THE MESSAGE OF THE KINGDOM
The kingdom of God is the new era that Jesus Christ came to inaugurate. The good news is this that God has moved His residence to be with people—Emmanuel. When He moves in He brings with Him His life, His purposes and His laws—kingdom life-style.
Natural And Spiritual Kingdoms
Every nation has its culture, values and accepted life-style. Its government has specific laws for various activities and social life. These keep on changing, but some laws are applicable to all at all times. Whenever a new law is to be introduced, the parliament has to meet, discuss and a corporate decision taken. Sometimes it takes months and years. This new law will be made known to all through the gazette. Then all will be bound by it. Till then it is not a law and there is no penalty for breaking it. When we go from one country to another, we have to obey the rules of that country. We just cannot ignore it and talk about our ignorance.
We are born into a specific country and we are citizens by birth. I am an Indian by birth and both my parents are Indian. I have certain rights and privileges as a citizen including some responsibilities. I am expected to live by certain rules—social, family and civic. I am also expected to contribute towards my nation. I have some fundamental rights. I can fight for my rights. I also have a responsibility to my country, but usually we do not talk about this much and we all try to avoid it. This citizenship by birth is not a choice I make; it is natural. I can later adopt a new country, in which case I may have to renounce my previous citizenship. The other country has to be satisfied with me. It is not easy to become a citizen of another country. Very few countries offer dual citizenship.
Spiritually there are two kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom that is not of this world and the kingdom that is of this world. To start with, we all belong to the kingdom of the world, which is controlled by the evil one. We are born into it and we confirm and conform to its life-style. Here the devil owns us. We are his slaves. We are not free to come out of this kingdom. It is always winter here. So much of life is artificial; it is polluted, corrupted and dark. All the good that we do has shades of grey around it. Independence and self-seeking are the mottos of this kingdom. Everybody wants to do his or her own thing. The lord of this kingdom is called the god of this age. He has blinded the eyes of all so that we do not see our real condition. We are sick and we live in a perpetual condition of death. In fact, we accumulate death as the wages. Everyday our negative wages and negative life increase. Ultimately we die-removed from the possibility of life. It is not biological life we are talking about, but spiritual-a life of living in fullness.
The devil has got the whole of humanity under his control. We all have a memory of freedom. In the olden days, when a powerful nation invaded another country, defeated it, made slaves of those people and took them to an alien country, those people kept their dreams of going back to a life of freedom alive through songs and stories. But, after a few generations, the children of the slaves forget that they are slaves. They get so used to this life and only when they experience some personal discrimination or loss of privileges, they become aware of an awakening and a desire for something better. They try to find out their origin and plan to return home.
The Journey Home
To recognise that we are ruled by a wrong power, we are slaves, and there is freedom and a place called home is the beginning of the journey back home. We are awakened to a desire to be free, to break away from slavery. We become aware that help is needed for this freedom and someone has to set us free. It is a step that will bring the new beginning. This kingdom of darkness is like a maximum-security prison. This can be very depressing. How long can we go with a wishful thinking of freedom? So many try to organise themselves within the prison to keep the sanity and fun, somehow to survive life within this kingdom. All religious activities are basically a self-help programme trying to cope with slavery and accept an illusion of freedom within the prison walls. Some of the well-behaved prisoners are given some amount of apparent freedom from the routine. They become supervisors and they spy on others, but the reality is that all are in the prison. Every attempt to break away is spoilt by the lord of the prison and his puppets. In the prison, no one can be trusted. The suffering and pain do not make sense. There is destruction and suspicion all around. There is no real justice or fairness. Many people have more power and say in day-to-day affairs. For some, this is a friendly place, but everyday they are reminded about their destiny to live in the darkness. An illusion of heaven is created through various activities and gives a sense of immortality. Many numb their deep longings through addictive life-style and become captives of their own choices. Yes, in spite of all these, there is a longing to be rescued and freed.
Before we can be rescued, the lord of the prison has to be defeated. There has to be a war and war has rules. The strong man has to be chained and weakened before his goods can be plundered. The Lord of heaven sent His Son to be the commander-in-chief to invade the enemy territory. He could have used force to defeat the evil power and free us. Then the idea of power would be exalted and worshipped. He demanded freedom for all the people. But the devil wanted something in return. That is the ransom, one for all. The Father gave His permission to His Son to be the ransom, and the story of salvation evolved.
