In my travels I have often seen signs that say “You are now entering…” such and such a place. So, imagine a sign that advised you “You are now entering The Kingdom of God!”
When you enter a new country you often notice physical and social differences. These can be quite striking. Back in 2005 I travelled by bus from Macedonia into Kosovo. At that time Kosovo was under UN control. Macedonia was a former communist state which had no revolution to oust the communist system. As a result the old guard simply changed their name and tried to live by a free market system.
However the air of oppression in Macedonia was obvious. Our bus driver upset one of the police at a checkpoint and so we were detained for 40 minutes while he was stuck in an office getting a stern lecture. The air of unbridled authority and punitive treatment was striking. The place felt like a police state.
Once we crossed into Kosovo the very air seemed brighter. The driver opened a box of chocolates and shared them with the passengers. There was celebration in the air, even though there had been killings in the town of Ferijai where I was bound.
Kingdom of God
Imagine entering the Kingdom of God! What would the atmosphere be like there? How striking would be the difference in culture and atmosphere as you crossed the border!
And just as you must cross a border or go through some entrance to move to a new country or a new place or area, you also need to ‘enter’ God’s Kingdom.
But God’s Kingdom is not a physical place. It is something that you enter into independently of your physical location. You enter the Kingdom by faith. So, you end up as a dual-citizen. You have an earthly nationality and place, but you also have heavenly citizenship.
Your citizenship in the Kingdom of God is far more valuable and far more significant to your existence than any earthly citizenship you can possess.
Because Christians have a dual citizenship, living in the world, but not being of the world, each one determines the degree to which they enter the Kingdom.
Some people have heavenly citizenship but hardly ever explore their new kingdom. They stay in the constraints of the world system in which they live. They remain bound by the prince of this world, controlled by his manipulation of the culture and his intimidation of Christians.
Yet others make occasional excursions into the Kingdom of God, in a similar way to taking a vacation. They see the Kingdom as very wonderful, but not the place to stay if you need to earn an income, raise a family, build your career, grow an investment base, have a vibrant social life, and imbibe all the treats this world has to offer.
Many Christians, therefore, end up with little knowledge of the land of their citizenship: God’s Kingdom. They read about it, in the way people flip through holiday brochures. They learn about it and can tell others about the delights of being there. However, they themselves are seldom caught in God’s Kingdom.
Kingdom at Hand
Jesus Christ brought the Kingdom of God into close proximity to man. He did that by bringing the grace of God, the spiritual riches that are ours from God, to people on earth. The Kingdom is no mere sentimental concept or tales of “pie in the sky when you die”. Instead, the Kingdom of God has immediate and tangible impact on people’s lives, including physical healing and release from demonic control.
Jesus sent His disciples to heal the sick as an expression of the Kingdom. And He said that by casting devils out of people He was bringing the Kingdom of God close to people.
“Heal the sick there and say to them, The kingdom of God is come close to you.” Luke 10:9
“If I cast out devils with the finger of God, no doubt the kingdom of God is come to you.” Luke 11:20
The connection between God’s Kingdom and tangible impact in people’s lives was well summarised by the Apostle Paul. “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” 1Corinthians 4:20
Most Christians today shy away from the Kingdom of God, by shying away from the Power of God at work in their life. It’s like people going into a restaurant and inspecting the meals. They even sniff the aroma and think how wonderful it would be to enjoy the food. Then they walk out, not having eaten anything.
Christians know all about Jesus and the disciples healing the sick and casting out demons. They know those things were commonplace in the early church, at the hands or ordinary Christians, as Jesus promised. They love the idea of such power and grace. They sing about it and make sure their children learn all about it. But they never expect the Kingdom of God to have tangible impact in or near them.
That is why Christians make short excursions into the Kingdom, having close encounters from time to time, but quickly withdrawing to the safety of that which is familiar to them. However, what is familiar and comfortable to them is not the Kingdom of God, where miracles take place around them, but the world, where men live outside of God’s grace and power.
Claiming the Kingdom
Jesus revealed that it is possible for people to interact with the Kingdom of God to different degrees. Some saw the power of God and yet not receive anything from God’s Kingdom, because various things kept them from going to or believing in Jesus. Others came to Jesus with their specific requests, and Jesus answered them, with healing, deliverance and the like.
Yet others, Jesus taught, were so determined to get the benefits of the Kingdom of God that they virtually stormed the Kingdom, taking it by force.
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence (is pressed upon), and the violent (determined) take it by force.” Matthew 11:12
Each individual Christian has a different level of engagement with God’s Kingdom. Those who are determined to claim the Kingdom get the most out of it.
Will Ye Enter
Have you entered the Kingdom of God? Do you live there, or just visit from time to time?
Have you pressed in to claim all the wonder and power of God’s Kingdom, or are you just content to take a few photographs of the nice scenery?
What is it that keeps drawing you out of the Kingdom, back into the realm where unregenerate people who know nothing of God’s love, power and grace feel comfortable? Why do you so cherish that realm? What hold does it have over you? Why do you not love and hunger for all the power and reality of God’s Kingdom?
Will you enter God’s Kingdom? Will you remain there, pressing in for all that God has for you?