Godly service in the present kingdom

As believers, our lives are lived in the presence of the kingdom and the authority of the Messiah.

As believers, our lives are lived in the presence of the kingdom and the authority of the Messiah.

Revelation 12:9-10 – So the great dragon was thrown out ​– ​the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have now come, because the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been thrown down.

What I find compelling about this passage is the implication of the timing of the coming of the kingdom of God. In many circles today, it is common to hear that the kingdom is “now and not yet,” somehow meaning that the kingdom of God is kind of here now, but not really, and will be here in the future but has not yet come. By contrast, the biblical texts imply that the kingdom of God was something that was “at hand” (i.e., imminent) in that day, but also present as that age was culminated in the late first century A.D.

For example, in the Revelation passage quoted above is depicted the ejection of Satan out of the heavenly realms to the earth. Without taking time to delve into the apocalyptic meaning in detail, even a cursory reading of the passage will reveal that at the timing of that occurrence (the ejection of Satan), the “kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have now come.” And then as if to re-emphasize that fact, the sentence concludes that the kingdom of God has come “because the accuser of our brothers and sisters…has been thrown down.” These two events appear linked inextricably together in this passage.

Interestingly, we see Messiah speak of this event as if it were occurring during the time of his ministry to Israel, along with his reception of the authority given to him by God the Father:

Luke 10:17-18, 22-24 – Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” So he [Yeshua] said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. … All things have been given to me by my Father...” Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

These individuals were living in a time when these very things were being fulfilled! The longings of the prophets and wise people of the ancient ages were becoming a reality before their very eyes! One of those prophets, Daniel, also spoke of the timing of when the kingdom of God would be established: in the days of “those kings,” the kings of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Daniel 2:44 – And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Also, the writer to the Hebrew congregation mentions that the believers of that day and age had already arrived at Mount Zion, the prophetic metaphorical title of the kingdom of God.

Hebrews 12:22-23 – …you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to myriads of angels in joyful assembly, to the congregation of the firstborn, enrolled in heaven.

This language is in the perfect indicative active tense; it is something that was presently occurring in completeness at that time, two thousand years ago. Dropping down a few verses later in this same passage, this idea of the contemporaneous arrival of the kingdom was further evidenced regarding the kingdom which “cannot be shaken” (that is, is not liable to fall like all of the other kingdoms of the world). The Weymouth version of this verse brings out the immediacy of the reception of that kingdom:

Hebrews 12:28 – Therefore, receiving, as we now do, a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us cherish thankfulness so that we may ever offer to God an acceptable service, with godly reverence and awe.

The writer of Hebrews is centering his argument on the fact that the faithful service of God’s people was to be based in their then-present reception of the kingdom of God and his authority, which should motivate them to “godly reverence and awe” in their “acceptable service.” Their service was to be grounded on the fact that they were now living in the promised kingdom of God.

Andrew Perriman, theologian of the London School of Theology, writes extensively on this topic in his books on telling the biblical story within its historical narrative, and on his website at www.postost.net. In an article on The kingdom of God: not ‘now and not yet, he writes the following:

“Just as Isaiah speaks of a messenger who brings good news to Zion, saying, ‘Your God reigns (basileusei),’ that he is about to restore Jerusalem, so Jesus proclaims the good news to Israel that YHWH is about act to judge injustice and faithlessness and to restore his sinful people. This is the focus of the prayer which he taught his disciples: ‘Your kingdom come….’ That restoration, however, is now a thing of the past, and the church has inherited the immense benefits and blessings that it brought about. God’s kingdom, in the sense that Jesus intended it, has come. It is no longer ‘now and not yet’. It simply is. There may be contexts in which the church still needs to pray for God to intervene decisively, for persecution to end, for enemies to be defeated, for believers to be vindicated, but in principle the hope of the redeemed, post-eschatological church today should be aimed, I think, at the renewal of creation.”

This sense that God’s kingdom simply “is,” and that our roles and responsibility now revolve around basing our service and ministries in the outworking of that reality in every generation, should provide for us the impetus for godly service and meaningful influence in a world that desperately needs it today.

If you enjoy these daily articles, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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Questions or comments? Feel free to email me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

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