The Kingdom of God! What is it? Where is it?, and how do we get there?
Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach the message of the Kingdom throughout the world!
What is the good news of the Kingdom? A look at the Lord’s Prayer can give us the short answer. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). The focus words are “Your kingdom come, your will be done”. Those who live in God’s kingdom live under his rule and do his will! His kingdom is not visible; it is within us (Luke 17:20-21). Jesus said “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), his kingdom is spiritual; it is the realm of God’s will and a place of rest for believers (Matt 26:39, John 5:30, 6:38)!
“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33).
The question is; how do we get there? We are told in the book of Acts (14:22) “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the Kingdom of God”. The kingdom of God is spiritual; it resides within us! We need an understanding of this journey to the kingdom of God in our heart! God provided a way for us to get a glimpse of this spiritual journey by relating it to an actual journey his people took in the Old Testament. Before we look at this story in the Old Testament let us take a look at the importance of the Old Testament and its spiritual significance to the New Testament. When God created Adam and Eve he resided in their heart and taught them his ways from within! When they rebelled against his command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he had to leave his place in their heart which broke communion with them. This is why he said “where are you Adam”? He knew their physical location, what he lost was the intimate communion he had with them in their heart. God would now have to deal with man from the outside inward until the time of the messiah. This limited God to the union he could have with man as there are limitations to teaching us his ways from the outside. The laws, feasts and sacrifices of the Old Testament are spiritual representations. God knew we would better understand spiritual things by seeing physical representations. The author of the book of Hebrews tells us these things were for our example (Hebrews 8:5). God’s laws in the New Testament take on a deeper meaning because he can now write his laws in our heart from within (Hebrews 8:10). Jesus said I did not come to do away with the law I came to fulfill it. The law of God will also be fulfilled in us as we come to know Jesus!
The Promise Land represents the Kingdom of God! The story of God opening the red sea, allowing the children of Israel to escape Pharaoh and his army is one of the most popular stories in the Old Testament. It serves as a wonderful example of the spiritual journey God wants to take his children on. The book of Hebrews admonishes us to let this journey serve as an example of the good news of the gospel (Hebrews 4:2, 11). Just for a moment, visualize God delivering his people out of Egypt and leading them to the promise land as transpiring in your heart! The book of Hebrews informs us the “good news” (gospel) was preached to them as it is to us (Hebrews 4:2). The “good news” is what Jesus preached; “Jesus was going all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23). The “good news” the children of Israel received was a place of “rest” promised to them in the land of Canaan. It is symbolic of the “good news” we now have in the kingdom of God the true rest!
The journey begins with deliverance from bondage – Egypt is a type of the world and Pharaoh illustrates Satan keeping us in bondage to the world. When God brings us through the Red Sea he sets our mind free to think on things above! We are delivered “out” of the world, now we need the world delivered out of us.
The journey through the Wilderness to the kingdom of God – I will never forget the day I was baptized in the name of Jesus! It was like a starting point; my conscience was clean! Not long after celebrating my new conversion, I realized my sinful nature was still raising its ugly head! I summoned all of my willpower to overcome sinful thoughts and actions but to no avail. Many years later I received a revelation from God that I cannot overcome sin by my own willpower! I realized God led me into the wilderness! The wilderness is a proving ground for God to humble us and to reveal what is in our heart (Deut 8:2). The wilderness is also a burial ground for our independent “self-will” nature. As long as we rely on ourselves we cannot enter the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the realm of his will and relies on his power not ours. The New Testament speaks of three aspects of our quest for the kingdom of God: (1) “See” the kingdom of God (John 3:3), (2) “enter” the kingdom of God (Matt 18:3) and (3) “inherit” the kingdom of God (1Cor 6:9). We can see the parallel of these three with Moses and Joshua; Moses “Saw” the promise land (Deut 34:4), Joshua “entered” the promise land (Josh 1:11), and Joshua gave it as an “inheritance” to Israel” (Joshua 11:23). What a beautiful picture of our journey and inheritance of the kingdom of God! We “see” his kingdom as our mind is enlightened through his word by his Spirit, we “enter” his kingdom as we come to understand it is by his power and not ours, and we “inherit” his kingdom as we gain ground defeating the enemies who have strong holds in our heart!
This journey illustrates baptism in Jesus! “Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in the new way of life” (Roman 6:4). As we go down into the water “the Red Sea” we die positionally to sin (Romans 6:11), in the “Wilderness” we bury our independent (self-will) nature, as we come out of the “Jordan” (spiritually speaking) we walk in the new way of life!
The children of Israel wondered in the wilderness for 40 years! The number 40 is a significant number in scripture, it is a period of testing and transformation after which something new happens! “The Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands” (Deut 8:2). In the wilderness God reveals if we are in this journey for the right reason!
There are many times in scripture the number 40 takes on the meaning of trial and testing. Jesus himself was baptized and went into the wilderness 40 days to be tempted and came out preaching the kingdom of God (Mark 1:9-15). It is also interesting to note, the expected time between conception and labor of a newborn baby is 40 weeks (new birth)!
