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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Apostles: The Nature of the Kingdom

It's a whole new world.

The Presence of the Kingdom: The New Testament (9)

are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2.10-12

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love… Colossians 1.13

A new way of life
How did the apostles understand the Kingdom they preached and taught? Surely every Christian today knows the term “the Kingdom of God” and has some thoughts about what that idea expresses. We’ve examined some of those views previously.

But since Paul and the other apostles made preaching and teaching the Kingdom of God central to their ministries—just as Jesus had done—we do well to look more closely at what they understood by that term. Then we’ll be able to consider the extent to which such a Kingdom presence is part of our own discipleship.

We begin by acknowledging that Paul—and we can assume the other apostles as well—understood the Kingdom as a new realm of existence, a new way of life in which everything we do is aimed at bringing glory to God (1 Cor. 10.31). Indeed, as Paul noted, God has called us to His Kingdom and glory. He has established us in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus we have escaped the corruption of the world and are able to partake of the very essence of God (2 Pet. 1.4).

We live in a new realm, a heavenly realm (Heb. 3.1), in which, the more we consider our Lord Jesus Christ the more we understand of what it means for the Kingdom of God to come on earth as it is in heaven. And the more clearly we can see what is involved in seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We are in the Kingdom now. The Kingdom operates on a new economy, an economy of grace and truth empowered not by dollars and cents but by the Holy Spirit of God (Eph. 1.3-14). The power of the Kingdom consists not in words, but in the Holy Spirit of God (1 Cor. 4.20; Acts 18), Who is making all things new in the Kingdom of God (2 Cor. 5.7). All old things are passing away as we learn Jesus and increase in Him (2 Cor. 5.7; Eph. 4.17-24). We who have come to reside in the Kingdom of God are, by the power of God’s Spirit, becoming more like Jesus (2 Cor. 3.12-18), and so are our churches (Eph. 4.11-16).

As we might expect, such a Kingdom presence will necessarily exclude certain people who refuse to adapt to this new situation.

Kingdom eligibility
The Kingdom of God is the new and heavenly environment of all who believe in Jesus and are following the path He walked in life (1 Jn. 2.1-6). Here the apostles warn against thinking we can take up residence in this realm while clinging to the old baggage of our sinful way of life.

So Paul: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6.9, 10). And again: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5.19-21). And in Ephesians 5.5-7: “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.”

In the Kingdom of God, the riches of faith—the promises of God, the fruit of the Spirit, the tokens of love, and the work of advancing the Kingdom—are more to be desired than the riches of this world (Jms. 5.5). Those who mock those who seek the riches of faith rather than the world, showing partiality to those which material means, are “judges with evil thoughts” (Jms. 5.1-4).

Kingdom people radiate the Kingdom presence. They increase in righteousness, are brokers of peace, and bring the joy of the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit to everything they do (Rom. 14.17, 18). Those who prefer the ways and delights of the world to seeking the Kingdom presence demonstrate that they have no true place in this realm and economy of grace.

The end of our work
For Paul, those who associate with him—as learners and co-workers—must consider themselves laborers for the Kingdom of God (Col. 4.11). The end of our labors is the eternal destination of an unshakeable realm of glory (1 Cor. 15.24, 50-54; Heb. 12.28) where we will see Jesus as He is, be like Him (1 Jn. 3.1-3), and serve Him forever with joy and praise in a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells at last (2 Pet. 3.13).

Knowing this, as citizens and ambassadors of this new and glorious realm, we must devote ourselves to the work of the Kingdom, seeking grace to help us in all aspects of our lives (Heb. 12.28) and being diligent in all things always to be found in Christ, without spot and blameless (2 Pet. 3.14).

This is the calling God issues to those who would come to Him through Jesus Christ. Make sure this is the calling to which you have responded.

For reflection
1. God calls us to His Kingdom. What are the implications of this for our daily lives?

2. We are appointed as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God and witnesses to Jesus. Where does God send you to do this work?

3. If we see no evidence or fruit of the Kingdom, and instead we see only someone clinging to old and worldly interests and ways, what should we conclude?

Next steps—Preparation: Spend time in prayer reviewing the passages cited in this installment. Where do you need to make progress in responding to God’s calling to His Kingdom and glory?

T. M. Moore

Two free booklets can help you realize more of the presence of the Kingdom in your life. Order your copies of The Gospel of the Kingdom and Joy to Your World! by clicking here and here.

A companion book to this study of “The Kingdom Presence” is available at our bookstore. Listen to an excerpt from The Kingdom Turn, by clicking here. Then order your free copy.

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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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