The most important teaching of Jesus concerned the Kingdom of God. Anything that Jesus said about life in the gospel record is either directly or indirectly in reference to the Kingdom of God. Jesus first and ongoing message was Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 4:17). According to Jesus, the pursuit of the Kingdom of God is the priority of your life. Matthew 6:33 is not just lyrical content to an old song from youth camp. In the heart of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed, Seek first the kingdom… (Matthew 6:33). If the Kingdom is to be our priority, we need to understand what it’s all about.
It’s helpful to understand the Kingdom in two respects. First, the Kingdom is rule. It is the authority to rule, the sovereign right of a king to reign. Thus, the kingdom of God is his kingship, his rule, his authority.
The Kingdom is also a realm in which God’s reign is experienced. The Kingdom of God is the extent and range of his effective will. It is the place where what he wants done is done. The person of God himself and the actions of his will are the organizing principles of his kingdom. Everything that obeys those principles by nature or by choice is within his kingdom.
In Luke 17:20a, the Pharasees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” In this encounter, the Pharisees were inquiring about a future coming which would be obvious and unmistakable. They were seeking a geo-political kingdom that would resemble Israel and the throne of David from old. They were asking about the Kingdom of God, but in their minds they were thinking of the restoration of the Kingdom of David. They were looking for the wrong thing in the wrong way.
Jesus responded to their question in Luke 17:20b-21, The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you. Jesus said that the Kingdom they were seeking was already “among you.” Literally the text reads, it’s “in your midst.” (This is a better translation that the KJV or the NIV, which reads “within you.”) The Pharisees were looking for a Kingdom that was already standing before them. But they couldn’t see it and they didn’t get it.
The kingdom has come – the reign of Jesus is here. His presence represents its arrival. The Kingdom is an inward reality, not an outward institution. It cannot be brought about by human effort or initiative. The kingdom is active and operable even without our acknowledgement.
Therefore, when we pray Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we are not asking for something future to take place. We are asking for our eyes to be opened to the reality of the reign of God right now.
Don’t get me wrong, the Kingdom of God has both present and future dimensions. There is certainly a tension between now and not yet. But my concern is that we’re written off too much of now into the not yet of the future kingdom and that like the Pharisees, are missing something under our very noses.
Next time I’ll unpack a little more about the nature of the present Kingdom.