Their jaws set purposefully, the two men pushed roughly through the crowd. Their teacher was imprisoned, in peril of his life, and they had been sent on an urgent mission. They had a message to deliver and an answer to obtain, and they would not be delayed. “Are You the One we’ve been expecting, or shall we keep looking for someone else?” one of them blurted out above the din of the pressing crowd. His teacher John had never been one to mince his words.
Neither was Jesus.
Go and report to John what you hear and see.The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offence at Me. (Matt. 11:2-6)
When John the Baptist relayed this pivotal question to Jesus, Jesus response was not a sermon, or a comment on John’s apparent lack of faith or even a suggestion that John should ‘man up’. He immediately sent John’s messengers back with one clear, irrefutable, direct response: Tell him about the signs! Signs of change, signs of upheaval, signs of a new emerging season.
Jesus understood exactly what John was seeking – confirmation that his own mission was drawing to a close and his days left on earth were few. John had been sent as a forerunner preparing the way of the King and announcing His eternal Kingdom. Jesus’ response affirmed he could now depart in peace with Jesus’ blessing, His mission successfully accomplished.
In recent years parts of the church have become rather fixated on supernatural signs in the assumption that such signs as healings, deliverances etc., are evidence of the Kingdom’s presence. And so they can be, though not always (Matthew 7:21-22). Yet the Kingdom of God is far more than these. And signs from God are not restricted only to the area of human need. They are often also evident in events and phenomenon occurring in the natural world. As Christ followers we can become so focused on a narrow, church-centred understanding of ‘signs and wonders’ that we miss God’s prophetic signs occurring in the world around us.
I believe God’s signs are primarily for the principalities and powers who oppose Christ and His Kingdom. For example, healing of a human body is wonderful for the person healed and those who witness the healing, but more importantly it’s a sign to principalities and powers that the sin-disease has a Healer who has defeated them – an indisputable reminder that with all their power they were unable to hold Christ in the grave, a declaration that He lives and His Kingdom, not theirs, is eternal. Signs are God making a statement, putting on notice all those who stand against His advancing Kingdom that their season is passing, and a new one imminent that will be an absolute game-changer. Sometimes we forget that though God is consistent and faithful towards His own, to His spiritual enemies He is dangerously unpredictable.
Jesus compared prophetic signs with natural seasonal changes that were visibly evident around those He was teaching.
Then He spoke to them a parable: Behold the fig tree and all the trees. As soon as they put forth leaves you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the Kingdom of God is near (Luke 21:29-31)
What things? Well, Jesus made this statement in a discourse with His disciples about things to come. Three times in that conversation He mentions powerful signs upon the earth and in the heavens as signals of great change and turmoil for humanity (Luke 21:11; 21:25; 21:26). Signs always point us to something or Someone else! As followers of Christ we are meant to watch for them, seek to understand them and adjust our lives accordingly.
One momentous sign that things were about to change big time was the earthly ministry of John the Baptist. One of the most difficult gospel passages Bible scholars wrestle with is Jesus words in Matthew 11:12:
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force (NASB).
I am not a Bible scholar but personally the Passion translation resounds well with me:
From the moment John stepped onto the scene until now, the realm of heaven’s kingdom is bursting forth, and passionate people have taken hold of its power.
Jesus goes on to say: For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John (Matt. 11:13). John was a Kingdom preacher (Matt. 3:2). He was also a living sign to Israel. With John’s arrival the long season of the Law and the Prophets had ended, and the new season of the Kingdom was being birthed.
In our own day, I believe that earlier this year God gave a specific prophetic sign on the earth of a dramatic and irrevocable change in spiritual seasons. That sign was the passing of the renowned American evangelist Billy Graham on 21st February 2018.
Now I am not discussing Mr. Graham’s ministry, its merits or otherwise here. I am simply attempting to present a picture that will help us discern what I believe is an important prophetic sign in our times. This is by no means the only sign God has given or will give concerning this new season upon us, but it is the one I am considering in this article.
Billy Graham died at the age of 99 years. In the Bible the number nine prophetically speaks of fullness of time, or finality. For seven decades he preached the gospel of salvation to over 100 million people and is said to have “’proclaimed the gospel’’ to more people than any other person in history¹. He shared his faith with notable leaders such as presidents, a queen, and at least one dictator. He was known as a man of deep integrity and respected by believer and non-believer alike. His influence on the modern western evangelical church is immeasurable.
