The Kingdom of God Today
THIS GOOD NEWS
"This Good News of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world
as a witness to all the nations,
and then the end will come,"
"The kingdom of God is ...
righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
For he who serves Christ in these things
is acceptable to God and approved by men,"
After the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost the whole counsel of the Kingdom of God and Christ began to be taught to, and practised, by those who had received Christ.
But what is the situation regarding the teaching of God's Kingdom today? What do Believers know about it?
What is a Believer's personal relationship to it? And what is the relationship of God's People, the Body of Christ, to it?
The words power, kingship, dominion and rule all describe the total authority of what a kingdom is.
Such words may seem irrelevant to some. But there are people who live in the harsh reality of a kingdom or totalitarian government at this moment.
In New Testament times life was like that. Every day citizens felt that harsh reality. And it was the reality into which the Lord came preaching the Good News of the God's Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God (aka the Kingdom of Heaven) is a reality for those who have received Christ.
Jesus talked of seeing it, entering it and seeking it.
WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD TODAY?
Some say that "Christianity" is the Kingdom of God (but which "Christianity"?!) or it is "the church" (but which church?).
In addition to that, there are common references about "claiming it", "building" it, "extending it" or "the culture" of it.
But to those who are born again of the Spirit it really is, as Paul teaches " ... righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit".
Jesus, as our greatest example, walked the earth living it out and speaking out in holiness and godliness and signs and wonders.
And He calls His followers to do the same.
The scriptures of Acts 2'1 to Revelation 3'22 show early Believers expressing God's Kingdom in their every day lives (see The Way on the Menu).
So, the Kingdom of God is ...
" ... righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit".
The first thing to notice here is the phrase "in the Holy Spirit". Through Paul, God urges His People: "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit," Galatians 5'25.
As a result of being born again of the Spirit, Believers live in the Spirit. But obviously, Believers are still natural.
In spite of that, their conversion means that they have a new human arrangement. They are spirit, soul, and body. That's because they have been made new creations.
When they were unbelievers, their total order as human beings was the reverse: body, soul and spirit and naturally "the flesh" was the dominant influence in the way they lived.
Of course, those who live the Kingdom way of life are just as natural as they were. Nevertheless, we have this guarantee: "Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh," Galatians 5'16..
And as Believers our natural lives are lived out in harmony with this understanding:
"... you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s," 1 Corinthians 6'20.
Perhaps, Believers could be described as being "spiritually-natural and naturally-spiritual"!
2 Corinthians 4'7 says:
"... we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
"The Kingdom of God is righteousness ...".
Notice that "righteousness" comes first. But what is this righteousness?
Obviously it is not the personal righteousness of God Himself (Romans 1'17) nor is it the gift of righteousness credited to all who will believe (Romans 5'17).
There is another kind of righteousness which is behaviour that is right with God as these scriptures reveal:
Revelation 19'8 talks of ...
"... the righteous acts of the saints".
And 1 John 2'29 says ...
"If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him".
Finally, 1 Peter 2'24 says:
"... who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed".
Kingdom righteousness is something that is practised. For instance, when Jesus presented Himself to be immersed John began to strongly resist Him.
"But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,' Then he allowed Him".
Christ's immersion in water was an act of righteousness, carried out before His heavenly Father in worship.
Romans 6'13 exhorts Believers to:
"...present ... your members as instruments of righteousness to God".
And Romans 6'19 also says:
"present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness".
Righteousness is the way true Believers behave.
Righteous acts are the expression of God's will done God's way, whether it be speech, marriage, praying for the sick or witnessing about the Lord to the world.
Even before the giving of the Holy Spirit, those who wanted to live in ways pleasing to God were told:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths," Proverbs 3'5-6.
For Kingdom Believers this is added:
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom ... And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him," Colossians 3'16-17.
God's will (what He wants done) is found in the Word of Christ. His way (how He wants it done) is in the Spirit.
(Put another way it's' what our Father wants His Children to do and how He wants them to do it.)
For it to be Kingdom it has to be God's will done God's way.
"The Kingdom of God is ... peace and joy ..."
Peace and joy are wonderful characteristics. The Lord displayed them during His ministry on earth.
He put emphasis on His People possessing peace and joy too when He said:
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," John 14'27.
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full," John 15'11.
Peace and joy were His disposition. They were the way He was.
Later Paul was able to tell Believers that the Holy Spirit Himself produces peace and joy (and other characteristics) in them:
"... the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," Galatians 5'22-23.
Hebrews 12'14 exhorts us to go for it:
"Pursue peace with all people ...".
Romans 12'18 also exhorts:
"If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men ...".
