Where is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom is IN and AMONG us!
Luke 11:20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God HAS COME upon you.
Luke 17:20-21 (AMP) The Kingdom of God does NOT come with VISIBLE display, Nor will people say, Look! Here it is! or, See, it is there! For behold, the Kingdom of God IS WITHIN YOU and ALREADY AMONG YOU.
Many sayings of Jesus found in the Gospel of Thomas (a 1945 discovery from the Nag Hammadi library by the Apostle Thomas) parallel the canonical Gospel sayings. Sometimes it helps to hear a fresh saying and how other early followers were hearing Jesus. I like the way that Thomas explains a realized Kingdom concept so clearly.
Gospel of Thomas 3 Jesus said, “Those who lead you say, “See, the Kingdom is in the sky…” …Rather, the Kingdom IS INSIDE OF YOU and it IS OUTSIDE OF YOU.
Gospel of Thomas* 51 His disciples said to him, “When will the rest for the dead take place, and when will the New World come?” He said to them, “What you are looking forward to HAS COME, but you don’t KNOW it.”
Gospel of Thomas 113 His disciples said to him, “When will the Kingdom come?” It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, ‘Look, here!’ or ‘Look, there!’ Rather, the Father’s Kingdom IS SPREAD out upon the earth, and people don’t SEE it.”
What does Jesus consistently say? The Kingdom is NOT something to wait for. Jesus says the Kingdom is NOT something visible. And it is NOT something in the sky. The Kingdom Jesus taught is a spiritual reality that comes into the world through us. Considering that Jesus even said the Kingdom was in and among the Pharisees in Luke 17, which seems almost offensive to consider, perhaps it is like a spiritual seed that has been planted inside each of us. And that activating faith in God makes it grow.
Before Jesus, John the Baptist announced to all people, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” As he saw a soon coming Kingdom of God that would be ushered in by the ministry of the Messiah. Notice that John the Baptist didn’t say that something “like” the Kingdom would come. And he didn’t say that the real Kingdom might be thousands of years away. He said over and over that THE Kingdom was at hand! Do you believe him? Did God inspire him to give a clear and accurate message or a mistaken one? If we dare to believe him, things might become surprisingly clear, simple and exceedingly optimistic.
A PRESENT AND INCREASING REALITY
Jesus talked about the Kingdom as a present reality, yet one that was growing in the world like a seed grows into a tree.
Luke 13:19 It [the Kingdom] is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. IT GREW and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.
Gospel of Thomas The disciples said to Jesus, “Tell us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.”
He said to them, “It is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest of all seeds. But when it falls on tilled soil, it produces a great plant and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky.”
And the Kingdom was something growing in them like yeast through dough, increasing in effectiveness.
Luke 13:20 It [the Kingdom] is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.
Gospel of Thomas Jesus said, “The Kingdom of the father is like a certain woman. She took a little leaven, concealed it in some dough, and made it into large loaves. Let him who has ears hear.”
The “leaven”, or the seeds of the Gospel of grace, were concealed in the Old Testament like leaven is concealed in dough. As it has been said, “what was concealed in the Old is revealed in the New”. Then slowly, at the right time, and under the right conditions, dough begins to rise. That leaven of Kingdom life was working its way through the newly forming body of believers as they fed on Jesus’ words. They were growing and forming into a new visible reality. The leaven of grace was growing them into New Kingdom disciples, the body of Christ.
There it was, all around them. The seeds of the Kingdom had arrived in their midst. And the nature of it is that it would continue to come. It would make progress like light shining into the world and dispelling the darkness. Notice, Jesus does not suggest a large installment of a Kingdom one day in the distant future. He describes it as a present and steadily growing reality. Even as He instructs them, he beckons them to pray “thy Kingdom come” as often as they eat bread. And it does come, when God’s will is done. Jesus depicts a rhythm of life where God’s Kingdom comes as his will is done daily.
Why are so many Christians confused about what the Kingdom is, where it is and whether of not it has arrived yet? Even though Jesus’ teaching may seem clear that his Kingdom was coming into the world in his day, his followers still had a hard time seeing and understanding it. It was invisible, yet visible in righteousness, peace and joy. It was coming into the world as Jesus came into more people, and more people came to live the life in the way of Jesus. Now that there are billions in Jesus, and Jesus in them, the Kingdom is present in the world more than ever. Yet so many still seem blind to it, and continue to do exactly what Jesus said NOT to do. They wait for it, they watch for it, they look to the sky for it – and they do not SEE it all around them!
