A few years ago, my friend, John, was reading his Bible on an airplane. The man sitting next to him noticed and introduced himself. It turned out the man was a pastor, named Daniel, and he and John quickly struck up a conversation. By the end of the flight, they were friends and exchanged contact info. To this day, John and Daniel speak regularly.
Last year, after a conversation with Daniel, John was leading our small group Bible study. We were going through one of Jesus’s parables, and, like many of them, the parable started off with, “The Kingdom of God is like…”
John asked, “What is the Kingdom of God?” We all discussed it and everybody pretty much agreed that the Kingdom of God describes heaven.
John then said that he and Daniel had discussed the Kingdom of God, and Daniel said the Kingdom of God was not just heaven. Rather, Daniel described it as “God’s project here on earth.”
At first, this rubbed me the wrong way. Isn’t the Kingdom of God supposed to be after Jesus comes back a second time time and collects the faithful and brings them to heaven? Jesus is the King of Kings and defeats all his enemies and rules forever and ever, right?
John said that while the period of heaven is also part of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom was established when Jesus arrived.
So, I started reading through the New Testament. What I found made me change my mind. Every place I saw “the Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven,” I mentally replaced that with “God’s project here on earth.” When I did that, things started to make a lot more sense.
Take this example from Matthew 12:
22 Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see.23 The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”
24 But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.”
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is casting out Satan, he is divided and fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. 27 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 28 But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 29 For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.
Matthew 12:22-29 (NLT)
Notice what Jesus says in verse 28: “But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.” We know that Jesus was casting out demons by the Spirit of God… which means that the Kingdom of God had arrived.
Here’s the way that I think about this now.
First, we need to go back in time, all the way to The Fall of Man. When Adam and Eve decided to eat the apple and try to “be like God,” sin entered the world and Satan began to rule here on earth. The fallen creation became Satan’s dominion.
Here’s Ephesians, chapter 2:
2 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
Ephesians 2:1-3 (NLT)
Satan is described as “the commander of the powers in the unseen world.”
When Jesus arrives on earth, He brings the Kingdom of God with Him. With His death and resurrection, He defeats sin and death. Before He returns to heaven, He commands Christians to live out the Great Commission. And at Pentecost, He sends the disciples the Holy Spirit, providing the spiritual power to do whatever needs doing. And He promised that He would be with them always as they grew His kingdom.
In short, Jesus established His kingdom right then, and he commanded his disciples to make it grow, to take back ground from the kingdom of Satan. And this battle has been raging for more than 2000 years.
Does this mean the Kingdom of God isn’t heaven? No, that’s part of it, too. Once established, God’s Kingdom exists forever and ever, without end. But we don’t have to wait for it. It’s here now. If you’re a Christian, you’re already a part of it.
But you also need to realize that the Kingdom of God is at war with the kingdom of Satan. And if you’re part of the Kingdom of God, that means you’re at war with Satan, whether you like it or not.
Here’s Paul writing again in Ephesians:
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:10-12 (NLT)
So, let’s summarize:
Whenever you see “the Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven,” that is describing Jesus’s eternal kingdom that started when he came to earth. When you see Jesus telling a parable, starting with “The Kingdom of God is like…,” He’s telling you something about how the Kingdom works. It’s probably something you need to pay attention to now, not later.
Before his ascension, Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission as a command to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. That means growing the Kingdom of God, both in terms of numbers of people, but also taking it physically throughout the earth. Jesus doesn’t want the citizens of his Kingdom to just be Europeans, Americans, Indians, or Chinese. He wants people from literally every people group in the whole earth.
Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to provide the power necessary to sustain and grow the Kingdom of God.
As soon as Jesus established the Kingdom of God here on earth, it was immediately at war with Satan’s kingdom. If you’re a Christian, you’re at war. We’ll explore more about this war later.
I hope this helped shape the way you see “the Kingdom of God.” For me, it was eye opening. It’s here now; if you’re a Christian, you’re part of it.
What strikes you when you think about the Kingdom of God being here now? Are you ready to take your place in it? Do you understand the mission you’ve been given?
Who in your circle of influence needs to hear this message? Please forward it to them.
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Amen! The Kingdom is here indeed and as you said proclaiming that we are part of that Kingdom in this fallen world makes us enemy #1 to Satan. It's this reason why I believe that God wants us not to make the world a better place but, to be the better place in a fallen world and that is the Kingdom. It's effectively an outpost of His Kingdom in Heaven. Are you familiar with the author Frank Viola? I think you would really like his book that addresses the Kingdom called Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom. He has a substack (frankviola.substack.com) as well as a great blog and other resources on his website (frankviola.org). I'd highly recommend it. God bless you. Looking forward to what you have next on the Kingdom and more.
Isn't it amazing what you can learn from scripture, when you read it yourself.