Kingdom Ambassadors

Jesus was training the disciples to understand Heaven’s culture and to live their lives in the reality of this kingdom.

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Last week we looked at Jesus’ absolute and unconditional victory over the devil as He went to the cross. The gospel — victory message — of His Kingdom has come! The devil is defeated. Jesus is King!

When Jesus finished His time on earth, before ascending to Heaven to take His throne over all creation, He made the announcement that “all authority in heaven and earth” belongs to Him (Matthew 28:18). The problem, however, is that there are people on the earth who have not heard of Jesus’ victory, nor do they recognize His rule in the world, and therefore their lives remain unchanged by His grace. Jesus’ victory is undeniable, yet the world is unaware. What can be done?


The Great Commission

Of course, most Christians are familiar with Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20; the passage known as “the Great Commission.”

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The last thing Jesus did before His ascension was to send His followers out as ambassadors of this Kingdom He had come to establish. He had conquered sin, death, and the devil, and taken the authority over the nations; now it was their job to be the heralds of this gospel. What did this job entail, though?

Is this commission simply to call people to put faith in Jesus and be saved? Is it only to bring sinners to repentance so that when they die they go to heaven?

I believe the answer is no! This calling involves so much more than just creating converts to the Christian faith. This commissioning was to fully bring the culture of Jesus’ kingdom into the world, to all those He had liberated from the devil’s control.

To get a full picture of Jesus’ intent, however, we must once again take a look at the Greek culture in which Jesus lived, to see the metaphors He used to lay out His plan.


Empires and Conquest

Beginning with Alexander the Great, the Greek empire set a pattern for conquest which would be followed for centuries, by many succeeding empires. Considered one of the greatest conquerors in all of history, Alexander built the largest empire the world had ever seen, up to that time. As his empire grew, however, he did not just seek power for himself, but uniformity among the people under his rule. He would gain power by military conquest, but he would achieve this uniformity through massive cultural transformation.

As Alexander’s empire grew, he would bring unity throughout the territories he controlled by not only installing a new legal system but also instilling a new cultural identity as Greeks into the people. Through cultural diffusion, in which conquered people were scattered throughout the empire, and syncretism, in which each people group’s beliefs and practices were assimilated and blended, Alexander sought to destroy any previous cultural identity in the people and to fully establish a unified Greek culture. (This system of cultural transformation was continued and perfected by the Romans through “hellenization.”)

According to Wikipedia, the “Greek cultural influence and power reached the peak of its geographical expansion, being dominant in the Mediterranean world and most of West and Central Asia, even in parts of the Indian subcontinent, experiencing prosperity and progress in the arts, astrology, exploration, literature, theatre, architecture, music, mathematics, philosophy, and science1.”


Greek Culture-Bearers

This conquest and hellenization of surrounding Kingdoms was a two-part strategy for Alexander and future Greek and Roman emperors.

First, military conquest would ensue. The Greek army would set off each spring and go to battle against the neighboring countries; conquering, pillaging, and dethroning the Kings of those nations (as we discussed last week). The emperor or later, the caesar would be declared King of the defeated territory, and His legal rule would be established.

However, as the military would move on to battle the next kingdom to be overtaken, Alexander would engage part two of the strategy. Another military commander would be dispatched as a cultural emissary to convert the conquered kingdom to the Greek way of life2. This “apostolos” or “apostle” would be sent with a delegation of culture-bearers (also called “apostolos” or “apostles”), whose job was to transform the conquered kingdom to now look Greek.

The delegation would have military leaders, sure, but more importantly, it would consist of lawyers, architects, educators, artists, poets, fashion designers, philosophers, entertainers, and more. Their commission from the emperor was simply this: “I have conquered that kingdom, now go transform it to look like my kingdom.”

As Walt Pilcher writes,

“Apostle” was a military term used by both the Greeks and the Romans to refer to an ambassador sent from the government of a conquering country to the conquered country. It was the apostle’s job to change the culture of the conquered country so that it resembled his own so that when the conquering ruler visited he would feel at home.

