What Does God’s Kingdom Mean to You?
WHEN you repeat the Lord’s Prayer you utter the words, “Let your kingdom come.” (Matt. 6:10) What does that kingdom mean to you? What part does it play in your life? Why did Jesus instruct us to pray for this kingdom even before asking for our daily bread, forgiveness or deliverance from temptation?
The kingdom of God is referred to so frequently in the Scriptures that it is obviously the theme or central doctrine of the entire Bible. The fact that Jesus urged us to pray continually for it shows its importance in God’s purposes. In the book of Matthew alone the Kingdom is mentioned more than fifty times! But in connection with what? John the Baptist makes mention of it in these words: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 3:2) When Jesus sent out his disciples he commanded: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” (Matt. 10:7) This was to be no earthly kingdom, but one that would rule from the invisible heavens over the earth and humans on it.
Who would be the king? Luke 1:31, 33 states: “You are to call his name Jesus . . . and he will be king . . . and there will be no end of his kingdom.” Enthroned in heavenly glory, the King Jesus Christ will destroy this wicked world and all who love it. With wickedness gone, God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more.” (Rev. 21:4) Isaiah 9:7 adds: “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.”
The Kingdom will mean the end of sickness, sorrow, hatred, oppression and war! It will mean freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom from death. It will mean peace between God and man, peace between man and man, peace between man and his own body, peace between man and the animals, and peace between man and the earth. The whole globe transformed into a paradise! This is the grand purpose of the Kingdom toward man.
WHAT IT SHOULD MEAN
What does the kingdom of heaven mean to God? He is the one who guarantees its coming; it is his kingdom. The Kingdom means so much to God that he provided his only-begotten Son as the King of that kingdom. It means so much primarily because the Kingdom is the means by which Jehovah will vindicate his own name and sovereignty; also it is the means he has provided for bringing relief to distressed humanity!
Men of faith before Jesus looked forward eagerly to the Kingdom as the only possible solution for the world’s problems. Abraham was one such man. “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed in going out into a place . . . although not knowing where he was going. For he was awaiting the city having real foundations and the builder and creator of which is God.” (Heb. 11:8, 10) That heavenly city, the Kingdom, meant so much to Abraham that he was willing to do whatever God required of him, even if he did not completely understand it at the time. He traveled to an unfamiliar land and was prepared to offer up his only son if necessary. The hope of a future kingdom of peace and happiness meant everything to Abraham! All else was subordinated to that hope.
Many others, such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Sarah and Moses, placed the Kingdom hope first in their lives. Did they receive their reward before they died? No. They had to wait until the heavenly kingdom was established. Then they would be resurrected to life on earth under its reign. “In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and hailed them . . . But now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven.”—Heb. 11:13, 16.
When Jesus was on earth, upon what did he center his teaching? Social reform? Politics? Disarmament? No; the issue of supreme importance was the kingdom of heaven! When Satan tempted Jesus with rulership of earthly kingdoms, he rejected it. The heavenly kingdom meant much more to him. He knew that all earthly kingdoms would pass away eventually, giving way to the permanent rule of God’s kingdom.
As a perfect man, Jesus could have excelled in anything—sports, business, politics, the arts, and so forth. Note what he chose to do: “Jesus set out on a tour of all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom.” (Matt. 9:35) After his death and resurrection, what did the Kingdom mean to him? Acts 1:3 relates: To the apostles also “by many positive proofs he showed himself alive after he had suffered, being seen by them throughout forty days and telling the things about the kingdom of God.” The most important man ever to walk the earth immersed himself in the work of the Kingdom!
JESUS ILLUSTRATES ITS IMPORTANCE
Jesus used illustrations to impress upon his hearers the place that God’s kingdom should have in their lives. He said: “The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid, and for the joy he has he goes and sells what things he has and buys that field.” (Matt. 13:44) What a thrill to find hidden riches! Would we not sell all we have to buy property that would enrich us for life? The man in the illustration did just that. He focused his attention on the most valuable thing. All else was secondary. A fitting illustration of what the kingdom of heaven should mean to the seeker of everlasting life!
Jesus gave another illustration: “Again the kingdom of the heavens is like a traveling merchant seeking fine pearls. Upon finding one pearl of high value, away he went and promptly sold all the things he had and bought it.” (Matt. 13:45, 46) A pearl of high value was to be had! Nothing else could approach it in value. This man “promptly” sold his possessions to raise the price of this pearl. He must have gone to some trouble to make the necessary transactions. How inconvenient to rearrange his personal affairs and property to do this! But no matter. He was seeking fine pearls, and now he had found one that far exceeded all the rest in value. He must act now, before he lost the opportunity! The priceless pearl would make up for the discomfort. So it would be with the Kingdom. Putting it first in our lives might be difficult to begin with. It might raise problems and inconvenience us to some extent. But look at the reward—the Kingdom of the heavens! What else could be compared with such a rare prize?