Why are so many Christians confused about the Kingdom? Perhaps people have added more complication onto Jesus’ teaching than he intended. People seem to have mistakenly begun to wait for extra events, not realizing that Jesus accomplished all the events we will ever need when he atoned for us and made a way for us to be forgiven in God’s sight. I suspect that Jesus’ teaching is much more simple, plain and consolidated than some have realized. Just as Jesus is much more HERE, in us, and around us, than some have realized.
Many of the images that people have thought apply to a future physical city, mansion or Kingdom coming out of the sky are really different ways of describing the Kingdom realities that Jesus taught. They are not teaching something new that contradicts Jesus’ teaching about when his Kingdom would come and of what nature it would be. They were explaining Jesus’ teaching to the churches. The Kingdom realities that Jesus taught were ones that were coming to his generation “soon”. They have to do with taking people to places of healing, redemption and relationship that come with faith in Jesus. These are the “places” that only Jesus can take us. They are the places – the Kingdom – the mansion – only Jesus can prepare for us.
But many ask, if his Kingdom is here, why is the world still imperfect? Because the Kingdom is coming and coming. The perfect has come, yes, and even now, he can be “seen” everywhere by some people. He can be seen with the eyes of understanding. All of his sheep hear his voice. So all of his citizens see him and his Kingdom. God’s Kingdom is perceived the way we perceive Spiritual realities. Do you “see” what I mean?
Where is God’s dwelling place? God dwells in His Kingdom. Where is God’s Kingdom? God’s Kingdom is AMONG US. When is God’s Kingdom coming? It is HERE NOW for all who have eyes to see it.
Paul says the Kingdom isn’t something you taste or touch like physical food. It’s not even saying the right words. But rather the Kingdom comes in the realities of righteousness, peace, joy and power that flavor our lives when we live empowered by the Spirit of Jesus and Jesus in us.
Romans 14:17 The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but RIGHTEOUSNESS, PEACE and JOY in the Holy SPIRIT.
1 Cor 4:20 The Kingdom of God is not based on talk, but POWER.
“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take him at his word!” so the hymn goes. As I’ve come to trust Jesus more, I’ve come to see things differently. And as I see things anew, I trust him more. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is WITHIN US and AMONG US. His Kingdom is a present reality. Do you believe this? Christ’s Spirit is making his home, his dwelling place, among us. Here, NOW!
2 Cor 13: 5 …Do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is IN YOU?
This present Kingdom reality is available for all who have eyes to see, ears to hear and minds to perceive it. Jesus beckons his listeners to come see, hear, taste and live this Kingdom. Drink it up like new wine! Come into the Kingdom where Jesus is the open door. Step into His story, and he will make his home, his mansion – his Kingdom – with you, and bring you to where He is.
FIRST THE NATURAL, THEN THE SPIRITUAL
I grew up hearing that the Kingdom of God was a visible city that was going to come out of the sky and land on earth, like a colossal space ship. A giant symmetrical cube, made of jewels and streets paved with of gold. Not needing lights, because Jesus would be like a big light bulb. There would be no night or sleep. Would it have plumbing, running water or wireless internet? Or were these images meant to be describing realities beyond physical building blocks?
Spiritual things are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14). It took time for me to see the Scriptures as explaining something vastly more real than buildings I can see with my natural eyes. Instead of looking for a future-city-mother-ship, I now “see” the Kingdom of God in me, and I live in perfect peace as a citizen in it.
First there was the natural Jerusalem, it represented the Old Covenant, and it was destroyed. Now there is the Spiritual Jerusalem, the one from “above” or from God. It represents the New Covenant, the promise, the Kingdom. God has an order to things, and, as Paul says, the order is FIRST the NATURAL, then the SPIRITUAL (1 Cor 15:46).
Paul also described the New Covenant Kingdom of God as the new Heavenly Jerusalem. He saw the New Covenant Kingdom that was coming into being around him in the 60’s AD. However, he also saw that the Old Covenant wasn’t fully out of the picture yet. He was living in a time betwixt and between covenants, when they were overlapping. He was in a Transition period between the Cross (30AD) and the Parousia (70AD) when the Old Covenant Temple and sacrificial system was vanquished. Paul says the Temple in Jerusalem was a symbol of the Old Covenant age of slavery to the elements of the law and sacrifices. Paul wrote when the final elements Old Covenant age were getting ready to finally disappear.
