When I was growing up, the best way to get my attention was to begin a sentence like this:
“Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away …”
Like most little girls, my favorite stories were fairy tales. If there was a princess, a prince, a magical creature or two and a wild adventure involved, I was hooked from beginning to “happily ever after.”
I still love a good fairy tale. Each week, I listen to a podcast about myths and legends from around the world. I hear retellings of some childhood favorites, like Robin Hood or Sleeping Beauty, alongside folktales and legendary stories from Scandinavia to the Philippines.
Many stories begin with, “Long ago, in the kingdom of …”
As a culture of people who grew up with fairy tales and stories of legend, when most hear the word “kingdom,” they think of a place.
But in Scripture, the word “kingdom” most often refers to a person.
The Greek word for kingdom, “basileia,” means “royal power, kingship, dominion or rule; the right or authority to rule over a place or people.”
God’s kingdom doesn’t describe a place God will rule. God rules the whole universe. He always has and always will.
God’s Kingdom describes God himself; He alone is worthy of ruling His creation.
So, when we speak of God’s Kingdom, we are not speaking of a far off, magical place where God will rule one day.
God’s Kingdom—His authority to rule—is present everywhere, right now.
In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches His disciples what the Kingdom of God, also known as the Kingdom of Heaven, is like.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like …
>A farmer who planted good seed in his field, but overnight his enemy came and planted weeds among the good seed—the good crops (believers) and the weeds (unbelievers) grow together in the field (the world).
>A mustard seed planted in a field—though it is the smallest of seeds, it grows into the largest plant in the garden.
>The yeast a woman uses in making bread—it spreads throughout the whole dough (all of creation).
>A treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of great value—it is worth selling everything you have to attain it.
>A fishing net, thrown into the water, catching fish of every kind—it applies to everyone, whether they believe in Christ or not.
Living in the Kingdom
During His time on earth, Jesus taught, performed miracles and healed the sick as a way of proclaiming His Kingdom to others.
Like Cinderella’s slipper or Goldilocks’ third choice, Jesus’ ministry was evidence that He was the perfect fit to rule the earth.
But it was His death and resurrection that cemented His authority as the One who would save humanity from eternal separation from God.
And in His death and resurrection, Jesus made it possible for those who believe in Him to become citizens of God’s Kingdom.
So, to say that Christians belong to God’s Kingdom means they belong under His kingship and authority.
But what does that mean for you and me today?
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus describes what it is like to live in the Kingdom of God.
“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’” (Matthew 18:3-5).
Living in the Kingdom of God requires humility and faith.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God’” (Matthew 19:23-24).
Living in the Kingdom of God requires sacrificing our own desires for God’s desires.
“‘Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”’” (Matthew 25:34-40).
Living in the Kingdom of God requires loving and caring for those who cannot take care of themselves.
These are just a few of Jesus’ descriptions of what living in God’s Kingdom is like. I encourage you to read all of Jesus’ parables in Matthew to better understand His model for living in His Kingdom.
Now and not yet
The Kingdom of God is a beautiful dichotomy in the Christian faith.
Christ’s reign is happening right now, but the best is yet to come.
There will come a time when Christ will return in His full glory, judge the world and inaugurate a new Kingdom, one that will last forever and ever, amen.
It’ll be a day when all who follow Christ will live happily, reverently and perfectly ever after.
And there will be no end.
Bailey is The Outlook’s assistant editor.