Matthew tells us that when Jesus began to preach, His message was, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What does that mean?
First, evil is about to be destroyed. There is a consistent theme in the Old Testament, speaking about the promises of David’s greater son, ruling from His throne. Consider what God says in the time of the kingdom, and what will happen to the nations that pursue evil.
In Psalm 2:8-9, speaking to the Messiah, God says, “Ask of Me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” This is a promise: that the day in which the Kingdom appears is the day that God will rule through His Messiah.
Let’s be clear. God in heaven has always been ruling. God is sovereign, which means He controls all things. He even controls evil in the sense that He will not allow evil past borders He has determined, and He ultimately uses evil in the end for His purposes. For instance, we saw in the temptation of Jesus that even Satan’s tempting of Jesus was used by the Father to accomplish His will.
That’s what sovereignty means. If I were to be diagnosed with terminal cancer tomorrow, I would see my cancer as evil – the result of living in a cursed creation. I would realize that cancer – and all diseases for that matter and death itself – are part of the ruin of sin. I would not blame God for it. But I would be absolutely convinced that God is using the cancer for my long-term good and His eternal glory.
That’s the wonderful news about the sovereignty of God! No evil will upset God’s purposes. That’s why we can be at peace, as we remember the words, “this is my Father’s world.” But this message from the Psalms reminds us that when the kingdom comes, God no longer uses evil for His purposes. God utterly smashes and destroys evil! Evil itself falls under His hand and is ruined. This is why when Jesus announced the kingdom of heaven, He was announcing that evil was about to be destroyed.
Second, God’s will of command is about to be done. Jesus will teach His followers to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That means that when the kingdom comes, earth and heaven are governed in precisely the same way. Is evil allowed to enter heaven? No. So will it be on earth? No.
In the present hour, God may command one thing, and yet, according to His eternal decree allow something else. For instance, God commands Pharaoh to repent – that is His will of command. And yet, God also decrees or allows that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened. In the present hour, that is what we see. God is sovereign, even while evil rages. He rules all things – even the hearts of wicked men.
But when the kingdom comes, all commands and decrees of God are the same. Whatever God commands is more than just a moral imperative; that is, something you shall do. Rather, all that God commands will be done. And so, as Jesus enters into His year of popularity, this is His message. All evil will now begin to fall under God’s command. That hour now stands at the door. This is what is happening today. As the gospel spreads, so does the message of the kingdom as men and women are being set free from Satan’s tyranny. The decisive battle on the cross has been fought and won. And so, the end of the story can no longer be in doubt.
APPLICATION: Do you sometimes feel discouraged by the sin and evil that is part of living in a fallen world? Let us take comfort in the fact that the king has set up his headquarters among us. As one hymn writer said, “His kingdom will reign from shore to shore, till moons shall wax and wane no more.”
WHEN JESUS ANNOUNCED THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, HE WAS ANNOUNCING THAT EVIL WAS ABOUT TO BE DESTROYED.
Dr. John Neufeld
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