The Territory Of The Kingdom, Part II

So, how can one know what earthly territory is the territory of the kingdom of God?  Talk to any theologically trained person (in other words, not a lawyer like me) and he or she will tell you that the kingdom of God is “the rule of God.”  Consequently, Kingdom territory is territory where Jesus rules and reigns through His earthly representatives.  That is not to say Jesus is not sovereign over all creation.  He is.  But earthly territory He has given to man to manage. (Psalm 115:16).

I explained in another post how Jesus rules and reigns through delegated authority, that is, through people in positions of authority who exercise that authority in accordance with His will.  The earthly territory that falls under the authority of such people is kingdom territory.

Let me give you some examples.  Say a citizen of the kingdom of God operates her business out of obedience to King Jesus, her office then becomes kingdom territory because she is the authority in that place and is acting in accordance with the will of King Jesus.  If the head of a household is a Christian and exercises his authority in obedience to King Jesus, that house and the earth on which it sits becomes kingdom territory.  If a school teacher is a citizen of the kingdom of God and is acting in obedience to Jesus in that classroom, that classroom becomes kingdom territory. 

In each of these examples, it doesn’t matter whether there are others within the physical territory who are not citizens of the kingdom of God.  That doesn’t change the character of the territory any more than an alien residing in the United States of America affects the sovereignty of the American government. 

Once you understand that the kingdom of God has a territorial footprint on the earth, some of Jesus’ Kingdom parables begin to make more sense.  How is it that the “birds of the air,” i.e. non-Christians will be able to nest in the branches of the kingdom of God?  (Matt. 13:31-32)  How is it that Jesus can talk about the angels coming and taking the unrighteous out of His kingdom? (Matt. 13:41).  The answer is that non-Christians can live within the earthly territorial confines of the kingdom of God during their life on earth, but they won’t inherit the Kingdom when they die. (I Cor. 6:9-10).  GS

The Territory Of The Kingdom, Part I

All earthly kingdoms have territory. Without territory, one could hardly call something a kingdom.  By its very definition a kingdom is “a land or area that is ruled.”  Why should we expect the kingdom of God would match earthly kingdoms in so many fundamental characteristics, yet differ in the one which gives the word its very meaning?

Spiritual and natural territory.  We were born into the natural realm and have lived in it our entire lives.  We can see it, smell it, touch it, hear it and taste it, and we don’t doubt its existence because it’s so obvious to all of our senses.  But there is also a spiritual realm, which is not as readily apparent as the natural. (Col. 1:16-17). The invisible-spiritual and the visible-natural were both created by God and that in Him they both “hold together.”  (Col. 1:17). Now I realize this is almost not worth staying, but hang with me because I’m headed somewhere with this.

King Jesus must rule in spiritual and earthly realms.  For a kingdom to rule over all that is, it must be able to reign in both the natural and the spiritual realm.  It would be silly to argue the kingdom of God had the ability to rule in the spirit realm but not on the earth since God created both.  As silly as it sounds though, many modern Christians believe just that.  However, the kingdom of God is designed to extend the rule of King Jesus in both realms. (Eph 1:8-10; Col. 1:18-20). 

Earthly territory has geographical boundaries.  If we were to define the boundaries of a residence, a city, county, state or country, we would talk in terms of geography. If you were asked where you live, you could give an address of a physical spot on the planet.  If we wanted to ascertain the boundaries of a city, we could go to a map and draw a line around the outer edges of the city and know that everything inside of the line was part of the city.  Territory in the natural realm is measurable because it exists in space and time. 

The Kingdom has geographical distinction.  Because the kingdom of God extends the rule of Jesus on the earth, and the earth had ascertainable territorial boundaries, the kingdom of God also has definable geographical distinction.  That is not to say Jesus doesn’t have sovereignty over the entire universe.  What I am attempting to do here is give you a paradigm for understanding the presence of the kingdom of God on earth.  Think about it: the Bible promises that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of God. (Dan. 2:44; Rev. 11:15).  That cannot happen unless the kingdom of God has a geographical existence in the natural because earthly kingdoms exist only in the natural.   If the kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdom of God then they must do so with the very thing without which they would be kingdoms at all—earthly territory. Otherwise, we could only say the kingdom of God destroyed all the earthly kingdoms, but we could not say these kingdoms became the kingdom of God.

Now you may be thinking, “Ok, but so what?”  However, as I think you will see, recognizing the kingdom of God has a geographical footprint on the earth is foundational to understanding how the kingdom of God expands on the earth.   Coming in Part II:  How to recognize the earthly territory of the kingdom of God.  GS

The Source of Justice in the Kingdom

The Bible says the kingdom of God is established and upheld by justice and righteousness. (Isaiah 9:7).  Speaking prophetically of Jesus, Isaiah said, “He will faithfully bring forth justice.  He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”  (Isaiah 42:3-4). 

The most important question on the issue of justice is: What is the basis for justice?  The problem is we believe we innately know what is just.  We think:  “I am a just person.  Therefore, whatever I think is right in a situation is just.” 

