God’s Big Picture Unit 7: The Present Kingdom (The Gospels)

– The king is here
– And nothing will ever be the same again – Prepare yourself for… God’s Big Picture- the Present Kingdom –God’s Big Picture
Bible Overview Course The Present Kingdom- Unit 7– In this course we’re looking at the big picture
of the Bible’s story- and today we finally arrive at what it’s all been pointing to:
the life and death of Jesus Christ. He’s the subject of this unit: “the Present Kingdom”. But before we go there- we need to look at
where we’ve got to in the story so far: After the glory days under Solomon’s monarchy,
we saw the decline of the partial kingdom that God had established. He dismantled it
because of Israel’s sin, but there was hope because God was still committed to fulfilling
his kingdom promises. God’s prophets spoke of a future far greater
than his people had ever known before. A time when he would put everything right. Then there was silence for 400 years before,
at last, God spoke again… So we’ve reached the New Testament Gospels.
But before we get into their story we need some background.
As you know there are four Gospels- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The first three, sometimes
referred to as the ‘synoptic’ Gospels contain many verbal parallels.
John’s Gospel is written in a different style and contains much material that is unique
to him. The Gospels don’t contradict one another,
but rather give us complementary accounts of what Jesus said and did. They each provide
their own distinctive contribution, but it’s the same Jesus that we meet in all of them.
They all contain the same overall message announcing that
Jesus is the Messiah who has come to bring God’s salvation, in fulfilment of the promises
of the Old Testament. –Jesus Is the Fulfilment of the Old Testament- The stress on this theme of fulfilment is
very clear when we see how each of the Gospels start. Matthew begins with a genealogy, which may
not sound like an inspiring introduction to a book, but if we know God’s promises from
the Old Testament, nothing could be more exciting than these words:
“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham”. This is who we’ve been waiting for! The one
who fulfils the great promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and to David in 2 Samuel 7. Mark starts his Gospel by quoting from Malachi
and Isaiah: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who
will prepare your way’ – ‘a voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the
Lord”‘. Both prophets foretold that a herald would
appear in advance of God’s king, to announce his imminent arrival and urge people to get
ready for him. Mark tells us: ‘John the Baptist is that herald!’
The message is clear: the waiting is over: the time of fulfilment is around the corner.
And then Jesus appears, ‘proclaiming the good news of God. The time
has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'” In Luke’s Gospel, after an introduction in
which he stresses the great care he’s taken to get his facts right, Luke announces the
birth of Jesus. Mary, Jesus’ mother, delights that, through the coming birth of her son,
God has been “merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors”. And she praises God in words which are saturated
in Old Testament ideas. That same connection with the Old Testament
is also found at the start of John’s Gospel: ‘In the beginning was the Word. And the Word
was with God and the Word was God’. This extraordinary opening is surely a deliberate
echo of the very first words of the Bible (“In the beginning God created the heavens
and the earth”). John is revealing that the eternal Son of
God, who was the Father’s agent in creation, has now entered the fallen world to redeem
it: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling
among us”. So the message of all the Gospels is clear:
For everything that was promised in the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is the fulfilment. Paul, the apostle, makes the same claim:
“No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ”. He’s the one to whom both the patterns of
Israel’s history and the messages of their prophets point. All the promises of the kingdom
of God are fulfilled in him: he is God’s people, God’s place and God’s
rule. And he’s the one from whom we can receive God’s blessing. Let’s think about those in turn. –JESUS IS GOD’S PEOPLE- First, Jesus is God’s people. The Israelites had been called to be God’s
holy people, reflecting his character as they obeyed his law, and yet they failed abysmally
and were sent into exile. But Jesus is what they were meant to be. Just as they were tested in the wilderness
for forty years, so Jesus is tested for forty days but, unlike them, he always remains faithful
to his Heavenly Father. He then calls his first disciples. In a deliberate
parallel with the twelve tribes in the Old Testament he chooses twelve apostles. They
will form the foundation of the new people of God.
In the Old Testament, the vine was a familiar symbol of Israel. Jesus says to his disciples,
“I am the vine, you are the branches”. He’s claiming that he is the true Israel,
together with all who are joined to him, and that means anyone, not just religious, respectable
Jews, but outcasts, prostitutes, people from any race and background.
