The kingdom and spiritual warfare

How can love survive against evil when evil has the weapons to destroy God’s people? (Spoiler alert)

Spiritual warfare is a kingdom matter. Ever since the coup in Eden’s Garden, earth has been at war with our heavenly sovereign. Unlike the evil emperor in Star Wars, God did not build a death star to destroy the planet and its rebels. Instead he called Abraham away from Babel, to build a family that would bring the world back into his care.

Predictably, Abraham’s family were enslaved by this world’s rulers. With ten “mighty acts” God demonstrated Pharaoh was a fraud. Egypt’s king could not even stop natural invaders like frogs, flies, or gnats. Pharaoh could not protect the families of Egypt, not even his own family, not even Egypt’s heir.

Pharaoh agreed to let God’s people go, but he still had the forces to recapture them. That’s the big question: How can love survive against evil when evil has the weapons to destroy God’s people? Continue reading “The kingdom and spiritual warfare”

God’s kingdom and the millennium

How is the kingdom of God connected to the 1000-year reign in Revelation 20? Does it help to ask who this vision is about, rather than when?

What comes to mind first when you hear the phrase kingdom of God? For some, it’s a future era of global peace with Christ reigning for 1000 years. Continue reading “God’s kingdom and the millennium”

God’s kingdom and politics

What’s the relationship between the kingdom of God and the power of the state?

Mixing religion and politics could start an argument, but we can’t avoid the gnarly question.

How should Christians interact with the power of the country we live in? Should we be politicians, law makers, advisors, ambassadors, judges? Should we lobby politicians over issues like same-sex marriage? Should we oppose institutional injustice like incarcerating people on Manus Island?

Should churches promote and fund activist agendas to challenge government policy? Or should we do those things only as individual citizens? Or is this whole thing diverting us from our calling? Continue reading “God’s kingdom and politics”

The kingdom and personal power: more than conquerors?

Does “the kingdom of God” mean I have a life of health and prosperity because I’m reigning with Christ?

Following E. W. Kenyon, Kenneth Copeland and others proclaimed that God has given the kingdom to his little flock (Luke 12:32). We are seated with Christ on the throne, with everything under our feet (Ephesians 1:20-23). If we maintain this positive confession, nothing can touch us. Sickness is gone: it was part of the curse from which we’re redeemed (Galatians 3:13). Wealth is guaranteed: it all belongs to our Father who is pleased to give it to his children. Because Jesus conquered, we’re more than conquerors (Romans 8:37)..

Is this what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God? Continue reading “The kingdom and personal power: more than conquerors?”

The kingdom and personal evangelism

How do we present “the good news of the kingdom”?

I grew up in a church were we didn’t talk much about the kingdom of God. If we did, we thought of it as something internal, like putting Jesus on the throne of my heart. We asked individuals to make that decision, to pray the sinner’s prayer by which they would be born again. Isn’t that how someone enters the kingdom? Continue reading “The kingdom and personal evangelism”

The kingdom and prophetic engagement: speaking truth to power?

Does being the kingdom of God mean speaking out against abuses of power in the current political system?

Quick: give me a Bible verse on social justice. What comes to mind?

Continue reading “The kingdom and prophetic engagement: speaking truth to power?”

So what is the kingdom?

How does the kingdom of God translate into twenty-first century Western democratic life?

Open 1 John 4:7-12.

Search the internet and you’ll find kingdom of God used for whatever a speaker wants it to mean, e.g.:

The kingdom of God contains a wide spectrum of activities and ideas, but none of these on its own is the kingdom.

White light consists of the whole spectrum: red, green, blue, and in-between colours. If you think white light is red, you’re wrong: you’re wearing filters that stop you from seeing the green and blue. The problem is that most of us do wear filters that stop us seeing the multi-faceted nature of the kingdom of God. We fail to grasp the breadth of its spectrum.

So what is the kingdom of God?

Continue reading “So what is the kingdom?”

KINGDOM SUMMARY: Matthew 1–10

How central is the kingdom of God to Matthew’s message?

Open Matthew.

The Good News according to Matthew is that Jesus is restoring heaven’s reign on the earth. His opening sentence is bursting with good news, “Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). He’s arrived: the divinely appointed ruler (Messiah) from Israel’s royal family (son of David) who restores the blessing of divine rule to the nations (the Abrahamic family commission).

What a revolutionary story! By confronting the powers with self-sacrificial love on behalf of earth’s oppressed people, this king brings God’s two realms back together in himself. Via a staggering trajectory, he receives all authority in heaven and on earth, and commissions his agents to bring all nations under his command, promising his regal presence until it’s done (28:18-20).

Every chapter of Matthew’s Good News tells this story. He wants us to recognize Jesus as our divinely appointed king, the one who implements heaven’s reign (the kingdom of heaven) on earth.

Continue reading “KINGDOM SUMMARY: Matthew 1–10”

Why do the apostles rarely mention the kingdom?

Are there other ways to talk about the kingdom that will communicate better in our time and culture? Here’s a lead to get us started thinking that way.

Jesus chose particular language to describe his identity (son of man) and his mission (kingdom of God). Yet his followers don’t use these terms as frequently as Jesus did. Why?

The first step is to analyse the distribution of the word kingdom in the New Testament.  Todd Scacewater posted that survey on Logos Academic. Check it out: Why the Apostles Rarely Mention the Kingdom.

Armed with that information, we can then proceed to uncover the language Paul and Peter and the others do use to proclaim the kingship of Messiah Jesus is gentile territory. Understanding what they did could prove invaluable for us as we seek relevant and appropriate ways to communicate Jesus’ kingship in our time and in our culture where “kingdom” language can sound archaic. Continue reading “Why do the apostles rarely mention the kingdom?”

The kingdom story so far (Genesis – Matthew 6)

Want a quick overview of the story of the kingdom of God? Here it is: the plotline from Genesis to Matthew 6.

God designed earth to operate under heaven’s management. God designed people as his representatives, to care for the earth and its creatures on his behalf. Grasping power that should have been in God’s hands led to hostility against God and violent conflict with each other. It’s what’s wrong with the world as we know it: a beautiful world, where people do ugly things.

Our heavenly sovereign wanted to repatriate us under his governance, but he would never force himself on us. He allowed the nations to go their way. Then he chose a family to build a designer nation to showcase his rule, so the nations would see the blessing they were missing. Exodus tells the story of God rescuing this family from human rule to be the first nation ruled by God.

Continue reading “The kingdom story so far (Genesis – Matthew 6)”

What is seeking the kingdom?

We’ve finally reached the verse that launched this blog. So what did Jesus mean by “Seek the kingdom”? What is God’s kingdom? How do we seek it?

Open Matthew 6:33.

Because we don’t understand the ancient world of kingdoms, Matthew 6:33 is one of the most misapplied verses in the Bible. It’s very popular in journals, study guides, and spiritual formation books. These writers want to make the application as personal as they can for their individual reader. As they understand it, I enter the kingdom through personal faith, and I seek the kingdom through my devotional life and spiritual disciplines. The goal is to encourage me to personally seek God, so his kingdom comes into my heart and his righteousness comes into my life. Great personal goals, but it’s not the kingdom.

Here’s just one example of “kingdom” applied personally. This is what the Word Bible Commentary series says about the command to seek the kingdom (Matthew 6:33): Continue reading “What is seeking the kingdom?”