THE KINGDOM OF GOD
by Roy B. Blizzard, Jr., Ph.D.
Yavo, Inc., Prayer Partner tape lesson, August 1991
Matthew 9:35: "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom." Notice what happens when the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached. "...and healing every sickness and every disease among the people! And when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion upon them because they were weak, and they were scattered abroad, sheep having no shepherd. And he said to his disciples, 'The harvest truly is plenteous but the laborers are few. Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest.' And when he called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease."
Notice again (we're going to see this time and time again; you'll probably get tired of hearing it) that the emphasis is upon the doing. Whenever he preaches about the Gospel of the Kingdom, what is he instructing? How does one present the Gospel of the Kingdom? What is the Kingdom?
The Kingdom is those who are ruled by God, and who are demonstrating his rule in their lives through actions.
He sees the sheep, how they are scattered, how they've strayed from the flock, how they are crippled, how they are weak. And he says that the fields are white untoharvest; that is, the people have great need, but there are so few to go and to BE Kingdom. And of his twelve, he sends forth and tells them to go get these peopleorganized. Go into the city and appoint elders and get a church started. Let's get things rolling. He's not talking about some kind of new religious movement. Again, he's talking about being the Kingdom and meeting the people at the level of their human needs. We might say as he said, the fields are white unto harvest, but the laborers are few. Pray that somehow the Lord of the harvest will send forth sufficient numbers of laborers to accomplish these things that need to be accomplished in our time. There are so very few.
Notice again, he tells those twelve that he sends forth, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not, but go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel."
Turn to Matt. 15:24 and you hear him say the same thing, as he himself goes up into what is now Lebanon to Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman, a goy, a pagan, came to him and cried, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David," and he didn't even answer her. And the disciples came and said, hey, send this gal away; she's pestering us to death. He said, "I'm not sent but unto the lost sheep of the House of Israel." Remember what he said? "The Son of man is come to seek and to save those that are lost." Ezekiel 34:11: "I will seek that which was lost; I will bring back that which has strayed." Notice who he's talking about. Verse 15: "I will feed my sheep and will cause them to lie down." Verse 23: "And I will raise up over them one shepherd, and he shall feed them, even my servant David." You see how the woman ties that in as she calls Him "Thou son of David."? "He shall feed them." Who shall feed them? The "Son of David." As she cries out to Him, what does she want? She wants to be fed. See how all this is allegory? And he said, "It is not meet for me to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs." And she said, "But, Lord, even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master's table. And then he said unto her, "Woman, great is thy faith. Be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
What Jesus did for this poor woman by the nature and the degree of her faith is really not the focus of the study that's before us. What we're interested in noticing is that Jesus comes principally and primarily for those who are already a part of the family. He's not talking to pagans. The things on which he's teaching, he's not teaching to pagans. You must understand this in order to understand some of the things he says, especially when, in the sermon on the mount, he says, "If someone hits you on one cheek, turn to him the other." "If someone bids you to go with him one mile, go with him two." "Love your enemies." What we want to note here is that in these teachings, he's talking to those who are already a part of the family, about relationships within the family, how brothers are to treat brothers, not how one relates to a pagan.
If you don't understand that, you're liable to look at some of the things he says, take them clear out of context, and become completely discombobulated when it comes to the practical application of it in your life. Basically, Jesus is always talking to those who are a part of the family.
Matthew 16:13 -- “ This shouldn't be "coasts," but when he came to the "border" of Caesarea Philippi. We read "coast" and think that it was on the seacoast, but it wasn't. It was to the north, inland at the foot of Mt. Hermon.
There are so many things here below the surface that you know only when you know the Hebrew history and culture and what's happening at any given time.
He comes to Caesarea Philippi and asks, "Whom do men say that I, the son of man, am?" Notice how they respond. "Some say that you are John the Baptist and some Elijah and some Jeremiah or another prophet who has come back from the dead." Why would anyone say that? Because there was an element in Judaism, namely those who inhabited the community of Qumran, that believed in a form of reincarnation. Reincarnation wasn't a theology of mainstream Judaism, but there were those who did believe that after death a man may come back in another form, not in the same way that the Hindu believes in reincarnation. The Hindu believes that, according to the life that you've lived in this world, you'll be reincarnated higher or lower. If you lived a good life, you'll come back higher; if you lived a bad life, you may come back as a bug. They will not kill anything because they're afraid they might step on their grandmother, or one of their other ancestors.
