Christ Ruling His Kingdom
Rome was one of history’s most powerful kingdoms. And, during the time of Jesus, Pontius Pilate was ruling as a Roman official over the Jewish governments. He alone had the authority to decide whether Jesus be released or executed for the accusations made against Jesus by the Jewish leaders of His day.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was condemned to death by crucifixion under Pilate’s rule.
Pilate, while not absolute in his power, was a “king” of a kingdom. He understood the concepts of kingly authority and ruling. From day to day, he made numerous decisions that affected people’s lives in different ways. He stood above all those in his province as their superior authority. His rule was extensive.
However, as many do today, Pilate could not seem to grasp the concept of the Kingdom of God. His conversation with Jesus about the Kingdom of God is recorded for us in John 18:33-38. Pilate begins by asking Jesus if he is the King of the Jews. Jesus responds with His own question, “Did you conceive this on your own or is that what you have heard?”. Pilate was not a Jew and so God’s kingdom was not something he understood, and so he replies “Your own nation and the chief of Priests delivered You to me.”
In response, Jesus graciously explains the concept of the Kingdom of God to Pilate saying, “My kingdom is not of this world, otherwise these men would not be handing me over to you.” In announcing His kingship to Pilate, Jesus acknowledges that His reign is foreign to earth and men. He adds that He has “come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
The Kingdom of God can therefore be defined as the kingdom over which Jesus rules in absolute sovereignty. He is superior and supreme. There is no ruler above Him. It also suggests, since Jesus is the Creator of all things, that creation is in some sense His kingdom. However, Jesus has yet to exercise His rule in a way that is physical and final. So traditionally, we understand the Bible to teach the Kingdom of God in three different ways.
First, the Kingdom of God has come already. When Christ was on earth the Kingdom was ‘at hand:’ Jesus was the King and all of Creation submitted to His rule. He demonstrated His rule over the elements when he walked on water. He governed men so that some would follow Him. He multiplied food to feed thousands. He exercised sovereignty over disease and sickness by healing men of its effects.
Secondly, the Kingdom of God has come to dwell among us in Jesus’ physical absence through the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. Those know Christ are “of the truth,” are indwelt by the Spirit, and are thus ruled by Jesus. The Kingdom of God is also at the heart of the gospel since, in a nutshell, the gospel means to repent, to die to your own rule, and to live under the rule of Christ. In this way, the Kingdom of God exists today when the gospel is received in the hearts of Christians.
Thirdly, the Kingdom of God will come in the future, upon Christ’s return. The delayed earthly reign of Christ will soon become a reality. As He has come before, so He will come again. However, His second coming will not be one of salvation, but of judgment. He will execute the judgment He has already passed on sin and death and will take His seat on the throne of earth, ruling all of creation as the King of His Kingdom.
Despite centuries of conjecture and postulating by men, the Kingdom of God is not a natural rule of any man, but of the sovereign reign of Christ Himself. Christians are to value the Kingdom of God above everything in this world and to know that Christ’s kingdom is not one of “eating or drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy” as Paul writes. It is neither world domination nor social reform. It is the regeneration of the heart whereby sinners surrender all to God.
The essence of the Kingdom of God is the gospel – it is Christ Himself.
Verses for Further Reflection