The message of the kingdom is the mission of the church.
Over the last three posts, I have discussed the significance of the kingdom of God, pointed out some common misconceptions, and provided a rough description of this kingdom. The kingdom has already come in one sense, yet in another, it is waiting on its fulfillment. It is “already, but not yet.” However, it is clear in this time between the times that the church has a crucial role to play in the establishment of the kingdom.
As with the rest of creation, Christ is the author of this kingdom, but his agent is the church. In Matthew 13, Christ explains this growing kingdom with a mustard seed. It is planted and grows from small to large. Christ planted the seed of this kingdom when we came in the flesh and inaugurated it. Now, through the enabling and guidance of the Holy Spirit, God has chosen to use the church as the means through which that seed grows.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church explains that the church stands at the very center of God’s great plan of all the ages. God has acted in such a way throughout all history, from the Garden of Eden until today, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known” (Eph 3:10).
In Matthew 16, Christ tells his disciples the gates of hell will not prevail against the church in its mission. In this moment, Christ grants authority to the church to fulfill its mission and what it binds on earth will be bound in heaven. Real power is given to the church. Certainly, it is imputed power and imputed authority, just as our righteous is imputed righteousness. It is in the name of the Lord of the kingdom that we go forward as its stewards. And, it is in his mighty power that the kingdom will advance. It is that power against which there is no protection for hell!
So advance, we must! But how? What does it mean to advance the kingdom of God?
To understand our task as the church, it is instructive to see how Jesus defined his own task. In Jesus’ own words, he says he came to “proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God” (Lk 4:43). In fact, all three of the synoptic gospels make this statement.
In other words, the ministry is a message.
There is a message that must be proclaimed, but it is not just any message. It is specific, and it is big! The message is the good news of the kingdom of God. All of the things that we have discussed over the last three posts come together into one grand announcement. Jesus came to preach the kingdom of God, and we must do the same. The kingdom has come, and Christ is making all things right. The king will change everything, and we stand at that grand moment of history awaiting his arrival and letting everyone know what is about t o happen.
This is a message with huge consequences. The fulfillment of the kingdom may mean the beginning of a whole new reign, but it also means the end of another. When the kingdom of God explodes into its complete and final state, it will mean the total destruction of the current kingdom. Right now, sin’s grip serves as a curse over all creation. Mankind is sick with it, and it will kill us all. This announcement of a new kingdom is the invitation to new life in the face of certain death. The only way to avoid destruction with the rest of this fallen creation is to become a citizen of the new and coming kingdom. This is a message that demands a response.
The Bible makes it clear that it is the mission of the church to carry on the work of Jesus. The well-known Great Commission passages in the gospels explicitly state the mission of the church. Just as Jesus was to proclaim the news of this kingdom, and all that it brought, so too is the mission of the church. We are to make disciples (read kingdom citizens) from every nation. We do this by sharing the good news of the kingdom and teaching people to observe the new order that it brings.
After all, news ceases to be news if it is not told.