February 17: Finding Sustainment

Exodus 39:1–40:38; John 6:52–71; Song of Solomon 5:5–9

Following Jesus isn’t like developing a crisis-aversion system. So often, it’s tempting to treat our faith in this way—relying on Him when things get tough or when others expect us to do so. But He wants us to rely on Him continually.

After Jesus miraculously fed the crowds, He told them that He was the bread of life. But they were fickle. They wanted evidence—another sign. Instead of feeding their transient desires, Jesus delivered hard teaching: “The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me and I in him” (John 6:54–56).

For the Jews, this teaching would have been shocking and strange—drinking blood was forbidden by Old Testament law, and He was speaking about His own body. They followed Jesus because they wanted a sign, a prophet, or a Messiah. A sacrifice was not part of their plan.

But a sacrifice was exactly what they needed. Forgiveness and eternal life were discarded by some, but not by all. Simon Peter’s simple confession is actually quite stunning in the midst of all the confusion: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68–69). The disciples didn’t put hope in a transient sign—in one meal. And although they didn’t always understand Jesus’ teaching, they recognized that He was the true bread of life, and they relied on Him for sustainment even when His teaching seemed strange to their ears.

How are you challenging yourself to accept all the teachings of Jesus—not just the ones that are easy? How can you put your hope in Christ and look to Him for continual support?

Rebecca Van Noord[1]

[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.


Madness, Christianity, and the Left

What was once considered mad is now deemed sane, while people once considered sane are now the ones attacked as being mad as hatters and as vicious haters.

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February 17 How to Lose Your Joy

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11).


Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy.

True joy is God’s gift to every believer, and yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons. Willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.

Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. That teaching has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They’ve lost their perspective on God’s sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.

In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25–34), He spoke of food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We’re into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.

Amid all that, Paul’s words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much made no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.

Don’t be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God’s blessings for what they are, and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More important, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances. ✧ Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in you.

For Further Study: Read 1 Kings 18:1–19:8. ✧ How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal? ✧ How did he deal with Jezebel’s threat? ✧ What caused Elijah’s shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 60). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Confirmed: World Still Fallen

WORLD—A report released by an international coalition of representatives from various nations around the globe confirmed Friday that the world is still a deeply fallen place, with nearly every aspect of everyday life feeling the effects of mankind’s fall from grace. From relationships to governments to the very fabric of society, the report revealed that […]

. . . finish reading Confirmed: World Still Fallen.

Viral Bill Nye ‘Science Guy’ Video Claims Fertilized Eggs Are Not Humans; Pro-Lifers Push Back

(Christian News Network) “As an ultrasound tech, I can tell you from scanning a 5.5 week old ‘fertilized egg’ that I see its heartbeat. At 9 weeks, it’s forming limbs. And [at] 15, I can see the sex in some and the legs, arms, organs—and yes, its a baby, fully,” wrote Melissa Crise.”

A video on social media of Bill Nye, known as “The Science Guy,” asserting that fertilized eggs are not humans, has gone viral and has caused pro-lifers to push back against his claims.

In the video, recently shared by Big Think and having 33 million views as of press time, Nye remarked that eggs accept sperm all the time, but that in order for a fertilized egg to develop, it must attach to the uterine wall. View article →

Source: Viral Bill Nye ‘Science Guy’ Video Claims Fertilized Eggs Are Not Humans; Pro-Lifers Push Back


Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.


Do you realize that many, many persons now take it for granted that it is possible to live for Christ without first having died with Christ?

This is a serious error and we dare not leave it unchallenged!

The victorious Christian has known two lives. The first was his life in Adam which was motivated by the carnal mind and can never please God in any way. It can never be converted; it can only die (Rom. 8:5–8).

The second life of the Christian is his new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1–14). To live a Christian life with the life of Adam is wholly impossible. Yet multitudes take for granted that it can be done and go on year after year in defeat. Worst of all, they accept this half-dead condition as normal!

Another aspect of this attitude is the effort of many to do spiritual work without spiritual power. David Brainerd once compared a man without the power of the Spirit of God trying to do spiritual work to a workman without fingers attempting to do manual labor. The figure is striking but it does not overstate the facts.

