The Good News - Home
A Present and Future Kingdom
By David A. DePra
The kingdom of God is the RULE of God. Or to use a better word, the kingdom of God is the lordship or sovereignty of God.
If you look at that, however, you will see that we have not mentioned a place, or a person, or a thing over which God rules. No. For the kingdom of God is not merely the THING or PERSON over which God rules. Rather, the kingdom of God is Godís rule itself.
Once we understand this, we will see that if a person comes under the rule of God, that this person is IN the kingdom. But the person isnít the kingdom. The rule of God is the kingdom.
Everyone of us is under someoneís authority. At some point we are. But can we SEE this thing called, "authority?" No. We might see the person, or government who is the instrument of that authority. We can see the effects of this authority. But we canít actually see a THING called, "authority." Thus it is with Godís authority. It goes beyond what we can see. The kingdom of God is Godís authority.
The problem with the word, "kingdom," is that immediately it pushes us to envision lands, armies, and people. Well, ok. But are those things really THE kingdom Ė no matter what kingdom we are talking about? No. The kingdom is really the reign or rule OVER those things. Without that there is no kingdom. Again Ė this helps us see the true nature of Godís kingdom. It is His rule, reign, and sovereignty OVER things and people. Then those things and people can be said to be IN Godís kingdom.
The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom FIRST. It is at this point that it differs completely from any earthly counterpart. In fact, the simplest way of defining the kingdom of God is to say that it is CHRIST IN US. Sure. If I have Christ in me, I have Godís rule, order, and government in me, in the form of a person Ė in the form of new life. Christ in me, through the presence of the Holy Spirit is the kingdom of God. The two are as one.
So now we see that the kingdom of God, when everything is said and done, is not a THING. It is not a THING anymore than eternal life is a THING. No. The kingdom of God is a PERSON.
This reality enables us to answer the question, "Kingdom NOW, or THEN?" Is the kingdom of God for NOW, or is it only for some future time? Well, ask: Is Christ for now? Absolutely. Therefore, the kingdom is for now. But wait. There are other related questions we must address. For Christians have always misunderstood both the nature of the kingdom, and the relationship between the kingdom NOW, and the kingdom yet to come. This has caused much error and spiritual disaster among Godís people.
Surrender to Christ
If we are to enter the kingdom of God, we must surrender to God as king. This means surrender to Christ as Lord. At salvation, we speak of, "giving our lives to Christ." We often say that a person, "surrenders to Christ." This is true. If we are saved, we got that way by giving ourselves to Jesus Christ. And if we have, then we have come UNDER HIS RULE. Thus, we are IN the kingdom of God Ė which is the same as being IN Christ.
Immediately, we see that it is impossible to say we are in the kingdom of God if we are not at least seeking to obey Christ. The only kind of Christianity the Bible knows anything about is one which begins with repentance Ė I repent of self-rule Ė and one where I then come under Godís rule. All else after salvation stems from this. Repentance means I change my mind towards God and sin, and the result is that instead of living independent of Him, I live in dependence upon Him. This is what it means to, "repent and believe." And if you do repent and believe, then, by definition, you have repented of being outside of Godís rule, and are now brought INTO it through your surrender by faith.
It is at this point that I RECEIVE a new life from above: His life. I receive this through the gift of the Holy Spirit. This life is not merely a new theological concept or a new legal classification before God. It really is eternal, incorruptible LIFE. And that new life, by definition, carries a brand new, "order," i.e., a brand new, "government," or RULE. In short, I have received something of another realm. It is life that I was not born with naturally, and it is life that carries everything I need to live in Christ now, and live in Christ forever.
Godís kingdom therefore contains ALL that God has for us in Christ Ė much left to be worked and lived out Ė but we are given all things IN CHRIST. Not just some.