This wasn't the Jewish idea of reincarnation, but you might come back as another person with the same kind or a different kind of anointing. Notice that those who believed this recognized Jesus as being something more than an ordinary man. But he asks them, "But whom say ye that I am?" Simon Peter says, "Attah hu ha-Mashiach, ben Elohim ha-chayyim." We've misunderstood that and translated it incorrectly so that when we read it, we read that Peter said, "You are the Christ, the son of the Living God." That immediately conjures up in our minds ideas of sonship, which in turn conjures up ideas of "trinity." Jesus was the "Son of God." And now we have the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That idea is a very late development in Christian theology. As a matter of fact, it's not developed to any degree until the fourth century. When it is put forth by the church, they argue over it for about 40 years before it is finally adopted. The man who proposed it initially was banished eight times for heresy. It's not Hebrew.
In Hebrew, there is just one God. And son of God is not Hebraic, but the word "son" is. Because there were so many references - "Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee," and others - that the rabbis believed that when Messiah came, he would come as a son. Not only that, but they believed that all of the pious were in some way sons of God. The emphasis here is upon the word "son."
Scholars long ago noticed the similarity between the story of Yochanan the Withdrawn's and Jesus' usual address to God as Father. With God among the pious and Jesus' familiarity with his Father in Heaven, Jesus felt that he was a son of God. It is no accident that a divine voice referred to Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa as Chanina my son. Their contemporaries believed the pious could perform supernatural acts such as bringing rain and healing through their prayers. Jesus, the popular preacher who regarded himself as close to God as His ally or son, and who was even capable of healing the sick, clearly falls within the framework of the pious of that period.
But, when they used this term "son," when Jesus used it and called Himself "Bar enash," or the "son of man," what did he mean?
Page 49: Jesus did not call the Messiah by his name, but he spoke of him as "Bar Enash." Jesus regarded his relationship with God as that of a son to the father. He saw Himself as a revealer of divine secrets. Jesus regarded himself as a son who revealed the secrets of his Father in Heaven.
When the people heard Him use this term, what registered in their minds?
Page 58: "Since Jesus was regarded as Messiah and son of God, he was literally identified with God." The way that he used this term "son" carries the messianic connotation of God. When Jesus asked this question and Simon Peter responded, he didn't say, "You are the son of the Living God." He said, "Attah hu ha-Mashiach" (You are the Messiah), ben Elohim ha-chayyim (the son of the God who lives)." Why is that important?
Where was Caesarea Philippi? The foot of Mt. Hermon. Banyas, where water bubbles up out of the ground at the base of the mountain and forms the beginning of one of the major tributaries of the Jordan River. That site is known today in Arabic as Banyas. In Hellenistic times, 300 years before the time of Jesus, the site was called Panias, after the Greek god Pan. It's called Banyas today because there is not a "p" sound in Arabic, so there is a linguistic shift from a "p" to a "b." (They're getting ready to change the name back to Panias.) There at Caesarea Philippi even today you can see in the rock walls of the mountain little niches that were carved out with Greek inscriptions to the god Pan who is known in Greek as "Tou Pan," the god, and he was considered to be the father of all gods. Except, he was imbued with characteristics of evil. He was the one who caused fear and fright and panic (the word panic comes from Pan).
Where did we get our ideas of the devil? When I say the devil or Satan, what do you think of? Somebody with horns and a beard and hooves and a forked tail and a pitchfork in his hand. Where did we get that idea?
Isaiah 14:12 - "How art thou fallen from Heaven, oh Lucifer, son of the morning?" We think that has to do with the devil, and it's from that that we got our idea of the devil. This passage doesn't have anything to do with the devil. It has to do with the king of Babylon, who at that time was Belshazzar. In Hebrew, it says, "How art thou fallen, heilel ben-shachar?" Heilel means bright or shining; shachar is the dawn. It says, "How art thou fallen, oh shining one of the dawn?" The "shining one of the dawn" was the planet Venus! Because, in ancient times in Mesopotamia, every city had a protective spirit or deity over that particular city. These were often represented by certain stars or constellations. The protective spirit over the city of Babylon was Venus, as represented in the planet Venus, the morning star. When Isaiah talks about how it fell from Heaven, it's allegorical. He's talking about the protective spirit of Babylon. Belshazzar the king was to be the protector of Babylon, and he fell in one night, as recorded in the book of Daniel.
If you go to the Greek Septuagint and look at that passage, you'll see something interesting. The Greek used to translate "heilel ha-shachar" is "heosphoros," which means "the shining one of the morning!" Also a reference to the planet Venus.
So, where did we get "Lucifer?" It wasn't until the fifth century of the present era that a man named Jerome translated the scriptures into Latin. It became known as the Latin Vulgate. It remains today as the authorized version in Catholicism.
Where did the idea of the devil looking like a little goat with horns and a beard and running around wreaking panic come from? It came from Greek, from Hellenism. Where did the idea of dualism, of God being in a constant war with His counterpart come from? This idea that Satan is a god, that he's another being co-equal with God, the forces of evil acting upon humanity - where did these ideas come from? They came from Zoroastrianism in the fourth century B.C. from Persia. These ideas are being brought out of paganism and incorporated into Hellenism.
