For some of you, summer is basically over. Perhaps you have kids back in school or are a student where school has already begun.
For others of us, like my family in Seattle, summer experientially lasts until the week after Labor Day. Then, as September rolls in, Fall basically begins as well.
As we move into September, I wonder what you are thinking about. What will bring focus to your routines? How does God play into the next season?
I want to suggest that perhaps a renewed focus on God’s Kingdom might be a way to renew our minds and move us into fresh routines and new possibilities this autumn.
For this reason, I asked my friend Frank Viola to share something with us about the Kingdom of God. He does a great job synthesizing important aspects of what it means to live as Kingdom people with Jesus.
<<<Before moving into today’s topic, I want to quickly mention that I was recently interviewed by the Regeneration Project podcast about how end times theology and the church intersect with mission. I hope you will check it out on your next commute. The Regeneration Project is doing some great work and I was honored to be on the show!>>>
What Is the Kingdom? (by Frank Viola)
There are basically three views of the kingdom of God among Christians today.
One view says that the kingdom equals heaven. According to this view, Christians are waiting to escape this dirty little planet called Earth to be in a better place. Advocates of this view believe this “better place” is the kingdom of God or “heaven.” All who believe in Jesus will enter the kingdom when they die.
Another view says that the kingdom equals God’s miraculous power to cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead. Those who advocate this view talk a great deal about “doing the work of the kingdom,” which for them means displaying the supernatural power of God here and now on the planet.
Still another view says that the kingdom equals the alleviation of poverty and the implementation of social justice. Advocates of this view talk about “building the kingdom” or “doing kingdom work.” By those terms they mean striving for peace and justice in order to make the world a better place.
All of these views are held in tension with one another. And one can find various verses in the Bible to support each. But they all fall short of the scriptural understanding of the kingdom of God.
Manifesting God’s Rule
If we don’t count its repeated occurrences, the kingdom of God is uniquely mentioned eighty-five times in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and three times in John.
Taken together, I believe the best description of the kingdom is as follows:
The manifestation of God’s ruling presence.
To break that sentence down, the kingdom contains three key elements:
- The King (which focuses on the word “presence”).
- God’s reign (which focuses on the words “God’s ruling”).
- The people ruled (which focuses on the word “manifestation”).
Alva McClain put it this way:
A general survey of the Biblical material indicates that the concept of a “kingdom” envisages a total situation containing at least three essential elements: first, a ruler with adequate authority and power; second, a realm of subjects to be ruled; and third, the actual exercise of the function of rulership.
In sum, the kingdom of God includes the King (the ruler), God’s reign (rulership), and the people ruled (realm). Again, the kingdom is the manifestation of God’s ruling presence. And His ruling presence is manifested in and through Jesus and in and through God’s people.
Distinct But Not Separate
To separate the ekklesia from the kingdom is like separating light from visibility. It cannot be done. The kingdom and the ekklesia are distinct, but they are not separate.
Whenever Jesus is enthroned by a group of people today, that’s where the kingdom of God is. Wherever a group of people submit to the kingship of Christ, the kingdom of God is in their midst and they experience righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17 NIV)
Jesus Christ is righteousness, peace, and joy incarnate (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 2:14).
And He is in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 3:17).
So again, Christ is the kingdom of God embodied. And He is embodied in the ekklesia—the people of the insurgence.
What Does the Kingdom Look Like?
The kingdom of God looks like a people who are taking care of each other. It looks like a people who are laying their lives down for each other. It looks like a people who are living as an extended family. It looks like a close-knit, functioning body where each member is affected by what happens to the other members.
If one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:26 NIV)
But it also looks like
- Feeding the hungry.
- Clothing the naked.
- Blessing the poor.
- Giving sight to the blind.
- Caring for the sick and infirm.
- Delivering those who are bound by Satan.
- Forgiving others and preaching the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s death and resurrection.
- Proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to the poor and showcasing it by our lives.
In other words, the ekklesia does all the things that Jesus did while He was on earth. And she does it in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of His Spirit.
Why? Because Jesus is the kingdom of God yesterday and today (Luke 4:16–19; Acts 10:38). And the ekklesia is Christ in corporate (collective) expression (1 Corinthians 1:12–13; 12:12; Acts 9:1–4).
Herein lies the power of the insurgence.
What aspects of the Kingdom of God are especially meaningful to you? I hope this blog post inspires you to consider how the work of God in the world might impact your Fall.
Author: Kurt Willems
Kurt Willems is a pastor, author, and spiritual director. His first book, Echoing Hope: How the Humanity of Jesus Redeems our Pain, releases in March 2021. Kurt is also the host of the Theology Curator podcast. He has a master of divinity degree from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and a master of arts in comparative religion from the University of Washington.
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