Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13 “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. Matthew 11:11-13 NASU
John the Baptist came—in the spirit and power of Elijah— preaching the Kingdom of God, condemning sin, and preaching repentance and water baptism unto the newness of life. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first to announce that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Matt. 3:2). He received the highest commendation from the Lord: “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” Notwithstanding, he that is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than John.
What made John the Baptist great? It was not, necessarily, a special gift; it was not his camel hair clothing and the leather belt he wore or his diet of locust and wild honey (Matt. 3:4) or his holiness. He was great because he had a unique role in the plan and purpose of God, plus he was anointed with the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).
Furthermore, John was the only prophet in the Bible who was the subject of prophecies (Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1). In fulfillment of these prophecies, he was the forerunner to Jesus Christ and introduced Him to the world as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 35-36). He was the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. His preaching broke 430 years of divine silence.
So, what makes you—the believer in Christ—greater than John? Without question, it is your position and privilege in Christ. You had the privilege of hearing about and seeing the fullness of God’s plan in Christ including the crucifixion, the resurrection, the full Gospel; and the blessed position of being saved by grace, being baptized in Jesus’ name, being a recipient of the new covenant, receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and being baptized in the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Heb. 8:6). John the Baptist, evening in his greatest, could not attest of any of the aforementioned blessings of being in Christ and being called a son of God (John 1:12; Gal. 3:26).
John’s greatest caused him to be casted into prison and to give his life as a martyr. Thus, the kingdom God suffered violence and the violent, i.e., king Herod, the Pharisees and Sadducees assaulted and afflicted John; they opposed and persecuted him—everyone of them used violence and behaved in a violent way against John and his message of the kingdom of God (Matt. 11:12; Luke 16:16). Because you, the believer, are greater than John, the violent, the forceful and self-willed will oppose and seize upon the kingdom of God in you (Luke 17:21) too!
Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:19-23 NKJV
Have you ever made a decision or committed to do something, and then later found out that this was not what you had in mind? It could have been marriage, a relationship with a friend, a job, doing someone a favor, joining a church, or getting saved; then later, you ask yourself: “what have I got myself into?”
Some new Jewish believers suffering persecution in Paul’s day, and undoubtedly Gentile believers influenced by Jewish thought, couldn’t understand it; because they thought that obedience to God and the Law of Moses was always rewarded by blessing and prosperity—not suffering. Some of these new believers probably thought within: “what have I got myself into?” But Paul, after being stone and left for dead and a miraculous recovery, taught them that their belief in Jesus would cost them much, because the Lord Himself had suffered much and told His disciples that they, too, would suffer (John 15:18-20).
To confirm the new believers’ faith, Paul taught them, in an effort to strengthen and encourage them, that “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus had said that we enter the kingdom of God through birth (John 3:3, 5); and, with birth, there are birth pangs. A birth pang is like the pain of a woman in labor.
What are the birth pangs that would make a new believer ask himself: what have I got myself into? In the Sermon on the Mount in the Beatitudes, Jesus mentioned two birth pangs: in Matthew 5:3, He taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. To be poor in spirit means poverty, emptiness, humble. Jesus wasn’t talking about being poor in finances, but rather an attitude of need; a spirit that says, “I need Lord Jesus.” Much like a newborn baby when he cries in utter helplessly for the comfort, protection, and nourishment of the mother.
Jesus mentioned another birth pang in verse 10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is unlikely that most believers will be persecuted by a blood-thirsty mob as Paul was; however, because of your decision and commitment to Christ and His righteousness, you can suffer (1 Peter 4:15-16) by loneliness and isolation, misunderstandings of your loved ones, rejection by a person thought to be a friend, and humiliation for your faith (Acts 5:41); but, no need to ask: “what have I got myself into?” Take courage because you must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God. The good news is that God will deliver you out of them all! (2 Tim. 3:10-12).