Walt Pilcher, “The Five-Fold Effect” (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2013), 40-41


Before we get too far, I need to take a moment to give some background on this word, “apostolos,” as it is a widely debated term. According to Harper’s Bible dictionary, “apostle” is

the English transliteration of a Greek word meaning ‘one who is sent out.’ An apostle is a personal messenger or envoy, commissioned to transmit the message or otherwise carry out the instructions of the commissioning agent.

Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, “Harper’s Bible Dictionary” (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 40.

Based on this definition, we might say simply that a Greek apostle would simply be an ambassador for the emperor, which would be true. Yet the term is still a bit tricky.

In early Greek usage, the word apostolos did not signify a person. Rather, it was a general word that simply translated as: “to send with a particular purpose3.” There were other, more common Greek words meaning “to send,” but this word implied an intentional commissioning or specific purpose inherent in the sending.

The earliest usages of ‘apostolos’ referenced an official letter or cargo being shipped. Eventually, it was applied to a royal cargo manifest, listing all the sent items aboard a ship.

In later usage, however, the term began to be used to identify the military official given oversight of the sending operation. At times, he would be in charge of seeing that letters or items fulfilled their intended purposes. Other times, the military leader himself would be the one sent out, carrying a one-man ambassadorial assignment or being placed in charge of special delegations of people, or even entire fleets of ships, being sent as emissaries to represent the king4.

This usage, meaning an ambassador or emissary delegation, is that which would be used by Alexander and future emperors as they sent out their apostolos to bring Greek (and Roman) culture to the conquered nations under their rule.

This ambassadorial usage would also be the understanding and intent used by Jesus and the New Testament writers.


Apostles in the New Testament

By the time Jesus lived on the earth, most secular Greek writers had ceased to use the word. However, in Israel, in the Jewish culture, the Greek word was still being used.

According to some scholars it was viewed as an equivalent to the Hebrew word, “saliah” — “an accredited representative of religious authority, entrusted with messages and money and empowered to act on behalf of the authority5.” (A direct link between the Hebrew and Greek words is disputed, though a loose connection in semantic usages is obvious.)

According to one Bible dictionary, when the Hebrew culture began to use the word apostolos, it meant “one commissioned” and

signified not merely a messenger but a delegate, bearing a commission, and, so far as his commission extended, wielding his commissioner’s authority. ‘The Apostle of any one,’ says the Talmud, ‘is even as the man himself by whom he is deputed.’

James Hastings et al., “Dictionary of the Bible” (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909), 44.

Therefore, when Jesus began to use the word “apostle,” it makes sense that it was with the Greek, “commissioned for cultural transformation “idea in mind.

This intent becomes clear when we look at His sending out of the first apostles and the assignment they carried:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles (sent ones) are these…

Matthew 10:1-2 (emphasis mine)

It goes on to say:

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “…proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

Matthew 10:5-8 (emphasis mine)


Heaven’s Culture Bearers

As we have seen before, when Jesus came to present the Kingdom of God, He revealed it in various ways. He proclaimed the kingdom publicly in His teachings. He explained the kingdom deeply, in private to the disciples with “ears to hear.” He demonstrated the kingdom with power by healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and working all kinds of miracles. Then He taught His disciples to seek God’s Kingdom reality to come into this world, “on earth as it is in heaven.”

What Jesus was doing in all of this was training the disciples to understand Heaven’s culture, and to live their lives in the reality of this kingdom. Every time Jesus spoke about heaven, it was an invitation to enter into heaven’s kingdom, now.

Then, when Jesus commissioned the 12, He was giving them both the authority and the assignment to take the culture of heaven, which they had seen in Him, to the rest of the world! This is what it meant to be Jesus’ apostle. He had won the military victory over the devil’s kingdom of darkness. Now they were commissioned to bring the culture of His kingdom to the nations He now rules.

As one writer says,

An apostle [is] one who is called and sent by Christ to have the spiritual authority, character, gifts and abilities to successfully reach and establish people in Kingdom truth and order, especially through founding and overseeing local churches.

