“We subdue by submitting. We win by losing. We are made grand by making ourselves little. We come in first by becoming last. We are honored by being humble. We fill up with God by emptying out ourselves. We become wise by being fools. We possess all things by having nothing. We wax strong by being weak. We find life by losing ourselves in others. We live by dying.”~ Leonard Sweet
JESUS’ primary message was the Kingdom of God. The word kingdom – ‘basileia’ occurs 154 times in the NT. Jesus wants to share His royal house with us, calling us to live royally as well, regardless of our circumstances and social status.
This focus of Jesus’ message was problematic against the background of the power struggle of rulers in Judea, Galilee and Rome. Yet He is relentless in repeatedly proclaiming and demonstrating His way of kingship. In fact, His way of governing is radically different from that of world rulers. Rulers always try to win the favor of people by making promises, which when they are finally in authority, are not so easy to fulfill. Or in ancient times rulers like the Romans would justify their wars, that if they were in control they would make the world a better place. All these promises never come true.
Jesus immediately makes it better. Jesus heals NOW, feeds the hungry NOW, now fulfills His promises. That’s why it’s a good-news message. Some churches, like the OT Jewish religion, preach a “one-day-soon” message. Jesus preaches a narrow message! God is here now. The kingdom is near! The Christian faith, is the only religion in the world, where you get all the privileges right at the beginning.
Through the ages, governments have come and gone. World powers rise, and later fall into oblivion again. Dictators rule for a time and sow destruction, but this too comes to an end. No evil person can rule forever. No evil organization can exist forever. It is enshrined in the core DNA of creation that everything that is in disharmony destroys itself. Destruction and war rage like fire at last, until there is nothing left to destroy. “The wickedness of the wicked works his own destruction” (Ps. 34:22).
We currently live in a time where a political order dies in less than 40 years, and overnight another takes over. Institutions in which we once placed our trust, such as banks, have faltered with the recent financial crisis. The institutional church that provides security for generations is being questioned. Powerful political parties are dethroned. Climate change means that seasons and weather patterns change. So we are no longer sure of anything! Therefore, now is the time to proclaim again this age-old message that Jesus focused on.
Jesus The King of an Unshakable, Eternal Kingdom
“But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Heb. 1:8-9).
“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.” (Ps. 145:13).
“The Lord shall reign forever—Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord!” (Ps. 146:10).
“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” (Dan. 2:44).
“…whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:26-29).
Governments are supposed to manage resources and people well and right for the benefit of all. Government is about managing a country’s people and resources through policy and legislation. People are now more than ever losing their trust in Government. We have never been so many people on earth, we have never put so much pressure on natural resources.
Jesus’ kingdom message is more than just a beautiful spiritual idyllic dream. His message is practical, and shows us how to organize this world in terms of leadership. It gives clear qualifications for leadership. It gives clear guidelines regarding the economy, that we should all work so that we all have something to give to those in need. It gives us clear guidelines on what is truly valuable and important. It teaches good neighborliness. It teaches us how to maintain healthy relationships. It teaches us how to punish people who do wrong. It makes clear distinction and explains the role of the church versus that of the government. It teaches us how to live healthy. It emphasizes the cornerstone of any healthy community, the family. The list goes on and on. This entire study guide deals with precisely these guidelines and answers for our society.
The Message of the Kingdom Was The Main Theme of Jesus and the Apostles’ Preaching:
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” (Mark 1:14).
“But He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Luke 4:43).
“Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him.” (Luke 8:1).
“But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.” (Luke 9:11).
“Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60).
“But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” (Acts 8:12).
“And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8).
If the whole church were to return to the message and implications of the kingdom, and truly begin to apply and live it, we would see worldwide spiritual, social, and economic revival.
An Upside Down, Upside Down Government and Operating System
The Weak are Full Citizens: “I will make the lame the remnant, the sick die strong nation. I, the Lord, will rule over them on Mount Zion, now and forever. ” (Mic. 4:7).
“For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28).
Maturity Is To Become Like ŉ Child: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus with the question: “Who is the most important in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him and made him stand among them, saying, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever despises himself as this little child, he is the most important in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives such a child in My name, receives Me. ” (Matt. 18:1-35; 5:13; 10:40, 42; Mark. 9:33-50; 10:15; Luk. 9:46-50; 14:34-35; 15:4-7; 17:1-4; 18:17).
If You Want to Live, You Must Die “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me, for whoever wants to keep his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will get it back.” (Matt. 16:24).