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Revelation 12:10-11 NKJV
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Paul said, “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). “Christ” is the anointed One. There were three kinds of people anointed in the Bible: prophets, priests, and kings. By this principle, there is within every son of God, a prophet and priest and king anointing. Paul further said that, “the kingdom of God is righteous, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17); by extension, the prophet’s anointing anoints for righteousness, the priest’s for peace, and the king’s for joy. So, what is going to release the kingdom, the Christ, and these anointings from within you?
When you stop committing the abomination of accusation and condemnation, the kingdom, the Christ, and anointings will flow from you. An abomination is that which is filthy, disgusting, and detestable. “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 17:15). It is an abomination to accuse and to condemn the justified in the Lord.
To accuse is to slander oneself or another, much like the devil accused Jesus, during His temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:3-11) —questioning Jesus’ sonship and commitment to God. We accuse ourselves out of ignorance and low spiritual self-esteem. We accuse others, by pointing the fingers, out of our own guiltiness of the same things. But whether you accuse yourself or others, are abominations.
Condemnation means to pass judgment on ourselves or others. But why do we condemn? We condemn because condemnation is in our eyes. For example, Jesus said: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:1-5). Jesus never condemned anyone—not one person ever He condemned (See John 3:16-17; 8:8:11).
Through Christ all believers are justified of all things, unlike under the Law of Moses (Acts 13:39). There is now no condemnation (Rom. 5:1; 8:1). And, “who are you to judge another man’s servant?” (Rom. 14:4). It is an abomination to ever condemn the just (Prov. 17:15). When you stop committing the abomination of accusation and condemnation, the kingdom, the Christ in you will be released (Text). We must take the blood of the Lamb and the Word of God and cast down the Accuser and all accusations and condemnation; then, we shall release within the kingdom, the Christ, the prophet, priest, and king anointing; and, righteousness, peace, and joy; then, salvation and strength shall come, and the kingdom of our God and the power of His Christ!
[F]or the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17 NKJV
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27 NKJV
If you believe in Jesus Christ, then there is a “Christ” in you. “Christ” means the anointed One. Thus, there is an anointed One in you, and Jesus has placed within every re-born son three kingdom anointings.
“3” is the number of completion and resurrection. For example, David, the ancestor of Jesus, was anointed king three times: (1) in his father house in the midst of his brothers (1 Sam. 16:13), (2) in Hebron over all the house of Judah (2 Sam. 2:4), and, (3) again in Hebron to reign in Jerusalem over all of Israel (2 Sam. 5:3). To “anoint” means to pour oil on; to rub and to smear oil. As a re-born son of God, you have been poured on, rubbed and smeared with the oil of the Holy Ghost—like Jesus who was anointed with the Holy Ghost and power, He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (Acts 10:38). Because of these anointing, God is with you!
What are these three anointings? There were three kinds of people anointed in the Bible: prophets, priests, and kings. The prophet anointing moves the believer to declare God unto men and walk in His righteousness (See Elijah, 1 Kings 19:16) The priest anointing brings the believer to God and to a place of peace (See Aaron, Exodus 40:13). And, the king anointing reminds the believer to rule with authority which produces the joy of the Lord (Psalm 21:1; Proverbs 29:2; Nehemiah 8:10). There is a prophet, priest and king anointing in every believer to produce righteous, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The prophet anointing doesn’t make every believer a prophet but it certainly enables one to live their life with “prophetic leanings”—walking by faith, and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) and calling those things that be not as though they were (Rom. 4:17). However, without question, these three anointings have made every believer a kings and a priest unto God and His Father (Rev. 1:6). When the Holy Ghost comes in your life, He brings a King and a kingdom; he brings a Prophet, Priest, and King; and, He brings righteousness, peace, and joy (Luke 17:21; 1 John 2:27).
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:16-19 NKJV
Keys are instruments used to open and close doors, to lock and unlock, and to admit and prevent access. Keys are symbols of power and authority—emblematic of one’s ability to open and close, and their unquestionable right to do so..
