The Mysteries of The Kingdom of God
Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God and instructed his disciples to do the same. He said to his disciples, 'To you is granted to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God.’ (Mt 13:11) The prophets of old spoke of the kingdom of God but did not fully understand it, for it was for our sake and not theirs. Even the angels longed to catch a glimpse of these things (I Peter 1:10-12).
The disciples of Jesus did not fully understand the mysteries of the kingdom at once, as evidenced by their asking Jesus to explain the parable of the darnel (Mt 13:36). Our understanding of the kingdom of God develops as we grow in Christ, as we follow his teachings and mature in spirituality, as the Spirit of God gives us understanding.
The condition of mankind outside the kingdom of God:
Every person is born into this world with a combination of the traits, talents, and temperament of their forefathers. When we are innocent little children, we belong to the Lord (Mk 10:14). However, as we grow and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Deut 1:39), each one of us comes into our inheritance from Adam: we are carnally minded, selfish, under bondage to the god of this world, under the sentence of death. Our vision is darkened by the cloud of sin and iniquity in which we come to live. We may be living a good life (doing constructive things) or living an evil life (doing destructive things). Although, in either case, we are serving ourselves if we are not serving God. Our minds are on the desires of our human nature (Rom 8:5). We are all born heirs of the kingdom of Darkness due to the fall of Adam (Rom 5:12-21). We are all born blind to the reality of the kingdom of God (II Cor 4:4).
Now everyone experiences problems at one time or another during their life here on earth. It is the legacy of our common ancestor, Adam. Sometimes we are troubled, agitated on every side. We are, at times, perplexed, having doubts about our life and we may be in despair, hopelessly obsessed, oppressed, depressed, or defeated. The children born into this world are sometimes persecuted, abused and made to suffer at the hands of others. We may be cast down, humiliated and sometimes we are destroyed or killed. Jesus said, 'In this world you shall have tribulations' (John 16:33). We are all troubled people until we enter the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God:
What is the kingdom of God? Where is it? The kingdom of God is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament. Jesus taught us to pray, 'Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven...' (Mt 6:9-10) The kingdom of God is where His will is done, whether on earth or in heaven. A person can be, spiritually, in the kingdom of God while still living on this earth. Jesus explained this when the Pharisees asked him when the kingdom of God was to come. He replied, 'The kingdom of God can not be seen. No one can say, "Here it is! There it is!" because the kingdom of God is within you.’ (Luke 17:20-21)
The kingdom of God is where God reigns, where His will alone is done. The kingdom of God is where God is king and sole ruler. This certainly is true in heaven and can also be true here on earth when we place ourselves completely under His rulership, when we are serving God and not serving ourselves. We can experience living in the kingdom of God only when we submit to the Lord God and allow Him alone to be sovereign.
The gospels contain many parables given by Jesus that describe the kingdom of God on this earth. Chapter 13 of the Gospel of Matthew contain a number of these parables. The parable of the sower describes the various responses of those who hear the good news of the kingdom and are born again. The parable of the darnel and of the dragnet describes what happens to the subjects of the kingdom of God and the subjects of the kingdom of Darkness. The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast describe how the good news of the kingdom grows within a child of God, how Christ is formed in us (Gal 4:19). The parables of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price describe how one must give up all allegiances to the kingdom of Darkness in order to enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus continuously spoke of the kingdom of God and taught his disciples to do the same. Even after his death and resurrection, he continued to tell his disciples about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Even Philip preached about the good news of the kingdom of God (Acts 8:12). The very last verse in the Book of Acts describes the Apostle Paul proclaiming the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31).
Paul describes the kingdom of God on earth as 'righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' (Rom 14:17). He also writes, 'The kingdom of God does not consist of words but of power.’ (I Cor 4:20)
The entrance to the kingdom of God:
Jesus came to rescue us from the kingdom of Darkness, from our life of futility and defeat. He said:
Spirit of the Lord is on me,
Jesus came to bring good news to everyone born of Adam, for all of us are, or have been, afflicted by the god of this world, a captive of Satan, blind to the kingdom of God, and oppressed by our own selfishness or the selfishness of others. Jesus came to tell us that Lord God would give us a period of time during which we could escape from the kingdom of Darkness in which we were born and when we can enter into the kingdom of God. This is the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
According to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus began his ministry with the message, 'Repent, for the kingdom of God is close at hand.' (Mt 4:17, Mk 1:15) He also instructed his disciples to preach the same message (Mt 10:7). Jesus, through his life, death and resurrection, has opened the doors to the kingdom of God. To those few who are willing to accept him and willing to acknowledge him as Lord by their obedience to his teachings, to those few he gives the power to become children of God, residents of the kingdom of God (John 1:12-13). Jesus brought the good news that enables people to see the kingdom of God. He alone is the way into the kingdom of God, there is no other way but through him (John 14:6). He has shown us the way to the kingdom, and we are to follow in his footsteps (I John 2:6), rejecting the world and all its lusts (I John 2:15), and rejecting all its honors (John 12:43).
