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Section 9B .. The Future

003white  Index to Section 9B... The Future         >       The Message of Jesus

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What Was the Core of Jesusí Message?
It wasnít love as so many believe

Carol Brooks
(
Based on a series of blogs by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts)

Also See   What and Where is Heaven?


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Table Of Contents

1: Introduction

2: What Was the Core of Jesus' Preaching?

3: What is the Kingdom of God?

4: Some of What Jesus Said About the Kingdom of God

5: Where is the Kingdom of God?

6: Misunderstandings Concerning The Location of The Kingdom

7: When is the Kingdom of God Coming?

8: Jesus Provided Evidence for the Dawning of the Kingdom.

9: Why Did Jesus' Message Lead to Him Being Executed?

10: The Three Stage Emergence of The Kingdom

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Part 1: Introduction
If you were to ask the average person (even the average Christian) what the core of Jesus' message was, there is no doubt 'love' would feature very strongly in their reply. Many (certainly most believers) know that Jesus said we should love God (Mark 12:30), love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) and even love our enemies without expecting anything in return (Luke 6:27-35).

There is no question that several of Jesus' messages talked about love and caring for one's fellow man. However, love was not the core of his proclamation.

Think about it for a moment - Although they might have heartily disagreed with Him, the Jewish authorities and religious leaders would not have been particularly bothered by a prophet who ran around telling people to love God and people. Jesus was certainly not a threat to the Roman - the obvious enemies of the time. They certainly would not have crucified someone who was telling the Jews not only to love them, but to turn the other cheek.

What He preached angered most of the religious leaders he encountered which means His messages were probably both subversive and threatening to the point that they determined to do away with Him once and for all (or so they thought).

So what did Jesus say and/or do to get Himself crucified?


Part 2: What Was the Core of Jesus' Preaching?
The Gospel of Mark summarized Jesus' ministry,

    Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15 NASB)

And this wasn't the only time the Savior spoke about the kingdom of God.

In fact, the Greek phrase "kingdom of God" (Basileia tou Theou) appears over 50 times in the New Testament gospels, almost always on the lips of Jesus. Although he did use "the kingdom of God" on four occasions (12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43), Matthew favored the synonymous phrase kingdom of heaven (Basileia ton Ourano) that appears over 30 times in his Gospel. See Footnote 1

Additionally, many of the Savior's parables were designed to tell us something about this kingdom: Jesus likened it to a mustard seed (more on this later), a treasure hidden in a field, an extremely valuable pearl, a dragnet cast into the sea, and a king who gave a banquet (Matthew 13:31-50; 22). He even defined His purpose in light of the kingdom.

    "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose." (Luke 4:43 NASB)

He also sent the disciples out to preach the Gospel or good news of the Kingdom.

    but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' (Matthew 10:6-7 NASB)

    And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. (Luke 9:2 NASB)

    But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. (Acts 8:12 NASB)

Given the fact that the Kingdom of God was so central to Jesus' message, one would think that we would want give it the importance that Jesus did. this means learning everything we can about it, including what and where this kingdom is, when and how it will make its appearance, and what life will be like for those who will live in it. 


Part 3: What is the Kingdom of God?
As said by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts in his original blog posts.

    The kingdom of God has been equated with all sorts of things in the last two millennia. Some have claimed that it is heaven, and that Jesus was saying, in so many words, "Now you can go to heaven when you die." Others have understood "the kingdom of God" as referring to the Church. From their perspective, Jesus announced the beginning of the age of the Church. Still others have seen the kingdom of God as a world infused by divine justice. They have taken Jesus' announcement as a call to social action. In recent times, New Agers have reduced the kingdom of God to inner awareness of one's divinity. Like the ancient Gnostics, they understand the good news of the kingdom to mean "You are divine."

    None of these renditions of the kingdom of God hits a historical home run, although the first three are in the ballpark, at least. But all of them fail to take seriously both what Jesus actually says about the kingdom of God, and what his fellow Jews, especially the Old Testament prophets, had been saying about the kingdom for centuries. [01]

Much of the problem can be laid at the feet of the fact that, in English, "kingdom" means a factual place ruled by a king. For example, King Abdullah rules over a physical location - the Kingdom of Jordan. However, although the word basileia (in Basileia tou Theou) could sometimes refer to a area over which a king ruled, its primary meaning in the first-century was "reign, rule, authority, or sovereignty." This is illustrated by Jesus' parable of the nobleman who

    "... went to a distant country to receive a kingdom (Gk. basileia) for himself, and then return.  (Luke 19:12 NASB)

The fact that he returned to the same place he was before means that the nobleman didn't go to get a new physical area over which to rule to get the authority to rule. 

