As a follow-up to what I wrote last week, “Contrasting a Kingdom Mindset with a Church Mindset,” this week I would like to continue to focus on the importance of the kingdom.
By “kingdom” I mean the rule of God over all creation. This includes understanding that the church is not the entire kingdom, but is only in the kingdom as its primary agent of proclamation and application.
My eyes were opened in 1995 when I went from a dispensational belief system to the kingdom message. As a result, the positive results in my life, message, and ministry cannot be overstated! Believing the Cultural Mandate in Genesis 1:28 has caused me and my wife to understand how to think generationally and practically, resulting in us having two more children, training our children to be world changers (for example, my son Jason is now the editor of Human Events and has already written a New York Times bestseller), reshaping the way we view youth and children's ministry, and moving the people in our church from a poverty mindset to a mindset of biblical prosperity.
I will attempt to summarize all of my reasons for preaching the kingdom, both for my own benefit and the benefit of those who read my writings.
1. The kingdom message connects the whole Bible and all its covenants to the original Cultural Mandate found in Genesis 1:28 (be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over the created order). Without this passage as our starting point, we cannot properly interpret all other subsequent biblical covenants, including the New Covenant, since the Cultural Mandate is the original covenant of creation which shows all of humanity our purpose.
2. The kingdom message connects Jesus in His dual role as both Creator and Redeemer (John 1:3, 11, 14; 3:16). Those who preach that the cross is only for individual redemption miss the truth that the cross of Christ was also for the purpose of reconciling all things in the created order back to God (read Colossians 1:20).
3. The kingdom message brings the church back to the overarching narrative (instead of only focusing on various subplots of scripture) which reveals the ultimate purpose of God for the cross and the church: the gathering together in one all things under the Lordship of Christ (read Ephesians 1:9-11).
4. The kingdom message is a generational message connecting the dots between the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) and the seed of Abraham who would become the church (Galatians 3:29) who, as children of God, are called to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3), rule as kings in the earth (Genesis 17:5-7), and possess the gates of our enemies (Genesis 22:17). By implication, this means the gospel message is holistic and applicable for our children’s children to engage in politics, public policy, economics, and all the practical affairs of this life that are under kingdom influence and blessing.
5. The kingdom message alone gives Jesus His proper place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords because every king must have a kingdom to qualify as a king! To separate the gospel from the kingdom is an attempt to give good news that only applies to the next life. Hence, it does away with the power of the messianic prophecies that speak of Jesus’ call as ruler over the nations (read Genesis 49:10; Psalm 2:9-11; Psalm 110:1-3; Isaiah 9:6.7; Daniel chapters 2, 4, 7).
6. Preaching the kingdom motivates and releases all the saints in the church to serve as ministers of the Lord in His kingdom. (Only 2-3% of all Christians are called to serve in full-time church ministry.) Every kingdom has need for architects, lawyers, judges, educators, sociologists, politicians, economists, social workers, writers, etc. Understanding this is exciting for every person in church because of their various callings to serve God in the marketplace.
7. Preaching the kingdom releases Holy Spirit inspired creativity! The first move of the Holy Spirit was not on the Day of Pentecost but when the Spirit hovered over the newly made creation of planet earth (Genesis 1:1-3)! Hence, the Holy Spirit is still excited and hovers over the creativity found in God’s image-bearers as we walk out our vocations in the marketplace!
The greatest composers, musicians, athletes, writers, poets, playwrights, and filmmakers should come out of our churches! The greatest universities (such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, founded when the church preached the kingdom in the 17th and 18th centuries) should be founded by Christians! Hospitals and the greatest charities should be founded by Christians and churches! Future mayors, governors and presidents should come out of the Body of Christ because we are called to possess the gates of our enemies and have kingship and rulership in our spiritual DNA (read Genesis 17:5-7)!
8. The kingdom is what Jesus, John the Baptist and Paul preached and is the primary theme of the New Testament (read Matthew 3:2, 4:17; Mark 1:15; Acts 28:31).
9. The kingdom message causes the church to be holistic in its approach to ministry because, even by its very name, it pressures us to think of how we as believers can collectively steward the created order and manage the earth.
10. The kingdom message, if received and preached again by the majority of true believers, would most definitely result in us redeeming cultures, transforming cities, and bringing biblical reformation to whole nations. Thos would spare nations from either judgment or extinction for not following the pattern laid out in the Ten Commandments for structuring nations.
Hence, the only hope for the United States is the preaching and application of the kingdom message! As in other words, Haiti doesn’t need another healing crusade. What Haiti needs is an apostle of government to become president who will bring kingdom order and root out corruption!
11. The kingdom message announces Jesus’ inheritance as found in Psalm 2:9-11.
Where does it say in the Bible that Jesus would have died on the cross if there was only one person on the earth and/or one sinner to redeem? I hear preachers say this all the time! Show me chapter and verse for this!
