What Does the Kingdom Look Like?
If the central message of the gospels is that God in the person of Jesus of Nazereth has come to earth to be King, then what does that Kingdom look like as it develops in our lives and in society?
Mark in his gospel records that Jesus announced that the time was fulfilled and that the Kingdom of God was now a present reality (Mark 1:15). However, in contrast to that, Matthew’s gospel records Jesus giving an example prayer in which he prays that God’s Kingdom “would come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (see Matthew 6:10) So it seems that even though the Kingdom of God was present in first century Palestine, Jesus wanted his followers to pray for it to arrive. Perhaps the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus is something that will grow over time?
One of the parables that Jesus told about the Kingdom speaks of a small seed growing slowly over time until it becomes a large tree for all the birds to nest in. (Matthew 13:31-32) Another parable about the Kingdom talks about leaven which a woman hid in three measures of four until it was all leavened. (Matthew 13:33) Could it be that Jesus inaugurated his rule as King over all the earth with his death and resurrection, but his reign here will grow deeper and more influential over time?
The book of Revelation announces a day in which “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” (Revelation 11:15) Theologians disagree over whether this was fulfilled at the resurrection and ascension of Christ or whether this is still future. This verse suggests that God's Kingdom will or has taken over the other "kingdoms" of our society and brought them under his leadership.
The scriptures record that wherever Jesus went, he healed the sick and set people free from spiritual oppression (Acts 10:38). In addition, the gospel writers record that he forgave people’s sins and through His love people’s lives were transformed. He spoke truth and opened people’s understanding so they could see life and themselves in reality. So this is what the Kingdom of God looks like. So we may say that wherever the Kingdom is present, people’s lives are transformed through forgiveness, healing and truth brought to them by Jesus, the King. What is the result of all this? The apostle Paul wrote that the evidence of the Kingdom of God is justice, peace and joy in people’s lives. (Romans 14:17)
One may ask, “if Christ is now King over the nations and is reigning over the world, then why do we see so much injustice, war and human pain and suffering in the nations of the world? If the Kingdom was really here, wouldn’t we expect to see justice, peace and joy in all the nations of the earth?
These are great questions. One answer to these questions is that we have a spiritual enemy, revealed in scripture as “the adversary”, which is the literal meaning of the term “satan”. Scripture teaches that he influences humans through lies and even controls some who have given themselves over to rebellion against God. Scripture assures us that satan was defeated by Jesus death and resurrection. Satan has been stripped of any real power or authority through Jesus’ death at the cross. (Colossians 2:15, Hebrews 2:14) However in spite of satan's defeat, God allows this being to remain in the earth and to cause pain and suffering through his lies.
Another reason that we do not see the evidence of the kingdom’s presence in every city and nation today is that God has given humans free will. We can choose to surrender our lives to Jesus the King and enjoy the benefits of his kingdom or we can choose to remain independent and outside his kingdom rule and blessings. That’s not to say that God’s kingdom works only through believers. Jesus told us that God sends rain on the just and on the unjust. His goodness and mercy overflows on all people to some degree even if they have not personally surrendered their lives to Him. He is a King of mercy and kindness.
The apostle Paul assures us that Jesus is now presently reigning from heaven at the right hand of God over the earth. He tells us that he is in the process of defeating all of his enemies. The final enemy to be defeated will be death itself, and this defeat will usher in the resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:25-26) In fact when that event occurs the reign of Jesus will end in some sense and he will turn the kingdom over to God the Father. (1 Cor. 15:24)
So while we wait for all enemies to be put under his feet, our King plants us in our world as emissaries of the Kingdom, carriers of the good news that Jesus is now King. God wants our lives as believers to reflect the values of his kingdom - justice, mercy, truth and peace. Healing and forgiveness from sins is the beginning of what the Kingdom looks like in people’s lives, but what will it look like as Kingdom people take the Presence and truth of the King into every area of human endeavor?
What does education look like under the rule of the King? What does the healthcare industry look like? What does family life look like? What does business look like? What does church life look like when it is truly led by the King and not by human leaders? What does media look like? What does government look like? What do professional sports and entertainment look like when people involved there are living under the authority of the King?
These are questions for us to ask the Lord and to walk out in our lives as followers of Jesus living in a world that he loves and presently reigns over.