Jesus repeated several times that he seeks to do the Father's will and not his own. (John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38) The night before he was to die, he prayed in anguish to God, 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine.' (Luke 22:42) We are to follow Jesus in doing only God's will.
How do we know God's will? God's will for everyone today is clearly given in the teachings of Jesus and his apostles as recorded in the New Testament. Jesus summarized the will of his Father by saying, 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and you must love your neighbor as yourself.' (Luke 10:27)
Jesus went into details about the will of God in his Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew in chapters 5, 6 and 7. He told us do not hate our enemy, do not swear oaths, do not divorce and remarry, do not judge, do not store up treasures on earth, which includes do not acquire material possessions (Acts 4:32), and do not worry - a lot of 'do nots'. He ended the sermon with the warning, 'It is not anyone who calls me "Lord, Lord" who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven.' (Mt 7:21)
So God's will for everyone is plainly stated in the Bible and, to make it even clearer, the Bible shows us how the first Christians carried out the teachings of Jesus and his apostles. 'They remained faithful to the teachings of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread and to prayers... All who shared the faith owned everything in common, they sold their goods and possessions and distributed the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.’ (Acts 2:42-44). 'The whole group of believers were united, heart and soul; no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, as everything they owned was held in common... None of their members were ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money to the apostles to be distributed to any who might be in need.’ (Acts 4:32-35)
In our daily life, we make many decisions. How do we know God's will in every thing that we do? The answer to that is simple: we ask God. James says, 'If you need wisdom, you should ask God, who gives to all generously and without scolding, and He will answer you. But you must ask in faith, without doubt.' (James 1:5-6) Jesus said, 'Ask and it shall be given to you, search and you shall find, knock and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives, everyone who searches finds, everyone who knocks will have the door opened.' (Luke 11:9-10)
If we are close enough to God to ask Him what to do in every situation, we are close enough to Him to hear His answer.
Who can see the kingdom of God?
In John chapter 3, Jesus teaches that a person must be born again (born from above) in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). It follows then that those who are not born again can not even see the kingdom of God. They can not understand it nor feel a need for it. They do not seek the kingdom of God. This is why Jesus stressed the preaching about the kingdom of God. He wants to open people's eyes so that they can be aware of the wonders of the kingdom.
Who can enter the kingdom of God?
Being able to see the kingdom, being born again, does not mean that we have entered into the kingdom. Jesus also teaches that a person must be born through water and the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5). To enter the kingdom we must be born by the washing of the water (John 15:3, Eph 5:26, I Cor 6:11) and the work of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:12-13). This is an on-going process, that may continue for most, if not all, of our lives. As we hear the word of God and are crucifying our old nature (our flesh) by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are entering into the kingdom of God.
When we accept Jesus as Lord of our lives, the Spirit of Christ begins to grow within us, not unlike a woman when she becomes pregnant with a child (Gal 4:19). As we die to ourselves, the Spirit grows within us. At first the Spirit may seem very small, has little control of our lives, but as we grow in spiritual maturity, the Spirit of Christ within us exerts greater and greater influence over our thoughts and our actions. Paul wrote, 'I have been crucified with Christ and yet I am alive; it is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me.’ (Gal 2:20) That is why Paul wrote, 'Christ within you, your hope of glory' (Col 1:27).
It is our choice to serve God (reside in His kingdom) by doing His will or to serve ourselves (reside in the kingdom of Darkness) by following our own desires and we all too often switch from one to the other. As an example of how saints can go in and out of the kingdom of God, look at the actions of Peter, a man like us, whom the Lord called a blessed man when Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt 16:16-17). But when Peter tried to rebuke him, Jesus called him Satan (Mt 16:22-23). Peter was, in one situation, serving God and in another, he was serving himself.