The gospel proclaimed by this great evangelist was incomplete. It was a gospel of salvation, but not the gospel of the Kingdom. Despite what many of us have been taught in organised Christianity, being born again, while being a gateway into the Kingdom of God, is only part of the full gospel of the Kingdom preached by Jesus and the first apostles. So many of us, past and present, have believed we received the full gospel, but we have not. Being born again is necessary to see the Kingdom, but is not the Kingdom (John 3:3, 5).
Billy Graham was an anointed evangelist, who I believe to have faithfully proclaimed the gospel that was passed to him. But I also believe with his demise God is giving us a very clear prophetic sign that the season of the incomplete gospel has come to an end. The gospel preached by Jesus Christ and which He entrusted to His disciples was the gospel of the Kingdom – a gospel so much fuller, freer, liberating, and radical than most modern Christ followers have heard or imagined (Mark 4:11; 2 Pet. 1:11; Rom. 14:17).
It is this gospel of the Kingdom that must now once again go forth on the earth more powerfully than has yet been seen, heard or demonstrated. Its season, once interrupted, has come full circle. Heaven holds its holy breath, principalities and powers tremble, the Bride looks heavenward, reaching for the Hand of our Beloved. If we have not yet gotten serious with God about seeking first His Kingdom, here and now, passionately, wholeheartedly and without looking back, then when will we?
In my next post we will further unravel the Kingdom of God, what it is and what it isn’t. Your genuine thoughts, contributions and comments are always welcome in the comment section.
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© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2018. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.
12 thoughts on “A Kingdom Bursting Forth and an Incomplete Gospel”
I appreciated your take on Billy Graham’s incomplete gospel. I can remember him preaching in South Africa during the height of Apartheid. He agreed to do so on condition that his audience was multi-racial, which it was. I agree that the kingdom message is infinitely greater than the rather individualistic ‘personal salvation’ so popular during Graham’s hey-day. What I valued about Billy Graham was his impeccable Christian character and ethics, throughout his lifetime: I remember TIME ran an article on him entitled “The Lion in Winter’ honouring him in that way.
PS. I am wondering if Johan van Heerden who commented above is South African, or an expat? I also appreciated his comment.
I agree Erroll, it is rare to see both giftedness and character equally in Christian leaders these days.
My heart is awake with love! Not long ago, I set in front of my television and watched the most beautiful sign given to us by the Father. I watched the Royal Wedding and saw the reflection of the True Marriage, Jesus and His long awaited Bride. The rivers of love followed through my heart as the Father gave the world something to rejoice about. So much uncertainty, political manipulation, false imaginary of a counterfeit love but God, who is full of Love and bursting with the anticipation of showing the world, what He has prepared for all who love Him. Prince Harry stepped outside of tradition, went outside of the camp and in the sea of the wilderness, found his true love. Meghan full of princess dreams, wondering through life hoping, preparing, seeking, the one who would love her and lift her up out of obscurity, was found of true love. Oh how those words ring out written in 1 John 4, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” [1 John 4:16-18] As I watched Meghan walk up the stairs, into the vestibule, half way down the chapel corridor alone, exuding boldness for all the world to see, tears flowed down my eyes as Prince Charles, the Father of the Prince, met her and escorted her to the love of her life, I thought, what a wonderful display of Father’s love for His Son and the choice of the Son’s heart. The world needed to be reassured that love conquers all! Hallelujah, the Kingdom is a Kingdom of Love and we have been invited to live there. Not only will we live in the Kingdom as co-heirs, but we have a pivotal role in bringing forth this living, eternal environment. The presence of the Bride brings life, joy and delight to the Groom. After all, it’s not good for man to be alone. We are so privileged to be apart of something so wonderful, it is beyond our imagination. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has entered into the heart of man, all that the Lord has in store for them that love Him! I am in Love.
Thankyou for sharing from your heart Sandra 🙂
I enjoy your post every time. Thanks for that.
