The Presence of the Kingdom: The New Testament (10)
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love… Colossians 1.13
And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14.21.
John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ… Revelation 1.9
The mystery of the Kingdom
Mark 4.11 holds out a strange truth for all followers of Christ: “And He said to them, ‘To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God…’” Mysteries are, well, mysterious. Difficult to understand. Perhaps even, for most people, impenetrable.And yet we love them. We love watching them unravel (think: Agatha Christie). We experience anticipation and delight the deeper we go into a mystery, and great relief and satisfaction once all is revealed.
The mystery of the Kingdom is a little like this. As we have seen, the Kingdom of God is present here and now; but it will only come to its fullness there and then, in the new heavens and new earth. We are in the Kingdom because God has called us to it and has conveyed us there (1 Thess. 2.12; Col. 1.13). The Kingdom of God is within us, but we must seek the Kingdom as the defining priority of every aspect of our lives. How can we both have something and not have it? Be in it yet have to seek it?
It’s a mystery.
But Jesus says it is given to us to “know the mystery” of the Kingdom. Literally, He says the mystery of the Kingdom has been given to us. It’s in our hands. We are working toward the “reveal” at the end of time. And this means that there is always more of the Kingdom to realize, more to experience, more to extend and expand, and therefore always more to enter of this glorious Kingdom of light and life than we’ve ever known before. This is what the apostles teach about the presence of the Kingdom. We must continue entering it, going further, becoming more immersed and ensconced in the rule of King Jesus, entering ever more deeply into the righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit which are unique to this domain.
What does that involve?
Pursuing the mystery of the Kingdom follows a path which retraces the steps of Jesus: Obedience to God and His Word (1 Jn. 2.1-6). That seems simple enough, but there are caveats. First, that path leads us through “many tribulations”.
Tribulation is the experience of every Kingdom-seeker in every period of Church history, from the days of Paul and John to the present time. Jesus promised that, in this world we would have tribulation (Jn. 16.33)—disappointments, setbacks, failures of will, opposition, persecution, betrayals, health issues, and even innocent suffering (like Paul’s thorn in the flesh). We cannot avoid such tribulations. We must learn how to take them on as a means of entering more completely into the Kingdom of God.
The way to deal with tribulation is not to despair, get angry, become vengeful, work for better elected officials, or just give up. The way to deal with tribulation is through the spiritual gift of patience. Those who experience tribulation in their Kingdom-seeking efforts patiently endure, rejoicing in their trials and giving thanks in every situation (Jms.1.2-4; Phil. 4.6, 7). By so doing, they wait on the Lord to sustain and grow them through their times of tribulation so that they grow in Kingdom character and will be even better prepared for the next round of trials (cf. Ps. 27.13, 14).
You can know you are in the Kingdom of God and that you are seeking more its presence when you encounter various kinds of trials and tribulations. We glory—not complain—in our tribulations, “knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5.3, 4). That is, more of the mystery of the Kingdom which has been given to us.
Reach up and touch the sky
But we also need to know that entering the Kingdom is a bit like trying to touch the sky. On the one hand, to touch the sky, all you have to do is reach up. But wait, there’s so much more sky! So you start walking around in a circle, increasing the circumference with each cycle, your hand held up into the sky. Still, what about all that “up there” sky? We want to touch not only the sky within our immediate reach, but the sky way up above us, from horizon to horizon, and even more.We need to keep expanding our circumferences and look for some way to be lifted progressively higher as we do.
In 2 Peter 1.5-11, the apostle indicates that something like this is the way we enter ever more deeply into the Kingdom of God: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
To enter more fully into the presence of the Kingdom, do these things, and keep doing them over and over, more and more, higher and higher, day by day. Thus, you will be supplied with ever more abundant entrance into the Kingdom of God, to which God has called you, and into which you have been conveyed.Realizing more of the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom is indeed a mystery. But how we must do so is not.
1. How would you counsel a new believer to make the most of the tribulations they experience?
2. In what way is entering the Kingdom a bit like touching the sky?
3. Why must we desire and devote ourselves to entering more abundantly into the Kingdom of God (2 Pet. 1.9)?
Next steps—Transformation: What can you do to improve your approach to entering more abundantly into the Kingdom of God?
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.
Please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. We ask the Lord to move and enable many more of our readers to provide for the needs of our ministry. Please seek Him in prayer concerning your part in supporting our work. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.
The Apostles: Entering the Kingdom
- T.M. Moore
- September 1, 2023
Deeper and deeper and more abundantly.
The Presence of the Kingdom: The New Testament (10)
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.
Books by T. M. Moore