Proclaiming the Message of the Kingdom
“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” NIV
What does it mean to preach the message of the kingdom of heaven?
Jesus Himself modelled it for us. He began His public ministry by reading from the Book of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,” He read, “because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” And then He added, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21). In other words, the ancient prophecy had been fulfilled; in Christ, God had delivered on His promise.
It was a deeply profound and very public announcement that something amazing, awesome and incredible, something few had even noticed, had already begun – the Kingdom of God had come, a new age of grace, favour and mercy had commenced. From henceforth, God would reach out to every one in a new, amazing and liberating way. In Christ, they would find forgiveness for their sins and be reunited with God, find fulfilment and significance, experience restoration and healing and be set free from all those things that held them back, pressed them down and kept them from reaching for God’s best for their lives. It was God answering every prayer, every heart-cry of every person, in every age, in every situation, through His Son, Jesus Christ.
And Jesus was so excited about and so consumed by the Message of the Kingdom that the Father had entrusted to Him that He couldn’t wait to get the message out and invite everyone to be a part of it. It was His life’s purpose, His abiding priority, His singular passion.
From then on, Jesus dedicated every day of His life not just to teaching and preaching about “the Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 24:14) but to manifesting its reality as well everywhere He went. The Kingdom came near when the message was preached and the power of God was made manifest – the sick were healed, the oppressed were set free, burdens were lifted and hearts were set on fire for God. The people didn’t just hear a great message; they experienced the reality of it in unique ways and their lives were changed. There’s an inseparability of the preaching of the Word and the experience of it.
As well, He made it plain that it was also what He wanted His disciples and followers to give priority to. After a period of teaching and training, He called His twelve disciples together and sent them out to spread the good news that “the kingdom of heaven is near,” adding, “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (Matthew 10:7-8). He also sent out seventy-two others with instructions to “heal the sick” and tell everyone that “the kingdom of God is near [them]” (Luke 10:1-12).
Referring to the signs and wonders that accompanied His ministry, He also said to His disciples, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
And finally, at the very end of His earthly ministry, He gave essentially the same command to “those who believe” – to those who believe that He is the Messiah, to those who believe in the message of the Kingdom – to go share it with everyone and, in His name, heal the sick and set the oppressed free [Mark 16:17-18].
It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions…. Was it only mean to be true of the early church? The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary – never! There is no such statement anywhere ~ Martyn Lloyd Jones
Note the progression: in the same way that the Father sent Jesus to preach the good news of the Kingdom and minister to the people, Jesus sent first His disciples, then the seventy-two, and finally, all who believe, to preach the message of the Kingdom, and then invite people to experience the love and power of God in their lives. Just as the Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus to preach and minister, the Spirit of the Lord is upon all who believe to preach and minister. In the same way that the Scripture was fulfilled when Jesus began His ministry, the Scriptures are being fulfilled today through Christ in us as we preach and minister.
The message of the Kingdom, then, is not complete without the ministry of healing and deliverance, without setting people free of all the things that hold them back or keep them down. The message of the Kingdom necessarily includes a tangible experience of the power of God, a tangible expression of the love, the mercy, and the favour of God.
Now it’s our turn. As “those who believe,” we are commanded to share the Gospel of the Kingdom, to declare that the ancient prophecy has been fulfilled in Christ and then invite everyone to know Jesus and experience His love and power in their lives. It’s our turn to preach and teach and minister healing, deliverance and release in Jesus’ name.
Some might find it controversial but this much I know: if we don’t share the good news, we will not see people come into relationship with Jesus; if we don’t lay hands on the sick, we will not see the sick healed; if we don’t confront oppression, we won’t see captives set free or burdens lifted. If we don’t preach the message of the Kingdom and believe God for it to be made manifest through us, we won’t see the Kingdom of God come near to the lost and the hurting around us.
But even if signs and wonders can’t save the soul, they can, if God pleases, shatter the shell of disinterest; they can shatter the shell of cynicism; they can shatter the shell of false religion. Like every other good witness to the word of grace, they can help the fallen heart to fix its gaze on the gospel where the soul-saving, self-authenticating glory of the Lord shines ~ John Piper
Let us therefore enter into the full purpose of God. It is never too late or too early. We are never unqualified. We don’t need great faith, for Jesus said that just a little faith can accomplish mighty things. So let us look for every opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom that was entrusted to us by Jesus. As the Spirit leads, let us lay hands on the sick and pray for those in need. God is always bringing people who are “harassed and helpless” to us if we but notice it. He sees us being able to release the love and power of God into their lives. He has confidence in us; we need to have confidence in the power of God at work in us and through us.
And as we go, we, too, will discover, like the disciples, that the Lord works with us and confirms His word by the signs that accompany it! (Mark 16:20)