If I can comment, there is only one thing that I can say. The Lord is showing me in the last couple of years that we must have a Bride relationship with Him.. We must have intimacy with Him and through intimacy comes authority. The message today is the message of the Bride. Prepare His way because His coming is near. We must change our long term plans into short term plans. We must dine with Him because there is a lot what He had to tell in this days. Our earthly vision must dim, our vision of any dreams must dim and the vision of Him must became more clear than ever. We must seek Him diligently every day, afresh every morning. Our whole mindset must be Him, our every days walk and plans must be Him. Intimacy brings authority and His bride will walk in authority before His coming.
I can’t tel the urge I have to tel everybody to seek Him. Time is running out, there is no time left and our mind must be set on ‘n wedding day that we are looking forward to. We are going to see Him on the clouds, but will we all be ready.
I see many Christian stumble forward blindfolded, as if the coming is not near. The heart of the Father is to see His son manifesting through our lives in full. That is what the gospel is about. If the Son, Jesus Christ, manifests through our mortal bodies, then the Kingdom is at hand. We will walk in His ways the way that He want us so that the world can see, there is the children of God, that will be with many tribulation.
Tanks for your post – I enjoy your post. May Jesus bless you with all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places. When I read your post I can taste your nearness towards your Beloved – may it increase every day
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Johan, Your comment has brought tears to my eyes. I agree with every word you have said here. The vision of Him must become more clear than ever, and all else will dim. Yes, and amen. There is nothing I can add because you have said it so beautifully. I am thankful that you took time to comment because it makes my heart sing to know there are so many others scattered across this world who are in tune with the Spirit and with one another. The Lord bless and keep you!
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Hi Johan, I appreciated your comment (with a name like yours, are you South African perhaps?) Recently working through Rev. 3 and the exalted Lamb’s concern for the lukewarm Laodicean community, it was interesting to note his recommendation to these complacent ‘believers/church members’ that they use ‘eye salve’ (for which Laodicea was renowned) ‘so that you can see’ (v. 18). You wrote about many Christians stumbling forward blindfolded. The anomaly of ‘blind believers!’
hello there…loved your teaching…i believe every born again Christ Follower has the Kingdom
within them so they can experience His Kingdom NOW!!! thank You, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit!!!
must say, the Lord has impressed upon my heart to share John 3:3-7 on all my laminated Bible bookmarks…Jesus says, one must be born again to see the Kingdom of God!!!…
i was raised catholic and i was not encouraged to read the Bible…i get to talk to a lot of people/catholics
and they seem very comfortable not knowing where they will spend Eternity…they are placing
manmade religion above the Word of God…it’s just mind boggling to me!!!!!!! and then there are
others who are searching for God’s Truth…soooooo we keep sharing the Gospel Truth until
the Trumpet Call!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…which i believe is gonna be soooooooon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
thank you for your wonderful ministry…see you at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ps…my prayers are being answered…many more preachers on radio and TV mention having to be
born again but they say it like it is already understood…and it’s NOT!!! 😦
Hi Trisha, Thankyou for sharing. I sense your excitement and agree the Kingdom is not understood by way too many in the church. But Holy Spirit is pulling back the curtains and we are entering a season where those who have ears to hear will hear, and the Kingdom will be revealed fully to us, if we wish to seek it out. Keep listening, keep sharing, keep following, and abundant blessings to you.
This – “Despite what many of us have been taught in organised Christianity, being born again, while being a gateway into the Kingdom of God, is only part of the full gospel of the Kingdom preached by Jesus and the first apostles. So many of us, past and present, have believed we received the full gospel, but we have not. Being born again is necessary to see the Kingdom, but is not the Kingdom.” – is very much what has been in ever-deepening degrees being revealed to me in recent months. I am outside of my comfort zone on nearly every level. Circumstances continue to close in and demand of me something I am unable to give outside of being in touch with the Great Heavenly Reality. I feel a foreigner in my own skin almost. Half of the time I wonder if I have missed the boat somewhere. Other times I am elated and soaking in the graces of that which is beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you for this. Much love to you. Will write soon.
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Hi Becky, So good to hear from you. Outside of our comfort zones seems to be where God wants us at the moment, but maybe that’s because we are learning a radical new way of living that is both unfamiliar and exciting at the same time. I love the way you put it: “I feel a foreigner in my own skin almost.” I completely identify with that statement, as I’m sure many B for B readers will also. I look forward to hearing more about your journey!
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