What Is The Kingdom of God?
This post is an excerpt from the Leader’s Guide used by managers at Betenbough Companies, PBC. This article was written together by Dr. Jack Taylor and Cal Zant.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33
Jesus never said “seek first” about any pursuit or purpose except the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom was of utmost importance to Jesus. He spoke about it more than anything, even more than the church. In the four gospels, the word translated as “Kingdom” (basileia) appears 109 times, and the word we translate as “church” (ecclesia, when used in a religious context) appears 3 times. If Jesus spoke about it frequently, isn’t it odd that we don’t? Yet the concept may be so foreign or abstract that we don’t even know what it means. So, what is the Kingdom of God?
A kingdom is simply the area where a certain king reigns. The Kingdom of God is where He rules, where His will is fulfilled. It’s where He is rightly seen as the one on the throne, giving protection and provision, and deserving of our undivided allegiance. It’s where God’s priorities are made THE priority. The Kingdom is the emerging order of God in the affairs of humankind. Dr. Jack Taylor gives this definition of The Kingdom:
The Kingdom of God: The eternal rule of God over everything and everybody, everywhere, for all time and eternity. It is above time yet envelops time; it transcends time and endures time. A million billion ages ago, God’s Kingdom existed; a million billion years from now, it will still exist. Being eternally permanent, it wins the right to be called “everything,” because everything else is either encompassed by it – or will ultimately cease to be.
Virtually every parable Jesus told was a Kingdom parable, His stories were Kingdom stories, and His prayers were Kingdom prayers. From beginning to end, Jesus incessantly talked about the Kingdom. The first words spoken by Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Mark were about the Kingdom. After Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection, He appeared to the disciples for a period of 40 days, and He must have been extremely intentional with His focus during those precious last days. Many might expect Him to start preparing for His departure by giving guidance to His disciples on how they should organize the church, but Jesus continued to talk about what He always did by essentially holding a 40-day conference on the Kingdom!
“After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about
the kingdom of God.” – Acts 1:3
The book of Acts opens with Jesus preaching the Kingdom and ends with Paul doing the same thing: “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ – with all boldness and without hindrance!”4 The book which bears the name The Acts of the Apostles is framed with the Kingdom as the focal point. The apostles weren’t simply pushing church or salvation propaganda, they were proclaiming the Kingdom!
It’s common for believers to see God’s Kingdom as something they will only experience after Christ’s return, yet that view robs believers of both power and purpose in the present. Scripture teaches the Kingdom of God has come, is coming right now, and is still to come. One of the most beautiful truths within the love story God is writing is that He invites us into an active role in reestablishing His order and making His Kingdom reality.
As Kingdom dwellers we have the authority and charge to expand the area over which God rules and His will is fulfilled. He doesn’t want us to wait to go to heaven, but to join Jesus, as citizens of heaven, in bringing heaven to earth in every aspect of the world – business, politics, education, etc.! This transformation occurs first within us and then around us, igniting the world with forgiveness, healings, miracles, righteousness, and peace.
God’s unchanging purpose, which started in the Garden of Eden, is that we were created with a command to reign over His whole creation, but our reign over God’s creation is contingent on His reign over us. Kingdom living means our perspective over time is changed to “… not my will, but Yours be done,” and our desire is shaped to match that of Jesus: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We must be submitted, but in the Kingdom we experience a redeemed version of what submission looks like. Instead of simply being in forced compliance to a ruler’s command, submission activates a flow of the Spirit’s power in and around us.
Tragically the church has abandoned the central message of the Kingdom and replaced it with the message of salvation. By the end of the first century, Jesus’s message about the Kingdom and the power it carried had been all but lost. Satan knew if he could steal this message and keep it hidden, we were through. We’d be helpless. As a result, many believers are blind to Kingdom realities. Our neglect has been costly, because God’s Kingdom on earth has the authority and power to revolutionize our culture.
The message of salvation is a small subset of the Kingdom message Jesus shared. The complete gospel is uniting the gospel of atonement with the gospel of the Kingdom. Salvation is the doorway into the Kingdom, but God has so much more in store for us as we rediscover Kingdom living in the present.
