Category Archives: The Kingdom of God

The Singularity of the Kingdom of God

e05a5527e0b416c53c47620c731f931cWhen considering kingdoms, we tend to think of nations, or groups of people in a collective sense.  Yet, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “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 17:21) 

The kingdom of God is not visible in the same way a worldly kingdom is with a king and his subjects located in a defined geographic area.  The kingdom of God is also different in that membership is determined by individual choice instead of residence or citizenship.  The Individual chooses whether he or she wants to be a part of God’s kingdom.  God gives individuals complete freedom to choose or reject his kingdom.

Jesus had a lot to say about the kingdom of God and used the parables to explain what the kingdom is like.  He tells us the kingdom has great value, like a fine pearl or treasure, and we should be willing to give everything we have to attain it.  He says it can grow from the tiniest desire similar to a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds into the largest of plants.  It can coexist with evil like good seed planted in a field where weeds also grow.  God’s kingdom, whether one individual or many, can impact the world around it like a small amount of yeast impacts a large amount of dough. (Mt. 13:1-36)

Jesus tells Nicodemus that no one can see or enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again of water and spirit.  A spiritual rebirth is necessary.

So, the kingdom of God is wherever there are individuals who accept God’s offer to dwell in them through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  The Church, the successor to Jesus and the apostles, facilitates the growth of the kingdom of God through the sacraments and its many forms of outreach.

Yet, like all of creation and physical matter that is made up of countless single parts called atoms, the kingdom of God starts with individuals making a decision to accept God’s offer to dwell within them.

Thus, the kingdom can be present through an individual or a collection of individuals.  The Church, of course, reflects the collective kingdom of God, but more often the kingdom is quietly reflected in the actions of individual Christians showing their love of God through their love and service to others in countless ways.

A few months ago I visited a friend of more than forty years who has always reflected the kingdom of God.  Her love of God and her constant joy played a part in my own spiritual rebirth many years ago.  Though her body is now incapacitated by a stroke and confined to a wheel chair, her beautiful smile still reflects the joy and amazing grace of the Lord and the kingdom of God.

God’s Kingdom – Promise or Reality

When will the kingdom of God come?  

The Pharisees asked Jesus this same question and his response was, “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)

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)

Jesus says when we are “born again” (accept Jesus as the Son of God)and “born of water and spirit” (baptized), we enter the kingdom of God. (John 3:3, 5)  Most of Jesus’ parables illustrating the kingdom of God instruct us how to live now, not after we get to heaven.

  • The kingdom is like a mustard seed that grows from the smallest seed into the largest of plants.
  • The Kingdom is like the leaven of yeast, a small amount impacts the larger dough of the world.
  • The kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field, leading us to give all to buy the field.

Jesus says if we love him and obey his teaching, the Father will love us and both the Father and Jesus will make their home with us. (John 14:23) Through their residence in us, we have the opportunity to experience the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23), and share that fruit with others.

Not long 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.”  He appeared to be all alone and invited me in.  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.   

When Will the Kingdom of God Come?

This is a question people have been asking for centuries, starting with the apostles.   One of the problems we have with this question is that our minds immediately think in terms of earthly kingdoms with geographic locations headed by someone who is a king.  The other problem is that people sometimes mix the subjects of the coming of the kingdom of God and the second coming of Jesus.

The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, and he gave a surprising answer.  “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)  In other words, we won’t be able to physically observe a kingdom as a location with geographic boundaries, because the kingdom that Jesus is talking about is within us.  Its geography is our heart, our soul – our inner being.

Jesus gives added understanding of this verse in the Gospel of John when he 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 14:10) If we love God and obey his teaching, God and Jesus will take up residence in us.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, God draws us closer to him each day. We desire to be in his presence, we seek to know him more through prayer and scripture, and to participate in the sacraments if we a part of a sacramental church.

The fruit of the Spirit becomes evident in our lives.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are the visible signs that the kingdom has come. (Galatians 5:22-23)  When we love the people in our lives, showing patience, kindness and gentleness; when we are faithful to God, showing goodness and self-control, the Kingdom of God is in us.

Might not this be the kingdom Jesus is talking about when he instructed the disciples how to pray?   “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”   In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for the coming of God’s kingdom in us and that his will be accomplished through us.

As earthly kingdoms experience the rise of enemies with whom they have to do battle, so also does God’s kingdom in us have to do battle with God’s enemy, the devil.  He constantly strives to lure us away from God’s kingdom into his kingdom.  But God equips us for this spiritual battle with his word, the Holy Spirit and the supporting allies of other kingdoms residing in our brothers and sisters in Christ and the Church.

When will the Kingdom of God come?  When we love Jesus, obey his teaching and invite the Father and Jesus to make their home in us.