There has always been contention among Christians as to whether we receive ALL when we receive Christ at salvation. There are some who say we must seek a second blessing. They say we do receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at salvation, but that we must go on to seek the overflow or baptism of the Holy Spirit. But this does not fly in the face of scripture. For if that were true, it would mean that when we are saved, we are not, "complete in Christ." It would mean that, yes, the Holy Spirit has come, but not really ALL of Him. It would mean that we have received the Holy Spirit, who contains all the gifts, and all the ministries, but they donít operate until we receive something else Ė more of the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit in another way.
The reality is that when we receive Christ we do receive all. What many call a second blessing is really the release of the first and only blessing. In other words, God doesnít add something to us in addition to Christ, or the indwelling, but He brings us to the place of the release of what we have already received. Thus, all of the gifts, and all of the experiences that people have had, which they may have called a second blessing, are real. Sure. But not the result of a second blessing. It is the release of the first and only blessing. And the reason many people do not move into this experience is not because they have refused to seek a second blessing. It is because they push away Godís release in them of the fullness of the first and only blessing.
The argument, however, is somewhat moot. Call it a second blessing, or part of the first, why not just ask God to bring us into it? The problem arises when one camp thinks they have something another doesnít, or the other camp dismisses all that is in the release of the Spirit because they associate it with a bogus second blessing. How about just seeking all that Jesus Christ has for us?
This does becomes an important issue with regards to the kingdom of God. For if we donít receive all when we receive Christ, then our position in the kingdom is in question. Do we receive all of the kingdom if we donít receive all of Christ, or all that the Spirit has for us? Are we second-class citizens in that case? No. The kingdom of God is Christ in us, and the Holy Spirit is how Christ is in us Ė and we have all of Him.
A "Foreign" Kingdom
The fact is, the kingdom of God is not something with which any of us are familiar by natural birth. If it were, we wouldnít need to be born again to enter the kingdom. Thus, the kingdom is so OTHER THAN what we expect, are used to, and easily operate in, that it takes a supernatural new birth just to get us started.
If you have never been to Siberia, and I asked you what it was like, the best you could come up with is what you dug out of a geography book. Indeed, if you were sent to Siberia, and left to fend for yourself, you would need much time just to learn how things work there. But if this is the case with Siberia, why do we think we can learn about the kingdom of God simply by reading about it in the Bible? Why do we think that even if we have been born again, that we are going to have any clue what we are dealing with?
Again Ė that fact that we cannot even SEE the kingdom of God unless we are born again, and the fact that we must BECOME as a little child, ought to tell us how totally UNCONSTITUTED we are, spiritually and otherwise, to walk in harmony with God, in His kingdom.
The new birth gives us the potential to walk with God and live in His kingdom. Through it, we become new creatures. But we must grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, and grow to be adjusted to God. This isnít theology and academics. It isnít religion. It is a matter of BECOMING someone other than the person we were born as into this natural world Ė someone constituted for Jesus Christ.
One of the greatest enemies of the Truth in Jesus Christ is religion formed around Him. Satan has, in some camps, thoroughly succeeded in getting Christians to settle for a life with Christ consisting of doctrines, teachings, serving, and theology. But those things, as necessary as they are, merely describe the reality that God has for us. They teach us about the life. But they arenít the life. HE is the life.
Christianity is a supernatural experience, governed by the Biblical teachings that teach us about that experience. But unfortunately, in the church we have always had those who discard doctrine as unnecessary and stray off into experiences which are not of God. And then we also have those who discard experience, and settle for religion and dead doctrine. Both are wrong and dangerous.
We must get this straight: Christianity did not emerge from doctrine. Doctrine emerged from Christianity. But immediately, we see that our doctrine will guide us as to the experiences which are of God, and will point us to the living Christ.
And yet despite all of this, where today do you hear the kingdom of God being preached? Usually it is preached as merely another term for salvation. Or it is said to be the millennium. But no. The kingdom of God is IN you and I, if Jesus is in you and I. And God is in the process of bringing us into the consciousness and reality of it Ė if we will let Him.