We cannot merit our way into His kingdom – Our troubles start when we take things into our own hands. An example of this is seen on two occasions when the children of Israel went to war. God told them not to go up against the Amorites because He would not be with them but they did not listen. They thought this battle would be easy so they put on their weapons, went into battle and were defeated (Deut 1:41-43)! This battle was “their works” not God’s!
In the other occasion God told them to go to battle with Amalek. As long as Moses’s hand was raised Israel prevailed but when his hand lowered Amalek prevailed. Amalek represents our Independent self-will nature. Moses hand raised signifies our confidence in God, when lowered it signifies confidence in ourselves. God was teaching them to put their trust in him and not themselves! As long as we rely on God’s power we will be victorious, Israel went on to win the battle! It was God’s work not theirs, however they still had to fight (Exodus 17:11-12)!
The lesson learned in the wilderness, we cannot reach the place God wants to take us by our own initiative. It is the normal course for new converts to try, which is why the book of Hebrews says; “For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4: 10-11). Those who diligently seek God come to understand it is his works that save us and not ours. When our works cease we can rest in him!
We enter the kingdom of God by “Believing” – The book of Hebrews warns us to consider the children of Israel as an example of those who did not enter the promise land because of unbelief (Hebrews 4:1-3)! They saw the Red Sea open, they saw the pillar of Fire by night and the Cloud by day, they sang songs to the Lord (Exodus 15:1), they said they would do all that God commanded (Exodus 19:8), they stripped themselves of Jewelry (Exodus 33:6), they gave more than what was asked of them (Exodus 36:5), they died in the wilderness from unbelief!
What does it really mean to believe? Believing God is more than a mental accent of his existence and an acceptance of what he has prepared for us. We can see from our example of unbelief, believing God means following him and trust he has our best interest in mind (Deut 1:36). He leads us as we are able to bear the transference from Satan’s kingdom to the Kingdom of God. If we do not stay the course it is because we do not believe God even under his most gentle care.
Coming out of Jordan into the Promise land – Joshua led the children of Israel through the Jordan into the promise land!
It is interesting to note “Joshua” and “Jesus” have the same Hebrew name “Yhowshua”. That is why “Joshua” is translated “Jesus” twice in the New Testament (Heb 4:8, Acts 7:45 “KJV”).
How do we know when we have entered the promise land? The book of Hebrews says we know we have entered in when “we have ceased from our own works” (Hebrews 4:10). The works we do after we cross the Jordan are from above, we have buried our “own works” in the wilderness and the life we now live is the life of Christ (Gal 2:20).
The battle within to inherit his kingdom! – God wants us to love him with our “whole” heart! Joshua took entire cities, destroyed kings and toppled idols, each representing various things in our heart which must be destroyed (Eph 5:3-6), (Gal 5:19-21), (1 Cor 6:9-10)! Our enemies will melt with fear knowing God is with us (Joshua 2:11)! Joshua took the land as God had said to Moses and gave it as an inheritance to the Children of Israel.
Our Joshua “Jesus” leads us to the enemies of God that reside in our heart. We must confront idols, lustful thoughts, slander, gluttony, anger, covetousness, lying, steeling and all that is offensive to God. When we confront our enemies we do not look to ourselves, we look immediately to Jesus knowing it is the power of God that delivers us. What God looks for from us is a desire to defeat the enemies he hates and believe him to destroy them all. The kingdom of God begins small in our heart with each victory gaining more ground! As our enemies are defeated we inherit more of the kingdom and he regains what he lost in the Garden of Eden. His throne sets in the inner court of our heart, we are completely his, united to him and living in his will!
Markers on our Journey! – Every child of God is either going through the wilderness or going to war with Kings in the Promise land. The map laid out before us in the book of Exodus and Joshua are filled with spiritual signs for God to show us were we are in the journey.
Toppling Kings in the Promise land! – 31 Kings are recorded in the promise land, each one of them represent a strong hold in our heart. When we rest in God and place our confidence in him, he conquers them all!
Growing the kingdom in the end of time! – As pictured by the parable of the sower of the seed, people respond differently to the message of the kingdom of God (Luke 8: 5-15). When God’s word is planted in our heart and we respond favorably it begins to grow. If we follow his leading it will take dominion over our heart. The kingdom of God is spiritual, it is also corporal and unites many in the kingdom. Jesus will reign in the kingdom of God until the time of the end when he will hand it over to God the Father (1Cor 15:24-28).
Lucifer and the kingdom of God – Lucifer said five times in his heart “I will” (Isaiah 14:12-14) which was the beginning of his downfall as he claimed his independence from God. As a result he was cast out of heaven along with many other angels who sided with him and are destined for eternal damnation! No one can live in the kingdom of God who does not do his will. Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the Kingdom of heaven, only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven…(Matt 7:21)
Preaching the kingdom of God – What better message could we tell people? There is a Kingdom who is run by our creator. He is all knowing and all powerful and his very essence is Love! All that live in his Kingdom live with a peace that passes all understanding!