Rebuilding the Foundations
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We have seen that Jesus talked constantly about the Kingdom of God. He called it the Gospel, told parables about it, said it would be preached until the end, and spent his last days on earth instructing the apostles about it. He mentioned the kingdom almost one hundred times in the synoptic Gospels alone.
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The book of Acts continued the emphasis on the Kingdom of God. It begins with Jesus teaching the apostles about the Kingdom, and it ends with Paul teaching his visitors about it.
Suddenly, though, in the letter to the churches, it almost disappears. "Kingdom" is mentioned 18 times in 21 letters.
Why, after Jesus emphasized the Kingdom, preached it as the Gospel, prophesied that it would be taught as the Gospel until the end times, and spent his last days on earth teaching it to the apostles, would they simply forget about it in their letters to the churches?
Jesus did not show up declaring himself as the King of God's eternal Kingdom. In fact, late in his ministry, when Simon Peter announced his belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus said that Peter could only the Father could have shown him this. He had kept the fact that he was the King of this coming Kingdom secret even from his apostles. Peter had not learned that Jesus was that eternal King from Jesus. The Father had to reveal it to him.
Jesus then immediately told the apostles not to tell anyone else (Matt. 16:20).
At the end, though, everyone knew. The sign on the cross announcing Jesus' crime, the one that earned him the death penalty, said, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews" (Matt. 27:37).
After he rose, he appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Along the way, he expounded the Scriptures to them, but not the Scriptures about the Kingdom, but the Scriptures about himself (Luk. 24:27).
When he gave his final commission to the apostles, to go into all the world and teach all nations, he told them that he had all power in heaven and earth and that they were to teach their disciples to obey him.
No longer did he need to talk about the Kingdom except secondarily. Secrecy was gone. He could talk about himself, the risen King.
The same was true about the apostles. They would mention the Kingdom, but mostly they would focus on the King.
Kingdom may only be in the apostles' letters 18 times, but Christ is in their letters 434 times. Four hundred and thirty-four in 21 letters!
The other thing that we must notice here is that despite the fact that it was no longer a secret that Jesus is the King of God's eternal Kingdom, the apostles' letters contain the word "king" only nine times, and never in reference to Jesus.
Jesus is not just any king. He is God's Anointed. He is the Psalm-2 King before whom all other kings should tremble, serving and honoring him in order to avoid facing his wrath.
Others had been called "the Lord's Anointed." Throughout the Law of Moses, Aaron and his sons are regularly said to be anointed by the Lord, and four times in Leviticus they are referred to as "the priest, the anointed."
It is the kings of Israel, however, who are most regularly referred to as the Lord's Anointed, eleven times just in 1 Samuel, where we read about the first king of Israel, Saul.
Eventually, though, the Israelites expected one King, a son of David, who would reign forever. He would be the Anointed. the one who was to come, the one whom David would call Lord (Ps. 110:1) and who would reign in his place into the ages.
As we have seen, this prophesied Anointed One, the Messiah, is only mentioned by that title in two places, once in Psalm 2 and twice in Daniel 9:25-26. Both passages make it clear that the Messiah—or in Greek, the Christ—would be a King ... the King who would rule over all other kings without end.
The Greek word for "anointed" is christos. Almost no English Bible translators have bothered to translate it with its proper meaning, Anointed King, choosing instead to simply change the Greek letters to English: Christ.
As a result, almost no Christian really thinks about the fact that every reference to "Jesus Christ" is a reference to the fact that Jesus is the eternal King of the eternal Kingdom that will bring all other kings into subjection and rule all other nations and kingdoms with a rod of iron.
We think that Paul did not reference the Kingdom of God as much as Jesus did, when in fact Paul referred to the fact that Jesus was King sixty-eight times, just in the book of Romans.
In fact, let's look at the first few verses of Paul's letter to the Romans with "Christ" properly translated:
Paul, a slave of King Jesus, called as an ambassador, set aside for the Good News of God ... concerning his Son, King Jesus our Lord, who was ... declared to be the Son of God with power ... by the resurrection of the dead ... for obedience to the faith among all nations for his Name. (vv. 1-5)
Once we render "Christ" appropriately, as King, rather than leaving it untranslated, we can see Paul's emphasis on the Kingdom of God, every bit as strong as Jesus' own emphasis.
Paul is a slave of a King—God's eternal King, Jesus. Jesus has made him an apostle, another untranslated word that actually means "one who is sent." If a king sends someone, especially to proclaim his reign as king, what do we call such a person in English? He is an ambassador.
Paul was an ambassador for a King, announcing the Good News from God. This Good News concerned his Son, King Jesus, who was appointed/announced/declared/proven to be the Son of God by rising from the dead.
And why was he appointed for this Good News, this Announcement from God? To bring about "obedience to the faith among all nations on behalf of his Name."
Once we give Jesus his proper title, Anointed King, the connection between his message and the message of Jesus after his resurrection are tied together in a divine harmony. Jesus commanded the apostles to go into all the world, make disciples of all nations, baptize them out of their old lives and into King Jesus, and then teach them to obey everything he commanded.
Paul was doing exactly that. He was announcing the authority of King Jesus, proven to be the Psalm-2 King, the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead, and he was doing it so that the nations—the ones told to be instructed so that they would not arouse his anger—would obey him.
The revelation that the name "Jesus Christ" ought to be understood by us as "King Jesus," and thus that the Kingdom of God was as important to the apostles as it was to Jesus, will rock everything we read in the apostles letters.
We saw already that the first few verses of Romans is really an announcement that Jesus is King, that Paul is sent by him to announce his reign and the fact that he is the Son of God, and thus to bring the nations in obedience to this Psalm-2 King, "the Anointed, the Son of God."
As we delve further into Romans, we find Paul mentioning the righteousness of God which comes "through faith in King Jesus to all ... who believe."
Belief that Jesus is a King is remarkably different than believing that Jesus died to pay for your sins.
Since many of you have never considered this, let me write it again so that you can have a minute to process the idea. Belief that Jesus is God's eternal King—Ruler of all nations, before whom all should tremble—is remarkably different than believing Jesus died to pay for your sins.
The one belief calls for the response that Paul said he was trying to achieve among the nations: obedience. The other calls for nothing more than agreement with a fact.
Which of these was Paul calling for?