What Does the Kingdom Look Like? Part 2

I’ve been sharing some thoughts on the Kingdom of God in my last few posts.  The primary message of our Lord Jesus, as recorded in the gospels was that the Kingdom of God was present and available in the world.  The Kingdom of God is the active rule and influence of God in our world.   Many Christians tend to think of the rule of God happening sometime in the future – perhaps after the second coming of Christ or after the final judgment.

However, Jesus plainly said that the Kingdom of God was present and operative in 1st century Palestine (Matthew 4:17,23).  Matthew’s gospel records that after His resurrection, Jesus told His followers that He had been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18)

If Jesus was given all authority on earth around 32 AD, then what more authority will he have in the Millennium or at his second coming?  The answer, of course, is zero - He will not then possess any more authority than He does now.

If the Kingdom of God is present now in our world, and if Jesus is ruling from a place of authority at God’s right hand right now, as Scripture says that He is,  (Heb  1:8,13, 1 Cor. 15:25-26) why is our world so broken and corrupt?  This is a very important question.

I think perhaps we have misunderstood the meaning of the Kingdom of God and how it is to operate in our lives, families, businesses, schools and cities. 

Jesus asked us to pray that the Kingdom of God would come, and that the will of God would be done in earth as in heaven.  (Matthew 6:10).  So even though the Kingdom was present and available during Jesus’ earthly ministry, there is a sense in which the Kingdom is expanding and developing – at least in the realm of this earth.  

In addition, God has given free will to all humans, and so Jesus does not coerce people to come under His Kingdom rule, but allows them to choose their own way.

The idea of the Kingdom expanding and growing reminds us of what Isaiah had written, some 800 years before the coming of Christ.  He spoke of a child being born and a son being given who would carry the government on his shoulders.  (Isaiah 9:6).  This was a prophecy about the coming of Jesus.  He went on to say in verse 7 of that same chapter:

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.”

Perhaps the rule of God on earth through the Person of Jesus was inaugurated in 32 AD, but it has continued to grow and increase over the last 1980 years?  Jesus told many stories about the rule of God.  In several stories he talked about a process of growth in which something very small grew large.  I believe that He was giving us an understanding of how the rule of God would operate in human history. God's Kingdom is something that starts small and grows slowly over time.

God’s Kingdom is not just for the afterlife, and it does not just relate to our individual relationship of devotion and obedience to Jesus.  The Kingdom of God is much larger in scope.  I believe that when Jesus said to his followers, “You are the light of the world…you are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13,14),  He intended to communicate that every aspect of society would be influenced by and ultimately transformed by the lives of his followers.  So the church, the community of followers of Jesus, is an agent of the Kingdom, but the Kingdom is something that goes even beyond that community and reaches into all parts of creation.  When we pray, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done in earth", we are asking God to come into our world and bring transformation to it in a way that will affect every part of society.

Wasn’t it through the agency of followers of Jesus along with others that human slavery was ultimately abolished in the United States and elsewhere through the world?  The movement to end the cruelty of child labor began in the United States in the 1800's with followers of Jesus and others working together to accomplish this purpose.  The child labor laws passed in the United States in the early part of the 20th century were the fruit of this work. The elevation of the status of women that has occurred over the past 100 or so years in the United States, has been another example of the rule of God in Christ in our world.  The civil rights movement in the United States which began to bring true equality for black Americans in our society, is another example of the rule of Jesus working in our modern world.  Many believers in Christ as well as many people who were atheists or of other religions worked together to ensure passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which began to tear down decades of injustice toward black Americans.  This shows that God works to bring about His Kingdom purposes through His church, but also through those outside His church.

When the Kingdom of God is bringing influence on a society, we can expect human dignity in that society to be elevated.  We can expect political freedoms and the rights of the individual to be expanded and championed .  We can expect the status and treatment of women to be elevated to the place of high honor and respect that Jesus Himself showed to women.  We can expect justice for the poor and marginalized in society to increase.  We can expect that honesty and integrity in business will be valued and rewarded.  We can expect that the sick will be cared for with excellent hospitals.  We can expect that children will be valued, loved and affirmed.  We can expect that education will be esteemed and promoted throughout that society.   We can expect that true leadership will be shown by serving others, not by controlling others for personal power and gain.

We cannot expect Utopia, because we humans are deeply flawed and many of us will continue to pursue selfishness and greed and remain blind to the Presence of the King and His Kingdom among us.

However, I believe that God will work through those who believe in Him and even through those who don’t believe in Him to accomplish His purposes.  The influence of King Jesus may not always be visible, but it will grow slowly and produce justice just like Isaiah proclaimed.  We will continue to see great suffering and pain in our world because our King has granted free will to all human beings in this earth and sadly many people and nations still choose hatred, selfishness and violence to accomplish their desires.

As followers of Jesus, we can be agents of change in our cities.  We can begin to ask ourselves, what does the Kingdom of God look like in my life?  What does it look like in my family?  In my workplace?  Among my neighbors?  In my school?   For those of us who are followers of Jesus, let’s ask Him that His Kingdom would come and that He would give us understanding of how we can walk that out in partnership with Him.

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