WHAT EXACTLY IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
There is a lot going on right now that can stir up in us a desire for an end to come. Can I get an amen?
But Jesus said the following regarding the end coming.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
So what exactly is the kingdom of God?
In this message I will purpose to demonstrate that the kingdom of God mainly is about His authority, but I will seek to demonstrate that His authority is expressed in two ways. First and specifically, it is expressed intimately within (By Relationship), and second and generally, it is expressed outwardly (His Sovereign Works).
One thing we know for certain is that Jesus made it clear the kingdom of God is very important to a believer. This is evidenced by what Jesus says in:
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
The backdrop of this passage is in the context of why we should not worry about the self life, the whole “how will I survive ideology” that is the driving force of life without God. As believers we are to seek His kingdom and His righteousness before any of these things. This is how we manifest faith and trust.
I do not think we are being challenged to just trust in the general sense, but more so in a specific sense. We are to trust in His authority in all things, especially our relationship with Him. He does not ask us to surrender to Him and then abandon us. He will take care of us actively. We are expected to believe Him. This is recognizing His authority in a more specific way, and it is to be the highest priority to us.
Jesus spoke about great faith. A Roman Centurion in Capernaum sent the Jewish elders to Jesus to request that He heal a beloved servant of the Centurion. Let’s pick it up at that point in the story.
Luke 7:6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, “Go,’ and he goes; and to another, “Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” 10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.
What Jesus recognized as great faith in this story was the understanding of authority that led the Centurion to believe and trust. Seeking the kingdom first involves our knowing His authority as this Centurion did.
But Jesus also included our need to seek God’s righteousness, so let’s look at how that is made possible:
2Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
The phrase “His Righteousness” should automatically cause us to abandon our own attempts at righteousness. Our own brand of righteousness is called “self-righteousness.” Self-righteousness is one of the greatest hindrances I believe the church at large deals with. It disregards the instruction to seek His kingdom and His righteousness first. If we ignore the clear instruction He gives by His authority, we reject the basic principle of it being His kingdom that we seek after. So our concern must be for “His Righteousness” if we are truly seeking
His kingdom first. His righteousness is a faith based righteousness, not based on moral works that we do. If my thinking is right concerning this, it should be possible to verify it by the Scriptures. So let’s have a look at:
Romans 9:30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, and whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”
Notice how it reveals here that those seeking a righteousness according to the law, (which relies on what man can do), did not become righteous. The ones seeking righteousness by faith attained it. The law observers did not seek God’s Righteousness as He prescribed by faith, which involves a recognition of His Kingdom Authority. This is the only way that Jesus is the only way. By making it about God’s Righteousness it cannot be obtained by anything external to Him. It must involve Him in a personal way, and that personal way was made possible through Jesus. The only way to be part of the kingdom where God is in charge, is to be born into it through faith in Jesus. That sounds simple enough, but many stumble at this idea.
There are many whose idea of what it means to be in the kingdom, is a desire to push for a greater obedience to what they teach are kingdom requirements, rather than to encourage a solid belief in Jesus and His finished work. Not that we do not do works at all, but getting things in order of first importance should take precedence.
Jesus said we are to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, thus He made the matter of the kingdom and God’s righteousness a connected reality and a matter of first importance. To me this is the clear call of the gospel that Jesus came to bring. However, this kind of understanding can tend to be a mystery to some.
Luke 8:10 And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that, ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’
Mysteries of the kingdom of God? Mysteries only in so much as there is a drive to make it only about what we do, as though our work is the most important thing to the kingdom of God as opposed to God’s work.
Luke 17:20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, “See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
The Pharisees desired an authority of God that would come and liberate them nationally from the tyranny of being oppressed by other nations more powerful than they. But that was not the purpose to the authority of the kingdom that Jesus walked in. God was bringing His authority and righteousness into those who believed.
In this case I interpret the kingdom of God to be associated with the new birth. New creations belong to Him and have His Spirit in them. The Holy Spirit is the executer and administrator of His kingdom. New creations come under the authority (rule) of God the Father by walking according to the Holy Spirit’s leading. This brings us under His authority according to the Spirit who resides within us. This is why He says the kingdom of God is within you. But is there not some sort of observable reality to the authority of God at work?
In another place Jesus said,
Matthew 12:28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Here is a clear manifestation of the Kingdom. So we know that when He speaks of the kingdom being without observation and a mystery He has to be speaking in different terms than He was using in Matthew 12. Otherwise we are dealing with a direct contradiction. In one case the kingdom is described as being within and in this case in Matthew 12 it is described as coming upon them. One example is within, the other is without.
This is interesting to me for yet another reason, based on something Jesus spoke in another place.
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:
In this particular exchange Jesus indicates that some have operated in what He describes in Matthew 12 as an outward manifestation of the kingdom of God when He is casting out demons. In this case, He says He will tell the ones doing the outward works, “I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness,” thus indicating there was no evidence of an inward kingdom reality. Meaning they loved the benefit of an outward expression of the kingdom, but they had no inward reality of it. They had not surrendered to His authority within and experienced relationship with the Father by faith in Jesus. Therefore He did not know them.
