Prior to Jesus' ministry, John declared, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2).

After Jesus' encounter with Satan in the wilderness, Matthew generalizes the beginning of Jesus' ministry with this statement: "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people" (Matthew 4:23). The good news (gospel) Jesus declared was that the kingdom was coming soon.

As Jesus continued his ministry, this was a basic message: "Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness" (Matthew 9:35).

Near the close of his ministry, Jesus emphasized God's kingdom in this manner: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).

To equate "the kingdom" as a simple substitute for "the church" (in our concept of "church") is an oversimplification. In the context of Matthew, Jesus being on earth, Jesus' mission in Israel, and Jesus' message cannot be separated from "the good news of the coming of the kingdom."

A kingdom is ruled by a monarch. All in the kingdom serve the monarch. Their reason for existing is to serve, advance, and champion the purposes of the monarch.

The concept was not based on an organization or membership in an institution. The concept was based on serving a king. Most Americans do not consider being a part of a monarchy as "good news." How can serving a king to advance and champion his purposes be good news? We view a monarchy as restrictive and freedom-destroying. We consider democracy as liberating and "freedom-giving" -- to us democracy is good news!

Jesus' basic message for Israel and the world was strange. The "good news" is that people can make God their ruler? The "good news" is that anyone anywhere can make God his or her ruler? The "good news" is that God ruling a person is not a matter of ancestry, or functions based on traditions or rules, or the cultural religious rites of a specific people? The "good news" is that a person can come to God and make Him ruler by allowing Jesus to be the way, truth, and life as he guides us to God (John 14:6)?

The ultimate question when we give an account of how we used physical life on earth will not be, "Where did you go to church?" Or, "How often did you go to church?" Or, "What did you do to support the church?" Or, "Did you do worship correctly?" As essential as worship is, it will not be the foundation of the ultimate question. The foundation of the ultimate question: "Who ruled your daily life as you lived on earth?"

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 2 December 2004

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