Uh, What Is The Kingdom of God For Real, Or I Should Really Know This By Now

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?!).

I don’t know how the preacher made that metaphor work with life after death, but well done sir.

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.

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18 Responses to Uh, What Is The Kingdom of God For Real, Or I Should Really Know This By Now

  1. JamesBrett says:

    i don’t have a good definition either. but i’m going with something along these lines…

    the kingdom of God is the (spiritual / otherworldly) territory in which God’s sovereign rule is recognized. and the citizens of that kingdom are all those who have truly placed themselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. this kingdom is a present reality here on earth, but won’t reach it’s fullest manifestation until after the coming judgment.

    what’s interesting to me is that we’ve (many of us) adopted this language of “advancing the kingdom” and other phrases like that. but, as best as i can tell, we’re not asked to do anything of the sort in the bible. rather we’re told to treasure the kingdom, seek it, grasp it, etc. i don’t read anything about growing it or advancing it, etc. just an off-subject thought.

    • David says:

      I think what is meant by advancing the Kingdom is that the rule and reign of Heaven has a greater influence when the word is preached and others come to Jesus. It is simple view of the army of God advancing to claim territory for the Kingdom that was taken illegally by the devil.

      I don’t think that the Kingdom is actually going to grow in size, just it’s influence.

      But maybe I am missing your point. 😉

      • JamesBrett says:

        david, you didn’t miss my point; i didn’t really have one. i was just noting our usage. i guess if i were forced to make a point, i’d question whether or not we should be viewing evangelism more as God’s work, and simply abiding in him more as ours.

    • Ike says:

      I agree with “JB”. I use one word….”re-creation”(is that one word?). It’s final consumation is future. Many think of their salvation as a one time thing…..but I am saved….I am being saved……and one day I will be saved forever.

      • @James (good to see you again, by the way) I wanted to include something about the kingdom not being fully manifested here but didn’t want the post to drag on any longer. But then again we are all painfully aware it’s not fully present right now. For me, I see the kingdom as not a solely otherwordly thing -but as something that can be occurring here – but it’s hard to explain how that is possible since, as I pointed out in the post, it isn’t in that one place or another.

  2. David says:

    First, just like our salvation, the Kingdom is in process (here, yet being prepared). We are saved at the moment of faith, we are being saved from our sin by being obedient to the Father (character, godly works, renewing of the mind) and we will be saved on the last day. The Kingdom of God becomes more visible when we have faith, and even more visible as we live in it; as we see through the glass dimly but see what the Father is doing, and hear God’s voice . Of course in Heaven (or it coming here), it will be 100% complete – but we will have glorified bodies that can handle it.

    Sometimes it easier to understand something complex if we know what it consists of. The Kingdom of God has many qualities such as holiness, peace, light, perfect wisdom, a perfect father, healing, wholeness, power and the like. God is not in sin etc. It is eternal.

    What is important to know is that the Kingdom of God is at hand. It has always been a reality for those in relationship to it’s King. The 12 disciples were pretty much ineffective until the Holy Spirit came in power. Then they began to operate in Kingdom principals. IE: Healing, casting out demons, prophesying etc.

    The Kingdom of God may still have some mystery to it, but it 100% accessible for those that, according to Proverbs 2, seek it like hidden treasure. What I find most interesting is that most Christians don’t hear from God, and don’t have regularly answered prayers. And worse they get wigged out by the supernatural.

    The Kingdom of God is a supernatural spiritual realm that for the Children of God is in them, and they in it. It is the commingling of His spirit, and ours. His manifold presence is eternal, his manifest presence is subject to our ability to walk in and by the spirit.

    When was the last time you had a sermon on walking in or by the spirit? There in lies the problem. The Kingdom of God is not one of talk, but one of power. Without that power I am very suspect of any deep or meaningful Christianity.

  3. Larry Hughes says:

    Here is my off the wall take.

    At the end of the tribulations there will be a new Jerusalem comming down from the heavens from God. Roughly about 1400 miles square. The old earth and heaven will pass away and there will be no seas. The gates will never close, and there will be eternal light from His presence, The living waters will flow freely in a city filled with plentiful fruits from the tree of life and it’s leaves will heal the nations. (Revelations chapter 21/22).

    So in essence the Kingdom of God will be a new earth and a new Jerusalem with ones that have their names written in the book of life. All the rest will be cast into a hell of sorts thus leaving only the faithful as occupants ( in new bodies) of the new world with eternal light.

    If you live the life of a follower now while in the flesh, you will have experienced a sample of the Kingdom of God in your hearts. Then, it will be the complete package for eternity or at least a thousand years.

