Sermons

February 17, 2019

The Kingdom Restored

Dave Zuleger (South Campus) | | Acts 1:6-11

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”—Acts 1:6–11

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.—Acts 9:31

Introduction

Definition of the Kingdom of God: God’s presence and power among his people to fulfill the purpose of the glory of God to be spread and enjoyed to the ends of the earth.

Last week, we saw the prideful rejection and painful ruin of the Kingdom in the Garden when Adam & Eve decided to go their own way, doubt God’s good word, and forsake glad obedience. The perfect fellowship and joy vertically and horizontally was destroyed by sin.

However, the good news we ended with is that God pursued them and covered their guilt and shame with a substitute death and promised that ultimate victory would come through an offspring of the woman. He could have destroyed them, but we saw that God is mercifully committed to advancing his kingdom to the ends of the earth through sinful, treasonous image-bearers by paying for their sins and covering their shame.

That means that the kingdom of God is now a Kingdom of recovery. It’s a Kingdom that pursues sin-stained, shame-covered image-bearers and restores them to fellowship with God that sets them free to walk in glad obedience to spread the glory of God to the ends of the earth. 

So today, we’re going to take a whirlwind tour through the Bible to see how passionately God pursues his people through covenants in the Kingdom to restore fellowship and advance his kingdom. In other words, what I really want you to see today is how passionate God is for his glory and the good of his people and how he has intertwined those purposes in the advance of his kingdom. God keeps his promises for the sake of his name and the good of his people.

God Pursues His People
Through Covenants in the Kingdom

After Adam & Eve leave the garden the Bible is a story of tragic sin. In Genesis 4, the first brother, Cain, kills the second brother, Abel, as he disobeys God and feels shame that pours out in anger. In Genesis 6, God says the whole world is full of evil in every intention of the human hearts all the time. All of this sinful overflow from the garden climaxes in God sending a flood to destroy the earth, except for one man—Noah—and his family, and start over.

And yet, the promise of Genesis 3 still stands: The offspring of the woman will come to crush the serpent, reverse the curse of sin, and restore right fellowship with God.

God pursues his people in these covenants because he’s headed somewhere. He’s headed for the advance of his kingdom to spread his glory to the ends of the earth through his image-bearers. He’s headed toward his glory being seen and enjoyed to the ends of the earth. And now, after the garden, the only way that can happen is for him to make covenants, formalized by sacrifice, to find a way to dwell with sinful people, restore relationship with them, and commission them to gladly obey him in advancing his kingdom.

So, first we see the covenant God makes with Noah after the flood: 

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.—Genesis 8:20–9:1

God is pleased with this worship and promises to never again destroy the earth, despite man’s evil intention. God promises to spare mankind so that he can continue to advance his kingdom through them, and then he commissions Noah just like he did Adam—“be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” God is pursuing his people through a covenant to advance his kingdom.

Next, we follow the family line of Noah down to Abraham. Abraham is from a family that worships idols, yet God calls him out of that says this to him: 

“Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”—Genesis 12:1–3

We see that the offspring promised to Eve is narrowing now to the family of Abraham. We won’t read it, but God formalizes this covenant by sacrifice with Abraham in Genesis 15. God is going to bless Abraham through his offspring (12:7) and make him a blessing to all the nations and give him a promised land. Do you see God commissioning again so that the glory of his kingdom will go to all the nations through his people? This has echoes of the commission of Adam & Even in the garden.

Abraham fathers Isaac who fathers Jacob, whose name becomes “Israel” and from whom the nation of Israel comes. So, the promise of the offspring narrows even more now to Jacob’s line.

Eventually, the nation of Israel is in slavery in Egypt. God hears the cries of his people, draws near, sends Moses to execute his plagues on the hard-hearted Pharaoh, and redeems his people and leads them out.

