What is the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God is the way God does things. It was illustrated perfectly by Jesus, who announced the coming of the Kingdom of God wherever he went, and then proved its arrival and demonstrated what it was like by how he lived.

It created considerable opposition because the way he lived was in total contrast to the way other people lived. Jesus’ life became a titanic clash of kingdoms, a constant battle with the attitudes of the world he found himself in. It came to a head with his own disciples when two of them wanted Jesus to reserve the top two positions in his kingdom for them, which nearly caused a punch-up when the other ten disciples found out, and Jesus had to intervene quickly to settle things down, Mark 10:37-41.

Come on, you lot, he says, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads,” verse 42 (The Message). Hey, this is how the kingdoms of this world operate, right? They love lording it over people and making their authority felt. But “It’s not going to be that way with you,” verse 43. That’s not the way the Kingdom of God does things. In that kingdom, “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant,” verse 44. It’s the absolute opposite to the world’s way. To get a top position in God’s kingdom you’d better be a top servant, not the typical bully type you see all over corporate (and religious) management who loves exploiting his position of power over people to reduce them to whimpering, fearful slaves.

Jesus illustrated that clear contrast in his own life. “That is what the Son of Man has done. He came to serve, not to be served – and then to give his life in exchange for many who are held hostage,” verse 45. That’s the way of God’s kingdom. It’s not about seeking power for the sake of power itself, it’s about power being given to those who live their lives in service to others – just as Jesus himself did. And who wouldn’t want to give power to people with that kind of attitude? Who would you vote for – the candidate who charms his way into being elected just for the pay cheque and fat pension who does absolutely nothing for his constituents, or the fellow who rolls up his sleeves and uses his influence to make things better?

Jesus is pointing out the obvious. Obviously power should only go to those who serve, and fortunately that’s exactly how God’s Kingdom is run, just as Jesus’ followers show by their lives too.

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Is the kingdom of God like anything we know?

No, Jesus said, the kingdom of God is not like anything we know. “My kingdom is from another place,” John 18:36. It’s from another dimension. It’s “not of this world” (same verse), so it’s not like anything we’d recognize or be able to describe. It’s beyond the reach of our technology too, because in John 8:21 Jesus said, “Where I go you cannot come,” because, verse 23,  “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.”

Our world and the kingdom of God are two separate worlds, two entirely different dimensions, one “below” and one “above”, and according to Jesus there’s no connecting link in between. We can’t get from below to above, we’re stuck at this level. But here’s Jesus, like some alien invader, telling people he’s come from this other dimension, this other place, that we can’t see or get into.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that people had trouble accepting him. I’m sure I’d have trouble too if someone told me he’s from another world – unlike anything I could even imagine – but, he assures me, he’s able to morph into a human and enter our world. “Oh yeah?” I’d probably think to myself, despite having watched many a movie with aliens quite capable of entering our world and morphing into human-like beings. But when it actually happened in the person of Jesus, and an alien from another dimension really did enter our world as one of us, the reaction has mostly been, “Rubbish, Jesus was just another great teacher who may or may not have existed, and if he did exist he certainly wasn’t anything more than an exceptional version of one of us.”

We’re quite accepting of the possibility of alien invaders from outer space, but don’t include Jesus as one of them. But that’s what he was. He was an alien invader from another world, beyond outer space, who morphed into one of us so cleverly he could slip away unnoticed in a crowd. He didn’t have glowing laser eyes, or bellow like a 20 metre tripod from War of the Worlds, he was as human as we are. But right after he told people, “God’s kingdom is here,” a man yelled out to him in Mark 1:24, “Have you come to destroy us?” like Jesus was an alien invader. And then the man shouts, “I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” like Jesus was from another dimension. It was the beginning of many more strange things about to happen that stamped the kingdom of God as an alien invasion from another dimension, unlike anything we know.