Have You Seen The Kingdom?
Jesus, speaking to Nicodemus, said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” So, if we claim to be born-again, have we seen the kingdom? If yes, how can we describe it?
In one of his sermons, Tim Mackey gave an excellent parable to describe this. A few weeks before presenting that talk, he went on a hike to a campsite on the side of Mt. Hood in Oregon for a personal prayer retreat. While walking on the trail, Tim heard a noise from the bushes on the side. He stopped to see what it might be. He thought it could be an animal that he must be cautious about — but later, he noticed a woman crouching in the bushes. As he didn’t want to bother, he continued on the trail. Then she stood up, and her mouth was full. Excitedly, she said, “Look, these huckleberries, they are everywhere!” She was crouching in the bushes to pick them and eat.
Tim looked around and found that he was surrounded by one of the thickest, purplest, dense huckleberries he had ever seen. He looked down the path he came and noticed huckleberry bushes were everywhere as far as he could see. He looked up the trail and noticed the same. He also plucked some of those dark purple huckleberries and munched some. He had them all through his retreat time.
Tim relates this experience to the eternal presence of God that he began to experience lately, which was profound and transformative.
Is the kingdom of heaven ‘hidden in plain sight’? Or is it not real? If real, what does it mean to enter it? We should ask this question to know what it means to enter God’s kingdom instead of pretending in the garb of theology, religiosity, philanthropy, or popularity.
Ironically, the kingdom of heaven is not a topic of interest among Christians today. Therefore, many of us have confusing ideas or lack knowledge of it. Hence, I wonder, what gospel of the kingdom are we proclaiming?
Is the scripture clear about it? Of course, it is. Recently, I started highlighting my Bible on everything related to the gospel of the kingdom. All the epistles I read turned yellow with highlighters.
According to my imagination, if all the pages of the New Testament were transparent sheets of drawings overlayed, the one image that would emerge would be Christ and his kingdom. Not limited to the New Testament, the idea of the kingdom of God is persistent from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22.
So this is what every author is writing about. The kingdom of God is the eternal reign of God over heaven and earth, metaphorically called heavenly Jerusalem, which has come back to us in Christ, where he became king by his death and resurrection. By doing his will and discipling nations, we partake in this invisible reality, which will be made visible in all its glory at the end of the age.
By our faith in Christ and dying with him, we are raised in him, to eternal life as his body, as a new creation, as a child of God, as citizens of heavenly Jerusalem. My new birth is more than just an intellectual concept. Instead, it is consciousness that I am conceived by the Spirit of God, born of God in Christ.
Paul reminds us, “Therefore since you have been raised with Christ, strive for the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” “Put(ing) to death, therefore, the components of your earthly nature,” and “put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love”.
Peter also writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness… to become partakers of the divine nature”. Therefore, he tells us, “Supplement your faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love… if you practice these qualities, you will never fall. For in this way, there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom…”
Therefore, I enter the kingdom when I die to my old self daily to breathe, think and act like Christ, my real life. There is no life outside Christ. Paul puts it clearly, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” But until then, as John Calvin says, the body of Christ makes it visible as a testimony by walking in the light of the kingdom in faith.
The kingdom of heaven is not a pie-in-the-sky to indulge in. Instead, it is a present reality made visible when the poor in spirit witness God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven as God’s holy and beloved family doing God’s will. They partake of God’s divine nature, in reverence to God, rooted in love; they pray together, joyfully share their sustenance with others, forgive one another, keep far from temptations and sin, defend the weak, release the oppressed, and confront the evil one. In other words, by loving God, their neighbour, and even their enemies as themselves.
But sadly, our individualistic, materialistic, moralistic church became oblivious to it because we live according to our flesh. We have reduced the gospel of the kingdom to a convenient set of opinions that takes us to heaven after we die but fails to become a testimony of it.
If we are truly born again, we become the life and testimony of this eternal, invisible, counter-cultural kingdom by walking in the will of God in every area of our lives together as God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Our works today in this unshakable kingdom are like treasures in heaven that remain for eternity.
Video: Bible Project - The gospel of the kingdom
Podcast: Why is Jesus always talking about the kingdom? Ep1
Podcast: God’s plan to establish his kingdom on earth Ep2
Podcast: What does it mean to join God’s kingdom? Ep3
Book: How God became king — NT Wright
Video: Paradise now — Tim Mackey
Article: What is the kingdom of God? — RC Sproul
Book: Virtue Reborn — N T Wright
A Portrait Of The Resurrection Life
Haven’t we ignored this life we are called to live?