Conversatio Divina

Part 7 of 34

The Kingdom of God

Dallas Willard

In 1993 Dallas began teaching an intensive two-week residential course for Fuller Theological Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program. His task was to teach about spiritual life in a systematic way so that its full connection to the work of the minister was clear. These sessions from 2012 are from Dallas's last year of teaching the course before he died. Though a bulk of the course was usually centered on the nature and practice of disciplines, the beginning of the course dealt with more theological themes like the nature of spiritual reality and the end of the course dealt with topics in spirituality like vocational issues. [Editor's Note: We know that the class was taped on other occasions and would be glad to find these recordings.]

Ok, I think perhaps we are here and I have to now do a required reference on the gospel which is 1 Corinthians 15 and this is always the one that is brought up, and with good reason.


1 Corinthians 15, Paul is giving his teaching about the substance or the essence of the gospel and he is in particular preparing to respond to some issues about resurrection and so, at the end of chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians, verse 40, we have THE Presbyterian gospel. “Let all things be done properly and in an orderly manner.” Well, we could use a little more of that in lots of places but now, here is what he says, “I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preach to you, which also you received, in which you stand by which you are saved if you hold fast the word which I preach to you unless you believed in vain.” That’s a quintessentially Armenian verse. “For we delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” OK?


Set that in concrete however you understand that and today of course there is a huge turmoil over atonement. You want to hang on to the thing that is said here, “Christ died for our sins.” Now, how that works, it doesn’t tell you and that’s important to understand that as well. And, notice, by the way, my version, it has a comma after the words “Scriptures.” What does it have after yours? [A comma] Is it a period? [No] Well, that might be meaningful. “And that He was buried.” OK, so that’s a part of the gospel that Jesus was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Now, let’s see. Have you got a period there? After 4? Well, and “He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” Is that part of the gospel?  Hmmmm…after that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of them remain until now but some who had fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all of the apostles; and last of all,”–you know, we haven’t got a period yet.  Now, I know there are problems with punctuation in the Greek. Let’s see, the danger is that you will stop after 3 but you want to be sure and include the rest. “Last of all, He appeared to me also.” And finally you get a period at the end of 9. Well, this is something for you to think about.


The risen Christ is a part of the gospel and the risen Christ is the Christ of the Kingdom of God. We will talk about and look at passages that will bring that together but I have to comment on that as someone trying to be honest and we have to ask the question, “How does what Paul says here come together with what Jesus preached?” [4:23]


It is a common hermeneutical turn to say they don’t come together; they are two different gospels and the gospel that Jesus preached is not for us. Paul’s gospel is for us and that goes along with a lot of other interpretations. Like for example, when Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” He made a mistake and that is one of the—on the liberal side—that’s one of the hermeneutical turns that you get there which is saying, “Well, the Kingdom He was talking about was the government of God political and certainly a lot of people were looking for that and are still looking for it and that was turned away by those ornery people in charge and so it went back to Heaven or some place and it will now start up again. And you can get the details of that by watching the Left Behind Series. Now, That will fill you in on how that’s going to happen because Jesus is going to come back with an atomic cattle prod and He’s going to line people up. [Laughter] Yea, light them up. OK, so that’s now an understanding. Paul definitely understood that it was the Risen Christ that you needed if you were going to get the gospel with reference to salvation from sins. You will notice, verse 17: “If Christ had not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” The salvation of deliverance involves the Risen Christ and that is repeated over and over in the New Testament and that is, of course a vindication of His message about the Kingdom of God. What His resurrection did was to validate everything He had said about the Kingdom of God. [7:08]


Now, resurrection itself is not just inherently something that is good news. If you were to hear on good authority that Bob Hope had been raised from the dead, it probably wouldn’t give you a lot of joy and strength in facing life to know that Bob Hope had been raised from the dead. It’s not just the raising from the dead but WHO was raised from the dead that matters and the vindication of the message of Jesus that the Kingdom of God is at hand and in all of His teachings about that is presented in His resurrection. The finished work of Christ is not finished. Whoo! Did I say that? Yeah, I said that. His work is still in process. When He said, “It is finished” on the cross, he was referring to His earthly sojourn in strictly human form and I am sure He was glad to get that over with. You remember He said to His apostles at the last supper, “With great anticipation, I have looked forward to this meeting.”  And, so, He had finished. He did finish a work. His death on the cross was finished. His life in the flesh was finished so He can get on with His work.  Now, in an especially powerful form because you know, as He said, “If I don’t go away, the Spirit won’t come.” You need to put imagination into what it would be like for us to be followers of some guy living in Jerusalem—not much there, you know? L. Ron Hubbard—no!


