Recently, a friend posted on his Facebook page the poster you see above. I replied to his post by saying: “Good admonition! The problem is that most modern Christians have no idea what the Kingdom of God is!” Now, the irony of that reality is that the main theme of the ministry and life of Jesus was the Kingdom of God! The Kingdom of God was the subject of every one of his sermons! The Kingdom of God was the object of every one of his teaching sessions! The demonstration of the power and presence of the Kingdom of God was purpose for every one of his miracles! Yet, those who claim to follow him today, know very little about the Kingdom of God as he presented it!
Now, I hope you noticed what I just said: I said, “Those who claim to follow him today know very little about the Kingdom of God ‘as he presented it!” Most of what we think we know about the Kingdom of God today was gathered from the writings of theologians (Early Church and modern) and from ideas in art and culture, but what did Jesus say about the Kingdom of God?
As I write this, I am reminded of the frustrations I experienced as a young teen, helping my father in his work. My father was a greens-keeper at a golf-course and in the course of his work, he repaired and worked on small engines and the equipment used to maintain the course. When I first started working with him, during the summer-breaks from school, my frustrations stemmed from the fact that I was a little slow in remembering the names of the tools he worked with. For example, when my father would have his hands full working on a machine, he would ask me to bring him a Phillips-head screwdriver or a crescent-wrench. More often than not, before I got the hang of it, I would bring him a flat-head screwdriver or a pair of vice-grips instead! It was really frustrating for me to be rifling through the tool box, not knowing exactly what I was looking for! Often, when I couldn’t figure it out, I wouldn’t bring him what he asked for, I would just bring him what I thought he asked for!
Well, that’s the way it is with many Christians today! They really don’t know what Jesus meant when he said: “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. . .” And since they don’t really know what he meant, they just go by what they think he meant! Just like the difficulty I experienced when looking in my father’s toolbox, it’s difficult to look for or even find something, when you don’t exactly know what you’re looking for!
So, what did Jesus mean when he said; “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. . . ?” Well, I finally learned the tools my father needed by the process of elimination. In other words, even before I found out what vice-grips were; I found out what they weren’t! Therefore, let’s first look at what Jesus ‘did not mean’ when he talked about the Kingdom of God. Now, there were times when he did, but most of the time, when Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, he WAS NOT talking about the Heaven we most often talk about! I remember as a young Christian, when I first read Matthew 6:33, I just assumed that Jesus meant that our first priority should be; to seek to live a good life so that we might go to Heaven after we die! But that is not what he said and that is not what he meant!
Most often, when Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, he was talking about the sovereign rule or the authority of God; the realm of God’s rule. In the preaching and teachings of Jesus, the terms; Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven were not primarily referencing a place or location, but rather the act of ruling or the state of submission to God’s rule. Therefore, to ‘see’ and to ‘enter into’ the Kingdom of God in John 3:3 and John 3:5 are not references to seeing and walking through the pearly gates after death, but rather, to perceiving, understanding, and submitting to God’s sovereign rule in one’s life now! Note the tenses, Jesus did not say; ‘will not see’ or ‘will not enter’ (future tense), he said; ‘cannot see’ and ‘cannot enter’ (present tense). Now, there were times when he referenced the future aspect of the Kingdom of God. In the parables, he talked about the angels separating the wheat from the tares and separating the good fish from the bad fish. He talked about going away and preparing a place for us in John 14; that was future tense.
So in summary, here is what the Kingdom of God is from what we have discussed so far:
The Kingdom of God is the sovereign rule of God.
The Kingdom of God is a present reality.
The Kingdom of God is a future hope.
Now, I don’t want this post to be too long, but I just want to focus on the aspect of the Kingdom of God as a present reality before I go. While traditional Christianity has done a good job of presenting the Kingdom of God as a future hope, it has done a very poor job of presenting the Kingdom of God as a present reality! The reason for that might be because it seems to be hard for people to wrap their heads around the reality that the Kingdom of God is not one or the other, but rather, the Kingdom of God is both! The Kingdom of God is indeed the culmination of history when God shall subdue all evil and sin, death and sickness will be no more and we will reign with God throughout eternity. Yes! That is the Kingdom of God! But the Kingdom of God is also, the sovereign rule, authority, and power of God working in and through the lives of His people for the purpose of His will being done presently on earth as it is done in Heaven! You see, the problem with traditional Christianity is that only one aspect of the Kingdom of God has been presented! We’ve done a great job in preparing people to die, but we have ignored the fact that there is one thing everybody must do before they die; they must live! We’ve done a great job in preparing people for life in the here-after, but we’ve done a dismal job in preparing people for life in the here-and-now! The Gospel that Jesus preached was like the candy I used to eat as a kid, called; Now-and-Later. But the gospel we preach makes the same mistake we made with the candy when we were kids! Although the actual name of the candy was and is: Now ‘and’ Later, we called it: Now ‘or’ Later! Jesus preached a ‘now and later’ message, but the message of most modern preaching is ‘now or later!’ And that message has no appeal to a person who is struggle to make ends meet and to survive in life! It’s really no real consolation to know that things will be better after they die; they need some relief now! The Gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached addresses that need! In Mark 10:28-30, we read: “Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mk. 10:28-30 KJV) Did you read what Jesus said? He said; ‘now in this time. . . and in the world to come. . .” The real Gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel Jesus told us to actually preach is the now ‘and’ later Gospel!
There is a lot more I could say about what the Kingdom of God is, but if I keep going, you will quit reading! But read Matthew 13 in your Bible. In that chapter, you will discover several examples of what the Kingdom of God is and what the Kingdom of God is like; now and later!