Thus when Jesus spoke about the kingdom, He was not referring to a geographical location, but speaking in terms of the authority of the king. And when He proclaimed that the kingdom of God was at hand (close), he didn't mean that a gigantic physical kingdom is approaching and will soon have the air force scrambling its fighters, but that God's reign is at hand.

This should not have come as any surprise to His audience - Jesus was simply announcing the fulfillment of the kingdom of God that most of the ancient Hebrew prophets never stopped speaking about.


Part 4: Some of What Jesus Said About the Kingdom of God
Many if not most of the Jews expected the kingdom or reign of God to appear in all its glory or through military victories. However, Jesus' statements diametrically opposed this idea. He told them that God's kingdom would start out in a very small way, but would grow to become enormous. He compared it to the tiny mustard seed - 

    "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade" (Mark 4:30-32).

Note: Although quite large, the mustard tree is not the biggest tree in modern Israel. This however, does not tell us anything about the variety or size of trees in Jesus' time. In any case, the point Jesus was making was like the mustard seed, the kingdom of God would start out very small but grow to provide shelter to all who sought it.

This parable makes exactly the same point that God did when He spoke through the prophet Ezekiel,

    Thus says the Lord God, "I will also take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I will pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and I will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. "On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches. (Ezekiel 17:22-23 NASB)

The Savior also informed us that we can only enter the kingdom with a childlike (not childish) faith

    But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all." (Mark 10:14-15 NASB)


Part 5: Where is the Kingdom of God?
Most Christians are taught (and continue to believe) that they will "go to Heaven" after they die. Yet, the words "the kingdom of God is at hand" do not suggest it was somewhere we would go after death. Much to the contrary it implies that the kingdom itself is coming near.

The Lord's Prayer: If we were to pay close attention, we would realize that that the words "Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10) means that we are praying that God's reign (His kingdom) will happen on earth as it is right now in His heaven. 

See What And Where is Heaven?
Although Christians believe they will spend all eternity in heaven,  they seem to have little or no idea where this heaven is, what it will look like, or what they will do once they get there. Either they have vague, half formed ideas about some ethereal place 'out there' or resort to pious phrases that amount to little more than spiritual gobbledygook. If this is the best we can do then it is little wonder that non Christians are not in the slightest bit interested in our "heaven", and Christians themselves so rarely seem to look forward to the coming of the kingdom of God. Luckily the Bible isn't at all silent on where "heaven" is and, even more importantly, what it will be like. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far, far, more practical than that of our theologians.

And definitely take the time to read what the Hebrew prophets had to say about the kingdom.

The Earthly Kingdom of God in Prophecy
The promise of the kingdom was a major source of hope for the Jews and, consequently, never very far from Jewish thought. While it is true that there were differences of belief as to how the reign of God would come back to the earth, the one common factor between all the possible scenarios was the expulsion of the gentiles who ruled over Judea. But, in no case was the kingdom expected to be anything but an earthly one, which belief stemmed from the fact that God promised to give Abraham an entire country for an everlasting possessionSee The Location and Nature of Heaven - Part II of What And Where is Heaven? 

It is fair to say that the Jews were anticipating someone who would lead the way in throwing off the yoke of the foreign oppressor and freeing for all time their beloved land and holy city - thus fulfilling God's promise to Abraham. The Hebrew prophets of old also consistently and recurrently spoke of a time when a descendant of David - the Messiah or Lord's anointed, would rule as king from Jerusalem. In fact, the idea of a restored and peaceful land inherited by the righteous, is a recurring theme in Isaiah's prophecies..

However, a plain reading of the words of many of these men of God, makes it impossible to deny that they looked ahead to an undetermined time in the future when God would return to establish a literal, earthly kingdom. Here are a few of the many examples,

Zechariah: This prophet Zechariah reiterated that the Lord would return and again choose Jerusalem and Judah, where His house would be built.