It was necessary for Him to move back out of the finitude of incarnation into the spiritual reality of the Trinity because that’s the “real stuff as far as God is concerned. Then, when that is right, then incarnate reality is of course, that’s “real stuff” too. That’s good but it’s because it is caught up in the Trinitarian reality of God. That’s true of all nature. Nature is an expression of the Kingdom of God and that’s why people are so refreshed by being in nature. They often don’t know that but it’s because they are brushing up against the Kingdom of God. [10:22]


So, now, we need to try to be very careful and say what the Kingdom of God is and you have a note here on page 17, but this fills it out a little more. [Overhead] The Kingdom of God is the range of God’s effective will. It is where what He wants done is done.  Now, many people think, well, that’s everything. Well, no it is not. A lot of stuff that is done, He doesn’t want done. I think you would agree with that. That stuff is NOT the Kingdom of God. Now, God is over it. He’s in control but He doesn’t make everything happen that happens. He has placed responsibility in the hands of human beings. That’s a part of Genesis 1:26. If that was not there, human beings would not have a position. God would just run the thing. Now, could He do it? Yeah, He could do that. He could just make it all run. All the fish would just do what they were supposed to do, right? But, He has a special purpose in the creation of humanity—a special purpose in the creation of humanity and at some point; we need to think about that.


What is human history about? Well, it’s not about the spread of democracy or any of the other things that people might think about. Democracy is a questionable good; it all depends on who the demos is and the history of democracy is that it always turns into tyranny. Plato saw this 2500 years ago. It turns into tyranny because the desires of the demos go mad and they insist that their governors pander to their desires. Just read Plato’s Republic and you can see it all—you can put in the names. It’s all right there and Plato understood that the human problem as it immediately presents itself is to orient desire under what is good and that that is not something that people generally want to happen because that means they won’t get what they want. [13:06]


So, the Kingdom of God is God in action; it’s where what He wants done. The Gospel of Jesus is that life in the Kingdom is available to us now. We can experience the Kingdom and live in it by placing our confidence in Jesus for everything and by being His constant students precisely because we have confidence in Him. Now you have to think about what it means for a person to say, “Well, I’m trusting Jesus.” Well, why don’t you do what He said? You say you trust your automobile mechanic but you don’t use the oil he recommends, right? You don’t trust him or you are so messed up that your trust and your action doesn’t fit together. THE ONLY SAVING ADVICE IS SIMPLY: “TRUST JESUS.”  But, that’s NOT SOMETHING HE DID OR SAID—IT’S HIM. There is one God—one mediator between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus, the person. That’s who we trust. Now, He actually comes with the Kingdom and so we have to spend a lot of time this afternoon enlarging on that but this is the basic message. Not just trust something He did or said.  Now, that’s going to turn out to be important historically because traditionally, that’s what has happened is you have people who pick one thing and they say, “Now, we are going to trust that.” Sometimes it turns out well. It’s kind of like Bible roulette. People who try to know the Will of God by opening the Bible at random and “plunking” a finger down on something. Most people have enough sense if it lands on something crazy, they won’t do it. If they like what it lands on, well, then they will go with that. Same way with the Bible, by the way, you trust the Bible. That doesn’t mean you pick pieces out of it and trust that. You learn to look for what the Bible teaches about God on the whole. If you take verses, then you have a verse that says that someone is baptized for the dead and you will have a whole operation of baptizing people for the dead whether they want to be baptized or not. They don’t get to say much about it but there it is. What about those who are baptized for the dead? A good rule is: If it says something once, don’t worry about it. Seriously. Now, if you don’t do that, you are just open to madness, and the Bible itself recognizes that. Peter and Jesus comment on this. Peter comments on the writings of our beloved brother Paul that he says, some people find very difficult and “wrestle with to their own destruction.” You have to understand that you are dealing with the whole person, Jesus, and to trust Him means to trust HIM, not something He said or something He did. See, you have many people who treat the death of Jesus on the cross as the only thing that matters. They don’t want to hear anything else. Well, I accept that He died for my sins on the cross and they are off to live their life on their own. [17:31] So, those are important words. Let’s just stop and see if you have any comments about that much and then we will go back to the notebook. Any questions or comments about that?


