“The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘there it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
These words of Jesus were in response to a question from the Pharisees of when the kingdom of God would come.
There is a common notion among many Christians that the kingdom of God is only to be experienced after death. Yes, if we abide in God and seek to do his will, there is a heaven that awaits us upon our passing from this life, a resurrection that follows, and an eternal life with the Father in a new creation.
But so much of what Jesus said to his disciples and the people of his day exhorted them to do something with this life in order to advance the creation that God had inaugurated and Jesus had redeemed.
Jesus gave us a model prayer that has as its first petition a request for the kingdom of God to come on this earth here and now, as it is in heaven – “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt. 6:10)
Many of Jesus’ parables which are about this life describe what the kingdom of God is like:
- The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows from the smallest seed or effort into a worldwide movement. (Mt. 13:31)
- The Kingdom God is like the leaven of yeast, a small number of Christians impacting the larger dough of the world. (Mt. 13:33)
- The kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field, leading us to give up everything to acquire the field. (Mt. 13:44)
Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) Through the Father and Jesus living in us, we have the opportunity to experience the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control), and share that fruit with others. (Galatians 5:22-23)
A few years ago I learned that a particular friend had lost his wife to cancer. While speaking to someone who has just lost a loved one can be awkward, I felt like the Holy Spirit was nudging me to go see him. When he came to the door, I said, “I came to give you a hug.” We hugged and he invited me in. He appeared to be all alone. For the next hour, I listened to him talk about the last few months of his wife’s suffering, the last few hours of her life, and of all the support he had received from friends, his pastor and medical personnel. I listened as he reminisced about their life together.
My time with him, as well as the subsequent funeral celebrating her life, was an example of the reality of the kingdom of God here and now.
How do you experience the kingdom of God here and now?