    'Therefore thus says the Lord, "I will return to Jerusalem with compassion; My house will be built in it," declares the Lord of hosts, "and a measuring line will be stretched over Jerusalem." "Again, proclaim, saying, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, "My cities will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem." (Zechariah 1:16-17 NASB)

    "The Lord will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. (Zechariah 2:12 NASB)

Zephaniah: who prophesied in the latter half of the seventh century B.C. said that at an appointed time and as "king of Israel" the Lord would give victory to his people, deal with their oppressors, gather their lame and outcasts, and restore their fortunes.

    Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more. In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: "Do not be afraid, O Zion; Do not let your hands fall limp. "The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. "I will gather those who grieve about the appointed feasts - They came from you, O Zion; The reproach of exile is a burden on them. "Behold, I am going to deal at that time With all your oppressors, I will save the lame And gather the outcast, And I will turn their shame into praise and renown In all the earth. "At that time I will bring you in, Even at the time when I gather you together; Indeed, I will give you renown and praise Among all the peoples of the earth, When I restore your fortunes before your eyes," Says the Lord. (Zephaniah 3:14-20 NASB)

Isaiah: had the most to say about this coming kingdom, which will have Jerusalem as its capital. Note that verse 1 specifically saying that this was a prophecy concerning "Judah and Jerusalem".

    The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. [2] Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. [3] And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. [4] And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. (Isaiah 2:1-4)

Daniel: Perhaps Daniel's prophecies are the clearest of all especially when he was given the ability to interpret king Nebuchadnezzar's dream of four great kingdoms or empires would, in succession, dominate history. They would all be crushed by a stone was cut out without hands then became a great mountain that filled the whole earth.

And there were plenty more - See Location and Nature of Heaven - The Prophecies.  

In Summary, all the prophets looked forward to an undetermined time in the future when God would return to His earth to rule over his people. Centuries later, although it had the same ultimate goal, Jesus presented an entirely different angle from what the Jews expected. He told the people that God's reign had already begun on earth and they needed to repent and believe the good news of the Gospel. The prophecies made by those men of old would without a doubt be fulfilled, but would be fulfilled in a very unexpected way -


Part 6: Misunderstandings Concerning The Location of The Kingdom
Traditional teachings (however erroneous) are so entrenched in our belief system that even the prophet's very clear pronouncements on the location of heaven fail to convince many people. After all, didn't Jesus make statements to the contrary? 

The Kingdom Of God Is Within You.
Believers will often cite Jesus' reply to the Pharisees who asked Him when the kingdom of God would come

    And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21 KJV)

I have quoted the KJV version of the verse because it ties in with what people, including some New Agers, believe - the kingdom of God is a subjective experience. However, if we were to think about it for a moment, it is absolutely impossible that Jesus would have been telling the Pharisees that the kingdom of God was within them. These religious leaders were Jesus' sworn enemies and didn't believe a word He said. In fact they were constantly looking for ways to bring Him down. Jesus Himself called them robbers and self indulgent hypocrites - full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness (Matthew 23:25-27).

In His answer Jesus used the Greek entos hymon - ie. "the kingdom of God is entos hymon". The phrase does not necessarily mean in ones heart, but can also mean in ones midst. In other words, Jesus was telling these religious leaders that the kingdom was already in their midst. If they had just opened their eyes they would have known that the kingdom has begun on earth in a most unexpected  way - with His ministry

My Kingdom Is Not Of This World
When Pilate asked Jesus what He had done, Jesus answered was

    "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 18:36 NASB)

Some contend that Jesus meant that His kingdom was not here on earth, but up in heaven.  However, this is not the case. Using the word basileia (which usually means reign or rule), Jesus added that this kingdom was ek tou kosmou. The Greek word ek can be taken several ways including indicating origin - the point from which action or motion proceeds. In view of all the other evidence that points to an earthly kingdom, it is more than likely that Jesus was telling Pilate that His 'reign was not from this world'.

He then went on to say " My kingdom is not of this realm". Once again the original Greek has to be taken into consideration. It reads ouk estin enteuthen or "My my reign is not from here."

He was not speaking of the location of the kingdom but the source of His authority.


Part 7: When is the Kingdom of God Coming?
Jesus proclaimed that the reign of God was coming to earth, but when was it supposed to arrive? Most people, including most believers, assume that when Jesus used the phrase "the kingdom of God." (Greek... he basileia tou theou), He was strictly referring to the age to come or, in other words, the Heaven that Christians anticipate.

