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The Gospel of the Kingdom in the New Testament

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Date: May 23, 2018
Run Time: 12:11
Host: Dr. Gregory R. Perry
Guest: Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.
From the Series: True and Lasting Reform

Program Notes

Does the kingdom or reign of God affect our understanding of the Christian life? What about our role as Christ's witnesses? Our conversation with Dr. Richard Pratt explores:

  • Inaugurated eschatology: the already and not yet of Christ’s kingdom
  • The “Day of the Lord” and Jesus’ strategy as our warrior king
  • How we are Jesus’ ambassadors of reconciliation—the King’s diplomatic core

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries. He served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary for more than 20 years and was chair of the Old Testament department. An ordained minister, Dr. Pratt travels extensively to evangelize and teach and has authored numerous articles and books.

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Podcast Transcript

4 THE WORLD PODCAST
Episode 4: The Gospel of the Kingdom in the New Testament
Guest: Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we believe every Christian deserves a well-trained pastor. To study Scripture deeply or to learn more about how you can partner with us to provide Biblical Education. For the World. For Free. download our App to your phone or visit our online classroom at Thirdmill.org. And now, your host 4 the World, Dr. Greg Perry.

JESUS' INAUGURATED ESCHATOLOGY: ALREADY AND NOT YET

Welcome back everyone to 4 the World, the weekly podcast of Third Millennium Ministries in Orlando, Florida. But we haven't been talking about a Magic Kingdom, the number one destination here in Central Florida. We've been talking about a kingdom that's not from this world but is for this world, the kingdom of God. I'm your host Greg Perry, and again we're privileged to have with us the founder and president of Third Millennium, Dr. Richard Pratt.

Richard, I think our last podcast may have given many if not most of our listeners a lot to think about regarding the importance of the kingdom of God throughout all Scripture, not just the New Testament. But this time, they've come back to hear a little bit more about what the kingdom of God means in Jesus' teaching.

Now, Jesus had a unique way of describing God's reign as somehow both present and future. Somehow now but also not yet. Now, many of the lessons in our Third Mill curriculum make a whole lot about this structure that Jesus had laid out. Why is it so helpful for understanding the Christian life?

Richard: Well, the main reason why it's important to understand that God's kingdom through Jesus has begun to unfold now, and continues to unfold throughout the history of the church, and will come to its consummation when Jesus returns, is because it stands in contrast with what most Jews in Jesus' day, and in the days of the apostles, believed about God's kingdom. They believed that a great son of David would come. This was promised by the prophets. Now, they were disappointed that it had taken so long, over 500 years as they suffered under the tyranny of Gentile, pagan, evil, demonic nations. But at the same time, they were excited and continued to believe — the faithful ones did — that somehow God would send a son of David, the Messiah, that he would reign over the whole earth, he would destroy all of their enemies, and he would give them their rightful inheritance, which was the ends of the earth. But as they discussed it, as rabbis talked about it, while they debated different details — and then boy were there a lot of details they debated — one of the common themes was that when the Messiah came, he would accomplish all of this: he would accomplish the destruction of the enemies; he would make the world a wonderful place; he would give the world to his people and they would reign with him over the whole thing. He would accomplish all of that in short order. It wouldn't happen instantaneously, but it was in short order.

But one fell swoop, right?

Richard: That's right and you know, I mean, who knows how long they conceived of it taking, but certainly not thousands of years. And certainly not an indefinite period of time. Well, when Jesus came and he's running around and preaching to people, "The kingdom of God is here! The kingdom of God is here!" even John the Baptist was saying that. And when he met Jesus and saw what Jesus was doing, he was convinced that this is it — he's the Messiah, he's the one who's going to bring the kingdom of God. But next thing you know, John the Baptist is in prison and he's about to have his head cut off. So while he's in prison, he sends his disciples to Jesus and they ask him a perplexing question, for us I think, because they ask him, "Are you really the one or do we need to be watching for somebody else?" Well, we would not have asked that question if we had been in John's position because we would not have had the expectations he had. In his sermons as he was baptizing people he said the Messiah would come and he would judge the wicked, throw them into the fire and reward the righteous. Well, we don't think that way. We think Jesus came and suffered and died and goes on for thousands and thousands of years, and we hope one day he'll come back. But that's not what John believed. So he said to Jesus, "Jesus, are you really the one?" And Jesus' response is astonishing because of what Jesus says to him: "Just go back and tell John that the lame walk, the blind see, and the good news, the gospel, is preached to the oppressed and the poor." In effect, what Jesus was saying to John was this: "John, I've done enough of what you expected the Messiah to do for you to believe that I'll do the rest." And that's the message of the New Testament. It is to say that 2000 years ago Jesus did enough of the things that the Old Testament said Messiah would do: he paid for our sins, he rose from the dead, he now reigns over all of the earth as he's putting all of his enemies under his feet. He did enough — pouring out the Holy Spirit — in his first coming for us to believe as his followers that he will do the rest.

