Welcome back friend.
This is part 2 of 3 in clarifying, for both Christians and Non, what Christianity is really about. In Part 1, I mentioned that I am a person who studies the core of people and concepts rather than surface level projections, and as such I went on to make the case that Christianity at its foundation is not a religion or value system but a Person: Jesus the Christ, born of Mary and Joseph in Israel 2000-ish years ago. Meaning, everytime you hear the word “Christianity” equate that to and think of “Jesus”, not church, angels, sin, Pope, Bible, etc. I’ll go ahead again and repeat that anyone who tells you otherwise misses the point and is not fit to teach what they themselves do not see or hear.
Now that we have clarified who God is, let us move on to the next part and discuss what His message is: the Gospel of the Kingdom. If you have not read Part 1 yet, this section will not make sense nor carry the full intended weight of its significance, so I encourage you to go finish that first. If you have read it, then onward we go!
The Reason For It All
Let’s go back to the beginning of creation as we know it written in the Jewish Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Bible for a moment.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. – Genesis 1:1-3
We’re not going to get into an Intellectual Design vs. Creationism vs. Evolution debate here, so we’ll move past that. In lay man’s terms, there was nothing except God (a Spirit) in the beginning and then there was everything that we now know to exist to the capacity of our human brains and reach of science. Instead of arguing the details of what, where, when, and how, I would say the foundational question to address first is: why? Why was it nessary to have galaxies, stars, earth; the deep blue sea and the high clear skies; the middle deserts, jungles, glaciers, mountains and open land; the animals the roam it all; and then us: humans. Why?
The answer is actually quite simple. So simple in fact that most people, in attempts to be intellectual regarding such mysterious topics, will dismiss. You need look no further than your sketchpad, your journal, your canvas, your instruments; your friends, family, and children.
“Wait what? Come on now, don’t give me this hippie crap.”
It’s not hippie crap. It’s the truth. Think about it, can love exist unexpressed? Is that possible? On the contrary, love necessitates expression. It’s why you draw, write, paint, sing and play. It’s why you spend time, the one thing that we can not obtain more of, with certain other homo sapiens whom you have for whatever reason considered close to you. Whether for pleasure, leisure, or survival, love compels action or expression. So what does a God of both all things and nothingness do? He creates. He speaks, and creation comes forth. It is why He is also referred to as “Breath” or “the Word”, because just as our words have power to set things in motion, the unphysical and formless God only had to vibrate (or move) the space around Him to cause light, sound, and matter to exist.
God is love (1 John 4:16).
The Enemy of Love
To the extent of our knowledge, everything that has a beginning has an end. Life is a cycle, hunger and thirst are a cycle, financial markets are a cycle, kingdoms are a cycle, etc. Was it always this way? While not expressly stated, it can be surmised from the Bible that indeed it was not always this way.
After God, who is love, created man (A-dam) and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it, He commanded Adam, as a father gives guidance to his son, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Gen 2:15-17). From this, one could argue that a cycle of life (beginning) and death (ending) would not be put into motion (exist) unless Adam broke God’s commandment (ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).
“Well that was dumb. Why would God even create or allow that option if He knew full well the consequences of such a prospect?”
Does love involve trust? Does pure unconditional love give everything that it has? Can you ever give what you don’t have? Can you give or ask for trust (faith) if you yourself don’t have it?
So after God gives Adam His commandment, He goes on to love his son by realizing that just as it was not good for Him to be alone (hence His creations which He called good), “it is not good for man [Adam] to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Gen 2:18). That helper was woman, or Eve, named suitably as “the mother of the living.”
Side note: the Hebrew word for helper here is ezer, which appears in the Old Testament 21 times. Besides two here in Genesis, and three other miscellaneous times, the other 16 times ezer refers to “the Lord God.” That should speak volumes to the value of woman: the last, and therefore the first, crown-jewel of creation. God sees women as different, not substandard, to men, lest He see Himself as substandard to men as well.
To get to the point here, Adam and Eve live in a paradise created by God on earth just for them. You could call it the Kingdom of Heaven, a place where the Lord God (love) reigned with His two children. This kingdom would have continued on forever and ever, with no cycle of life and death or light and darkness, had it not been for one thing that caused separation: disobedience, or what we refer to as sin.
Sin (disobedience), or a lack of faith and trust, is the enemy of love. It separates, and it kills.