When God is calling Israel out, he has Moses tell Pharaoh that the nation of Israel is “his first-born son” (Exodus 4:22). This is supposed to remind us of the language of offspring from the garden. And as Israel is led in the wilderness, in Exodus 19:5–6, God makes a covenant with his people again:

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Now, Israel is God’s first-born son meant to be that kingdom of priests that will spread the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. Soon after, the Ten Commandments come, they build the tabernacle, and the glory of the Lord dwells among his people, marking them as the people of Yahweh so that the nations see his power and presence. God is pursuing his people through covenants to advance his kingdom.

Eventually, after lots of disobedience and wandering, Israel makes it to the Promised Land and appoints a king. First it is Saul, but then comes David—a man after God’s own heart. They are in the Promised Land, and God gives David rest all around him. It’s a reminder of the Garden of Eden to some degree. And then in 2 Samuel 7, God makes a covenant with David and promises David that he will have an offspring of his on the throne forever. So now, the offspring has narrowed to the family of David and we find out this offspring will be a King. God again is pursuing his people through covenants to advance his kingdom and, by stating that this throne will be forever, he is restating that his kingdom will be forever. It’s not going anywhere.

Yet all this time, something seems off. Israel is a disobedient royal priesthood. They are always failing just like Adam & Eve did in the garden as God’s new “son.” They are always going their own way. We see almost no glad obedience to God’s word from the kings that come after David, and therefore there is no peace. We see no sign of a perfect offspring of Adam or Abraham that will bring blessing to the nations and, therefore, we see very little hope that the promise of the defeat of the serpent and the restoration of fellowship with God and the advance of his kingdom will come.

Yet, the prophets Jeremiah (see chapter 31) and Ezekiel (see chapter 36) say that a new kind of covenant is coming some day in the future. It will be a covenant where God will forgive sins once for all and remember them no more. It will be a covenant where he will give them his Spirit and cause them to obey his commands. This is what they need. They need their sin forgiven and their shame covered. They need the Lord to help them obey his commands so they can have right relationship with him and advance his kingdom. They need this new covenant and its promises to come so that they can begin to experience the joy of glad obedience and fellowship with God again as his people—like it had been at first in the Garden.

Why walk you through all this? I want to show you that God is passionate about advancing his kingdom. It’s what he’s always been doing. And he’s been doing it by pursuing his people in covenants so that he can be with them for their good and the spread of his glory.

Jesus Ransoms a People
as an Obedient, Crucified King

Fast forward to the New Testament and the Gospel of Mark and Jesus comes on the scene early on in his ministry announcing what we’ve been talking about:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.—Mark 1:15

Jesus says, the “time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand.” What does he mean? Well, we find out quickly that we are meant to see Jesus as the fulfillment of all the covenants we’ve been talking about. That’s why Paul says that all the promises of God find their “Yes” in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Jesus is the perfect Adam: Romans 5 says that Jesus and his perfect obedience bring life to men where Adam’s disobedience brought death.

Jesus is the perfect Noah. Noah’s name sounds like the Hebrew word “rest,” and Genesis 5:29 says, “He will bring us rest.” Noah ultimately fails, but Jesus says, “Come all you heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Jesus is the promised offspring of Abraham: Galatians 3:16 makes it clear that Jesus is that promised offspring and that all who believe in him—like Abraham believed in God— become sons of God. Jesus, the true offspring, has come and brought blessing to the nations.

Jesus is the perfect Israel: Matthew 4 shows Jesus resisting temptation in the wilderness where Israel failed. Jesus says in Matthew 5 that he has come to fulfill the law, and we see him in Hebrews as the perfect Priest and sacrifice for sins.

Jesus is the perfect king who will reign forever from the line of David: We find out right away in the genealogy of Matthew (Matthew 1:1–17) that Jesus is from the line of David, and we see him ride in on a donkey to Jerusalem to signify that he is King and even on his cross it is written, “King of the Jews.” 

So, “the time is fulfilled” from Mark 1:15 means this: Jesus is here. All of the promises find their “yes” in him. The perfect Son, the promised offspring, the King of the kingdom has come to earth. 

And then Jesus says, “Repent and believe the gospel.” This would have been surprising and maybe explains why people didn’t understand Jesus. They wanted a king to come in power and conquer Rome. They didn’t want a Savior coming and telling them to repent. But, this is the message of the King—that he is coming to conquer the greatest enemy— the enemy of sin. He is coming to restore relationship with the God.