Jesus died to redeem whole nations and people groups. This goes along with our inheritance as saints as found in Ephesians 1:10-11 and is part of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19, when Jesus commanded believers to disciple all of the nations, not just individual people but whole people groups!
The discipling of nations was very common in early church history. For example, when the heads of Gothic Germanic tribes would convert then all of their people converted as well. Whole nations would be baptized!
12. The kingdom message pressures pastors to become theologians who have a biblical worldview instead of only preaching the same feel-good, therapeutic messages Sunday after Sunday.
13. The kingdom message brings back to the fore true discipleship as it pressures every believer to study the scriptures pertaining to their particular marketplace calling as they learn to think biblically but speak secularly.
14. The kingdom message makes sense to everyone, especially world changers who come into our churches and feel bored when they are told that the highest calling they can have in life is to serve as an usher or minister for two hours every Sunday.
Because we have preached a truncated gospel we have lost the greatest world changers--politicians and statesmen with callings like Churchill and entrepreneurs like Bill Gates--because they come into our churches and only hear messages dealing with life after death. Thus, they leave and go into the world where their gifts are truly appreciated!
The current church mindset only appreciates and ordains Sunday preachers instead of nurturing and commissioning people called into secular culture as ministers and prophets. It is a sad thing but, given the kind of preaching we hear every Sunday, many churches currently have no place for believers called like Joseph (the prophet economist who saved Egypt and Israel in Genesis 37-50), Daniel (who, as a prime minister prophet brought transformation to Babylon and Persia), or Nehemiah (a politician who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem)!
15. The kingdom message allows parents to recognize the marketplace callings upon their children and to disciple them in the scriptures accordingly! Not all of our children are called to be full-time church ministers but all of our children are called to serve as ministers in the kingdom!
16. Those who preach the kingdom message view the entire Old Testament as relevant today to apply both the moral law (Ten Commandments) as the foundation of judicial law, and its extrapolated 613 civic laws that apply the moral law to specific judicial situations for the purpose of structuring society. Thus, the kingdom message causes believers to take seriously the Old Covenant and study it as much as the New Covenant. (The Old Covenant civic laws have been modified, especially laws regarding sexual sin and capital punishment, because of the revelation of grace in the New Testament.)
17. The kingdom message causes us to reinterpret many salvation passages from an individualistic application to a systemic and corporate application. For example, Luke 4:18 connects Jesus as King announcing that in His new kingdom He will release the oppressed, empower the poor, and release the captive. This concerns systemic justice, not just casting a devil out of an individual. Compare this to Isaiah 61:1-4 to get the true meaning and context. Communities and cities are redeemed and lifted by the kingdom message.
In Conclusion: Ten Implications of the Kingdom Message
1. We understand that being born again is not about going to heaven but having our eyes opened so that we finally see the Lordship of Christ over all the earth as King of Kings (read John 3:3-6).
2. We understand John 3:16 as not just God loving individual sinners but sending His Son to redeem the created order. (The word “world” in the Greek is “cosmos” which is the systems of the created order.) Thus, God wants us as His kingdom people to apply the Bible to economics and public policy, not just to prayer and the fruit of the Spirit.
3. The ministry gifts found in Ephesians 4:11 are seen as equipping the saints for the work of the ministry in the marketplace to fill up all things, not just for church ministry (read Ephesians 4:10-12 for the context).
4. We shift from a platonic/dualistic approach to life, in which we erroneously believe that God only values spiritual things, to a holistic approach in which we value the material world as well. (John 1:14: The Word became flesh, thus flesh is not evil.)
5. There is a movement toward incarnation in which we not only “march for Jesus” but we “move in” for Jesus and immerse ourselves in our communities, not just our churches. We should serve our cities with our marketplace callings as ministers of the kingdom, not just serve God on Sundays in church buildings.
6. The church is to nurture apostles of government, law, economics, and education, not just ecclesial elders involved in church government, church by-laws, tithes and offerings, and nurturing Sunday school teachers.
7. We understand and view Jesus as the King of the earth, not just as the Head of the Body of Christ.
8. We understand that the church is not the totality of the kingdom but is the primary agent of the kingdom as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).
9. We are to labor not only for revival but societal reformation because revival brings people into the church and reformation places believers in societal leadership.
10. We now understand that the Bible is not really a book about heaven (it says very little about heaven!) but a book about God’s people stewarding the earth.
Both the Old and New Covenants serve as blueprints for local faith communities to branch out and structure societies with a biblical worldview as salt and light.
Although we believe in the separation of church and state because they are two separate spheres of authority in the created order, we do not believe in the separation of God and state because all of life is about religious and moral choices.
There is no such thing as moral neutrality. Either society will be under the rule of an atheistic, humanistic religious order or under a biblical religious order.
For much more information on this subject read my book dealing with the Cultural Mandate entitled Ruling in the Gates (Creation House; 2003).