The Holy Spirit is not a luxury meant to make deluxe Christians, as an illuminated frontispiece and a leather binding makes a deluxe book. The Spirit is an imperative necessity. Only the Eternal Spirit can do eternal deeds![1]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 02/17/2018

False Teacher Rob Bell Claims in New Documentary ‘The Heretic’: ‘Jesus Would Be Mortified Someone Started a Religion in His Name’   Feb 11, 2018 07:11 pm

A new documentary called “The Heretic,” which centers on false teacher Rob Bell, is set to be released on March 1, and features a number of statements that are already raising concern, such as, “The Bible has caused so much damage” and “Jesus would be absolutely mortified that someone started a religion in His name.” Bell explained in a Facebook post on Feb. 1…

Continue reading the story

Prideful U.S. Olympic Skier Flaunts Homosexuality in Opposition of Pence, VP Says He’s ‘Proud’ of ‘All’ Athletes   Feb 10, 2018 01:44 pm

PYEONGCHANG — A U.S. Olympic skier has been pridefully promoting his homosexuality in expressing his opposition to Vice President Mike Pence’s leadership of the 2018 U.S. Olympic delegation to South Korea, in light of reports that Pence supports conversion therapy for homosexuals. Pence has responded to the matter by advising in tweets not to believe what he called…

Continue reading the story

Norwegian Boy Chased, Taken Into Custody by Authorities for Being Homeschooled   Feb 15, 2018 11:21 am

NORWAY — “Barnevernet is stealing our child in Norway because we want to homeschool!” That’s what one mother is heard shouting in a viral video posted to social media. According to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), Leif and Terese Kristiansen removed their 12-year-old son Kai from school after he was being bullied and officials did not move…

Continue reading the story

New Jersey ELCA ‘Church’ Holds ‘Renaming’ Ceremony for Female Leader Who Wants to Be Called Peter   Feb 12, 2018 03:22 pm

Photo Credit: St. Matthew-Trinity Lutheran Church Facebook page HOBOKEN, N.J. — An assembly that is a part of the apostate Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) held a “renaming” ceremony on Sunday for their female pastor, who wishes to present herself as a man and now go by the name Peter—after one of Jesus’ disciples. St. Matthew Trinity…

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Parkland High School Shooting: At Least 17 Killed, Suspect in Custody   Feb 14, 2018 06:40 pm

PARKLAND, Fla. (Fox News) — A shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, left at least 17 people dead, officials said Wednesday, and the suspect—believed to be a former student—was in custody. The shooting suspect was identified as Nicolas Cruz, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was under lockdown as…

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Massachusetts Elementary School Principal Announces That He Identifies as a Woman   Feb 15, 2018 01:21 pm

SWAMPSCOTT, Mass. — An elementary school principal in Massachusetts has announced in a letter that he identifies as a woman and will present himself as female going forward. Principal Tom Daniels, who had led Stanley Elementary School since 2012, explained in the Feb. 6 correspondence that he has struggled with his gender identity from the time he was a youth,…

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North Carolina to Pay Over $200K to Magistrate for Not Accommodating Her Religious Convictions About Marriage   Feb 12, 2018 11:14 pm

RALEIGH, N.C. — The State of North Carolina has agreed to pay over $200,000 to a former magistrate who resigned from the bench in 2014 as she felt forced out after a federal court struck down the state’s same-sex “marriage” ban and her superiors would not allow an accommodation for her religious beliefs. As previously reported, in October 2014, U.S. District…

Continue reading the story

Viral Bill Nye ‘Science Guy’ Video Claims Fertilized Eggs Are Not Humans; Pro-Lifers Push Back   Feb 14, 2018 03:14 pm

A video on social media of Bill Nye, known as “The Science Guy,” asserting that fertilized eggs are not humans, has gone viral and has caused pro-lifers to push back against his claims. In the video, recently shared by Big Think and having 33 million views as of press time, Nye remarked that eggs accept sperm all the time, but that in order for a fertilized egg to…

Continue reading the story

10 Attorneys General, 16 Scholars File Legal Briefs in Support of Screen Printer Who Declined Order for ‘Gay Pride’ T-Shirts   Feb 14, 2018 05:48 pm

