Nowadays, when you see a Christian who ‘works for The Lord’ so to speak, they always seem to attach the word ‘ministry’ to what they do. Almost to make it more apparent and obvious what should already be obvious in doing so; serving the Kingdom of God. So, what is the Kingdom of God? So, I searched the Kingdom of God on www.biblegateway.com , and over 100 (107 to be exact) Bible verses and passages came up. So, we can tell from first glance that this ‘Kingdom of God’ thing must be important, right?
Well, you would be adequately correct within your assumption; to put it lightly! Jesus Christ, the forefather and ‘cornerstone’ of the Christian faith, mentioned the Kingdom of God 52 times within the Gospels alone. Now, when we add the two heavenly quotes about the kingdom of God in Revelation to all the others; we get a grand total of 54 times- 54 times does a heavenly realm or the Christ himself mention the Kingdom of God.
Now this interesting fact aside, let me deduce for you what the Kingdom of God means; and what the Kingdom of God means for us, yes that’s right- for us. Jesus not only came into the world to save us from our sins by dying as an atonement sacrifice, and rising on third day. He also came here to show us what happens next; what must we do after we are saved within his righteousness by the blood he shed upon that lowly and lofty cross. Now, let us look at Mark 4:21-32 (We shall come back to the first part of this chapter afterwards) to see what the Kingdom of God looks like for you and me,
Parable of the Lamp
21 Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. 22 For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. 23Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
24 Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. 25To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”
30 Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”
Firstly, we are given a stern warning from Jesus himself to listen to what he is about to teach within the next few sentences (v24-25). It is an uncrompomising resolve which basically says ‘if you listen, your understanding shall evolve. But if not, any understanding you may have shall be taken away from you’. So let us heed what he is saying; and read on to the next passage.
From reading v26-29, it is apparent that we are the farmers within this story (if you read the New Testament though, it is apparent that the Kingdom of God starts in force with Pentecost in Acts 2 onwards; we are forerunners of the Kingdom of God as Christians right here, right now). We do our little bit of work to ‘sow the seed’, but it is apparent that it isn’t us who makes the seeds grow. It is an outside force; The Earth on this occasion. We can safely translate and assume that God, in the form of The Holy Spirit, represents The Earth within this parable- for all we do is the good works, we don’t actually make The Church grow; or make it rise up in strength and faith. In what little understanding we have of God, we can understand this- God is the one who makes it all complete, who is the fuel (the driving force as it were), not us. All we have to do is what we feel God is commanding us to do, and the rest shall happen.
Expanding this parable even more, we come across the idea that it is out of our hands; all we do is just plant the seeds, and eventually all we will have to do is harvest the crops grown from them. These two jobs are all that is required by us; sow the seeds that God has given us to sow, and reap the harvest when God tells us that the work is done. He does all the work in between, not out of what we do but ‘The Earth produces the crops on its own’. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not that simple- we have to defend ourselves. Let us assume the Mustard Seed represents what us , as the Church, has planted as ‘farmers’. Jesus notes that ‘it grows long branches, and birds can nest in its shade’. Sounds like a nice picture, doesn’t it? Not so fast. Let me show you the first part of Mark; where Jesus explains the parable of the Farmer scattering seed, and show you why this (in fact) paints quite a daunting picture.
Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed
1 Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. 2He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
10Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.
11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they see what I do,
they will learn nothing.
When they hear what I say,
they will not understand.
Otherwise, they will turn to me
and be forgiven.’”
13 Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Note v13, which states that if we don’t understand this parable, how could we understand all the other parables? (Cross referencing back to v24-25). We can also see that this parable is linked to the parables from v26 onwards; as Jesus explains in v14 that the so-called ‘Farmer’ of v3 is one who ‘plants seed by taking God’s word to others’. Nowadays, and in the days of the Acts onwards, we would class this act as ‘evangelism’. As we are all called to evangelise as Christians within some form, we can safely assume this applies to every single Christian upon this green earth right now. Note how v15 states that ‘the seed which fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away.’ Now, when we look at the parable itself in v4, Satan himself is represented as the birds in the actual parable.
This brings me back to what I was saying before- although birds nesting within the branches may have sounded nice at the time, you can see now why this imagery Jesus uses is incredibly daunting. Only a few hours before would he have used the analogy of birds within the first parable before explaining it; knowing full well that his explanation would be directly linked to the next few parables that came out of his mouth directly after. But what does this mean, that Satan is within our midst. What this means is simple- if the simple act of Evangelism increases the size of the believing church as God does all the work, there will be some in there who shall nest within it.
And this is why we need teachers. If Satan, in the form of people who aren’t actually part of the Church (ones who believed God forgave all their sins by coming down to Earth, dying for us and being raised again on the 3rd day- end of story), is within our very midst; we must be able to defend against him. The easiest way to learn who is for us, and who is against us, is knowledge- knowledge is what got us to this resolve in the first place! Let us go on to read 1 Cor. 12 – who was written from Paul to the early Corinthian church.