Future
It is true that the Savior often referred to the kingdom in the future tense and said it was at hand (imminent or close in time). For example

    but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' (Matthew 10:6-7 NASB)

    Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15 NASB)

    But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: (Matthew 25:31)

    "I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:11-12 NASB)

    "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."  (Matthew 26:29 NASB)

All of which makes it sound like the kingdom of God was something that would come about only at some future date... that it was strictly an end time message.

Present
However, what complicates the issue is that Jesus also spoke of the presence of the kingdom being already present. When some of the Pharisees accused Him of casting out demons through Beelzebul the ruler of the demons, Jesus asked them how Satan's kingdom could stand if "he is divided against himself" (Matthew 12:25-26). He then added,

    "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  (Vs. 12:28)

And when the Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21 KJV) Note: Jesus was not telling the Pharisees that the kingdom was in their hearts, but that it was in their midst. Details in Part 7 above.

Future and Present
And if that wasn't complicated enough, Jesus also indicated that the kingdom has both present and future dimensions. Take this parable for example:

    And He said, "How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it? "It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade." (Mark 4:30-32 NASB)

Could it be that Jesus simply contradicted Himself or is there some things about Hebrew prophecy that we do not understand? The idea of one prophecy.. one fulfillment is a Western idea, not a Jewish one. In the Bible a type is a prefigurative symbol - a rough draft or glimpse of one or more actual events yet to come (although the significance may not have been apparent at the original occurrence). In other words, a type was one or more event or person that foreshadowed, pointed to, and culminated in one final and very important event (or person) called the antitype. They were living prophecies. See Prophecy and Typology.

In line with this, the prophecies concerning the future kingdom were never intended to be fulfilled at one time. Much to the contrary, the kingdom of God arrives on earth in three stages.

    Stage One: When Jesus reiterated the message preached by John The Baptist, proclaiming that the kingdom was "at hand" (Matthew 3:2 and 4:17), He was simply saying that the initial stages of the kingdom had come... Its King had entered the world, verifying who He was by miraculous deeds. 

    Stage Two: However there is no kingdom, earthly or otherwise, without subjects, so Jesus then proceeded to make disciples, thus establishing His reign in the earthly realm. Shortly after Jesus physically left earth, His kingdom, which until that point had consisted of a handful of discouraged followers, took a gigantic step forward at Pentecost. It literally exploded onto public consciousness with the arrival of the Holy Spirit, causing a rapid multiplication of Jewish disciples.

    Stage Three: However, God's kingdom (in every sense of the word) will only be fully realized when Jesus physically returns to earth and takes it over, destroying His enemies and ruling from Jerusalem. This final consummation, or fulfillment, of the kingdom of God on earth, has always been the ultimate goal. See The Kingdom... When?

In summary the kingdom of God is "already and not yet". The following analogy should adequately demonstrates this concept.

A woman who is several months pregnant has heard the baby's heart beat and felt it kicking and moving around. She has prepared a nursery for the baby and chosen a name. In other words, she is already, but not yet a mother. There is one more step required in order to complete the process - She has to give birth.

Note: It is a tragedy of immense proportions that so many Christians seem to rely on pop fiction to tell them what is going to happen and when. See Footnote 2 on The Late Great Planet Earth and the Left Behind series.


Part 8: Jesus Provided Evidence for the Dawning of the Kingdom.
Jesus was echoing what the ancient prophets had already foreseen, but without any evidence to substantiate what He was saying He would quite probably been dismissed as nut job, or an out and out charlatan who was familiar with the Old Testament. However, there was plenty of evidence that the kingdom had already began to make its presence known. The various miracles wrought by our Lord proved what He was preaching. For example,

    Healing: During His time on earth, Jesus healed people of various diseases. While that alone made Him immensely popular and provided great relief to the healed, it was not an end in itself. Those familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures would at some point have realized that the healings were a sign of God's presence and reign on earth.

    Take for example, some of what Isaiah said in chapter 35. The overall message was that the enemies of the people of God would be destroyed but His people would live in security and prosperity. In this regard, the prophet specifically mentioned that the eyes of the blind would be opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped, the the lame would leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute would shout for joy. (Vs. 5-6).

    As Matthew 21:14 says - And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

    When John the Baptist sent word from prison asking whether Jesus was "the expected One", Our Lord's reply was "Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. The message that Jesus was conveying and John would have understood was that the healings promised in Isaiah were happening in His ministry showing that He was indeed the One who was ushering in the kingdom.

