What the Kingdom of God is Not
So, what is the Kingdom of God
? Well, before we dig for more truth about the Kingdom, let's establish what the Kingdom of God is not
The Kingdom of God is not of
Jesus testified before Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence"
(John 18:36). Jesus willingly laid down His life because He knew the reality of a heavenly Kingdom. His disciples, too, later suffered and died for the Gospel's sake, "not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection"
(Hebrews 11:35). Their testimonies can help strengthen our faith — for, as Paul said, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable"
(I Corinthians 15:19). There is an eternal Kingdom awaiting those who love the Lord, a Kingdom which which cannot be shaken (see Hebrews 12:28-29).
Like a light which penetrates and overtakes darkness, God's heavenly Kingdom exposes evil and purges sin. This is why the world hates
Jesus Christ, rejects
His Kingdom, and despises
His message. John 3:19 says, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
To the world, the concept of a poor, devout Jewish "criminal" who allowed Himself to be brutally executed on a bloody cross is ridiculous, and the concept of a glorious resurrection three days later is absurd. But to those who are being saved
, the message of the cross is the power and wisdom of God. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that
perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God"
(I Corinthians 1:18).
The devil and his minions know that the cross and empty grave of Christ is their defeat (Colossians 2:15) and that their time is short (Revelation 12:12). As long as the powers of darkness rule this present world, their violent hatred
will continue to rage against Jesus and His followers. (See Acts 7:54-60 and 19:23-29 for some examples of demonic rage.) Some Christians will suffer and die for Christ's sake, and "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution"
(II Timothy 3:12).
But Jesus comforted His disciples with these words: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you"
(John 15:18-19). We can testify, just as Jesus did, that our Kingdom is not of this world (see I Timothy 6:13).
The Kingdom of God is
not observed with natural
When the Jews demanded to know when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered them, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, 'Lo here!' or, 'lo there!' For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you"
(Luke 17:20-21). The Jews expected their Messiah to come as a conquering ruler to obliterate Roman oppression (see Luke 19:11). They did not understand that the Kingdom of God had to work unseen in the hearts of people. Jesus said, "Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof"
(Matthew 21:43). Since Jesus came to the Jews as a sacrificial Lamb, most of them rejected Him as their Messiah and the Gospel spread to the Gentiles.
There is a strong spiritual delusion over the hearts and minds of many people today, "that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness"
(II Thessalonians 2:10-12). This is a sobering word, for those who harden their hearts (Acts 28:27) and sear their consciences by taking pleasure in sin will one day have no more chances to repent
and turn toward the mercy of God.
How, then, does a person perceive the Kingdom of God? The Bible tells us: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling ..."
(Ephesians 1:17-18). Indeed, the Kingdom of God is now comprehended only by faith
through the spiritual sight
of a person's heart (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
The Kingdom of God is not
prosperous by the world's
Sorry to say, those "Christian prosperity" teachers out there are preaching another gospel. God's Kingdom does not delight in worldly wealth because earthly riches
are a stumblingblock to entering the Kingdom (see Proverbs 10:22; James 5:1-5). Paul said in I Timothy 6:9-10, "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
Without a doubt, a rich man will find it very hard to go through the strait gate
with all his stuff. Does this mean that a rich man cannot enter the Kingdom of God
? Certainly not, for with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:16-26). But since a rich man
cannot serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24), he must be willing and ready to lay it all down for the sake of the Kingdom, and he must not trust in his riches (see Matthew 10:37-38; Mark 10:24; I Timothy 6:17). Consider the example of Jesus: "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich [in heavenly riches], yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich [in heavenly riches]"
(II Corinthians 8:9).
Can God bless His people with earthly prosperity? Of course He can, and many times He does. But such blessings should always be held loosely. We must not set our hearts on material blessings
(Proverbs 23:4-5). Like Paul, we should count "all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus"
(Philippians 3:8), for our greatest treasure is Christ.
The fact is, God's people have often been regarded throughout history as pilgrims and strangers
in this world because they sought a heavenly country (Psalm 39:12; Hebrews 11:13). Moses, for instance, chose "rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward"
(Hebrews 11:25-26). Ultimately, it is the poor
who are rich in faith
(James 2:5), and faith
is "much more precious" than gold which perishes (I Peter 1:7).
The Kingdom of God is not
According to Acts 11:26, a Christian
is a disciple of Jesus. But the word Christianity
appears nowhere in Scripture; it is a term that is often used loosely (and sometimes shamefully) to encompass a wide diversity of beliefs about Jesus and the Bible.
It might come as a surprise to learn that neither Jesus nor the apostles ever tried to convert anyone to Christianity; they consistently lived for and preached only the Kingdom of God
. Many people erroneously assume that Christianity is the Kingdom of God, but as you can see from the chart
below, the two are actually at great odds
with each other. The former is built on the traditions and religious beliefs of men; the latter is built on God's authority and divine power as revealed in His Word.