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A number of friend-of-the-court briefs have been filed with the Kentucky Supreme Court as it is set to decide an appeal surrounding an expressly Christian screen printing business accused of discrimination for declining to print shirts for a “gay pride” parade. Among the amicus briefs include those filed by 10 states, the governor of Kentucky, and…

Continue reading the story

Scripture Signs Removed From High School Choir Room Following Complaint From Atheist Activist Group   Feb 13, 2018 01:55 am

SEARCY, Ark. — Several displays featuring quotations from Scripture have been removed from a choir room at a public high school in Arkansas following a complaint from one of the nation’s most conspicuous professing atheist activist organizations. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter in November to the superintendent of the…

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Five words of hope in the face of horrific evil and pain

(Denny Burk – Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College) When horrific evil unfolds before our very eyes, there is a temptation to lose sight of the verities that ought to sustain and comfort us. For those watching the aftermath of the unmitigated evil of yesterday’s shooting in Florida, here are some words of hope to cling to. Hold them close.

1. God is good all the time.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8). “For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Ps. 106:1). “The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).

2. God is near to the broken-hearted.

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “He heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Thy works” (Psalm 73:28). “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

3. The delay of God’s justice isn’t the absence of God’s justice.

“He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7). “But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:7-9). View article →

Source: Five words of hope in the face of horrific evil and pain

Winter Olympics Promotes Homosexuality As Principle 6 Is Pushed

(Steve McConkey – 4 Winds USA) Olympic skater Adam Rippon and skier Gus Kenworthy are promoting homosexuality as normal behavior. They are the first openly gay Winter Olympians from the United States.

They have been verbally attacking Vice President Mike Pence. Kenworthy recently appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show criticizing Pence. Hillary Clinton praised the gay athletes and said she will be focusing on them as she watches the Games.

“Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy will be used by the Olympic Committee and the press to further the sin of homosexuality,” states 4 Winds Christian Athletics President Steve McConkey. “The Olympic Committee has promoted transgenders, intersex athletes without proper testing, and same sex marriage. View article →

Source: Winter Olympics Promotes Homosexuality As Principle 6 Is Pushed

Interview on the NAR with Alisa Childers

Take a listen to Alisa Childers’ latest podcast, with me, “The New Apostolic Reformation: What It Is and Why We Should Care.”

Alisa’s personal story is inspiring. She’s a lifelong Christian and former CCM recording artist–a member of ZOEgirl–who went through a time of profound doubt about her faith in her mid-30s. She investigated her faith intellectually, developed a well-reasoned and robust faith, and now has an apologetics ministry dedicated to helping others find answers to their tough questions.

I really enjoyed being interviewed by Alisa. She asks great questions. We covered many topics including my response to radio host Michael Brown’s defense of NAR leaders and his claims that the New Apostolic Reformation isn’t the big, concerning movement that critics, like myself, say it is. Here’s the podcast description from Alisa’s website.

There is a movement within Christendom called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Some Christians believe it’s a true work of God, others are skeptical…others claim it doesn’t exist at all!  My guest, Holly Pivec has written two books on the NAR, and talks with me  about her concerns regarding the teachings and practices of this growing movement.

Listen to the podcast here.


Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.

Source: Listen to my new interview on the NAR with Alisa Childers

40 Days to the Cross: Week of Ash Wednesday – Saturday

Confession: Psalm 51:13–19

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed,

O God, the God of my salvation;

then my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good in your favor toward Zion.

Build the walls of Jerusalem.

Then you will delight in righteous sacrifices,

burnt offering and whole burnt offering.

Then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Reading: Mark 9:14–29

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them. And immediately the whole crowd, when they saw him, were amazed, and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And one individual from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought to you my son who has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes paralyzed. And I told your disciples that they should expel it, and they were not able to do so.”

And he answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me!” And they brought him to him. And when he saw him, the spirit immediately convulsed him, and falling on the ground, he began to roll around, foaming at the mouth. And he asked his father how long it was since this had been happening to him. And he said, “From childhood. And often it has thrown him both into fire and into water, in order that it could destroy him. But if you are able to do anything, have compassion on us and help us!” But Jesus said to him, “If you are able! All things are possible for the one who believes!” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe! Help my unbelief!”

