Realizing the Kingdom (1)
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
- Romans 14.17
Among the followers of Christ there exists a certain amount of confusion concerning the Kingdom of God.
Most Christians have some understanding about the Kingdom of God. They know there is such a thing, at least, they’ve heard there is. They may believe in the Kingdom, but realizing its presence – well, that’s another story.
Christians disagree about whether that Kingdom is now present among us or yet to be revealed. Some consider the Kingdom to be primarily a personal and spiritual, as opposed to a truly historical and cultural, phenomenon. Jesus insisted that the Kingdom had come near with His first coming to earth. He explained and demonstrated that it was already at work within and among us, and declared that the generation to whom He ministered would see its coming. He said it was the Father’s good pleasure to give His Kingdom to all who ask for it.
He further said that both those who receive the Good News and those who reject it need to understand that the coming of the Kingdom has ramifications for them.
So I assume both that the Kingdom has come and that it has come to space and time. It has a real presence in history as we know it, and real consequences for everyone who plays a role in the drama of human life.
And even if that Kingdom is regarded as merely personal and spiritual, yet our personal and spiritual lives are played out in history and culture; therefore, we must expect the Kingdom of God to have some impact of some kind even in those arenas.
But what is the Kingdom of God? What is it like? And how can we realize more of the Kingdom in our everyday lives?
Let’s begin with a definition: The Kingdom of God is the rule of King Jesus, in heaven and on earth, for the reconciliation of all things back to God. Thinking of the Kingdom in this way, we can get some better appreciation of the vast scope and awesome power of the Kingdom. The rule of Christ is total, all-encompassing, and powerful to bring about lasting results.
The character of the Kingdom
We know that all human kingdoms or political states have a certain kind of character. North Korea and Iran are repressive, constricting, and closed to the world. Britain, France, Canada, and the United States are open, free, and welcoming. Of what kind of character is the Kingdom of God?
Paul says that the character of the Kingdom can be summed up as righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit of God. More specifically righteousness defines the overarching character of the Kingdom of God; peace is the personal and social condition which attends that character; and joy is the consequence of abiding within the righteousness and peace of Jesus Christ.
Over the next several installments of this column we’re going to examine in some detail the implications and ramifications of this succinct definition of the character of the Kingdom of God. And we’re also going to be looking at how we can realize more of this Kingdom in our everyday lives.
A spiritual domain
The Kingdom is, of course, a spiritual domain. Jesus said His Kingdom is “not of this world.” It comes from beyond this world, from the very throne-room of God (Dan. 7.13-18). The Kingdom of God is established on earth by the Spirit and Word of God, and it is received by the saints of God as their top priority in life (Mt. 6.33; Heb. 12.28, 29). The Kingdom comes with real, albeit spiritual, power (1 Cor. 4.20).
When we say that the Kingdom is spiritual, we simply mean that its provenance, priorities, protocols, procedures, and promises derive from, orbit around, and are aimed at achieving spiritual realities and results by spiritual resources and means.
But just because they’re spiritual doesn’t mean they don’t have historical and cultural implications and impact, as we have said. Only the Kingdom of God can bring to the affairs of men the spiritual perspective and vitality necessary for ensuring that righteousness, peace, and joy will flourish on earth as they do in heaven. Unless Christ rules from His heavenly throne, by His Word and Spirit, through His faithful people, the world is doomed to an inescapable, ineluctable, downward spiral of drift, disobedience, decay, and death (Rom. 1.18-32).
But it is precisely because of this – the tragedy of sin – that Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom and bringing it near to men – right into their midst. The ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit signaled the first advance of this reign of Christ, bringing to the sad and weary world a domain of righteousness, peace, and joy it had never known before (Ps. 110).
The Kingdom of God is, indeed, a personal and spiritual domain. It has come and is expanding, as Isaiah and Daniel foresaw (Is. 9.1-7; Dan. 2.44, 45). Every true believer in Jesus Christ has received this promise and glorious Kingdom (Heb. 12.28).
The Kingdom comes in all its grand scope with immense power for making all things new. But we must understand, embrace, and struggle to possess this Kingdom if we would realize its character and power increasingly in our lives.
Tune: Aurelia – “The Church’s One Foundation”
“Sit by Me at My right hand,” the Lord says to my Lord,
“Until I make Your foot stand on all who hate Your Word.”
From in His Church the Savior rules all His enemies;
While those who know His favor go forth the Lord to please.
vv. 3, 4
Filled with the Spirit’s power, in holy robes of love,
From early morning’s hour they serve their Lord above.
Christ reigns a priest forever, the King of Righteousness
And King of Peace who ever His chosen ones will bless.
The Lord at Your right hand, Lord, in wrath shall shatter kings,
When judgment by His strong Word He to the nations brings.
Then, all His foes defeated, He takes His hard-won rest,
In glorious triumph seated with us, redeemed and blest!
From The Ailbe Psalter, which is available through our bookstore. For more insight to the character of the Kingdom of God and its impact on our lives, enroll in the course, PT 1 Spiritual Maturity 1: Revival. This free online course will help you to realize more of the presence and power of the Kingdom of God in your everyday life.