This post first appeared in the Christianity for Life blog
Is the Kingdom of God a place in Heaven, or is it to be established here on Earth sometime in the future? Is it possible to find the Kingdom of God during our lifetime and somehow gain entry? Must we wait until we die? During our time on Earth, are we rehearsing and learning for our eventual arrival in God’s Kingdom? What if we don’t make the cut?
The Kingdom of God is a wonderful thing to ponder, but its not always front and center in our minds as we tackle the daily challenges of this present world. But for reasons known only to God, I’ve been running into Kingdom concepts quite a bit lately. It started with a message delivered by Charles Price in a Living Truth broadcast a couple of months ago – I wish I could remember which one (getting old), but I know I came away full of Kingdom thinking. Then just last month Ian Green of the Proton Foundation was the guest preacher at my home church in Victoria where he spoke eloquently of God’s Kingdom as it relates to his mission work. Then last week I visited my daughter’s home church in Langley, only to run into Gord Flemming and his message that, for me, consolidated everything that had been on my mind lately regarding the Kingdom of God.
I won’t go into the details of those messages – you can hear them for yourself by following the links – but I’m inclined to write about what God revealed to me in their content. I think He’s been trying to tell me something.
I began this lengthy post with some questions that I think are representative of our varied opinions and understanding of God’s Kingdom. I think many of us believe that the Kingdom of God is in Heaven. Possibly because Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven in the parables of Matthew 13. (Note that Matthew was likely following the Jewish convention of avoiding the use of the divine name). But the terms Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are used interchangeably throughout the New Testament. In his Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, Guy Duffield explains as follows:
Some Bible scholars…teach that “the kingdom of heaven,” found only in Matthew, usually refers to professing Christendom, while “the kingdom of God,” used by Mark, Luke and John, refers to God’s sovereign reign. There is no doubt that Jesus, in His parables, sometimes extends the “kingdom” concept to include the sphere of outward profession (Tares and Wheat, Mt. 13:24–30); however, a close comparison of the two terms “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven,” as they are used in all four Gospels, will show that they have the same meaning. For instance, in the Beatitudes, Matthew’s gospel says that the poor will inherit the kingdom of heaven, while in Luke’s gospel they will inherit the kingdom of God (Mt. 5:3; Lk. 6:20); in Matthew, the disciples are sent forth to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand; while in Luke, they announce that the kingdom of God is at hand (Mt. 10:6, 7; Lk. 9:2). (See also Mt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15.) In the very context where Jesus refers to the parables (including that of the Tares and Wheat) as teaching the “mysteries of the kingdom,” Matthew’s gospel refers to them as mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (13:11), while in Mark’s gospel (4:11) they are mysteries of the kingdom of God. In one passage in Matthew, Jesus uses both terms in the same figure of speech with exactly the same meaning (Mt. 19:23, 24); in one sentence, “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”; in the next, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for the rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” It is obvious from these comparisons that the terms “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” were completely interchangeable in usage.
We’ll see that the Kingdom of God is not confined to Heaven but includes those of us on Earth, both in the present and the future.
Some believe that the Kingdom of God won’t exist until some time in the future. If you look at the predominantly Old Testament scriptures that appear to support this view (e.g. Daniel 2:37–44, 7:13-14, Zechariah 14:9, Isaiah 32:1 etc.) you’ll find that they predict the coming of God’s Kingdom with the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. So from that perspective, the Kingdom of God was indeed in the future. But to the Old Testament writer, that was the their future, not ours.
So let’s think about that. Was the Kingdom of God really established with Jesus Christ?
Both John the Baptist and Jesus Himself seemed to think so;
Matthew 3:1-2 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Luke 11:20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
I think its safe to say that indeed, the Kingdom of God is established with the coming of Jesus. But are we clear on which coming? What about His second coming? Isn’t that when Jesus is supposed to establish His reign here on Earth? In Revelation 11:15 we read, “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
It can be confusing, but I’ve concluded that The Kingdom of God was established by Jesus Christ when He started His ministry here on Earth. And when Jesus reconciled us with God by taking the penalty for our sins on the cross, the Kingdom was ‘cemented’ in place but would co-exist with ‘the world’, which continues under Satan’s rule. That’s all very well, but where is the Kingdom of God today? If you take a look around you you’re not going to see much in the way of a Godly Kingdom. In fact its hard to see God at all in this world! So as much as the kingdoms might co-exist, it looks like the world, i.e. Satan, is winning out.
That won’t last. When Jesus returns He will eliminate all worldly kingdoms and fulfill God’s Kingdom forever (1 Corinthians 15:24–25).
My blog tagline is, “A Believer in the World”. Get it? As Christian believers we must somehow function in a world ruled by the Enemy. But where is the Kingdom of God? How do we find it and gain entry? Well that depends on your perspective.
From the Christian perspective the Kingdom of God is more of a concept than a physical place. It comes into being wherever the kingly authority of God is acknowledged. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we’re essentially handed the keys to this Kingdom, whether or not we actually go ahead and use them. Jesus relies on His Church, i.e. Christian believers, to use the power given to us, i.e. the keys, to give effect to His Kingdom. Whenever, by our Christ-like actions, we further God’s will, we in fact enter His Kingdom and become an essential part of it!
Another perspective is that of the unbeliever. When an unbeliever is a witness to or the object of the Christ-like action of a Christian, or the Church, he or she is exposed to the Kingdom of God. The unbeliever gets a glimpse of the light and will perhaps seek more of that Kingdom.
So if we have the keys to the Kingdom, how do we use them to gain entry? Well, at 1300 words and counting, I think I’d better call it a day and continue this topic in my next post. Stay tuned, I’ll continue with this in a day or two.
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