Gal 4:22, 24-29 Abraham had two sons…now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are TWO COVENANTS. One is from Mt Sinai bearing children of slavery, she is Hagar…she corresponds to the present Jerusalem who is in slavery with her children. But the JERUSALEM ABOVE IS FREE, and SHE IS OUR MOTHER…now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of PROMISE. But JUST AS at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, SO IT IS NOW [pre 70 AD].
Heb 12:22-24 But you have come to Mt Zion, to the Heavenly Jerusalem, the City of the living God. You have come to thousands of messengers in joyful assembly, to the Church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the Spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a New Covenant, and to the sprinkled Blood [Gospel] that speaks a better message than Abel.
So to the Galations, Paul is contrasting the two covenants, Old and New. Hagar and her son, Ishmael, were slaves. Sarah and Isaac were free. Hagar and Ishmael represent the Old Covenant, which brought bondage to the law, and, after the Resurrection, it’s followers were likened to children of slavery because the law was no good to cleanse them. Sarah and Isaac represent the New Covenant, beginning in the ministry of Jesus and being fully manifest after the Old was taken out of the way. The Old Covenant life centered around the Temple, where they sacrificed, before its destruction in 70AD. The New Covenant life centers around Jesus IN US, his new Temple. This Spiritual reality of Jesus living in us individually and as the Church body, are likened to a new Heavenly Jerusalem. And WE are likened to the Temple in the City of God, or the Kingdom. The New Covenant realities followed the elementary teaching tools of the material Old Covenant realities. First the natural, then the Spiritual.
Going back to the contrasts. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, represented the New Covenant, which is also called the ‘Jerusalem above’. Sarah’s children are free, they are children of the promise. What promise? The promise of the Messiah who freed them from slavery to the law and gave them a New way of relating to God. One must be born again into the New Covenant life. In that way, the New Covenant, or new Spiritual Jerusalem, “Sarah”, was their mother, bearing children of the promise of freedom from the law and sin.
It’s important to note that when Paul says “now” he means THEN, during the time of Transition between Covenants in which he lived, at the “full end of the ages (Heb 9:26). The end that was in his immediate future is in our past. Paul contrasts the Old Covenant with the New Covenant realities, by comparing them to Ishmael and Isaac, who overlapped in the same house for a time. Just like the Old Covenant and New Covenants were overlapping during that time of Transition. The older brother was persecuting the younger brother and was cast out of the house. Then the younger brother, the son of the free woman, was free to inherit everything as a “first born”. After the final end of the Old Covenant age in 70AD, the New Covenant saints were like Isaac, born free. They were born from the Jerusalem above, or Mt Zion, or the City of the Living God, or Jesus.
Gal 4: 30,31 But what does the Scripture say? “CAST OUT the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the FREE woman.
This New Covenant is characterized by freedom and the Spirit. He likens it to a mother. But, why a mother? The New Covenant Kingdom was pregnant with Spiritual babies, people who were being born again. Like the branches of that Tree that Jesus referenced, the Kingdom was giving shelter to it’s spiritual babies in it’s far-reaching branches. In 70AD, the Old Covenant, the Temple and the old Jerusalem were finally cast out, and taken out of the way when Jesus fulfilled his promise to them and came on the clouds of judgment.
THE KINGDOM AND HEAVENLY JERUSALEM
Along the same lines, the Hebrew writer expands the same idea and likens the city, the mountain Zion, Heavenly Jerusalem, and the City of the Living God. Why is it the city of the Living God? Because it is where God lives. Where does God live? IN US and AMONG US NOW! Hebrews says this “city” has foundations, likened to the Apostles and their teachings (Eph 2:20, Rev 21:14). And the city’s maker is God. The “Door” to the city (Jn 10:9) and the “Chief Cornerstone” of it’s foundation are Jesus, his life, love and teaching. Indeed, the very LIGHT sustaining the City is Jesus!
Look at what Jesus turns around says. Who is the LIGHT of this City?
Matthew 5:14 YOU ARE THE LIGHT of the world. A City built on a hill cannot be hidden.
Jesus doesn’t want to be a colossal light bulb. He wants to be LIGHT IN US, NOW!
This New World of believers has been being born into the world since Jesus began filling people with new life, love and LIGHT. Before Pentecost, Jesus mentioned a shift that was about to happen. His Spirit would go from living among them, to living INSIDE them.
