Ask the UMC: What is the kingdom of God?
What is the kingdom of God? Where is the kingdom of God?
The kingdom of God is a way of describing the reign of God. United Methodists, with other Christians, recognize that the reign of God is both a present and future reality.
John Wesley recognized both of these aspects of God’s reign: “The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are but two phrases for the same thing. They mean, not barely a future happy state, in heaven, but a state to be enjoyed on earth. … In some places of Scripture, the phrase more particularly denotes the state of it on earth: in others, it signifies only the state of glory: but it generally includes both.” (Notes Upon the New Testament: Matthew 3:2).
Early Christians believed that God’s kingdom had come in Jesus. When the Pharisees asked when God’s kingdom was coming, Jesus replied, “God’s kingdom isn’t coming with signs that are easily noticed. Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ Don’t you see? God’s kingdom is already among you.” (Luke 17:20-21, CEB)
We believe that wherever God's will is done, the kingdom or reign of God is present. It was present in Jesus' ministry, and it also is present in our world whenever persons and communities experience reconciliation, restoration and healing.
“Wherever persons are being made new creatures in Christ, wherever the insights and resources of the gospel are brought to bear on the life of the world, God’s reign is already effective in its healing and renewing power.” (The Book of Discipline, Basic Christian Affirmations)
Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God when he taught the disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)
Wesley writes that in this prayer, we implore, “May Thy kingdom of grace come quickly, and swallow up all the kingdoms of the earth!” (Explanatory Notes: Matt. 6:10). That hasn’t happened yet. The kingdom is still to come.
Early Christians anticipated the fulfillment of the kingdom when Jesus returned. (Revelation 11:15)
Christians today continue to look to the end time in which God’s work will be fulfilled. “Living in a covenant of grace under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we participate in the first fruits of God’s coming reign and pray in hope for its full realization on earth as in heaven.” (The Book of Discipline)
Rev. F. Belton Joyner Jr. sums it up, “One can almost open the Gospels at random and find some image, some forecast, some announcement of the kingdom. And the kingdom does not look like business as usual! The values and systems of the world are turned upside down.
“These various biblical references to the kingdom lead to the conclusion that the kingdom’s life could be seen in Jesus Christ, that even now in the 21st century we get glimpses of God’s reign, and that in a time that seems good to God, the full reign of God will restore a future that we have already seen in Christ. “Death and evil will not only have lost their power but will be destroyed.” (United Methodist Questions, United Methodist Answers: Exploring Christian Faith)
This content was produced by InfoServ, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.
First published Feb. 19, 2018.