Many today are thrilled with God doing supernatural things without ever truly coming to know Him, much like a child is thrilled to go to Dollywood and ride the rides even though they have never truly met Dolly. Many of the children visiting Dollywood have no yearning to know her personally, they just enjoy what her work and vision have made possible in the here and now. They are captivated by an excitement, and fascination with the benefits of what Dolly has put together without being required to really know Dolly. That is an example of the outward work of a kingdom. But an inward work would require something different. Dolly’s family, for instance, is a part of the inward working of her kingdom, they not only get to partake in the outward manifestations and benefits, they get the blessing of being with her, knowing her, and many even getting to work alongside her. They love her, for her, not the benefits, therefore they get to enjoy the benefits even more.
At a first glance what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23 could appear to be in contradiction to Matthew 12:28 and even some of the other things Jesus said regarding the kingdom. But when you begin to understand both the context, and the difference between what is inward and outward realities, it makes perfect sense. In vs 21 Jesus referred to the kingdom of heaven and how only the ones doing the will of His Father will enter there.
What did Jesus mean in Vs 21 by saying, “He who does the will of My Father?” Let’s visit another place in Scripture where this same kind of language is used by Jesus and see what it is referring to.
John 6:39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
In this case the will of the Father is described as involving what God Himself does and what happens when someone believes after seeing Jesus. This brings us back to the issue of righteousness. Righteousness means being right, but in a more specific context, being right with God. But man’s own attempts at righteousness cannot make that happen. Man’s own righteousness is described in Scripture as any righteousness sought after based on what a man does, as opposed to what a man believes. God does not reward my faith in my own abilities. God made a way for His own righteousness, a righteousness He is never at odds with, to belong to us. It is ours through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the Father’s will that this be the way we are to have relationship with Him. He has established this by His own authority and it is at the center of His kingdom’s operation. This to me brings us to what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 7 regarding knowing us.
The starting point of understanding and yielding to God’s authority (His Kingdom within), involves me submitting to the revelation of Jesus and what He has accomplished. It is not a passive belief that Jesus at one time did exist and perhaps walked the earth and preached. It is a belief in who Jesus was, and what Jesus accomplished. We just read what the Scripture says Father’s will is for us. When Jesus said no one can even enter the kingdom of heaven unless they do the will of the Father. This is what He was referring to.
So for me the most important thing I must know with regard to His kingdom is that, I am expected to be fully surrendered to His will in this matter of believing in Jesus and inheriting everlasting life through faith in Christ alone. Faith in who Jesus is and what Jesus accomplished. The matter of righteousness must be settled on
the basis of the completed work of Jesus Christ. I can never be right with God based on my own works or merits at any point along the way if I am to experience the inward reality and work of the kingdom of God.
I must accept that only His righteousness is acceptable to Him as Jesus has so clearly declared. My confidence therefore must be in who Jesus is, and what Jesus has accomplished. This is why the Scripture testifies that,
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
If I fight with God on this initial part of what it means to be in His kingdom, all my arguments for outward expressions mean nothing, just as it meant nothing for those claiming to have prophesied, cast out demons, and to have done wonders in His name. We do not prove we are His by what we do, we are His by being first. Jesus taught us already that doing can be imitated by others without belonging to Him.
A neighbor’s child can act like he is one of my own, but a DNA test would reveal he is not same, as the absence of adoption papers would prove he is not mine. I never changed his diaper, fed him a bottle at midnight, or sat through the night with him because he was sick and needed my help. He never awakened to meet me in the morning and call me father. The reason what I am describing to you is true is because he lives with the family to whom he was born. He might admire what I can do and try to do it himself. We all know the old saying imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I would want my children to imitate me in life. But imitation does not make a neighbors child one of my own.
John 10:14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
A neighbors child could probably fool others who do not know me and get them to think he is mine, but I would know the difference. I do not get to interact with him as a father would a son. So this teaches me that being must precede my doing, otherwise it is lawlessness in the eyes of God. This, to me, makes the gospel of central importance to the matter of the kingdom.
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
If I want to seek the kingdom of God first, I must approach God His way. I must believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life sent by the Father for the purpose of doing all that was required to pay for sin and make me the very righteousness of God by faith in Him. This manifests my faith and trust is in Him and according to His way. So let me set up my close with a few questions designed to make us consider what we’ve just heard.
Do you recognize and respect the authority of God enough to accept this as the means by which you are to be saved?
Are you trying to establish or maintain righteousness by any other way than faith in Christ?
Are you seeking the kingdom of God first by trusting in His authority to do in you, and through you, what you could not do for, or by yourself?
Just knowing it is about relationship will not place me in the kingdom. I must have a relationship with the Father through faith in Christ. A scribe, after hearing Jesus teach, affirmed what Jesus had said regarding the great commandments about loving God and loving one’s neighbors. Jesus replied, “You are not far from the kingdom.” He wasn’t in yet by knowing the right answer involved relationship, he still needed to apply faith as it pertained to Jesus so he could engage in that relationship. To really experience the kingdom within we must let go of our need to control things without, in our own strength, and turn to Jesus who alone can impart us the very thing we could never obtain on our own. Do you know God this way? Are you truly His?