The consciousness and reality of the kingdom results in a life that not only DOES the will of God, but is in the process of BECOMING the will of God. When we pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven," do we realize what we are praying? We are asking God, TO THE COMPLETE DISREGARD of our will and our kingdom, to bring HIS. We are asking that, yes, for the world, but for ourselves. We are saying to God, "I want you to come into my life Ė into my inner constitution Ė and make me a person who lives in harmony with your will and your kingdom rule.
How does God do this? Well, certainly by revealing to us His will and kingdom, so that we can intelligently obey Him. He does little without our cooperation. But can we see that in order for God to establish His order as OURS, and His will as OURS, that somewhere along the way, MY kingdom and MY will must be dealt with? We must get it settled: It is going to be either Godís kingdom or mine. In the end, it will be one or the other. And if it is to be Godís then mine must fall.
But again, if we think this is merely the event of salvation, or nothing more than a theological concept, then it may mean little to us. But if we see that it means a complete reordering of everything about me, away from my natural way of operating, over into Godís way, then we are beginning to see. If we grasp that this reordering goes far beyond issues of sin, and involves issues of SELF Ė indeed, my RELIGIOUS self Ė then we are staring to get it. It isnít called, "the kingdom of God," for nothing. It is a kingdom utterly FOREIGN to anything I have known, and contrary in so many ways, to everything about me.
As stated, when we receive Christ, we receive all of Him in the Person of the Holy Spirit. But this isnít yet the whole story. Paul says that what we receive is a DOWN PAYMENT of the fullness of our inheritance. So we must realize that when we say we receive all of Christ, this means we receive all of the down payment. There is nothing to be added for this life, of course, but there is a greater release yet to come in the eternal ages.
But it is here that we see the relationship between the kingdom now, and the kingdom then. We are in the kingdom NOW, and the kingdom is in us. This is certain and final. But all UNTO something greater THEN. Once again, the word RELEASE seems appropriate. What we have been given now, God intends to release upon an eternal realm then. But it is the SAME kingdom Ė the same life of Jesus Christ. Not another one.
The Bible teaches that God puts INTO us a down payment -- a foretaste of that which is yet to be ours. Depending upon how we are faithful over the down payment, we will be faithful over the fullness. In short, the kingdom God puts in us is preparatory to us entering the kingdom through the final resurrection.
Have we realized that, right now, we have in us something of eternal value, over which we are to be responsible? People think that faithfulness and stewardship have to do with outward ministries and possessions. But only secondarily. Our primary responsibility is faithfulness over the down payment God has given us Ė the life of Christ in us. Take care of that, and all of the rest of the things we associate with faithfulness will fall into their proper place.
Now, of course, all of this makes the kingdom sound more like a THING than a Person. But in the end, we are really talking about preparing NOW, to live with God forever THEN. I mean, if we are not submitting to God NOW, under His rule and order, why do we think we will THEN? We wonít. For, "he that is faithful over little, will be faithful over much." We rarely grasp the significance of these profound teachings of Jesus.
Kingdom NOW and THEN
What we ought to be seeing by now is that the kingdom of God is here, right now. It is IN PEOPLE. It is Christ in us. But the fullness of the kingdom isnít yet upon us Ė and cannot be until we enter into the fullness of the kingdom. That takes a full resurrection of the body. But nevertheless, we might say that the kingdom, for the last two thousand years has BEEN coming. There has been an on-going invasion of the Holy Spirit. And when God is satisfied that He has divided the sheep from the goats, then the end will come. The kingdom in its fullness will be a reality.
Understanding this goes a long way towards clearing up some Bible questions. Did you ever notice how the Bible sometimes speaks of salvation as a future thing, but then other times as if it is a past thing? This is especially true with regards to resurrection. We are told, on the one hand, that we, "are risen with Christ." But on the other hand, we are told, "we will be in the likeness of His resurrection." The same parallel is in the Bible about the kingdom of God. On the one hand, the kingdom is spoken of as being upon us Ė as being here, in us. But on the other, we are said to be waiting for His kingdom. This seeming confusion is understood once we discover that there is an ONGOING COMING of the kingdom. It is understood once we discover that what we have is real Ė but that it will all be released into a greater fullness through our resurrection of the body.
