How do we know this?
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:1-2)After Jesus' statement, it states:
So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. (Luke 9:6)While we see that Jesus gave them the ability to drive out demons and heal people's physical bodies, the central thrust of their directive lies within these phrases:
he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of Godand
proclaiming the good newsWe can know this is the major objective for their being sent by Jesus because if their main purpose was to heal people and cast out demons then Jesus would simply have set up a hospital for people to come to get healed. But he didn't. He traveled from town to town and gave lectures - sermons - to people.
This is because while people may travel to a hospital to get cured of their disease - even if the hospital is far away - teaching to others typically requires the teachings to be made convenient to them - requiring the teacher to travel to those locations where the people are.
As we see from the rest of the scriptures, Jesus spent little time healing and casting out demons compared to the time he spent teaching. He taught from hilltops, from boats, from town squares and even from inside synagogues. Jesus was focused upon teaching. While he might have healed a few people here and there, he taught to thousands.
What did he teach about?
His teachings focused upon loving and serving the Supreme Being:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)So how is this connected with the instruction to 'proclaim the kingdom of God'?
Most of us think of the "kingdom of God" as a location - also called heaven. And many ecclesiastical teachers from different institutions teach that heaven is a place where we get to really enjoy ourselves - a place where we can enjoy and be free from the various hassles of the earth, such as hunger, sickness, death, old age, bugs, violence and so forth.
Some sectarian institutions have even gone so far as to say that we will have heaven here on earth after Jesus' "second coming." They tell us that those who have joined their church or sect will "inherit the earth" once Jesus comes to destroy everyone else. They have descriptions and illustrations showing heaven on earth as this place where the people that joined their sects are sitting around on lawn chairs sipping lemonade with a lion sitting nearby - or the like. They picture it as a place where we really get to enjoy ourselves - playing golf or whatever.
Their concept of heaven is purely imagination and speculation
They have made up this entire thing with absolutely no basis in the teachings of Jesus. Jesus' teachings were about loving and serving the Supreme Being, not about our enjoying the earth after all the 'miscreants' are killed off.
Meanwhile, people like Michelangelo and others have painted "heaven" as this weird place up in the clouds where people play harps and God sort of floats over them with long hair and a white beard.
This would assume that God gets old - that He cannot control the effect of time and He has to get old. This is also hogwash.
God is eternal and ever-youthful. He never ages. Time is a factor of the physical dimension but not an element of the spiritual realm. God is the most Beautiful, loving Being who is full of joy and bliss.
And the kingdom of God is that place where the Supreme Being is loved and served. God owns everything in the physical and the spiritual realms. Everything is part of His kingdom when considered from a sense of location.
But the physical world is that place where God is typically ignored, whereas the spiritual realm is that place where God is loved and served.
Yet this does not mean that God cannot be loved and served from within the physical world. This was precisely what Jesus was doing here: Loving God. And serving God. How?
By teaching about God.
And as he sent off his disciples, they too were serving God.
Therefore, the real "kingdom of God" is anywhere where God is lovingly served. This means the real "kingdom of God" is a state of consciousness. It is not a location.
We can also see this fact when we consider this general description of John's teachings, Jesus' teachings and what he told his disciples to teach:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 3:1-2)After Jesus' baptism from John and after John's subsequent arrest, Jesus carried forth those teachings:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt. 4:17)Then - consistent with the event discussed above with this verse, Jesus also instructed his disciples to pass on the same teaching to others:
"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.'" (Matt. 10:7)While many sectarian teachings like to suggest that this teaching relates to the end of the world being near, remember that the "kingdom" being discussed here relates to a particular consciousness: That of loving and serving the Supreme Being.
And the ability to regain this consciousness was "near" according to John, Jesus and Jesus' students. "Near" relates of course to closeness.
Let's compare this to relationships between siblings. Let's say that we are talking about several siblings. First we talk about the relationship between say, Tom and Ann - who are several years apart in age and fought all the time. Then we discuss the relationship between Ann and Bob - they were only one year apart and had a very good relationship as kids and adults. How do we describe them?
We would say that "Tom and Ann were not close" but "Ann and Bob were close and have remained close." Right?
What do we mean by "close"? Do we mean Ann and Bob are next door neighbors? No. Do we mean they are joined at the hip? Don't be ridiculous.
Closeness reveals love
When we say two people are close we mean there is love between them. They have a tight relationship.
This is the type of closeness - being "near" that John, Jesus and Jesus' students discussed. That the Supreme Being is near - close to us. He is available to us. All we have to do is reach out to Him.
Many emphasize with the statements above, the healing of the sick and casting out of demons by Jesus and his students. But how does it play out with respect to this statement:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matt. 7:21-23)
We can see here that driving out demons and healing the sick ("miracles") have little value to Jesus in themselves. What is valuable is "only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
This means that only those who are loving and serving the Supreme Being - which is what doing the "will of my Father" means - will gain access to the "kingdom of heaven."
And as we discussed, the "kingdom of heaven" or "kingdom of God" is having the consciousness of loving and serving God - and this statement in Matthew by Jesus confirms that having this consciousness of loving and serving God is equivalent to entering the "kingdom of heaven."
