A gospel of a distant kingdom
Has the church abandoned the gospel and her calling?
We have been watching the horror of the Taliban take over Afghanistan. We have also heard about their atrocities against women, children, and everyone against their dominance, both foreigners and citizens alike.
Even the US embassy did not feel safe, so they had to air-lift their people from the rooftops of the embassy. Afghan citizens and even Muslim citizens are in fear of their lives and future. What news do you think would be good news for them in the current circumstances?
A visa and a travel arrangement to leave the country is definitely good news, but that would be possible for only a few influential ones. A possibility to cross the border to a neighbouring country would also bring hope to the desperate one. These options are good only in the interest of self, but what can be done to serve the interest of Afghanistan and save the nation?
Now imagine this story. A great king who initially ruled this country defeated the Taliban and legally took over the charge. He now wants to uproot every militant member and their networks from the land and establish peace in this country.
(Revelation 5:9,10; Psalm 110:1)
He has set up a small colony in the heart of Kabul. He calls people to leave everything and go inside it and be safe under his protection. But, people have to leave the Taliban way of living and live by way of the king. This is the gospel he announced. All those oppressed who heard this great news leapt with joy and hurried into it.
(Matthew 4:17; Matthew 6:10; Matthew 16:18,19; Matthew 11:5)
He made ministers of those who came leaving everything and gave them the authority and power to administer his righteousness and extend his colonies to all corners of Afghanistan. They are commissioned to go by the king’s authority, capture the Taliban, organize as a community, live by way of the king in all aspects of life so that the people around can observe their love and learn the way. Those who wanted to submit to the king’s rule should be accepted as family members of the king.
(Isaiah 32:1–2; Matthew 28:18–20; Matthew 12:48–50)
In doing so, these colonies have turned into the most beautiful places, filled with righteousness, peace and joy. These are not refugee camps nor ghettos; they are entire cities with homes, schools, businesses, gardens, streams, hospitals, transportation, etc. Like a city on a hill, the people around longed to come and live here. Seeing their good works, even the outsiders praised the king.
(Colossians 3; Romans 14:17; Matthew 5:13–16)
Though the Taliban created trouble through some of the people around, the people of the way remained joyful and counted it all joy to be called the king’s servants. The king said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” He told them to never hate their enemies for their behaviour but to forgive them. He wanted every Afghan to leave Talibanism and come under his rule.
(Matthew 5:10–12; Matthew 5:44)
Since discipleship is intruding on their privacy, some ministers thought they are wiser than their king, so they came up with a more brilliant way to save people. They changed the king’s plan, saying that we don’t need to fight against the Taliban and establish our king’s dominion here. The king’s plan is not to restore Afghanistan but to bomb it and take us to another country. So retreat to your former homes, only get your new passport from the distant kingdom, and come to the terminal regularly to avoid missing your flight.
So, like the US army, they told the people that their king is in a different country, not here; he is working to air-lift people to that location. All they have to do is to wait at the terminal.
Over time, seeing the confusion some members came to believe that the gospel of the Taliban is not that bad after all. So they left the colonies except for a few weekly visits.
Eventually, these colonies became airport terminals where people did nothing the king wanted them to do but wait for their Boeing C-17. Until then, the ministers entertained the people.
Some ministers created more panic to draw people’s attention. The message they started announcing was “come to the terminal quickly, or else you would miss your flight and be left behind.” Those who panicked even tried to sit outside of one C-17 to escape, but they eventually paid with their lives.
Since then, most of the people who came to the airport after hearing the so-called gospel did not know about the gospel of the kingdom the king announced. They only wanted an escape to a kingdom far away. So they never worked to establish the king’s righteousness or extended its rule throughout Afghanistan.
As a result, that righteousness, peace and joy they possessed earlier have disappeared. Amidst this chaos many ministries found an opportunity for personal gain by creating this hysteria which the king never talked about.
While they were all engrossed in waiting for their flight and do nothing the king commanded, their colonies, which turned into terminals, aren’t safe anymore; they have become like militants’ dens. So sadly, a few good ministers who are hiding in these dens, are praying to the king to send their flight soon.
Others people lost faith in the king seeing this airport business. They went back angry, seeking what they may eat, drink and wear from tomorrow. The gospel of the Taliban seemed more promising and realistic to them.
Seeing all this, the king was furious. So he sent his close generals to the people who believed in him to explain his plan for the kingdom. He wanted them to tell that his kingdom is not about escaping but establishing his rule here in Afghanistan; therefore, go in my authority, and seek first the kingdom and administer righteousness, and capture the strong Taliban. Sadly these directions fell on deaf ears.
He blasted them for becoming deaf and blind to his glorious plan of restoration.
Has the king lost hope? No, the king is able to restore all that was lost long ago due to a civil war in the garden. Now he has conquered the Taliban. Soon he is going to judge them and cast them out to establish Shalom over Afghanistan.
(Isaiah 11:1–9; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 65:17–25; Habbakuk 2:14; Revelation 21:1–3)
Gospel is always about a king’s triumph and proclamation of his coming kingdom, not about quietly escaping to a distant one.
PS: I hope the above parable made some sense to you. Gospel is always about a king’s triumph and proclamation of his coming kingdom, not about quietly escaping to a distant one. When Jesus came proclaiming the gospel, he said, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand (eggizó); repent and believe in the gospel.’ Eggizo means come near or extreme closeness.
But why then do we believe that the kingdom is far away or something in the future? Why do we sing, “Then he’ll call me someday to my home far away, Where His glory forever I’ll share.” In another famous hymn, Oh Lord my God, we sing this line, “When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation, and take me home — what joy shall fill my heart!” Don’t get me wrong. I really love these hymns, but those lines are misleading.
Where did we get this idea that our eternal home is far away when Christ said his kingdom has come near? Did Jesus preach the gospel of a distant kingdom?
If the kingdom of heaven is far away, what then is the good news for this world oppressed by the enemy? There is no gospel there. Kings don’t do secret rescue missions to save their people. Instead, kings conquer the enemy and redeem all that belongs to them.
Gospel is not about saving souls and attending church on Sundays. It is about the kingdom of heaven coming near and the king’s bondservants (church/ecclesia) as citizens of heaven, reign with him in this new creation as he makes all things new.
Therefore, our calling is not to follow the ways of this world or isolate ourselves from the world like ghettos but to disciple the world into the righteousness of my king in every aspect of life. Thus, advancing the reign of Christ here on earth as it is in heaven. Persuading people to submit to the king and live under the rule of Christ along with them.
Therefore, I intentionally take up my cross and surrender to his lordship over all of my life, seeking first his righteousness and justice in my spiritual, emotional, intellectual, sexual, relational, family, financial, social, civic, economic, professional life, along with fellow disciples.
Are we reigning with Christ today in this new creation?
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.