As I read through Bible I am always secretly impressed at how often and in how many ways the kingdom of God is mentioned or eluded to in some way. I get the sense as I read about it over and over throughout the pages of God’s Word that I and others tend to underestimate it. To be honest I don’t talk about it enough. And it feels as though those who do talk about it often refer only to one aspect of the kingdom and miss out on the rest.
When I hear people talk about the kingdom as if the only sense of it is that it is already here I wonder if they are reading the same set of Scriptures that I am. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe what Jesus said when He referred to the kingdom of God being inside of us. In the general sense, those of us who have put our faith in Jesus are His servants, and He is our King. The kingdom of God in it’s broadest sense is God’s rulership in the hearts of His subjects.
In Luke 17: 20-21 Jesus makes this powerful point to the Pharisees, “Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.’”
The Pharisees were implying that if Jesus was the Son of Man then He should bring the kingdom as prophecied in the book of Daniel. But Jesus challenges their kingdom thinking by referring to the broader, spiritual kingdom of God. In this passage Jesus is making it clear that, while they were looking for deliverance from the Romans dominating their country, Jesus was more concerned about their deliverance from the sin dominating their hearts.
Jesus then clarifies the literal kingdom that is coming to His disciples in verses 22-30 of Luke 17, “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. ‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”
The verses before Jesus was telling the Pharisees that the kingdom of God was a matter of the heart but here He is saying it is a literal kingdom that is coming someday. Which of these kingdom realities is true? Both are!
In the general sense the kingdom of God is within us who believe, but in the specific sense there is a literal kingdom that is coming. Jesus refers to it again and again and again in the book of Matthew as a literal kingdom that we should seek for, search after and strive to enter into. In His analogies the shadow of the kingdom hovers over our earthly reality with a sense of hope and foreboding.
But if Matthew is the kingdomfest of the New Testament, Daniel is the same for the Old.
Throughout the book of Daniel God’s kingdom is referred to as a literal coming kingdom. He referred to it in chapter seven and verse eighteen of his book, “But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever-yes, for ever and ever.’” In verse twentyseven he goes even further with the literal kingdom reference, “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’”
Paul refers to it as something we will inherit someday in 1 Corinthians 6:9. Later on in that same letter he refers to it as something that Jesus will hand over to the Father at the end of days, “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” 1 Corinthians 15:24.
The writer of Hebrews (whoever he or she may be) wrote this in 12:28 of his/her book as a sober reminder of the amazing reality that someday we will enter into God’s holy kingdom as our own possession, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe….”
Peter reminds us to live a godly life so that, “you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1:11.
What’s ironic is that the ultimate description of our reception of this kingdom doesn’t use the word “kingdom” at all. It doesn’t need to. Check out Revelation 21:1-4,
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”
Someday the kingdom of God will land on earth with a thud and the dwelling of God will be with man. The old will be passed away and the new order shall begin and never end. What a day that will be!
How should we respond to God’s underestimated kingdom?
1. Be excited. Our best days are ahead. We have the audacity of a true and lasting hope, not just a temporal and painful one.
2. Be striving. When we stand before the King in His kingdom we want to receive the rewards that we, as believers, have been striving for through our service to Him. Work hard to advance His kindom through spreading the gospel of Jesus to everyone you can. We want to stand before Him in joyful anticipation not with a “would’a, could’a, should’a” regret.
3. Be sure. Are you sure that you are headed for the kingdom of heaven when you die? Good works don’t cut it because we could never be good enough. Revelation 21:27 reminds us that even a liar won’t enter God’s pure and perfect kindom.
There’s only one way in and Jesus tells us in John 3:3-6, “Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
This confused Nickodemus, like it may confuse us, so Jesus clarified himself a few verses later, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” John 3:16-18.
Believe that Jesus died for you, trust in Him and Him alone and you will be born again spiritually and, through Christ’s sacrifice, be made fit for the kingdom of God.
Thy kingdom come!
Greg Stier is the President and Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., where he works with youth leaders and students, equipping them to be effective in sharing the gospel. With experience as a senior teaching pastor and in youth ministry for almost 20 years, Greg has a reputation of knowing and relating to today's teens. He is widely viewed as an authority and expert teen spirituality. He is known for motivating, mobilizing and equipping teens for positive change. For more information on Dare 2 Share Ministries, and the Invicible 08/09 conference tour, please visit www.dare2share.org.