So, we have to talk now at length about the Kingdom of God and what it is and so on but here on page 17, I note that it is God reigning. The Kingdom is present wherever what God wants done is done. It is the range of God’s effective will and the news that makes lovely feet is, “Our God Reigns.” That’s the good news. Now, you need to add to it; you can’t just stop there in Isaiah because now then the question is how do you relate to that and that’s what Jesus brings to us—His understanding of how we relate to God’s reign and how we are active in it.


Q: Do you use any other term for spiritual kingdom?


Well, I actually use several but and there are problems with Kingdom. I think actually governance is a good word except for people who hate the government. So, you kind of have to paraphrase and work around it. What I like to do most is to help people understand their own Kingdom. That does more to help them understand the Kingdom of God than anything else and so your Kingdom is the range of your effective will. So this here is in George’s Kingdom so I won’t stick my finger in it. Right? That’s George’s Kingdom. What does that mean? That means that he has say over that and he probably does not want me to stick my finger in it.


So, every person has a range of his or her effective will. Every person does. That’s essential to being a person and it is, for human beings, essentially incarnational and it starts out when a baby is born. The first thing they have to get under the range of their effective will is their body and when they start, they don’t even know that. They soon learn that hollering gets a response and so, Mama and Daddy, hopefully both of them become responsive to the child but he doesn’t know he’s got a will yet; he just has a desire and so he hollers. He understands there is a connection and of course, it is much deeper than this because this is a profoundly spiritual relationship in which persons are able to become persons but if they stay with it, then they begin to bring their body within their Kingdom. That includes their bowels and eating and sleeping and eventually walking and talking and pretty soon, they are up to credit cards. [Laughter]


A credit card is a great illustration of Kingdom. And that’s so some people come and steal your credit. Well, they have invaded your Kingdom. This idea is something that you, especially children, they learn it pretty fast because they are so conscious of what is and is not under their effective will and the little playmates, brothers and sisters, and other children, if you watch children when they come in sight of one another, it’s fascinating just to observe how they respond to other children. They are learning and their Kingdom is expanding and they are identifying that and pretty soon, emotions emerge—anger, resentment—those are all will phenomena that come out of the interactions of Kingdoms. So, now God has made you to have a range of your effective will. You feel it deeply and if someone were to take it away from you by enslaving you or many other things that they might do, it makes a huge difference in your life. Understand there are more people that are enslaved on earth now than have been enslaved for all of past history which is a terrible thing to think of and a lot of it is present right here in the “good ole USA” where at least “I know I’m free.” [23:29] OK, so are you all right with that? You can carry it away and work with it.


Q: Could you comment on the relationship of eternal life and the Kingdom?


Well, I mean John 3 certainly doesn’t take out the Kingdom talk. Eternal life is having the kind of life that God has. That’s what eternal life is—having the kind of life that God has. It isn’t just lasting forever. It’s a quality of life that we come to have by participating in the Kingdom of God. It’s a quality of life—it helps sometimes to use eternal living in place of eternal life and talk about eternal living and that helps us stay out of the idea that what we are dealing with here is something that is not present now. Once we understand that as John says in chapter 8, “His commandments are eternal life that knowledge of you the only true God under Jesus Christ” and once you understand that knowledge is interactive relationship you say, “Oh, having eternal life is being a participant in the life of God”—back to Zoë, right? So that’s eternal living. It’s a kind of living. [25:09]


Let’s go on now then on page 17. Where is the Kingdom of God? We’ve talked a little bit about that already but the Kingdom of God is all around you. It is accessible wherever you are and this, in Jewish history emerges in the introduction of the term the “Kingdom of the Heavens.” 1 Chronicles 29, I think it’s the first place this really shows up and of course, this is a situation in exile and it’s a situation that was unthinkable by the Jews before they went into exile and found that actually God was there. God was in Babylon and now, what they are finding out here is that He is directing the Gentile Kings. David knew this but he related it to himself so in 1 Chronicles 29, you have this final prayer of David which in so many ways overlaps what we call the Lord’s Prayer but it’s all related to himself. Verse 11, “Thine, O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth.” OK, so that’s pretty good. Everything that is in the heavens and the earth, Thine is the dominion O Lord and thou dost exalt thyself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You. You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and so forth.


