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Does the Church Preach the Gospel of the Kingdom?
John Hepp, Jr.
The church (Greek ekklesia) is the assembly Messiah is preparing for His coming kingdom. Hebrews 2:12 quotes Psalm 22:22 with this meaning. In this appendix “us” and “our” refer to the church. Emphasis is sometimes added to quotations.
“This gospel [good news] of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world” (Matthew 24:14).Note 1 That message should interest the nation of Israel, because God is going to “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). He will fulfill all His promises to that nation. But does the same message concern the church? Some interpreters say no. They wrongly see too much difference between
1. the church as Messiah’s body and redeemed Israel of the future
2. what they consider a “heavenly” hope for the church and an “earthly” kingdom for Israel
These two distinctions contradict the Gospel of Matthew – and the rest of the New Testament.
1. Consider the first wrong distinction – in regard to Messiah’s body. The apostle Paul explains that Messiah forms His body by baptizing men in/with the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Yet, this great work of Messiah was promised to Israel. In Matthew 3:11, as in all the Gospels, it was to Israel that John the Baptist promised “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” This simply restated such prophecies as Ezekiel 36:27 (“I will put my Spirit within you”) and Joel 2:28 (“I will pour out my Spirit”). Just as by His Spirit God changes us into His children and heirs (Romans 8:16-17), so He promised for Israel. Jesus alluded to such prophecies when talking to “Israel’s teacher.” Nicodemus should have known from such prophecies that no one can “enter the kingdom” without being “born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-10). All of Messiah’s future kingdom assembly will have been so born/baptized.
To say the same thing from the perspective of Hebrews 9:15: Israelites could never receive their “eternal inheritance” if they remained under the Old Covenant. They must be forgiven, then transformed by God’s Spirit under the New Covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6, 18).
Messiah began this work at Pentecost (Acts 2). Both before and after that event, what happened then was identified as His baptizing in/with the Spirit (Acts 1:5; 11:15-17). However, on that day itself Peter explained by using Joel’s terminology: “Messiah” (Acts 2:31), he said, “received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and poured out” that heavenly Gift (2:33). Thus, “pouring out the Spirit” is the same as “baptizing in/with the Spirit.” And by this action Messiah began to build His body, the church. When Israel finally repents (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1; Romans 11:26-27), will He not, as promised, baptize them too? On what basis should we doubt that Spirit-baptized Israel will become part of Messiah’s body?
Therefore, redeemed Israel will not be basically different from the ekklesia (church) but part of it. Restored to God’s favor, they will receive the eternal inheritance.
2. Consider the second wrong distinction mentioned above: between an “earthly” kingdom for Israel and a “heavenly” hope for the church. There is no such distinction in Matthew. That book constantly refers to the future kingdom as our hope (for example, Matthew 5:3, 10, 20; 7:21). When it records the Lord’s clear promises to come back to earth in glory to reign, it always assumes that believers will share in that rule. For whom did Matthew write these promises? Certainly for members of the church, whether Jews or not. Books for the church do not and cannot present distinct hopes for its members. “In the church there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28).
Furthermore, a “heavenly” hope can be on earth. Right now our inheritance is “kept in heaven for [us]” (1 Peter 1:4) but will be “given [to us] when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:13). As Jesus showed often in Matthew, that will be when He comes to reign (Matthew 13:41-43; 16:27; 19:28; 25:31, 34). The rock that Daniel saw coming from God “became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). That will be the kingdom of heaven on earth, the same picture as in Revelation 21-22. A heavenly hope to be enjoyed on earth.
Jewish hopes were heavenly in the same way. It was originally to Jews that Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20). Why should we think that their heavenly treasures are any different from ours? Passages like Hebrews 6:13-20 and 11:8-16 show that they are identical. Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham’s hope was both earthly and heavenly. Earthly: He “made his home in the promised land like a stranger” (v. 9). Yet, he “did not receive the things promised” (v. 13). Why not? Because he was looking for a “heavenly” country (v. 16) and “the city with foundations” (v. 10). That city is “the heavenly Jerusalem” (12:22), his goal and ours.
