So, where is this kingdom of God? On earth? Let’s hear what Jesus said about it. When Pilate questions Jesus during his trial, Jesus states, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, my kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36). Later, Paul while writing to the Corinthians, says, “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 15:50). So, clearly the kingdom of God is not of this world and is not of flesh and blood.
Jesus introduces his ‘kingdom’ in the gospel accounts. The gospels unhesitatingly proclaim Jesus as king over his kingdom. In the gospels the disciples are sent; and what are they instructed by Jesus to do? “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt 10:7–8). The supernatural work of healing, driving out demons and raising the dead is the sign that the kingdom is ‘coming near’.
Paul in his writings definitively states that those who are washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God will inherit the kingdom of God. It is yet to come. It is at the sounding of the seventh trumpet in Revelation, when the angel finally declares that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever”(Rev 11:15). As long as we are in this earthly tent we live ‘in the world’, and by virtue of being born again are ‘in his kingdom’. The kingdom will be fully unveiled when we are with him. It is only at the last trumpet that the king unites both the kingdoms.
Feeling guilty because you want to go to heaven?
Wanting to go to heaven—is it a bad thing? Then Paul was evidently guilty of this crime. He declares: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Phil 1:21–23). Paul was very clear that his greatest desire was to be with Christ (which is heaven), and that was better by far.
The ones who made (and are making) the greatest contributions in society were those who were the most heaven-minded. Because they saw this world only as a temporary abode, they were willing to forsake earthly comforts, ambitions and goals to be a blessing to the people around them. They knew that their citizenship was in heaven, so they could risk losing their possessions, sacrificing their desires, giving up their safety and security to be assured of the promised eternal reward. This led to genuine selfless service.
As C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, ‘A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.’
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast and immovable. Always excel in the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor 15:58).
(Originally published on the author’s blog: https://bit.ly/3D5PO0p)