You see, David “got it” pretty good except he was still thinking in terms of the Jewish Kingdom, the place where God had chosen a covenant people and was working with them. Now then, when you come down to the end of 2 Chronicles 36:22 and following, “Now, in the first year of Cyrus King of Persia—in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah—the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia”—isn’t that interesting that we are still locked into it with Persia?—“so that he sent a proclamation throughout his Kingdom and put it in writing saying, “Thus says Cyrus King of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven—now, that language is new and you have to jump over to the next page in Ezra in verse 2 of chapter 1, “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth…..” Now, the connection into verse 3, “He is the God who is in Jerusalem.” So, now we’ve got the connection here between heaven and Jerusalem and of course, there are the deep purposes of God in bringing that connection because what He is actually going to do is what He had in the book of Judges. He is going to return His covenant people to Jerusalem but they are not going to be the government. The government is still going to be non-Jewish and that is profoundly important for how things develop from there onto John the Baptist and Jesus. [29:35]


There are lots of connections here that I won’t take time to spell out. You do notice that in the late Psalms, 145 and following, the language of the Kingdom of God emerges and now becomes a part of the furniture. The book of Daniel is extremely important in that development but Jonah got it also. That language now keeps working until after the period when there is no prophet, John the Baptist shows up and what’s he talking? Kingdom of the Heavens! A lot of learning went on in that interval. We are prone I believe to think that nothing was happening but what was happening was the development of a culture that was independent of government so that the next time around when the Jews are wiped out, they have institutions, primarily rabbis and synagogues to interpret a body of literature that’s going to stay with them up to today and then the Jews are a continuing testimony to the presence of God. Their very existence is due to their synagogues and their rabbis and the organization—non-governmental organization that was present in that. See, that’s a testimony to the Kingdom of God. [31:41]


Jonah 1:9, which is one of the references I have here and this is where the sailors are trying to figure out what’s wrong and they find Jonah asleep and they wake him up and question him and Jonah 1:9, he says, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord God of Heaven who made the sea and the dry land,” so that connection with creation and so on is also something that builds through the time and then when you come to the New Testament of course, the teaching about the Kingdom goes on and the closeness of God—Paul’s statement on Mars Hill, “God is not far from each one of us. He is at hand for in Him we live and move and are.” That’s pretty close. God and His action, His Kingdom is present to, available to, every person. So, where is the Kingdom of God?  Everywhere and most importantly, it is accessible from wherever you are. The Kingdom of God is near. It isn’t a temporal issue: it’s a matter of accessibility. [33:24]


Now, what that means is there are two Kingdoms and the profound teaching of the two cities in St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and so on. See, that’s the biblical picture. Hebrews 12 gives you the two cities, the temporal city and the eternal city. Verse 10 of Hebrews 11, Speaking of Abraham, “he went out not knowing where he was going; he was acting in faith; he lived in an alien land; a land of promise dwelling in tents for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder—whose builder and maker is God.” What do you mean he is looking for that city? Well, Abraham knew that there was an order of God and that it was something that you had to live in and it goes on to talk about Abraham and Sarah and the rest in verse 14: “Those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”  So, the old hillbilly song, “looking for a city that’s not made with hands.” So, that’s where we live as pilgrims. We are pilgrims on the earth. We live in a different city and we continue to seek it.


