Reflections on God’s Kingdom
We serve a God whose character cannot be harmed and whose kingdom cannot be defeated (Dan 2:44). No matter what happens in our earthly world, God’s people are assured victory. This is not about political or military victory, but about ultimate victory over spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12). Revelation shows us the irony of being a Christian in a world that is so bent on political and military power. We might be beaten and persecuted or put to death. Yet we are still victorious. Our victory comes not through carnal methods and earthly power, but through the shed blood of Lamb. The political landscape, whether good or bad, does not change this. Ruling over the nations is accomplished through the spread of the gospel as people bow to the King of kings and Lord of lords who gave His life for “every tribe and language and people and nation.”
We ought to recognize, then, that to tie the well-being of God’s kingdom to the political landscape of the day manifests a misunderstanding of the kingdom of God. We want good rulers in this world. We want laws to reflect God’s will. We want to do what we can to be the salt and light we are called to be. We want to be good citizens who are blessings to our nation, our community, and our neighbors. Yet we must also be realistic about the fact that every earthly empire becomes Babylon. This does not mean we “lose,” however. It means that we must demonstrate our faithfulness to God above all so that when the inevitable clashes occur between God’s people and the beast who demands to be worshiped, there will no thought on our part to bow down before that beast. Rather, we will be faithful to the point of dying for the One who died for us. Therein will be victory (see Revelation 12:11).
This all means that the kingdom of heaven is in no way dependent upon earthly kingdoms. Daniel 2:44 is enough to demonstrate that. It is easy to think, in a culture that has thrived, that God’s kingdom is some way indebted to this earthly kingdom, as if the two go hand in hand. They don’t. They won’t. The Kingdom of God does not need any earthly power to provide its strength or to give it a boost.
While Christians are to seek the welfare of the place in which they reside (cf. Jer 29:7), we still need to see ourselves as “strangers and exiles on the earth” who are seeking the better, heavenly city prepared by God (Heb 11:13-17). We want to be a blessing where we are, but at the same time we must take seriously the Lord’s voice concerning Babylon: “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins” (Rev 18:4).
Let us not, then, conflate the kingdoms. The true “Christian nation” is that of God’s people (1 Pet 2:9). God’s people are not limited by earthly boundaries. God’s nation is a kingdom of all the nations who have yielded themselves to His will (cf. Acts 10:34-35). While God uses earthly kingdoms to accomplish His will, every earthly power is temporary and will fall.
I need to remind myself of this often because it is so easy to become anxious when considering the direction of the earthly power under which we live. Though it go the way of all the earth (and it will), Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of Lords. If we can keep this in perspective, we have no cause to fear. Keep in mind, then:
The kingdom of God encompasses all nations (Acts 10:34-35). The kingdoms of this world are, by nature, territorial, limited, and set by earthly boundaries (cf. Acts 17:26).
The kingdoms of this world have limited times in which they thrive, yet will soon enough fall; the kingdom of God has no time limitations, but continues throughout the rise and fall of all earthly kingdoms (Dan 2:44).
The kingdoms of this world take up arms and engage in physical warfare to defend or further their cause; the kingdom of God advances by spreading a message that includes beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, where the nations do not lift up swords against each other or learn war anymore (Isa 2:4).
The kingdoms of this world advance through perceived strength; the kingdom of God advances through perceived weakness, yet “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25).
To conflate the kingdom of God with any kingdom of this world is a grave offense. Remember Jesus’ words: “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).
Let us, then, embrace God’s kingdom while seeking the welfare of the place wherein we reside.