Dwight Fletcher | What is the kingdom of God?
Rev Dwight Fletcher
Ash Wednesday marked the start of what is known as the period of Lent. This is generally an important time on the church calendar as it commemorates the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness as He prepared for full-time ministry. Jesus withdrew to the wilderness to prepare Himself to bring the message of the kingdom of God to mankind. This message and its relevance is even more critical and urgent today as we observe the things happening not only in our own communities and nation, but also globally. As the Church, we must be ready, willing, and purposeful in sharing the message of God’s kingdom and in being good ambassadors of it.
The kingdom of God is a major theme of the New Testament, and in its first recorded sermon, John the Baptist said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 3:2 (NIV). The kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven in the scriptures both refer to the same kingdom.
Jesus also began His ministry with the same message “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17 (NIV). Then Jesus ended His ministry speaking to His disciples about the kingdom. “After His suffering, He presented Himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3 (NIV). The heart of Jesus’ teachings and ministry centred on the theme of the kingdom of God. This expression is found in 61 separate sayings in the Gospels.
In addition, the message of the kingdom was continued by the Apostles. For example, in Acts 19:8 (NIV) “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” We also find many references to the kingdom of God in the Old Testament.
So if it is so central to the Bible, then for Christians to mature in our understanding and application of the scriptures, it is essential that we understand the kingdom. What is this kingdom?
KING OF THE UNIVERSE
The kingdom of God is a spiritual term meaning the rule of God over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority and to His Word. Let’s separate this understanding of the kingdom from God’s general providential rule: “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). In this general sense, the LORD is king of the universe.
The kingdom of God is different than that as it indicates God’s deliberate, active leadership, and oversight over the lives of those who acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ and gladly surrender to God’s rule. Therefore in contrast, those who defy God’s authority and refuse to submit to Him are not part of the kingdom of God.
A broad understanding of God’s kingdom is essential to our faith. Each country of the world has its own culture, customs, laws, and norms. For us to carry on a fruitful life and experience the best in these countries, we have to be aware of those protocols and norms. If we’re going to do business somewhere else, we have to know what is right and what is wrong there.
In the same way, as citizens of God’s kingdom, we need to make ourselves conversant with its precepts, laws, and norms. Many of us are losing out because we’re not obeying the principles, precepts, and decrees of the kingdom and, therefore, the benefits are not being fulfilled in our lives. Join me next week as we learn how to navigate the kingdom of God.