Christians are citizens of the Kingdom of God now. What does that mean? How does our citizenship in God’s Kingdom matter now?
The answer to that question is something called, “the already, but not yet”. We are a part of the Kingdom of God already, but that Kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. One day it will be complete. But not yet. Now, however, in our day, the kingdom has already come in part, and we are truly Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven now. When Paul said that our citizenship is in heaven in Philippians 3:20, he did not say it will only be in the future. Instead he was speaking in the present tense. Our citizenship in God’s Kingdom started the moment that God the Spirit indwelled us, as we talked about last week.
So how do we live as citizens of God’s Kingdom now? To answer that, we first need to answer another question. What is the Kingdom?
A Kingdom is a realm ruled by a king. Simple, right? A realm and a ruler.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, we must first clearly declare who the King is. As we have seen in the Identity series, our King is God, who is a Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit. He is our sovereign, our monarch, our leader, our Lord, and we follow him. There is no other king that we follow. God, as expressed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the ruler, the King.
So what is the realm where our King rules?
Typically we think of the Kingdom of Heaven as a place that we go to after we die. Heaven is that. But Jesus talked about his Kingdom in more ways than a spiritual realm where we go when we die. Actually, Jesus talked about the kingdom quite a lot. The first mention is possibly Mark 1:14-15. There we read the following:
“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Hear that. The Kingdom of God is near. It is not far away. So it cannot be only a place, a heaven, that people can enter after they die. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is near.
Another time he went even further than that:
“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”Luke 17:20-21
Jesus was saying that we can experience the Kingdom of God now. In what might be his most famous teaching on the Kingdom of God, the Lord’s Prayer, in Matthew 6:10, he said, and many of you can probably recite it: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
God wants his will to be done on earth, as his will is done perfectly in heaven. And when his will is done on earth, that is evidence that his Kingdom has come on earth.
So the Kingdom is any place where God’s rule and reign enters, where his ways and his heart are being lived and acted upon. Like when we worship by serving the community on Church Has Left The Building Sundays, including digging out tree stumps for neighbors.
Jesus told parables to illustrate this. Turn to Mark 4:26-32 where Jesus tells two parables in a row. In both, Jesus is talking about the mysteriously powerful nature of the Kingdom that is at work even when we don’t see it. It flows, it is on the move, it is at work.
Go back to Mark 1:14-15. When Jesus said the Kingdom was near, he himself was ushering it into the world in a new way. No longer was the Kingdom of God contained to the physical borders of the nation of Israel. The Kingdom of God is not defined by borders.
Consider earthly kingdoms where we pass through entry and exits points of a country’s borders. Earthly kingdoms or nations have defined boundaries (for the most part), and those boundaries almost never move. With our passports in hand, and sometimes visas, we the people of the world move in and out earthly countries. But God’s Kingdom is totally different. God’s Kingdom has no boundaries. Instead it his kingdom that is on the move. So while we enter and exit earthly kingdoms, God’s kingdom enters and exits us.
This has great implications for us as citizens. Citizens of an earthly country are expected to live and act a certain way. So how should citizens of God’s Kingdom live out their identity? We will be different. Just as people from different cultures act, speak and think differently, Christians should be known for acting, thinking and speaking differently, flowing from our core identity. Remember our core identity: we are adopted as children into God’s family, we have new life in Christ and we are temples of the Holy Spirit. That is our identity, and because of that identity, we will live a certain way.
That way of life will look distinctly Christian. To look Christian is to behave and live like Christ. A Christian is one who is of Christ. If you want to learn more about that, check out the posts on our Identity in Christ. Our citizenship should be Christ-shaped, or shaped by Christ. This is why it is so vital for us to study the life of Jesus as written in the Bible. He was showing us how to live as citizens of the Kingdom. Therefore, we should do what he did, having the same heart as he did. What breaks his heart should break ours. What excites him should excite us. We should pattern our actions after his and our heart and mind will be transformed.