If you are saved, you are not in a process of getting saved. But is your body saved? Has all of you come under the kingdom rule of God? No. The point is, what we have is final and real, and ALL that God has for us in this age. But this age isnít the end. There is the age to come. And you and I are going to carry what God has given us into that eternal age Ė and find that there is an infinite release in Jesus Christ possible there that is not possible here.
How much more God wants to show us than most of us have assumed! Yet so many of us are too busy, "having church," "doing ministry," and playing politics with the things of God. A real message about the kingdom would be met, in many places, with derision. People donít want the Truth. They want a self-serving religion of comfort and ease. This should not be. God wants to bring His rule and order into our personal constitutions, and adjust us for the eternal ages.
When Jesus spoke of, "coming in His kingdom," He often referred to His on-going coming in our lives Ė to set up Godís rule and order through the new birth. Of course, His coming will be consummated with the literal Second Coming. But first things first. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He did so, "to receive a kingdom." (see Luke 19) But the kingdom He went to receive was not heaven. The kingdom He went to receive was that which He left behind. For the last two-thousand years, Jesus has been receiving His kingdom Ė in the form of people who are born anew. When this work in completed to Godís satisfaction, then Jesus will come back, and all of the people in whom there is His kingdom Ė all of these will enter fully into His kingdom. In short, to enter into the kingdom, you must have the kingdom in you.
"Kingdom authority," is not a THING God gives to us, that we can use to do things. No. Indeed, we only have authority and dominion to the extent that we are under Godís authority. In effect, we have, "kingdom authority," to do only that which God would do.
We see this in Jesusí instructions on prayer. We are told to, "ask in His name." To ask in the name of Jesus means that I ask for what Jesus would ask for Ė or to put it another way, I ask for the will of God. We have no authority to ask for anything else, nor authority to do anything else in the name of Jesus.
The notion that we are, "little gods," or that we have all the authority Jesus had, is error. God makes exceptions because of His mercy, but by and large, Godís authority will not even flow through me unless I am submitted to God Himself. Any instrument God ever chose to further His kingdom rule always had to FIRST come under that rule for themselves.
Generally, God wants to work through people. He can do as He pleases, with or without us, but He wants US to be the extension of HIM in this age. That is why we are called, "the Body of Christ." But unless we are under Godís rule, and are becoming adjusted to Him, we will accomplish little. We may do lots of things in Jesusí name, but it wonít be a work of God. God wants to work in us, so that He can work through us Ė free of the clutter of religious flesh.
We have dominion over this earth, and over anything else, only to the extent that God has dominion over us. Otherwise we would be mavericks. This cannot be. Thus, the key to possessing authority outwardly, is to submit to Godís kingdom within.
What does this really mean? Obedience, to be sure. But by definition, to submit to the rule of God, I must relinquish my rule. This means I must surrender all of me Ė my self life. I must relinquish my right to make the final decision about everything. I must leave that to God, and believe He will do it. I must, in effect, fall into the hands of the living God.
If I will do that, surrender both the bad AND the good to God, then God will begin making inroads in establishing His rule and order in me. I will start to BECOME someone He has access to. This is the key to all spiritual authority. But again, the authority which emerges from becoming one who is submitted to the rule of God is nothing more than the authority to DO the will of God, and be instrumental in expanding Godís kingdom rule. I will NEVER, in this age or the next, be given authority to do MY will, and call it Godís will.
The kingdom of God is here now Ė in people. Indeed, saved people are IN the kingdom, in the sense of being ONE with Christ. But this is MORE than, "positional," or, "legal." It is supposed to be REAL. In other words, we belong to another realm because there is life in us OF that other realm. We are IN the world, geographically, but not OF the world. New creations in Jesus Christ are not the same as old creations in Adam. There is a completely different engine running such a life Ė or at least, there ought to be. That, "engine," is life eternal.