God’s people are all who humble themselves and turn to him in repentance and faith. –JESUS IS GOD’S PLACE- Jesus is not only the fulfilment of God’s
people; he’s also God’s place: where God can be met. God drew near to the Israelites, living in
their midst in the tabernacle but it was a mere shadow of what we can receive in Christ. John writes of him:
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling (or, more literally, ‘tabernacled’) among
us”. Jesus is the true tabernacle and he’s also
the true temple, the one to whom it pointed. Standing in the temple courts, he says,
“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from
within them”. He’s referring to the promise we heard about
last time, in Ezekiel 47 of the new temple, from which a river would flow, bringing life
to all. He is that temple, and the water is the Spirit,
who dwells within all who trust in him. –Jesus is God’s rule and blessing- And Jesus is also the one through whom God
establishes his rule and blessing. The prophets announced that God’s promises
would be fulfilled by a new king, a son of David, who would introduce a new age in which
the evil effects of the fall are undone. The miracles of Jesus point to the fact that
he is that king. And he’s not only the son of David, but also
the Son of God, with divine power. With a word he calms a raging storm, gives
sight to the blind and raises the dead. No power can stand in his way. The demons tremble
before him. The kingdom of God has come because God’s
king has come. At times he doesn’t look much like a king, not least when he dies in weakness;
but that’s the moment of his greatest victory, when he defeats Satan.
Listen to Paul describe the king’s conquest: “having disarmed the powers and authorities
he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”. His triumph is then proclaimed to the world
by his resurrection, before he ascends into heaven to reign at God’s right hand. And because of his resurrection there is great
blessing. Those who trust in him are assured of life after death when they will enjoy what
had been lost since Eden, eternal rest. (PAUSE) …So we’ve seen countless fulfilments of
the Old Testament promises in Jesus- but it’s worth highlighting that all of them depend
on the one event that forms the climax of the whole story of the bible. –The cross: salvation through substitution- To put it simply the story of the bible is
cross-shaped. The narrative of the Old Testament and of the four gospels inexorably move towards
one great event, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And the cross is no tragic accident. Jesus
tells his disciples, “the Son of Man must suffer many things….
he must be killed and after three days rise again”. He certainly doesn’t have to die for any sin
he has committed. He perfectly obeys the law’s demands and, so, uniquely, he doesn’t need
to face the curse of judgment that must be met by all law-breakers. But for God’s kingdom to come, something has
to be done about sin and God’s anger against it. God’s justice demands that he can’t simply
turn a blind eye to evil- he is angry at sin, it must be punished. So God provided the solution: he directed
his anger against himself in the person of his son. In his grace God the Father sent his own son
Jesus, with whom he shared a perfect relationship to die as our substitute on a hill outside
Jerusalem. In a wonderful swap, on the cross, Jesus faced
God’s anger against human sin so that sinners could take on his perfect relationship with
God. Jesus is the one to whom the Passover lambs
and all the Old Testament sacrifices pointed. As a result, God’s wrath (his righteous anger
against sin) is satisfied or ‘propitiated’, and, if we trust in Christ, we need no longer
face it. ‘Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous
for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.’ And so the blessings of the new covenant are
introduced; we can know we’re forgiven, we can call God our Father and we can enjoy fellowship
with God by the Holy Spirit. (PAUSE) So, to summarise, in Jesus Christ the kingdom
of God has come; it is ‘the present kingdom’. He is God’s people, the true Israel,
he is God’s place, the true tabernacle and true temple and
he is God’s rule and brings God’s blessing- the true King who gives resurrection life
to those who trust in him Through faith in Christ we can enter into
the new age that he introduced through his death and resurrection:
“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”.
Praise be to God!…PAUSE So God’s kingdom is here, but … it doesn’t
always feel like that does it?… …That’s because his kingdom is not yet fully
here. The King has come but there’s still so much that spoils life on earth, in our
own hearts and throughout the world. Jesus taught his disciples that he would leave
the earth and then there would be a delay before he returned. It’s only when God’s king
comes again that everything will be put right. And in our next study we’ll see what the Bible
teaches about what to expect in the meantime, between Jesus’ first and second comings in
‘The Proclaimed Kingdom’.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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