What is the Kingdom of God?
The beauty of the central image of Jesus’ ministry on earth
Life in Christ comes with its own lexicon—words that pertain to the many truths and practices of our faith. Yet we use these terms so frequently and with such familiarity that we run the risk of mindlessly speaking them without meaning or conviction. In this ongoing column, we hope to reclaim the heart of our Christian vocabulary, which holds such life-giving potential.
–The In Touch Staff
“Our Father who is in heaven . . .”
So begins Jesus’ revolutionary prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” When Jesus modeled how to pray in this fashion, He was teaching His disciples—and us—about the new reality He came to make possible. Not only could we approach God as our loving Father, but we could also invite His “kingdom” to take root in our world.
The term itself is testament to God’s redemptive ways. He never intended that His people would be governed by an earthly king (1 Samuel 8:1-22). Yet prophecies speak of the coming Messiah as the true king who would redeem the broken world. In bringing His own kingdom to earth, He would rescue the very people who had once rejected Him (Isa. 9:2-7). Forgiveness, healing, restoration—everything that characterized Jesus’ ministry on earth—were signs that light had come to the world and would defeat the darkness of sin for all time (John 1:4-5, John 1:9).
The kingdom of God became the central image Jesus used to illustrate what His ministry on earth was about. The “way” that He taught was, and is, so different from the world’s way of thinking that it’s impossible to live out unless one first belongs to His kingdom. According to Jesus, “entering the kingdom of God” went beyond “getting into heaven.” His focus was always now, and how the present is connected with the eternal.
In what seems to be a paradoxical statement, the Lord said that His kingdom isn’t of this world (John 18:36) and yet is in the world; that it is coming and is already here (Luke 17:21). He taught that the state of your heart and relationship with Him impacts whether or not you are able enter the kingdom. In fact, to do so, you need to change and become like a little child (Matt. 18:3).
The Gospels are full of Christ’s teachings and parables about seeking and finding the kingdom, life in the kingdom, the value of the kingdom. And while His followers initially misunderstood His intentions and desired a political Messiah, the early church was later founded upon this revolutionary way of seeing life on earth: the kingdom of God impacts everything. And embracing that perspective enables us to live in a way that will echo into eternity.
The kingdom of God is His presence and what He is doing now, as well as the culmination of all that we’re waiting to see take place. It belongs solely to Him, but He’s graciously invited us to take part in it each day—not just as His servants, but as His friends, as part of His family, and as co-laborers on mission with Him.