The Curse of Sin
For those who know the story, the two children are deceived by the craftiest of all animals, the serpent, to disobey God and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The basis and supporting argument of that deception?
That God lied.
Essentially: “No woman! God said you would die but you surely will not die. In fact, you will actually be like God if you eat from that tree.” This was a lie from the deceiver himself, because man and woman were already like God in that they were eternal and were made in his image (Gen 1:26-28). Nonetheless, Eve thought the tree to be good for food (body), delighted in its sight (soul), and desired it’s wisdom (spirit); and so she ate from it. She then had Adam eat from it too, and they both realized that they were naked (Gen 3:1-7).
God, the omniscient all knowing Lord, shortly afterward came walking in the garden (meaning, he had legs like a human) and said to man “Where are you?” They were hidden, lost, and ashamed. When God finds out what happened, what was His response? This is important, because He responds both as a Righteous King and as a Disciplining Father.
- He curses the deceiver: the snake. He brings him down to the ground, and then goes as far as to say that his head will be crushed by the seed of woman, yet the seed would also be bruised. Do you remember from Part 1 who we said the seed was?
- To the woman, who is mother of the living, God informed her that she will suffer pain in bringing forth life (children) into the world, and yet she will desire her husband (man) who will impregnant her with such life and therefore bring more pain, and he will rule over her.
- And to man, who God now declared ruler over the mother of the living, he was informed that because he listened to himself (woman, his rib) instead of his creator (God), the ground which he was given and from which he came forth is now cursed. He will work hard for little, he will sweat and be tired just to eat and survive, only to return to the dust as he once was.
Bummer (Gen 3:1-19).
A part of this story that is often omitted by people discussing it is the shadow of redemption of creation by its creator, right from the start.
After declaring the consequences of disobedience and lack of faith (sin), God saw the danger in allowing his children, who now have knowledge of good and evil, to stay in the garden (Kingdom of Heaven) and eat from the tree of life. If they stayed and ate from the tree, they would be sustained to live on forever as cursed people. No, the Father could not bear to see his children be cursed for eternity; the King could not bear to be at odds with his former heirs. He had to redeem them as faithful somehow, or else they would never enter His Righteous Kingdom again and enjoy fellowship.
As such, the King exiled his traitors out of his presence and sent them away into their own kingdom of independence. Before doing this, however, the Father showed his tender love by first sewing garments of skin to clothe his children so they would no longer feel ashamed. As he does this, no doubt he remembers his heartbrokenness and anger when his child first uttered the words “I was afraid. I was afraid when I heard the sound of you in the garden, because I was naked.” And now, some time later, God is having to kill an animal in order to make skin to clothe his children (Gen 3:10, and 21-24).
A sacrificed lamb, perhaps?
The Dominion of Sin
Adam and Eve bear children, two of which are Abel and Cain as brothers. To our knowledge, there is no written law or government at this time. And even though God has driven out man and woman, He remains close enough in Spirit to speak with them. Abel is a keeper of flocks, while Cain is a tiller of the ground, the same ground that was cursed because of his father. Both bring offerings to the Lord based on their works, but the Lord only regards Abel’s offering of the first of his flock and not Cain’s offering from the cursed ground.
Cain is furious about this, and even though he is both encouraged about his work and warned about crouching sin by God, Cain rises up against his brother Abel and kills him.
You should take note that humanity has not grown past more than a few humans, and yet sin is already actively claiming its dominion.
Sin overcame Cain and provoked him to kill his own brother, another human that developed into the man he was over many years. Yet in an instant, that development and life was ended. For this unholy and wretched act, God curses Cain. Not the ground, not an animal, nor a promise of pain, but He curses Cain personally and says he will be a wanderer of the uninhabited earth. What a lonely and dark banishment to bear. So Cain went out from the presence of the Lord (Gen 4:1-16). Imagine what it must feel like to know that the Lord is real and good, and yet be separated from Him forever because of sin. One could call this, hell.
Adam and Eve had another son named Seth, named as such for being appointed by God as another offspring in place of Abel. It is from the descendents of Seth that righteous Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Jesus come forth. Going back to Seth, and skipping down to Noah’s time, we read that after man had multiplied across the earth, “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen 6:5-6).
