Wineskins Archive

February 12, 2014

We Declare That the Kingdom of God is Here (Jan-Feb 2002)

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by Mike Cope
January – February, 2002

He was more than just King Nebuchadnezzar. He was “Nebuchadnezzar, Inc.” Fresh from a great military victory at Carchemish over the Egyptians (605 B.C.), he was maybe the most secure man in the universe. Youth, strength, wealth, clout—all were his! He was a steel tank, a shining knight, a superhero.

Besides all that, his name was impressive. As one third-grade girl wrote to me recently: “Dear Mr. Cope, I discovered that Nebuchadnezzar is more than half the alphabet. That’s fourteen letters. Love, Elizabeth.” Good point—he had that going for him, too!

But every night when the king put his head on his royal pillow, he became as vulnerable as the lowliest peasant in Babylon. And it was then that God struck! The chink is his armor is revealed in these three words: “Nebuchadnezzar had dreams” (Daniel 2:1).

In his dream stood an enormous, dazzling statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay. What an imposing reminder of the power he had, this King Golden Head (for the head represented him), and of the power subsequent kingdoms would have.

Did Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, or any of the other exiles need a reminder that he held all the trump cards? They’d seen his domination in Jerusalem, and they’d heard of how his Chaldean kingdom had dominoed around the fertile crescent.

But there’s more to the dream: a rock cut out of a mountain strikes the statue and smashes it to pieces. It doesn’t just destroy the feet (representing the final kingdom); rather, it demolishes the whole statue.

This rock is the kingdom of God. And that’s exactly what this rock has done — again and again! The rule of God enters human history, and it overwhelms the power-hungry kingdoms of humans. It happened during the time of Daniel. This pagan king had numerous opportunities to humbly confess the power and deliverance of God (2:47; 3:28f; 4:34ff). It happened a generation later when God worked through Cyrus to return his people to Israel. It happened again when Jews faced the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes, and many resisted the urge to adjust, adapt, and follow all the rules.

But it happened supremely in the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The people with all the fame and power — Caesar Augustus, Herod the Great, Archelaus, Antipas, Caesar Tiberius, Pontius Pilate–were no match for this one who described himself as “meek and humble in heart.” Through his righteous life and death, the kingdom of God broke in with power and force.

This rule of God continues today—though not in its fullness as it will when Christ returns. During this time when the values of the kingdom come into such sharp contrast with the values of this world, God’s people continue praying, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

During the years that my daughter was becoming more feeble and then following her death, I was drawn to the magnetic writings of Diane Komp. Dr. Komp is a pediatric oncologist who lost—and then found again! — her faith in the pediatric ICU. She writes of the compelling stories of faith that sprang from dark places.

One of those stories is about a six year old whom she calls Sammy. She bonded quickly with Sammy and his mother, but was distraught because he never responded well to treatment. There were very few days after they met that he could even go home.

One day Dr. Komp chatted with Sammy’s mother about the latest test results. In the room with him were three other brain-damaged boys. One had fallen from a window; another had been beaten; a third was the victim of a hit-and-run. “The room was a vegetable garden, filled with wilting young life,” she remembers.

She had noticed that Sammy was listening to some music, though it was turned down so as to not disturb others. But all of a sudden he turned over and cranked up his little yellow tape recorder. The music blared:

We declare that the kingdom of God is here!/We declare that the kingdom of God is here!/The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame man is walking/Sicknesses flee at his voice/The dead live again and the poor hear the good news/Jesus is King, so rejoice!

When the song was over, he felt for the buttons and rewound it. The testimony—like light in the darkness—screamed out again: “We declare that the kingdom of God is here!”

When the song ended, Dr. Komp asked him, “You really believe that, don’t you, kiddo?” She knew Sammy believed. The bigger question was, Did she?

The most counter-cultural thing the church can do is to continue praying, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ….” For this rock (the reign of God) has come and smashed the strongholds of this earth. And it continues beating away.

One day this kingdom will come in its fullness. There will be no more death, no suffering, no terrorism, and no weeping for the people of God. No wonder the church continues to pray, “Maranatha. Come, O Lord.”New Wineskins

Mike Cope

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