We concluded yesterday’s study with our present task: We are to go out into the world and proclaim a kingdom that Jesus established by His death and resurrection. We need to examine this a bit further. I have already pointed out that the kingdom the disciples were expecting was a political kingdom that was ethnically and geographically restricted. Against that background, notice what Jesus Christ taught about the nature of the kingdom.
1. It is a spiritual kingdom. That is why Jesus emphasized the coming of the Holy Spirit. He did this earlier in verse 5: “John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Now He does it in the context of the Great Commission itself: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses….”
I do not know what your reaction is when you hear someone talk about a spiritual kingdom. But knowing people at least as well as I do, I suspect that many, if not all, have a reaction which goes, “Oh, I see, a spiritual kingdom. Who cares about a spiritual kingdom?” We think a spiritual kingdom is not really important, because no one can see a spiritual kingdom. It may be nice that Jesus is in the business of establishing a spiritual kingdom. We do not want to put a spiritual kingdom down. But we are formed by our culture, and we inevitably think that something invisible is not really that important.
If we think that way, we should notice that when Jesus spoke of the spiritual nature of His kingdom, He did not just use the word “spiritual,” though He could have. He could have said, “It is a spiritual kingdom I have in mind.” What He actually said was, “The kingdom I have in mind is one that is going to be established by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Godhead. So Jesus was actually saying, “This is going to be God’s kingdom.” Whenever we see the word “spiritual” we need to think along those lines. What does “spiritual” mean? We use it to refer to somebody who is not in touch with life, to a person living in the clouds. Actually, being spiritual has to do with God the Holy Spirit. That which is spiritual is what the Holy Spirit does.
I was in Washington, D.C., at a meeting in which a number of us were talking about the impact of Christians upon culture. We were talking about various Christian social service agencies and what they should be doing. We mentioned the importance of having Christians involved in government. Present at that meeting was Doug Coe, a man whom God has used in a remarkable way over the years. Coe is so successful in what he does that you almost never hear of him. He works behind the scenes. He knows all the congressional representatives, senators and staff persons. He meets with them and prays with them. It is through his ministry and that of people like him that Fellowship House was established.
Doug Coe was listening to what we were saying. He was not disagreeing. But after a while, when we turned to him and said, “Doug, you’ve been in Washington a long time. What kind of counsel do you have for us as we try to think along these lines?” he said, “What you’re saying is very important. But I want to leave this with you. Remember that it says in the Bible that the visible things pass away, but that the invisible things are eternal.” That is something we need to think about seriously. Christians believe in things that are invisible. We believe in God; God is not visible. We believe in eternal life; eternal life is not visible either. We talk about redemption, regeneration, justification. None of those are visible. They are all invisible. Yet we believe in these things. We are committed to them. In the same way, we must be committed to the invisible spiritual kingdom which, although it is invisible, is eternal and will never pass away.
2. It is a powerful kingdom. The word Jesus used is significant. It is dynamis, translated “power.” In some versions of this text “power” occurs twice, once in verse 7 (“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power,” KJV) and once in verse 8 (“But ye shall receive power,” KJV). This is misleading, because in Greek these are two entirely different words. The New International Version translates the first word as “authority” (“It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority”), which is right, and the second word as “power” (“But you will receive power”), as most of the other versions do. Actually, it is only in the second instance that the text speaks of “power” as we understand that term.
The Greek word, dynamis, entered the English language in an interesting way. When the Swedish chemist and engineer Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896) made the discovery which became his fortune discovery of a power stronger than anything the world had known up to that time—he asked a friend of his who was a Greek scholar what the word for “explosive power” was in Greek. His friend said, “Dynamis.” Nobel said, “Well, I am going to call my discovery by that name.” So he called his explosive power “dynamite.” That is the word here. And it refers not to the power one has by intrinsic or even by a delegated authority, though these are also important kinds of power, but to the explosive, life-changing dynamic of the Holy Spirit operating through the proclamation of the Gospel. This is not political power. Political power is what the disciples wanted. They said, “Lord, are you going to set up a political machine?” They could understand that kind of power. They could understand the power of a king. A king collects money. He uses his money to equip an army. An army enforces the will of the king upon his subjects. The disciples could understand power like that, but that was not the power Jesus was talking about. He was talking about power that flows from God.