The Kingdom—Is It Real to You?
“My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought than I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.”—John 18:36.
1. (a) How are kingdom and government linked in Isaiah 9:6, 7? (b) Earlier, where were kingdom and government referred to figuratively?
OVER 2,600 years ago, with prophetic vision Isaiah said concerning government and kingdom:
“For there has been a child born to us, there has been a son given to us; and the princely rule [government] will come to be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. To the abundance of the princely rule [government] and to peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom in order to establish it firmly and to sustain it by means of justice and by means of righteousness, from now on and to time indefinite. The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.” (Isa. 9:6, 7; compare “An American Translation”; “Authorized Version.”)
Centuries earlier, our heavenly Father spoke figuratively of this same kingdom and government as going into action. Spearheaded by the ‘seed of His woman,’ it was to strike a deathblow to the archenemy of the Kingdom government.—Gen. 3:15.
2. How did Abraham demonstrate his faith in the Kingdom government promise?
2 The Creator of heaven and earth did not let that original promise die. Years later, Jehovah told his friend Abraham:
“I will bless those who bless you, and him that calls down evil upon you I shall curse, and all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves by means of you.” (Gen. 12:3)
The blessing to “all the families of the ground” would take place only through fulfillment of that first promise, and this Abraham recognized. Hence, the Christian apostle Paul reports: “By faith [Abraham] resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. For he was awaiting the city [kingdom] having real foundations, the builder and creator of which city is God.” (Heb. 11:9, 10) Abraham was so intent on his hope in that Kingdom government that he acted as a foreigner and an alien resident, even though residing in the Promised Land.
3. What questions might we ask ourselves about our faith in the Kingdom government?
3 How do we personally look upon this world? Do we see ourselves as ‘foreigners’ and ‘aliens,’ even though we may dwell in the land of our birth with our own race? Are others in our community viewing us as being different? Do they see us as set apart? If not, how strong is our faith in the Kingdom government? Are we merely ‘blending in’ with our community? Or, are we God’s friends, as was Abraham?—Jas. 2:23.
4. Who stand to benefit by recognition of the “seed” of heavenly government, and what must they do to benefit?
4 Jehovah kept that hope glowing within Abraham by reminding him much later:
“I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.” (Gen. 22:17, 18)
Actually, by means of the same “seed” mentioned at Genesis 3:15, not just some but all nations of the earth would bless themselves. Yes, and so would every individual in those nations, regardless of race and whether rich or poor, provided that person recognizes and acknowledges the importance of that “seed.” Indeed, as matters turn out, “everyone exercising faith in him [will] not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” The opportunity is there for many to be subjects of that government, if they exercise faith.—John 3:16; Acts 10:34, 35.
5. As the promised “Seed” and King, what will be accomplished through Christ?
5 How do we know that Jesus Christ was, indeed, that principal “seed” of Abraham? With startling frankness, Paul says: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It says, not: ‘And to seeds,’ as in the case of many such, but as in the case of one: ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.” (Gal. 3:16) Then, in writing Ephesian Christians, the apostle points to Jehovah’s way of handling matters with regard to unifying Jesus’ disciples under Christ, the promised “Seed” and King, and bringing the rest of mankind on earth into harmony with God through His Son. Paul wrote:
“It is according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.”—Eph. 1:8-10.
KINGDOM GOVERNMENT BECOMES THE ISSUE
6. Why was Jesus aware of his future role in Kingdom government?
6 Prior to his earthly sojourn, “the Christ” had acted as the Word (or, Logos), the mouthpiece of our heavenly Father. (John 1:1) So Jesus knew of the prophecies recorded at Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 9:6, 7. He was aware of the words directed to Abraham. (Gen. 12:3; 22:17, 18) Additionally, he was conscious of the fact that he would be the one to fulfill the wonderful promises related to the promised seed and the Kingdom government.