 Also See Is Physical Healing Included In The Atonement

    Exorcisms. For most of us in the 21st century our only exposure to exorcisms comes in the shape of 'horror movies' like The Exorcist. However, although demon possession is perhaps more widespread than we are aware of - it was certainly a fact of life in the 1st century. Jesus cast demons out of a few people (that's only the ones we know of). When some of the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons through Beelzebul the ruler of the demons, He asked them how Satan's kingdom could stand if "he is divided against himself" (Matthew 12:25-26). He then added, "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Vs. 12:28).

    Miracles Associated with The Natural World. In Psalm 89, the Lord says He has made a covenant with His chosen and sworn to David His servant that He would establish his seed forever and build up his throne to all generations. (Vs. 3). Then a mere four verses later the Psalm speaks of God's power over the waters - "You rule the swelling of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them". (Vs. 9). The Gospels tell us that Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:25-33) and stilled a storm that frightened His disciples - He rebuked the winds and the sea that then became perfectly calm (Matthew 8:24-26).

    In his blog, Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts  points out that many people have trouble believing that Jesus performed actual miracles. They are inclined to the theory that these miracles are not historical facts but symbolic legends. However, what has not been taken into consideration is that were one to take away the actual healings, exorcisms etc. "you are left with a Jesus whom most people would have ignored. Take away these works and there's no reason to believe his words". [01]

    Symbolic Gestures. In any case, like the Hebrew prophets who often used symbolism to get God's point across, Jesus was not exactly short on symbolic gestures, many of which were looked down on by the religious leadership. For example, He ate with social and religious outcasts (tax collectors and sinners) as a sign of the inclusiveness of God's reign. This would have been anathema to the Pharisees who looked down on these people as the lowest of the low.  However, it is to be noted that Jesus' inclusiveness was not the "Come as you are and stay as you are" variety. Instead it was more like "Come as you are, but be healed and transformed." See The Inclusiveness of Jesus.

In Jesus' time God's temple had been desecrated by a group of men who changed the currency used by pilgrims into shekels for payment of the annual tribute. Because people found it difficult to transport birds from distant parts of Judea they also sold doves to be offered in sacrifice (Leviticus 14:22; Luke 2:24). However, what should have been nothing but a convenience offered the temple goer soon became a profitable business.


Part 9: Why Jesus' Message Led to Him Being Executed
In order to understand this, we have to pay attention to a watershed event that took place in Jerusalem during the last week of Jesus' life. This event was what is popularly known as 'the cleansing of the Temple' which immediately followed Jesus' rather triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

We do not know what the large crowd waving palm branches and shouting "Hosanna! "Hosanna! blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel." (John 12:13) were expecting Jesus to do next. However, what Jesus did when He entered the Temple was not only unforeseen but stirred up a hornet's nest. Mark wrote

    Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves; and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple. And He began to teach and say to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a robbers' den." (Mark 11:15-17 NASB)

The phrase, "den of robbers," comes from the prophecy made by Jeremiah in chapter 7, verses 11-13, when God accused the Israelites of stealing, murdering, committing adultery, swearing falsely and offering sacrifices to Baal and other gods. They then came and stood before Him in His Temple and claimed to be delivered (Jeremiah 7:9-10) apparently believing that the Temple afforded protection. However, as Jeremiah warned, because of the iniquity of the priests and the people, God did not spare even Shiloh, though His ark was there. Instead He allowed His tabernacle and ark to be desecrated at the hands of the Philistines.

By using this passage, Jesus not only inferred that the temple authorities were dishonest thieves, but also that as part of His judgment He would destroy it was well. As said by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts

    Jesus was not the only Jew in his day to criticize the Temple. Many of the common folk despised its heavy taxation and financial corruptness, while the Essenes from Qumran wrote it off completely as spiritually bankrupt. But Jesus action in the temple, combined with his citation of Jeremiah, was a frontal assault on the central institution of Judaism in his day. Moreover, he explicitly undermined the authority of the entrenched temple hierarchy. It's no wonder that "the chief priests and the scribes," when they heard what Jesus had done, "kept looking for a way to kill him" (Mark 11:18). A prophetic rabble rouser in Galilee could be ignored; one who defamed the temple itself needed to be dispatched quickly. [01]


Part 10: The Three Stage Emergence of The Kingdom
Among the Jews, there were quite a wide variety of beliefs concerning how the kingdom would come about.

