Lately at Flint River, I have been attempting to preach through the book of Daniel. It’s been encouraging, in that Daniel is a book of one deliverance in the face of persecution after another. It also speaks to the Divine inspiration of scripture, in that God discloses the reality of the next three world empires following Babylon.
As I was studying through Daniel Chapter 2, an intriguing through struck my mind.
God foretold of the fall of Babylon, the Medes and Persians, the Grecian empire, and finally the Roman empire. He told of Cyrus. He told of Alexander the Great. He told of Antiochus. He alluded to the brutal reign of the Caesars, comparing them to teeth of iron. Lastly, he informed Daniel of the coming Messiah and the Kingdom which God would establish in the days of the Messiah. In fact, the primary reason for sharing these detailed visions was to announce the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, a Kingdom which 1) God would set up and 2) would have no end.
According to prophesy (see Daniel 2) this Kingdom would be established in the days of the Roman empire. (In the Daniel 2 vision, the Romans were depicted as two iron legs and feet of iron mixed with clay.) In the days of these Roman kings, God would establish His Kingdom. What was this Kingdom? The shortest definition I could give is that His Kingdom is His Church. A longer description would be the experience of New Testament worship, centralized around bodies of believers under the Lordship and Headship of Jesus Christ as King. The Kingdom of God is manifest in Christ’s church when all is as it should be in a church body. Yet, rather than a physical locale, Paul describes it as a spiritual experience of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It’s an experience, more than a place. As Jesus said, this Kingdom is not “here or there” but exists “within you” (Lk 17:21). While many believers today are expecting Jesus to establish His Kingdom in Jerusalem at His second coming, it is clear from Old Testament prophesy that it would come in the midst of the Roman empire. This is confirmed in the New Testament by Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostles as they went preaching “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Mth 3:2, Mth 4:17, Mth 10:7). The Kingdom appeared in the first century and has been here ever since.
Allow me to make a point with this concerning some contemporary issues today. Many of us, myself included, are rightfully concerned with the shape of our country today. How many times do you hear points made, in sermons, which begin with the words “this nation”? This nation…this nation…this nation. How much of our preaching is devoted to “fixing” America, “restoring a godly government” to America, or merely ranting about the spiritual poverty of our land? I believe our focus has been misplaced. Frankly, we’re wasting time. Don’t get me wrong, we are commanded to pray for our leaders so that we can live a quiet and peaceable life. We’re also to command, as pastors, that we walk NOT as other gentiles walk in the lusts of our flesh. But never in Apostolic preaching was time spent on governmental reform.
Think about this. At no time did God foretell us of the coming of America. Scripture doesn’t specifically even mention our nation! Apparently, the USA isn’t a big enough issue to devote any ink to in Divine Scripture! But, compare this to the fact that God informed His people as to the coming of His Kingdom. He told them when. He told them where.
The Church, not America, is God’s chief concern in this world. If we are more concerned about the condition of America that we are about the condition of the church, our priorities are misplaced. A man can only serve one master. We are creatures designed to focus on only one task at a time. Don’t believe me? Try paying attention to two conversations simultaneously. You can’t do it and neither can I. With our churches declining, splitting, and closing each year, I don’t have the time or energy to waste worrying about America. The walls of the Holy City need rebuilding! Shall I seek my own house, when God’s house lies in ruin (See Haggai)?
Jesus said for us to seek His Kingdom first. That was true then and it’s true now. Let’s take our concern and emphasis of the futile task of political reform and place it where it belong – working in the Lord’s vineyard.