Deep in the sand and muddy waters half a man reflects off the surface of the Jordan River. With fists in the air and a loud voice announcing repentance for all, this prophet reminding everyone of Elijah and his friends way back in history took people under the water, proclaiming at the same time, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” This strange creature who lived in the desert, eating the delicacies of the wilderness, locusts and honey, like a madman in the darkest night called for repentance because the Messiah had arrived.
Isaiah prophesied about this very event! He proclaimed that the way should be made straight for the Lord’s coming, for the Messiah. The straight way calls people to righteousness through repentance and humility. John the Baptist did not fit the mold of the temple priest like his father. He blazed his own trail without institutional affiliations. He was not a fixed star, but a chaotic explosion. This in itself characterizes the Kingdom of God.
Another man, cut from the same cloth as John the Baptist was not as strange, but still uniquely discharged His ministry. One day as the wacky John the Baptist continued to shout about repentance and God’s Kingdom, this man came, and he immediately sensed the purpose of his life coming to its zenith. John understood this man was inaugurating God’s Kingdom. In a solemn wilderness pool Jesus was baptized by His forerunner, and the Kingdom of God began its move.
Taking this phrase as it stands, one might think that it is quite archaic. But a closer analysis of kingdom’s meaning brings clarity. Kingdom is a place of rule, where a sovereign king has jurisdiction and authority. This can be by force, as in the Medieval Ages, or by a kind King. A kingdom is a designated governance by someone over a group of people. It can become political, social, economic, spiritual, or whatever category humans enjoy making. But we must also be careful not to limit the Kingdom of God to these. For sure, God is the Sovereign King of His Kingdom, His domain. So where is God’s domain? Where does He rule?
God’s kingdom is wrapped up in one Founder, but also in his vision and work in each of His disciples. The Kingdom of God was inaugurated by Jesus. Jesus is the Kingdom, which is why He could proclaim that the Kingdom of God has arrived (Matt 4:17, Mark 1:15, where the verb for “coming at hand” is the perfect tense, meaning its action continues to this day). But what’s it like to be in his Kingdom?
Is the Kingdom a place, a physical location? Is it an idea or a dream? Scholars and theologians around the world discuss these points. Different Christian groups tend to put their own identity and nature on God’s Kingdom. This is why I say God’s kingdom is not tied to any institution, but rather to a Person.
Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom, characterizing it as something that would have surprised the religious leaders in His time. The Kingdom of God viewed by them was synonymous with the Day of Judgment, the Day of the Lord. But this is not what Jesus preached in total. The Day of the Lord will finalize the Kingdom, but it was not the Kingdom. Jesus read out of the Isaiah scroll, letting Isaiah proclaim the characteristics of the Kingdom. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Kingdom because through Him literally His sacrifice on the cross and the ministry released God’s kingdom on earth.
But what’s God’s kingdom look like according to Isaiah? He says the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord controls the Kingdom. He will come upon people, anointing (setting apart for the Lord’s service). The Kingdom comes through spoken and active proclamation of God’s good news. God’s Kingdom influences the poor, captives, and people on the fringe. His kingdom is for the humble who bow to God’s reign in them.
God’s kingdom rests not only in the Person of Jesus. He demonstrated the kingdom throughout his ministry. His kingdom is the opposite of the world’s label for kingdoms. The Beatitudes marked the character of the kingdom’s citizens. Its power lies in human meekness and obedience. It’s about humble surrender to God’s will. It’s not about outward righteousness only, but inward holiness. We need to please God and follow the Spirit. His kingdom starts in the human soul and is enacted around us. It spreads from the inside to the outside one person at a time.
The Beatitudes mark the character of Kingdom citizens. Further in the message, Jesus challenges the people who understand the subversive nature of this Kingdom that its power lays in human weakness and obedience. This is the time where God can fully reign in His people, when they humbly surrender to His will.
When people practice not just outward holiness, but inward righteousness, to not follow the letter of the Law but the Spirit inside their hearts who glorifies and pleases God, then they are in God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God starts on the inside of the human soul and is enacted in our surroundings. The Kingdom is first internal, and then external through service out of love for our King.
God’s kingdom dwells in the human heart. God influences each of us. It spreads through influence, service, word, and deed. The kingdom violently takes back the darkness with its light. It opposes wickedness of all kinds. It concerns attitudes and intentions, motives and thoughts. These leak out into our hands and lips. God’s kingdom is an invisible army of his righteous people.
Since Jesus arrived on the scene, God’s kingdom has been taking back those lost to the enemy. We subvert the world’s systems through ignoring pride in choosing humility, love, and service.. We pass God’s message and good news. God’s kingdom comes in a cup of cold water given to a parched soul in Jesus’ name. It comes through deliverance and the reversal of the curse, and breaking down barriers. It operates in the midst of the devil’s playground. It brings a message of freedom, site for the blind, and God’s gifts.
When the Day of the Lord comes, the kingdom will have its physical home. In his second coming, the Anointed One will touch down upon this earth and administer the kingdom. He will rule with goodness, righteousness, and holiness. Although humanity will reject his role in large numbers, he will fulfill every prophecy and the kingdom will be everywhere. To you secret agents of the explosive kingdom of light, I leave this challenge, this call to arms against the forces of wickedness around us. You are not alone. God has a great army. The enemy’s propaganda is weak compared to God’s kingdom message. God calls us to rise up and service kingdom. We teach our neighbors about God’s grace, mercy, and power. His life-changing message is for them. The kingdom has come!