What is the goal of Christianity? For many people it is believed that the goal is going to heaven. If the goal of the gospel is simply to get people into heaven, as many believe, what is its relevance to daily life? The apostles did not preach the gospel the way many do today. (“Pray the sinner’s prayer so you can go to heaven when you die.”) When we look at the eight gospel sermons found in the book of Acts, not one of them is about the afterlife! Instead, they say that the world now has a new emperor and his name is Jesus! This was the great hope, that the world is to be redeemed and not left in ruin.
The good news of Jesus Christ and the good news of the Kingdom are the same. Unfortunately, Jesus is often preached without reference to the Kingdom. But apart from the Kingdom, there is no gospel, and there is no salvation.
Every preacher mentioned in the four Gospels focused on the Kingdom. It is the one constant, central theme of the gospel message. The imminent arrival of God’s Kingdom (and not the promise of going to heaven) was the thrust of Jesus’ gospel message. It provided the rationale for evangelism. The words “gospel” and “kingdom” are so interconnected that the New Testament writers use the term “Kingdom of God” 20 times to describe the good news of salvation.
Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God more than he talked about anything else, because it was the reason he was sent.
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
What, When, & Where is the Kingdom?
We don’t use words like “kingdom” very much anymore, so it is perhaps better understood in modern terms as the Jesus Nation. The Jesus Nation is a realm of relationship with God and others that is in harmony with God’s will and God’s way. Jesus presented us with God’s way with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus came to inaugurate a movement. As the one sinless person in history, Jesus is the one and only perfect reflection of what it looks like for God to fully reign over a person’s life. Jesus is thus the perfect embodiment of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God always reflects the humble, loving, self-sacrificial, and non-violent character of Jesus, especially as it is displayed in his self-sacrificial death.
People enter this Kingdom when they surrender their lives to Christ. They are then called and empowered by the Spirit to display this same character in all that they do. In Matthew 6, when Jesus taught us how to pray, he says it simply: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” The Kingdom is God’s will being done.
John the Baptist proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” He did not say, “The kingdom is 2,000 years away,” or, “The kingdom is being delayed indefinitely.” Yet many popular Bible teachers and commentaries hold that the Kingdom is entirely in the future.
Scripture claims that the Kingdom is near, it is here, and it is coming. Some have referred to this as the “now and not yet.” The Kingdom is here now but it isn’t here fully. Individuals and groups can be considered to manifest the Kingdom of God only to the degree that they display Christ’s loving character. To the extent that any individual or group fails to display this character, they indicate that they are not under the reign of God, regardless of what beliefs they profess or what titles they ascribe to themselves. When God’s will is done, the Kingdom is manifest.
Unlike nations of the world, the Jesus Nation has no borders. The Kingdom is manifested in moments of time where things happen the way that God would like them to happen, otherwise known as “where God’s will is done.” We live in a world with moments and places where God’s will is not done: poverty, child abuse, sex trafficking, violence, slavery, injustice, and more. God is inviting us to join him in his great Kingdom renewal project. As we grow in our discipleship to Jesus, as we learn to be with him, learn his teaching, become more like him, and carry on his work in the world, the Kingdom of God grows; where God’s will is done on Earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
The Kingdom of God is here on Earth, and will be for all eternity.
The establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth is a joint effort between the Creator and humankind. God is willing to risk success and failure so that humans might learn to rule responsibly. While the Kingdom is already here, it is not yet fully. Scripture promises that God will liberate the planet from the bondage of death and decay (Romans 8:20-21). We read in the book of Revelation that when Jesus returns heaven is brought down to Earth so that he might dwell among his people on this planet for all eternity.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
What Nation are you a Citizen of?
In the Garden of Eden, something pivotal happened. Adam and Eve, rather than obey the voice of their Creator, ironically obey the voice of a seductive creature over which they have been given rule and dominion. In doing so, they relinquish their authority to him. This seductive creature was the serpent, the deceiver who led the whole world astray. Now, a kingdom emerges in the garden paradise that rivals God’s own. From this time forward, another voice will challenge God’s authority over people’s lives. Humankind will become divided, some will comply with God’s voice, and others will submit to the voice of the enemy and the way of Empire.
Two kingdoms exist simultaneously side by side, God’s and Satan’s, each one bidding for the allegiance of God’s people.
Salvation is much more than spiritual deliverance from personal sin. It includes rescue from political forces and structures that have aligned with Satan.
The fact that Jesus inaugurated a new nation, means that people are forced to choose which nation they will be a citizen of. We may be born into a nation of the world, but once a Christian is “born again” they are born into the Jesus Nation. We can’t have dual citizenship. Scripture claims that in the worldly nation we live in, we are foreigners, strangers, and exiles. Our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God alone! (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 1:17)
Jesus followers are tasked with proclaiming the good news that the Kingdom of God is here, and that anyone can be a part of it!
Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
In order to fully understand what the Kingdom of God is, we need to understand what it is not. We need to understand what its rival is: empire. Seeing this contrast is key to making sure we are participating in the Kingdom of God alone. Click here to learn more about empire.