At www.livingintheoverlap.com, Steve Schaefer has a great free downloadable chart of the eighteen dimensions of what the Old Testaments prophesied that the coming of the Kingdom of God would mean. His book, Living in the Overlap, goes into helpful detail on each dimension. It’s worth summarizing Steve’s work here just to get a taste of the electricity that coursed through the room each time Jesus proclaimed, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!”
- The Kingdom means the Messiah will rule (p. 5), and he’ll do so with justice, righteousness, and love (p. 6). Check out Isaiah 16:5: “In love a throne will be established. In faithfulness a man will sit on it—one from the house of David—one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.”
- The Kingdom means the wicked—the enemies of God who bring suffering to his people—will be destroyed (p. 6), and those who have been hurt will be healed by God himself. Malachi 4:1-3 says, “1For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.”
- The Kingdom means a new covenant and intimacy with God (p. 8). It won’t be about us and our sinful hearts trying to “be good” and “do the right thing,” trying our hardest to obey external rules that God sets up for us…and still falling short. Instead, God will place a new heart within us—his own, in fact—a heart that does good by nature. And he will guide us personally and gently in every decision we face. Jeremiah 31:33b-34 says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD, ‘for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD.”
- The Kingdom means forgiveness of sins and newness (p. 9). In Jeremiah 31:34, God says, “I will remember their sin no more.” Schaefer quotes theologian William J. Dumbrell on what that really means and why it’s so important:
God thus “remembered” Noah and caused the waters to abate (Genesis 8:1). God also “remembered” Hannah (1 Samuel 1:19), and the promise of a son became an actuality….In Jeremiah 31:34, for God not to remember means that no action in the new age will need to be taken against sin. The forgiveness of which this verse speaks is so comprehensive that sin has finally been dealt with in the experience of the nation and the individual believer.
- Dealing with sin so that it would be remembered no more meant the creation of a new heavens and a new earth. The old ones would be rolled up like a scroll and thrown away.
- The Kingdom means God’s Spirit would be poured out “on all kinds of people regardless of gender, age, or station in life” (p. 10). Schaefer quotes biblical studies professor James M. Hamilton, Jr. in saying, “The Old Testament teaches that God was with his people by dwelling among them in the temple rather than in them as under the new covenant” (p. 10).
- The Kingdom means that “all nations would stream to the mountain of the Lord and the temple would be a house of prayer for all nations”; “God would be present with his people forever in this temple, and God’s glory would be revealed to all humankind” (p. 11).
- The Kingdom means peace, physical wholeness, and safety and security (p. 12). As Isaiah 35:5-7 shares, we’re talking here not only about people being healed, but nature as well:
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
- The Kingdom means abundant provision and joy (p. 13). Isaiah 25:6 says, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” If God cooks for you, you can be sure it will be a meal worth rejoicing over!
- Finally, the Kingdom means death would be destroyed. “He will swallow up death forever,” says Isaiah 25:8.
Now perhaps as you’ve read the New Testament you may have thought of Jesus as just traveling from place to place doing random acts of kindness. Getting kittens down from trees, helping old ladies cross the street, not cursing when he hits his thumb with his carpenter’s hammer. But now that you’ve heard about the eighteen ways in which the Kingdom of God would rock the world off its hinges…do you see that in his ministry Jesus was carefully following a meticulously laid out plan to embody every one of these eighteen ways?
This is why people watched him and wondered. And you couldn’t help but wonder when through his actions—his healings, his miraculous meals, his forgiveness of sins, his pronouncing of woes on the enemies of God—he enacted one by one each of the eighteen dimensions which the prophets said would be unleashed on the “great and terrible day of the Lord.”
In fact, before his death and after his resurrection, he even said that this is exactly what he was doing.
And this leads to what may be the most crucial insight of all related to the Work of Mercy of proclaiming the gospel:
When we proclaim the gospel, we often focus only on the personal forgiveness of sins and individual destiny after death of our hearer because we ourselves are slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken.
Jesus’ words, not mine, by the way. We’ll take a closer look at this in our next post.