if Jesus laid down his life to preach not just a gospel of the King but a “gospel of the Kingdom”, what then does this Kingdom look like? and how is this Kingdom actually good news, and not just another man-made kingdom that will come and go?
at best, the “Kingdom of God” for me was a “christianese” notion that was a vague echo in my head from passages i’ve heard in the bible (and told myself that someday i’d get around to studying) and at worst it’s a phrase whose interpretation i just blindly accept from the people who use it. the following is my attempt to study the phrase as it is found throughout scripture, trying not to rely on commentaries for the work i ought to first do myself (and please don’t just take my word for it either, but look into it for yourselves. i realize we all bring our own perspective to the reading of scripture but i don’t want us to use that as an excuse not to allow it to speak to us.) with these clues i hope to piece together what the bible reveals of what the Kingdom of God looks like, a Kingdom that Jesus says is already breaking through in our midst if we care to recognize it.
so what does the Kingdom of God look like?
1. it is a treasure worth giving up ALL else for
Jesus told us that the Kingdom of God is so valuable that, when it is found, it is worth giving up all THINGS (Matt 13:44-46) and even all PEOPLE (Luke 18:29-30) to have. According to Luke 18:29 it is something that rewards not just in the life to come but “many times more” in this time as well. Nothing that we could ever own nor any intimate human relationship we could ever have surpasses the Kingdom of God in worth.
2. it is eternal
3. it is accompanied by supernatural power
this was probably the most surprising discovery to me. with 10 verses connecting the Kingdom of God to supernatural power, no other descriptor of the kingdom comes up more frequently. there are some outrageous claims about the Kingdom of God, that can easily be dismissed as a “pie in the sky” worldview, if it were not substantiated by power. i’m not talking about human power consisting of simply the means and authority to exert force (thanks, mark charles) but supernatural power which, by it’s very demonstration, substantiates its source as being “above” that which humans can claim.
God’s kingdom is not just about talk but it comes with power (Mark 9:1, 1 Corinthians 4:20). the gospel of the Kingdom is not just a proclamation but a demonstration of power, power over sickness (Matthew 4:23, Matthew 9:35, Luke 9:2, Luke 9:6, Luke 9:11, Luke 10:9) and power over darkness to drive out demons (Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20). any discussion of the kingdom that does not address supernatural power is just playing at the Kingdom of God.
4. it is good
unlike most, if not all, other kingdoms, it is good. not good in the sense that it makes everyone feel nice but good in the sense that it does right. what good is good if it’s only good for those who oppress others? rather the foundation of this Kingdom is built upon “righteousness and justice” (Psalm 89:14). the Kingdom of God is not merely outward behaviors but a matter of springing from the deep internal reality of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17)
5. it starts small but becomes great
like a tiny seed of the mustard plant, Jesus says the Kingdom of God starts small (Matthew 13:31-33, Mark 4:26-32, Luke 13:18-21). so small it may be easy to miss. so small it seems insignificant. so small it feels like it’ll take too long to wait for it to become more. but grow it will. and it will grow so greatly that it could provide comfort to so many others than just oneself. so great that the universe itself will show visible signs of its fulfillment (Luke 21:25-31). the Kingdom of God is great but it won’t always look that way at first; it requires patience and is a process. those who skip over this may find themselves chasing something else entirely.
6. it is a mystery revealed
the Kingdom of God is a mystery to most but to some it is a gift revealed (Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10). In a way, the Kingdom of God is hidden in plain sight in that Jesus gave all who would hear access to it. but he told of the Kingdom through “parables”, stories that could be taken at face value but that pointed to a deeper reality for those who would care to look further. why not reveal the Kingdom of God more plainly? maybe such a form would serve to weed out those who were not truly hungry for spiritual things. there is hope in that even the disciples of Jesus didn’t get what the parables were always about, but they did stick around with Jesus to find out. the Kingdom of God is going to grow. we can do our part but at the end of the day, like a growing seed, it will grow whether we fully know how God does it or not (Mark 4:26-29).
7. it is a reversal of worldly status
probably the most distinctive aspect of the Kingdom of God, that sets it apart from all other kingdoms, is the radical (and often unsettling) worldview of privileging those at “the bottom” of the earth’s social status. this aspect of our King’s heart is not some side-note in His scripture. next to point #3 above, these associations of the Kingdom of God with “the least of these” are the most reiterated.
in the economy of the Kingdom of God “the least” are the “greatest” (Luke 7:28, Luke 9:46-49). the Kingdom of God belongs to children (Matthew 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16) and the poor (Luke 6:20, James 2:5) whom society tries to push aside. the Kingdom of God will go first to the “sinners” we don’t expect to be a part of it (Matthew 21:31).
can you imagine such a Kingdom? where the people that the world tells us are “losers” are the ones who are held in most high esteem? where children and the poor are our models of faith and how to relate with God? where those we look down upon are actually the ones we will be looking up to? these very notions go against how the kingdoms of our world operate (and it’s not a very good track record i might add). maybe this gives us a sign that it’s origin is not of this world. maybe this is why we have so much difficulty in seeing the Kingdom of God. we’re not even looking in the right places. our lenses are totally broken. then maybe, after all, this is the good news that we’ve been looking for all our lives.
in conclusion, what does the Kingdom of God look like and what makes it so good?
the Kingdom of God is the most valuable, eternal, powerful, good, growing, mysterious, and upside-down thing you can give yourself to.