For thousands of years, the Jews waited for a special King and a special kingdom. They waited for what they called the “Messiah,” the person who was supposed to usher into existence the kingdom that would dominate the world and last forever. They believed this because for all those thousands of years God sent prophets into the world who proclaimed that this King and kingdom would come. Isaiah and Daniel both made such prophesies,
“For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it from then on and forevermore...” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
“... the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” (Daniel 2:44).
Many Jews took this coming kingdom to be a physical kingdom. It would be ruled by a king who sat on a throne, wore a crown and donned a purple robe. He would defend his kingdom with swords and spears, lances and daggers. Warriors would compose his army. Men with skill and strength would guards its walls and extend its borders. Those borders would be physical as well. This kingdom would engulf all the mountains, valleys and deserts. It would take control of all the streams and oceans. The dominion of the king would fill the Earth until there remained not a single speck of dust belonging to another empire.
But Jesus was no such king and His kingdom was no such kingdom. He didn’t rule the Earth. I imagine He never ruled more square footage than a wood shop. As Jesus told Pilate in John 18:36,
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is My kingdom is not of this realm.”
This special kingdom ruled by this special King would not rule over physical things on this rock we call Earth. You can’t measure the borders of the kingdom of Christ. You can’t count the towers, the chariots or the horsemen. You can’t point to a line in the dirt and say, “This is where Christ’s dominion begins.” That’s what Jesus tried to tell us in Luke 17:20-21,
“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Jesus didn’t want to conquer dirt. His ultimate goal was not to capture the Roman empire bringing that kingdom into submission to Him. Jesus’ mission was to conquer hearts. King Jesus wants to rule your heart. And if you want to be a citizen of that eternal kingdom that’s the cost.
The Jews thought the path to citizenship was different than that. They thought they needed to make Him king on Earth (John 6:15). Originally, the apostles thought similarly, to be a citizen you must physically fight for Him (John 18:10). Maybe we’ve misunderstood the path to citizenship as well. Maybe we think baptism is the path to citizenship. If I get baptized I’ll be a citizen of the kingdom of Christ, right? While it is true that baptism washes away our sins and initially transfers us into the kingdom (John 3:3-5, Colossians 2:9-14), we must realize that is not why we are there nor is that what will keep us there. If I want to be a citizen of Christ’s kingdom I must allow Him to rule my heart.
Do you have a heart ruled by Jesus? Understand we’re not talking about a democratic rule here. We’re not talking about letting Him have limited power in my heart or setting up checks and balances to make sure He doesn’t demand too much. We’re talking about total autocracy. He wants to weigh in on the direction of my life and to shape every one of my decisions. He wants to win the argument every time we disagree about which action is best. He doesn’t want to discuss or compromise. He wants to command and have me gladly obey. He doesn’t want to be president. He wants to be king. That’s the cost of kingdom citizenship.
Is the King ruling His kingdom in you?