There is so much to break down and discuss between Noah and Jesus the Christ, but for the sake of time let’s sum it up in the following:
Sin (disobedience) makes its home in the hearts and minds of man, and exerts it’s dominion through wicked acts committed by man against each other and God. Seeing this attack coming from the enemy, the Righteous King brings judgment upon the temple of disobedience: man. Floods, fire and brimstone, famine, war, plagues, etc. The problem? God’s children are the physical casualties of a spiritual war against the Kingdom of Darkness. No matter how many laws are implemented, no matter how many teachings are given, no matter how many judgments are made, no matter how many miracles and signs are given, no matter how many prophets and kings are sent, man continually surrenders his innate godly identity over to the deceiver in exchange for counterfeit pleasure, power, and peace. Man does not remember his first love: his creator, father and king.
Sin is the real enemy, and it’s allure keeps man distracted, deaf and blind. But God has known this all along, and in perfect wisdom has dealt with humanity in a variety of ways in preparation for the appointed time to reveal Himself once again in person on earth, like it was in the Garden of Eden. It is in this revelation, that He will show the world what a real man, king, and God looks like. Why? The Lord will reconcile what was lost in the Garden back into His Kingdom, and His spiritual Kingdom will be established on the physical earth once again.
Least to say, it is not what we expected, at all.
Enter Jesus the Christ; son of the living God, heir to the heavenly throne, the sacrificial Lamb, the promised seed, the Prince of Peace.
Beyond these beautiful titles, he was also just a man that was born in Roman ruled Judae-Israel 2000 years ago. Born in an area reserved for animals to rest for the night, because there was no other lodging for his parents, it was fitting for the King who created all the animals of the field to come back into this world in such a humble manner. He was not a trained warrior, he was not a rich man, he was not an influential politician, he was not anything that would normally be equated to the title of a king.
“How can this be? There’s no way this guy is royalty. He’s the son of a carpenter, a religious teacher, a normal peasant Jew raised in a time without computers or internet.”
Yet, we see from Part 1, that he was no ordinary man. His birth, image, accomplishments, and death were predicted hundreds of years before he walked this earth; without the help of technology. It is written by a mathematician and astronomer that the chance Jesus (or anyone) would have fulfilled even just 8 of 108 prophecies of the Messiah from the Hebrew Bible is 1*10^17. And Jesus fulfilled them, one by one; both those which he could control (like riding a donkey into Jerusalem) and those that he could not control (like where he was born or the manner he would die).
The same God we read about in the Old Testament, the one who causes mountains to burn, strong winds to blow, thunder and lightning to come down, darkness to fill the sky, smoke to come from his nostrils, rivers of fire to flow from his throne, piercing light to come forth from his eyes; that same God was made manifest in an average looking Jewish male who wore a tunic and sandals.
Is it really that surprising to imagine this, when God revealed Himself to Abraham as three men in the desert, to Jacob as a man who wrestled, and to Adam and Eve as one who walks through a garden? Those same men, have now appeared in the flesh as the one Jesus of Nazareth, who came with a message:
“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
The Gospel of the Kingdom
The word Gospel is derived from the Greek word Evangelion, which means “good message” or “good news.” Though Jesus did not preach a message that he called the Gospel, his disciples referred to his message as such because they saw it for what it was.
So what is the Gospel?
It is the good news that the Father who lost his beloved children to disobedience in the garden has arrived personally to the battlefield of this world in order to take back what is rightfully his: you. Your faith, your trust, your heart. The King has come to restore his heirs to their rightful place in fellowship with Him, and decree the end of the monstrosity that keeps getting in the way between Him and His people: sin.
In shorter terms, it is the good news of God’s dominion, in that Love has come to establish it’s rule forever.
That love, is made manifest in Jesus the King. As such, the King goes about for the appointed time teaching, demonstrating, and imparting His Kingdom to the world; starting first with the people He entrusted his oracles and laws to.
What did Jesus teach about the Kingdom?