    There is a lot more to discuss here but time doesn’t permit it. Super natural, healings, and miracles are part of the mysteries of God. It is sad some faiths do not embrace these actions any more. It is possible they might be missing the whole picture of God’s abilities and gifts.

    • Rob Bell actually mentioned that line “the gates will never close” in that live stream thing everyone is chirping about – I regularly reference Rev 21 but somehow I missed that part. Not sure what it is saying, will have to look into that. (that’s all beside the point you are making)

      I agree with the sample of the kingdom of God in our hearts – can that sample grow and grow? Or is it destined only remain a sliver, a little taster? Taking it back to James & David’s comments – can it advance? How much can it advance? How real can it get?

      By the way I’m a totally bummed about no seas – I love surfing almost as much as anything in this world. And i love skiing equally as much – not possible without the sea. (the kingdom will therefore be boring ;p)

      • David says:

        A surfer from PA, now that’s a miracle!

        I am pretty sure that the high dosage of love in the Kingdom will keep us busy for a few millennia! It is one of the reasons that we need a glorified body, this one cannot handle the presence of God without incinerating in his holiness.

        After that we will be in awe for a few more millennia then some worship and a banquet.

        The beauty of the heavenlies is going to be eternal. 🙂

      • Larry Hughes says:

        Charlie: It all depends on the one asking the question. How far do you want to go?

  4. Chris says:

    @ Ike.

    I liked the way you put it.

    “I am saved….I am being saved……and one day I will be saved forever.”

    Although this video is not of my tradition I have found it to have great meaning.

  5. Peter says:

    Similar to what several people have already said…

    When I’m talking with most evangelicals about the Kingdom of God, I often focus a lot on the concept of shalom. Shalom has become one of those fancy words that a lot of churches use in their sermons these days, so a lot of people realize that the word means something much deeper than simply “Hello” or “Peace”. However, it’s rare that anyone goes further into understanding the idea than whatever their preacher said about it.

    So I’ve found it useful to expound on Shalom, and talk about the ideas of peace, and justice, and right relationship, and reconciliation, and good community, and being right before God that are all embedded into that one little word. And this Shalom, I explain, is a picture of the Kingdom of God – people reconciled to each other and to God, living in right relationship with all.

    And this is where we see the “now, but not yet” aspect of the Kingdom… as the body of Christ, we do the best we can to make Shalom real. We follow Christ with our whole hearts, we’re open and honest and in good community with each other, and we work for peace and justice in the world. When others see the Church, they should see a glimpse of what Shalom, of what the Kingdom, look like. But we know we all fail and screw up, so it’ll never be a perfect picture… until Christ returns, and makes everything new and right again.

    That’s not too different than what most of you all said, but it has been helpful for me to find that “hinge” word, shalom, that I can use to frame the rest of the conversation.

    • AHH I just now found this comment! I apologize for the lateness, I take great pride in responding to my comments so I actually feel terrible for neglecting this one, albeit accidentally.

      I too have heard a lot about shalom (Rob Bell has made it semi-known) but it’s usually in an over-simplified form – even just hearing your brief summation helped me better grasp the term.

      It sounds like shalom is something that grows and expands and spreads – as once it’s spread a couple of times it has the potential to reproduce itself. And so maybe the more it’s spread the less we will feel that “now, but not yet” thing.

  6. StephenT says:

    It is interesting to me that when Jesus tells us what the kingdom of God is “like”, he equates it to a source, and then describes, as a subsequent outcome, the dynamics that flow from that source. So I ask myself, is it presumptuous of me to run to the dynamics to form my own understanding?, or should I linger longer at what the source is trying to say to me?

    The kingdom is like a grain of mustard seed.
    The kingdom is like leaven.
    The kingdom is like treasure.
    The kingdom is like a merchant.
    The kingdom is like a net.
    … and so on.

    When I’m in a garden, it’s tempting to focus on the rich soil, the green leaves, and the fruit hanging on the branches, but what if, while standing in the midst of all this natural glory, I am told that the kingdom of God is like water?

    • so the Kingdom becomes more than it’s source? Or maybe better stated the kingdom creates something- something comes from it? the Kingdom bears fruit?

      Now that I re-read your comment again are you saying that the Kingdom is what makes all of this possible? For without water there are no fruits, no soil, no branches?

      Sorry hopefully these questions don’t expose me as not being very smart, I’m just trying to get to the bottom of what you’re saying (because it seems like something is there).

  7. venetokeyter says:

    And the Elders and Angels around the throne answers: Amen! And the Master says: By My grace I say that your faith has saved you!

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