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The Kingdom of God is not...

When we study the words of Jesus recorded in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it becomes apparent that His mind was focused on the kingdom of God. No theme is more common in His teachings than the kingdom. The high priority that Christ placed on the kingdom stands as a shining example for us to follow, for He instructs us to "seek first His kingdom" (Matt. 6:33).

Perhaps one reason that the Lord constantly taught about the kingdom was the abundance of misconceptions about it. The Jews had their own preconceived notions about God's kingdom, and Christ did much to correct their misunderstandings. Although many of the Jews did not accept the Lord's teachings, His words, which are preserved in the Bible, have taught the truth concerning His kingdom to countless souls over the centuries.

Unfortunately, many misconceptions about the kingdom of God persist to this day. Therefore, let us take a moment to consider a few teachings from the Scriptures that correct some of those misconceptions.

The kingdom of God is not of this world. When Pilate asked Jesus if He were the King of the Jews, He replied, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm" (John 18:36). The truth of these words refuted the Jews' expectations for an earthly kingdom. This truth also refutes some modern beliefs concerning the kingdom, including those that falsely interpret Revelation 20 as a future 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth. Such interpretations of the kingdom reflect a basic misunderstanding of the kingdom's spiritual nature. Anyone who holds these beliefs should carefully consider 1Corinthians 15:50, which says, "Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God because the kingdom is spiritual rather than temporal.

The kingdom of God is not far away in the future. Both John the baptist and Jesus preached that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15). To be even more specific, Jesus said to the men of His time, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power" (Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). This necessarily places the coming of the kingdom within the time of that generation. The imminent coming and the closeness of the kingdom was a common theme in Christ's teachings. In fact, when the Pharisees questioned Him about the time of the coming of the kingdom, He told them that "the kingdom of God is in your midst" (Luke 17:21). Indeed, the kingdom of God came into the hearts of believers in Jesus when they learned that He had received all authority (Matt. 28:18) and had been enthroned at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33-36). His kingdom is now in existence, and it lives in those who submit to His reign.

The kingdom of God is not a domain of words but of power. The essence of the kingdom of God is contained in the gospel message, but this does not mean that the kingdom itself is merely words. By inspiration, the apostle Paul wrote that "the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power" (1Cor. 4:20). Like the kingdom, the substance of the gospel is spiritual in nature, and it is spiritually powerful for man's salvation (Rom. 1:16) and the destruction of God's enemies (2Cor. 10:3-6). Concerning the powerful words of the kingdom and the gospel, Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life" (John 6:63).

The kingdom of God is not entered easily. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23), which presents a great barrier to the entrance of God's kingdom. Only through Jesus can man obtain forgiveness of sins and overcome that barrier. Christ Himself is the lone way to the Father (John 14:6) and the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). Nothing less than a new birth in Jesus can allow one to ever see the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). Those who will not die to sin and be born again through Christ cannot enter the kingdom of God, for they persist in the sin that disqualifies them from the blessed inheritance (1Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21). Likewise, those who practice the idolatry of covetousness in wealth and riches cannot enter the kingdom (Luke 18:24-25; Eph. 5:5). Even for those who forsake sin and worldliness, there are many tribulations as they make their entrance into the kingdom (Acts 14:22; 2Thess. 1:5). Thus, we must be steadfast, diligent, and faithful to enter the kingdom (2Pet. 1:5-11).

Indeed, there are many false notions of the kingdom of God that have been needlessly expounded. Why do men insist on spreading falsehoods about the kingdom when the truth about it is so wonderful? Jesus said many things about the kingdom, and His words alone must be the basis of our understanding. The kingdom of God is not according to men, but rather it is "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17) according to the words of our blessed Lord. Let us trust in Him to show us the kingdom and open its entrance.

Stacey E. Durham



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