The moment Jesus “opened His mouth” (Matt.5:2) the Beast was exposed. When Jesus taught the people, the “god of this world” was “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” When Jesus entered the human stage, nothing would remain as it was before. His subversive kingdom had arrived at long last.
I’ve already talked about “Subversive Jesus” in a previous post. I would now like to take some time to talk about His subversive kingdom.
When we say “kingdom,” we’re talking a king’s domain. It’s the realm under the rule and reign of a king. We read about the “kingdom of the heavens” or “kingdom of God” in the Gospels. These two terms are interchangeable. But the relevant question here is, what are the writers talking about?
Matthew, making his case for Christ to a Jewish mindset, uses the term “the kingdom of the heavens” (literal rendering). But He wasn’t talking about going to heaven when you die (although God’s kingdom is there, too). To the Jews, this meant these heavens.
According to the Mounce Greek-English dictionary, the Greek word for “heavens” is οὐρανός (ouranos), meaning “heaven, the heavens, the visible heavens and all their phenomena, Mt. 5:18; 16:1; 24:29, et al. freq.; the air, atmosphere, in which the clouds and tempests gather, the birds fly, etc., Mt. 6:26; 16:2, 3.” *
I will use the Disciple’s Literal New Testament (DLNT) translation to show how Matthew uses this Jewish idiom:
20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness abounds more than [that of] the scribes and Pharisees, you will by-no-means enter into the kingdom of the heavens! (Matt.5:20 DLNT)
We will come back to this particular verse in due course, but my point here is that Jesus isn’t making this a qualification for going to heaven when we die. That would create a false works-righteousness requirement for salvation. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph.2:8). “Entering into the kingdom of the heavens” means to engage in what God is doing in the world around us…now…on this earth.
In other words, this is what Jesus is talking about, and what the New Testament writers reiterated: as we “have escaped the corruption of the world” and “participate in the divine nature” (2 Pet.1:4), we bring God’s reign “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt.6:10).
If we don’t get this, we won’t get the Sermon on the Mount.
This subversive Kingdom is working on the earth in and through those who have submitted to Christ’s rule and reign. Here’s what Luke says about this Kingdom. This time I will use the Amplified Bible to bring it out more thoroughly:
21 Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].(Luke 17:21 AMP *)
Jesus is obviously not talking about going to heaven when you die here. Our problem in the West is that we’ve adopted a somewhat Gnostic Greek paradigm of heaven. But the Jews saw it as something very concrete and practical, invading every area of this life. While the Kingdom of Heaven does include God’s highest Heaven, we need to see that this invisible Kingdom is also here, in us and among us, whether latent or realized, in every area of human society.
Like Morpheus’s description in the movie The Matrix…“You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes….”
Of course, Satan’s “world construct” that I talked about extensively in the series, Jesus Christ: Savior of the World, has also insinuated itself onto the world we live in. To that construct, Morpheus would say, “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” (cf. 2 Cor.4:4).
This blindness is why, even though“the light shines in the darkness…the darkness did not comprehend it.“ (John 1:5 *)
We’re just getting started but we’ll need to continue next time…