God’s kingdom is wherever God is in action, and where God’s will is done.
The gospel of God’s kingdom
Jesus’ gospel message was that life in the kingdom of God was newly available through him. He wasn’t talking about life after death in a far-off angel-filled place, but a quality of life available at this very moment to everyone. To make sense of Jesus’ claim we have to have a somewhat different picture of God’s kingdom than Sunday school and Hallmark cards tend to provide.
God’s kingdom is not a realm but a reign
That common picture of God’s kingdom is a realm: a place called heaven. But if God’s kingdom is a place, a material location, it cannot be eternal. Another common picture is that heaven is not a place but a future state of things. But if heaven is a future, it is bound by the linear reality of time. So unless one thinks that heaven goes in and out of existence, these notions of God’s kingdom don’t work so well. It cannot be just in a particular place nor only in the future.
Jesus taught that, with his advent, the kingdom of God was made readily available: it was now within reach as he himself was within reach.
If it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
-Luke 11:20 NIV
In fact, the kingdom of God is among you.
-Luke 17:21 NRSV
Such a kingdom could not be bound by location or time any more than was Jesus himself. Thus, a divine kingdom in which one might participate while living this bodily life, here and now, cannot be a realm. It is neither a place nor a future state. God’s kingdom is neither “over there” nor “in the sweet by and by”; rather it is here and there, now and later. The kingdom of God is available because of the boundary-breaking Lord, himself a study in human and divine, immanent and transcendent, and now and forever.
So what is God’s kingdom, if it is neither a place nor a time? An earthly king’s might have an allotted realm (a place or a state of things), but the real test of the legitimacy of a king is whether he reigns. A kingdom is wherever it is that a king reigns, that is, when the king is actively exercising his powers, or when what the king wants done is done. God’s kingdom is wherever God is in action, and where God’s will is done.
Under God’s sovereign influence in God’s kingdom
That is the kingdom into which Jesus invites us: a life in which God is active and in which God’s will is done. That is why the gospel message is that the kingdom of God is within reach. By trusting in Jesus and living the way he did and said to, we can live under God’s sovereign power, with God in God’s kingdom.
There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.
-Mark 9:1 NRSV
This post is part of the God Ideas Series.