Six Kingdom Questions: Part 2


We have answered the question, “What is the kingdom of God?”

The question now is, “Where is the kingdom of God?”

Jesus answered this question for His disciples.

He said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is! or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20-21.

If the kingdom of God is the reign of King Jesus, then the kingdom of God is where King Jesus reigns. The kingdom of God, like any kingdom, has territory.

Jesus reigns in heaven; the kingdom of God is in heaven. Jesus reigns on the earth; the kingdom of God is on earth. If Jesus reigns in your life, if Jesus is not just your Savior but your Lord, and you submit your life to Him, then the kingdom of God is in your midst, and it goes where you go. Continue reading “Six Kingdom Questions: Part 2”

On Trees And The Kingdom of God

Good communicators understand their audience.

So, when Jesus spoke to an audience of Jewish people and told them the kingdom of God was a mustard seed that becomes like a tree so that birds nest in its branches (Matthew 13:31-32), I want to know what the Jews would have thought he meant by such a tree. I want to know what image and meaning Jesus was trying to evoke in his audience, and to understand that I need to understand His audience.

The Jews knew the Old Testament. They were taught to memorize it as children and write it on their doorposts. They heard it recited repeatedly in the synagogue. When Jesus told them the kingdom of God was like a tree, He was using a popular Old Testament metaphor for earthly kingdoms that Jesus knew his Jewish audience would recognize and understand.

In Ezekiel 31 the Lord, referring to the Assyrian Empire calls it a tree “loftier than all the tress of the field” and that “[a]ll the birds of the heavens nested in its boughs” and “all great nations lived under its shade.” (Ezekiel 31:5-6).

In the Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar has a prophetic vision wherein the Babylonian Empire  is represented as a tree that “grew large and became strong” and the “beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” (Daniel 4:11-12).

Then, referring to King Jesus and the kingdom of God, in Ezekiel 17 the Lord, through Ezekiel, says He will take a tender twig from the top of a cedar and plant it “on the high mountain of Israel and that it will “became a stately cedar…And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches.” (Ezekiel 17:22-23).

So, when Jesus told His Jewish audience the kingdom of God would become like a tree and birds would nest in its branches they would have understood He was talking about an earthly kingdom under whose covering the nations of the world would enjoy protection and provision. GS

Kingdom People: Resident Aliens

Resident aliens are common to earthly kingdoms.  A resident alien is a person who resides in a nation where he is not a citizen.  There are many reasons one may choose to live in a foreign country, but the most common are political and economic.  More specifically, people choose to live in foreign countries that offer a level of peace or prosperity not found in their own country.

Resident aliens do not enjoy all the privileges, nor do they have all the responsibilities, of citizenship.  They do not have the privilege of ruling with the king nor the obligation of defending the kingdom and giving their life for it, but they  may enjoy many of the blessings found in a the foreign country.

The kingdom of God, like earthly kingdoms, contains both citizens and aliens.  Jesus described the kingdom of God as a net cast into the sea that gathers fish of every kind, but it is only when the net is drawn onto the beach that the bad fish are thrown out. (Matt. 13:47-48).  The kingdom of God gathers within its earthly territory both citizens and aliens.  Jesus said He would gather the lawless and all stumbling blocks out of His kingdom. (Matt 13:41-43).

As I’ve suggested in other posts, these parables make no sense if one believes the kingdom of God is heaven or the Church because only believers are part of the Church and go to heaven.  However, if one understands the kingdom of God exists in space and time and has a geographic presence on the earth, one can see how it is possible for non-Christians to be “in the kingdom of God” (on earth) without being part of the Church or gaining entrance into heaven.

Resident aliens enjoy only limited privileges, rather than the full privileges of citizenship, by living under the earthly authority of the kingdom of God and its laws, but those benefits do not extend beyond death.  Aliens do not inherit the kingdom of God when they die.  (1 Cor 6:8-11).  That privilege is limited to citizens of the kingdom of God. Though aliens may be in the kingdom on earth, at death they are rooted up and thrown out. (Mathew 13:30, 49).

Resident aliens are often religious people who try to live according to the laws of the kingdom of God, but have never become a Christian, or they are sometimes people who don’t even pretend to be moral, but because they live under the authority of a citizen of the kingdom of God they fall within the territory of the kingdom.  A family member who is part of a household led by a Christian is a resident alien of the kingdom of God and can enjoy the earthly benefits that flow from the kingdom of God through the Christian who exercises the delegated authority of King Jesus in the household.

The kingdom of God is always seeking new citizens.  Overpopulation is not a concern in the kingdom of God.  As Jesus told His disciples, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” (John 14:2).  Resident aliens are the most likely candidates for citizenship, and one of the goals of the kingdom of God is to convert resident aliens into citizens.  Therefore, immigration is welcomed in the kingdom of God and resident aliens are an integral part of the kingdom of God.  GS

The Territory Of The Kingdom, Part IV

As I end this series of posts on the territory of the kingdom of God, I thought it a good idea to address a possible objection that may arise as one begins to think about the kingdom of God in this way.  One might say this talk of the kingdom of God having territorial distinction in the natural is purely theoretical and unlike earthly kingdoms because one cannot see the territorial lines of the kingdom of God. 

However, one cannot see the territorial boundaries of an earthly kingdom unless they are marked with a sign.  One can see the geography, the actual terrain, but one cannot necessarily tell where the kingdom begins or ends by merely looking at the territory.  Maps help, but only because the person who draws the map knows the location of the territorial boundaries of the kingdom.  In fact, when one thinks of a nation’s territorial boundaries one usually sees a map in one’s mind’s eye. 

But just because one cannot draw a map of a nation’s territory does not mean the nation does not have a territorial boundary.  It would only mean that the person drawing the map did not know where the boundaries of the nation lay. It’s the same with the kingdom of God.  We can know that many places are kingdom territory because we can see that those in authority in that place exercise that delegated authority in accordance with the laws of the kingdom.  We can see a household under the authority of a Christian who lives in obedience to King Jesus.  That we cannot see into every heart or every place does not mean that the kingdom of God does not have a geographical presence and territory. It only means we are not good mapmakers.

Such is the earthly territory of the kingdom of God on earth.  Like the earthly territorial distinctions, they are sometimes fluctuating and are not always well defined, but they exist.  GS

The Territory Of The Kingdom, Part III

Here’s something interesting about the territory of the kingdom of God: it can be mobile. This shouldn’t be that surprising.  The territory of earthly kingdoms can be mobile. 

When ambassadors from one nation journey to a foreign country they carry with them the jurisdiction of their kingdom.  They enjoy immunity from prosecution of the foreign power’s laws because they represent the sovereign power of their own kingdom.  Embassies in foreign countries are considered the territory of the foreign ambassador’s nation, as are airplanes and ships under their nation’s flag, regardless of where those planes or ships are, and even if they are mobile. 

Similarly, the territoy of the kingdom of God is mobile as well as fixed.  As citizens of the kingdom of God move physically, so does the territory of the kingdom.  When a Christian goes from his home to the grocery store, he takes the territorial boundaries of the kingdom with him.  

Jesus taught this very concept of the mobility of the Kingdom when He sent out the Seventy.  Jesus told them to minister to the people in the cities He was sending them, but regardless of whether the people accepted them or not to tell the people of the city, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.”  (Luke 10:9).  If the city did not accept them, they were to shake the dust off of their feet as a protest and leave.  When they left the kingdom left with them. 

Every citizen of the kingdom of God today takes the kingdom with them wherever they go if they are obedient to Jesus.  Stated another way Kingdom citizens are ambassadors of Christ the King.  (2 Cor. 5:20).  GS