That it is like a mustard seed; small at first but in time it grows to be a great tree that all the birds of the air will nest in it (Luke 13:18-19). It is like leaven, which even with small portions can permeate through an entire batch of flour and prepare it to be baked (Luke 13:20-21). It can’t be seen without being born again in the Spirit (John 3:3-6). It belongs to children and must be received as a child (Mark 10:14-15). It is hard for the wealthy and comfortable to enter it (Mark 10:23-25). The Law and the Prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus and must be kept and taught as such (Matthew 5:17-20). It is to be saught first and foremost, and then human needs will be met (Matt 6:33). Not everyone who calls Jesus “Lord” will enter it, only those who do the will of His Father in Heaven (Matt 6:21). It is a hidden treasure and valuable asset worth selling everything you have to obtain it (Matt 13:44-45). It has a connection to earth (Matt 16:19). It is a king’s wedding feast that is ready and many strangers are called to attend it, but some will not answer and others will be thrown out for entering it on their own terms (Matt 22:1-14).
These are just a few examples, there are more. The thing to take note here is that this is not at all like any other kingdom to have existed on the earth thus far. In earthly kingdoms, you kill your enemies. In God’s Kingdom, you bless them. In earthly kingdoms, you demand and conquer if you have need. In God’s Kingdom, you freely give what you have. In earthly kingdoms, you seek pleasure, power, and peace (sound familiar to what was mentioned about sin earlier?). In God’s Kingdom, the love of money is at odds with the love of God, the want for power is contrary to serving and washing the feet of others, and the seeking of peace is unnecessary because peace is given freely.
In short, God’s Kingdom is completely foreign and upside down to our earthly kingdoms, on purpose. It is heavenly, and as the prophet Daniel puts it, it is a kingdom “which will never be destroyed. It will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all other kingdoms, and it will endure forever” (Daniel 2:44).
How did Jesus demonstrate the Kingdom?
After Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan and received the Holy Spirit from God in order to empower him for his ministry, he was led into the wilderness on his way back home by the Spirit and was tempted by the devil regarding his identity after 40 days with no food or water. Remember what was mentioned earlier about sin causing man to surrender his innate godly identity to the deceiver? Well Jesus was loyal to his Father, and unwilling to hand over the Kingdom to Satan, so he rebuked the devil using Scripture until the devil left (Matt 4:1-11). Scripture has power.
After this event, Jesus went around his regional neighborhood teaching in boats, fields, mountains, houses and synagogues; and wherever he went he “healed every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread [everywhere], and [people] brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptic, paralytic, and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from [many different regions]” (Matt 4:23-25). At times Jesus was also able to calm storms, walk on water, bring fish to nets, multiply bread and fish, and turn water into wine. This kind of consistent power over the natural realm, dwelling within a physical man on earth, was unheard of. He had such supernatural authority that people recognized that his words and his touch caused miracles.
After doing such miracles and developing an enormous following, Jesus also developed a strong opposition from sin and it’s disciples. Even from birth, Jesus excited rage in the political and or religious elite (Matt 2:16-18). His forerunner, John the Baptist, was another early casualty of the message of the Kingdom in that he was beheaded by King Herod (Mark 6:14-30). Jesus was almost stoned several times, thrown off a cliff in his hometown, and confronted by armed soldiers because of the Kingdom he preached. There were times that Jesus had to seclude himself and leave a place because of mounting persecution from the kingdom of darkness in the form of religion. Jesus taught that persecution will come for the sons of the Kingdom, and that blessed are those who endure suffering and mourn for they will be comforted and inherit the Kingdom (Matt 5). It’s important to note that in demonstrating the Kingdom of God, Jesus was declared a threat and inciter of rebellion. Neither claims are actually false, but they are not true in the way that the deceiver portrays them.
Finally, after doing this for three years with crowds following him, causing tension with the religious and political authorities, and having the disciples learning from him, Jesus obeyed His Father and demonstrated His Kingship and Kingdom by willingly giving himself over to be arrested, falsely witnessed against, sentenced to crucifixion and murdered by the corrupt and jealous authorities; yet as an innocent man. It was so that all which what was written about him would be fulfilled in its entirety. Then, on the third day after his death, Jesus arose from the grave and left behind an empty tomb; making a mockery of its sting.
In doing this the King conquered the deceiver and the cycle of sin and death, decreeing their end and the beginning of eternal life; just like in the garden. Sin and Satan were dethroned, and Love established His Dominion to leaven the world little by little and grow like a mustard seed. What started on a tree, ended on a tree. What man lost, man regained. The union between God and man which was separated, God restored while keeping His Holiness and Righteousness intact. What a genius and marvelous plan: to instill and bind his spirit in the hearts and mind of man and make them holy as He is holy through unity (Note: this was always his plan, the Old Testament and Old Covenant was a foreshadow of it).
