Part 4. The early Church. Lesson 1 of 7
Lesson 19. Kingdom of God
Through today’s lesson, we hope you will see that Christianity is a continuation of the movement that God began in the Old Testament.
- Peter’s message. Fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples in Jerusalem. Peter talked to a huge crowd of Jewish people, and told them what had happened to Jesus. Acts 2:36 says that Peter ended his message by saying that people had killed Jesus, but God made Jesus to be Lord and Christ. The people then asked what they should do, and Peter told them to do two things: to repent and receive baptism. Peter told them that they then would receive two benefits: forgiveness and the Holy Spirit . The message had a great effect, for on that day, according to Acts 2:39-41, 3000 people became believers in Jesus: The section below explains why the people were so moved when they heard Peter say the words “Lord” and “Christ.”
- Meaning of the word Christ. In order to understand “Christ,” start with Psalm 2:2, which ways that t.he powers of this world are in conflict with God and with God’s anointed one. In Israel, kings were anointed. For example, King David was anointed. Calling someone an “anointed one” means the same as calling him a “king.” The word “anointed one” in Hebrew language is “Messiah.” John 1:41 reminds us that Messiah means the same as the word Christ. God gave a special promise to King David, around the year 1000 BC. More details about the Messiah are in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, where God told David that his line of kings would never end. However, a few hundred years later the kingdom of Israel was destroyed. It seemed like God did not keep His promise. But the Jews believed the promise that David’s kingdom would never end. Therefore they believed that a king would appear who would re-establish the kingdom. When Peter said “Jesus is the Christ,” he meant that Jesus is the king who will re-establish the kingdom.
- God’s kingdom. In the Old Testament, God promised that one day evil will be destroyed and God will be the ruler of all. Daniel 7:26-27 talks about this kingdom, and says that it will last forever. When John the Baptist and Jesus began preaching, and both said, “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand,” they meant that this promise from Daniel and other places was about to be fulfilled.¹ The Old Testament taught that the kingdom will be brought by the Messiah, and the people of New Testament times knew this. When Jesus called himself “Son of Man,” he was claiming to be the “son of man” mentioned in Daniel 7:13-14, who was given the eternal kingdom.² Micah 5:2 said that the coming ruler, that is, the Messiah, will be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:4 adds that the Messiah will rule the entire world. and verse 5 says that the Messiah will bring us peace. We do not yet see the universal imposition of peace, because that will happen when Christ comes again at the last day, but we do participate in God’s kingdom already: for Colossians 1:13 says that God has rescued us and brought us into the kingdom of his Son. In Acts 1:6, the disciples show their faith that Jesus is the Messiah, because they believe He is able to restore the kingdom to Israel. In Luke 19:37-38 the people praised Jesus by saying “blessed is the king.” By saying this, the people showed their belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah who would bring the kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom means the rule of the Messiah, Jesus. At the end of the world, the kingdom will be made visible; for now, those who belong to Jesus are already part of the kingdom. God’s kingdom now is the quiet but powerful rule of the Holy Spirit within believers; at the last day, His rule will be open and will overwhelm all opposition. Below are other names for those who belong to God’s Kingdom:
- God’s family. In 1 John 3:1, those who believe are called God’s sons and daughters. In Colossians 1:18. Paul is writing about Jesus, and says that Jesus is the head of those who believe, and they are the body; this body is also called the church.
- God’s chosen people The apostles taught that this family of God, this church, was a continuation of God’s people who had been formed during the Old Testament. God’s people were often called the “chosen people.” Read 1 Peter 2:9. Peter was writing to those who believe in Jesus. Peter said that believers are the chosen tribe, priests of a king, a holy kingdom, and citizens who belong to God. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were God’s chosen people. In the New Testament, all who believe in Jesus are God’s chosen people.
- God’s covenant people. In addition, those who believe in Jesus are living under the covenant that God had first established with Abraham. According to the covenant promises in Genesis 17: verses 1, 2 and 7, God will “be God” to Abraham and his descendants. Abraham’s descendants are the Jews. The Jews who believed in Jesus became members of God’s kingdom. But the good news is that God’s kingdom is not limited to Jews. Galatians 3:26 to 28 says that because you belong to Christ, you are counted as a descendant of Abraham, and therefore you receive the covenant promise first made to Abraham: God will be God to you.
