“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…Do not go in the way of the Gentiles and do not enter any city of the Samaritans, but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matt. 15:24, 10:5-8)
“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.” (Acts 2:42-45)
When Jesus came to earth in the flesh, certain conditions existed in both physical and spiritual realms. An oppressive Roman government the people revered more than God ruled the physical world and temple worship, where people were led to believe God lived in ornate buildings and all they had to do to know Him was to listen to the Rabbi’s teachings, ruled the spiritual realm. This environment lead to a lethargic, apathetic body of believers who had a religious concept of God, yet “hearts far from Him” (Isa. 29:13).
Jesus burst on to this scene and turned everything upside down, by bringing both the message and the reality of the kingdom of heaven to earth! His message was one of a wholly different government people could completely trust in, and a church where the common man engaged with the common man. But His government was not ruled by politicians and kings, and His church was not ruled by religious leaders in their temples. No, His church existed in the marketplace, where Jesus both taught and lived community discipleship. There He set a living example, in both deed and word, of this new kingdom of heaven on earth. He then sealed it in the hearts of His followers through sending the Holy Spirit to indwell them, all of which left formerly lethargic followers passionately on fire in both deed and truth!
I believe this was the first of two great manifestations of the kingdom of heaven on earth. The kingdom has never left us, but it has remained largely hidden through the resurrection of modern-day temple worship and its legacy of lukewarm churchgoers. I believe the second manifestation is coming and is even now upon us. I also believe this second coming will be largely a re-enactment of the first.
Think about this: If Jesus came back to earth today what would He find? Oppressive governments in power the faithful revere more than God, along with a false model of temple worship leading people to believe following Jesus consists of short meetings once or twice a week listening to preaching in ornate buildings. This preaching has led the people God loves so to a lethargic, “lukewarm” existence disconnected from God “in deed and truth.” Sound familiar? Tell me what’s different between what He found then, and what He would find today? Not much. This second manifestation will be like the first, where temple worship and its edifices to the flesh crumble and the true church of Jesus Christ is revealed! But the suffering that will have to take place first will be deep and extensive. The Romans fed the early Christians to the Lions. What will our price be?
And, just like before, this new “Phoenix church” will arise in the marketplace, not temples. I was promoting a new manuscript concerning how the church age was passing, and the second manifestation of the kingdom age was coming upon us to a publisher at a writer’s conference. After looking over the summary of the book, the publisher said he would not be a candidate because it would never sell in the churches. When I asked him why not the churches, he said he could not sell it to the ones at the top of the food chain, those pastors everyone listens to on Sundays, when my writings said their system would fail when the kingdom showed up. To that I replied most of them, like their Jewish predecessors, would understand what the kingdom was or is all about. The ones at the top didn’t understand it the first time the kingdom was manifested, even though they were the ones who were supposed to understand the ancient texts. In fact, they were the ones largely responsible for crucifying Jesus because He threatened their temple system and their power with this new kingdom.
I went on to explain just as it was when it first manifested, the kingdom would not be a “top down” thing. It would be a grass roots, “bottom up” thing. Jesus walked right by the synagogues, not only the leaders but the people, and struck a chord with the men and women in the marketplace who somehow knew “church” had become disconnected from their real lives. Jesus knew the Father had already been preparing a groundswell of need and anticipation of His coming, and it was in the marketplace He was doing it.
So, how did the kingdom during the first manifestation reveal itself? What did it look like fleshed-out, and how did Jesus grow it? We know little of Jesus before He appears at His baptism and commissioning in Matthew 3. Then, in the beginning of Matthew 4, we find the account of Jesus being tempted by Satan, and then later in Matthew 4 we find Him gathering His disciples. Finally, at the end of that chapter, He begins His preaching/teaching/discipling ministry. So, we could say the first priority—the first order of business—for Jesus in manifesting the kingdom to men was to gather His community. Before He preached or did any miracles, He felt it the priority was to gather His community. As the verses from Matthew 10 and 15 above make clear, Jesus said He had come first and only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, the Father’s community, and sent His disciples out to preach “the gospel of the kingdom” to that same people. They were specifically told not to go to the Gentiles. None of His disciples or apostles were sent to the Gentiles until after His resurrection in Acts 9-10.