    Some Jews believed that the kingdom would come through a rebellion against Rome. The Zealots and others with a revolutionary bent continually plotted ways to undermine and ultimately depose the Romans.

    Others rejected this approach, preferring instead to wait for God's dramatic intervention. The Essenes at Qumran had grand visions of an apocalyptic war between the sons of light and the sons of darkness, in which God would finally vindicate his people and restore both his temple and his kingdom. They were disinclined to look for human agents who might bring the God's kingdom, probably because their experience of Hasmonean (Maccabean/Jewish) rule of Judea had been such a negative one.

    In many of the Jewish kingdom scenarios, God would act through a human being who would execute divine justice and restore divine rule over Israel. Only a few Jewish texts refer to this human as the Son of Man (literally in Hebrew/Aramaic, "the human being"). More commonly, however, the human agent of the kingdom was called "the anointed one" (in Hebrew, mashiach or "messiah"). There wasn't one established set of expectations for the messiah, however. The Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, actually speak of multiple messiahs, including a priestly messiah and a royal messiah. 

    Common to every Jewish scenario of the coming to the kingdom was the expulsion of the gentiles who ruled over Judea. In Jesus' day, of course, the Romans were the hated overlords whom, it was hoped, would someday be vanquished by the Lord and his anointed leader. [01]

(In the end, the Zealot-option prevailed as the Jews waged war against Rome in A.D. 66-70. Sadly, this only led to the destruction of the temple and the desolation of the Jewish people and their society.)

See Messianic Expectations in 1st Century Judaism
The popular notion that either: The 1st century Jew HAD NO expectation of a Messiah-figure; or The 1st century Jewish expectation was of a purely natural, human-only, regular political leader. Both of these positions are COMPLETELY mistaken in the light of the 'HARD' data we have.

It is likely that many of Jesus' followers expected Him to raise up an army to wage war against the Romans. He did not. Much to the contrary, He healed the servant of a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), praising this leader in the oppressor's army as a paragon of faith (v. 10). He stayed at Zaccheus' home although Zaccheus was a Jewish tax collector who was obviously working for the Romans (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus  even appeared to support paying taxes to Rome (Matthew 22:15-22).

But, far more confusing than this was what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. God will bless those who are meek, merciful, peaceful, and persecuted, not those who use human strength to fight against Rome (Matt 5:3-10). Moreover, Jesus taught that one should "not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile" (Matt 5:39-41). More troubling still, Jesus called his fellow Jewish to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them (Matt 5:44).

In context, there could be no question in the mind of Jesus' audience to whom he was referring in all of this: the Romans. Don't fight against the Romans, he said, but love and pray for them. Can you imagine how controversial this must have been? Here was Jesus, proclaiming the kingdom of God, doing miraculous works to prove that God's reign had arrived, and yet opposing what most of his peers believed to be an essential element of the kingdom's coming Ė the expulsion of Rome and the punishment of all who had oppressed Israel.

For us this can seem very theoretical, far removed from real human experience and emotion. But suppose Jesus appeared on the scene right now in Israel. Suppose he went around telling Israeli fathers whose children had been killed in suicide bombings that they should turn the other cheek and love their enemies, and that this was somehow the way to peace. When we put matters in these terms, it's easier to understand not only why so many people were confused by Jesus, but also why many were so angry at him. [01]

A Man of Sorrows
Jesus' message that the kingdom of God would come not through the might of an army, but through weakness, not through hatred but through sacrificial love, must have mystified and angered many of those who knew Him AND either overlooked, ignored, or didn't understand Isaiah's prophecy,

    For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  (3)  He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  (4)  Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.  (5)  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.  (6)  All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.  (7)  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.  (8)  By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?  (9)  His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.  (10)  But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. (Isaiah 53:2-10 NASB)

 Even Peter was unwilling to accept that Jesus would "suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed", even rebuking our Lord for saying so. I wonder if he heard the next part where Jesus said  'after three days He would rise again. (Mark 8:31)

The Cup of Wrath
The tenth chapter of Mark records James and John's request that they be the ones to sit at Jesus side when He came into His kingdom. The disciples seemed to miss the point when in answer Jesus told the two men that they did not know what they were saying and asked them whether they were able to drink the cup that He drank. In Scripture the word cup is often used symbolically. What it contains depends on the situation. Many passages use it as something that holds God's wrath which was, or will be, poured out on transgressors. Note: "God wrath" is not His anger as we know it but His judgment on in. See The Wrath of God. Drinking the cup is equivalent to being on the receiving end of the Father righteous judgment.