David Cannistraci, “Apostles and the Emerging Apostolic Movement” (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996), p. 29. Quoted in C. Peter Wagner, “Apostles Today” (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2006).

When the disciples went out preaching, healing, casting out demons, and doing other demonstrations of Jesus’ authority working through them, it was to reveal the culture of heaven and to invite people into this new reality as they come to serve Jesus as king! They would then gather the believers together as local churches (Greek ekklesia; a term for a legislative assembly), to further establish God’s kingdom on earth, together. (We might say that the gathering of the local church is to be an embassy of God’s kingdom in the midst of a territory yet to be converted.)

When Jesus later sent out another 72 disciples to do this apostolic work, the message behind every healing, deliverance, and miracle was, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9).


The Apostolic Mission of the Church

Jesus’ apostolic assignment did not end with the twelve apostles or an “apostolic age.” It also was not limited to those who saw Jesus face to face, as some have claimed. Far from it!

Remember, in the Greek culture, the military commander given charge by the king, as well the individuals being led by that commander were all called apostolos. In the same way, the great commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28 extends His apostolic commission beyond the twelve, to the church, throughout every subsequent generation6.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

It is as if Jesus told the disciples, “I have revealed heaven to you. It is your job to bring heaven’s reality to the world I now rule, but you won’t be able to do it alone. Equip others to do the same work I am assigning to you.”

As those original 12 raised up disciples and enlisted them into the kingdom work, the apostolic mission has advanced and continued to this day.

We live in a world that belongs solely to King Jesus. The problem is that so many people are still living as though the devil remains on the throne. Salvation, righteousness, and the reality of God’s kingdom are available to all, yet they have not yet seen it.

It was Jesus’ work to defeat the devil. It is our job to reveal this new King and His kingdom to those He came to liberate.


Their Commission is Our Commission

Back to our original questions: Is Jesus’ commission simply for us to call people to put faith in Jesus to be saved? Is it only to bring sinners to repentance so that when they die they go to heaven?

No! That only scratches the surface.

The assignment on the church is not just to get people into heaven when they die. It is to get heaven’s reality to all people, now.

Mark’s version of the Great Commission reads this way:

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name (or “by my authority”) they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Mark 16:15-18

In the same way, as Jesus sent the apostles, we are to go, preach, heal the sick, deliver the oppressed, work miracles, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the poor, raise the dead, etc., etc., etc. And as we go, we are to declare, “this is God’s kingdom, and you are invited in!”

We have the privilege of being Kingdom Ambassadors.

We do not live on earth, waiting for heaven. We now live as citizens of heaven — under the rule of King Jesus and in the culture of His kingdom — bringing our reality to the world.





2: According to John Eckhardt, “Before (the word apostle) found its way into our Bible, it was a secular term used by the Greeks and Romans to describe special envoys who were sent out for the purpose of expanding the dominion of the empire. May of these envoys were military generals with authority to go into new territories and fight, if necessary, to establish the Greek or Roman culture in that region. They were also responsible for teaching and training the new subjects in the laws and culture of the kingdom.” (Quoted from John Eckhardt, “Moving in the Apostolic” (Minneapolis: Chosen Books, 1999), 23.)

3: A. F. Walls, “Apostle,” ed. D. R. W. Wood et al., New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 58.

4: “After Herodotus in the 5th century BC… it generally means ‘fleet’, or perhaps occasionally ‘admiral’.” (ibid, 58)

5: ibid, 58

6: As Pilcher writes, “In establishing His own apostles along with the other four of the five-fold ministries, Jesus created a self-replicating ambassadorship whose mission was, and is, to represent the Kingdom on Earth and to establish its culture here so that Jesus will recognize it as His when He returns for us, His church. To Him, it will look a lot like Heaven.” (Pilcher, The Five-Fold Effect. 41.)



This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Anthony Scott Ingram.

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About the Author

Anthony Scott Ingram is a Spirit-filled Christian, husband, father, writer, teacher, podcaster, missionary, and the Apostolic Overseer of Sozo Ministries International. You can find him online at