At this point, it is important to understand that the city that is being built involves what Jesus called “His church”, His “eklesia”, his “called out ones” and that to understand that we are a part of that that your work as a teacher, pastor, leader, see, is a part of this larger work. You are not out there on your own. [36:12] You are out there as a part of what God is doing in your generation and wonderful words in Acts about David that he served God in his generation and fell asleep. And we are all going to do that. What we have to hold before us is the greatness of the work that God is doing in human history. We are a part of that and the city of man cannot survive without the presence of the city of God. The city of man in its crumbling way seeks justice. That’s what its laws supposedly manage. The city of God lives for love and without justice, without love, justice is pretty thin gruel. Now, it’s important and where there is no justice, there needs to be justice but if all you have is justice, you won’t have much of a life. In our own culture, we have to understand that.  You can have justice without loving your neighbor, as yourself but justice will never do justice to justice. It has to have love and we live in a society that has many wonderful things about it but it’s pretty well sick with anger over justice and you can’t have what you are looking for in human relationships by means of justice. You have to have love. And that’s where the city of God comes in because it exists for love in eternal community and that’s the meaning of our lives is bringing the city of God into the human city and affirming the reality of love by how we live and by what we say.


Q: When God says, “I will prepare a place for you,” do you think that could mean he is building a church, and getting us ready for that?


Well, I don’t see why it couldn’t be both. I do think that the universe as we are able to know it in various ways doesn’t look like it’s completed. It looks like it’s going somewhere and so, I don’t have any scientific or theological knowledge to back that up. It just seems to me that there is something important going on that probably parts of the universe are being developed for future that may involve those of us who are growing together into a community of love under Jesus. [39:10] So, I guess I would say, if I had to say, that I suspect both of those are going on.


So, He’s doing something on earth that apparently He has a future for. The universe has got lots of room for people who could live creatively under God and so, my suspicion is that both of those are afoot and the book of Revelation is very hard to be very sure about a lot of the things it is saying but it seems to refer to a future when something—the Heavenly Jerusalem will come in through space and be established on earth. I don’t think that means we are limited to earth but there is a special provision that will certainly step outside of physical laws as we know them but doesn’t necessarily put them aside.


What is of value in human history is the community that comes out of it and that community will be provided for in special surroundings and I am sure special occupations which is vaguely referred to in the language of Revelation. [40:54]  Any other comments or questions on that? OK.


Now, we have to talk about the difference between the two Kingdoms of men and God and at the bottom of 17, I have a lot of statements and we start from the statements of Jesus in the gospels about the inversion, “the first shall be last.” That kind of looks like a “throw away” line, you know, like “have a good day” and it shows up repeatedly. It shows up in various contexts. I think we have to understand; this is a basic teaching about the Kingdom of God that in the Kingdom of God, there is a reversal of the order that is present in human affairs. Once you pick up on that, then you begin to see how repeatedly Jesus turns back to that teaching. Now, I have given you a number of references here under “b” on page 17 and we won’t work on all of those but one of the most gripping is in Matthew 20:16. This is the parable of the hours as it is sometimes called and it is one of those places where a very sharp contrast comes up between the human order of justice and the divine order of love. Matthew 20, and this is a very touching story because it goes right into the heart of life where people have to make a living. They have to earn their living and that brings out thoughts and feelings about what is right and good in this. Now, you know the story and this is book-ended by the teaching about “the first shall be last.” You look at the very last verse in Matthew 19, “Surely, there are many that are first will be last and the last first.” Now, we will have to say something more about this in a moment but you want to understand that Jesus, in His teachings, more than not, is responding to a mistaken view. When He says that many who are first will be last; many who are last—He is not saying that if you are last, you get to be first or if you are first you have to be last. He is breaking the generalization among human beings that the first are the first and the last are the last. Hmmm….not in the Kingdom of Heaven because many who are first in the Kingdom of men could be last in the Kingdom of Heaven and, the other way around. So, now He gives this parable—it’s a very touching parable. I guess it touches me so much because I actually have been a migratory worker. I know what it’s like to stand on the street corner. I am not trying to get you to feel sorry for me. I did very well but you know, you have to have some sympathy for these people and you have to think about the people who were standing there at 4:30 and they hadn’t got any work and they are thinking about their babies at home who don’t have any food or maybe it’s cold and they don’t have any fuel or maybe they don’t have a house. Work gives you a place, even if it’s only for a day. You have a place. That’s really important. [45:38]


