And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Mat 24:14)
We have preached various gospels. We have preached a ‘gospel of salvation’, a ‘gospel of grace’, a ‘social gospel’ and others but the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ is now being brought to the attention of all who are seeking first to live in that kingdom. We have had extensive discussions about the kingdom in this forum and I believe it is what we should talk about at this stage because it is end-time revelation. We will still talk about it a lot.
I felt to emphasize again the relational angle of the kingdom because we are now growing in thinking patterns about the kingdom and if we lose the relational angle we have lost the central theme. Some of this could be repetitive but if we are not walking in the truth then we have not heard it properly and every word we can hear or read that will strengthen the revelation of the truth is beneficial.
Can any of us say that we are walking in the truth about the kingdom? If we are then it should be seen in our lives and we are not hearing many rumours about the manifestations of the kingdom taking place in our country – yet. So I felt this is pertinent and that we still need more light from different perspectives on this subject until we see the power of the life of Jesus really coming through our lives and changing the landscape we live in.
1. The kingdom refers to the rule of God. This we all know by now but I thought this perspective is fresh:
a) Dallas Willard said: “Every last one of us has a ‘kingdom’ – or a ‘queendom’ or a government – a realm that is uniquely our own, where our choice determines what happens. We are made to ‘have dominion’ within an appropriate domain of reality. This is the core of the likeness and the image of God in us and is the basis of the destiny for which we were formed.
Our kingdom is simply the range of our effective will”.
b) “Now God’s own ‘kingdom’ or ‘rule’, is the range of His effective will, where what He wants done is done. The person of God himself and the action of his will are the organizing principles of his kingdom, but everything that obeys those principles whether by nature or by choice, is within his kingdom.”
c) “It existed from the moment of creation and will never end (Ps. 145:13, Dan. 7:14) It can not be shaken (Hebr. 12:27) and is totally good. It has never been in trouble and never will be. It is not something that human beings produce or, ultimately, can hinder. We do have an invitation to be part of it but if we refuse we only hurt ourselves.”
d) “Accordingly, the kingdom of God is not essentially a social or political reality at all. Indeed, the social and political realm, along with the individual heart is the only place in all of creation where the kingdom of God or his effective will is currently permitted to be absent. That realm is the ‘on earth’ of the Lord’s Prayer that is opposed to the ‘in heaven’ where God’s will is, simply, done.”
2. From this foundation we can deduce a couple of thoughts
a) If the kingdom is the rule of God then it can not be separated from God himself. His rule and his will are one. As many of us have found out with our children, we need to be present to see that our will is done and that our kingdom is established. My thoughts determine what I want and if I express those thoughts as my will, they determine the extent of my kingdom. I can not rule without communicating my thoughts. My speech determines the extent of my rule for without expressing myself no one will know what I want.
So if you enter my kingdom you are entering me as expressed by my communicated will. Teachers have a kingdom in their class, fathers in their homes, mothers within their families, employers in their businesses and those who operate within the sphere where the will of a person is done, operate within the kingdom of that person.
b) In the Old Testament, the people thought that entrance into the kingdom depended on keeping laws and working hard at being good. They were wrong because God, knowing that they would fail in keeping his law, gave them a system of sacrifices to cover their failure so that from the beginning the actual mode of entrance was faith in the goodness and grace of a God who said he will accept the sacrifices. The truth of this is clear from the life of Abraham and David who did not trust in their goodness but in the character of God.
As Israel lost contact with the living God they progressively lost the truth about faith and grace and the keeping of the law without mistakes became the way to enter into the rule of God. That produced the Pharisees who were seeking for eternal life in the Scriptures but refused to come to him. (Jn. 5:39-40)
c) Jesus came in the flesh and fulfilled the requirements of the law to publicly, physically restore the truth about faith and grace and expose the inadequacy of the law. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3-4)
Because of his presence, the requirement to enter into the kingdom was clearly portrayed in a person. Relationship to him became the key to entrance. You still needed faith to believe in the power of the sacrifice and in the grace and the love of God who would accept the sacrifice, but now the concept became visible. In stead of it being just written word, the way became physical and relational. You had to know the person to be able to enter into the bliss of life in another kingdom. You could ignore the requirements set by the Pharisees. The requirement of grace and faith was all you needed and it was presented to you in the form of a relationship with a person of flesh and blood. Jesus illustrated that repeatedly but the scene with the prostitute who broke the alabaster box on his feet is probably the most graphic.
d) Jesus said about John the Baptist that he was the greatest born of a woman but even the least in this new kingdom was greater than he. It is because the least in the new kingdom can walk hand in hand with Jesus and can feel the life of Jesus flow through him. John was great but he could not enter into the kingdom. The life of Jesus could not flow from his innermost being because Jesus could not live inside him. He could not live by the life of Another.