Jesus said, 'Set your hearts on the kingdom of God and all these things shall be given unto to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.’ (Luke 12:31-32)
The disciples asked Jesus, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?' Jesus called a little child to him and said, 'I tell you that unless you repent and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.’ (Mt 18:1-3)
All those in the kingdom of God are brothers and sisters of each other, and of Jesus, for they would not be in the kingdom of God unless they were serving God, doing the will of God (and not their own will). Their race, color, creed, sex or age makes no difference. Jesus said, 'Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Mt 12:5)
Who can inherit the kingdom of God?
The Apostle Paul teaches us that a person who continues to do evil will not inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor 6:9-11). The Apostle John teaches us about holiness in I John 2:29-3:10 where he writes that the difference between the children of God and the children of the devil is that the children of God lead a holy life. We are instructed to 'Seek peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord.’ (Heb 12:14)
The conditions of man:
From these teachings we can see the four different positions that a person may be in relation to God:
1. Living in darkness. A person living in darkness can not see the kingdom of God. They may be living a good life or an evil life but they are in darkness. They are in the domain of the kingdom of Darkness, serving the god of this world.
2. Born again but outside the kingdom of God. They are born again, they see the kingdom of God but they are not serving God, not being obedient to Him. They are serving themselves, doing what they desire. They are in control of their lives. They are doing what pleases their flesh and are not obeying the commands of Jesus ('Why do you call me, "Lord, Lord" and not do what I say?’ Luke 6:46). They, too, are in the domain of the kingdom of Darkness, serving the god of this world.
3. Born again and entering the kingdom of God. These people are serving God by doing His will but they periodically slip backwards to serving self (they at times fall outside the kingdom of God and into the dominion of Satan). They are, at times, allowing God to make them perfect and holy, but may be taking one step backwards for every two steps forward.
4. Born again and has inherited the kingdom of God. These people are doing God's will, obeying the commands of Jesus ('If you love me, you will keep my commandments.' John 14:15), they have crucified their flesh (Gal 5:24) and are consistently producing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). They walk in unbroken fellowship with God.
The struggle over whom we will serve:
The person who is seeking to inherit the kingdom of God may often vacillate between serving God and serving self. Their struggle is about whom they will serve with their body, soul and spirit. They may have more conflicts and more stress than a person who is living in darkness and can not see the kingdom of God, who is only serving their self.
The children of God are still subject to their human nature. Their carnal mind is constantly trying to usurp the mind of the Holy Spirit. Their daily struggle is with whom they will serve in every thing that they do. Are they serving God or their selves in each situation? This is one of the key principles to keep in mind.
When we make our own decisions about our life, such as where we will live, what church we will belong to, who we will marry, how many children we will have, when we make these decisions then we are being the god of our lives, we are serving ourselves. If we truly are in the kingdom of God, then God alone will make these decisions.
Jesus said, 'If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him give up his self-will, take up his cross and follow me.’ (Mt 16:24) If we are in the kingdom of God, then certainly God is to be the king and ruler of our lives and not we ourselves. The Lord God is the sole ruler in His kingdom and those in His kingdom do only what He tells them. We are to be like Jesus, who does only what His Father tells him (as the Gospel tells us many times: John 8:28-29, 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 14:31).
When we want to be the master of our fate, the captain of our destiny, that means we want to be our own god, to take the rightful place of the Lord God in our lives. When we are making the major decisions in our lives, we are rejecting the true God and substituting a false god. It is the same situation when we allow others to make these decisions for us. We are allowing others to be the god in our lives. There can only be one God, it is only Him that we are to serve, to obey, to do His holy will.
Look at the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15) where Jesus taught about these different conditions of people who have seen the kingdom of God (who were born again): Those people on the edge of the path are people who hear the word of God (see the kingdom of God, are born again), but the devil comes along and carries away the word that was planted in their hearts (their new birth never matured). Those on the rocks are people who hear the word with joy but they have no root - they give in when their faith is tested. Those in the thorn bushes hear the word but are choked by their love for the world. Those in the rich soil produce a harvest through their perseverance in serving God.