"And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit," Acts 13'52.
OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE
There is a danger about serving: it can be done for the wrong reasons.
In most religions serving is done to earn some sort of spiritual credit with no assurance of eternal life being offered.
These "Believers" are never sure that their good works are acceptable to their "god/s" or enough to earn their salvation.
Those who believe the Lord have eternal life. There is no way for it to be earned.
And they can be sure that serving Christ in righteous acts is both well pleasing to God and seen as genuine by men (Romans 14'17 paraphrased).
Opportunities to serve the Lord occur constantly, sometimes unexpectedly. Remember the Lord's example of the good Samaritan (Luke 10)?
Galatians 6'10 says:
"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith".
"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ," Colossians 3'23-24.
"For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand
that we should walk in them,"
The Kingdom of God Today
TOWARD KINGDOM FULLNESS
(FATHER, SON, HOLY SPIRIT)
"Listen, my beloved brethren:
Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith
and heirs of the kingdom
which He promised to those who love Him?"
“Assuredly, I say to you,
whoever does not receive the kingdom of God
as a little child will by no means enter it,”
As has been said, after the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost the whole counsel of the Kingdom of God and Christ began to be taught to, and practised by, those who had been saved.
It had been the Lord's main message, especially during the days immediately prior to the sending of the Holy Spirit.
For the Apostles, especially Paul, it was the same. Consequently, the New Testament refers to the Kingdom of God/Heaven many times.
But there are two other Kingdom statements that call for understanding:
First is, "the Kingdom of the Son of His love" that Paul referred to.
Second is, "My Father's Kingdom", that Jesus referred to.
It has to be said that these statements are seldom distinguished from the Kingdom of God (which they are part of, of course) in Believers' thinking.
Nevertheless, what they represent is always accessible to them. But they must have some significance. And there can't be three kingdoms!
From their settings in the New Testament they appear to be God's means of putting emphasis on His People's specific relationship to Him and to the enemy.
It could be said that they are understandings within the overall understanding of the Kingdom of God. To follow them through the place to start is where Jesus spoke to Nicodemus.
This is where the first "understanding within" (the Kingdom of the Son of His love) becomes relevant.
"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God", John 3'3.
When an unbeliever hears the Good News, repents and believes and receives Christ as their Saviour they are born again.
As a result of this they are given the understanding that the Kingdom of God is a reality. They are no longer blinded by Satan.
That's because their heavenly Father has "conveyed" them, putting them in the place from which it is possible to see their new spiritual environment, the Kingdom of God.
That place of understanding that the Kingdom of God is a reality is "the Kingdom of the Son of His Love".
THE KINGDOM OF THE SON OF HIS LOVE
This primary position of understanding that the Kingdom of God is a reality is where Believers discover themselves to be recipients of God's love and power just as Jesus was.
Every Believer can possess the fullness of this significant and powerful spiritual understanding because when we were born again our heavenly Father ...
"... delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love ...".
This happened during the "washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3'5) of every new Believer.
Paul passes this understanding on to all Believers, by the Holy Spirit, in his letter to the Colossians. Here it is in its setting:
"... giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins ..." (Chapter 1'12-14).
Satan knows what these words really mean. So he knows about the place of power that Believers have.
But, infinitely more important than that, Believers need to realise what these words really mean and the power they have in Christ.
It cannot be overstated: all who Believe in Jesus have been taken out from under Satan's power by their heavenly Father.
The only weapons the enemy has are the ones he used in the Garden of Eden - temptations, deceptions and lies.
Always remember this, he can never hinder or prevent a Child of God from communicating with the Father under any circumstances (read Hebrews 4'16).
Standing where Jesus stood
The greatest aspect of Jesus' life during His time on earth was His relationship with the Father. His Father was everything to Him.
Whenever He said: “Abba, Father" (Mark 14'36) He expressed His familiar love relationship with the Father (also see John 17).
For those who are heirs of God through Jesus Him the Father is everything to them too.
Believers live throughout their days on earth in the understanding of the Kingdom of the Son of God's love. And a wonderful place it is!
They pray to the Father in Jesus' name in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, many are unaware of the fullness of their deliverance. Also, many are unaware of their place of power. Because of their ignorance Satan is able to afflict them.
Jesus demonstrated Kingdom power. For example:
“... if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you," Matthew 12'28.
“But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you," Luke 11'20.
And He declared:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also;
and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father," John 14'12.
When Christ was on earth, the Kingdom was on earth. Where the Body of Christ is on earth, God's Kingdom is also on earth, potentially.