Fast forward to the second critical event in the first manifestation of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Before Jesus was crucified, when His disciples were lamenting Him telling them He would be delivered up and crucified, He said it was good that He was leaving, for if He did not the Holy Spirit would not come (John 16:7). This event would be the smashing point of the New Covenant according to Hebrews 8, where God said the big difference between the old and new covenants would be the indwelling of His very nature within us, whereas before that relationship was external. It was the Spirit who would represent the kingdom of heaven on earth and bring it to the heart of every true believer. How did the Spirit, then, manifest the kingdom once Jesus had ascended and left us in His hands? Did He immediately send out apostles to preach and heal and do miracles? Or was there another, and first order of business for Him as well?
In the verses from Acts 2 above, we find the Spirit descending to earth in power, inspiring Peter to preach an anointed message that drew over 3,000 to be baptized on the spot. Who was in attendance then? “Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.” No Gentiles, no Samaritans. The next words we read are “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Like Jesus, the first order of business of the Spirit was to gather His community!
Before a single soul was sent out the body was gathered in. That gathering community, for both Jesus and the Spirit, was the first priority makes perfect sense inasmuch as Jesus did not tell us His disciples would be known by the love they had for others, but rather “by the love they had for one another” (John 13:35). How will the world see that if they can’t witness us gathered together regularly? Combine this verse with the Great Commission, and a picture of what is means to be a disciple coalesces! The only standard Jesus set for those who would be known as His was discipleship: “disciples who observed all He commanded.” And where were they to be known? In community, displaying the “love they had for one another!”
Finally, observe how many times in His prophecy of how His new covenant will differ from the first one (Heb. 8:8-10), God uses the words, “them-they.” Nine times. Nowhere in this passage does God refer to individuals, but always it is about His people—His community. The New Covenant is to be wrought, nurtured, and perfected within community. It isn’t about any individual, but always about His people!
And how tragic we in modern Christendom have missed this, for we have made going out the priority over community while the cause of making disciples, the Great Commission, has suffered greatly because of it. Oh, we make a lot of converts because people sent out to preach do that. But when there’s no community of believers there to provide “reproof, correction, and training in righteousness” so our converts “may be adequate and equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 2), un-discipled, lukewarm converts is what you get, and our modern-day temples are packed with them.
This is why I say I believe during this second great manifestation of the kingdom of heaven on earth the first order of business will be the resurrection of true Christian community, and why it has been, and will be, my top priority to seek it out and promote it wherever possible. It is out of this belief and passion the Lord has shown me the Lighthouse Community concept you will find at www.Marketplacesaints.net, as a new and sustainable model of Christian community. But until the Lord leads us out of our temples, like Jesus and He did during the first manifestation, and back to community the kingdom will not advance with power. I see this groundswell, coming from the bottom up, happening everywhere as people are becoming increasingly disconnected from temple life, for they see it becoming increasingly disconnected from what they read in their Bibles and feel in their hearts, and they’re drawn to something greater.
Finally, one other event coming that will mirror the first manifestation of the kindom will be great persecution coming upon the saints and this country. Modern Christendom is so entrenched in its freedoms, its wealth, its temples and their gospel of salvation keeping them from a holy fear of God that would humble them, something terrible must happen to make them repent. Unfortunately, I do not see any true movement towards community until it is forced upon us. God is bringing a great disaster of some kind upon us, to humble us and free us of the love of so much that is unholy we worship now. Community will become, as it was then, that which will protect and empower us to withstand this judgement and all the Devil has planned to untrack us.
Seek community now. Seek the coming of the kingdom of heaven on earth now. Join in the discussion of what that should look like, and how we come together to establish new paradigms of fellowship!