Jesus and the Kingdom of God

After Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and the Israelites were in exile, the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning a watchmen that looks out into the distance and sees a messenger that brings good news. Isaiah 52 states, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” The good news message is that despite the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, Israel’s God still reigns as king, and he is going to one day return to the city, take up his throne and bring peace.

When Jesus begins his earthly ministry, he announces the good news about God’s reign, and so the Kingdom of God was central to the his preaching. Luke 8:1 states, “…Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.” Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God surprised everyone because it was not a kingdom that conformed to the worldly standards. It was not a powerful, defeating, successful kingdom in the earthly sense, but rather it was a kingdom “not of this world” (John 18:36). Jesus described an upside down kingdom where the greatest person is the weakest, and the ones who are poor are blessed. Jesus explains that those who inherit the kingdom of God are those who bear its fruit. Matthew 25:34-38 states,

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (NIV)

Furthermore, Jesus’ description of the kingdom of God is characterized by responding to evil with love and forgiveness while seeking peace. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt 5:9).

Jesus understood himself as the king of God’s kingdom, as the promised messianic king from the line of David. In fact, Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king (John 12:12-15), but his kingship is unlike any other. He enters the city riding a donkey revealing the humble servant nature of his kingship. He is a king that delivers and heals his people from spiritual oppression by his suffering and death. He is the eternal king, and his eternal rule and reign should be one’s focus. This is emphasized in the prayerful statement, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).

Thus, the kingdom of God has come near in the kingship of Jesus and will come in fullness at Jesus’ second coming (See Luke 22:18).   

In view of Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God, we should continually submit to his kingship. We should align our lives with God’s eternal kingdom perspective by engaging in behaviors and activities that further his kingdom purposes. Our lives, desires and ambitions must be continually examined in order to be conscious of whether we are operating with a temporal perspective or an eternal perspective.  Are we striving for our own temporal personal kingdom or for the kingdom of God?