In the text above, Jesus’ promise of the keys of the Kingdom of heaven was first made to Peter, but it is now extended to the Church (Matt. 18:17)—the Church collectively and individually. These keys aren’t keys of the Church; they are keys of the Kingdom that the Church—an instrument of the Kingdom—is authorized to use against the gates of hell. Metaphorically, the gates of hell speak of the assaults and counsels, the plots and schemes, the stratagems and machinations of evil that the devil uses to attack and come against the people of God. But the good news is: if you’re standing on the Rock of revelation, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you when you use the keys of the Kingdom to counter-act him.
What are the keys to the Kingdom of heaven? It is power and authority to bind and to loose according Matthew 6:10—the Kingdom prayer that Jesus taught His disciples. For example, since there is no sickness and disease in heaven, you now have keys to bind sickness and disease in your life here on earth and loose health and life. No mater what the devil brings into your life, you can bind the problem and loose the answer according to what is already done in heaven (Matt. 16:19).
The keys of the Kingdom also include the Church’s power and authority to legislate and administrate Church discipline (Matt: 18:15-18). Whatever discipline is deemed appropriate by the Church here on earth, it is ratified in heaven, and Jesus promised that He would be in the midst of the Church, even as few as two or three, to make their decision good. This is immense power! The power to bind and to loose are keys of the Kingdom of heaven on earth.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 NKJV
Spiritually speaking, there are two kingdoms in the universe, i.e., the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness. Both kingdoms have a realm, rule, reign and dominion—one of light and the other of darkness. The Kingdom of God is ruled by Jesus of Nazareth and the Kingdom of Darkness is ruled by Satan, whom Jesus called the prince of this world and whom Paul called the prince of the power of the air (John 12:31; Eph. 2:2). A king, without question, is greater than a prince.
The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of light that changes and transforms lives, but the Kingdom of Darkness blinds, binds, and destroys lives. But those who know Jesus as Lord, Savior and King have been brought out of darkness into the marvelous light. When God calls you out of darkness and delivers you, He doesn’t leave you (Heb. 13:5); He brings you to Himself and to His kingdom (Ex. 19:4, 6; Col. 1:12, 13). God calls you from death to life; from unrighteousness to righteousness; from sorrow and sadness to joy; from turmoil and confusion to peace; from ignorance to understanding; from hopelessness to hope; and, from limitation to a kingdom where all things are possible.
As a result of this spiritual transformation, believers are admonished to walk in the light and to live in the day (1 Thess. 5:5), and to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:8-13). After all, if you’re living in the “night”, you’re not walking in the light (1 John 1:7). So, let your light shine to overcome darkness and for others to see your good works and give God the glory (Matt. 5:16). You are chosen, kingly in nature, separated unto God; you are God’s special treasure who should proclaim His praises because you have been called out of darkness!
Lift Every Voice and Sing
a/k/a Black National Anthem
by James Weldon Johnson
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.
“Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it . . .” Matthew 16:18-19 NKJV
Jesus spoke of “Kingdom” and the “Church” together as related terms, but they are not synonymous; there is a difference. The Kingdom is the Basileia (Greek) and the Church is the Ecclesia (Greek). The Kingdom is the realm, the rule, reign and dominion of God in the universe and the earth, and the Church is a group of called out believers (called out of sin and darkness). The Church that Jesus builds is a prevailing—overcoming Church, and an instrument of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus taught believers to pray for the advancement and the cause of God in the earth, not only here and now, but also in His coming earthly Kingdom that He shall establish in righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). Thus, the Church is an expression of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:10), presently expressed on earth through the agency of the Church (Universal). The Church is not an end, nor is the Church the “be-all end-all; it’s an instrument, a tool, a vehicle to transport us into a present reality of the Kingdom of God (Col. 1:13; 2:15). Over the ages, the instrument has changed but God’s purpose never changes, i.e., that believers be sons in the Kingdom (E.g., Israel (Ex. 19:4-6) and the Church—spiritual Israel (Luke 17:21).