THE FATHER'S KINGDOM CAME
Jesus talks about "My Father's Kingdom". Believers, understanding that the Kingdom of God is a reality and that they stand in the Kingdom of the Son of God's love also possess another major understanding.
That is the understanding of fatherhood in the Kingdom of God.
“All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him,” Luke 10'22.
The earliest words spoken by Jesus about fatherhood and kingdom were "Our Father who is in heaven; hallowed be your name; your kingdom come" .
He introduced this understanding in His teachings, beginning in Matthew 5'1-2 where says:
"... seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
Then He opened His mouth and taught them ...":
One thing to notice is that His disciples came to Him like a Jewish rabbi and his students. And many others joined them.
He began teaching His disciples. The crowds also wanted to hear what He had to say (Matthew 5'1-7'29).
A number of times He spoke of God as Father. He said things like:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven," Matthew 5'16.
“... that you may be sons of your Father in heaven," Matthew 5'45.
“... you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect," Matthew 5'48.
“... your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him," Matthew 6'8.
He was encouraging them to say "Our Father" (Matthew 6') and He added that the Father He has been referring to has a Kingdom.
He urged them to desire to honour His name (like He did) and desire for their Father's Kingdom to come and for His will be done on earth.
[Later in these teachings, the Lord urged them to look beyond their earthly needs and firstly seek the kingdom of God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and its righteousness first (Matthew 6'25-34) and their needs would be provided.]
There were those listening that day who believed Jesus' words. They believed in the same way as their forefather, Abraham had done (see Genesis 12'1-6).
Christ's disciples had already done that. Just as Abraham had heard and believed God's word and acted on it, they had answered the Lord's call and responded to it.
Throughout His life on earth Jesus demonstrated Kingdom love. The love - and power - that His Called-Out Ones would be inheriting.
And the Father's Kingdom came
After the Day of Pentecost the Good News of Christ and the Kingdom of God was preached. Peter says it was preached "to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven" (1 Peter 1'12).
Those who received Christ became able to relate to God as their spiritual Father. They could express by the Spirit their love to the Father as Jesus did:
"And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!,” Galatians 4'6.
"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father,” Romans 8'15.
On that mountain He had referred to this personal relationship. At one point He addressed everyone as if to each one individually by using the singular word for "you" (Matthew 6'2-6,17-18).
And there's the present corporate relationship:
"... truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ," 1 John 1'3.
And in gatherings of His Called-Out Ones:
"... both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying:
“I will declare Your name to My brethren. In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You,” Hebrews 2'11-12.
Finally, Jesus proclaimed:
"... I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom,” Matthew 26'29.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them,” Matthew 18'20.
“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
As has been referred to earlier, the Kingdom of God, "... is in the Spirit". But what does that mean?
To grasp the initial meaning it's useful to use the opposite and say: The Kingdom of God is not in the flesh!
Those who have received Christ live daily in the spiritual Kingdom understandings of the Father and the Son.
By now Believers understand that they are children of the Father and heirs with the Son.
"... as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," John 1'12-13.
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together," Romans 8'16-17.
In spite of these declarations, there are Believers whose understanding of the Holy Spirit's place in the Kingdom of God is likely to be weak or misunderstood.
Jesus did some significant explaining about this to a senior Jewish rabbi. The man desperately wanted clarification about His message.
So the Lord said:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.
So is everyone who is born of the Spirit,” John 3'3,5-8.
These things take place when an unbeliever repents and believes and receives Christ as their Saviour.
It is important for the newly-converted Believer to experience immersion in water after receiving the Lord.
Entering and Receiving
Believers growing in the grace of the Lord and the Kingdom, they come across what the Lord says bout entering and receiving the Kingdom of God.
About entering, He said:
"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven," Matthew 18'3.
"Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it," Mark 10'15.
Note that conversion is first. Then becoming as little children follows. Not the other way round.
It isn't surprising that the Kingdom way is the reverse of the natural "in the flesh" order.
These things are all about having faith that is child like. Meaning, God speaks and His children respond willingly.
He calls Believers to have the kind of simple disposition towards entering into Kingdom experiences and receiving Kingdom things from their loving Father that little children have.
Here's what the writer to the Hebrews said, by the Spirit:
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
The Kingdom of God Today
MISREADINGS AND MIS-TAKES
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom,
and does not understand it,
then the wicked one comes
and snatches away what was sown in his heart,"
The Lord speaks of "this Good News of the Kingdom" and He began preaching it right from the start of His earthly ministry.
It's not surprising, then, that Jesus, His word and His Good News and His Followers are the focus of the enemy's attacks.
