In Sand and Foam the Lebanese poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Should you sit upon a cloud you would not see the boundary line between one country and another, nor the boundary stone between a farm and a farm. It is a pity you cannot sit upon a cloud” (81).
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44, read context, 2:26-47).
In Jesus Christ the kingdom of God broke forth into this world. The boundary lines separating nations and the boundary stones separating farms are being removed one heart, one person at a time. In Christ the boundaries which breed hostility are removed. In Christ the nations become one nation, the races one race, the peoples one people. The kingdoms become one kingdom in Christ. The apostle John saw a vision of the Lamb of God, the crucified and risen Christ at the right hand of God. It was said of him, “behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered” (Revelation 5:5). Those before the thrown bowed down before him. “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:9-10
What is the impact of the kingdom on the hearts and lives of its citizens? How are the people of God to live within his kingdom?
The first point about living in the kingdom of God is a central point I hopefully made in writing about the church as the people of God and the body of Christ. The citizens of the kingdom of God, Christians, are one kingdom under one King, one nation, one people. In the world there are so many boundaries which breed hostilities. Those boundaries were nailed to the cross in Jesus Christ. The citizenship is composed of every nationality, race, and people who have been nationalized by Jesus Christ and the Spirit. They are to live together in peace, the peace which comes through the death of Jesus Christ, through his message, and through his Spirit. The citizens of the kingdom of God are to be accepting of each other as Christ has accepted them. They are to welcome each other as Christ welcomes them. Their loyalty, faithfulness, and love for their King is to flow through their hearts and lives to one another. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Romans 15:7 NIV84). (See Romans 12:3-5; 1 Corinthians 12; Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:11-22; Colossians 3:11-15.)
The church has not always glorified God in this matter of accepting one another as Christ accepts them, in accepting each other not as Jew or Greek, slave or free, but as brothers and sisters in Christ, as one race, one people. The prejudices, boundaries, and hostilities of the world have often invaded the church. What Christ destroyed in his death on the cross Christians have ripped from the cross and followed the world instead of Christ. Usually the Scriptures are twisted to rationalize such unChristlike attitudes and behavior. The truth of the kingdom of God and the life the citizens of the kingdom are to live in relationship to each other is not negated by the failures of the church over the centuries. Christ our King continues to command and challenge us to live in attitude and behavior as fellow citizens, one people, treating one another, loving one another, as we are treated and loved by Christ. “For the kingdom of God is…a matter…of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
In contrast to those who are enemies of the cross of Christ whose minds are on earthly things, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). A second point about living in the kingdom of God is that we are to live in loyal and faithful obedience to the King. Our allegiance is to our King and to the peace of his kingdom.
A third point about living in the kingdom of Christ is that we are to proclaim the excellencies, the praises, of our King (1 Peter 2:9). Certainly the truth of God and of the gospel of Jesus Christ are to be proclaimed. That truth and message are also to be proclaimed by the lives we live. Christians, as citizens of the kingdom of God, are sojourners and exiles in the world. We are green card carrying aliens. We are to live as citizens of the kingdom of God for which we are ambassadors in a foreign land. “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12).
Fourth, the people of God as citizens of the kingdom of God are a royal priesthood, the priests of the King (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10). Our lives are to be lives of worship, bowing in reverence before the King, lifting up his name in praise. Worship of the King is not only to be the praise rising from the heart and flowing over our lips. Worship of the King is to flow out of the heart into the lives we live. We are to live with hearts and bodies, everything about us, every word, every thought, every deed, surrendered in undying loyalty to the King.
Fifth, as an outpost of the kingdom, the body of Christ, which is the church, the people of God are pioneers living in a lawless frontier as citizens of the kingdom of God. We are to live in the righteousness of the rule, power, and sovereignty of the King. Our King has taught us “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
To live in the kingdom of Christ is to know the redemption, the forgiveness of sins, which God gives through the blood of his Son Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:5-6; Colossians 1:13-14). To be in the kingdom of Christ is to know the blessings of the power and the protection of the King Jesus Christ. His power, rule, and sovereignty is over all things, all powers, and all authorities, for the good, the well-being, of his people (Ephesians 1:18-23).
To live in the kingdom of God is to live with assurance and hope.We look around us, read the news, watch the news, it certainly appears evil, Satan, is the supreme power. Scripture is emphatic. God is the supreme power. God reigns. The risen Christ has been enthroned. He reigns over the kings of the earth and all power and authority. Evil, Satan, has been defeated on the cross, in the empty tomb, and in God’s exaltation of Jesus Christ as King of kings, and Lord of lords. God’s people put on the armor of God, fight against evil in their lives, in the lives of others, and the community around them. Fighting, not with the weapons of this world, but with the weapons God supplies in Jesus Christ and in his Spirit, God’s people press on, strengthened by the assurance of the victory of Christ on the cross, in the tomb, and now on the throne. God’s people press on in the hope of the fullness of Christ’s victory when Christ comes again. They live in the hope of the consummation of the kingdom of God when Christ returns. then every knee will bow and all will acknowledge Christ as supreme and God as king over all.
Speaking of the present and of what is yet to come, the apostle Paul encourages the Thessalonian Christians so long ago and Christians today. “We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12).