"My Kingdom is not of this World"
The "Kingdom of heaven" or "Kingdom of God" in New Testament terminology stands for and is indicative of the blessings of God, as observed in, "The Kingdom," accessed from the Great Truths section (Mk. 10: 25, 26). John the Baptist came preaching the Kingdom of God (Matt. 3: 2, "at hand" shows the Kingdom was "new" and not then in existence). It was Jesus' task to preach the kingdom of God (Luke. 4: 43). In fact, the Kingdom constituted the centrality of Jesus' teaching (Matt. 4: 17, 23). Jesus appointed his apostles to teach the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 10: 7, Luke. 10: 9). The apostles continued to teach the Kingdom after Jesus' death (Acts 8: 12, 14: 22, 19: 8, 20: 25, 28: 23, and 31). Notwithstanding, Jesus made the alarming statement to Pilate:
"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18: 36).
Some of the Jews felt politically threatened by Jesus. They were of the persuasion, like many today, that Jesus’ kingdom was secular and would replace the Roman system (cp. Luke 23: 2). In fact, Pilate, the Roman Procurator, felt insecure and asked Jesus particularly about Jesus’ kingship (John 18: 33). It was in this context that Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." However, Jesus did affirm his real kingship (John 18: 37). Jesus added pertaining to his kingship, "…To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world…" (v. 37). The thing, though, that Jesus stresses is that his kingdom was not meant to be political (cp. vs. 10, 11).
Perversions of John 18: 36. Some teach that Christ had intended to establish his kingdom, but changed his mind in view of being rejected by the Jews. However, the reason he was rejected was due to his refusal to establish the kind of kingdom they wanted, the type for which many also clamor today. We read:
"When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone" (John 6: 15).
Others embrace the "kingdom postponement theory." They believe it was never Jesus’ plan to then set up his kingdom, but that he will establish his kingdom when he comes again. However, their timing is reverse from what is taught in the scriptures. Jesus at his final return will return the kingdom to the Father (I Cor. 15: 24). Besides, Jesus taught some standing by:
"And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power" (Mark 9: 1).
The true meaning of John 18: 36. Jesus could not have meant when he said, "My kingdom is not of this world" that his kingdom would not be established, because it was. We clearly read the following:
"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1: 12, 13, see also Hebrews 12: 28, Rev. 1: 9).
It is important that we note that Jesus did not say, "My kingdom is not in this world," but rather, "My kingdom is not of this world." That is, Jesus’ kingdom is not like the worldly, secular kingdoms. Many then as well as today misunderstand the basic nature of the kingdom, the reign of God in the hearts and minds of people (cp. Matt. 20: 20-26).
Practices that make Jesus’ kingdom of this world. People generally act out what they think and perceive. Since many have worldly minds, when they consider the thought of the kingdom, they act it out in a worldly fashion. For the most part, religion today has been reduced to the mundane and physical. The spiritual emphasis given to the kingdom in the scriptures has been replaced with fun, frolic, and carnal matters to placate a worldly minded people. Consider some specific ways in which the kingdom has been made to be "of this world."
Emphasis placed on the physical, material things and little, if any, regard for the spiritual. The social gospel is rampant. Many churches are wrapped up in feeding the bodies of people; fellowship halls in which food and fun are provided; games to entertain in their family life centers, ad infinitum. Instead of offering the lost the saving gospel of Christ, churches are now alluring prospective members with physical rewards and stimulus. People today are thus like some in Jesus’ day, of whom Jesus said:
"Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed" (John 6: 26, 27).
Many attempt to make Jesus’ kingdom of this world by using the material as their standard. I once had one to say to me, "We have three times the people than where you preach; therefore, we are more desirable." Numbers have become the deciding factor to not a few today as they assess their worth. In order to attract more people, they lower the gospel standard. Many churches, even too many churches of Christ, have become the environs of all sorts of impenitent sinners. I asked the person who made the above brag how many of their members would he think are in adulterous marriages. His reply was, "I do not think, I know that at least half are living in adultery" (cp. Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). As you consider the book of Acts, the history book of the New Testament, the emphasis was on the truth and complying with truth rather than mere numbers (Acts 2ff.).
Big fancy edifices have become the means of determining the greatness of a church. I once preached for a church that had a large building of which they were very proud. In fact, the building was a landmark for that area of Texas. People would attend just to see the building. "I just love attending here because the church building is so spectacular," said one to me. I am afraid that many today have a love affair with the "church building" and not the "church" (Matt. 16: 18, 19). I am not opposed to a church owning a building in which to meet, however, the building must not be the attraction or the emphasis. I remember one church of Christ glorying in their new building, featuring a steeple that alone cost 1. 5 million.
Most churches are nothing short of social clubs, providing the social needs of some. Let us face it, many join churches due simply to social advantage. They seek out a church based on their children and what children are in attendance and they seek churches that provide day care centers, schools, etc. The gospel, what is that? In fact, the smaller amount of the Bible, the more some people prefer it.
Notwithstanding all the practices of men, Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world." Jesus’ kingdom essentially involves attitude, location, and submission. Kingdom implies "king" and "king" presupposes authority and rule. On one occasion, Jesus asked some the pointed question:
"And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6: 46).
Some have the mindset of those mentioned in Luke 19. Of these we read the following: "But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19: 14).
The doctrinal system known as Premillennialism stands diametrically opposed to Jesus’ statement, "My kingdom is not of this world." Many of them believe and teach that the kingdom is not yet established, but when Jesus returns, he will then set up his kingdom and it will be a political kingdom, offering political appointment to the faithful. Many are presently attempting to position themselves to receive the highest ruling offices and the larger territories.
In conclusion, we need to not only accept Jesus’ statement, "My kingdom is not of this world," but also respect and appreciate it. We need to put the spiritual back into Jesus’ already existing kingdom, a spiritual sphere of subjugation and spiritual blessing.