The Kingdom of God/heaven

The importance of a correct understanding of the kingdom in regard to spiritual gifts cannot be underestimated. Without this understanding the correct use of the gifts demonstrated by Jesus will never be able to be fully realised.

What is a kingdom?

When talking about the kingdom of God/Heaven the first thing that we need to ask is - "What is a Kingdom?"
A kingdom is a realm or domain where a reigning monarch's decrees apply. We can choose to create our own little kingdom in our imaginations and make up the rules for ourselves. Or, we can follow external ways to live, fitting in with the rest of society. Often we do a mixture of both - we choose a pick and mix style which seems to suit our needs at any one given time.

John Calvin put it this way "Everyone flatters himself and carries a kingdom in his breast."

Bob Dylan sang:
"You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin' in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heir

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you're gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody."

Man was made to rule over God's earthly kingdom.

In the beginning God created mankind to reign and rule over a dominion.

Gen1:26-28 "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

God gave man dominion over the earth. In the fall in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve handed this dominion over to the devil.

Jesus was offered the kingdoms of the world by the devil

After Jesus was baptised and before he started ministering, he fasted for 40 days. At the end of this time he was tempted by the devil. His third and final temptation was for control of the 'kingdoms' of the world - the very thing which had been lost in the fall.

"Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." then Jesus said to him. "Go Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" Matthew 4:8-10

The kingdoms of the world were the devil's to offer. If they were not Jesus would have corrected this statement. However, Jesus was not willing to pay the price the devil was asking - to worship him. He also wanted a unified kingdom - that one great kingdom which his Father had created. He was not interested in the many split, warring 'kingdoms' which the earth had descended into. He was seeking to re-establish that one great kingdom - the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. This is demonstrated in the first words that Jesus is recorded to have said in his public ministry after this.

Matthew 4:17 "From that time Jesus began to preach and say "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

The "Kingdom of heaven/God" seems to be the pre-eminent message of Jesus. He mentions it 55 times in the gospel of Matthew alone. Preachers often say that Jesus taught about money most often, but in fact, money is only mentioned 17 times in the gospels!

The kingdom Jesus came to establish was different from all previous kingdoms

Jesus made it clear that he did not come to establish a kingdom on the same basis as earthly ones. Throughout his ministry he continued to resist the same offer which the devil had made in the wilderness.

"So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone." John 6:15

Jesus states it one last time as he faces the cross.

"Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is My kingdom is not of this realm.' Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.'" John 18:33-36

The gospel of salvation verses the gospel of the kingdom of God/heaven.

On October 31st 1517 Martin Luther, priest and scholar, nailed his paper to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. His thesis was a condemnation of the corruption that had engulfed the Catholic Church, especially the papal practice of selling "indulgences" for the forgiveness of sins. The consequences of this action led to the birth of the protestant church and the arrival of the "gospel of salvation" by faith alone as a reaction against the selling of indulgences. It has been the pre-eminent gospel preached in the West for the last 500 years.
The importance of salvation by faith alone cannot be in doubt. However, it has led to a watered down gospel. This gospel offers personalised faith which will get you into heaven when you die, but has very little vision to see the fractured personal 'kingdoms of this world' re-unified under the one great banner of THE Kingdom of God.

"But seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you". Matthew 6:33

The gospel of the kingdom brings the riches of heaven to earth as Jesus did.

The kingdom of God / heaven is not a matter of merely getting people into heaven. It is bringing the riches of God's heavenly kingdom to earth in the same way that Jesus did. Earth is transformed until life here is "as it is in heaven."

The first recorded public ministry of Jesus demonstrates this:

"Jesus was going throughout all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics paralytics; and He healed them." Matthew 4:23-24.

In the kingdom of God/heaven our reward and greatness is dependent on how we live

The previous passage is followed by the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon begins with the Beatitudes which describe how citizens of the kingdom should live. Greatness and reward in the kingdom is dependent on how we've conducted ourselves.

