I have alluded in various posts up to now, about the notion that Jesus is our king, that he was anointed the same by God the Father, and that we are called to follow and obey him rather than merely to give intellectual assent to some list of propositions about him. In the next few posts I want to ruminate a bit about what this means, and why, even though the majority of those who call themselves “Christians” would agree with what I just said, they actually have very little understanding of what it means.
Strange as it may sound, I’m going to look to earthly nations and kingdoms for some help on the concept. I’m doing this, not because these nations have any similarity to the Kingdom of Christ (heaven knows), but rather because nations DO give us some helpful clues on what concepts like “sovereign,” “citizen,” and “nation” (or “kingdom”) actually mean. For though the kingdoms of this world acknowledge the wrong sovereign, they do know what a sovereign is, and what a citizen’s role is vis-a-vis that sovereign. All analogies break down, and these will too, but before they do, I think we can glean some helpful insights.
Just to establish a little foundation, here, we start by acknowledging that Jesus Christ is, in fact, a king. He was prophesied as King of the Jews at his birth (Matt. 2:2), alluded to himself as the ultimate king under the Father (Matt 25:34), was acclaimed king by the people of Jerusalem (Luke 19:38), and he acknowledged the title before Herod (Matt. 27:11) (note that each of these passages have their parallels in the other synoptic gospels). He is finally acknowledged as King of Kings and Lord of Lords in Rev. 17:14 and Rev. 19:6.
Perhaps more importantly, Jesus spent a huge amount of his ministry on earth teaching about the “kingdom of heaven.” A quick search in my electronic ESV shows 118 occurrences of the English word “kingdom” in the gospels alone, and a quick glance down through them shows that the vast majority are referring in some form to the “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven.” I may unpack those words with a more careful word study at another time, but for now, let us be satisfied that, whether Jesus was referring to himself or his Father as the sovereign (and there are plenty of each), his teaching was rich with the term.
So what’s a kingdom? The simplest possible definition I can think of, and one that certainly fits the biblical paradigm, is that a kingdom is a group of subjects or citizens who, along with their property, goods, and territory, are subject to a sovereign. This is a concept we in the democratic West, don’t entirely comprehend. As I have discussed before, we live in a nation where, at least in theory and doctrine, it is the collected people who are sovereign, and to a certain extent the individual who is his own sovereign. It’s understandable, therefore, that we don’t fully grasp the notion that anyone else–even God–has in his very nature the right to command our submission. But he does. And when we acknowledge and submit to his sovereignty, it sets in motion a collection of realities that we need to confront far more directly than most of us have done. It is these realities to which I will turn in future posts.