John 14: 17 (AMP) You know him [the Spirit], for he DWELLS WITH you and WILL BE IN you.
THEY would become God’s dwelling place. Jesus was preparing this DWELLING place for God to live in – AND THAT DWELLING PLACE WAS THEM! The miraculous, extraordinary Good News was that God would not just live in a box, but AMONG them and – IN THEM! At Pentecost, the Comforter CAME, AS PROMISED. He did not leave them comfortless and orphaned, but born them like a mother, and filled them with the Spirit of Jesus, and DWELT IN THEM.
John 14:18-21 I will NOT leave you comfortless, I WILL come to YOU. Just a LITTLE WHILE now, and the world will not see Me any more, but YOU WILL SEE ME; because I live, YOU will live also. [Why? Because Jesus is about to live IN them!] On that day YOU will REALIZE that I am IN my Father, and YOU are IN ME, and I AM IN YOU… whoever loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will REVEAL Myself to him.
Who did Jesus promise not to leave? THEM! If Jesus didn’t return to them then hasn’t he broken his promise not to leave them comfortless? Hasn’t he left them, and us, abandoned for thousands of years? Jesus was about to be clearly realized and known by his followers. This is similar to “every eye will see” him. What kind of eyes? The eyes of understanding of every one who God wants to make see him. Not the whole world, but every sheep that God wants. And then they would LIVE, they would really LIVE. They would have resurrection life and power like Jesus did and they would never go to Hades, but straight from this life to God.
Where would Jesus take those who love him? INTO THE FATHER! There is plenty of room there for everyone. God is like a big house, there is plenty of room for everyone to live there comfortably together. No one has to be cast out, like Ishmael. No, this house, this covenant, this KINGDOM, is EVERLASTING!
John 14:2, 18 In my Father’s house are MANY rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you…I will NOT leave you comfortless, I WILL come to YOU. Just a LITTLE WHILE now…
Indeed, Jesus did not leave them comfortless. He sent them the Comforter on Pentecost. This Comforter stayed with them until Jesus appeared and “cast out” the persecuting brother from the house in 70AD by ending the Old Covenant. Jesus brought all those who love him INTO THE NEW COVENANT, into his HOUSE. Jesus revealed himself and those who realized him lived with him forevermore in a new way.
Since that time, He has been coming into us. His world has been coming into our world, and will continue to do so, until he makes the world of men, into the world of God!
JESUS IN US
Jesus IN US births new life into being in the world. These various images – mother, bride, light, city, mountain, kingdom, temple, body, dwelling place – are describing what Jesus is doing IN and AMONG US. This bride became a perpetually birthing Mother who is populating a Mansion in a City of Light on a Mountain in an everlasting Kingdom which cannot be shaken!
We are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and children of the LIGHT. We are co-creating our lives in the Kingdom with God. Our bodies are Temples of Jesus’ Spirit. Our life together fills mansions where God DWELLS IN US and US IN HIM. Jesus is the “Light of the world” that is lighting our eyes and minds to see the Kingdom all around us – and in others.
John 8:12 Jesus said, “I AM the LIGHT of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will HAVE THE LIGHT OF LIFE.”
John describes this new world of light and love in the same language. I see several connections here.
Revelation 21:1,2,10 – And I saw a new heaven and a new earth [think: new Kingdom]…saw the holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride [think: mother] adorned for her husband… the bride, the Lamb’s wife… a great and high mountain…that great City, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: and her LIGHT was like unto a stone most precious…
Who is the Lamb’s wife, the bride, the City, the New Jerusalem, the New World from heaven? It is the new US with the loving life of Jesus filling us. His life lived IN and AMONG US NOW. WE populate that Kingdom as WE LIVE- the Kingdom life. We don’t have to wait for the Kingdom to come to us, like Jesus said, it doesn’t come to us. WE should focus on BRINGING IT wherever we go as we bring God’s light, love and life into the world.
When most New Testament Scripture was being written, in the 60’s AD, these remarkable new realities were birthing into being. Jesus had come into their midst in his life and his Spirit was sustaining them. Together, they were ending a world of darkness. Bringing Good News to people under the burden of laws, who were trusting in bloody ritual sacrifices, feeling far away from God, never knowing rest or peace in God, not having Him living IN them, and among them, personally. We can hardly imagine this now. So long forgotten is that other world of separation from God. The former things don’t even come to mind.
