This is the conclusion of Chapter Three in “A Life Unplugged”. At the end of this post, you will find links to the previous two parts.
This chapter was dedicated to defining or maybe redefining our understanding of the kingdom. Jesus has taught us many unbelievable truths about the kingdom in the present tense. Let us also hear what the Apostle Paul has to say about the kingdom; I will cite some verses, and then we can digest them and glean the overwhelming theme found throughout.
For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. I Corinthians 4:20
For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 1 Corinthians 15:50
The first statement cited in 1 Corinthians 4:20 is a very telling indictment. In context, Paul was scolding some who had misled and created division among believers, and basically warned them that words are meaningless in comparison to the power of the Holy Spirit. We must understand that much is taken for granted in the letters of Paul. Paul preached the kingdom; he knew nothing else! We today have lost the pure gospel and need to be reminded that the kingdom is a spiritual relationship with God’s Holy Spirit. The gospel is not words! Now the Spirit can inhabit those words and give them life, but words are merely words. This power that Paul alludes to is a clear and present force that is palpable and dependable. In Romans 14:17, we notice that the kingdom is not a set of rules and regulations, but rather a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Traditions and formalities are not the gospel! Now the Spirit can inhabit traditions and give them life, but traditions alone are meaningless. And finally, in 1 Corinthians 15:50, we are told quite blatantly that the kingdom is not flesh and blood. Can we escape the fact that the kingdom of God is spiritual in nature? Can any amount of explaining away deter us from the simplistic statements contained throughout the New Testament? If it is so apparent, then why do we live like the kingdom is a million miles away? I am guilty of wandering around life with the faulty notion that one day Jesus would come and save the day, and He is telling us that He has already come and saved the day! We look forward to eternal life in heaven after we die, and He is telling us that eternal life starts today! Why does this escape us? It escapes us because we are plugged into a world system that demands a tangible kingdom. We have replaced the “good news” with the “not so good news”; we have replaced a spiritual kingdom with an earthly kingdom in the various forms of buildings, ministries, agendas, systems, traditions, and denominations; we have replaced the invisible kingdom full of power for a visible kingdom that lacks power; we are guilty of replacing the supernatural with the cheap imitation of the natural. And the enemy has been working overtime to cloud our spiritual eyes and has at least in our deepest parts fooled us into thinking that somehow the Holy Spirit is “less than” the Son and the Father.
We will delve into more of the Pauline teachings on the kingdom of God in the next chapter. In a crude but effective nutshell: Jesus describes the kingdom and Paul shows us how to live in the kingdom. Jesus was limited as to what He could actually teach the disciples by His own admission; for without the gift of the Holy Spirit, they would not and could not understand. Notice what He says in John 16:
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you…I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…
So the parables and the teachings of Christ are mysterious and enigmatic until after the Holy Spirit has come, and Paul’s writings bring the teachings of Christ into a wondrous light. The process of salvation is played out as the first Spirit-filled followers of Christ emerge from Pentecost. Only after the ascension of Christ did anyone really understand the gravity of His message.
Finally, we must address the future kingdom. The Bible teaches (and therefore I believe) that one day, in the not too distant future, Jesus will reign on the earth as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. What that will look like is speculation at best; the timing thereof is a profound mystery to say the least; and the nature of that earthly reign is sparsely described in the Bible.
What does that tell us? It tells us that God in His wisdom wants us to live for today and not for tomorrow. Yes, there is a great hope and anticipation of Christ’s return, but we miss the beauty and power of the kingdom of God if we focus only on the future nature of it! All through history, the church has been guilty of misinterpreting the Lord’s Prayer. In the Lord’s Prayer it says, “Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We have spent countless resources and two millennia trying to create His kingdom on earth with our own hands. Jesus was very clear about what His Bride should look like. His bride would be adorned in love and power as a worshiper of God and a loving servant to others. Jesus tells us that people will know we are His by our love (John 13:35). How different has our interpretation been?
There is an important fact that we must get into our brains: if God said it, it will come to pass. When Christ states that He will come again, you can take that to the bank! So if we pray the Lord’s Prayer thinking that “thy kingdom come” is our duty to beckon His arrival, then we have missed the whole point! God doesn’t need us to “pray down” His kingdom; for He has already said it and put it in motion. The intent of our prayers as modeled in the Lord’s Prayer is to bring the spiritual kingdom down into our personal lives.
We should pray that the reality of His kingdom is played out in our lives, on earth, today. We need not worry about the coming earthly kingdom, for it will come with or without our prayers; we do need to worry about the spiritual kingdom being present in our lives, for it will not come without our prayers!
Do you see how important the distinction? The disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, and the Lord’s Prayer was His response. Why would Jesus tell His disciples to call down an earthly kingdom? It makes no sense; it goes counter to everything He had been teaching! It should be a given that if we are living in the kingdom of God today, that we will inherit the earthly manifestation thereof. The danger is looking forward to entering a kingdom in the future, when ignoring the present invitation. If we get wrapped up in a coming earthly kingdom and obsess over the timing thereof, we will miss the core goodness of the “good news” today.
We are so distracted by the world simply by our fallen human nature; it only makes sense that a great delusion would be that the spiritual nature of the kingdom could be reduced to merely a worldly nature. The nature of the kingdom of God is both now and in the future. We don’t live in the future; we live in the “now”. Am I going out on a limb here to suggest that we focus most of our energies on the present kingdom? If Christians could wake up and seek the true supernatural power of the kingdom “in our midst” or “within” that Jesus teaches us, then the enemy would be shaking in his boots! The power of a life charged with the Holy Spirit is daunting to the enemy, and he has spent all of his existence since the ascension of Christ thwarting our efforts to access the power of heaven. Like I said earlier, never underestimate the enemy. He is crafty! Just look around the world today and notice the ineptitude and powerlessness of the Church; we are crippled by blindness. But sooner than later, Christians will begin to wake up and redefine their understanding of what the kingdom of God really is! Let this book be a reminder of what waits for every person willing to unplug from the illusion and plug into the kingdom life found in the Holy Spirit.
This is the conclusion of Chapter Three in “A Life Unplugged”. To start from the beginning, click here: The Kingdom of God Unplugged. At the end of each post, there will be a similar optoin to continue chronologically.
Please note, the picture at the top of this post is entitled “Waterfall Jesus” by Eirik Johnsen. It is a dynamic image and I have to give props to Eirik!