I happen to have a number of pictures of artifacts depicting the Greek god Pan. If you didn't know what they were, you would think that you were looking at an early representation of the devil, with his pan flute. He goes around seducing the other spirits. Usually, Pan is connected with all kinds of rites of licentiousness and immorality, including bestiality. I could tell you things that would make the hair on the back of your neck crinkle up, but suffice to say that it's from Pan that we get these ideas that we have in our minds today about what the devil looks like.
Keep in mind that Jesus was at the place where Pan was worshiped as "Tou Pan," "the god." When Jerome comes along, this idea of the devil being this goat-like little being that goes around wreaking fear and doing evil has become so firmly ingrained in the western mind that he translates Isaiah 14:12, instead of translating as the Septuagint does, correctly, from "heilel ben-shachar" to "heosphoros," used a different Greek word, "lueke" and "luekophos." As you look at it, it looks like Latin. In Latin, "lucs" means light, and "phero" is "bringer" - "lucsphere" looks like "light bringer," - so it looks like he has made a correct translation, when in reality, he just transliterated from the Greek word "lukei." So this is where we get this picture in our minds of the little goat-like being. It has no basis in biblical fact.
No. 1. There is only one God.
No. 2. The devil is not a god.
No. 3. God created the devil, and the devil is subject to Him, and he can do only what He tells him to do. He has no power or authority on his own. The only power or authority he has is what we relinquish to him. Jesus said, "I give unto you power and authority over all the power and authority that the enemy possesses, and nothing shall in any way harm you." His only purpose is as "ha-satan," the accuser, to stand before God and before the brethren.
Knowing all of this, now you can see that something dramatic is occurring as Jesus is at the site where Pan is worshiped as "the god." When Peter responds, "You are the son of the God who lives," it is as opposed to the god who doesn't live.
Although this has very little to do with the words of Jesus, I thought you might find the historical and cultural information interesting and illuminate the context of our study.
Jesus now responds and says something very important. He says, "Blessed art thou, Simon bar-Jonah, because flesh and blood have not revealed that unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven." Notice in verse 20 that he charged his disciples that they should tell no man that he was the Christ. And from that passage and others similar to it, we've heard the teaching going around that's even popular in some circles today, that Jesus tried to hide his Messiahship. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In everything that Jesus said and did, he was declaring himself to be God. But when Simon Peter responds, "You are the Messiah, the son of the God who lives," Jesus in turn responds and says, "Blessed are you, because flesh and blood didn't reveal that unto you." Jesus nowhere says, "I'm the Messiah!" By virtue of what he does and says, people hear and they immediately identify Him with God. When he says, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee," what do they immediately think? "This guy is claiming to be God!"
Jesus is saying, you had spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear, and you saw and heard. So there is no need for you to run around telling people that I'm the Messiah. Just keep your mouth shut and don't tell anybody, because those who have spiritual eyes to see will see, and those who have spiritual ears to hear will hear. He's not trying to hide anything; he's just leaving it for the Spirit of God rather than for the words of man.
When Peter proclaims Him the Son of the God who lives, he says to Peter, "And I say unto you that you are a little rock (petros), but on this 'petra' (this solid, immovable foundation), I'm going to build my 'qahal.'" He doesn't say "church." "Church" is not even a close translation. What's interesting here is that Jesus uses two Greek words with which they are obviously acquainted, because they understand Him, switching from Hebrew to Greek for these two words. In Greek, petros and petra are comparative; one is a small stone and one is a large immovable stone. In Hebrew, there is no way to make that distinction. There are a number of words in Hebrew for stone: even -- you can pick one up and throw it; tsor -- means flint; sela -- can be anything from a little stone to a range of mountains.
So Jesus uses a comparative in Greek that is commonly used by rabbis. We even have other instances in rabbinic literature where other rabbis used this same comparative, so this is not unique to Jesus. We have other instances in rabbinic literature. What he's saying is that your name means a little stone or a pebble, but I'm going to tell you that it's on this solid immovable foundation that I'm going to build my - movement. Qahal. My Kingdom. Qahal means congregation. It has to do with people, not an institution. But upon what is he building it? Does he build it on Peter like the Catholics say? Does he build it on Peter's confession like the Protestants say?
What he's building it on is that his Kingdom will be composed of those who have the same kind of spiritual insight to see and to hear. It's not upon his confession, because anybody can stand up and say, "Lord, Lord." Remember what Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' is going to have a part in my Kingdom." He's going to build his movement on the foundation of those who have spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear. To them he's going to give keys that will unlock Kingdom power.