If I have been born again from above, I may not, for some time, have much of a consciousness of it. But you know, there is something about people who have been truly born again. There is an illumination that comes Ė which is more than doctrinal. There is something there Ė a consciousness of Jesus. They are not the same because they see things differently. Somehow their inner constitution has been altered to a new center of spiritual gravity. This doesnít mean they donít have bad days, even awful days, or do not sin. But there is a light that has come on that somehow pierces through what would otherwise be darkness.
This new life Ė the Holy Spirit in us Ė is not a static thing. Once I am born anew, the Holy Spirit will seek to do all the things Jesus promised in John 14 Ė 16. But if you read those promises, every one of them have to do with Jesus Christ. Always, Jesus is the center Ė not just in the sense of being the topic of conversation Ė but as the OUR LIFE.
But it is here that we find the reason some people do not progress in the new birth, but, at best, remain babes. The Holy Spirit seeks to guide us into all Truth. By definition, this means that all of my error will have to be dismantled Ė including religious error. Some people would have that. They are too married to their religious patterns and agenda. The Holy Spirit will also make Jesus the center. For those who want their church as a THING to be the center, or themselves to be the center, well, you can see the problem. There comes a point where choices have to be made. The Holy Spirit brings revelation and gives grace to make those choices. But in the end, we have to make the choice.
Of course, if all you think Iím talking about when I use the word, "Truth," is doctrines, or teachings, then you will think that the Holy Spirit guides us into all Truth through Bible study. Well, Truth is in the Bible, but this isnít what Iím talking about. Iím talking about a revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ to a person that will completely alter their perspective about everything else. That is Truth.
We must get it settled: We are born into this world without any Truth in us. That is because we are born without any life in us. The fact that we can academically learn facts, and doctrines, can give us the impression that we know the Truth. Yet how many of us know Bible doctrines, yet walk around in complete darkness as to the true nature and character of Jesus Christ? It is entirely possible to become the most religious person imaginable Ė filled with doctrines, teachings, and church life Ė but to not even be born again. So many know tons about the Bible, but nothing about God Himself.
We know that the Bible says, "there is no condemnation for those in Christ," (Rom. 8:1), and yet we live under condemnation. We know that the Bible says that, "God is love," but many of us donít feel like He does. We know the Bible tells us we are saved, "by grace through faith," and yet millions continue trying to earn things from God by works. The list goes on and on. When will we see the difference between a grasp of theology and knowing Jesus? When will we see the difference between academic learning and a LIFE within?
This is not cause for despair, that is, unless we have no intention of opening ourselves to God. It is precisely because of the promises of Jesus that we can know for a fact that the Holy Spirit is, right now, seeking to guide us into all Truth. We need to be open, and surrender, and relinquish, and believe, and repent, and obey. Or to put it another way, if we want Godís kingdom to be a living reality for us today, then as Godís kingdom INVADES ours, we need to surrender to Him.
All of this Truth, of course, is a revelation of Jesus. This is really what it means to come into the consciousness of the kingdom of God. The two are as one. Jesus is the personification and embodiment of Godí rule and order. His life in us is that.
A Rejected Message
Take this message into some churches today, and they will think you are crazy. Because some folks in church leadership are both ignorance and arrogant, they do not easily admit there could be something outside of their perception. I donít want to sound overly negative, but the truth is, this is all too common of a situation. Church leadership, and I mean the lay leadership that commonly decides everything in the church -- especially as to who pastors the church and how Ė these folks are commonly elected or volunteer for the job. The goal is seldom the spiritual health of the church. Rather, it is the physical growth. Members, money, and a big happy family. That is what we want today. Unfortunately, all of this is possible, totally outside of the will and kingdom of God. What do we forfeit in the way of true spiritual life and Truth, in exchange for, "having our church the way we want it?"