Now when Jesus saw that a crowd was running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and enter into him no more!” And it came out, screaming and convulsing him greatly, and he became as if he were dead, so that most of them said, “He has died!” But Jesus took hold of his hand and raised him up, and he stood up. And after he had entered into the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why were we not able to expel it?” And he said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing except by prayer.”


The praying sinner receives mercy because his prayer is grounded on the promise of pardon made by Him whose right it is to pardon guilty sinners. The penitent seeker after God obtains mercy because there is a definite promise of mercy to all who seek the Lord in repentance and faith. Prayer always brings forgiveness to the seeking soul. The abundant pardon is dependent upon the promise made real by the promise of God to the sinner.

While salvation is promised to him who believes, the believing sinner is always a praying sinner.… “Behold he prays” is not only the unfailing sign of sincerity and the evidence that the sinner is proceeding in the right way to find God, but it is the prophecy of abundant pardon. Get the sinner to praying according to the divine promise, and he then is near the kingdom of God. The very best sign of the returning prodigal is that he confesses his sins and begins to ask for the lowliest place in his father’s house.

It is the divine promise of mercy, of forgiveness and of adoption which gives the poor sinner hope. This encourages him to pray. This moves him in distress to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me” (Luke 18:38).

—E. M. Bounds

The Possibilities of Prayer


Like the father of the child in Mark 9:14–29 and the prodigal son—needy and at the end of themselves—may you, too, cry out, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” Confess your sin today, seek God, and know that you find mercy because He is merciful.[1]

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 17, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Message

The message John proclaimed was simple, so simple it could easily be summarized in one word: repent (3:2a; cf. Acts 13:24; 19:4). The Greek word (metanoeō) behind repent means more than regret or sorrow (cf. Heb. 12:17); it means to turn around, to change direction, to change the mind and will. It does not denote just any change, but always a change from the wrong to the right, away from sin and to righteousness. In his outstanding commentary on Matthew, John A. Broadus observes that “wherever this Greek word is used in the New Testament the reference is to changing the mind and the purpose from sin to holiness.” Repentance involves sorrow for sin, but sorrow that leads to a change of thinking, desire, and conduct of life. “The sorrow that is according to the will of God,” Paul says, “produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10; cf. v. 9). John’s command to repent could therefore be rendered “be converted.”

John’s message of preparation for the coming of the King was repentance, conversion, the demand for a completely different life. That must have been startling news for Jews who thought that, as God’s chosen people—the children of Abraham, the people of the covenant—they deserved and were unconditionally assured of the promised King. Knowing what they must have been thinking, John later told his listeners, “Do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (3:9). God was not interested in His people’s human heritage but in their spiritual life. “What the King wants from you,” John was saying, “is that you make a complete turnaround from the way you are, that you be totally converted, totally changed.” God calls for radical change and transformation that affects the mind, the will, and the emotions—the whole person. John’s point was simple: “You are in the same condition as the Gentiles. You have no right to the kingdom unless you repent and are converted from sin to righteousness.” He called for a true repentance that results in the fruit of a translated life (v. 8) and that includes baptism with water (v. 11a). Failure to repent would result in severe judgment, as Matthew 11:20–24 and 12:38–41 demonstrate.

Repentance was exactly the same message with which Jesus began His preaching and the apostles began theirs. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus proclaimed; “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15; cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Luke 5:32). Mark 6:12 says of the twelve: “And they went out and preached that men should repent.” In his Pentecost sermon, Peter’s concluding words were, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38; cf. Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:18).

The close connection between repentance and conversion is also indicated in texts that do not specifically use the word repentance, yet convey the same idea (see Matt. 18:3; Luke 14:33). The best summary statement may be that of Paul in Acts 26:20, where he states that the objective of his ministry was that men “should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”

The Motive

The motive John gave for repentance was: the kingdom of heaven is at hand (3:2b). The people should repent and be converted because the King was coming, and He deserves and requires no less. The unrepentant and unconverted cannot give the heavenly King the glory He deserves, do not belong to the heavenly King, and are unfit for His heavenly kingdom.

After four hundred years, the people of Israel again heard God’s prophetic word. Malachi’s prophecy was followed by four centuries of silence, with no new or direct word from the Lord. Now, when His word came to Israel again, proclaiming the coming of the King, it was not the expected word of joy and comfort and celebration but a message of warning and rebuke. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, waiting to be ushered in, but Israel was not ready for it.

