Last Sunday in our young adult life group we were studying Luke 17:20-21.
Luk 17:20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed,
Luk 17:21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
This brought up an important question. What is the kingdom of God? This phrase appears numerous times in Luke (34 I believe), 14 in Mark, and 4 times in Matthew (Matthew uses the phrase kingdom of heaven 32 times), and numerous times in the rest of the New Testament.
Where does this phrase come from though? What does it mean? While my point isn’t necessarily to clear up confusion or to shed new light on the phrase with this short blog, it is rather to point out the fact that this phrase gets passed over and over and over again when we read Scripture. I mean we were in Luke 17 and we had never tried to define this term.
On top of that there are a lot of misconceptions and interesting theories as to what this actually means. Again I am not going to go through them all but rather encourage you to do your own study on it.
If I could however try to put it simply. The kingdom of God is simply the put as the “Rule, or Authority, of God”. (See George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom). A kingdom requires a King, that King is Jesus. A Kingdom also requires a people, that is all who have called upon the name of Christ as Lord and Savior, repented of their sins and continue to walk in His ways. This spans from past, present, and even into the future.
There is also a sense in which the Kingdom of God will be a real physical Kingdom, a Millennial Kingdom. But this kingdom is one that we look forward too. Yet it is one that we have here and now. Jesus rightly tells the Pharisee, who by the way are looking for a physical kingdom, that the Kingdom of God is “within you”(ESV translates in the midst of you, but it makes more sense in the Greek to say within you, translators don’t like that because it could lead people to believe that kingdom is in the Pharisee’s, or that it is only a spiritual entity, rather we should conclude there is a spiritual aspect that accompanies a very real and physical kingdom eventually). In a very real sense this kingdom is within those who follow the king.
As Christians we are part of God’s Kingdom. He rules and has authority over our lives. That is what it means to, “pick up your cross and follow Him”. We are followers of our king.
If you trace this theme throughout Scripture it sheds light on lots of other passages. King’s have enemies, the chief enemy of Christ’s kingdom is Satan. Satan has long been at war against the king. Not only that though, before Christ we also were at war with Him. That is why we need “reconciliation” or a making of peace with God (See Colossians 1, and 2 Cor 5 for further reflection on reconciliation).
When Paul writes to the Ephesians to put on the Armor of God, it makes sense because as Christians we are in a war against the enemy.
The good news for us is this is a King, and Kingdom that we know are true and sure. There is no uncertainty in who will win the battle. Christ has already conquered Satan, He will soon crush him under his foot (Romans 16:20). Christ has already given gifts (spoils of war) to men ((Christians)( gifts like the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, Spiritual gifts (Eph 4:8)). He has sat down at the right hand of God waiting until He is sent back to put Satan in bondage and then ultimately in the lake of fire.
So when Christ says “do not fear” we can take that literally, the War is won, while the battle rages on. When Christ says “All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth” we can take that literally, He is King. He rules all.
How much more literally should we take the command from the king to make disciples knowing that He rules all? Therefore GO and MAKE fellow warriors for the king. Don’t neglect this great command. Don’t rebel against the king.
(BTW I’ve been learning a lot about this in my Theology of the New Testament class, which is why I find it all so fascinating).