THE PROPHETS' ESCHATOLOGY: THE DAY OF THE LORD

It seems like he was talking about that in the way he was explaining the end to his disciples in Matthew 24 and 25 and Luke 17, talking about how the kingdom has come in the healings that he's done. "The kingdom is in your midst," he says to those who challenge his healing of the mute man who was oppressed by a demon. But at the same time he says you won't know the day or the hour. You're going to have to wait faithfully because now I'm introducing a period of witness where the gospel has to be proclaimed to all the nations. Do you think that in some way maybe Jesus is stretching out this notion of the "day of the Lord?" What's happening there in terms of even the Old Testament that Jesus is relating to?

Richard: Well, the prophets talked about a lot of things that were coming, sort of cataclysmic things that were coming. One expression they used was "the day of the Lord" as a day of judgment, a day of righteousness, finishing the show I guess you could say, of humungous catastrophic divine intervention, the "day of the Lord." And so actually a royal expression that's used in other countries like Babylon and the like in inscriptions when the king… The day of Nebuchadnezzar is the day that he shows up and takes care of everything, destroys the enemies and fixes everything. So the day of the Lord is just that for the Lord, Yahweh, God. But what's interesting about it is there was a surprise that Christians had to accept. Most Jews did not, but Christians who were called by God and given the eyes to see Jesus for who he actually was, were able to accept it. And that is that he's going to do all of this "day of the Lord," he's going to do all of this destruction of the enemies and the rewarding of the righteous on the earth, he's going to do all of that in stages, and he's not going to do it suddenly.

Interestingly, when Jesus was on this earth, we often think of him as, you know, the sweet little baby that was born in a manger, but even when the angels were singing about the sweet little baby born in the manger, they were singing a war song: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those with whom he is well pleased." They were an army of angels that were singing this war song celebrating the fact that they were about to fight the last big battle for the earth. And so even Christmastime is the celebration of the birth of a great warrior.

But we have to ask ourselves the question, though, did Jesus actually attack the enemy? Did he destroy the enemies of God's people? And Jesus' strategy was remarkable in the way that he did this. It was not foreseen by prophets, but nevertheless he's the great King and he's obeying the Father, so he does it the way the Father tells him to do it. And this is what he did. Rather than going on the attack against people, rather that pulling a sword out and going after Caesar and other enemies on the earth, physical human enemies, what he did was he took up the attack first against the evil, spiritual powers behind the dark, pagan kingdoms of the world, and the demons and the like, the devil who had actually entered into the Promised Land and who was wreaking havoc even within Israel. So he went after the demons hard. You mentioned him casting out the demons and saying, "The kingdom of God is here — If I'm doing this by the Spirit of God, which I am — the kingdom of God is here." Why? Because he's on the attack against the powers that are behind all the evil of the world. And the apostles and prophets of the first century did exactly the same thing. They went on the attack, not against people but against the demons and the powers, the spiritual powers.

And then, in his wisdom, Jesus devised this strategy, again in obedience to the Father, that what he would do is, rather than attacking people and killing people, or coercing them into repentance, what he would do is he would show mercy to them. He would deliver them from the power of the devils, and then he would show mercy to them in an attempt to get them to defect, defect from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. And that's why the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us, be reconciled to God." The mission of the church is to get people who are enemies of God to be reconciled to God by believing in Jesus and by being transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, which is one of the great strategies that kings used all the time when they laid siege to cities as they would offer quarter to the people in the city: "If you'll come out before I come in my battle, then you'll be safe."

MINISTERS OF RECONCILIATION: THE KING'S DIPLOMATIC CORE

So Jesus' Great Commission, where he has all authority in heaven on earth, and what Paul is saying about being ambassadors of reconciliation is like the church is the diplomatic corps of the King.

Richard: We are the diplomatic corps. And we're out there as soldiers. Remember, diplomats in the ancient world were soldiers. They were not unarmed — it's quite remarkable how that's true — they were part of the war effort. And we are part of the war effort too, but not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. And what we do toward flesh and blood is we invite them to be reconciled before the King comes back again and lays waste to all the evil empires of the earth, both the spiritual dimensions of those kingdoms and the human, physical people who are involved in those kingdoms. Because that is what he will do when he returns in glory. And then the kingdom of God will come to earth as it is in heaven.

The day the Son of Man comes in power. Richard, thank you so much for being with us this month, for sharing with us about the importance of the gospel of the kingdom, how that informed the Reformers, but also that it's such an important structural thread throughout the entire Scriptures, Old and New Testaments.

Richard: It's been great. Thank you, Greg.

So thank you again for being with us, 4 the World, a weekly podcast of Third Millennium Ministries. Next time, we're going to be talking with Will Savell, one of our key partners at the Grace Institute. Will Savell is one of our champions who uses Third Millennium's materials in innovative ways both in Latin America, in Cuba, and in Africa. So don't miss next time, 4 the World.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we are reimagining biblical education for Christian leaders in a global church. Each week we bring you conversations to cultivate your curiosity about God's word, to inform your intercessions for God's people, and to equip your efforts in God's mission for the world. Our host is Dr. Greg Perry. Our sound engineer and editor is Christopher Russell. Our web designer is Ra McLaughlin. Production assistance is provided by Stephanie Mathis. And I'm your announcer, Cindy Sawyer. Today's podcast was brought to you by The China Partnership and by listeners like you. Thank you.