Well, in any case, this landowner keeps going out and hiring people at the 11th hour and later on and finally in the 11th hour he went out, verse 6 and found others standing and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day long?” And they said, “Because no one hired us.” And he said to them, “You too go into the vineyard.” Now when the evening comes, he decides to pay the last first and of course, this allows the earlier people to stand there and watch what they get paid and they see that he is paying them just as much as they are going to get. They agreed to a certain amount and he is going to pay them that but one of the profound lessons in this parable is the “effect of comparison.” The effect of comparison” in the human order is devastating, you know, because people who might have quite enough or be quite well off enough suddenly sees someone who is better off and they then find they are not well off enough and that’s one of the things that envy does. It lays a foundation for resentment against people because of what they have; not because of them, the person who’s envious not because they don’t have enough but the comparison is the heart of the problem and that comparison is the root of what we call justice. Now, it wouldn’t have to be but if you could pull comparison out of issues of justice, most of them would disappear. There are other issues but comparison causes all kinds of problems. Pilot recognized that the religious authorities crucified Jesus because of envy. He had stuff they couldn’t do. Now, they were well off. They were well positioned. I suppose that many of them could do good things, but it was comparison that leads them to kill and so now He is saying you have to keep your eye on both Kingdoms. And You have to understand that the spiritual Kingdom is a place where you can live indifferently to comparisons—indifferently to comparisons, and so the Beatitudes teach, for example that a person who is poor can be just as well off as a person who is rich—even better, can be. So that’s the two Kingdom aspect and it goes back to what I said yesterday about living in two landscapes. We live in a dual landscape and so, he pays them off and when he comes to the last, they say, “Wait a minute, this is not right.” Now, you have to think about that. What was it that made it wrong? Was it that they were not adequately paid? No, it wasn’t that. It was comparing themselves to others. Now, if all they had to compare themselves with was how much money they got, well then, they have something to complain about but for example, suppose a person who didn’t get as much money as he thought but he says you know, “I am really glad to have had a job. I am really thankful for what has been provided to me.” See, that changes the picture again. So, the landowner points out that I didn’t do you any wrong. I paid you what you agreed to and I would assume that that was in that day an adequate salary though of course, there are issues there also. So the landowner says, verse, 14, “Take what is yours and go your way but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” Well, the answer is obvious. Now, then once again, the lesson, “thus, the last shall be first and the first last.” Again, is everyone who is last going to be first? See, the human tendency to Phariseeism, and legalism pops up and takes a statement of Jesus and tries to turn it into a universal teaching when it isn’t. It is correcting a teaching. It is making stand out what was wrong with the general practice. What’s the general practice? Well, you pay people in a certain way and that dominates many, many human relationships.


Four or five years ago there was a textile manufacturer up in Connecticut, I think it was whose business burned to the ground and everyone thought, “Wow, this is a great opportunity. He can collect his insurance. Go to another country. Build a factory and live off of the money and make a lot more money.” He didn’t do it. He said, “No I’m gonna pay everyone in this factory their wages just like they are working until we get this factory re-built and they are all going to be re-hired. They will keep their fringe benefits. Everyone treated him like he was a fool. He was just a good man, that’s all. He wasn’t thinking just about his advantage; he was thinking about the people that worked for him. That isn’t as uncommon as a lot of people think when it comes to business people because I must say there are a lot of wonderful business people. Not necessarily all Christians but they see their responsibility and they respond to it. The wisdom of what they should do, they set aside. They do something else. It’s a beautiful story. [53:44]