Despite many similar warnings by the prophets, many of the people and most of the leaders were not prepared for John’s message. What he said was shocking; it was unexpected and unacceptable. It was inconceivable to them that, as God’s people, they had anything to do to inherit God’s kingdom but simply wait for and accept it. The Messiah was their Messiah, the King was their King, the Savior was their Savior, the promise was their promise. Every Jew was destined for the kingdom, and every Gentile was excluded, except for a token handful of proselytes. That was the common Jewish thinking of the day, which John totally shattered.

But John’s message was God’s message, and he would not compromise it or clutter it with the popular misconceptions and delusions of his own day and his own people. He had no word but God’s word, and he proclaimed no kingdom but God’s kingdom and no preparation but God’s preparation. That preparation was repentance. God’s standard would not change, even if every Jew were excluded and every Gentile saved. God knew that some Jews would be saved, but none apart from personal repentance and conversion.

Although the precise phrase is not found there, the kingdom of heaven is basically an Old Testament concept. David declares that “the Lord is King forever and ever” (Ps. 10:16; cf. 29:10), that His kingdom is everlasting, and that His dominion “endures throughout all generations” (Ps. 145:13). Daniel speaks of “the God of heaven [who] will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44; cf. Ezek. 37:25), a “kingdom [that] is an everlasting kingdom” (Dan. 4:3). The God of heaven is the King of heaven, and the heavenly kingdom is God’s kingdom.

Matthew uses the phrase kingdom of heaven thirty-two times, and is the only gospel writer who uses it at all. The other three use “the kingdom of God.” It is probable that Matthew used kingdom of heaven because it was more understandable to his primarily Jewish readers. Jews would not speak God’s name (Yahweh, or Jehovah), and would often substitute heaven when referring to Him—much as we do in such expressions as “heaven smiled on me today.”

There is no significant difference between “the kingdom of God” and the kingdom of heaven. The one phrase emphasizes the sovereign Ruler of the kingdom and the other emphasizes the kingdom itself, but they are the same kingdom. Matthew 19:23–24 confirms the equality of the phrases by using them interchangeably.

The kingdom has two aspects, the outer and the inner, both of which are spoken of in the gospels. Those aspects are evident as one moves through Matthew. In the broadest sense, the kingdom includes everyone who professes to acknowledge God. Jesus’ parable of the sower represents the kingdom as including both genuine and superficial believers (Matt. 13:3–23), and in His following parable (vv. 24–30) as including both wheat (true believers) and tares (false believers). That is the outer kingdom, the one we can see but cannot accurately evaluate ourselves, because we cannot know people’s hearts.

The other kingdom is the inner, the kingdom that includes only true believers, only those who, as John the Baptist proclaimed, repent and are converted. God rules over both aspects of the kingdom, and He will one day finally separate the superficial from the real. Meanwhile He allows the pretenders to identify themselves outwardly with His kingdom.

God’s kingly rule over the hearts of men and over the world may be thought of as having a number of phases. The first is the prophesied kingdom, such as that foretold by Daniel. The second phase is the present kingdom, the one that existed at the time of John the Baptist and that he mentions. It is the kingdom that both John and Jesus spoke of as being at hand (cf. 4:17). The third phase may be referred to as the interim kingdom, the kingdom that resulted because of Israel’s rejection of her King. The King returned to heaven and His kingdom on earth now exists only in a mystery form. Christ is Lord of the earth in the sense of His being its Creator and its ultimate Ruler; but He does not presently exercise His full divine will over the earth. He is, so to speak, in a voluntary exile in heaven until it is time for Him to return again. He reigns only in the hearts of those who know Him as Savior and Lord. For those “the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

The fourth phase can be described as the manifest kingdom, in which Christ will rule, physically, directly, and fully on earth for a thousand years, the Millennium. In that kingdom He will rule both externally and internally—externally over all mankind, and internally in the hearts of those who belong to Him by faith. The fifth, and final, phase is the “eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” which “will be abundantly supplied” to all of His own (2 Pet. 1:11).

