Editorial: September 2011
KINGDOM OF GOD
When Jesus said that His Kingdom was not of this worl (Jn.18:36), He meant that His rule was not derived from earthly authority, but from God, and that His Kingdom would manifest itself in accordance with the divine purpose. Kingship in the political sense must be supported by power, but spiritual kingship needs no such aid. The royalty of the world is not generally linked to the idea of truth. Spiritual realities were unintelligible to Pilate. That is the reason why Pilate was asking, "What is truth?"
The kingdoms of the world are under satanic control (Matt.4:8; Lk.4:5). This opposition between the two kingdoms is summarised in God's Word. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see "the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2Cor.4:4). Satan is called the god of this age and is seen to exercise his rule by holding men in darkness. As the prince of this world (Jn.14:30), Satan is permitted by God to have a certain amount of control over its kingdoms. God had promised these kingdoms to Christ (Psa. 2:6-9). But He would have to die on the cross to gain this Kingdom. Ultimately, the world does not belong to the devil; he is a mere squatter and encroacher. To bow to his will is incompatible with worshipping and serving God (Deut. 6:13). God remains the King of the ages (1Tim.1:17; Rev.15:3). The redeemed have already been delivered from the power of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Christ (Col.1:13). His cross causes Jesus Christ to stand head and shoulders above any other person in history. His authority is not of human origin. There is no place for use of force in His Kingdom. Christ's reign means the destruction of all hostile powers.
As the god of this world and prince of the power of the air (Eph.2:2), Satan does exercise sway over earthly kingdoms, although as a usurper. For Christ to bow before Satan, when He was tempted, would have been to acknowledge the devil's lordship. Such an offer invited Jesus' direct rebuke. Jesus repulsed the mighty blows of Satan, not by a thunderbolt from heaven, but by the written Word of God, employed in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. This is available to every Christian.
Soon after Jesus' baptism, He was tempted by Satan. This was His private initiation into the ministry of His Kingdom. The devil then "left Him until an opportune time" (Lk.4:13). Martin Luther was once asked, "What is the most important preparation a man needs for the ministry?" He replied, "Temptation." "What is the second most important?" Again he answered, "Temptation." When asked for the third time, he gave the same reply, "Temptation." We may list some other factors as being more essential, but no one acquainted with Christian life can doubt that testing is very necessary for preparation. A piece of steel must be carefully tested before it can serve as the mainspring of a watch. A man must be thoroughly tested in the crucible of temptation before he can become a good citizen of the Kingdom. Only tempered steel can stand the strain. Jesus had to confront opposition from His enemies and misunderstanding from His friends. So, before entering the public arena, He was tested in private. He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Similarly, the Holy Spirit brings the obedient child of God through dark tunnels, through roaring storms, through deep waters, through thick forests and over desert plains, before he becomes useful for the Kingdom.
Born of humble parents in a carpenter's family in Bethlehem, Jesus lived a simple life and chose His disciples from a weaker section of society-poor fishermen. Jesus became a wonder for the spiritual revolution against an imperial establishment and corrupt priestly order. Judas Iscariot betrayed his Master for thirty pieces of silver. The barbarity of those treacherous days exists even today, in magnified malignancy.
Jesus' magnificent teaching about the Kingdom constituted a revolt against Roman imperialism. He stood for a higher culture, free from crass materialism and greed. He resisted Jewish ecclesiastical domination and opposed discrimination of any kind.
Jesus proclaimed the reality of a universal moral order. He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was within them. He outraged the hypocrites who were doing their business inside the temples. He drove them out daringly. Jesus resisted the commercialisation of God. Now, right in front of our eyes, our churches are centres of big business. "Ungodly men have crept in unnoticed" into the churches. They are manipulating the churches and Christian organisations for political and commercial ends. The members have no part in the decision-making process, directly or indirectly.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5, 6, 7) can be designated as the Magna Charta of the Kingdom. It is the Christians' "working philosophy of life." The Beatitudes set forth the true nature of the subjects of the Kingdom. These are poor in spirit, pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted, the meek, the merciful, those who are mourning, and the ones who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Righteousness means a life fully conformed to the will of God in thought, word, worship and act. These virtues are far different from those usually stressed by the world.
Christianity has often been accused of promising "pie in the sky when you die-great is your reward in heaven.” Against this accusation, we should know that the Kingdom of God is not only a pleasant prospect, but also a present possession. To know Christ is to enjoy the Kingdom here and now. The hope of a future reward is a perfectly justifiable incentive for righteous living.
As citizens of the heavenly commonwealth, Christians are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Christ's followers are to add tone to life and zest to living, just as salt provides flavour to food. The Church is the moon to reflect the light of the Son of God into the face of a darkened world.
The law of retaliation calls for an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. Used of man, justice refers to the right rule, right conduct, or to each getting his due, whether good or bad. But a citizen of the Kingdom lets God handle the situation justly and enjoins the higher law of non-retaliation. God institutes righteous laws and establishes just rewards and penalties. The Christian is not to strike back. Rather, he is to suffer wrong, if need be. The higher law of unselfish love should govern our conduct. To love those who love us is natural, but to love the ones who hate us is supernatural.
Jesus preached that God grants His favour to all equally, just as the sun. This was proclaimed by Jesus in His parables. In His parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus cast scorn on the natural tendency to glorify our own people and to minimise the righteousness of other creeds and races. He thrust aside the claim of the Jews to have a preferred treatment, in His parable of the labourers. He taught that God serves everybody alike in the Kingdom. There is no measure to His bounty and there is no distinction in His treatment. There are no privileges, no rebates, and no excuses.
In order to wipe every tear of grief from every eye, you need a social transformation and an economic regeneration, a special concern for the aam admi and a rage against those who rob people's resources. This is the humanity of true spirituality in the Kingdom. Jesus spoke for all time and all mankind when He told this truth of the Kingdom to the court of Pontius Pilate. He advocated this culture when He admonished that Sabbath was for man, not man for Sabbath.
It was a justice system which lacked this quality that decreed, under pressure from the priestly class, that Jesus be crucified. Pilate found that Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing the Jews had charged against Him. But, Barabbas, a robber and murderer, was preferred to the King of truth; he was set free by the same judge.
The same is true even today. Barabbas is in power now. Judas, the arch-betrayer, is practising diplomacy. The values of humanism, compassion, morality and divinity that Jesus taught have declined, not only in the world outside, but also among Christians and within the church. Greed, vulgarity and selfishness are shamelessly shocking society the world over. Exploitation has become the rule of law. Equity and justice are vanishing. War, subservience, and acquisitive success have become the new ethic.
Jesus advocated the universal Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all mankind when He condemned all the gradations of the economic system, private wealth and personal advantage. He said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God."
Jesus lived a life of absolute simplicity, matchless humility, compassionate humanity, and was pro-poor, without gender disparity. He washed the feet of His disciples. He taught to share and care for our neighbours, even our enemies. This is the Christianity He taught, to be practised daily, and not limited to a Sunday ritual.
H. G. Wells wrote, "This doctrine of the Kingdom of heaven, which was the main teaching of Jesus, is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed human thought. It is small wonder, if the world of that time failed to grasp its full significance, and recoiled in dismay from even a half apprehension of its tremendous challenges to the established habits and institutions of mankind."
The Kingdom of God has come into the world in Christ; it works in the world through the Church. When the Church has proclaimed "this Gospel of the Kingdom in the whole world as a testimony to all nations" (Matt.24:14), Christ will return and bring the Kingdom in glory.