So important was the Kingdom that Jesus said: “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. . . . Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:25, 33) Did Jesus mean that we should not work or plan our lives? No. Jesus worked. He wanted others to work. What he was pointing out was that our livelihood should not be an obsession to the exclusion of the more important things. The Kingdom should come first in our lives, then the other considerations. If, because of devoting ourselves to Kingdom interests, we should run into difficulty in making our living, then God will assist us.
How unwise to expend our vital energy on things that will not lead to life under the Kingdom. Driving ourselves furiously to make money, to build large estates, or to become prominent will not add one day to our life span. So much effort is put into providing a family with insurance for security. Yet how much is put into the most important insurance: building a good name with God so we can live forever under his kingdom?
To point out forcefully how much the Kingdom should mean, Jesus said: “If ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go off into Gehenna, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be pitched into Gehenna. And if your eye makes you stumble, throw it away; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of God, than with two eyes to be pitched into Gehenna.”—Mark 9:43-47.
The kingdom of God is such a desirable prize that nothing, no matter how dear, whether possessions, friendships, or even our limbs, should prevent our pursuit of it. If our occupation interferes, a readjustment should be made. If housework occupies all our time, better planning or a smaller house is needed. If our hobbies limit our seeking of the kingdom first, the time spent on them should be reduced. In short, whatever hinders us must be pushed into the background! This does not mean giving up all work, hobbies or recreation. It means putting things in their proper place. The more important things should come first. Eliminating or minimizing some things or long-ingrained habits may be painful, but view it this way: If a painful operation became necessary, with possible loss of a hand or a foot, would we not undergo it to save our lives? Likewise, it may be painful at first to submerge our selfish desires to God’s will, but the operation is vital if we want our lives to be preserved by him!
The Kingdom meant everything to the early Christians. The apostle Paul’s attitude was typical: “I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in union with him . . . to see if I may by any means attain to the earlier resurrection from the dead.”—Phil. 3:8-11.
WHAT IT MEANS TO THE WORLD
Does the Kingdom mean all this to the world? No, it does not. This should not be surprising, as “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Satan has blinded the minds of even the religious leaders as to the purpose of God’s kingdom. Many believe that it means the conversion of the world to Christ. One clergyman, noting the failure of people to let God’s kingdom mean anything to them, said: “People now worship at pagan idols of money, success, status and comfort. We seem somehow to have lost our sense of positive, dynamic mission in the world—the mission of changing the world in the direction of God’s kingdom.” When people are taught that God’s kingdom means the spreading of Christendom’s realm worldwide, is it any wonder that a failure to do so is associated with the failure of God’s kingdom?
The failure of most people to see the Kingdom does not mean that the Kingdom has failed. It proves just the opposite! Look at the world around you today. The distress of nations, the increased lawlessness, and the growing power of godless ideologies are positive proof that the Kingdom has already been set up in the heavens! Why so? The time of trouble the world is now experiencing is just exactly what Jesus said would happen. Bible prophecy clearly shows that since 1914 the kingdom of heaven has been in operation. We live in the transition period between the old and the new. Soon the established kingdom will wipe out this entire system of things, paving the way for peaceful, righteous rule on earth.
YOU CAN SEEK THE KINGDOM FIRST
Today hundreds of thousands are seeking the Kingdom first. An entire society of people, the rapidly expanding New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, make it the most important thing in their lives. The fact that these people of all races, tongues and backgrounds do it proves that you can do it. The reason they can put the Kingdom first is that they know what its purposes and requirements are. But did it mean so much to them at first? No, perhaps they were not particularly interested to begin with, but increased knowledge changed their viewpoint.
As you learn more about God’s kingdom your love for its author, Jehovah God, and its King, Jesus Christ, will grow. You will also learn to love those who want to live in the restored paradise as subjects of God’s kingdom and who are showing it by putting Kingdom interests first now. You too will want to show by your actions that the Kingdom is the motivating force in your life. With God’s mighty spirit backing up your efforts, you too can seek the Kingdom first.
It is urgent to do so now. Everlasting destinies are being determined in this time of judgment. Those who seek the Kingdom first are promised survival through the end of this world. As a united people they will pass into a world of endless peace, happiness and life, all under the direction of the kingdom of God.
What does God’s kingdom mean to you? Your life depends on your answer.