However, none of us are free from the corrupting influence of sin.  It taints our motives, discernment and judgment.  That’s why revelation from God through the Bible is necessary to understanding justice.  Justice is not what you think is right, but what the Bible says is right, and what is just often differs from the prevailing opinions of the day.

Take the issue of capital punishment.  Conservatives believe it should be easier to convict violent criminals and that punishment should be severe (e.g. the death penalty).  Liberals believe it should be more difficult to convict violent criminals and that punishment should be lighter.  Both are wrong.  The Old Testament law would dictate that it be more difficult to convict for capital crimes but that the punishment be severe. 

The Old Testament law required two witnesses to a capital crime. (Deuteronomy 17:6).  To serve as a witness, the individual could not be guilty of the crime for which they served as a witness.  (Deuteronomy 19:15).  Note: this would prohibit the modern practice of relying on coconspirator testimony to obtain convictions.  Moreover, one of the witnesses had to be willing to initiate the execution. (Deuteronomy 17:7).  Yet, the Old Testament law endorsed capital punishment for more crimes than modern Western nations.

That the Bible has a different view of justice than the Republicans or Democrats should not really surprise us.  Neither political platform was formed using the Bible as a guide.  Both are humanistic and flawed.  All the more reason that as Christians we should not look to political parties to inform us on great issues like justice but instead should look at what God has revealed through the Bible. 

The coastlands “wait expectantly for His law”  (Isaiah 42:3-4) because the law of King Jesus is the basis for justice.  GS

Why Tiger Woods Shouldn’t Take Advice From The Dalai Lama

BuddhaOk, this blog post doesn’t have that much to do with the kingdom of God per se, but I was watching the U.S. Open yesterday and got to thinking about Tiger Woods.

Like many of you, I watched Tiger’s come-to-Buddha press conference a few months ago.  He admitted he had behaved badly and said he wanted to get back to Buddhist teachings he’d been raised on, something or other about self-control.   The next day, some journalist asked the Dalai Lama if he had any advice for Tiger Woods.  Mr. Lama said he had never heard of Tiger Woods.

Here’s my advice for Tiger:  Don’t take advice from anyone who’s never heard of Tiger Woods. I mean seriously, would you take advice on how to live in a world of temptation from someone who’s never heard of the most famous person in the world?

Here’s the other problem I have with Tiger taking Mr. Lama’s advice: Can we trust him?  Mr. Lama that is.  Didn’t Carl Spackler in Caddyshack say that he had caddied for Mr. Lama in the Himalayas?  He even described what Mr. Lama looked like  (“the flowing robes, the grace…striking”) and mentioned that he was a bad tipper.  I believe Carl Spackler, which makes Mr. Lama’s denial even more incredulous.

I would suggest that instead of Buddha or the Dalai Lama Tiger take advice from Jesus, who was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).  And, lastly, Tiger should stop going to IHOP without his wife.  GS

A Kingdom Philosophy of History

How do you view history?  I mean big picture, how do you view it?  In other words, do you have a philosophy of history? A philosophy of history is a paradigm for interpreting the purpose and direction of history.  It not only seeks to interpret the events of the past but also attempts to place the present in the proper context and give insight into the future.  There are a few different major philosophies of history. 

One philosophy of history holds that history is cyclical.  The belief that history repeats itself and that there is not any real progress over time is an example of a cyclical philosophy of history.  A cyclical view of history sees such cycles as inevitable because it operates from a presumption that man never really changes.  Man is destined to repeat the mistakes of history because man is a prisoner of his nature and never really progresses.

Another view holds that history is linear.  An example is Marxism, which teaches that history is on an inevitable progression to the goal of a pure communist society.  Marxism attempts to explain the past, place the present in proper context and predict the direction of the future through its philosophy of history. In the Marxist view, it is just a matter of time before the whole world embraces the ideals of the Marxist state.

Many Christians have adopted a pessimistic linear philosophy of history.  They see history as on an inevitable regression into sin and rebellion against God.  They believe the world is beyond hope, the gospel is destined to fail and evil is destined to prevail on the earth. 

It seems to me that the proper Christian philosophy of history holds history is both cyclical and linear.  While it recognizes history moves in a cyclical manner, those cycles progress in a linear fashion toward an ultimate positive conclusion.  Imagine a bicycle wheel rolling up a ramp to reach a high platform.  The same point on the wheel will sometimes be rotating downward, backward, upward or forward around the axle, but the wheel itself is always moving up the ramp to a higher point. 

 When viewed in the context of this Christian philosophy of history, the last fifty years of American cultural and moral decline are easily explained without compromising the linear view of progression and advancement for the kingdom of God.  The last fifty years in the United States of America merely represents a down cycle, whose peak will reach higher in the next cycle as the kingdom progresses towards its ultimate victorious consummation.  History, driven by the leavening force of the kingdom of God is like a wave traveling up a beach.  There are high points and low points, but it is moving up toward a high consummation. 

This view provides the context for understanding history without compromising Jesus’ promise that the Kingdom will successfully leaven the whole earth.  Anyway, it makes sense to me.  What do you think?  GS