After descending to the renewed earth (Revelation 21:1-2, 10), that heavenly Jerusalem will have “the throne of God and of the Lamb [Messiah]” (Revelation 22:3). It will be the capital city of the eternal kingdom. It will be Abraham’s city, enabling him to inherit his promised land. And saved Gentiles will “take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11), not on a neighboring star. God’s “servants will serve him… and they will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:3, 5).
In other words, the church and restored Israel have basically the same hope. It is both heavenly and earthly – the coming rule of heaven on earth. This does not erase the distinctions between saved nations, which will persist even into the perfected form of the kingdom (Revelation 21:24, 26; 22:2). And Israel will finally be the head of the nations, rather than the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13).Note 2
Accordingly, the Apostle Paul saw no contradiction in preaching to Gentiles both God’s grace and the future kingdom. Far along in his ministry, he summarized his message in Ephesus as “testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). In his next sentence he summarized his message as “preaching the kingdom.” Indeed, it is good news that by God’s grace both Jews and Gentiles can participate in Messiah’s coming kingdom “for ever and ever” (Daniel 7:18, 27).
22I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.
14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole
world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will
6So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you
at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or
dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will
receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will
be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts;
and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So
it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by [Or with;
or in] One Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave
or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
11“I baptize you with [Or in] water for repentance. But after
me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals
I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit
and with fire.
27And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my
decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are
God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs
of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his
sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the
kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit [Or but spirit]
gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my
saying, ‘You [The Greek is plural] must be born again.’ 8The
wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you
cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it
is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
9“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, and do you not understand
15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant,
that those who are called may receive the promised eternal
inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free
from the sins committed under the first covenant.
6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not
of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but
the Spirit gives life.
18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory,
transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from
the Lord, who is the Spirit.
5For John baptized with [Or in] water, but in a few days you
will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
15"As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them
as he had come on us at
the beginning. 16Then I remembered what the Lord had said:
with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
17So if God gave
them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord
Jesus Christ, who
was I to think that I could oppose God?"
31Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the
Christ, [Or Messiah. Both mean “the Anointed One”] that he
was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.
10"And I will pour out on the house of David and the
Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look
on me, the one
they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns
for an only
child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn
1"On that day a fountain will be opened to the house
of David and the
inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.
26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27And this is [Or will be] my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses
that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will
certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
21"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter
the kingdom of
heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is
41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed
out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who
do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where
there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous
will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He
who has ears, let him hear.
27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory
with his angels, and then he will reward each person according
to what he has done.
28Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal
of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne,
you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels
with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you
who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom
prepared for you since the creation of the world.
13When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no
one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14saying,
“I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15And
so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
16Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath
confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17Because
God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very
clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with
an oath. 18God did this so that, by two unchangeable things
in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled
to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.
19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20where
Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has
become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later
receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he
did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home
in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country;
he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs
with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward
to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder
11By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah
herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because
he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12And
so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants
as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the
sand on the seashore.
13All these people were still living by faith when they died.
They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them
and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that
they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14People who say
such things show that they are looking for a country of their
own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had
left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead,
they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he
has prepared a city for them.
22But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem,
the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon
thousands of angels in joyful assembly.
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven
and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer
any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down
out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed
for her husband.
10And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great
and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down
out of heaven from God.
3No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and
of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve
him. 5There will be no more night. They will not need the
light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God
will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
24The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the
earth will bring their splendor into it.
26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into
2down the middle of the great street of the city. On each
side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops
of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of
the tree are for the healing of the nations.
13The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay
attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give
you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be
at the top, never at the bottom.
18But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom
and will possess it forever –
yes, for ever and ever.’
27Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms
under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints,
the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting
kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’