For the last several blog postings we have discussed a biblical term that is much used but with little consensus as to what it means—“the kingdom of God.”
We have seen that God’s kingdom was established on the earth initially through Adam as he and his descendants were given the commission to “have dominion over . . . all the earth” as God’s representatives in Genesis 1:26.
Through Adam’s unwillingness to exercise that dominion in the Garden of Eden, Satan stole it at the Fall, legally becoming the “god of this world” in the court of cosmic justice.
However, he lost that right to rule at the cross in an incredible divine sting operation that only God could have devised. Satan, in a fit of rage, unwittingly and illegally crucified an innocent man. “None of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).
As the ruler over the earth, he had legally killed thousands over the years, and thus had kept all those under his rule on the earth in constant fear of death (Hebrews 2:15). But Jesus, born of a virgin, was not a descendant of Adam. He was not under the legal authority Satan had acquired from Adam to do with as he pleased, as were all other humans.
Furthermore, Satan had never succeeded in tricking Jesus into submitting to him willingly as had Adam. Although Satan was “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44), not legally so, for those he killed were sinful men, doomed already for death. However, when he crucified Jesus, a sinless man, he became, for the first time, a legal murderer, now himself condemned to death under divine justice, losing his legal right to rule over the earth. The throne is now vacant.
But not for long. At the ascension, God indeed then did give dominion over the earth, the kingdom, to a man, Jesus Christ. He is now ruling as a man, the Son of Man, from His Father’s right hand as the Head, through His Body, His people, on the earth!
This is big-picture stuff, the very reason for our existence—that His creatures who were made in His image would rule over the earth, with the righteous rule of Jesus Christ, as His vice-regents. “Do not fear, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32).
These kingdom ideas form the background (the forest) in which all the details of Christianity (the trees) are described. Paul tells us that even though this eternal purpose of man ruling over the earth was hinted at all through the Old Testament, he was privileged to be the one God chose to reveal it clearly in the New Covenant, i.e., Ephesians 1:22; 3:1-11; Hebrews 10:12-13.
Today, it is our conversion, our personal, individual indwelling by the Holy Spirit, that equips us to participate in this rule, this “family business” of God’s. We are now ready to jump, with all our hearts, into whatever vocation we love, whatever we are talented to do, whatever turns us on, to rule over that responsibility for God, according to His law. We are actually bringing that endeavor, whatever it may be, into the kingdom, the family business. This is what we were created to do. This is our calling! Daddy delights to give us what we want and to free us to pursue it with all our hearts as He “gives us the kingdom” to fulfill His eternal purpose.
Islam has five pillars upon which a practicing Muslim bases his religion (at least the Sunni sect—the pillars of the other Islamic sects are slightly different). Notice they are all things the Muslim must do: 1. Make a declaration of faith (“There is only one God, Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet”), 2. Obligatory prayer, 3. Compulsory giving, 4. Fasting in the month of Ramadan, 5. Make one pilgrimage to Mecca.
In like manner, there are three pillars upon which the Christian faith comes alive as a powerful force as God achieves His ultimate intention on the earth. The Bible preaches messages that can be identified as being messages distinctly centered on one of these three pillars, as can all my blog postings. What are these three pillars? Understanding and experiencing them is absolutely essential for our participation with God in His great task. Can you notice the radical difference between Islam’s pillars and Christianity’s?
Pillar #1 – The law of God—what God calls us to do.
Like Islam, the God of Christianity lays out for us clearly what He expects of us in thought, word and deed. The law of God is everywhere in the Bible, and when James tells us that when we break even one of these commandments it is as though we broke them all (James 2:10), it would seem that pleasing God by trying to obey Him and keep His law is a totally fruitless task, and it is.
Pillar #2 – The gospel of Jesus Christ—what God has already done.
However, unlike Islam, God already knows fallen man cannot keep His law, any of it, ever. And we never do, in our hearts. But since the fall we have never ceased to try. We are slow learners, particularly since God has already made complete provision for all our failures at the cross, declared us righteous, and put His Spirit within us to make us “will and do” what He wants us to do (Philippians 2:13). Since the cross, all attempts to do “good” are trying to “get” what we already “got.” God has done it all. It is finished. Our job is to relax and enjoy the ride! Do you believe it?
Pillar #3 – The kingdom of God—what God will do in the future.
And what a ride it is! Imagine yourself as a six-year-old whose father has just informed you that the family is going to Disneyland. You have never heard of Disneyland, so your natural reaction is “Disneyland? What’s that?”
Your father begins to tell you all about Disneyland, called “the happiest place on earth,” and you go from no understanding whatsoever, to beginning to believe that it is a wonderful place, not like anyplace else you will ever go, a magical, mysterious wonderland, full of exciting adventures.
Jesus has demonstrated for you, and your Daddy tells you in the Bible, that instead of traveling to His “Disneyland,” His kingdom, it is continually coming to you, at any time, in any place. Look up. It is growing right here, in your heart and the world around you, like leaven in a lump of dough and a grain of mustard seed becoming a tree! It is “His good pleasure to give you (in your experience, day by day, moment by moment) the kingdom.”
I have written, at the end of my life, what I consider to be my personal magnum opus, a summary, in 168 pages, of the foundation, the three pillars, of what I have learned over 60 years as a Christian. It is entitled, “The Two Edges of the Sword – Distinguishing Between Law and Grace in the Kingdom of God,” and it is available on this website.