Summary: The kingdom begins with us, what will we choose to do with the Good News about the kingdom, which soil will we choose to be?
What comes to your mind when I say the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God (since they are used interchangeably in the gospels)? [Allow the congregation to give their input]. Perhaps pearly gates, gold streets, the throne room of God himself? Most of our thoughts of the kingdom revolve around heaven where God is now, and one day where we hope to be. Or our thoughts run to the future kingdom God will establish here on earth.
If I were to ask that same question of the average Jew in Jesus’ day, they would probably tell me how God would one day reign on earth through His Messiah (King). They would talk about how the Messiah would reign over all the kingdoms of the earth with justice and mercy. They would also tell me how he would eliminate evil and wickedness, and so that everyone could live in peace. It would be God’s perfect kingdom on earth forever.
Isn’t it interesting how we as Christians tend to focus on the kingdom of God as the place where God lives, and where we hope to dwell one day. Or perhaps we think of an ideal future society which doesn’t yet exist. While for the Jew it was an earthly kingdom ruled by the Messiah. Which view is right?
The kingdom of God was a topic Jesus liked to talk about a lot. He had good news to share about God’s kingdom because it was coming soon so he believed everyone ought to be ready. His message was, “repent, turn from your sin, for the kingdom of God is near (at hand) (Mt. 4:17; Mk 1:15).” In order to be a part of this kingdom, whenever it arrived, whatever it looked like, it required people to turn from their sin and turn to God.
When did or will the kingdom arrive and where is it or will it appear?
The Kingdom Arrived in Jesus
As Christians we tend to think of the kingdom of God to be either in heaven or when Jesus comes back to earth, but that is not entirely the way Jesus saw it. When Jesus was accused by the religious leaders of casting out demons by the power of Satan, Jesus responded by saying, a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, why would Satan drive out Satan. It just doesn’t make sense. Then he added “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you (Matt 12:28, NIV).”
Which of course we know Jesus did drive out demons by the Spirit of God, which means the kingdom of God had already come upon them. God’s kingdom was right under their noses, but they couldn’t see it. God’s plan for bringing the earth under his control had been set in motion in Jesus. We need to remember that there is a spiritual battle going on here on earth between God and Satan. Although it’s not really much of a battle since God has all the power, but nevertheless God has allowed Satan to have some control. He is called the Prince of this world.
When Jesus came along he was like the wedge into Satan’s kingdom. Jesus was the beachhead victory. In military campaigns they would put their effort into gaining a beachhead and once that has been obtained they could take enemy lines. Jesus made that wedge into the enemy lines by coming to earth, teaching about God’s kingdom, healing people, casting out demons, and then he went on to win the war with his death and resurrection. What I am saying is that God’s kingdom has already been established here on earth.
At this you might be thinking, “Uh, Pastor Matt, I don’t know what world you live in, but the world I live in doesn’t appear to be God’s kingdom yet. There is still evil, hatred, violence, injustice, and little compassion, mercy, and justice, and that is just in my family. What gives?”
It is true, Jesus has already won the victory, but Satan doesn’t give up that easy. He’s still going to try his hardest to cause as much strife as he can and he’s going to take as many people down with him as possible. Add on to that human rebellion and refusal to repent and turn from their sin and you’ve got a mess like what we see today. But what I’m here to tell you is that God is at work in our world, he is establishing his kingdom. It’s easy to get a defeated attitude. To throw up our hands in the air and say the world’s gone to hell and a hand-basket, why bother. But God is working behind the scenes if we are willing to look. God’s kingdom is here and continues to grow even though it seems like the world is getting worse. That is why Jesus had us pray in the Lord’s prayer, “may your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” We are praying for God to continue growing his kingdom on earth so that it reflects heaven. God’s kingdom is advancing but it won’t be complete until Jesus returns to set everything right.