“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” John 18:36
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is inside of you.” (singular). Luke 17:20-21
Earlier this year I heard something that didn’t make sense. Basically, it was a traveling worship leader I really respect on youtube (not naming names) saying that we as worshipers bring the kingdom of God to earth so that Jesus will come back to a place that feels familiar. This got me thinking–is it really our job to “bring the kingdom of God” to earth? That’s a lot of responsibility.
The more I listened, the more I heard remnants of this idea floating around, in political speeches, in university discussions, in theological debates. I heard all the political ideas and prophecies circulating around the Christian world about our next leader and had discussions about how this nation needed to still remain a nation under God. Wait, have I had that in my lifetime and just forgot? I never was under the illusion that we lived in a Christian nation. Then, I heard about the seven mountains of culture that would need to be conquered so the kingdom of God could come to a nation. These are “media, government, education, economy, family, religion, and arts/entertainment.” The idea is that the person ascending the positions of influence on these mountains would be fully yielded to God and therefore able to withstand the pressure of this ascent.
Now, I am not one to discount prophecy without good reason, but I want to hold up two conflicting perspectives on the kingdom of God that do not seem to go together. At the risk of oversimplifying both I ask for your grace and want to just present what I am seeing here quickly along with how each shape our perspectives, goals, and theology–maybe even start some discussion.
Two Conflicting Perspectives on the Kingdom of God
Perspective #1: We will take authority over the earth and rule it so that when Jesus returns He will be returning to a kingdom that is already made for Him.
In this perspective, the coming of kingdom of God depends greatly on us and how we use our gifts. It becomes our job to find what we are good at, hone our craft, and get into a position of power on one of these mountains of culture so we can hold dominion from a platform of earned authority, skill, and credibility. Our goal is to become an influencer. Our religion is “leadership.” Our theology is that we already rule and reign with Christ now. Our desire to lead takes a deceptive turn into a vicious, self-centered rush for power and control over already broken systems that will likely break us even more as we try to operate within them.
You are not as strong as you think you are. Pride and jealousy and quiet moral failure stomp out every hope of kingdom influence before you even find your footing on one of these mountains of culture. Money becomes proof of God’s favor in your eyes. Politics become our weapon instead of prayer. You say that God’s prophets only prophecy hope, but God’s word says that false prophets also “lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace and …when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash” (Ezekiel 13:10). You seek to use the power of God to expand your own territory “for God.” But God has left the building a long time ago, right about the time you boasted and bragged about your riches, reputation, and renown, and your magnificent influence from your mountain of culture. He does not share His glory with another.
Instead, you might return to this very unpopular but very biblical mindset.
Perspective #2: Jesus will bring His Kingdom when He returns for us.
In this perspective, we believe that the days will grow darker, not brighter until Jesus comes. We have hope, but generally, we mourn while the bridegroom is away, working the fields and watching the skies. We plant hope for the future in the hearts of those who have no hope in the present. And in this way, hope grows. We lose our lives for Him. We believe that when He comes it will be like in the days of Noah where people will be caught off guard, so we keep the oil of joy in our lamps by spending time in God’s presence, making disciples and being discipled by Jesus and His people. And we keep a sharp watch on our sheep, our tongue, our money, our priorities, our anxieties, and our actions. There is a great harvest coming on the terrible day of the Lord where the world will be consumed in fire. Though we try to care for the earth and all its inhabitants while we are here, we hold out no hope for the kingdom of this world being renewed or reconstructed or salvaged by our efforts, as if we have prepared a place for Him, but rather, we wait for the world He has prepared for us. Until then, we keep going back in after the hearts and minds of the lost, the dying, the hopeless, the hurting and the hungry, thankful for the temporariness of these jars of clay that we call bodies.
Our hope, then, is only in Christ. Our salvation is only in our God. So our goals are not to seek success in this world to make a difference “for Jesus,” because in seeking success we will lose the fire and priority of the kingdom. The priority of the kingdom we have already is in the gospel penetrating the soul of humankind, moving us to obey the commands of Jesus out of great love and thankfulness to God. It is an underground growth like mustard seed that is implanted in the human heart and grows outward, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of vain human projects. Our projects are not about our placements or jobs, but about the everyday compassionate seeing of the poor, the lost, the sick, the lonely. This happens everywhere we go as we stay open and available to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
We do not need to become experts in our field, or great leaders or communicators so that we can help people or better share the gospel. We can just simply start helping people and sharing the gospel. As we share the good news with them and plant the seed of the kingdom of God in every heart, we start to see the Holy Spirit grow out of their lives too and minister to others through them. And in such a way the kingdom is small yet big, now yet later, already not yet. In this way the kingdom will grow like yeast in bread, microscopic, yet completely altering the end result by doing one little thing after another in great love. We will not always even see the influence we have-and that is all for the better.
The kingdom we inherit will be prepared FOR us. And after the fire, after the harvest, after the terrible day of the Lord, we will see the kingdom of this world become the kingdom of our God.
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11:15
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Matthew 25:34
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” 3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 29 “Immediately after the distress of those days
“‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[e] is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 24