Concerning Spiritual Gifts
1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
First of all, we must note above the dividing line above for Christians, as ‘no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit’. Here is the dividing line for all Christians- and is a simple way for Paul to be saying that the Holy Spirit can’t live within people who aren’t Christians thus putting this next section into its full context:
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
Now from here, we have got a hierarchy of the gifts of the Church; which if we look at v7-11 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2012:%207-11&version=NIV) are exclusive only for Christians- as ‘to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good’ (v7), and ‘all these are the work of the on and the same Spirit, and he distributes to each one, just as he determines’ (v11).
Now if we look at verse 27 onwards, we can see the Church hierarchy in order. The first job (the apostle) are the builders of the church; the pioneers of the church in all lands. We may more commonly describe them nowadays as ‘Missionaries’ sometimes, yet their role (and motive) stays the same. The second one on that list is prophets; for without the prophets, who can direct the apostles where to go? Who would be there for the rest of the Church; encouraging them and showing them what they must be doing and where they must be going. It is interesting how we may think that surely the prophet should be more important than the apostle, but that’s an article for another day. It is what it is- after these two so-called ‘ladders’ or ‘rungs’ on the hierarchical scale, we have teachers. If we didn’t have the teachers, then how could the prophets and apostles know what they must be doing (and who they are)? More importantly, if we didn’t have the teachers, how would we know what to believe?
And this is where the teachers are very vital as part of the Church; without the teachers, we would all be lost. Maybe not lost in the proverbial sense of not saved (which most Christians assume that this word means in religious content), but in the literal meaning of the word- without a clue in the World what we are doing, why we are here, where we are going and how we are meant to be doing it. Without teachers, we wouldn’t have the basic doctrines of our faith. Without teachers, nothing would work; as Christians need to be taught and educated to prosper and survive (not in a worldly sense, but in a way in which we can serve and be effective within the world).
What is one way that the teachers combat? Who do they combat by teaching the truth? Well, they combat Satan himself. They combat the so-called ‘flock’ who are actually the ‘birds [who] can make nests in its shade’. With right teaching, these birds will be revealed for whom they really are; not one of us as the Church. In a more obvious sense, you could call these the birds The Churches of LDS (Mormons), the Jehovah’s Witnesses and so on & so forth. These faiths and denominations have more obvious separations from the Church. But what about the falsehoods that are harder to spot? What about the teachers who teach the so-called ‘Prosperity Gospel’ from within the ‘Word Faith’ movement- that you might ‘sow the seed’ into their ‘ministry’ and receive ‘a blessing from the Lord’ in return? It may seem holy and righteous at first, but with biblical teaching and sound mind, we can tell that this is just a facade for con men to steal money from the spiritual illiterate. Look at this passage in 1 Timothy 6:2-10 for example:
False Teachers and the Love of Money
These are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
I would expand this Bible passage for you, yet I think that it speaks for itself. This is a great example of how Paul teaches Timothy to avoid the false teachers for their love of money- which also expounds and confirms my thoughts on the example above in a clean-cut way only The Bible can muster.
Now to move on from false teachers, we can assume that there is a ‘false’ of everything; almost like an opposition party, or a shadow chancellor and cabinet right? Correct. If the Devil rules the minds and hearts of the people of this world and God is trying to take it back, it is safe to assume that the Devil will try to mount a counter attack. This is why we must always stay within God’s ways; relying on what the genuine and true teachers tell us as a guideline and compass within our souls and minds.
I know that I have waffled on for a long time (sorry) and, at the ripe old age of 21, I sound like I might as well be 55 preaching within an empty lecture hall- so I’ll let the Bible do the talking on these so-called ‘False Prophets’ who (unfortunately for the people who thought the Christian life was easy) can perform ‘signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect’ (Mark 13:22).
New International Version (NIV)
14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
True and False Prophets
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
New International Version (NIV)
21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
New Living Translation (NLT)
25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now,
for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
What sorrow awaits you who laugh now,
for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
for their ancestors also praised false prophets.
Love for Enemies
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.
2 Peter 2:1-3
New International Version (NIV)
False Teachers and Their Destruction
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
1 John 4:1-3
New Living Translation (NLT)
Discerning False Prophets
1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.
In regards to the Antichrist (I think the name already explains itself), here are some verses from the book ‘Revelation’; which is a prophecy from the end times, the end of days (which, for those of you who have never read it before, the imagery is so vivid and strange that John has been formerly accused by some scholars to have been ‘on drugs at the time’, which probably not the case- as the truth is usually stranger than the fantasy. Also on another side note, how would a prisoner on a prison colony with no outside contact ever get drugs anyways; just to point out the obvious, but they did not have the Human Rights act back then, that we do now!!!)
New Living Translation (NLT)
12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies toward the west without hindrance. 13 And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. 14 They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty.
New Living Translation (NLT)
19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies.
New International Version (NIV)
9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
The Judgment of the Dead
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.