I have heard about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven(I will use them interchangeably) since I was a child. I have heard missionaries declare that God is using them to advance the Kingdom here on earth. I have heard church pastors talk about "Kingdom Principles" and I have prayed many, many times for God's Kingdom to come, and His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10). But a few years ago someone asked me a thought-provoking question. I was having lunch with a pastor, who then became a mentor to me for a season, when he asked: "What do you mean when you say 'The Kingdom of God'?" I was kind of caught off guard by his question. Well, let me ask you, what do you think the Kingdom of God is? Can you describe it?
At the moment I think I bumbled around and made some sort of reference to when someone accepts Jesus they enter the Kingdom of God. I was stumped! I had been hearing about and talking about the Kingdom of God for most of my life but couldn't tell you what exactly it was or why Jesus was constantly talking about it. For a long time when I saw the phrase 'Kingdom of God,' I thought of heaven or more specifically where Christians go when they die. Many Christians think this and in one sense they are not totally wrong. However, this is not the full picture of the Kingdom of Heaven.
1. The Kingdom of God is God's Rule and Reign
When we think of the word 'kingdom' we often think of a country realm in which a king or queen is the head of state. A well-known example of this is the United Kingdom, the Queen is the head of state. This, however, is not necessarily how people thought of kingdoms in New Testament times, the word 'kingdom' had more to do with the authority, rule, and reign of a certain king than it did the realm over which he or she ruled. We see examples of this throughout the Old Testament, for example in 1 Samuel 15 the Lord takes the Kingdom from Saul for his disobedience (1 Sam 15:28), He isn't destroying the realm of Israel, simply taking away Sauls kingship. When Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God, he isn't talking about strictly the realm of God, heaven (Although God's rule is more fully realized there) or the church as some have postulated but simply God's rule. He isn't talking about a realm, He is talking about God's reign. If you read through the gospel's with this understanding of the Kingdom of God it will change and bring understanding to so much!
For example, when Jesus says "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24 CSB) He ISN'T saying it is hard for a rich many to get to heaven (at least not directly). He is saying it is hard for a rich man to submit his will to God, It is hard for a rich man to submit to the authority, the rule of Jesus in his life. Or when Jesus tells us to pray "10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We are praying that God's rule and reign would be more realized on earth. George Eldon Ladd puts it this way:
"This prayer is a petition for God to reign, to manifest His kingly sovereignty and power, to put to flight every enemy of righteousness and of HIs divine rule, that God alone may be King over all the world"
2. The Kingdom of God is Now and Not Yet
With this fresh understanding of the Kingdom of God as simply God's rule and reign, we can see that the Kingdom of God is both a present reality and a future truth. To many, this seems like a contradiction, in fact, Jesus often refers to the Kingdom of God as a present reality but then seems to go back on himself and talk about a future time when the Kingdom of God will come. This is not, however, a contradiction.
God's Kingdom was inaugurated in Christ's death and resurrection. Because of this, the Kingdom of God is a present reality available to us who submit to God's reign. However, there is still hurt, there is still pain, there is still evil in the world. There will come a day when Christ comes again, raises the dead and judgment will occur. Only then will the Kingdom of God come in full. When the New Jerusalem is brought down from the Heavens and God will forever dwell amongst His people (Revelation 21).
3. Jesus is Israel's Messiah
It is easy to forget in modern evangelical culture that Jesus didn't come to the gentile world himself. And when he was asked for healing from a gentile woman he initially refused because he had come for Israel first (Matthew 15:21-28). Paul echo this theme throughout his letters (Romans 1:16) and in the way he preaches the gospel, going to synagogues to preach to the Jews first then he would go to the gentiles(Acts 13:46). We have to remember that Jesus is Israel's Messiah and the world he came into wasn't a vacuum. In the same way, God's Kingdom started as the Kingdom of Israel and Jesus is Israel's true, long prophesied king. He comes from the line of David, David was Israel's King, Jesus is Israel's Messiah, he is Israel's King and he has come to bring the kingdom of God to all peoples and this is a present reality it's not JUST something far off in the distance that we're still waiting for. Of course the Kingdom of God won't come in full until the second coming of Christ.
Jesus is a king!
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