The Land Of Freedom
Now we are brought to the land of freedom. It is a different story like the story of the Hebrews under the leadership of Moses. Moses used various miracles to weaken the powers of Pharaoh and of the mini gods of Egypt. Ultimately, the death of the first-born broke the power of Pharaoh and he let the people go. But when God enacted the real exodus for the human race, He did it differently. He instructed His Son, the perfect Man, to reclaim what the enemy took illegally, through acts of miracles, not as a destructive power but as an expression of compassion. Finally, God allowed His first born, representing all the children of human race, to be sacrificed on the cross by the evil power and its allies. There was a great reversal on that day. All the power strategies of the world and the devil were reversed on the cross, making it possible to see the real heart of God. Not all the Hebrews loved Moses or recognised his authority. Most of them rebelled and lost out in the wilderness without tasting freedom. They had too much of Egypt in them.
Our Problem Too
But God continues to extend the grace period till an appointed time. Every today is a day of salvation to anyone to enter the kingdom of God. Life here starts with faith and empowering. Both are God’s gifts. Slowly and steadily, the life in the kingdom is unfolded.
The defeated enemy is also active side by side. Man’s old habits and patterns of behaviour so easily come back in daily interactions. In the kingdom of darkness, we all develop some degree of brain damage. The way we think and feel are affected. Our walk and talk are distorted. We have many illusions and delusions. So we need serious rehabilitation. The Spirit of God so patiently works in us to bring about changes. This change and progress can be slow, but God has promised to complete what He started in man’s life. Every little improvement brings joy and celebration in heaven. Our refusal to give in to the suggestions of the devil is the only way to further weaken him. We also need to learn the new life-style by putting off the old habits and taking on new habits. Help is available from God’s Spirit and fellow citizens of the new kingdom towards this transformation. Grace is given to say ‘Yes’ to God and His ways and ‘No’ to self and evil on a daily basis. We have enough reasons to embrace this new kingdom life style.
Jesus told various parables to explain the great reversal. He also gave explicit instructions about this life and added a blessing to those who dare to walk in it. His thinking is contrary to the way we have been thinking. He promises joy and peace that cannot be taken away in any situation. He also promises His presence through thick and thin. He talked about eternal life and unimaginable surprises at the end. We are enrolled in God’s school. This new school of learning, growing and maturing as God’s beloved children is called the Church. Many times this school is not what it should be. Yet God has not given us an alternative. Church is also invaded by the evil power which has corrupted it. We have a responsibility to reclaim all that has been distorted by evil. In this school we learn the language of love and learn to talk and relate to one another in a new life-giving way. It is hard sometimes to choose the loving way when the immediate option is the opposite. But the joy of every little movement towards loving, gives us more reason to go on. As we enjoy this life, the enemy is crouching at the door to trap us and make us feel discouraged. He has many schemes and we are called to resist his voice and deception. He also put lots of doubts about the trustworthiness of God and woos us to resolve our needs and problems in a worldly way. The Word of God gives us instructions for daily life and also gives us a peep into life in the dark. The Word is full of stories of people in both the camps. We are encouraged to take our role models from those who chose life.
Rest In The Kingdom
The message of the new kingdom is REST—entering into a deep sense of contentment. It is an outcome of knowing that God has done all that is needed to be done for us and for mankind. It is a message to rejoice and embrace peace. It is a message to look at God and say ‘Daddy’ and see His smile. It is a message to live out love and all it means. It is a message to walk with dignity as children of a living God and face the enemy with courage and determination. It is a message to become agents of reconciliation and reflect the heart of God. It is a message of hope that can redeem all that is negative and destructive and brings eternity as a gift to all. It is a message that values the power of personal choices and waits in anticipation till the end.
This message is personified in history in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This message can find a home in anyone’s life by saying ‘yes’ to Jesus Christ and welcoming His Spirit to dwell and take control of one’s life. There is no greater message than this in the whole world.