All that changed with the advent of the age of the Spirit. Now the kingdom suffers violence and the violent can enter by force. This does not refer in my mind to physical violence; it refers to the violence that must be done to our understanding before we will desire entrance and relationship above effort and performance.
The break with effort is so radical that it requires a violent clash with grace and faith and only those who are willing to allow their minds to suffer violence will be able to turn around (repent) and receive the gift that was there all the time (at hand) for them to receive through faith and grace.
e) God is not an absentee landlord – he is ‘with us’. Paul said, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17). This means that to enter into his kingdom means to enter into him. Entering into him implies relationship because he has revealed himself as a person. We can not separate God from his kingdom and try to extend the kingdom by our actions as if it is a business or a region. We can only enter deeper into God and get others to do the same. In that way we extend the awareness of his person and through that the ability to live in him. that is why Jesus cried out: “Come to me all who labour and are heavily laden and I will give you rest”.
f) When Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, he was referring to the rule or the will of God that has come within our reach in his own person. He was referring to ‘Immanuel, God with us’. That does not mean that the kingdom only came into existence when he came. It does not mean that the rule of God was not available before that, that God himself was not around. It means that something changed with the coming of Jesus and that the rule of God or God became accessible.
Dallas Willard uses the analogy of electricity to explain this. When he was growing up on a farm they had no electricity. One day electricity became available for that area and the government came to the farmers and told them, “Repent for electricity is at hand”. Electricity was not a new thing – it had been there for a long time, but now it has become available for the people of that district. They needed to change their mode of thinking and embrace the new truth before they would go to the trouble and spend the money to obtain the gadgets that would manifest the power of electricity. They needed to repent from their old ways and embrace the new way that was offered to them before they could have light.
g) Like electricity the kingdom does not ‘come with observation’ as Jesus said. It is invisible. It is all around us but we are not aware of it, just like God. It is only as we are willing to allow Him to change our thinking (repent) and we receive the revelation of the Spirit that we become more aware of the unseen. If we know Jesus then the kingdom is also within us, and we also become aware of its immediacy by revelation. Paul says it is near us, on our lips – it is the word of faith (Rom. 10). It remains unseen until we have enough trust in Papa’s love, faithfulness and desire to reveal it to us, to take a step in faith into the unknown and start to interact with that which has always been there.
Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebr. 11) so as our eternal lives started with a gift of faith, by grace (Eph.2), so this revelation will only come through a gift of faith. The only pre-requisite to receive gifts is desire because desire causes requests to bubble from our mouths and that is the only thing Papa requires.
h) He died for us while we were still sinners so he does not require perfection or good moral behaviour before he gives us the gift of faith to receive the presents he has for us. He just requires desire and a desire that leads to asking and seeking. (Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved Rom. 10). This desire also comes by grace. When we are first saved we have much desire – that is given so that we can continue to ask not so that we can continue to become more holy. Religion destroys that and causes us to want to work for the revelation of the kingdom, but desire and asking is the way God ordained for it to come to us. He gave us all we need from the beginning so that we can ask, not so that we can live perfect lives.
i) So, the kingdom is not a place, nor is it a state of mind or being, nor a system of governance. It is a person and entrance into it is depending on conversation and relationship. The potential to enter into this relationship has been a gift and the power to penetrate deeply into it is also a gift – a gift of faith that comes by grace.
That is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you”. The kingdom should be sought as we will seek for a hidden treasure or for a precious pearl. In the same way as we are called in Prov. 2 to call out for wisdom, lift up our voice for understanding, are we called to knock and keep on knocking, seek and keep on seeking, ask and keep on asking until we receive the revelation. And the revelation is nothing but a revelation of a person, of his love, of his nearness – his being at hand. It is just our mindset that has to change. We have to change by grace and through faith into lovers, into wild, passionate lovers of Jesus.
That is how we enter deeper into the kingdom.
j) What shall we do then? We shall talk to Jesus and to Papa. We shall talk with them form an understanding of our own inability to enter into anything good without their help. From an understanding of the inadequacy of our own lives and a deep desire to live their kind of life. From a deep knowledge that only faith can bring that they want us to enter and that it is their good pleasure to give us the kingdom. It revolves around conversation and conversation revolves around communication.
The Christian walk is about fellowship, about parties, about conversations over a cup of tea or a lunch, about asking for presents and about the willingness to keep on doing that for the rest of our lives – that is probably why it is so much easier for the ladies.