Why is God’s Church an overcoming Church? The King of the Kingdom (Jesus) has overcome the world (Col. 2:15); therefore through Him, all sons of the Kingdom are also overcomers (John 16:33) because of: (1) Light (Col. 1:12-13; 1 Thess. 5:5); (2) because of Life-style (John 10:10). “Life in John 10:10 is Zoe (Greek), life as God has it; and to have it “abundantly” isn’t referencing money, wealth or possession but rather living a life that is full of joy and true happiness (Rom. 14:17); and, (3) because of power as a witness (See Acts 1:4-8 and Matt. 24:14). Thank God that in the Kingdom of God, believers are sons of the Overcoming Church!
So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. Mark 12:32-34. NKJV
One of the saddest words—regardless of which language spoken in — is “almost”, because “almost” means that you are near but not exactly there; or very near but not quite or exactly complete. Some people are not far from the Kingdom of God, yet not close enough to enter into it; but they are “almost” there.
Like the Scribe in the about text, he was almost there because he had an appreciation of Truth, but lack the necessary repentance and faith necessary to enter the Kingdom (Mark 1:14, 15). This Scribe, undoubtedly, was a teacher of the Law; he was knowledgeable, intelligent and wise; he knew the Law but hadn’t entered the Kingdom. He knew about the Law not but the Law-Giver. It is one thing to know about the Church or the Bible, but it’s another to know the Head of the Church and the Author of the Bible. Thus, yo9u don’t want to be just almost there.
Which is first in importance to you? Is it religion or loving God and loving one another? Religion hindered this Scribe from entering into the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5:20). In the Kingdom, a relationship with God and loving others most characterize one’s kingdom experience. The Scribes divided the Law into 613 precepts—248 do’s and 365 don’ts regulating Sabbath observances, circumcision, sacrifices, and the fashion of their religious robes (The Pilgrim Study Bible). These ceremonial and legalistic things were regarded as the greatest in importance to them; thus, some were only almost there.
Outward ceremonies and observances are useless if your heart is not right with God. But even when your heart is right, religion can keep you not far from the Kingdom of God, and not close enough to enter into it. Religious people are almost there if they try to keep all the rules in order to go to heaven when they die. They don’t realize that you enter the Kingdom of heaven by birth, not by death (John 3: 3, 5).
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end. Luke 1:31-33 NKJV
My father used to say that, “all good things must come to an end.” If this saying is true, there has to be one exception: the Kingdom of God. In 2 Samuel 7:16, God promised King David that his kingdom would last forever. This promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ, a direct descendant of David, whose reign will continue throughout eternity. And, of His Kingdom, there will be no end—yes—the Kingdom of God will never end!
What is the Kingdom (basileia, Greek word) of God? Scripture throughout bears witness that the God’s Kingdom is the extension of His reign, rule, and dominion in the earth and the universe; it is the King’s domain. It is not religion or religious tradition, but righteous, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:17); and, it is not in word only (concept, doctrine, or words or a phrase) but in power (1 Cor. 4:20). This power is the dunamis, i.e., the miraculous supernatural ability and power of God which will never end.
Jesus preached that, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). To invoke the power of God\’s endless Kingdom is to, change your way of thinking and believing that you can, by faith, live in the realm of the miraculous in every area of your life. Wherever Jesus Christ is Lord and King; where there is divine government and a spiritual economy ruled by God, that’s where the Kingdom of God is. This endless Kingdom is always a present reality—not for another time or another people; it is here and now (Luke 17:20, 21; John 3:3, 5).
The endless Kingdom of God proceeds from heaven (John 18:36; Matt. 6:10),and has been in existence for as long as the King has been in existence—even from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2). And, of His kingdom there will be no end!