A Look Back:
Let’s review what we’ve covered so far:
And this empowers us to fearlessly live and act in this world towards the manifestation of The Kingdom of God?
Then, I suppose the next logical question is: what is this “Kingdom” which God intends we should dedicate our lives towards?
Salvation and The Kingdom of God
First of all, I need to address another misconception that I believe has greatly confused and diluted the true potency of God’s grace and God’s Kingdom.
The equating of salvation to the Kingdom of God is a mistake. Salvation is not the Kingdom; the Kingdom is not salvation.
Salvation is God’s free gift of grace to all, the final defeat of the wages of sin (death). The result of this final and radical grace is the realization of atonement: death is no more. Upon our death in this world, we experience at-one-ment with God. We are no longer separate from him in death, or in life.
The Kingdom is God’s hope of repentance for the world (Earth), a world-wide turning back to God, the spiritual and physical realization of God’s sovereign rule over all the principalities and powers of this world and the manifestation of his will on Earth (as in Heaven).
In other words:
- Salvation: Christ’s redemptive Grace for us. Nothing can reverse this or take this guarantee away from us.
- The Kingdom: God’s redemptive hope for the world today. The reality of the Kingdom is constantly in flux. There is no guarantee of it’s accomplishment, nor of our individual participation in it.
This separation of salvation and the Kingdom is the key to understanding Jesus’ proclamations of who is “fit to enter”: Jesus is referring to the Kingdom of God, not the state of our salvation in death before God.
The same goes for the “gnashing of teeth” and “eternal fire” for those who are not fit to enter the Kingdom:
47. ”Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind;
48. when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad.
49. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous
50. and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When the Kingdom of God comes (manifests) on Earth (as it is in Heaven), not everyone will be able to or even want to participate in living in The Kingdom. They will be apart. They will be separate. And while the hallmarks of life in the Kingdom will be freedom from fear, and loving self-less living through the great commandments (faith and love), the hallmarks of living outside the Kingdom will be suffering, fear, greed, betrayal, murder and, well… sadly, the world won’t change much for those outside. The world (as we know it) today is already outside the Kingdom. The world today is hell on earth, compared to life in the Kingdom.
What the Kingdom is…
So, if the Kingdom is both a spiritual and a physical reality on Earth, then what is it? Is it here now, or is it coming in the future? In two of his many descriptions, Jesus reveals the following about the kingdom:
20. Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed;
21. nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.”
3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
The Kingdom cannot be seen coming. It is present, but it starts from within us, and then begins to manifest in the world as an outward symptom of the transformation within each of us when we fully accept and understand God’s radical grace. The Kingdom begins as an inward reality within us and grows outward like a sprouting seed.
18. “Hear then the parable of the sower.
19. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.
20. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
21. yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.
22. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.
23. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
And what is this “fruit” yielding? From the transformation within of God’s grace begins to sprout the outward reality of selflessness, love, and faith. When people see the result of these things in your daily life, it implants even more seeds for the kingdom. In fact, the mechanics of how the Kingdom is spread is almost akin to how micro-organisms spread: like a virus or infection, or like yeast multiplying within dough.
33. He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
We are the dough being leavened. It is an inward process, a passive transformation of the self, but the process of “leavening” can only go so far on it’s own within us. It requires our outward action to continue further out into the world. The dough (mankind) must be kneaded (our worldly actions) for the entire measure of mankind to be leavened. Through Jesus’s death and rising, we have been empowered by grace to take on this same challenge. The question is: will we do it?
28. ”What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
29. He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went.
30. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go.
31. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.
Jesus is not contradicting my general premise in this passage by rebuking the crowd’s answer. In fact, the correct answer is: the son who initially said “I will not” but changed his mind and went into the field did the will of the Father. You see, what Jesus is really reacting to is the people all instinctively know the right answer, yet they are not “the son that went” in their own lives. Their hypocrisy is paramount: they (and we) are the son who immediately says “I go, lord”, and yet does nothing, but they (we) all know what the correct answer is when they (we) hear this. How many more generations will know the right answer, say “they will go” and yet not act?
I hope we are ready to go “work in the vineyard”. For God’s sake, we pray for all of this every Sunday.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. for ever and ever. Amen