The best part? We are not responsible for such a victory and accomplishment. No man, woman, or child can boast, but let every person be a liar and God be the truth-teller. We are saved by grace through faith, and not of our own deeds.
Lastly, who did Jesus impart His Kingdom to?
As God had Jacob designate 12 of his sons to be the heads of the tribes of Israel, His people, so Jesus began a new Israel (the Kingdom of God) by appointing 12 heads for his people that will not be confined to the physical land of Israel. These 12 were his disciples, men he choose out of the regions he traveled through to follow him and learn about the Kingdom. In fact, the four Gospel accounts we have of Jesus are mostly composed of teachings given specifically to them, not just the public. While Jesus had a public ministry, He knew and often taught that not everyone would obey his words, regardless of how happy they were to hear them. It was necessary, and traditional, for a rabbi (teacher) to pass on his teachings to disciples that ate, drank, slept, walked, talked and lived with him. While they would listen and emulate their master, the public was under no such obligation to obey the truth of love and life. Jesus had to teach the public to repent, which comes from the Greek word “metanoeo” which means to change the way you think.
So although he brought hope to many that he was the promised Messiah and would establish the Kingdom of Israel, he had to teach many that he was indeed the promised Messiah but that he would establish a different kind of Kingdom; a far better one that was inclusive to all in nationality, time and space; as was originally intended. It even took his disciples awhile to catch on to that reality. Nonetheless, Jesus and His disciples were successful in passing on that Kingdom from one generation to another, by making disciples of nations and teaching of Jesus the King who suffered with purpose and overcame with power; and it continues on as such until the fulfillment of the age that will soon come to pass.
Now that you understand who Jesus is–God, the King of all things created–you have to decide whether you’re interested in learning more about, believing in, and or devoting your life to Him and His message; which in so many words is this:
Attention people of earth! I, the son and representative of the living God of heaven and earth, come to you with good news. The day has arrived, when you no longer have to be separated from God because of your sins to which you are enslaved. Oh but what a joyous day has arrived! That you may become one with God, intimately and mysteriously, and know His ways as it was originally. You don’t know what this union looks like, no matter how much you think you do. No one ever has. Your traditions, religions, and teachings fall short of the real deal. For your sake so that you may believe, God has made me one with Him and has sent me here for you to touch, ask, see, and hear of His power and dominion. This is what unity with God in His Kingdom looks like, and you can have it too. But know this, I am only here physically for a short time, I must go to my Father again. I am leaving you His teachings and will give you His spirit, so that you may become just like me, which is to become just like Him, because I come from Him. Be warned, He has exalted me by His own will and declared all must come to me, or else you will be left to your enslavement and sin when the time for judgment and renewel comes. I wish for no one to perish, but it’s your call. And so I say to you dear children, my Adams and Eves, with ferverance and haste: Repent, for your Home is at hand.
“Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” – Matthew 11:6
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible…all things have been created through Him and for Him.” – Colossians 1:13-16
I hope you’re starting to get the picture that Christianity is not about rituals, church, the Bible, or other things, though they play a part. Christianity is about Jesus the Christ and the Kingdom of God which he represents.
To those who are religious, you’d be careful to dismiss the simplicity and beauty of the Gospel which God has given to the world just so that you can keep your traditions. They are nothing compared to God’s presence. He is One, he is the most important thing in life, and he has decreed that his Son and Kingdom are important to him; and as such should be important to us. If you persecute us, you persecute Him, and His blood is on your hands and neck.
To those who are non-religious, I would hope you don’t just dismiss the existence, divinity, and message of Jesus based on what you think you know. There is a difference between healthy skepticism with sincere curiosity and arrogant intellectualism with prideful deception.
To any and everyone, may the blessing, peace, favor, love, power, wisdom, grace, mercy and kindness of God be with you in everything you do and everywhere you go. It was the declaration that Jesus made over your life 2000 years ago when he shed his blood and declared forgiveness for you.
This post is the second of three discussing the important tenants of Christianity, and frankly of any religion: Who is God, what’s His message, and what’s your part? We’ve answered here that God’s message to us is that He loves us as a Father regardless of our disobedience and has offered us His Kingdom in this life, and we got a taste of it in Jesus’ body. To see the third and final post, “Disciples, the Church, and our Great Commission”, click here.