This short article will demonstrate that the presence of the “miraculous” through the work of the Spirit in the first century was the definitive sign to Israel that the Kingdom of God was near, and would be established in the first century. As we will show, both Jesus and his disciples “confirmed” the gospel of the kingdom with “signs following”. What follows is powerful evidence that the Kingdom of God was not postponed by the Jewish rejection of Jesus, but was still being established decades after the cross, and would be consummated in the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporary generation.
First, let’s define the “gospel of the Kingdom”.
From that time, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand… Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom…”
The gospel (good news) of the Kingdom was that the Kingdom of heaven was “at hand”, it was near. But that’s not all….
Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near…. So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place.
By combining these texts, we can understand the message of the Kingdom. The good news (gospel) of the Kingdom in the first century, was that Israel’s long anticipated Kingdom that had drawn near, was about to be established in the lifetime of those who began to preach it. In other words, the good news of the Kingdom that both Jesus and his disciples preached was that the Kingdom of God would be fully established and received in their generation, and the “miraculous” (signs, wonders, miracles) of the Spirit was given to confirm both the message and the messengers. This is a pattern and connection that we begin to see in the ministry of Jesus.
We must always remember that Jesus became a ….
“… servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers…” (Romans 15:8)
And, as confirmation of those promises (the gospel of the Kingdom), notice that “signs” accompanied the message of the Master….
Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes…. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him.… They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst…”
Jesus came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. The gospel (good news) message of the Kingdom was that the Kingdom was near, and would be established in the lifetime of those who heard that message (Mathew 4:17,23 16:27-28). And, to confirm that message and his authority to deliver that message, Jesus performed signs, miracles, and wonders through the Spirit (Mathew 3:16-17, Acts 2:22). Jesus established the pattern and connection of “message and miracle”. However, Jesus’ time was short, and he knew it. He therefore commissioned certain of his disciples to help in his mission, and gave them the miraculous gifts of the Spirit as confirmation of that message.
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness…. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come…. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
The “works” that confirmed the message of the Teacher, also confirmed the message of the students – the Kingdom had drawn near, and would be established in their lifetime.
In approximately 30AD Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. But, rather than instructing his disciples to abandon the gospel message and begin preaching that the Kingdom had been “postponed”, Jesus commands them to continue proclaiming the “gospel of the Kingdom”, and promised to confirm their message with “signs following”. The pattern and connection of “message and miracle” continued….
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover…. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.
What this means is that despite the rejection of the gospel by the majority of the Jews and their crucifixion of Jesus, the gospel of the Kingdom was still relevant. In other words, the Kingdom was still “near” and would be fully established in the lifetime of Jesus’ disciples, and the miraculous gifts of the Spirit would be confirmation of that message and of their authority to preach it.
On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were “clothed with power from on high” as the Spirit was poured out upon them (Luke 24:49, Isaiah 32:15), and as they spoke of the “mighty deeds of God” they began to “speak with other tongues” (Acts 2:4,11). This was the beginning of what Jesus had promised. They were preaching the gospel of the Kingdom (the mighty deeds of God) and the signs (new tongues) confirmed it. In fact, Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2:14-40 was the gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus had been seated upon the throne of David (in fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7:12-13), to initiate the Kingdom (in fulfillment of Psalm 110), and had poured out the miraculous gift of the promised Holy Spirit as confirmation that the Kingdom was being established (in fulfillment of Joel 2:28-3:1, Isaiah 32:15, and Ezekiel 37 etc.).
From that day forward, the disciples – empowered by the miraculous gifts of the Spirit – continued to proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom with “signs following”. The kingdom was not postponed, the Kingdom mission of Jesus had not failed, the Kingdom was still “at hand”. And, the “signs, miracles, and wonders performed by the disciples were proof that the Kingdom of God would be fully established and received in their generation, just like Jesus had promised.
The PDF chart below powerfully demonstrates that the miraculous “signs” were still confirming the “gospel of the Kingdom” (the good news of a first century Kingdom-consummation) decades after the cross.
Based on what we have said above, consider the following argument:
The gospel (good news) of the Kingdom that Jesus preached was that the Kingdom of God would be fully established in the lifetime of his first century disciples (Mathew 16:27-28), and the miraculous gifts of the Spirit confirmed and guaranteed that message (Acts 2:22).
But, decades after the cross, the disciples of Jesus continued to preach the same gospel (good news) of the Kingdom, and the miraculous gifts of the Spirit continued to confirm and guarantee that message (Acts 8:4-15)
Therefore, unless the first century inspired disciples were mistaken in their gospel message, and the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were confirming their mistaken message, then the Kingdom of God must have been fully established in the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporary generation. Either the Kingdom has fully arrived, or the bible is fiction, there is no alternative.
In reality, we have taken the long road to explain what the scriptures teach all too plainly. Notice the following….
-Jesus promised to return to establish his Kingdom in the lifetime of his first century disciples (Mathew 16:27-28), specifically at the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 (Luke 21:20-23,27-32).
-The disciples carried that hope, and preached that message decades after the cross (Acts 2, 19:6-12).
-Paul said that through the removal of the Old Covenant world of Judaism in the first century, the New Covenant word of Christ was being established as the Kingdom of God and therefore the Kingdom of God was being received (Galatians 4:18-30, Hebrews 12:26-28).
One final though. If the Kingdom of God has not yet arrived, then where are all the “inspired” disciples of Jesus performing “signs, miracles, and wonders” as confirmation that the Kingdom is yet coming? The answer is obvious. The Kingdom is not coming, it has come. The total absence of the miraculous today bears witness to the testimony of scripture that the Kingdom arrived right on time. Since the miraculous gifts were given as the sign that the Kingdom was coming, but the miraculous has ceased, this is undeniable evidence that the Kingdom has come.
Sadly, many Christians today not only deny the reality of the Kingdom of God in the earth, they also deny that the miraculous has ceased. They say, “the reason we don’t see miracles is because we don’t believe”. Thus, they see the absence of the miraculous as a lack of faith, rather than the evidence of the faithfulness of God to fulfill his promise to establish his Kingdom and bring righteousness to his people.
The conclusion is simple. The Kingdom of God was fully established and received through the removal of the Old Covenant world of Judaism – the Old Covenant kingdom – in AD70, just like Jesus promised. It’s time to be bold and proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom.… the Kingdom has come.