    Upon the wicked He will rain snares; Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup. (Psalms 11:6 NASB)

    For a cup is in the hand of the Lord, and the wine foams; It is well mixed, and He pours out of this; Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs. (Psalms 75:8 NASB)

    Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, You who have drunk from the Lord'S hand the cup of His anger; The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs. (Isaiah 51:17 NASB)

    For thus the Lord, the God of Israel, says to me, "Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it.  (Jeremiah 25:15 NASB)

    And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." (Mark 14:36 NASB)

    The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, (Revelation 17:4 NASB)

 However, note that the 'cup' has also been used positively (Psalms 116:13 and 23:5 for example)

Jesus was emphasizing to His disciples that His way to greatness was not the same as the world's way. He also, for the first time clearly stated that He came to "give His life a ransom for many."

    Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. "But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45 NASB)

As stated by Rev. Roberts - 

    In Jewish speculation, the Son of Man would come to execute God's judgment upon the wicked gentiles. But Jesus redefines this mission. Now he will take God's judgment upon himself. He will drink deeply of the cup of divine wrath (though not because he deserves it), even dying so that others may live. In Mark 10 we find, not only Jesus' second prediction of his imminent death, but also the beginning of a rationale for this seemingly paradoxical fate. Jesus will be killed, not only because of opposition from Jewish and Roman leaders in Jerusalem, but also, on a deeper level, because he is going to drink the cup of divine wrath....

    He is going to bear the sin of Israel, indeed, as we learn later on, the sin of the world. This is his unique and unexpected calling as Messiah and Son of Man. When human sin has been righteously judged, when Jesus has borne the penalty in his own person, then and only then will God's kingdom be able to come on earth. [01]

Only then will the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ who shall reign forever and ever.


Footnote I
The "Kingdom of God" and The "Kingdom of Heaven" Are The Same Place
There are those that believe that "kingdom of God" and the term "kingdom of Heaven" refer to different things, or time periods. That this is not true is readily seen from the fact that the words are used interchangeably in parallel accounts. For example... 

    I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; (Matthew 8:11 NASB)
    And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:29 NASB)

    Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 3:2 NASB)
    and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15 NASB)

    He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." (Matthew 13:33 NASB)
    And again He said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? "It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." (Luke 13:20-21 NASB) (Also See Matthew 13:31-32 and Mark 4:30-31)

Jesus also used both terms in two consecutive verses, one a repetition of the other

    And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:23-24 NASB)

It is possible that because the Jews held the name of God in the highest respect (they didnít even write the word God, instead they wrote G-D.) Matthew, whose Gospel was directed at the Jews, would have refrained from using the word "God" too often. In fact he only used "kingdom of God" when warning or rebuking his fellow Jews. [PLACE IN TEXT]


Footnote II

The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey was an extremely popular book among Christians, selling some 35,000,000 copies worldwide and is still available on Amaon. It's revolved around the premise that God's kingdom was coming in the future which, according to world events including the rebirth of Israel. the advances in technology, and an increase in natural catastrophes, was a lot sooner than most people had anticipated. Then in the mid 90s Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins published Left Behind, a fictionalized account of the Rapture and the Tribulation - a book that became so popular that it led to a total of 12 volumes. Sadly many believe that these works of imagination actually indicate what is going to happen in the future.

Note: It is extremely sad that people rely on pop fiction to tell them what is going to happen in the future, when the Bible not only does that, but does so with 110% accuracy. And, while the Scriptures unmistakably tell us there will be a rapture Tribulation, there isn't a single verse in Scripture that states that it will happen before the Tribulation. All the Scriptural passages used by Pre-Tribulationists to "prove" their case do not positively state that there will be a rapture before the tribulation.. the doctrine has to be inferred. Quite simply, Pre-Tribulationism is not "an explicit teaching of Scripture, in fact much to the contrary, there are verses that unambiguously state the rapture occurs after the Tribulation. See The Rapture [PLACE IN TEXT]
 

End Notes
[01[ Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts. What Was The Message of Jesus?
https://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/what-was-the-message-of-jesus/

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