7. How did Jesus draw attention to his kingly role?
7 During Jesus’ earthly sojourn and particularly his three-and-a-half-year ministry, he drew attention to that kingly role. Such expressions as “the kingdom of God is in your midst” and “the kingdom of God has drawn near” were heard from his lips. By means of his many illustrations and parables, Jesus drew attention to that kingdom.—Matt. 13:1-52; Mark 1:14, 15; Luke 17:21.
8. What miraculous things did Jesus do?
8 As the King-designate, Jesus also did many miraculous things. Through the power of the holy spirit, he walked on water. He gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. Jesus healed the sick and the lame, and restored the dead to life. Why, if such a man were facing a television interviewer today, just imagine the probable line of questioning! ‘Are you the man who walked on water? How did you give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and life to the dead—how is this possible?’ Well, when before the “interviewer” Pontius Pilate, what did Jesus Christ do?
9. When Jesus was before Pilate, what outstandingly was pushed to the fore?
9 Jesus outstandingly made the Kingdom the issue. Pilate ‘ate out of Christ’s hand,’ as it were, in following and emphasizing the theme of Kingdom government. Of course, Pilate had no choice, owing to the deft way that Jesus handled matters in those closing hours of his earthly life. Let us take our Bibles and turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 18, verse 33.
10. What was Pilate’s first question to Jesus, and why was it so fitting?
10 In his first question directed to Jesus, Pilate asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?” So, in the Roman governor’s mind, the theme had already been set. It was the very theme that needed to be pursued that day, for when Pilate had asked the Jews what accusation they were bringing against Jesus, they had said: “This man we found subverting our nation and forbidding the paying of taxes to Caesar and saying he himself is Christ a king.” Fittingly, then, Pilate asked Jesus: “Are you the king of the Jews?”—Luke 23:1-3.
11. (a) To answer Pilate’s further question, what might Jesus have done? (b) What has always been the principal issue with God’s people?
11 If you had been in Jesus’ place and had been asked the same question, how would you have replied? Would you have related all the things you had or had not done in an effort to make your judgment lighter, thus possibly avoiding a death sentence? This would be the normal reaction of most, but it was not that of Jesus. He might have been able to lead Pilate off the theme of the Kingdom. But Kingdom government really was the issue. Down through the decades the Kingdom always has been the issue, and now, with God’s modern-day people, the issue is still the Kingdom. It was in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, America, Australia, Canada and other parts of the earth during World War II. The question has been, Which government is supreme in an individual’s life—man’s or God’s? In recent times, too, the issue remains the same, whether in Malawi, China, the Soviet Union, or any other land. The principal issue is not one of blood transfusion or some other prohibition, but always finally, Which government is ultimately superior in a person’s life?
12. How did Jesus further draw attention to the Kingdom, and what question did this now cause Pilate to utter?
12 Jesus did not answer Pilate’s question directly, but replied:
“My kingdom is no part of the world. If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.”
Notice that in Jesus’ short reply he mentioned the Kingdom three times. This brought Pilate and all those listening back to the theme of the Kingdom government, as Pilate then said: “Well, then, are you a king?” (John 18:36, 37) The scene was firmly set on that dramatic stage, and no one would be able to overlook the reason for Christ’s being on trial. Notice the sequence of events. Jesus responded and said:
“You yourself are saying that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.”—John 18:37.
13. How was the Kingdom issue further emphasized in Herod’s meeting with Jesus?
13 At this point Pilate said to the religious leaders and the Jewish mob: “I find no crime in this man.” However, the crowd became insistent and told Pilate how Jesus’ Kingdom teaching had spread throughout Judea, starting from Galilee. At that time Herod Antipas was tetrarch in Galilee and was aspiring to the kingship of the Jews. To Pilate, what could be more fitting than that Herod should be confronted by Jesus, since Herod was in Jerusalem at the time? So he sent Jesus to Herod, who questioned Jesus at length, in the hope that he would perform some sign. But Jesus, Jehovah’s anointed King, had no desire to belittle his kingship just to satisfy Herod’s curiosity. He remained silent. Frustrated, would-be king Herod made fun of Jesus’ kingship, having his soldiers clothe Jesus with a regal garment and sending him back to Pilate.—Luke 23:4-11.
