What is a Kingdom?

Jesus' followers knew all about kingdoms, because they were surrounded by them. The word "kingdom" does not mean much to our modern minds, because most of us do not live in a kingdom, and there are very few real kingdoms around to observe. It is harder for us to understand the Kingdom of God, but we should not be put off, because a kingdom is a simple thing.

A kingdom is a territory controlled by a king.

The defining feature of a kingdom is its king. Every kingdom has a king. God is the king of the Kingdom of God.

Understanding the role of a king is not easy for us, because most modern kings are not real kings, but just ceremonial figureheads without any real authority. The kings and queens of Europe are a marvellous tourist attraction, but irrelevant to daily life. Huge cheering crowds turn out for their birthdays and weddings, but their glory days are in the past. The people of their nation celebrate their anniversaries and love to see them, but they do not do their will, because they have no authority. Modern rock star kings give a distorted view of the Kingdom of God. To understand the role of a king, we must look at real kings from earlier times. The Bible has plenty of examples.

Absolute Authority

The defining characteristic of a king is authority.

Kings exercise authority

Batters score runs, singers sing songs, and kings wield authority over their territory and people. When a king loses his authority, he stops being a king. A king without authority is not a real king. A rebel who gains control of a kingdom becomes a king, if he can retain his authority over it. Kings and authority go together. A change in king means a change in authority.

A real king had absolute authority in his kingdom. He was not under law, because his decrees made the law. A king could change the law when it suited him by making a new decree. He could not be charged with a crime, because he was the law.

The king was the chief judge. People with disputes over property had to take them to the king for resolution (2 Sam 15:2). If the king was not interested in the case, a person might wait for years to obtain justice. If their complaint was against someone whom the king favoured, they would not get justice at all.

The entire kingdom was the property of the king. Everyone owning land or a house did so at the pleasure of the king. The king could take land off an enemy and give it to a friend, without paying any compensation. If the King liked a farm or a house, he could just seize it (1 Kings 21:16). The owner of the land could object, but they would end up dead.

Every person living within the kingdom was the property of the king. They were required to do whatever he commanded. They could not leave the kingdom or travel without his approval. Men could be conscripted into the king's army, whenever he wished. Young women could be forced to serve in the palace, or the king's bedroom, even if they were married. If the king was building a new town or palace, he could raise forced labour to do the work. Citizens of the kingdom could be told where and when they must work without pay.

Kings had authority over all the people living within their kingdom. Anyone who failed to obey the king's decrees was punished with ruthless force. If a king lost control of his territory and fled into exile, his authority over his people disappeared.

Modern kings are just puppets, with no real authority. In a real kingdom, the king has absolute authority over everyone and everything. Every person in the kingdom must obey the king. When Jesus referred to God becoming king, he was describing a situation where every person in creation would be submitted to his authority.

Situation Report

God's Kingdom comes when his will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Interactions between the physical and spiritual realms are critical for the emergence of the Kingdom of God on earth and in heaven. When God created humans, authority was split.

This authority situation was changed by the Bad Authority Shift.

The cross-dramatically changed the authority situation.

As the Kingdom of God advances, these spiritual squatters and usurpers will be squeezed out of the earth and their authority diminished. Until that happens, authority on earth is divided. At one level, authority is exercised by people and institutions operating in the physical world, but at another level, actors in the spiritual realm have authority over them.

In the 2000 years since the cross, the struggle for authority on earth has continued. Jesus won the victory, but has refused to enforce his victory using Imposed Authority. Jesus' authority is restrained, so humans must work with the Holy Spirit to break the logjam.

Kingdom Communities

During a Time of Distress, religious structures will be torn down and Kingdom Communities will emerge in their place. Christians will be forced into deeper relationships with each other to survive in the hostile world. The Holy Spirit will flood them with love as they live out Jesus' new commandment (John 13:34).

Kingdom Communities will transform their neighbourhoods. As the structures of society fall apart, they will demonstrate a way of life that will appeal to a shaken world. The number of kingdom communities will grow quickly as the new way of living spreads from place to place as the Holy Spirit moves in power.

Each community will be a microcosm of the Kingdom of God, providing everything that governments have failed to deliver, but without Imposed Authority. They will be united by love and service under Free Authority.

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