It is a fact, while there are exceptions, that many in church leadership never even consider whether a potential pastor has any spiritual illumination. That is because they have little of it themselves, and so they donít know what it is. What most are interested in is having a person who will grow their church and keep people happy. They want someone who will do what THEY want Ė and THAT -- Iím afraid Ė really is at the top of the agenda. Indeed, in many places if you question that stance, they cannot imagine any other. Question whether the congregation ought to be ordering around the pastor? My gosh, the fact you have raised the question to begin with, will, in and of itself, brand you as a trouble maker.
Of course, the other side of this is that many who are in pastoral ministry ought not to be. They went to seminary and learned how to be a minister. The question, however, is whether God has made a ministry within them. Some pastors are arrogant and even abusive. Others are wimps. Neither ought to be the case.
When people are comfortable with themselves, and think they know, or if they have had a measure of success in which to take pride, the last thing they want is someone coming into their church and doing anything to rock the boat. But if you want a challenge, read the New Testament from the angle of seeing what the real effect always was of Truth and the Holy Spirit being introduced in a religious environment. It was ALWAYS the same. Everywhere Jesus went, everywhere Paul and the other apostles went, there were upheavals. They rocked the boat Ė not as the goal, but as the result of preaching the Truth. By the time Jesus ascended, He has only 120 people following Him. Almost everyone forsook Paul. In short, once people found out that they were not going to get what they wanted out of Jesus, and later, the apostles, they moved on. And remember, we are talking about highly religious people.
Do we actually think that Truth, and the introduction of the kingdom of God into our religious environment, ought not to rock our boat? According to my Bible, if you and I open ourselves to the Truth, it will absolutely revolutionize our personal lives, and that of our church.
It is here that if we open our eyes, we would see exactly how to be a church wherein the Holy Spirit moves. Simply preach the Truth Ė in love, but without compromise. Forget about being politically correct, about pleasing people, and about politics. Make as your agenda Jesus Christ. Ask God to bring the Truth, His will, and His kingdom Ė to the complete disregard of YOUR will and kingdom. And then get ready. Heíll answer.
What will happen is this: God will draw a big red line right down the middle of your church. On the one side will be those who will not open themselves to the Truth. They will either set themselves against you, or leave. But on the other side of the line will be those who recognize the Truth and hunger for Christ. Over the course of time, if you are faithful, you will end up with a church dominated by those who want Jesus Christ. It may be much smaller than the original, watered-down church. But God cares about spiritual shape, not physical size.
You will notice, of course, the turmoil that one must go through to get into Godís will. Well, this is so individually, isnít it? Why would it be otherwise as a congregation? Yet it is the only way to correct a bad situation.
Sadly, many places are not run by people willing to go through this kind of thing. Either they arenít aware of their true condition, or are quite comfortable in it. Sometimes, those in leadership are THE PROBLEM Ė and thus, you arenít going to find a solution coming from them. And frankly, at some point God is done trying. Despite the fact that God often does bless WITHIN such a terrible religion system, for a time, for His own purposes, the Holy Spirit will never truly flow where such conditions exist. Eventually, the Spirit moves on. The frightening part is that many of these people wonít even know He has left. What God often does is work completely OUTSIDE of these things Ė in the lives of individuals and congregations who are open to Him. This has always been His pattern.
Do we sincerely want the Truth? The REAL Truth? Do we really and truly want HIS KINGDOM to come? For HIS WILL to be done? On OUR earth, as it is done in HIS heaven? Wrap your mind around those words and ask yourself: If I really want that, what will it mean, first, for my personal life, but then secondly, for my church?
The Truth of God is the Truth about God Ė and is revealed to a person by the Holy Spirit. It is more than teachings and doctrines, although expressed that way. The Truth is something that alters your perspective forever.
We are ill adjusted to the Truth through natural birth. But not because the Truth is so terrible. No. We are ill adjusted because the Truth is so wonderful. It is WE who are so terrible. The setting up of Godís kingdom in our heart, and the Holy Spiritís work of adjusting us to it, is how God is able to not only reveal to us the Truth, but bring us into the place where we can embrace it and live in it.
The Good News - Home