Summary: What is the Kingdom of God? Being part of God’s Kingdom means that we place ourselves under His rule, under His power and influence. And as His child.
The What?-dom of God?!?
Assorted Scriptures; July 10, 2005
Of Kings and Kingdoms, 21st century people such as ourselves might have a little trouble. The concept is difficult to really grasp. It is not a part of our experience, current Canadian political satire aside. We have an idea; the concepts are vaguely familiar from literature, from movies, perhaps even somehow from a recent “royal visit” – although little purple signs on a newly re-named highway really don’t invoke the glory and majesty that the ideals of King and Kingdom are meant to convey.
Yet the idea of “Kingdom” is central to the message of Christianity. It is part of the Angel Gabriel’s message to Mary before Jesus was conceived: “his kingdom will never end.” (Lk 1:33) The first recorded words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark are “The time has come… The kingdom of God is near.” (Mk 1:15). All through Jesus’ ministry, He talked about “The Kingdom of God.” Right to the very end, that was His message: immediately before being handed over for crucifixion, Jesus says to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (Jn 18:36). It was even Jesus’ message following His resurrection: Acts 1:3 – “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.”
But what is this elusive thing called “The Kingdom of God”? And how does it apply to us?
In its most simple form, “kingdom” is about domain. It is about territory, about rule, about reign, about people who are subject to “the king”. Kingdom is effectively “the extent of the rule of the King.” The Kingdom of God is effectively “the extent of the rule of the King Jesus.” It is a spiritual Kingdom: Paul tells us so in 1 Cor 15:50 – “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
Extent of The Rule:
Think with me about your understanding of the idea of “kingdom”. Perhaps it is from reading about King Arthur, or Narnia, or The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps it is from movies like Braveheart, Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail, or even from Shrek2. These medieval images, as diverse as they are, help us begin to understand.
A Kingdom revolves around a King. There is a central castle, with strong defenses, with much activity, with places of great elegance and beauty, and with people dedicated to the service of their King. From that central place radiates power and influence, protection and allegiance, and at its best love and genuine concern for the subjects.
At the heart of the Kingdom is, logically, the king. That is the center, the focus, the main character. When the king is both strong and good, the people’s lives are safe and rich. Of course the opposite is true, and many of the stories we know revolve around kings who are corrupt and who do not use their authority for the good of their subjects. Luckily, our King is not like that. Since the king is the most important part of the Kingdom, I’m going to leave that to last.
But I do want you to think for a moment about the extent of a King’s Kingdom. It was not defined so much by lines on maps, but by how far out the King’s rule, the King’s protection, the King’s subjects would be found. The Kingdom extended as far as there were people who pledged their allegiance to the King, and who chose to serve and defend His Kingdom. As long as they served the King, they were a part of the Kingdom.
That means that the same rules applied. The same expectations existed as far as paying taxes and serving in the military. The same oath of allegiance was expected from the subjects, and ideally the same love was shared between King and peasant.
If we take and move that same idea from the physical world into the spiritual world, we begin to understand the Kingdom of God. Being part of God’s Kingdom means that we place ourselves under His rule, under His power and influence. Having sworn our allegiance to King Jesus, we then gladly serve our King, fight for our King, and live in a love relationship with our King. We bow to Jesus, and we place our lives in His hands to do with as He chooses.
In Jesus’ day, most often Jesus was misunderstood – but there was one day where it seems they “got it”, where it looks like they understood who Jesus was and, maybe only in a tiny way, that He was their King. I refer to Palm Sunday, the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where the crowds lined the road, laying palm branches, as Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey. John tells us what they shouted: “"Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!"” (Jn 12:13).