Well, there are other passages here. I refer to some of them and now, Jesus is just constantly preaching and presenting the Kingdom. I love Luke 4:43, they come out to get Him. He is out in a lonely place praying and they say, “Now come on, the people are here; they want to see you” and He had already been there and taught in that village and He said, “I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” What was He sent to do?—to preach the Kingdom of God. That was His ministry and so I have listed here at the bottom of page 17 a number of different passages where you have the inversion principle exemplified is the word we are looking to and one of the most outstanding is of course the song of Moses and Israel and Miriam and this is an inversion passage. What’s the inversion? Well, here comes the Egyptian army. It has all of the latest instruments of death and destruction. The horse and its rider is mentioned. Well, horse was at a certain time like intercontinental ballistic missiles at a later time. You had horses and chariots and your enemy didn’t have it, you had them down by the throat and that’s what this passage—beautiful passage in Exodus is about—is inversion. Well, the guys who were on top didn’t win. “The horse and the rider are thrown into the sea.” Exodus 15 and oh boy, are they celebrating? Exodus 15, Moses takes off, “I will sing to the Lord for He is highly exalted; the horse and its rider, He has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation. This is my God and I will praise Him; my Father’s God and I will extol Him.” The Lord is a warrior. So, now this wonderful pion of praise to God because of how He has reversed the order—verse 11, “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, and awesome in praises, working wonders? You stretched out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them.” Well, I am sure the Egyptians had a different point of view on that event but solidifying the Kingdom of God over the people of Israel. God in a special way gave the Kingdom to the Israelites and it was something that they had as long as they would obey. Actually, longer than they obeyed but if they stepped out long enough, then finally God would abandon them to the hands of their enemies and the Shekinah Glory, which inhabited the temple would rise and depart and you know the story of how that works. Of course when Jesus came back, the Shekinah came back but it was rejected again.


Now I have given you a list of passages here. Miriam takes over singing and then later on, 1 Samuel, it has Hannah’s prayer of celebration and that is a reversal. In this case, one of the most painful….a barren woman has children and in that day, that was a huge matter and Miriam gives thanks to God and enunciates the reversal.


I have given you Psalms 34 (I think that should be 37 instead of another 34). Ezekiel is one of the interesting reversal passages which I don’t think most people recognize but Ezekiel tells a story about the planting of some trees and how at least maybe some vines and how it grows up and becomes a tremendous forest and then it fails and other twigs are taken. Verse 22, “I shall also take a spring from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I will pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and I shall plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the high mountains of the Lord I shall plant it that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches.” Undoubtedly, Jesus knew this passage and He uses the idea of a seed—a mustard seed and how it grows up into a huge plant and all the birds come and rest in its branches. Now, in this particular passage, this is talking about the fall of Israel in its glory and finally, the inhalation of the place and then well, what happens? God steps in and He gives a vision here of probably what has not happened yet, which is the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem, very likely, it won’t be in terms that he could have understood at all but what it is affirming is there is a future and this future is in the action of God.


Now, the reference here to Mary, mother of Jesus and Zacharias, those are the other inversion principles. I don’t want to spend time on that; I think you are familiar with it but what I want you to understand is when you look at these things, what you are looking at is “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” and why? Well, because of the two orders—the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of men. You have two orders and you must not judge things just in terms of one. You have to judge in terms of both and in the action that is being pursued there.


Peter has this passage where he is looking at Jesus’ interaction with what we call the “rich, young ruler” and he has heard Jesus saying, “You know, you have a lot of “do-ray-me,” you may not get this right and they are all standing there back on their heels because they assume that if you got the money, you had God’s favor and so then Peter blurts out, “What are we going to get?” [1:02:53] That’s in Matthew 19 because now you want to understand, and we will come back to this after the break, that the disciples were chosen largely to illustrate how the “nothings” of this world could become the “somethings” in the Kingdom of God. [1:03:17] See, the disciples, the apostles especially, they were simply the kind of people no rabbi would have chosen as disciples and in this culture, whether or not you were a disciple of someone was settled by the someone.  You didn’t just walk up and say, “Hey, I’m going to be your disciple.” “OK.” NO! There was a process and each rabbi wanted the brightest and best as his disciples and that was usually settled by a long process of instruction in the local synagogue, consultation, what we would call letters of recommendation that design to show that this person that you might take as a disciple was really good work. Straight 4.0; all “A’s.” These people that Jesus selected were about as far removed from that as you could imagine. They are emblematic of the first Beatitude in Matthew, “Blessed are those who have nothing going for them spiritually.” Nothing, because they too, who are among the last can be the first in the Kingdom of God. In fact, they get in the Kingdom of God, they don’t worry about first and last anymore.


OK; let’s take a 10 minute break of so and come back and we will look at The Beatitudes.


Part 18 of 34


Dallas Willard
June 11, 2012
Part 22 of 34


Dallas Willard
June 12, 2012
Part 28 of 34


Dallas Willard
June 13, 2012