He said, "Whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven." We're so immature; some of the stuff that we do is so silly. We go around binding the devil, as if he has some kind of power. And we go around loosing the angels as if God has them tied up someplace. I never have heard anybody loose the angels for much of anything but to take up an offering. That must have been why God created them. Well, it just so happens that these words do not mean bind or loose. Actually, what it does say has even much greater depth of meaning, much greater implication for those who have spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear, who are a part of his movement.
He says, "I'm going to give to you Kingdom power. I'm going to give to you map't'chot malkhut ha-shamayim." Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. "And everything that you te'e'sor on Earth will be asur." Heaven's going to put its stamp of approval on it. Asur in Hebrew is "forbidden." Whatever you forbid will be forbidden, and whatever you permit, or allow, will be permitted.
Chapter 18, verse 7: "Woe unto the world because of offenses, for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe unto that man by whom the offenses come. Wherefore, if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off and cast them from thee. It's better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed rather than having two hands and two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye rather than having two eyes be cast into hell fire." We've heard this before in a different context. In chapter 5, on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says the same thing relative to the offense of lust in 5:27ff. Now, if we really believed what Jesus said in the way that it appears that he said it, everybody that I know would be down crawling on their knees.
Gloria and I do a lot of work in counseling of marriage and families, and I can tell you that more people come to us because they are disturbed and disquieted in their spirits because they believe that they have a spirit of lust. One time a young preacher in his twenties came to me distraught. He was to the point of doing away with himself because he was so consumed with the spirit of lust. He said, "I've fought that thing; I've wrestled with it. I try to take the authority over it. I've gone through deliverance forty-nine times, and I think I'll get the victory over it. Then I pull up to a stop light and a good looking girl walks in front of the car, and that thing jumps right back on me again."
Gloria was teaching a group of ladies one time at a church. I don't know how many ladies were there, but there were quite a number, and she was talking to them about responsibilities in marriage, the difference between men and women; the ways that they think. And she happened to be telling them about some of the things that men think, and the women were just aghast. One woman piped up, "Do you mean that Word men actually think those things?" And Gloria said, "I hate to tell you this, but all men think those things." There are only two kinds of men that I know that don't think those things, and the first class we call liars, and the second group we call dead. All of the others think those things. And we think those things because that's a part of our nature, a part of the way we were made. We are all sexual beings; we all have sexual thoughts; we all have sexual fantasies; we all see people in sexual ways. Some people are disturbed by the fact that they are always fantasizing or thinking about sex, and they think that's bad; something must be wrong with me.
Well, there are times in which people do have a real problem, when these things become an obsession that renders them incapable of performing their duties in the real world. Those are instances in which therapy becomes necessary. But for most of us, it's just a part of our natural makeup.
We've been so conditioned by what we've heard from the church, where sex is basically an anathema and chastity is elevated to the highest level of spirituality. Again, all of this comes from Hellenism and the pagan world, from Stoicism and Gnosticism, and it creeps into Christianity with Augustine in the fifth century. But it was never a part of biblical theology.
So this passage in Matthew 5 does not say what it seems to say. What it says in Hebrew is "to lust her." What is lust? Lust is not an ordinary, everyday human sexual response. It's a part of our sexuality, our nature, our makeup, what we are. God made us that way, but there is a difference between a normal natural human response and what's being talked about in this context. The Hebrew word chamad means an "inordinate, ungoverned selfish desire" of "idolatrous tendency."(BDB) It's out of control. It has become a focus of worship; we're so centered on it, so out of control, it has become as an idol, a thing of worship, a thing for which we're willing to sacrifice all.
We walk down a street and look in a store window and see a lot of beautiful things, and we think, "I wonder what it would be like to own that TV set." We can even fantasize about what it would be like to own that big wide-screen TV, how it would be sitting in the den in a big lounge chair, watching the Monday night football game, and all that is normal. But we move from a normal response when we pick up a brick and throw it through the window and run off with the TV set.
This is the kind of thing that Jesus is talking about in chapter 18. This is hyperbole and we find it even in rabbinic literature. It has to do with the rabbinic method of interpretation. The first of the rules of Hillel was kal v'chomer. That is, if a light transgression is a sin, it just follows that a heavy transgression is a sin; that if it's a sin to be angry with your brother, it just naturally follows that it's a sin to murder. The implication of what Jesus is saying is that while you still have the ability and the power to bring this thing under control, step on it before it gets the best of you, before it gets out of control. He's not talking about literally plucking your eye out or cutting your hand off, but whatever it is that is going to cause you an offense, whatever it is that might cause an offense, be aware of it, take control over it before it actually gets out of hand.
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