Matthew 5:3-12 The Message
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of you Father who is in heaven.... For is you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? Mt 5:44-46

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honoured by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and you Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you....Pray, then in this way: Our Father who is in heaven. Hallowed be your mane. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven."
Mt 6:1-10

"When we see social relationships controlled everywhere by the principles which Jesus illustrated in life -- trust, love, mercy, and altruism -- then we shall know that the kingdom of God is here." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Kingdom of God/heaven is organic - not an organisational structure.

Jesus did not come as a conquering hero - in the mould of king David to defeat the Romans, capture cities and set up a physical kingdom. Jesus came to capture and change people's hearts and minds. His kingdom was to be a living, organic structure like yeast. Unseen, like yeast, his kingdom would grow and spread to transform everything.

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." Mt 13:33

The living, organic nature of the Kingdom is also likened to a tiny seed growing into a tree.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." Mt 13:31-32

Jesus seems to be referring back to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in the Old Testament. Daniel's interpretation gives us the sense of the dream.

"The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all. under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged - it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth." Daniel 4:20-22

This was never fully fulfiled by Nebuchadnezzar whose kingdom never did reach to the end of the earth. Jesus' kingdom however, now supercedes all other kingdoms and his dominion will eventually extend to the ends of the earth.

Jesus warns of excessive organisational structural control

"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir. did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares? And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this! The slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then , to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."'" Matthew 13:24-30

No matter how carefully a patch of ground is prepared for planting, the same soil which allows crops to flourish also allows weeds to grow.

When the kingdom of heaven is revealed in all its glory, it will be so attractive people will do anything to get it.

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again, and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." Matthew 13;44-45

Kingdoms based on a Babylonian system - where money and power are valued above all else will fail and fall.

Revelation 18:1-8 The Message (MSG)
Doom to the City of Darkness
Following this I saw another Angel descend from Heaven.
His authority was immense,
his glory flooded earth with brightness, his voice thunderous:
Ruined, ruined, Great Babylon, ruined!
A ghost town for demons is all that’s left!
A garrison of carrion spirits,
garrison of loathsome, carrion birds.
All nations drank the wild wine of her whoring;
kings of the earth went whoring with her;
entrepreneurs made millions exploiting her.

Just then I heard another shout out of Heaven:

Get out, my people, as fast as you can,
so you don’t get mixed up in her sins,
so you don’t get caught in her doom.
Her sins stink to high Heaven;
God has remembered every evil she’s done.
Give her back what she’s given,
double what she’s doubled in her works,
double the recipe in the cup she mixed;
Bring her flaunting and wild ways
to torment and tears.
Because she gloated, “I’m queen over all,
and no widow, never a tear on my face,”
In one day, disasters will crush her—
death, heartbreak, and famine—
Then she’ll be burned by fire, because God,
the Strong God who judges her,
has had enough.

Violence is not the way to bring in the kingdom

"Then Jesus said to him. 'Put away your sword; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword'" Matthew 26:52

"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force." Matthew 11:12

The Greek here is in a passive tense which indicates violence being done to the kingdom from the outside rather than followers committing violence within.

The primary purpose of the kingdom of heaven/God

The primary reason Jesus came to earth was to show the power available when heaven comes to earth. His death on the cross opened up the power of the kingdom of God/heaven to all.

Jesus instructed his disciples to bring in the Kingdom in the same way.

"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick. raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give." Matthew 10:7-8

After his resurrection Jesus gives his disciples the great commission.

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying. "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."" Matthew 28:18-20

That mandate/ mission still applies to us now. The gospel of the kingdom creates an alternative reality in us, releasing his authority. This authority is to be used to disciple the nations and transform the kingdoms of the world into his one, great, glorious kingdom.

"The only significance of life consists in helping to establish the kingdom of God." ~ Leo Tolstoy


Calvin John, Golden booklet of the True Christian Life. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. 1977

Dylan Bob "Gotta Serve Somebody" From the album "Slow train coming."


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