So how does the Kingdom relate to Christ’s church? The Kingdom message is not a form of “replacement theology.” The church certainly still has a place and is a critical part of God’s plan; but the Kingdom does not fit within the church; the church fits within the Kingdom! The church is just one area where God’s order should be established, but if we stop there, we miss the point. We’re supposed to take ground and expand His Kingdom into all of our spheres of influence. When we are submitted to His rule, every place we set our foot becomes Kingdom territory!
The reason most people do not seek the Kingdom is that they have not seen the Kingdom. Once they truly see it, they will inevitably seek and follow the remarkable vision they’ve glimpsed. This is because discovering the Kingdom is not just information but a life-long adventure in revelation and transformation. The truth is we can never fully comprehend or capture the Kingdom with words. That’s why Jesus so often said “The Kingdom of God is like …” It can’t be described directly, because it’s eternal and cosmic in scope. It’s too much for us to understand in our humanity, and we’ll spend eternity exploring it. Seeking the Kingdom is Christ’s invitation to a lifelong adventure. But God doesn’t hide it from us, only for us, for discovery.
“If you can contain it or explain it, it isn’t the Kingdom!” – Casey Brewer
Someone might say “I think if I could see it, I’d seek it.” But we don’t have a seeing problem, we have a looking problem. What we are looking for, we will see. What we look for and see, we will inevitably seek. Do we wake up in the morning expecting to see Kingdom sightings, or things that others may call coincidences?
Papa Jack’s Vision of God: A long-time Kingdom seeker, Dr. Jack Taylor, says he wakes up in the morning with a sense that God has been trying to talk to him all night. He has this vision that as soon as his eyes open God says, “I thought you’d never wake up!” Jack would reply “Lord, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning.” And God says, “Well, I’ve been waiting! I’ve got new Kingdom sightings I’m aching to show you, and so many new parts of My Kingdom that I want to reveal to you that I could hardly contain myself!” Jack said that’s his God, and why we ought to seek His Kingdom.
God is intentional, and He is flanking us with Kingdom sightings all the time. They happen all around us, but often we just don’t see them because we aren’t seeking them. But if we seek them, soon we will expect them, then we’ll see and believe them and become aware of an alternate reality that isn’t full of the same nightmares, failures, self-doubt, and all other toxic feelings that entangle people who are unguarded by the Kingdom.
The Kingdom is not just the top thing, it’s everything. It’s ALL! It’s the only unshakable reality. The Kingdom is the only thing that lasts, that is eternal. Nothing you can see or touch is eternal. It may be valuable, but it’s not eternal. Visibility and tangibility do not delineate reality. A better measure of reality is in terms of permanence, not visibility.
The truth is we are all seeking something first – it’s inevitable. In fact, our lives reflect what we’re seeking. If we’ve chosen something besides that which is terminally of value it will show in our life, until in pursuit of the lesser we lose the greater. Jesus said seek first the Kingdom of God. Now that is a command and the tense used there means it is to be continuous. We’re commanded to always be seeking the Kingdom of God.
The safest thing you can do is say “God I give up. Forgive me for doing my alternate thing, instead of Your great thing. I want to get in on Your business and be part of what You’re doing. Help me seek Your Kingdom.” There was a woman who loved a particular meal at a restaurant and she asked for the recipe, but the cook replied, “I’d give it to you, but I’d have to kill you.” That’s kind of like what God says about His Kingdom: “You want the Kingdom? Okay, but I’ll have to kill you.” It’s not fun to die, but it’s miserable to live without dying!
In the Kingdom things often appear upside-down, because they’re so counter-cultural and supernatural: You lose to gain. You die to live. You suffer to rule. You weaken to grow strong. Try to understand that! The Kingdom is a mystery, but God is anxious to reveal it both to and through us!
Once you seek it first, “all these things will be given to you as well.” There are a thousand ways to get what you want, but you only get the ultimate “what you need” one way – by seeking the ultimate everything, which is the King and His Kingdom. You can live well but you cannot live the best until you link with the rule of the mighty God who runs the universe.
We can easily make this overly complex, but the Kingdom is so simple it can be defined in just two words: God rules. When we get stressed, anxious, or fearful, we just need to remember somebody’s running this outfit who knows what He’s doing. And here’s more: He is trying to enlist us on the team to do things His way.