Summary: The Jews were waiting for a Messiah who would bring the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the Messiah, and those who believe in him are members of the Kingdom of God. The early believers regarded themselves as the continuation of the Old Testament people of God, and also regarded themselves as the ones who were receiving the Kingdom of God that had been promised to the Old Testament believers. One can say that both Judaism and Christianity are rooted in the Old Testament, and both included insights that arose in the final centuries, after the return from captivity in Babylon in 536 BC. This final period is called “Second Temple Judaism.” This period saw more details in beliefs of afterlife and angels. Acts 23:7 shows there was a difference among the Jews between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees accepted only the first five books of the Bible, while the Pharisees accepted all the books of the Old Testament, just as the Christians do. However, the Pharisees accepted the “oral law” (unwritten laws the Jews believe were given to Moses), while Jesus and the Christians did not. After the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple in 70 AD, the Sadducess disappear from history. The Pharisees remain, and develop into what we today call Judaism. The difference between Judaism and Christianity lies in the way to be saved. Paul wrote, “we are saved by faith, not by good works.” In the same century, a rabbi named Akiba ben Josef said that “doing good works is just as effective as animal sacrifices.” Other rabbis have said that “reading about the animal sacrifices can take the place of actually doing them.” It is the Christians who still maintain the Old Testament teaching that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins,” but it is the sacrifice of Jesus, not animals, that takes away our sins.
- Lord. In Revelation 19:16, the Messiah is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Lord was also a word used to indicate God. Jesus claimed to be God, because in John 10:33 some people wanted to kill Jesus because .he made this claim. Psalm 2:7 calls the Messiah “Son of God.” According to John 5:16 to 18, When Jesus said that God was his father, the people realized he was claiming to be equal with God.
- Died on cross. Another part of Peter’s message was the fact that Jesus had died on the cross. This also was full of meaning from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, lambs were killed to forgive sins. Isaiah lived about 700 years before Christ was born, but in chapter 53:3-7 he wrote that the messiah would die to take away sins. John 1:29 calls Jesus “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
- Resurrection. . Isaiah in chapter 53:10-12 writes that although the Messiah would die, yet he would prolong his days. This means the Messiah would rise from the dead. Romans 1:3-4. says that Jesus was shown to the the son of God by rising from the dead.
In Acts chapter two, Peter emphasized resurrection, because it proved that Jesus had told the truth when he claimed to be God. His death was not a failure but a victory: he “carried our sins in his body on the cross³” and we are given an eternal relationship with God. Jesus is the Messiah, who brings the kingdom of God. Those who received Peter’s message, accepted Jesus as God and Messiah, repented, and were baptized, and entered the kingdom of God.¹¹
10. Repent. Repenting is a way to show faith. Repenting shows you realize you are under God. Repenting shows that the Holy Spirit has worked in you so that now you realize that your sins are against him, and you realize that God is able and willing to forgive those sins.
11. Understanding repentance. To understand “repent” correctly, one must avoid two opposing errors. One error is to take it too lightly. The other is to confuse repenting with Christian growth. Some people who sin again after they have repented doubt that their repentance was genuine. Repenting can be genuine even if the person sins later, because Christian growth comes not only from repenting, but from the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.
We can avoid these two errors by looking at the meaning of “repent” in the original Greek language. There are two parts in the Greek word. The first part means “change,” and the second part means “mind.” True repentance means that you are telling God, “previously I tolerated my sin, but now I have changed my mind. I look at my sin the same way You do – I hate my sin, I am wrong, I take responsibility, I have no excuses, and I beg you to forgive me.”
12. The Christian Way of Life. Christians live in continuous forgiveness and keep repenting in order to be strengthened in that assurance and to receive strength to grow. Whenever God applies that forgiveness God always also renews the new life and the Spirit’s influence within.
13. Summary. The people of God are those who recognize that Jesus is Lord and Christ, and who show that they have become believers by repenting. These people receive the kingdom of God. Church history begins fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection, with the apostles and the three thousand people who entered the Kingdom of God on that day. The next lesson explains the concept of baptism.
Footnotes. 1) John says this in Matthew 3:3, and Jesus says this in Mark 1:15.
2) In Matthew 26:64, Jesus tells the Jewish council that they will see “the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.” By this he meant that he was the coming judge spoken of in Daniel.
3) 1 Peter 2:24 11) Paul in Romans 9 expresses sorrow about his Jewish countrymen (verse 1) because they have not obtained righteousness, because they not by faith but by works (verse 12). In Romans 1:16 he emphasizes that the Jews as well as non-Jews need to hear the gospel. During the past century a new idea has emerged, that the Jews should not be asked to believe in Jesus as their Messiah and Savior. The pope in December 2015 stated that Catholics should not evangelize Jews, stating that it is a mystery how Jews could have salvation without accepting Jesus. This information is from Christianity Today, March 2016, page 17 The same article reports that 50 rabbis said that Judaism and Christianity are partners with a mission to perfect the world under the sovereignty of God.An evangelical leader, Jim Melnick, disagreed with the Catholic position. He wrote, “While we applaud the Vatican’s efforts to combat anti-semitism and show love and honor to the Jewish people,” we reject that they have arrived at the opposite of what Paul wrote in Romans
11. Paul had written in Romans 11:20 that Jews were broken off because of unbelief, but in verse 23 says they can be grafted in again if they come to believe. That is why Paul tried to convince them that Jesus is the Messiah.