The Role of Citizenship in the Kingdom

Earthy kings must have a way to distinguish between those who will be loyal to theire earthly kingdom. This is necessary, among other reasons, so the earthly ruler can know to whom he can delegate power. The most common earthly means of making this determination is by citizenship. And the most common tests for citizenship are birth and an oath. It was true in first century when Jesus was teaching about the kingdom and it is true today.

For example, if you are born in the United States you are automatically a citizen. If you weren’t born in the United States you can still become a citizen by confessing your loyalty by means of an oath. Initially, both may seem arbitrary, but they are actually good tests.  Birth has traditionally been a basis for citizenship because it rests on the assumption that those who are dependant upon the land of a kingdom for their survival have an interest in protecting it. Oaths are an indication of what is in a person’s heart. Sure they can be faked, but until governments learn to read minds oaths are the next best thing.

Interestingly, one becomes a citizen of the kingdom of God by both a birth and an oath. First, one must be born again. John 3:5 (“Unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”). Second, one must give an oath. Romans 10:9 (“…for if you confess with you mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved…”).

Just as in earthly kingdoms, birth and oath are an indicia of loyalty to the kingdom of God. That demonstrated loyalty paves the way for King Jesus to share his rule with his citizens by delegating authority to them. But more on that later.  GS

First Bible Reference to the Kingdom?

I was reading I Samuel 2 yesterday, the part where Hannah is rejoicing because she had just given birth to Samuel, and I came across this in verse 10:

“The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His annointed.”

My first thought was that this was a prophetic reference to King Jesus and and His kingdom, that God would exalt Him above the kings of the earth.  I checked some commentaries and, sure enough, that seems to be the consensus.

Now here’s the question, is this the first reference to King Jesus or His kingdom?  Do you know of any earlier reference?

The Kingdom Is An Administration

What is the kingdom of God?  If you are looking for a succint, one-word answer it is that the kingdom of God is an administration.  The Apostle Paul described the kingdom of God as an administration:

“In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth.”

(Eph. 1:8-10). The Greek word translated as administration is oikonomia, which Thayer defines as “the management, oversight, administration, of others’ property.” Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan) 440.  Also, included in what is managed by an administration is people.  The point is God has set up an administration to manage creation, i.e. people, things and places.

The Apostle Paul states that the administration about which he speaks is designed for the summing up of all things in Christ, i.e. the bringing about, under rulership of the kingdom of God, the reconciliation of all things, not just people, through Jesus.  Jesus’ death on the cross opened the door for man’s reconciliation to God, but it did more than that.  Paul emphasis the phrase, “all things” by explaining he is speaking things “in the heavens and things upon the earth,” which means the kingdom must be broad enough to administer in the earthly and heavenly realms.

Paul articulated the same concept in his letter to the Colossians saying, “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross…whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Col. 1:19-20).

The kingdom of God is broader than heaven and the Church.  It is an administration whose earthly borders can in some way bring under its covering non-Christians.  More on how that is possible later.  GS

The Kingdom Is Broader Than Heaven

In explaining the meaning of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares to His disciples, Jesus said He would send his angels to “gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will case them into the furnace of fire…”  (Matt. 13:41-42).  Jesus made a similar statement in the Parable of the Dragnet. (Matt. 13:47-50).  If the kingdom of God is the same as heaven, Jesus’ statements make no sense because non-Christians will not enter heaven. 

 Jesus’ description of the kingdom of heaven only makes sense if the kingdom of heaven is an administration with an earthly presence such that non-Christians can be “in” it on the earth but denied entrance into heaven and eternal life. 

When the Bible employs the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” it is referring to the origin of the kingdom, not its location.  This is like referring to the Apostle Paul as “Paul of Tarsus.”  Jesus told Pontius Pilate that He indeed was a king, but that His kingdom was not of this world or realm. (John 18:36).  Its origin was from another realm, namely the spiritual realm.

The kingdom of God is not the same thing as the Church or heaven.  It includes both, but its earthly boundaries extend beyond the boundaries of both.

Why The Kingdom Can’t Be The Church

A common misconception about the kindgom of God is that it is the same thing as the Church. Thus, this miconception holds, if you are in the kingdom of God, you are in the Church. Here’s the problem with that.

When Jesus explained the Parable of the Wheat and Tares to His disciples he said, “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire…” (Matt. 13:41-42). Non-Christians are obviously not in the Church, meaning they are not part of the universal body of believers. Yet, Jesus says that in the end they will be taken out of the kingdom.

This must mean it is possible for non-Christians to be part of the kingdom of God on earth without being part of the Church.  Another way to look at it is that the kingdom of God includes the Church, but the kingdom’s borders lie outside the borders of the Church.  If you are a Christian you are in the kingdom of God, but you can be in the kingdom of God and not be a Christian.  We reject this logically inescaple conclusion from Jesus’ explanation of the parable because it doesn’t fit our presupposition, instead of asking how it can be true. 

More in a later post on how one can be in the kingdom of God on the earth and not be a Christian.  GS