When we hear someone talking about the “kingdom of God” what image pops into your mind? Much of Jesus’ and the Apostles’ teaching focused on the kingdom of God, yet it is rarely mentioned in churches today. The Old Testament says very little about the kingdom of God. It foretold that at the end of that age and the beginning of what the Jews call the Messianic Age, the Messiah (Christ) would come, set up, and establish God’s kingdom on earth. Isaiah prophesied that at that time God would judge, condemn, and curse the unfaithful among Israel and bless those whom He called “faithful servants” and “His elect” (chosen.) However, God purposely kept secret many things concerning the kingdom. They were a mystery waiting to be revealed by Christ when He came.
Mystery of the Kingdom of God Revealed
Most of what we know about the kingdom comes directly from Jesus’ teaching found in the Gospels. It was one of the primary things that He taught;He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Luke 4:43) Later Paul explained even more about the kingdom in his letters to the churches.
The first thing we should understand about God’s kingdom is that it is a state of being, not a place. The word ‘kingdom’ does not refer to a piece of land with borders that we would call a nation. The Greek word translated as ‘kingdom’ is βασιλεία ‘basileia’, which means rule or reign. A king’s basileia is not merely a territory with borders. Every place, thing, or person under the direct dominion, authority, or control of the king is part of his kingdom (Basileia.)
When Jesus came, many of the Jews were expecting Messiah to come and set up a kingdom, creating an empire that would never end and rise to world domination. They did not understand God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God would be on earth. However, it would not be a physical kingdom, but spiritual one.
The Kingdom of God arrived on Earth while Jesus was still alive
When the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, he told them it had already come. …"The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." (Luke 17:20-21) While on earth, Jesus as king and ruler had complete and total authority. When the Pharisees remarked about His power over demons, Jesus told them …“If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)
The reign and authority of God had come to the earth. Everyone in Israel needed to understand that they as individuals needed to place themselves directly under God’s rule, and submit to His authority. If they submitted to His Lordship, He would set them free from their bondage to sin, birth in them a new man, and give them His Spirit to live with them. Never before in the history of man had God made this way of life available.
Jesus even promised that if they made their primary focus placing themselves in submission under the direct authority of God, they did not need to worry about their physical needs.
“But seek first the kingdom (basileia - direct reign) of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33
Jesus promised that if their primary goal (seek first) was to submit to God, He would provide all their needs. As they sought to submit to and obey God’s authority (seeking the kingdom i.e. reign) they became part of His kingdom, and one of His subjects under His care. However, it takes more than just saying He is lord and master to become part of the kingdom. Their actions needed to match their words. They needed to actually make Him master, and obey His commands in order to become part of His kingdom.
God’s reign was only for those with good hearts. Jesus told parables when publicly talking about the kingdom; those who loved and followed God were granted understanding, and those with hard hearts understood little. Because the leaders of Israel had hard hearts, God took the administration of His kingdom from them and gave it to people who would bear fruit (lead Godly lives.) Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. Matthew 21:43
Once the old age and covenant had ended, and the new age, the new covenant, and reign of God on earth had begun, those leaders of Israel who had rejected Christ were forever locked out. The verdict was final. The door was shut, and they had chosen against Christ and the kingdom of God.
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’” Luke 13:24-25
Life in the Kingdom requires obedience
Jesus told His disciples that it is hard for those the rich to enter the kingdom. Rich people learn to love the things of this world offers. Those who do not put obedience to God first and foremost in their life; but instead chose their own desires cannot come under God’s reign. In other words, they cannot enter into the kingdom of God. When you love the world, you become an enemy of God. (See James 4:4)
How do we know that we are in the Kingdom of God?
We pray that each of you who read this article have been born again and have the Spirit of God living in you. In John Chapter Three, Jesus told Nicodemus that only those who are born again would be able to see or enter into the kingdom. It is important to realize, being born again does not automatically place you under the reign of God. Having a new birth is a prerequisite needed before any person can see or enter God’s kingdom. I earnestly hope and pray that each of us who have been born again have entered into the reign of God.
Each of us to take a few minutes and ask ourselves these following questions:
Do I desire the things of God more than the things of this world?
Do I put God first in my life?
Do I forgive brothers who have sinned against me, just as the Lord Jesus commanded?
Do I hold my tongue and refrain from speaking evil of my brother?
Do I keep my hands from doing wicked things?
Do I reach out my hands to help other Christians who are in need?
Am I being obedient to God, doing the things that He has commanded me to do?
The list could go on and on. If your answer was yes to each of these questions, you are under the reign of God and a citizen of the kingdom. If you answered no to these questions, then you have not yet entered into the kingdom of God. Even though you are born again, and God has given you His Spirit; you are outside the kingdom. (Matthew 7:18-23; Romans 8: 1-9) If you find yourself outside the kingdom, first, submit yourself to God, commit to obey His commands, do good, and love the brethren. (As part of this process examine yourself; find whichever part of your life competes with placing God first, resist it, turn away from it, and oppose it.) Do these things and you will be under God’s authority and become part of His kingdom.