Had God’s people Israel accepted their King when He first came to them, there would be no interim kingdom. The kingdom at hand would have become the kingdom of a thousand years, which, in turn, would have ushered in the eternal kingdom. But because they killed the forerunner of the King and then the King Himself, the millennial kingdom, and consequently the eternal kingdom, were sovereignly postponed.[1]

2 John’s preaching had two elements. The first was a call to repent. Though the verb metanoeō (GK 3566) is often explained etymologically as “to change one’s mind,” or popularly as “to be sorry for something,” neither rendering is adequate. In classical Greek, the verb could refer to a purely intellectual change of mind. But the NT usage has been influenced by the Hebrew verbs nāḥam (“to be sorry for one’s actions,” GK 5714) and s̆ûb (“to turn around to new actions,” GK 8740). The latter is common in the prophets’ call to the people to return to the covenant with Yahweh (cf. NIDNTT 1:357–59; Turner, Christian Words, 374–77). What is meant is not a merely intellectual change of mind or mere grief, still less doing penance (see Notes), but a radical transformation of the entire person, a fundamental turnaround involving mind and action and including overtones of grief, which results in “fruit in keeping with repentance” (v. 8). Of course, all this assumes that human actions are fundamentally off course and need radical change. John applies this repentance to the religious leaders of his day (3:7–8) with particular vehemence. (On the differences between biblical and rabbinic emphases on repentance, see Lane, Mark, 593–600.)

The second element in John’s preaching was the nearness of the kingdom of heaven, and this is given as the ground for repentance. Throughout the OT, there was a rising expectation of a divine visitation that would establish justice, crush opposition, and renew the very universe. This hope was couched in many categories. It was presented as the fulfillment of promises to David’s heir, as the Day of the Lord (which often had dark overtones of judgment, though there were bright exceptions, e.g., Zep 3:14–20), as a new heaven and a new earth, and as a time of regathering Israel, as the inauguration of a new and transforming covenant (2 Sa 7:13–14; Isa 1:24–28; 9:6–7; 11:1–10; 64–66; Jer 23:5–6; 31:31–34; Eze 37:24; Da 2:44; 7:13–14; cf. Ridderbos, Coming of the Kingdom, 3–15; Ladd, Presence of the Future, 45–75).

The predominant meaning of “kingdom” in the OT (Heb. malkût, GK 4895; Aram. malkûta, see GK 10424) is “reign”; the term has dynamic force. Similarly in the NT, though basileia (“kingdom,” GK 993) can refer to a territory (4:8), the overwhelming majority of instances use the term with dynamic force. This stands over against the prevailing rabbinic terminology, in which “kingdom” was increasingly spiritualized or planted in men’s hearts (e.g., b. Ber. 4a). In the first century, there was little agreement among Jews as to what the messianic kingdom would be like (cf. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The One Who Is to Come (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007]). One popular assumption was that the Roman yoke would be shattered and there would be political peace and mounting prosperity. For excellent surveys of this history of interpretation of “kingdom of God/heaven” from the OT documents through to Matthew, see Christian Grappe, Le Royaume de Dieu: Avant, avec et après Jésus (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 2001); Rick Brown, “A Brief History of Interpretations of ‘The Kingdom of God’ and Some Consequences for Translation,” Notes 15 (2001): 3–23; Hannan, Nature and Demands.

Except at 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43, and in some MSS of 6:33, Matthew always uses “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God” (this reckoning excludes references to “my kingdom” and the like), whereas Mark and Luke prefer “kingdom of God.” Matthew’s preferred expression certainly does not restrict God’s reign to the heavens. The biblical goal is the manifest exercise of God’s sovereignty, his “reign” on earth and among men. There are enough parallels among the Synoptics to imply that “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” denote the same thing (e.g., Mt 19:23–24 = Mk 10:23–25); the connotative distinction is less certain.

Classic dispensationalists (e.g., A. C. Gaebelein, John Walvoord) hold that “kingdom of God” is a distinctively spiritual kingdom, a narrower category embracing only true believers, whereas “kingdom of heaven” is the kingdom of millennial splendor, a broader category including (as in the parable, 13:47–50) both good and bad fish. The distinction is unfortunate. It comes perilously close to confusing kingdom and church (see comments at 16:17–19), fails to account for passages where the Matthean category is no less restrictive than “kingdom of God” in the other evangelists, and fundamentally misapprehends the dynamic nature of the kingdom. Equally unconvincing is the suggestion of Margaret Pamment (“Kingdom of Heaven”) that “kingdom of heaven” always refers to the future reign following the consummation, whereas in Matthew “kingdom of God” refers to the present manifestation. To arrive at this absolute dichotomy, Pamment must resort to very unlikely interpretations of numerous passages (e.g., 11:12; parables in ch. 13). Many other proposals are stated firmly but cannot withstand close scrutiny.