We Fight Harder By Resting Harder: As we learn to rest more, we will see more provision, more victory, more revelation and more healing in our lives! (Matt. 11:28).
We Gain More By Giving More: “Remember this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully. ” (2 Cor. 9: 6-10; Gal. 6: 5-6).
We Resist Evil Through the Opposite Spirit: True children of God live according to a divine kingdom operating system. Because we are born of God, we do things differently from the children of the world. We do things in the opposite spirit because either we have or we are dying to ourselves. We love our enemies, we bless those who curse us, and we pray for those who abuse us.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21).
“But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” (Matt. 5:39-40).
“To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.” (Luke 6:29-30).
“And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.” (1 Cor. 4:12-13).
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1).
God’s Kingdom is not a Destination… It’s a Lifestyle
Jesus’ message is a call to think differently about life. Our whole approach to how we see and handle things is very different! “The kingdom of God is in your midst. For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you]. Because God’s kingdom is already among you.” Leo Tolstoy was already elderly when he wrote a book entitled, The Kingdom of God is Within You. “God’s kingdom is within us.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
“…he is our hope and glory.” (Col. 1:27).
God’s Kingdom is Not Buildings and Cathedrals:
A building (Isa. 66: 2-3) – this is the condition of your heart. The parable of the sower (Mark 5). God is not looking for a hotel, a visit, a point of contact, He is looking for a home, a place to live – your heart and life! Nowadays we see more and more how church buildings are sold, and fall into disuse. Although it is important to have a physical place of safety, and a practical meeting place, buildings are becoming less and less important for modern man to practice his or her spirituality. Where I make my heart at home, I make a holy place.
The holiness of my heart affects my physical home, workplace and environment. Recently during a visit to someone’s home we noticed the most beautiful garden. I am reminded of what a beautiful heart the person must have to be able to create something so beautiful. The NT Jesus movement did not center around temples. God created His Eden temple in their hearts, which means people create an Eden wherever they set their feet.
What is the Kingdom?
“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17). In other words, the kingdom is to be right with God. This right position is His gift of grace to us. His justice changes our point of departure. We always start in Him. We start by receiving!
Conditions for Receiving the Kingdom
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3). People are building their own kingdoms, and therefore it is difficult for rich people to realize the value of the kingdom. Our dependence on His guidance, wisdom and power is precisely what unlocks this new way of thinking and acting.
“Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5).
“Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:“Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20).
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:10).
“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19-20).
“Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation (visible display).” (Luke 17:20).
“And said, Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all]..” (Matt. 18:3 – AMP).
“Jesus said to His disciples, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, it is difficult for a rich man [who clings to possessions and status as security] to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19:23 -AMP).
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father [you favored of God, appointed to eternal salvation], inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;” (Matt.25:34-35 – AMP).
“When Jesus saw that he answered thoughtfully and intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one would dare to ask Him any more questions.” (Mark 12:34 -AMP).
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day [when I judge them], ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and driven out demons in Your name, and done many miracles in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them publicly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me [you are banished from My presence], you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’” (Matt. 7:21-26).
“And He said to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life.”. (Luke 18:29-30).
“But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 – AMP).
“Jesus answered him, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless a person is born again [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified], he cannot [ever] see and experience the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 – AMP).
“…strengthening and establishing the hearts of the disciples; encouraging them to remain firm in the faith, saying, “It is through many tribulations and hardships that we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22).
All of these passages point to acts performed in faith that unlock God’s glory in a given situation. God’s glory that was once limited to the Most Holy becomes visible, tangible and real when we endure persecution, give while in poverty, love our enemies, forgive our transgressors and show compassion to someone in need – because we love the Lord above all!
Where Is the Kingdom?
“…nor will people say, ‘Look! Here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For the kingdom of God is among you [because of My presence].” (Luke 17:21). The kingdom cannot be located. The kingdom happens where God’s children do right!
It Is A Spiritual Kingdom
“Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world [nor does it have its origin in this world]. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would be fighting [hard] to keep Me from being handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36 – AMP).
“For the kingdom of God is not based on talk but on power.” (1 Cor. 4:20 AMP).
“Now I say this, believers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit nor be part of the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (mortal) inherit the imperishable (immortal).” (1 Cor. 15:50- AMP).
Some teach that we should take over governments, that we should establish Christian governments. We will devote an entire chapter to this topic, but let me put it this way: We are called to have as individuals in every sphere of life a Jesus-influenced influence, such as Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, and many others, the prophets who had access to the kings. But we are not called to form a Christian government: It has been proven time and time again that these political so-called Christian systems of government have damaged the name and glory of God. We must, like a Billy Graham, stick to our work as a church, turn our hearts to God, and then influence governments to govern right. In this study guide you will discover, God does not choose sides. Should individuals enter politics? Sure! Pray to become a faithful president? Sure! But he cannot use His power to force people to adopt the faith.
