One of Jesus’ favorite themes to preach on was the Kingdom of Heaven—or the Kingdom of God depending on which gospel you’re reading—though it doesn’t matter what you call it, the two titles are synonymous with each other. Though regardless of what you call it, the meaning of the title can get lost in American thinking. If we call it the Kingdom of Heaven, we often think of pearly gates in the clouds in the world that awaits us after we die. If we call it the Kingdom of God, we often think of American politics and elected officials and all of the ethical and moral battles that come with such things.
But for Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God isn’t a place far away from us in time or space, nor is it an earthly nation. Rather, it is a spiritual Kingdom becoming earthly when it intersects with our time and space as our prayers and actions allow it to break through into our present landscape (Mt 6:10). And the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t an earthly nation because it’s not from earth. It is a Kingdom in the process of coming down from Heaven to the earth.
And so, to fully adhere to national or party politics is not to adhere to the politics of the Kingdom of God, for no nation on Earth is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is its own thing that is on its way here and is already here when we live out its politics. The Kingdom of Heaven has its own political ideologies of extravagant love and forgiveness and peace and such politics are lived out when Christians dwell in the teachings of Jesus—especially the teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount. The Kingdom of Heaven does not elect a king for the throne, because it has one permanent King who has earned the throne—for Jesus is the descendant of David whose reign has been established forever, just as the prophets foresaw. To live under Jesus is to live in submission to the Kingdom of Heaven. To practice the teachings of Jesus is to watch Heaven break out of our lives and surge throughout the earth around us.
To fully adhere to national or party politics is not to adhere to the politics of the Kingdom of God, for no nation on Earth is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is its own thing that’s here when we live out its politics.Tweet
As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven (Philip 3:20) we must give our full allegiance to Heaven not just in the afterlife, but now. This will surely cause us to clash with our own nations and political parties, for one glance through the Sermon on the Mount will show us just how far every earthly nation is from truly imaging God in their politics. Standard humans simply cannot live up to the standards of the Kingdom of Heaven without the help of the Holy Spirit. Sure, there will be times where Heaven will be able to overlap with an earthly nation as all humans are made in the image of God, but there are likely to be many more times where our allegiance to Jesus will put us at odds with the nations. After all, earthly nations are pictured all throughout the Bible as being under the control of the false gods and their human-puppet rulers. All nations outside of Heaven are seen as a Babylon or a Babylon-in-the-making.
And so as we live our lives in Heaven right now while living on the earth, we find ourselves in an interesting paradigm. We are to be obedient to earthly nations when they aim to do good as that’s what God set up governments to do; but we are also to prophetically rebuke our governments when they live out the oppressive ways of Babylon. And we do all of this while recognizing their inability to live up to the fullness of God’s expectation since no earthly nation is fully Christian, fully baptized, or Spirit-inspired. But we as Christians are, and so regardless of what the world does, we are expected to live up to our calling.
And so we install the Kingdom of Heaven in all ways that we can. For example, we fight abortion not just by prophetic correction and political lobbying, but by adopting orphans, creating orphanages, getting involved in foster care, befriending those thinking of abortion and showing them that we love them, and even offering to adopt their children if they’re willing to bring the baby to term.
We fight homelessness not just by addressing laws, cycles, and injustices that create poverty, but also by opening our houses to the homeless, giving them rides to their jobs, connecting them to organizations that can help them, creating new projects and shelters that serve them, and buying them homes.
We fight racism not just by identifying how it works systemically and fighting to change that system, but also by repenting of the racism in ourselves, learning about our history, making reparations, calling it out when we see it, understanding why it shows up in the places it does, listening to other’s stories, abstaining from degrading jokes, and by spending a great amount of time among those who are different from us.
This is the beauty of the Kingdom of Heaven lived out in the Christian. It doesn’t just manifest in a national law we’re expected to follow, but instead the law is written on our hearts and minds (Heb 10:16) and it seeps out through our fingers and toes.
Our actions become conduits for the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s Plan A. If we had multiplied throughout the earth and imaged God without sin and rebellion, we would have converted the earth into the likeness of Heaven. But God will not let our sin and rebellion stop His original plan. He has shifted things around and Plan A is still on track. Now we expand the Kingdom of God throughout the earth by having Godly children who image God and by inviting outsiders into God’s Kingdom so that they might join the ranks of those who bring Heavenly expansion upon the earth.
Many agree that the Kingdom of Heaven was one of Jesus’ favorite themes, but many have not understood that Kingdom well. It is a part of the “already-but-not-yet” scope of the Bible. Yes, it is already here and happening around us, but it is also not yet here in its fullest state. It is the embodiment of God’s plan to invade the earth with His image. Jesus has ushered the Kingdom of Heaven into the earth which will ultimately fulfill Plan A. Will we join in that effort right now?