A new order of relationship, an orientation of light and life was released into the the first century saints experiencing freedom in Jesus for the first time. The Way of Jesus was especially Good News for the Jewish saints who grew up under the burden of countless laws dictating every day of life and every bite of food, keeping them trembling before God. They needed constant coverage from ritual sacrifices to live in relationship with God. Yet in the teaching of Jesus, they were coming to see God in a new way, in the light of Jesus.
Could it be? A big collective “Aha!” was about to come across those saints who had anticipated their Messiah. Jesus would be fully manifested to them as he put away the elements and Temple rituals of their former life. In that sense, they were about to see him as he really is, the True Light of the New Kingdom. Then THEY would become LIGHT to the world – they would become LIKE HIM!
This new world arrived in Jesus. Even more so at Pentecost when Jesus came INTO people. And in it’s fullness when the Old Covenant Temple and Sacrificial System was finally taken out of the way in 70AD. This was the last remaining symbol of the old world order. And the end of it came like a flood.
Jesus is the one who is, who was, and who continually comes IN and AMONG us NOW. He comes in present, earthy and gritty ways into OUR lives, leading us through them. He comes personally, corporately, through others, in dreams, visibly, invisibly, physically and immaterially. He is all around us in a way we can become more aware of everyday. He comes in times of prayer, meditation or exercise. He makes himself known in coincidences. He presents himself to us in moments of extraordinary natural beauty. He mocks our disbelief with each stunning sky. His arms embrace us as we are embraced by our friends at church through times of pain, loss or heart break. He reminds us of His great love for us in the moments when we are overwhelmed by our love for a child.
God stirs us because he lives IN US. Where can we go from God’s presence? Wherever we go, he is there. (Ps 139) He is there, because he is IN HERE, IN US.
1 Cor 6:19 Do you not know that YOUR BODY IS THE TEMPLE (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received from God?
HAVE WE BEEN ABANDONED? LEFT COMFORTLESS?
Must we believe that Jesus has abandon us for thousands of years because we cannot see him walking on earth? By no means! Does Jesus need to come and live in a temple on earth for him to be with us and rule his Kingdom among us?
Why would Jesus need to disrupt this beautiful life where he can be experienced everywhere, all the time, only to place himself back inside of a box, in a building or earthly temple, which he never wanted in the first place? (Acts 7:48-49). Do we find any mention of Jesus ruling on an earthly throne ANYWHERE in the teaching of Jesus or Paul? I haven’t seen it yet. Why would the Bible need to explain so much about the spiritual Kingdom if it were going to be something plain to everyone when it takes over the material world? That would be obvious and need no explanation. Why would Jesus need to sit on a throne where only a few could see him at a time in an impersonal manner when he already says that he does not dwell in physical houses, but that heaven is – and now WE ARE – his Temple, and our HEARTS his most desired THRONE? Why would he limit himself to being in only one body when his Spirit reigns inside billions of people?
So why are people waiting for a visible Kingdom to come down from the sky? That is a great question. And it will probably inform nothing less than the next Christian Reformation! Christians have not always believed such things. Most physical Kingdom concepts today are relatively new doctrines.They were mass marketed in American books and study Bible notes. Over the past one hundred years these ideas spread rapidly, but they are on the decline.
As a Spirit, Jesus can live within and among all of us at once, having been released from the confines of his body and the Temple-box. In and through us, Jesus envelops the world as his footstool and is sub-doing his enemies, like injustice, evil and violence. Through us, he unleashes love, peace, joy, and a new vision of humanity into the world. WE ARE the throne he wants. WE BRING his Kingdom of love, life LIGHT as we love him and LIVE WITH HIM IN GOD! This is the consistent witness of Jesus and the Apostles.
So I say with John, as he wrote concerning the last things being taken out of the way in 70AD:
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! GOD’S DWELLING PLACE IS NOW AMONG THE PEOPLE, and He will DWELL WITH them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
Where is God’s dwelling place? God used to dwell in a Temple. Now, we ARE that Temple. God’s dwelling place (mansion, city and Kingdom) is in us. Where is his throne? His throne is in our hearts. Our hearts are in the Kingdom of God when Jesus lives in them. This is why Jesus says the Kingdom is withing us, because God is in us. This was a revolutionary concept for Jesus’ first hearers, and it is for us today. This message has by no means lost its luster!
So where is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is Jesus dwelling IN and AMONG US NOW!
Be it ever so. Amen.