In Hebrews 6:4-8 we read 'As for those people who were once brought into the light (were born again, could see the kingdom of God), and tasted the gift from heaven, and received a share of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of God's message and the powers of the world to come (have entered the kingdom of God), and yet in spite of this have fallen away (have apostatized by rejecting Christ and blaspheming his Holy Spirit); it is impossible for them to be brought to the freshness of repentance a second time, since they are crucifying the Son of God again for themselves, and making a public exhibition of him. A field that drinks up the rain that has fallen frequently on it, and produces a fruitful harvest, receives God's blessing; but the one that grows brambles and thistles is worthless, and near to being cursed. It will end by being burnt.'
James tells us 'Blessed is anyone who perseveres when trials come. Such a person is of proven worth and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him.’ (James 1:12)
In the world but not of the world:
Jesus said, 'You do not belong to the world because I have chosen you and have drawn you out of the world.' (John 14:19) However, you are still in the world. Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, 'I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but to protect them from the Evil One.’ (John 17:15)
Until we pass into eternity, we live in this world. That is, our body is in the world, but our soul and our spirit can be in the kingdom of God. Our body is still flesh, with the desires common to mankind. Paul pleads with us, 'I urge you, brothers, to remember the mercies of God and offer you bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God.’ (Rom 12:1) We are to deny the urges of the body in order to live a holy life.
As our body is in the world, it is in the domain of the god of this world. Satan, and his servants, can, and often do, cause us physical problems, such as illness, accidents, persecution, and the like. However, when we are serving God, obeying His will, living in His kingdom, our soul and our spirit are outside the dominion of Satan and he has no power over our soul and spirit.
Freedom in Christ:
Jesus told us, 'In this world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world' (John 16:33). Everyone, child of God or not, experiences problems during their life here on earth. However, those who are serving God, who have entered into His kingdom, when they are serving God and not themselves, need not be weighed down, need not be burdened by these tribulations. Paul, in II Cor 4:7-11, teaches us that the children of God are sometimes troubled (agitated) on every side, but are not distressed (miserable) because of the trouble, for they have placed their complete trust in the Lord. The children of God may be perplexed (have doubts about their life) but are not in despair (hopelessly obsessed, oppressed, depressed, or defeated) because their hope is in God. The children of God may be persecuted (abused and made to suffer) by the carnal man, but not forsaken of the Lord. They may be cast down (humiliated) but are not destroyed (perishing).
When you live in the world, serving yourself, you reap the harvest of the world. When you live in the kingdom of God, you reap the harvest of the kingdom ('All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose').
Standing in holiness:
When we stand in Christ and Christ is alive in us, when we are fulfilling the mystery of godliness, which is true holiness, when God is being made manifest in this earthen vessel, we can speak to our children, to those who are lost and dying, to those who are suffering in darkness and hell. For in Christ we can do all things through the power of his Holy Spirit.
In ourselves, we can do nothing. All that we do by our strength is only credit for ourselves. It is nothing to God.
God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. He is made perfect when we reach the place where we can not do anything of ourselves, when we realize that we can not, of our own power, change the way things are, when we realize that we must even live with our natural imperfections until God changes us. Paul says, 'For it is when I am weak that I am strong.’ (II Cor 12:9)
When we come to the place where we love God, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, when we love with all our heart, soul and mind, when we can show that love, then we can become ministers of the new covenant, not making it into law which bind heavy burdens upon those who are not able to bear them, but we become ministers of the Spirit which brings life.
The Good News of the Gospel of Christ:
Jesus described himself in Luke 4:18-19 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me (I stand in unbroken fellowship with God), because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor (preach the good news to those who are without substance to sustain their own life). He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted (those whose hearts are shattered or crushed), to preach deliverance to the captives (forgiveness, liberty and pardon), to restore sight to the blind (to restore spiritual insight), to set at liberty those that are bruised (unstable, battered and bruised emotionally), to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (the Lord's approved time period for when it is not too late for a person to repent and turn to God).' Jesus preached the good news that enables people to see the kingdom of God, and also enables those who travel His narrow path to inherit the kingdom.
'Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If any of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at your side. Whoever proves victorious I will allow to share my throne, just as I have overcome and have taken my seat with my Father on his throne.’ (Rev 3:20-21)
The good news is the reality of the kingdom of God, learning that God loves us and has prepared a wonderful place for us. The good news is that we can choose to serve God with all our body, soul and spirit here and now.
Psalm 133: "For there [in brotherly community] the Lord
has commanded the blessing, life for evermore."
Last updated 02/24/2009