“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight (Mark 1:1-3 KNJV).’””
Before the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God sent a messenger, John the Baptist. His purpose was to prepare the hearts and minds of the Israelites for the coming of their King. But Jesus Christ would not be the King the Jews expected. The Israelites were expecting the Messiah, their King, to be an earthly king. A man sent from God who would break off from the oppressive yoke of the Roman Empire & restore the nation to the glory of the days of Solomon.
The evidence of this belief is found throughout the New Testament. In John chapter 6, after Jesus had miraculously fed the multitudes with five loaves of bread and two fish they believed He was the man the prophets had spoke of. Their reaction is found in verse 15: “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him King, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.” When Jesus was preparing to ascend in Acts 1:6 the apostles asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel.” After spending three years with Jesus the apostles believed He was going to lead the people in the restoration of the kingdom.
However, the message of John the Baptist was not about a physical kingdom, it was about a spiritual kingdom. It was a message of repentance, a changing of their ways. He declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand(Matthew 3:2).” His preaching was not about preparing for war or conflict. Instead, John instructed them to share their blessings; he instructed the tax collectors to only collect what was due; he instructed the soldiers to be honest and content (Luke 3:10-14). Even John’s lifestyle pointed to a spiritual kingdom. He wore a tunic of camel hair- far different than what Jews were used to seeing from their spiritual leaders.
Jesus’ preaching also followed the pattern of a spiritual kingdom. In His first recorded sermon, commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus proclaimed blessings upon those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:3-10). He told the multitude that the poor in spirit and those who were persecuted for righteousness sake would inherit the kingdom of heaven. He spoke of true righteousness- the righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.
Throughout His ministry Jesus was always pointing towards the spiritual kingdom. When He was arrested by the Jews and brought before Pilate He was accused of, “…perverting the nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King(Luke 23:2).” In John 18:36, Jesus answered Pilate’s questioning of these charges by telling Him, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” After the apostles asked the question in the above referenced Acts 1:6 Jesus responded by saying, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The apostles and the Jewish nation had been expecting, and were still expecting, the messiah to establish an earthly kingdom. In Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost their eyes were opened. The kingdom that Jesus established was not a nation with borders. It was a nation that would transcend borders, a nation that would last for eternity. No matter what kingdoms on this earth stand or fall the spiritual nation established by Jesus would remain.
The Jews had placed so much of their hope and faith into something they completely misunderstood. Jesus’ kingdom, in His own words, is not of this world. The Jews were looking for this worldly kingdom to be delivered by the Christ, as many continue to do today. But we can rejoice in the fact that the kingdom of heaven, the church, is already here and will last for eternity.