He is constantly attempting to deceive Believers and will attempt to misrepresent them and the Kingdom to anyone, unbelievers or Believers, who will listen.
For example, in Roman-occupied Thessalonica the accusers claimed that the Believers were dishonouring, even disobeying, the ruler of the land, that they were:
"... all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king - Jesus" (Acts 17'7).
Accusations against God's people are likely to be about anything that is likely to interfere with the work of God.
MISREADINGS AND MISTAKES
Much of what is said about God's Kingdom is based on Believers' mis-readings or mis-takes such as: the Kingdom of God is "within you", it "suffers violence", or needs "pressing into".
Then there's the idea that Jesus is the embodiment of the Kingdom.
As with most misreadings, they are taken out of their context or are simply mis-takes. Needless to say, they result in confusion.
A closer look:
Example 1. The Kingdom of God is "within you" (Luke 17'20-21):
The truth is, the Kingdom of God is not "within" anyone! Sadly, it's a common error which is brought about repetition and lack of discernment.
In context, the true rendering of the Greek word is "among" you, as follows:
"Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation;
nor will they say, "See here!" or "See there!"' For indeed, the kingdom of God is among you."
The point is that God's Kingdom was not within these Pharisees. It was among them. The one who was preaching and living the Kingdom of God, that is the rule of God, was in their midst.
A kingdom is something that people live in and under the rule of. Then there's the question: If a person has to be born again to be able to even see it or enter it, how can the Kingdom be within?
Jesus was the Kingdom's first earthly ambassador!
Example 2. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence (Matthew 11'12).
Speaking to the multitudes one day, Jesus said:
"... from the days of John ... until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force".
"Until now" refers to a limited time. And as Jesus says, this using of force was practised in the days of John. When the Lord came preaching "the Kingdom is at hand" it became obsolete.
In any case, this saying has no place in Jesus' New Covenant Kingdom teachings. It is totally inapplicable, or even meaningful today.
Example 3. "... everyone is pressing into it" (Luke 16'14-16).
The context is this:
"... the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.
And He said to them, 'You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it'".
As the Lord says, when people heard Him preach about the Kingdom of God they began pressing into His teachings. But that was then.
The idea of "pressing into" God's Kingdom teachings today is wrong because it contradicts the truth. Now Believers are in the Kingdom, having been put there by the Father.
Christ's complete New Covenant Kingdom teachings are readily available to them. The Holy Spirit brought them with Him on the Day of Pentecost.
Kingdom life begins when a sinner repents, believes and receives Christ and the Father conveys them into the Kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1'13).
Therefore, "pressing into" is unnecessary.
Finally, Mark 12'28-34 records a beautiful conversation between Jesus and a Scribe. At the end of the warm exchange the Lord says: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Because the Kingdom of God covers all things spiritual and natural in the past, in the present and in the future there is much that can be said about it.
But because Jesus said "this good news will be preached ..." the focus here is on the Kingdom of God in the present as presented by the Him and the word of Christ given by the Holy Spirit.
Finally, there is one thing about the Kingdom of God that usually goes unmentioned in teachings and preaching among Believers. It's about who is the king of the Kingdom of God.
Ask a Believer the question "who is the King of the Kingdom of God?" and the answer is very likely to be "Jesus".
But the answer is in the question: God is the King of the Kingdom of God! That is, of course, God - Father, Son, Holy Spirit: the Godhead.
The point about saying this is that, for this time of God's dealings with mankind, God has ordained that Jesus be called Lord, not King.
More to the point, the Lord Jesus Christ does two things regarding the Kingdom of God. He represents it and He expresses it.
Believers sing songs and hear preaching Sunday by Sunday declaring that Jesus is King. In contrast, the New Testament refers to Him as Lord.
(Note. 1 Timothy 6'15 and Revelation 17'14,19'16 refer to Jesus as "King of kings and Lord of lords" but they are in different contexts. Jesus is also referred to "king of the Jews".)
The Holy Spirit makes the point...
“... God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Philippians 2'9-11.
Thomas honoured and identified Him very clearly: “My Lord and my God!” John 21'28.
And 1 Corinthians 12'3 confirms that ...
“... no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit".
To summarise, this website is about:
the New Covenant Kingdom of God,
that Father, Son, Holy Spirit, in unity, are King of the Kingdom of God
and that Jesus Christ is Lord.
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and with power,
who went about doing good
and healing all who were oppressed by the devil,
for God was with Him.
Prayer. Thank you, Father, for the whole counsel of the Word of Christ and the Kingdom. Thank you, too for the ability of being able to see the Kingdom, enter it and live in it.
In Jesus' name. Amen.