Sign of the Kingdom Coming
by Dan Juster, Director, Tikkun Ministries International
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John the Immerser sent representatives to Yeshua to ask Him whether or not He was the Messiah, and if He would really bring the promised Kingdom of the Age to Come. Yeshua's response was:
"Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (Matthew 11:4-6)
The Kingdom of God Has Broken into this Age
Yeshua was proclaiming Himself the promised Messiah and proclaiming the Kingdom of God had broken into this age. Yeshua saw the manifestations of power and the preaching of the Good News to the poor as signs of the Age to Come. Yet Yeshua also noted that a person might fall away on account of Him, or be offended. Why? Because He was not bringing the fullness of the Kingdom, not overthrowing the occupying foreign power (Rome) and not literally reestablishing David's throne in Jerusalem.
In light of Yeshua's signs and wonders, responsive hearts believe in the presence of the Kingdom and gladly accept the invitation to enter into it, despite other features that do not manifest until His second coming. The Kingdom comes in a state of progressive extension, spreading within a given society and among the nations (as the mustard seed grows and as the sower scatters seed).
The Kingdom Changes Life Circumstances
This understanding of the Kingdom has been applied to Matthew 5:17-40 and especially the section called the Beatitudes. This passage is not telling us we should be: poor, grieving and meek. Rather it is stating that because the Kingdom has come in the Person of Yeshua, the poor need no longer live lives determined by their poverty. Those mourning are no longer in bondage to grief and loss. There is a great reversal in the situations of people according to their response to the message of the Kingdom. "The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Good News" (Mark 1:15). When we attach ourselves to Yeshua, or allow Him to join Himself to us, we enter the realm of the Kingdom. In the Kingdom, everything in our lives is put in right order. Although eternal salvation is important, the Kingdom is much bigger than saying the sinner's prayer. The invitation to experience and enter the Kingdom starts now and affects every aspect of our lives today.
Preaching Good News to the Poor is the Cutting Edge of the Kingdom
An important aspect of the Kingdom of God is preaching Good News to the poor. It is not that others cannot be saved, though it is hard for the rich to enter into the Kingdom (at least until they see their poverty before God!). The poor are really delivered supernaturally and find power that is not limited by normal human situations. Heidi and Roland Baker chose to go to Mozambique to preach the good news to the poor and prove that God could provide in the most poverty stricken nation in the world (by their calculations). Their book, Always Enough, tells the wonderful story. Extraordinary signs and wonders, amazing healings, even resurrections from the dead have accompanied such preaching. We find a similar story in Canon Andrew White's book, the Vicar of Baghdad. There are amazing signs and wonders and provision in this very persecuted community and also much martyrdom. Yet the presence of God has been amazing. The scholar Dr. Craig Keener in his remarkable 1,200 page book, Miracles: the Credibility of the New Testament Accounts, explores several countries in the Majority World (formerly known as the Third World). He reports extraordinary, documented miracles that have accompanied the preaching of the Gospel to the poor in these countries, as in the Book of Acts. The key to this astounding Kingdom advance, is that those preaching to the poor believe in and walk in the power of God.
Has the Church Followed the Example of Yeshua?
The United States recently saw an explosion of tension between the police and the black community over the deaths of two unarmed men by police actions. Grand juries failed to find the policemen liable for trial. Yet the great problem of the poor is not the police; it is the culture of poverty, crime, divorce, and family breakdown. If all mid and large size churches in America had embraced the poor as their primary mission the present conditions of poverty would not exist. If they had preached the gospel to the poor with power and been involved massively in education and discipleship in these communities, partnering with smaller ethnic churches, these tensions and destructive divisions would not exist. The American church lacks power largely because Kingdom power is in manifestation in a most primary way when the Gospel is preached to the poor. I believe much of the Church has simply failed to follow Yeshua in this.
So much of Western Christianity is geared mainly toward helping Christians find personal peace and affluence through their faith. Yes, those who are not poor have their struggles and need attention and discipleship too. But I believe that if we focused on the poor, our power to address their needs would be much greater.
Communities that Emphasize the Poor
A few years ago at an international apostolic conference, a Christian sociologist stated that the credibility of Christianity would come down to providing solutions to systematic poverty. Rev. Tommy Barnett of the First Assembly of God Church in Phoenix spoke in Jerusalem on the great blessing of God upon his church as this became its top priority. Without this emphasis we are really missing the Kingdom. Today some young adults are moving to the cities and forming communities to make a difference through the Gospel. And they are succeeding.
By God's grace my wife Patty and I have been able to minister to some very needy Jewish people. In Israel, this is a great opportunity as over 20% of the population is in poverty. Several of our ministries emphasize serving the poor, but we need to do so much more, and we also need a greater outpouring of Holy Spirit power to meet the needs. Please pray that the same Kingdom Gospel will be effective in modern Israel just as it was in ancient Israel.
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