Jesus’ Subversive Kingdom – Part One

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 thoughthe light shines in the darknessthe darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:5 *)

We’re just getting started but we’ll need to continue next time…

* New King James Bible translation unless otherwise noted. All emphasis added.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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11 Responses to Jesus’ Subversive Kingdom – Part One

  1. Pastor Randy says:

    Love it! This is why I believe that we need to change our narrative, “our” story, from “the church”, meaning something we can control, to “The Kingdom of God” where everything is out of our control, but under the control of The King!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, I don’t think we, as Americans at least, like the idea of a King. We threw off a king to form our nation. “Church,” especially when we say that we are the church as individuals, sounds more like independence and freedom to us. So, we can still do whatever we please. We don’t have to be in relationship. Unfortunately, that’s the wrong kind of freedom. The invitation isn’t to accept Jesus so we can go to heaven when we die (which makes what we do here pretty much irrelevant, other than get other people to say a prayer); we were invited into a Kingdom where there is a King. This King has a mission for us to fulfill, but this King is also love, so He always has our best interests in mind, even if we don’t think so. We don’t invite Him into our tiny little lives; He invites us into His great big life! 🙂

  2. Amen. Well said. I like a couple of quotes here, “Jesus didn’t die just to get you into heaven, He died to get a bit heaven into you.”

    And ironically, what often gets me into trouble with the Calvanists, actually quoting Calvin,”we must make the invisible kingdom, visible.” On Earth as it is in heaven.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Ha…yes, there’s a few things Calvinists believe that I doubt Calvin believed himself. I think the whole “heaven when you die” theme really got popular long after the reformers. Luther certainly didn’t believe that this was what we were saved for. Wesley didn’t believe it either. These leaders believed that we should make a difference on this earth. We are reformed to bring reformation to the world around us. But we don’t do it by being judgmental moral police; we do it like the early church did, through transformed lives that subversively change the culture from the inside out. So that it’s said, “these who have turned the world upside-down have come there, too!” (Acts 17:6) 🙂

      • Of the same note, I have always despised the song, “I’ll Fly Away.” I have always hated that down on the bottom mentality so many Christian’s hold to while hoping to be wisked away into the presence of God.

        • Mel Wild says:

          I don’t like that mentality at all either. It makes one totally abdicate their role here on the earth. The weird thing is it’s actually more the Greek philosophy of us escaping the “prison house of our body” than it is biblical.

  3. Lydia Thomas says:

    “’Entering into the kingdom of the heavens’ means to engage in what God is doing in the world around us…now…on this earth.”

    Hm. This is helpful, especially as I’ve been wrestling with Matthew 7:21 and Romans 10:9. They’re referring to different things.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Lydia. It is helpful when we get the context and terminology straight. We will delve deeper into this as I go.
      Blessings to you.

  4. The Greek meaning behind the term “heavens” is an important distinction to make that is lost in English translations. I recently stumbled across this in conversation and was caught off guard when someone asked me if I knew that there were “three heavens” – not understanding the idiom.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, it is an important distinction and a bit confusing in English. We just say “heaven” or “heavens” but there are three heavens in Scripture. The first heaven is the atmosphere, sky, moon, stars, etc. The second heaven is the spiritual realm. The third heaven (or highest heaven) is God’s abode or dwelling place. Even more confusing, God dwells in us! His temple is in us (John 14:23; 1 Cor.6:19) You pretty much have to throw out our three-dimensional view of things in order to understand it. All three heavens interact with the material world in some way. Jesus, by His resurrection, brought the heavens and earth together in Himself (Eph.1:10). Of course, we only perceive it in part now. Perhaps it will make sense to a quantum physicist! 🙂

      Thanks for your comments, Nicolas.

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