning it. Is the knowledge of good and evil inherent to being made in the image and likeness of God?”

      > No. The author completely misunderstands what being made like God and what being “in the image of God” means.

      “Was God the cause of evil in the world, and to that end?”

      > No. Just a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s role and the role of free will of both divine and human beings.

      “Some claim that this cosmos was flawed, by God’s design. So I have been mulling over these questions in my mind in light of scripture.”

      > Wrong. There is chaos, not flaw, in the original creation and God’s creative activity tames it and sustains it, in addition to human and divine agents’ role in ongoing creation.

      “We can only understand the deep things of God by His Spirit, which compares spiritual things with spiritual, 1Co 2:10-13. So by comparing scripture with scripture and using a little deductive reasoning we should be able to arrive at a clearer understand of evil in the world and if in fact, evil was intended to be a part of this world, by God’s design.”

      > Using deductive reasoning and applying scripture to scripture unfortunately ignores the original context and culture that produced the scripture. Instead of applying modern logic to scripture, apply the reasoning the producers of scripture used.

      “…Isa 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
      It should be noted that the Hebrew word for evil, in the above verse, is the same word translated evil in Ge 3:22. At least according to the Strong’s Concordance which is recognized as a very competent work in defining the Hebrew and Greek words used in the bible….”

      > Unfortunately, the author’s English translation is flawed and the author’s use of a concordance demonstrably in error. Scholars that produce translations don’t use concordances to translate, and neither should the author. The translation should be “chaos”, not “evil.” God doesn’t create evil. Don’t get your theology from English translations or from interpreting scripture from Western worldview.

      >Because of the fundamental errors in the foundational points of this article, the conclusions drawn are close, but in error. Frankly, you can’t trust a god that “allows them to suffer.” That’s completely false. Suffering happens and God uses suffering, but for reasons other than demonstrated in this article.

      .In “For the Creature was made subject to vanity”, sadly, the author continues to use a flawed translation. This is especially critical in Paul’s writings because Paul is already struggling with the limitations of Greek to convey his thoughts.

      .The idea that the body of Christ is saddled with temporary and short-lived morality is to suggest that Jesus didn’t fully die on the Cross. The ultimate cause of suffering and pain is complicated, but can be distilled down to human sin, stolen identity, and rebellion, and the spiritual forces of darkness continually intervening. In other words: the domain of darkness.

      .The author completely misunderstands the purpose of the Hebrews passage, not to mention who and what the sons of God are. The use of Gen 6 and Psalm 82 are completely in error.

      >There are some good thoughts present in the articles and I appreciate the author’s attempt to understand how God uses suffering to grow and mature Christ followers. But the author makes too many errors. The use of too many scriptures is poor, the translations bad, the use of concordances mistaken, and ultimately conclusions are off.

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