Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
We can spend hours, even days, years and the whole of our present life pondering the meaning of God’s word, the Bible. Take for example, the above text and the word ‘now’. How much significance does that tiny interjection have? And note, Jesus was referring to His kingdom – Christ’s kingdom.
In the New Testament, and particularly the Gospels, we come across two other kingdom, descriptive phrases: The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven, and we immediately ask the question, “Are they the same kingdoms?”
Because of Matthew 19:23 and 24 we perhaps think they are identical kingdoms, and could we be right?
After Jesus had met the rich young man who wanted to know what good thing he should do to have eternal life, (Matthew 19:19) Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, “Assuredly I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ (Matthew 19:23, 24)
He spoke of two kingdoms: ‘the kingdom of heaven’ and ‘the kingdom of God.’ Could one be a literal kingdom and the other a spiritual kingdom? Some people seem to think so, but let’s examine the Scriptures further.
When being questioned by Pilate before His crucifixion Jesus said His kingdom was, “not of this world.” (John 18:36a) He went on to say, “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36b, c)
The question must be asked, “Is His kingdom different to the other two?”
One thing we learn from John 18:36 is that His kingdom was not of this world. It wasn’t a physical kingdom on the earth for which His disciples would fight. So what sort of kingdom was it?
Maybe the next couple of verses from Luke’s Gospel will shed some light? “The kingdom of God does not come with observation, nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20, 21) Jesus refers to “the kingdom of God”, a kingdom you cannot point to or see. In fact, He says God’s kingdom “is within you.”
How can you have a kingdom within you? Well, it must be a kingdom where a king rules. What does he rule within you? Obviously, your heart, soul and mind. This immediately accords to the great commandment, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) These living aspects of self: heart, soul and mind, are the essential you. They determine ‘who’ you are. God wants you to love Him totally, and He commands you to do it.
I am reminded of the sample prayer Jesus taught His disciples in which He said, “Our Father in heaven, Your kingdom come,” and, “Your will be done.” (Matthew 6:9b,10) Note that the disciples were to direct their prayer to their Father who is in heaven. Collectively, therefore, the disciples’ Father is the King of a realm called ‘heaven’.
We know that the Son of God, came to earth to fulfil the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:17) and to establish, ‘the ‘kingdom of God,’ and, on fulfilling these things He would “drink of the fruit of the vine ………. in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:24, 25) After His mission of salvation He was going to a place called ‘the kingdom of God’.
What sort of kingdom is it? Well, maybe the next text will give us a clue!
‘Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption.’ (1 Corinthians 15:50)
This kingdom of God is not a physical one as we know it. For a starters there is no corruption in it. To enter His kingdom, one must be born again of water and the Spirit. His kingdom is not of the flesh, but of the Spirit. (John 3:3-6)
Therefore, it seems obvious to me none of these kingdoms: the kingdoms of Christ, God and heaven are physical or material as we know and experience physicality here on earth. However, all of them exist as a spiritual reality under the reign of a single sovereign God; the One and only, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Inevitably, they are one unified kingdom under God’s rule. They are all part and parcel the same kingdom.
We who believe and trust Jesus, now dwell in this Kingdom, and we shall inherit the fullness of eternal life (John 10:10; 14:3) when Jesus comes again in glory and power (Mark 13:26, 27) to give us new spiritual bodies. (1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1Thessalonians 4:16, 17) We shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)