February 23, 2019

What is God’s kingdom?

Of my generation, many know the Lord’s prayer. We know the line that says, “Thy kingdom come” but do we know what that means? Does it refer to an earthly kingdom where one person rules over a nation? Is it about the King who reigns over everything? Is it about a body of people submitting to the rule of God?

The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are mentioned many times in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. This is generally considered God’s rule over His creation, yet is this a physical rule? A spiritual rule? External or internal?

One of my dictionaries says that in relation to God a kingdom is both His eternal kingship and the realm in which God’s rule is fulfilled. This is stated in the next line in His prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”

The Pharisees wondered when this would happen. They were looking for a visible change. However, the NT shows they were mostly focused on when would God rule instead of the Romans. Jesus had an answer for that:

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20–21)

Did Jesus mean that He, the King, was in their midst? Or did He mean something else? Since they were not believers, saying the kingdom was within them is not theologically correct.

The word “within” or “in your midst” is a bit of a puzzle. Some feel that the force of the expression is “within your possession or within your reach.” This fits with the context. He is telling these religious but unbelieving people that bringing in the kingdom was a simple matter of acknowledging He is the Messiah, the King.

Those who believe in Jesus and are part of His family also live under His Lordship. We know that He is the King and we not only live under His rule but celebrate it. We also long for the day when:

 . . .  at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10–11)

When I pray “Thy kingdom come” I am longing for everyone to know the joy of saving faith, of being in a relationship with the King of kings and discovering the perfections of His will. Can this be seen when it happens? Some of it should be, but right now, the kingdom is semi-invisible. Those living in the will of God should demonstrate changed lives. We should be making a difference in this world. We are to glorify God and love and care for His people, all people, and His creation. Yet there is a day coming when that kingdom will be totally visible:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:31–32)

Only a King of kings can gather and separate the people of the entire world. When Jesus is revealed as that King, the Kingdom will also be revealed.

Jesus, sometimes I don’t like being designated as a sheep because they are smelly and not very bright, but far rather a sheep than be one of the goats to whom You will say, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41) Besides that, being part of Your kingdom is a privilege and the guarantee of eternity with You. I will keep praying for Your kingdom to come and Your will to be done in my life and the lives of those who still do not know You as their King.

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