The most common explanation is that Matthew avoided “kingdom of God” to remove unnecessary offense to Jews who often used circumlocutions like “heaven” to refer to God (e.g., Da 4:26; 1 Macc 3:50, 60; 4:55; Lk 15:18, 21). The suggestion cannot be ruled out entirely but cannot be given much weight in the light of the fact that Matthew is often happy to refer to “God” directly.

Matthew is a subtle and allusive writer, and other factors appear to be involved: (1) “Kingdom of heaven” may anticipate the extent of Christ’s postresurrection authority. God’s sovereignty in heaven and on earth is now mediated through him (Mt 28:18). (2) “Kingdom of God” makes God the King, and though this does not prevent the other Synoptics from ascribing the kingship to Jesus (cf. Lk 22:16, 18, 29–30), there is less room to maneuver. Matthew’s “kingdom of heaven” assumes it is God’s kingdom and occasionally assigns it specifically to the Father (Mt 26:29), though leaving room to ascribe it frequently to Jesus (16:28; 25:31, 34, 40; 27:42; probably 5:35); for Jesus is King Messiah. This inevitably has christological implications. The kingdom of heaven is simultaneously the kingdom of the Father and the kingdom of the Son of Man. (3) Jonathan Pennington (Heaven and Earth) has shown that Matthew contrasts “heaven” and “earth” as two spheres, two kingdoms—one that embraces all that is God-centered and good, the other all that is in rebellion and characterized by corruption. By preferring “kingdom of heaven” to “kingdom of God,” Matthew is sustaining this powerful antithesis and drawing attention to the quality of the kingdom that both the Baptist and Jesus announce.

This kingdom, John preached, “is near” (ēngiken, lit., “has drawn near,” GK 1581). Jews spoke of the Messiah as “the coming one” (11:3) and the messianic age as “the coming age” (Heb 6:5): John says it has now drawn “near,” the same message preached by Jesus (Mt 4:17) and his disciples (10:7). It is possible, but not certain, that the verb has the same force as ephthasen (GK 5777) in 12:28. There Jesus unambiguously affirms that the kingdom “has come.” That passage makes it clear that it is the exercise of God’s saving sovereignty or reign that has dawned. The ambiguous “is near” (3:2; 4:17), coupled with the dynamic sense of “kingdom,” prepares us for a constant theme: The kingdom came with Jesus and his preaching and miracles, it came with his death and resurrection, and it will come at the end of the age.

Matthew has already established that Jesus was born King (2:2). Later Jesus declared that his work testified the kingdom had come (12:28), even though he frequently spoke of the kingdom as something to be inherited when the Son of Man comes in his glory. It is false to say that “kingdom” undergoes a radical shift with the mention of mystery (NIV, “secrets”; see comments at 13:11). Already in the Sermon on the Mount, entering the kingdom (5:3, 10; 7:21) is equivalent to entering into life (7:13–14; cf. 19:14, 16; see Mk 9:45, 47).

These and related themes become clearer as Matthew’s gospel progresses (cf. Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 57–90). But two observations cannot be delayed. First, the Baptist’s terminology, though veiled, necessarily roused enormous excitement (v. 5). But assorted apocalyptic and political expectations would have brought about a profound misunderstanding of the kingdom being preached. Therefore Jesus himself purposely used veiled terminology when treating themes like this. This becomes increasingly obvious in Matthew. The second observation relates to the first. Just as the angel’s announcement to Joseph declared Jesus’ primary purpose to be to save his people from their sins (1:21), so the first announcement of the kingdom is associated with repentance and confession of sin (v. 6). These themes are constantly intertwined in Matthew (cf. Goppelt, Theologie des Neuen Testaments, 128–88).[2]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 53–56). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 128–130). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.