Jesus—His Life and Message: The Kingdom of God (Part 3)
July 21, 2015
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: The Kingdom of God (Part 3)
(You can read about the intent for and overview of this series in this introductory article.)
As discussed in the first two articles on this subject, the kingdom of God is a present reality which will reach its fullness at the end of time. Entrance to the kingdom requires coming into a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, who has defeated Satan and made it possible, through His death and resurrection, for all people to enter the kingdom.1
Entrance into God’s kingdom is available to everyone who believes in Jesus. The apostle Paul expressed it this way:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.2
When speaking with the Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus said:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God… I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.3
It is through salvation that people enter—or are born into—the kingdom.
This new birth makes it possible for us to come into the presence of God once our earthly lives are over, and to remain in His presence for eternity.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.4 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.5
Entering the kingdom through belief in Jesus grants us eternal life; but eternal life isn’t something which only begins once one dies. Eternal life, like the kingdom of God, is also a present reality. Eternal life for us as believers has already begun. While our physical body will eventually die, our spirit will continue to live eternally with God. Our spirit, our essence, the person we are today, will simply exit the door of our present earthly life through death and step into the eternal continuation of our lives.
In the meantime, we are also meant to be living within the kingdom of God in the present. How? By relinquishing what can be seen as our own “kingdom.” Each of us has been given a measure of autonomy and authority from God in the form of free will. As such, we have in a sense been given a “realm” in which we can make freewill choices. This is part of being made in the image of God.6
Dallas Willard explains it this way:
Every last one of us has a “kingdom”—or a “queendom,”or a “government”—a realm that is uniquely our own, where our choice determines what happens. Here is a truth that reaches into the deepest part of what it is to be a person … we are made to “have dominion”within an appropriate domain of reality. This is the core of the likeness or image of God in us … Our “kingdom”is simply the range of our effective will. Whatever we genuinely have the say over is in our kingdom. And our having the say over something is precisely what places it within our kingdom. In creating human beings God made them to rule, to reign, to have dominion in a limited sphere. Only so can they be persons.7
When we enter the reign of God, the call is for us to integrate our “kingdom”—what we have reign over—with His kingdom. We are to align our will with God’s and let His will guide our lives, including our inner thoughts and outward actions.
Living in God's kingdom is a lifelong process of transformation through the working of the Holy Spirit, as we endeavor to follow Jesus’ teachings and apply them daily in our interaction with others and relationship with Him. It is a process, and there are of course times when we fail to let God reign over our choices and decisions. But God is patient and He allows us time to grow within His kingdom.
Such growth comes through belief in the teachings of Scripture and putting forth the effort to live them. It occurs when our daily lives, actions, and decisions are guided by our faith. Living within the reign of God is having Christlikeness in our being. It’s living our lives in His presence. It is the constant regeneration which comes about as a result of the commitment to live the principles of our faith through the help of God’s Spirit.
Our salvation isn’t only about God’s gracious forgiveness of our sins and our entrance into heaven after we die. It also has to do with living day by day as one who has a personal, interactive relationship with Him. Of course, we can’t have a relationship with God without the forgiveness and reconciliation we receive through Jesus’ sacrifice, but that’s just the beginning, the entry point. It’s what brings us into the kingdom of God, into relationship with Him—a relationship which encompasses our earthly life and then continues on throughout eternity.
Rather than only thinking in terms of trusting Jesus for our future eternal life, we should live with the understanding that entrance into the kingdom means our eternal life starts now. We are becoming who we will be in eternity. Our actions and decisions, our inner thoughts, the application of our faith and the teachings of Scripture, the way we treat others, our integrity, our stand against sin, our relationship with God, all play a significant role in the development of who we are becoming.
Having received God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, our eternal future is secured. But life in the kingdom is not limited to our after-death future; it’s also relevant to today. Living in the kingdom of God means pursuing God’s reign in our lives, aligning our will with His, and endeavoring to trust Him for every aspect of our lives. Living the kingdom of God is being in deep, personal, and interactive relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—now and forever.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 The main points of this article were taken from Dallas Willard’s book, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God.
2 Romans 10:9.
3 John 3:3,5.
4 John 3:16.
5 John 10:28.
6 Genesis 1:26–27. See The Heart of It All: Humanity. Made in the Image and Likeness of God (Part 1).
7 Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 20–21.