Kingdom History: 1453-1455

For 1,000 years Constantinople was the capital of Christianity. It was the repository for Christian treasures, tradition and literature, including the Scripture. Then, in 1453, the Muslim Turks captured Constantinople, ending a millennium of Christian rule. Many Christians thought it a sign of the end of the world. How could it be anything other than that?

At the same time, halfway across Europe in a city named Mainz, Johannes Gutenberg was perfecting his new invention, the printing press. And in 1455, he would produce the first Bible by means of a printing press, the so-called Gutenberg Bible. The printing press, certainly one of the most important inventions in the history of mankind, would eventually make books, particularly the Bible, affordable for the common man. As a result, the printing press was the sina qua non of the Reformation.

God is the Great Auteur of history. The sacking of Constantinople by the Muslims left Christians inconsolable. They wondered how their God could permit such a travesty, and yet, the Lord had something greater in mind, the decentralization of Christianity through the propogation of the Word of God, which would eventually advance the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. The Lord knew the kingdom of God does not need a centralized earthly administration because its King administrates in the hearts of man.

Seeking First The Kingdom

Matthew 6:33 has, for many years, been a foundational scripture for me, not just because it demands the kingdom be a priority in my life, but because it frames a balance as well. Jesus states that Christians are to seek first the kingdom and His righteousness.  I read that to mean Christians are to be focused on two things: 1) the expansion of the kingdom of God on earth; and 2) personal sanctification.

The priority is obvious. It’s the balance I want to explore here. If Christians focused on the expansion of the kingdom of God and ignored sanctification, they would quickly become seen as dominion-seeking bullies. If Christians focused only on personal sanctification to the exclusion of the expansion of the kingdom, they would become ineffective pietests. Jesus makes it clear both are to be a priority to the exclusion of neither.

Kingdom-building and sanctification are not an either/or but a both/and proposition.  Keep these two at the very top of your list of priorities and you will be neither a bully nor a wimp, excessive nor ineffective.  GS

The Role of Citizenship in the Kingdom

Earthy kings must have a way to distinguish between those who will be loyal to theire earthly kingdom. This is necessary, among other reasons, so the earthly ruler can know to whom he can delegate power. The most common earthly means of making this determination is by citizenship. And the most common tests for citizenship are birth and an oath. It was true in first century when Jesus was teaching about the kingdom and it is true today.

For example, if you are born in the United States you are automatically a citizen. If you weren’t born in the United States you can still become a citizen by confessing your loyalty by means of an oath. Initially, both may seem arbitrary, but they are actually good tests.  Birth has traditionally been a basis for citizenship because it rests on the assumption that those who are dependant upon the land of a kingdom for their survival have an interest in protecting it. Oaths are an indication of what is in a person’s heart. Sure they can be faked, but until governments learn to read minds oaths are the next best thing.

Interestingly, one becomes a citizen of the kingdom of God by both a birth and an oath. First, one must be born again. John 3:5 (“Unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”). Second, one must give an oath. Romans 10:9 (“…for if you confess with you mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved…”).

Just as in earthly kingdoms, birth and oath are an indicia of loyalty to the kingdom of God. That demonstrated loyalty paves the way for King Jesus to share his rule with his citizens by delegating authority to them. But more on that later.  GS

First Bible Reference to the Kingdom?

I was reading I Samuel 2 yesterday, the part where Hannah is rejoicing because she had just given birth to Samuel, and I came across this in verse 10:

“The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His annointed.”

My first thought was that this was a prophetic reference to King Jesus and and His kingdom, that God would exalt Him above the kings of the earth.  I checked some commentaries and, sure enough, that seems to be the consensus.

Now here’s the question, is this the first reference to King Jesus or His kingdom?  Do you know of any earlier reference?