Many of us are Americans, and our nation was founded through a revolution from the British Empire (kingdom), and so we don’t necessarily understand what it means to be under the rule of a king. This means that many of us have a hard time connecting with one of the central features of the message of Jesus: the Kingdom of God.
Matthew describes the ministry of Jesus like this: “Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.” (Matthew 4:23; NLT). Jesus taught about the Kingdom and he demonstrated what life in the Kingdom is like as he healed people, cast out demons, and fed the hungry. Many of the parables that Jesus told began with, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”
A simple surface reading of the four gospels reveal that the kingdom of heaven was a very important part of the Good News Jesus proclaimed. That means to truly understand the message of Jesus we need to understand what the Kingdom is like.
Colossians 1:13-14 is a good place for us to start if we are going to understand what the Kingdom is all about.
For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (NLT)
This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It gives me hope and helps me understand what Jesus’ message of t the Kingdom is about.
What we find in this passage is a contrast between two kingdoms. On the one hand you have the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom that Satan leads. On the other hand you have the Kingdom of Jesus, or the kingdom of light.
The Good News is that through Jesus, God has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness, and brought us into the Kingdom of Light. We are no longer trapped in the darkness, held as prisoners of Satan; instead we have been set free.
Mission of Jesus was not a mission of annihilation, set on the total destruction of the kingdom of darkness. Rather, it was a rescue mission. If it had been about annihilation, then all who were a part of that kingdom would have been destroyed. For God to redeem His creation He needed to rescue it, that includes us, from the darkness.
What is the nature of the Kingdom of Jesus? It is the opposite of the kingdom of darkness, which means that it is the Kingdom of Light. In Scripture light is connected to two elements. Looking at these two elements will give us an understanding what the Kingdom of Jesus is like.
The first element is love. 1 John 2:9-10 says:
“If anyone claims, ‘I am living in the light,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.” (NLT)
John makes it clear that we cannot claim to live in the light and hate the people around us. To be in the light requires that we be people of love. This means that God’s Kingdom, the kingdom that Jesus ushered in through his death and resurrection, is a kingdom built on love.
It was love that sent Jesus to die for us. It was love that caused the disciples and other Christians to sacrifice and risk their lives to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world. It is sacrificial love that continues to validate the claims of the Gospel today. Without love, the Kingdom of God could not be the Kingdom of Light.
The second element is truth. 1 John 1:6-7 says:
So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (NLT)
What happens after Matthew describes the ministry of Jesus in Matthew 4? Jesus has an extended teaching time that we call the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus had compassion on people, he helped them and healed them, but he also taught them. This fact reminds us that people not only need their physical needs met, but they also need to know how God wants them to live and who God is. Love is essential, and it helps people experience God’s love, but it needs to be paired with God’s truth.
Much of the Sermon on the Mount deals with what it means to live as citizens of God’s kingdom. Ultimately, the importance of truth isn’t about gaining knowledge, but it is about directing the way we live our lives. People need to have God’s Word, His Wisdom, so they can make an informed decision about how they are to live.
Contrast the Kingdom of Light with the kingdom of Satan. Jesus said:
“For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44; NLT)
Jesus describes Satan as a murderer. A murderer is a person who takes away life. Love on the other hand seeks to give life. Jesus describes Satan as a liar. A liar is a person who suppresses the truth, who seeks to deceive people, who tries to cloud people’s thinking. This is opposed to the task of correctly and honestly telling people who God is and how He wants them to live. In these two areas we see that Satan’s kingdom is directly opposed to the Kingdom of God.
There are only two options for us when it comes to where we choose to place our spiritual citizenship. A continuation of sin means that we declared our loyalty to Satan and his kingdom, that we have joined him in his rebellion against God. When we repent, by denouncing our participation in the rebellion of Satan and declaring our allegiance to God, we place our citizenship with the Kingdom of Light.
Jesus came to rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and bring us into the Kingdom of Light. For us to follow Jesus in this rescue we need to defect from the darkness, and we must declare our loyalty to the light. This is a choice that we must make, for King Jesus will not tolerate traitors in His Kingdom.