I hesitated to write this post because I’m concerned you’ll think my point is so obvious it’s not worth stating, but I sometimes get at things sort of backwards. Rather than jump right in and address how the kingdom of God progresses on the earth, it seemed more fundamental to start by stating one way in which it does not grow, and that is by means of military force, or in metaphoric terms, by means of the sword. I suspect this is obvious to most modern Christians, but it has not been obvious to Christians throughout history. It’s an important point.
I think there are a number of ways to demonstrate this point from Bible. Here are two.
First, on the night Jesus was betrayed, He told His disciples to grab two swords (Luke 22:35-38). Then when Peter attempted to use one of the swords offensively Jesus rebuked him (John 18:10-11). But hadn’t Jesus just told them to grab two swords? Yes, but the sword was to be used defensively, not offensively. The sword was for their protection, not their promotion.
Second, when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He knew the Jews were expecting Him to be a military leader who would overthrow Roman rule. Jesus’ response was to weep over Jerusalem, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace!” (Luke 19:41-42). Jesus was indeed interested in seeing the kingdom of God prevail over the Roman Empire, but not in the way the Jews expected. Jesus knew that in a little under three hundred years, the kingdom of God would prevail over the Romans, but that it would do so peacefully, without a sword being drawn by Christians against their oppressors.
It is no different today. The growth of the kingdom occurs peacefully, through the transformation of men’s hearts, not militarily through threats aginst their bodies. Unlike other religions, Christian conversion is not to occur at the point of a sword. The kingdom is no country for armed men. GS