14. With regard to kingship, what would be the final outcome to Herod and to Jesus?
14 Though Pilate befriended Herod from that day, it did Herod no good. In passing, we may note the contrast between the final outcome to Herod and to Jesus. History relates that, some years later, the ambitious Herod was egged on by his adulterous wife, Herodias, to go to Rome and request kingship from the emperor Caligula. But this angered Caesar, who banished Herod to Gaul. Herod lost both his position and his wealth. Jesus, for his part, had refused to be made an earthly king. He had divested himself of everything he might have possessed here on earth. (Matt. 8:20; John 6:15) He humbled himself, becoming completely submissive to Jehovah’s will. He rejoiced to do that will and to make the heavenly kingdom his goal. “For the joy that was set before him,” he endured every indignity and torture that his enemies could heap upon him, knowing that his integrity to the death would qualify him for the glorious kingship that lay ahead of him.—Heb. 12:2; Matt. 25:31.
15. How was the issue of kingship highlighted by the discussion when Jesus was before Pilate?
15 Once again, Jesus stood before Pilate. And once again the Kingdom issue came to the fore, as Pilate asked the Jewish mob: “Do you . . . wish me to release to you the king of the Jews?” But it did not end there. The Roman soldiers picked up the theme that kingship and government were at issue. In mockery, they made a crown of thorns and took a purple outer garment and put these on Jesus. They slapped him on the face, calling him the king of the Jews. (John 18:39–19:3) There is no indication that Jesus tried to remove that crown of thorns. It remained on his head, and that served to highlight the issue at stake. No one was to be left in doubt. When Pilate suggested to the Jews that they take Jesus and impale him themselves, they very artfully but falsely focused on the issue as an infringement on Roman governmental authority, saying: “If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar. Every man making himself a king speaks against Caesar.”—John 19:12.
16. How did those present at Jesus’ trial bear witness to the issue over which Christ was about to be killed?
16 It was as though Pilate served God’s purpose on that day, as Cyrus the Persian had in the past. (Compare Isaiah 45:1-7.) Next, Pilate began to climax matters by saying: “See! Your king!” At that, the Jews demanded Jesus’ impalement, whereupon Pilate asked: “Shall I impale your king?” Their response? “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:14, 15) In essence, these people themselves were bearing witness concerning the issue over which Christ was about to be killed, and Jesus did not need to say a word. The matter was being very well emphasized by their own mouths.
17. How did Pilate’s final action with regard to Jesus stress the issue of Kingdom government?
17 Emphasis on the issue of Kingdom government finally was highlighted by Pilate’s action in having placed on Jesus’ torture stake a title written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. All present that day could read it and would not be left in doubt as to why the impalement took place. This title said: “Jesus the Nazarene the King of the Jews.” When the Jewish chief priests saw it, they were incensed and said to Pilate: “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” However, Pilate replied: “What I have written I have written.”—John 19:19-22.
18. (a) What should our lives be centered on today? (b) What questions should we ask ourselves?
18 The dramatic events of that trialsome day should make very evident to all Christians what their lives should be centered on today. Every dedicated servant of Jehovah should examine just how real that Kingdom is to him or to her. Do we see ourselves as prospective subjects of that government? What efforts are we making as advocates of Kingdom rule? How zealous is our activity in support of that government? In the succeeding article, we will find good reason for intense interest in the issue of the Kingdom. And we will note that there is need for a sense of urgency in manifesting such interest. ‘May the Lord be with the spirit we show’ in upholding the Kingdom!—2 Tim. 4:22.
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The Kingdom was real to Jesus