Today’s reading: Mark 1-3.
“Are we living in the kingdom of God?”
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:14-15
The kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven was prominent in Jesus’ teaching. He illustrated it with many stories, but he never defined it. That can make it difficult to understand. G. E. Ladd said that we usually think of a kingdom as the realm or land that is ruled, or as the people who are governed. In Biblical terms, however, a kingdom is the rule and sovereignty of the king. “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). It is the power he exercises and the glory he receives. It operates in a realm – heaven or earth – but exceeds that realm. It rules over and through its subjects but it is not those subjects. Therefore Ladd says, “The Kingdom of God is His kingship, His rule, His authority.” Ladd did an excellent job of outlining some of the key points of the kingdom as taught by Jesus:
This theme of the coming of the Kingdom of God was central in His mission. His teaching was designed to show men how they might enter the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5:20; 7:21). His mighty works were intended to prove that the Kingdom of God had come upon them (Matt. 12:28). His parables illustrated to His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God (Matt. 1 3: 11). And when He taught His followers to pray, at the heart of their petition were the words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). On the eve of His death, He assured His disciples that He would yet share with them the happiness and the fellowship of the Kingdom (Luke 22:22-30). And He promised that He would appear again on the earth in glory to bring the blessedness of the Kingdom to those for whom it was prepared (Matt. 25:31, 34). G. E. Ladd
The kingdom has both present and future components. Referring to its present realities, the Bible says, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). God has “delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is !’ or, ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you’ ” (Luke 17:20-21).
But there are also future realities yet to be realized. “Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, 0 blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (Matt. 25:34). On that future day there “will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 1:11). Now the kingdom is limited. Then it will be universal.
The kingdom came to this physical world through the ministry of Jesus Christ. It continues to work through the power of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 4:20). Only those who repent and are born again may enter it. Righteousness, peace, and joy characterize its members. They pray, “thy kingdom come,” asking God to rule in their world, their church, and their lives just as he rules in heaven. They are also asking God to bring that day when his kingdom is fully realized in the new heaven and new Earth.
So the Kingdom has come through the Son invading the world. As Messiah we confess that he rules. The Kingdom’s coming now means the defeat of Satan, the forgiveness of God, and the indwelling enablement of the Spirit. And yet, the Kingdom comes one day through the returning Son of Man to vindicate the saints and render God just and His promises true. Then Satan and evil will be removed. Even so, come Lord Jesus. But in the meantime, give us the strength through your enablement to be light to show what the kingdom is and is like. You have pulled the future into the present. Let us illumine the future in an incarnated way through your present rule in our lives. Darrell L. Bock, Looking Into the Future: Evangelical Studies in Eschatology
Fundamentally, as we have seen, the Kingdom of God is God’s sovereign reign; but God’s reign expresses itself in different stages through redemptive history. Therefore, men may enter into the realm of God’s reign in its several stages of manifestation and experience the blessings of His reign in differing degrees. God’s Kingdom is the realm of the Age to Come, popularly called heaven; then we shall realize the blessings of His Kingdom (reign) in the perfection of their fullness. But the Kingdom is here now. There is a realm of spiritual blessing into which we may enter today and enjoy in part but in reality the blessings of God’s Kingdom (reign). G. E. Ladd
“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.” Frederick Buechner
Image, Kingdom of Heaven by Frank Bramley