The relationship between the Church and the Kingdom of God is often misunderstood. Christians often speak as if the Kingdom of God was just another name for the church. In fact they are something quite different; and the Kingdom of God is much more important. The main thing that Jesus came to do was to establish the Kingdom of God. This is clear from the basic message that he proclaimed:
The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news (Mark 1:15)The gospels tell us that Jesus was constantly teaching about the Kingdom of God. The good news that he proclaimed was the gospel of the Kingdom. The twelve disciples were also sent out to proclaim the same message (Luke 9:1,2). In contrast the gospels only mention the word church twice.
The Kingdom of God is a much wider concept than the Church. The Kingdom includes every area of life that is under rule and authority of God. If God rules a home it is part of the Kingdom. Where a business is run on biblical principles, it is also part of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God includes every human activity that is done according to his will.
God intends his Kingdom to expand into every area of life. This expansion takes place in two different ways. Individual people must be born into the Kingdom. Jesus said,
Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5).
As people are born again through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, they become citizens of the Kingdom. God will deliver them from sickness and the power of the devil. Being born again is the only way that a person can enter the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom also expands as Christians bring the different aspects of their lives under the will of God. As a Christian applies the principles of God's word to those activities where he has authority, they become part of the Kingdom of God. For example, if a husband is converted he becomes a member of the Kingdom. When he starts to run his home on biblical principles, it also becomes part of the Kingdom, since it is under the government of God. The Kingdom of God expands as Christians extend the rule of God into the areas of life where they have authority. And this means that Christians should seek positions of authority. This also helps the Kingdom to expand.
Authority is an essential aspect of any Kingdom. Within the kingdom of God there are different areas, or spheres of authority. Each one involves both authority and responsibility, for those who control it. There can be no authority, without a corresponding responsibility. Some of these spheres of authority are listed below. Most are attached to a particular institution.
The family: a husband has authority over his family. He also has a responsibility to discipline, teach, and provide for his family. His wife has a complementary responsibility and authority.
A Business: the owner of a business has authority over his employees. He also has a responsibility to treat them according to the requirements of the Word of God.
The Church: the elders of a Church exercise authority over the members of the Church. They are responsible for the proclamation of the gospel, and the spiritual growth of their Church.
Civil government: The state has responsibility for the administration of justice, and for the defence of the nation. It has authority to carry out these tasks.
The Christian man: God has given us freedom, which means that we have authority over our own lives. At the same time we are responsible to God for our behaviour.
Courts of law, schools, and voluntary societies are other important spheres of authority. Each of these institutions also involves both authority and responsibility.
The Kingdom of God becomes a reality when every sphere of authority, is ruled according to the Word of God. This happens when those with authority are Christians, and are submitted to the authority of God. He has delegated authority to various individuals and groups in society. When a sphere of delegated authority is ruled according to his will, it becomes part of the kingdom of God. Where authority is exercised contrary to his will, that sphere of authority is outside the kingdom.
At the same time the interaction between the various spheres of authority must also be governed by the Word of God. It is wrong for one group to take over the authority that belongs to another. For example when the civil government becomes the provider, it is taking authority and responsibility that God has assigned to the family. Each delegated authority must only carry out the functions that God has assigned to it.
Everything outside the kingdom of God is part of the kingdom of darkness. It is ruled and controlled by Satan. His kingdom is characterised by disunity and conflict. These are the consequences of human sin. And because Satan is a liar and destroyer, it will be full of hatred, bitterness, and destruction of human life. The only way to escape is through faith in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13).
Naturally there will be warfare between the two kingdoms. God's purpose is to extend his Kingdom throughout the entire world. Satan is trying to expand his kingdom. His task has been made easier as Christians have withdrawn from many spheres of authority. The idea has developed that politics and business are improper activities for Christians. These two very important areas of authority have been handed over to the devil. Even where Christians are involved in politics or business, there has been no serious attempt to apply biblical principles to these activities. This has severely weakened the kingdom of God.
Instead of seeking to establish the kingdom of God, Christians have concentrated on building the church. The church has become a place of retreat from the world. It may have supported Christians in their daily lives, but to the world it appears weak and irrelevant. Rather than being a place of retreat, the church should be a recruiting station and training ground for the kingdom of God.
It must recruit members for the kingdom by proclaiming the gospel. At the same time it must send Christians out into the world to establish the Kingdom of God. Christians should move into every area of authority, and take up responsibility. And the Church should teach these Christians to exercise that authority in accordance with the Word of God.
There is an urgent need for Christians to get involved in politics. But they will need teaching from the Church, on how to administer justice in a biblical way. They will also need strong spiritual support. Those with political authority must apply biblical principles to the government of their nation, so that it can be part of the kingdom of God. Politics are too important to be left to the devil.
Churches should also be recruiting and training people to serve in business. Under modern economic conditions very few people are willing to take responsibility for employing others. This has resulted in serious unemployment. This presents a tremendous opportunity for the expansion of the kingdom. An employer can have a great deal of influence on the way people live. The church should be encouraging men, who trust in God to take up this responsibility. These Christians would then apply biblical principles to their businesses, making them part of the kingdom of God.
The Church is just one sphere of authority within the kingdom of God. For too long it has been seen as the only one. As a result, work in the church has been seen as the only valid form of full time Christian service. This has led many people who are called to work in other areas of the kingdom of God, to work full time in the church. Because they do not have the appropriate gifts, and because this is not their calling, they have become frustrated. The church should be releasing them to the spheres of authority in which they belong. Because they would be working to establish the kingdom, they would still be involved in full time Christian work.
The Church must never be an end in itself. It must always be working to establish the kingdom of God. When Jesus comes back he does not just want to find a holy Church. He is coming back for a victorious Church, a Church that has established the kingdom of God as a reality in the world.
Victory of the Kingdom
As the church has retreated from the world, it has also lost its hope for the victory of the kingdom of God. But God is in control of this universe, and he has promised that his kingdom will be victorious. Jesus likened the kingdom to a mustard seed which is small, but grows into a might tree. The kingdom of God started off small but will grow mighty and powerful, as the rule of God spreads like leaven through the whole of society (Matthew 13:31-33).
Jesus promised that the meek would inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). The meek are those who are submitted totally to God. As God's people submit tho him, his kingdom will spread throughout the whole earth. It is because Jesus knew that God would fulfil this promise that he taught us to pray: Thy kingdom come. Jesus taught this prayer because he knew that the kingdom of God would eventually come in all its fullness.
There is a good picture of the glory of the kingdom in Daniel 7:27,28.
Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole of heaven will be handed over to the sains, the people of the most high. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.
Daniel saw the people of God taking up the power and authority that Jesus would establish for them, by his death and resurrection. He saw all those who are in places of authority submitting to God. When this happens, the kingdom of God has truly come.
As the church has retreated from the world, the belief has developed that the kingdom will not be established until Jesus returns. This is a false doctrine. It has led Christians to sit round and wait for Jesus to come, leaving the world in the hands of Satan. But the Bible teaches that the kingdom of God will be established through the proclamation of the gospel, and renewed Christians applying the Word of God to every area of life. When the majority of people are Christian, and when they hold most positions of authority, and are exercising their authority on biblical principles the kingdom of God will be a reality.
The Kingdom of God is to be established by the people of God, as they proclaim the entire Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ will be ruling his kingdom through the Church. When the kingdom has been established, there will be a final rebellion. Only then will Jesus return in glory, bringing the end of the world and the final judgement. The work of the Church will then be complete.
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24,28).
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