We can also see in this statement by Jesus in Luke above that his mission was to pass on these teachings to others. The fact that he sent out his disciples to teach means that he wanted those teachings to be sent out beyond the arena that Jesus himself could reach with his own travels. Jesus wanted those teachings to be broadcast out to a larger base.
But note that Jesus only wanted them to teach where they were listened to:
"If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them."This isn't about people just being friendly or not. This is about people being open to hear their teachings. The word "welcome" here comes from the Greek word δέχομαι (dechomai), which means to "receive" or "to take hold of" according to the lexicon. In order to "receive" one must be receptive.
In other words, Jesus was talking about people being receptive. If they weren't receptive to the teachings he had passed on to his disciples, then Jesus wanted them to leave.
He didn't want them to stay and argue with people or try to jam those teachings down anyone's throat.
In other words, Jesus did not want his disciples to be fanatics.
This is diametrically opposed to those sectarian missionaries over the centuries who forced their philosophy onto various traditional peoples in different parts of the world.
Many innocent people - many of whom believed in the Supreme Being - have been slaughtered by these fanatics who claimed they were missionaries, supposedly passing on "the good news."
In doing so they missed the point of Jesus' teachings completely.
And why would Jesus' teachings be called "the good news" anyway?
Actually, "proclaiming the good news" is an ecclesiastical term that has little meaning and does not adequately translate the Greek word εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizō) it comes from. This word means, according to Thayer's lexicon, "the joyful annoucement" pertaining to "man's eternal salvation."
Most among sectarian institutions take this to mean teaching that Jesus died for our sins. Yet this word εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizō) is being applied to those who are going out and teaching while Jesus' physical body was still alive. This means that they were not teaching that Jesus died for their sins.
And by the statements above pertaining to the teaching "The kingdom of heaven is near" by John and Jesus, we know this teaching has nothing to do with Jesus' dying for our sins.
In fact, the very concept of "Jesus' dying for our sins" is diametrically opposed to Jesus' teachings. Jesus' teachings are about loving and serving the Supreme Being, not about a self-centered focus on saving ourselves from sins.
The focus of saving oneself from sins by using Jesus' suffering on the cross is a self-centered issue - typically focused around not going to hell. What is not realized is that this focus upon ourselves is hell.
Loving and serving God is diametrically opposite to wanting to relieve ourselves from the consequences of our sinful lives.
Loving and serving God is focused on pleasing God. Being saved from my sins is a self-centered focus upon ourselves. The two are diametrically opposed.
But the reality is, by loving and serving the Supreme Being we are automatically relieved from our sinful state. We do not need to be focused upon it.
A sinful state is being self-centered. When we focus on loving and serving the Supreme Being - pleasing God - we lose the focus on ourselves. We replace our self-centeredness with love - or in the beginning, the desire to learn to love God.
We might compare it to light and darkness. When someone turns on the light in a formerly dark room, the darkness is gone. By turning on the light there is no more darkness.
But as soon as we turn off the light - the darkness returns. One replaces the other.
This is the same when we consider sin. Being sinful is being self-centered. Should we become God-centered we are, during that period, saved from our sinfulness. But as soon as we forget God and return to our self-centered desires, we return to our sinfulness.
You see, loving God means having the freedom to love Him or not - all the time. We always have the ability not to love God. This is what love is all about. If we were forced to love and serve, then it would not be real love. But God gives us the constant choice to love Him or not.
But those who make a commitment to the Supreme Being and stick to that commitment come to know Him more and more as He reveals Himself. And the more He reveals Himself, the more we become attracted to Him, and the more we become attached to Him. As we become more attached we become reliant upon our relationship with Him. Loving Him and serving Him becomes our life. This the state of being "saved."
But this doesn't mean we can't at any time revert to self-centeredness. Remember when God said to Cain:
"But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:7)Doing what is "right" here refers to what is pleasing to the Supreme Being. This means even if we are loving and serving God, self-centeredness (sin) is always waiting for us. And "ruling over it" means staying attached to loving and serving the Supreme Being.
If it weren't always waiting for us, there would be no joy in love.
Just like darkness. Without darkness, there would be no meaning to light.
The Supreme Being enjoys being loved. This is His favorite pastime. If there was no choice - no challenge - in loving God, where would the joy be?
It is like setting up a game. Let's say that we wanted to play a game with some friends. So we say "I will cover my eyes and you all hide." Why do we cover our eyes when we could just look around and see where they all hid? Because we wanted to play. We wanted to have some fun.
The Supreme Being does the same thing with love. He presents to us a choice to love Him or not, along with challenges to overcome in order to truly love Him - the central challenge being our own self-centeredness.
So while the Supreme Being enjoys this pastime of loving relationships with His children in so many types of relationships, those who love Him also experience joy. They experience the joy of true love. When God is pleased, they are joyful.
We could compare this to a finger that wants to be nourished. A finger might stick itself into a bowl of soup awaiting nourishment but nothing happens. But when the finger gets a spoon and helps bring the soup up to the mouth, the finger will become nourished.
It is the same for us: We are not God. This is not our constitution. God is the Creator and the Controller. Thus He is the Enjoyer. We are not. We feel no real joy by serving ourselves in self-centeredness.
But when we serve God and please God we become joyful. This is our natural constitution - just like the finger.