This morning, let’s talk about kingdoms. As Christians we hear the word kingdom all the time, but do we know what it means? Out in the world, you are more likely to hear people talk about republics.
North Korea is a republic, South Korea is a republic, China is a republic and the USA is a republic. Russia is a federation and semi-presidential republic. Rome was a republic until 27bc. Jesus tells us that we are supposed to live in a kingdom, not a republic. The New Testament mentions ‘kingdom’ 100 times. The New Testament uses the phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ 66 times. The phrase ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ appears 32 times, all of them in Matthew’s Gospel. Twice we find the expression ‘Kingdom of our Lord’. These all mean the same thing. ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘Kingdom of God’ are the same thing.
What they all mean is the sovereign rule of God. That is, the rule of the one who lives in heaven.
So we find that Jesus treats the Kingdom of Heaven as a real kingdom on earth and we should be praying for it.
In the future the whole world will become the kingdom of God, as we read in Revelation 11:15 – “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”
It is what Jesus taught us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer – “May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth.” (Matthew 6:10)
In the future the whole world will be heaven, but we can live in heaven now.
We read in Mark 1:14 – ‘Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”’
And also in Luke 17:21 – “You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.”
Jesus described this as Good News. The kingdom of heaven is among us, because the kingdom of heaven is the place where we are ruled by God. It isn’t a place where we go to. We cannot say, go over there and then you will be ruled by God. We can say to God that we want him to rule over us where we are. God came and walked among us, so the kingdom was already here when King Jesus lived.
Salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, are not intended to take us away from this world to a better place. We are not being removed from the earth. We are being remade into agents of transformation.
We are expecting a day when Christ has promised he will start to reign over this world for ever and ever. We are not waiting for the day when we are taken out of this world.
God started to re-establish his rule on the earth by creating his own nation to rule over. It was not God’s plan to rescue us human beings from creation. Neither was it ever his plan to rescue his chosen people from the Gentile unbelievers.
God’s plan is the start with his chosen people to gain sovereignty over all the world. God chose them as his instruments of salvation for the world. Listen to what God says in Isaiah 49:6 – “I have a greater task for you, my servant. Not only will you restore to greatness the people of Israel who have survived, but I will also make you a light to the nations—so that all the world may be saved.”
Snatching disembodied spirits away from earth and whisking them into heaven is contrary to this plan. When we imagine that the whole point of Christianity is so that we can go to heaven when we die, we fail to understand what the Kingdom of God is.
What we can see in the Gospels is Jesus living as a person totally ruled by God. We see him teaching others to be totally ruled by God. We find him telling them often to teach others how to be totally ruled by God. And one day all people will be ruled by God and world will have become the kingdom of God.
Jesus was not spending all his time preparing people to enter the kingdom after they had died by maintaining faith while they lived in this world.
Jesus gave us all a job to do and the work he gave us is this. Mark 16:15 – “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”
What good news might that be, do you suppose? It is the good news that the kingdom of God has arrived. You can leave the world and be reborn into the kingdom of God right now. Jesus said it was the reason he came. Luke 4:43 – But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.”
This is not a social gospel. The Good News is not that we can make this world a better place through social work, or political programmes, or moral crusades. These things are well meaning and worthy, but all too often they are our own good ideas. The Gospels are not stories of Jesus going around and helping people.
We must not react to that by thinking we should avoid politics or moral crusades or stop helping people. But the problem of the rule of evil in this world is never going to be solved by good works. Jesus went about establishing the rule of God. He proclaimed the sovereignty of God most absolutely and powerfully in his death.
The Gospels are about the sovereignty of God in the world. We see how God is establishing his sovereignty first over one man, then over all his disciples. Until it spreads to the whole world.
You are part of that spread. You are crucial to that spread. Your task is to first wrestle with how to allow God to be sovereign in every part of your life, and second to invite others to join you in this new kingdom. Our sovereign lord, our king, has told us, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.”
Surely part of the establishment of the kingdom of God is to obey this command. We are not at liberty to argue about it. God cannot be sovereign in your life if you disobey him.
We have to find ways to preach the Good News. We mustn’t assume we all have to stand in the middle of Jinju Market shouting at passing shoppers.
The church’s mission is to put God’s rule, heaven’s rule, into practise in the world where we live. How can we do that?
Well. I’m glad you asked that question. Surely there are many ways, but I have a couple of suggestions of things we can do right now.
First, you can visit http://www.hereslife.com and get bilingual tracts in many languages. You can show them to Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, English-speakers etc. You don’t need to learn the language. There is a smartphone app so you can have all languages available for anyone you meet at any time.
Second, it is almost Christmas. Invite people to attend Jinju Church on Christmas Day. We have here some booklets that explain in English or Korean the meaning of Christmas. You can preach the Good News today by giving a booklet to someone and inviting them to attend our service to find our more about the kingdom of God.
Please don’t worry. You don’t have to build God’s kingdom. Preaching the Good News is not building the kingdom by our own effort. We are submitting to God’s rule, and then God is doing all the hard work. You are not responsible for how someone receives the Good News. Our job is to allow God to be the ruler in our lives and encourage others to join us in this new kingdom. God does all the hard work. You can trust him with your life. In fact, that is exactly what we have to do. Take a few booklets. We have enough. Give them away and make friends. If your friends have receptive hearts, bring them back here to learn more about the ruler of your life.