When we “see” the kingdom of God and that all of us, yes, every one of God’s children, have been given the life-long task to actualize in time what is already true in fact—the right-now rule of Jesus Christ over the whole earth—our lives take on new meaning. We recognize a new reason for living; everything we do comes with a new purpose from a brand new foundation.
However, that realization doesn’t come easily. We have been misled into believing that “ruling in the kingdom of God“ will only happen in the future, after Jesus returns and rescues a defeated, powerless, helpless church and establishes His physical rule in Jerusalem. Old life-long assumptions don’t change easily.
However, the Bible clearly teaches that “He (God the Father) raised Him Jesus Christ) from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places (past tense, already happened, at the Ascension! – Mark 16:19), far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet (past tense, already happened, at the Ascension), and gave Him to be head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:20-22). If this has already happened, as Paul here implies, then this rule is occurring, right now, through us!
In every daily activity, no matter how mundane, we are expressing the kingdom of God to those around us—everyone with whom we come in contact. How we wield authority ourselves, as Jesus lives through us by His Spirit, and also how we submit to that rule as expressed by the authority of others who rule over us, are both demonstrations of Jesus ruling on the earth while still remaining seated at His Father’s right hand in Heaven.
Jesus is ruling from there right now, and He is behind every authority relationship, teaching us to “rule well,” in whatever God has given us to do, in the same way Jesus would rule if He were present physically on sight with us (1 Timothy 5:17). We are also to “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 5:17), just as Jesus was.
So, in the kingdom of God, we all rule in some relationships and are also ruled over in others; we are learning both to submit to authority in some and to exercise authority in others, both relationships given directly to us by God. We are generally better at one than the other, but we are actively involved in learning to do both on a daily basis in God’s kingdom, learning by our failures as we grow in grace, enabling us to recognize and own those failures.
Remember, ruling was God’s original commission to Adam, His commission for mankind was for them to ”. . . have dominion over . . . all the earth” (Genesis 1:26), and we are all learning how to both rule over the responsibilities God has given us and submit ourselves at the appropriate times as we live daily in the kingdom of God.
How do we learn the difficult lesson to be both leader and follower?
God’s plan is that we begin our journey in learning to live in His kingdom in the family. The family is the most basic of God’s three authority structures through which He spreads His rule over the earth, along with the church and the civil government.
The issue of “Who is in charge?” is the most basic issue in the universe. Satan challenged the Creator God’s right to run His world as He desired, and rebellion against authority was born. Today, every conflict is an attempt to settle that question, whether it be on an individual or national scale.
To prepare us to do so successfully, God designed that little children initially come to grips with this issue in their families. They must learn to “obey your parents in all things” (Colossians 3:20), lesson #1 in kingdom living! This is most easily learned from age 0-5, and it sets the stage beautifully for living the rest of their lives “in the kingdom.” The idea of submitting to God’s authority exercised through human vessels, initially parents, becomes a part of the child’s life in all the other activities of his life, whether he is exercising that authority or submitting to it.
The importance of this truth cannot be overemphasized. We have no more important job as parents than to address effectively the rebellion that lurks in the hearts of each of our children. Our willingness to do so and then to teach them to obey us as parents is the most crucial lesson they will learn as they grow to adulthood in our homes. To fail to see, to ignore, or to shirk from this task is not loving them but is really doing just the opposite (Proverbs 13:24).
However, in order to do this successfully, there are some absolute essentials that cannot be overlooked. Without understanding and applying them carefully, the world’s accusations of “child abuse” ring truer than we would like to believe. Next week we will see what they are and begin to build a biblical approach to preparing our children to find their purpose for life.