How King Jesus Rules

Authority, not power, is the primary means by which earthly rulers rule.  Confusion arises because the terms power and authority are often used interchangeably, when they are in fact two very different things.  Power is brute force.  Power is physically enforcing one’s will on another person or thing.  When an army overtakes a city it does so by power.  When a boxer defeats another boxer in the ring, he does so by power.  Earthly rulers, however, do not rule primarily by power, but by authority.

Think about your own life, if you are like most people you have lived a law-abiding life even though you have never been compelled by force to do so.  You arrive at work by a certain time each day, not because someone physically forces you to but because someone with authority at work, your supervisor or the owner, told you to do so.  You obey the parking lot attendant when he directs you to the right instead of the left, not because he forces you to but because he has authority over the parking lot.

When earthly kings rule they do so by delegating authority to subordinates, who delegate that authority to their subordinates, thereby lengthening the reach of the will of the king.  A king appoints a minister of defense and gives him authority over the military forces of the country.  The military forces must then obey the minister of defense as they would the king.  And so it goes for each department under the king.

Delegated authority has one very important condition: delegated authority only extends the rule of the king if those to whom the king delegates authority are obedient to the king.  A minister of defense who initiates a war contrary to the instructions of the king has not extended the rule of the king, but his own.  Implicit in the delegation of authority is the condition that that authority will be used to carry out the will of the king.  To the extent the subordinate uses that authority to do his own will, he has perpetrated a fraud, representing to the world by his office that he is promoting the will of the king when he is promoting his own.

These same principles apply in the kingdom of God.  Jesus also rules (though not exclusively) through delegated authority.  Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He reminded His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”  Matthew 28:18. Jesus’ words confirm He has been given all the authority necessary to rule and fulfill His role as King of the kingdom of God.   But as a general rule, that authority is only exercised on the earth when those under Jesus’ delegated authority act in obedience to Him.

Think about this:  The Book of Hebrews says that after Jesus ascended into heaven “…He…sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet.”  Hebrews 10:12-13. In I Corinthians the Apostle Paul makes a similar statement saying of Jesus that “…He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”  I Cor. 15:25.  Here’s the question: How can Jesus reign at the same time that He is waiting?  And how can Jesus put His enemies under His feet if He is in heaven? The answer:  By means of delegated authority.  Jesus is waiting, just as an earthly king waits after delegating the authority to subordinates, for His people to carry out his instructions on earth.

Jesus puts His enemies on earth under His feet in the same way an earthly king overcomes his kingdom’s enemies—by delegating authority to others to accomplish His will.  Not only has He chosen to do so, but He has chosen gladly to do so. Luke 12:32.

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