I think the Kingdom of God is the most misunderstood concept in all of Scripture. I say this not as someone who’s figured it out and is watching everyone else get it terribly wrong – but as someone who still isn’t totally clear on the matter… It’s still misunderstood by me! And not for lack of research.
I think the majority of evangelical Christians assume that when Jesus mentioned the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) he was referring to just heaven – the place where Christians go after death. It’s a fair assumption to make based on language alone, one I believed for 20 years, but I don’t think it’s accurate (at all).
To me Jesus didn’t not equate the Kingdom with the (good) eternal afterlife. When trying to explain the Kingdom Jesus relied on metaphors. He compared it to yeast permeating all of the flour or a tiny mustard seed becoming an enormous tree – it doesn’t sound like just eternity to me (how can heavenly afterlife grow?!).
After that I began to understand “ooh heaven is a place on earth.” Not totally, that was just for fun. The Kingdom of God can be a reality here and now (as opposed to later) if we see it and we make it happen.
That’s why Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry, announced the kingdom of heaven was being fulfilled right then. And so I thought that Kingdom could be spread from place to place (I often use the wildfire metaphor – one tree on fire catches another tree). But then I happened upon Luke 17, where Jesus says “nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” So that idea lost some ground.
I still can’t quite grasp what exactly Jesus is talking about. This makes me doubt my own faith, truth be told, because the Kingdom of God seems to be a defining concept in the Gospels – so why can’t I really “get” it?
So here is my best stab at it right now. Maybe the best description of the Kingdom is simply our earth put back together. Because to me God is putting his world and his people back together – he’s restoring the goodness he first made. That doesn’t really clear it up I realize, and yet from all of my research it’s the best way I can sum it up – the kingdom is our world being pieced back to the way it was made. As the world is put back together the process sort of perpetuates itself (wildfire-like). But, as Jesus said, this doesn’t happen in physical locations – but in your own heart.
I can see why Jesus spoke about in an artistic fashion, and not a dogmatic one. By speaking of it poetically and metaphorically it allows you to be understand and experience the Kingdom, as for me it’s something that can be explained systematically.
How would you explain the Kingdom of God? Could you please? I really am open to hearing other ways.