Let’s spend some time on the church and the kingdom. Here are my working definitions for each:
The Church: a people on a common mission to love and serve one another and a broken world in Jesus’ name and for God’s glory.
The Kingdom: God’s hopes and dreams for His creation. Jesus declared its presence (which we pray for and work to expose) and He also described a future consummation of the kingdom (where everything God wants done is done) that will come at His return.
It’s interesting that Jesus spends hardly any time teaching about the church. He is all about the kingdom. Over 120 times on 30 different occasions distributed throughout the gospels, Jesus talks about the Kingdom. Only a few times does Jesus ever mention the church. But, what Jesus does say about the church helps us to see that He regarded it as a powerful force for advancing His message of the Kingdom…and advancing the kingdom itself.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:18
This should put an image in our minds of the Church forcefully invading the work of Satan in this world. Notice that hell is not on the offensive here, they are defending themselves behind the gates…trying to withstand…which, according to Jesus they will fail to do. So, we have this powerful imagery which represents Jesus’ firm belief in the potential of the Church to come together around a common mission to affect change...to storm the gates of hell.
Of course, the weapons we wield are love, joy, peace, compassion, generosity, sacrificial service, etc. The more we put these weapons to their intended use, the more of the kingdom that gets exposed and the weaker the gates of Hades becomes.
More on this tomorrow...