In fact, Jesus, at the Last Supper shows us that this “good news” is the ultimate fulfillment of what Jeremiah and Ezekiel talked about with the New Covenant when they said that he would forgive their sins once for all. And Jesus says that it is the New Covenant in his blood. How will sins be forgiven? By the blood of Jesus. How will God restore fellowship with his people? By the blood of Jesus. How will God ransom sinners and begin to again advance his kingdom? By the blood of Jesus.

The surprising way that God will ransom sinners and advance his kingdom is that he will pursue sinners through a covenant in the blood of his Son. He will overcome the death penalty of sin by having his perfectly obedient Son live the life we could never live and die the death we deserved to die. And then, he will cause his Son to rise from the dead, defeating death—landing the definitive blow to Satan—and showing that the kingdom of God will continue to advance through all who will put their trust in the crucified and risen King. … And it gets better.

How will God cause them to walk in glad obedience again? He will leave them with a Helper, the Holy Spirit who will glorify Christ (John 16:7) and transform them into his image (2 Corinthians 3:16–18). Do you hear that language? Adam & Eve and all of us, because of sin, have had the image of God distorted. But God is transforming us into the image of Christ, who is God from one degree of glory to the next, so that we can reflect that glory. The other promise of the New Covenant is this: I will give you my Spirit and cause you to walk in my statutes. He does not leave us as orphans. 

The Kingdom is here. The king came and fulfilled all the covenants and ushered in the new covenant in his blood. He has drawn near to his people through this new covenant and is advancing his kingdom through ransomed sinners filled with his Spirit.

Application
Blood-Bought, Spirit-Empowered Witnesses of the King

So, here we are today, and we know the Kingdom is not completely here yet. We still pray, “Your kingdom come.” We want Jesus to continue to have full reign over the remnants of darkness in our hearts, in our churches, in our neighborhoods, and in the nations. It’s clear that sin is not yet completely defeated. The Kingdom is here among us now in the blood-bought, Spirit-empowered people of the New Covenant. It’s here in this local church where 28 people have just said they want to join this blood-bought family. This is a miracle of God’s covenant mercy to us in Christ. And yet the Kingdom is not here fully. So, what is our part to play in this already-but-not-yet Kingdom? 

In Acts 1, Jesus has risen from the dead and will soon ascend to his Father: 

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.—Acts 1:6–7

They want to know if the kingdom of Israel is coming in full now that the King is here. He tells them not to worry about when that fullness will come. And then he commissions them:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.—Acts 1:8

Does this remind you of the commission of the Garden? All throughout Acts, we see the people of God love each other deeply, study the Word regularly, and pray passionately. Clearly, the blood-bought family is a new group of citizens who belong to a different kingdom that the kingdom of this earth. And what is the result?

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.—Acts 9:31

The call as the ransomed people of God who are being restored into his image is to gather together, to love one another, and to pray together so that we can build each other up to go out. The call is to be witnesses of the crucified and resurrected King in our neighborhoods and the nations. Our call is to go and love enemies of the Kingdom by telling them to “Repent and believe the gospel” and come into the Kingdom. Our call is to tell people that the empty promises of sin will never fulfill or satisfy, but that there is a King who died to forgive those sins to restore fellowship with God!

God gives us new life and a new family and new power of the Spirit so that we can die to ourselves and live for the sake of his kingdom—praying that God conquers hearts in the gospel. We are ambassadors of the King. We are a blood-bought family of witnesses. 

In Jesus, we have had our relationship restored and are beginning to experience the freedom of glad obedience in the Kingdom. And as the blood-bought, Spirit-empowered people of the kingdom of Jesus, we have the privilege to use our time, energy, and resources—all we do—to advance the kingdom of God and have more people bow the knee to King Jesus before it’s too late. God is drawing near to his people through the new covenant in Christ and advancing his kingdom through his ransomed people. We get the privilege of joining God in what he’s always been doing. Passionately advancing his kingdom for his glory and the good of his people.

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