How Do I Know I Am In The Kingdom?
“Peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17). The proof that these are not just empty philosophies is the peace and joy that God works in our hearts in spite of our circumstances.
What Do I Receive As A Kingdom Citizen?
How Do I Receive the Kingdom?
“But to the one who does not work [that is, the one who does not try to earn his salvation by doing good], but believes and completely trusts in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God).” (Rom. 4:5).
“For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].” (Eph. 2:8-9 AMP).
“But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name—.” (John 1:12).
Sola Christos (Christ alone).
Sola Pistos (Faith alone).
Everything is a gift, which I must receive and appropriate for myself. Growing up as an orphan to make him or herself part of the new home their adoptive parents are offering them. Thus we must receive God’s gift of righteousness and childhood and make it our own.
What Is The True Meaning Of “Take The Kingdom By Force”?
“I assure you and most solemnly say to you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater [in privilege] than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violent assault, and violent men seize it by force [as a precious prize]. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied up until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is [the fulfillment of] Elijah [as the messenger] who was to come [before the kingdom]. He who has ears to hear, let him hear and heed My words. But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like little children sitting in the market places, who call to the others, and say ‘We piped the flute for you [playing wedding], and you did not dance; we wailed sad dirges [playing funeral], and you did not mourn and cry aloud.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking [with others], and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking [with others], and they say, ‘Look! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners [including non-observant Jews]!’ Yet wisdom is justified and vindicated by her deeds [in the lives of those who respond to Me].” (Matt. 11:11-19) AMP.
“by force”: βιαστής biastḗs; gen. biastoú, masc. Noun from biázō (971), to suffer violence, but also to catch up or push in without proper thought and remorse. A violent person, one who uses violence, but also someone who is in a hurry to seize something that looks good without measuring the consequences of such an action
ἁρπάζω harpázō; fut. harpásō, aor. achieve. hērpásthēn, 2d aor. achieve. hērpágēn. To seize, spoil, flee away. It indicates an open act of violence as opposed to cunning and secret stealing, which means grabbing, hiding or taking for yourself.
So the focus of this verse is not how hard you work to storm the kingdom by force. When God the Father gives His kingdom as a gift (Luke 12:32) through the preaching of the Word and the demonstration of the Spirit (1 Cor. 4:20), for it has come near (Matt. 4:17), you have to grab it. Make it your own! Like a thief taking something that does not belong to him. We also did not deserve the kingdom and gift, so the idea is to seize it, take possession, claim it for yourself.
“But how shall I compare this generation?” In Matt. 11:16-19 speaks of children who can not decide which song to sing and which game to play. Neither John nor Jesus could get them to make a decision. The one fasted, the other not. The lament is reminiscent of John’s preaching of judgment and harsh lifestyle, repentance to repentance (3:2). The playing of the flute stands for Jesus’ proclamation of the gospel, the dance of joy that brings His message. But in reality, “this generation” rejects both John and Jesus (verses 18-19a). The kingdom is therefore not possessed by religion and rituals. Like children getting bored with a game, religion does not satisfy the searching heart.
The divinity of Christ’s nature and righteousness must be taken, received as a gift, and we must do so quickly (John 1:12; Rom. 13:11; 2 Cor. 6:2). Over the years, I have been disappointed many times with people’s decay to sin while sitting under sound word preaching. It is unthinkable how they see with their own eyes, miracles and signs, and even experience God’s presence and still choose sin. The Holy Spirit answered me one day: The invitation to put on the robe of Jesus’ righteousness is for all, but few people put on Him. (Col. 3:10).
We struggle to get it right: Felix could not come to a decision (Acts 24: 22-27). Neither did Agrippa: “You almost persuaded me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28).
“But wisdom is justified by her children.” (Matt.11: 19). Yet wisdom is justified, and justified by what she does (her deeds) and her children. Yes, the test for wisdom is the result it produces. Wisdom, God’s designated way, is honored and demonstrated in the lifestyles of both John and Jesus. Despite the great differences in their conduct, each was faithful to God’s assigned task. Ultimately, the kingdom citizen is unmistakable, and their way of life contrasts with the world in virtually every respect. See more about the “Red Letter Christians” movement where people around the world want to define themselves in terms of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.