Kingdom Come State Park is 1,283 acres of wilderness in Harlan County of eastern Kentucky. Overlooking stunning vistas of Black Mountain and the Cumberland Plateau at 2,700 feet, it offers visitors the opportunity of experiencing vast panoramas of forested, mountain beauty from its four mountain top overlooks. Named from a famous Civil War novel, “The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come,” by John Fox, Jr. about the area’s divided loyalties during America’s fratricide, it speaks of a past familiarity with the biblical expression, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 KJV). This Kingdom Come is owned by the Kentucky Department of Parks; however, the Kingdom of God belongs to God.
Q: Where is the Kingdom of God?
A: The Kingdom of God is “within” and among its inhabitants (Luke 17:21). Jesus distinctly labeled His kingdom as “not of this world,” but “from another place” (John 18:36 NIV).
Q: Are the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven the same?
A: Essentially, yes. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are a spiritual domain not a physical location. However, the Kingdom of God describes the Head and inhabitants of its dominion, while the Kingdom of Heaven is more descriptive of its domain and influence.
Heaven is the residence of God, but three heavens are declared in Scripture.
“Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What kind of house will you build for Me? says the Lord. Or where will My resting place be?” (Acts 7:49 NIV).
Paul came into God’s presence, the third heaven.
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know — God knows” (2Corinthians 12:2 NIV).
Birds fly in the atmosphere, the first heaven.
“By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches” (Psalm 104:12 KJV).
The starry heaven would be the second heaven.
“The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light” (Isaiah 13:10 NIV).
Q: What is generally implied by building the Kingdom of God?
A: The Kingdom of God — unseen and around us — is a spiritual kingdom. “The kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21 NIV). God is its “King eternal, immortal, invisible” (1Timothy 1:17 NIV). The highest good of God is the first precept of God’s kingdom. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37 NIV). “This is the first and greatest commandment” (22:38 NIV), but God’s kingdom extends to all who yield obedience to His second commandment, as well, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (22:39 NIV). This is essentially the governmental constitution of the Kingdom of God. Or, as Jesus put it, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (22:40 NIV). Before the Son of God ascended back to Heaven, He left clear instructions about building the Kingdom of God. “Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).
PART 1: A Disciple’s Guide to Building the Kingdom of God — Your Spiritual Duty
- Uphold the authority of Jesus Christ. Recognize the Son of God, as the all powerful head of the Kingdom of God in heaven and earth. “Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18 NIV).
- Make disciples of all nations. With the understanding that willingness to obey Christ is to be His disciple, begin wherever you are (Acts 1:8) and go to everywhere else to “all nations” (Matthew 28:19 NIV) to make disciples for Him.
- Baptize them (Matthew 28:19). Though the water is symbolic of cleansing, the act of obedience to baptism will “wash your sins away, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16 NIV). Hence, “this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you” (1Peter 3:21 NIV), for you have been “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:27 NIV) with the assurance “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16 NIV).
- Depend upon God’s aid to fulfill His Great Commission. All the resources of the “Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 NIV) are available. Literally, anything necessary, “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NIV), to fulfill His Great Commission, is provided.
- Teach obedience to God. Not simply because it is ultimately useless to oppose God’s omnipotent power, but because it is our joy and opportunity to do the one thing of which created beings are morally capable to “obey everything” (Matthew 28:20 NIV) Christ commanded us. Assure them of the attainment of perfect obedience in Christ, for God has promised, “I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws” (Ezekiel 36:27 NIV). Remind them that the Spirit of obedience was given at baptism. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 NIV).
- Remind of God’s faithful presence. “Surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20 NIV). Our king is also our shepherd. We will “lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1 NIV). He rests us “in green pastures,” and gently refreshes us “beside quiet waters” (23:2). Our souls will be revived and our path will be guided (23:3). We will be comforted by His firm staff in the valley of evil (23:4). Our enemies will witness our provision (23:5). “Goodness and mercy” (23:6) will be our traveling companions until we set down “in the house of the Lord forever” (23:6). When has God ever failed us? Our “can’t” is really our weary “won’t” to which God replies, “According to your faith let it be done to you” (Matthew 9:29 NIV).
- Emphasize finishing the Great Commission to the end. “To the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV), He has promised to go. “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it” (1Thessalonians 5:24 NIV). Remind them only the finishers will actually be saved, for He said, “The one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 NIV). Jesus taught, “If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:6 NIV). But assure them, God’s help is only a prayer away. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).
Q: How should a disciple approach participation in partisan politics?
A: As with any endeavor, when you are more influenced by your companions for the worse than you upon them for the better, then “bad company corrupts good character” (1Corinthians 15:33 NIV), and you must part company. This is true of any endeavor, not simply politics. Here, partisan politics are more than simple civic duty, and should be approached with the view of seeking the good that can be done, as did the Lord Jesus, who “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38 NIV).
Q: Does God advocate any particular form of secular government?
A: There is no particular injunction, except to “be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1 NIV).
Q: What does it mean to “be subject to the governing authorities”?
A: Being subject is the what. Love is the why. The true motivation for all law is love — to do as be done. “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10 NIV). Love “rejoices with the truth” (1Corinthians 13:6 NIV).
PART 2: A Disciple’s Guide to Government — Your Civic Duty
In your conduct with secular government, you should:
- Promote the common good. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NIV).
- Obey the law. “And everyone went to their own town to register” (Luke 2:3 NIV).
- Promote justice. “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly” (Leviticus 19:15 NIV).
- Pay your taxes. “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Luke 20:25 NIV).
- Submit to government service. “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41 NIV).
- Strive to be content. “Then some soldiers asked Him, And what should we do? He replied, Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely — be content with your pay” (Luke 3:14 NIV).
- Pray for your government. “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1Timothy 2:1-2 NIV).
Q: What if one does not comply or obey the secular governing authority?
A: One must obey the law, unless like Daniel or Peter, we cannot. “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges” (Acts 4:19 NIV).
And, noncompliance to the law should be understood to have punitive consequences. “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4 NIV).
Q: What is the focus of the Kingdom of God?
A: God is the primary focus of the Kingdom of God. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33 NIV). Any thoughtful extrapolation of conscience yields the necessity of obedience to secular law. Our conscience tells us we should obey the law. “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience” (Romans 13:5 NIV). Remember, God knows that we know He exists, and He ought to be obeyed. Only a crippled apologetic would assume otherwise. Consequently, if “there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1 NIV), then “whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment [Greek, krima, damnation] on themselves” (13:2 NIV). Disobedience to civil law is difficult to support from an honest reading of Scripture. “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,” (Titus 3:1 NIV). Our highest example of submission to civil law is our LORD Jesus Christ. “When He has done this, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put everything under Him, so that God may be all in all” (1Corinthians 15:28 NIV). Submission is convergence, that God may ultimately “be all in all.”
Q: If the Kingdom of God includes our civic duty and could even encompass partisan politics, then what human endeavors are not included?
A: If we, like Christ, submit ourselves to God, who granted mankind dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28), then all legitimate human endeavors are part of the Kingdom of God, “that God may be all in all” (1Corinthians 15:28 NIV). We are enjoined, even to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2Corinthians 10:5 NIV). This places our participation in the Kingdom of God on a very personal and private level, for “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21 KJV).
PART 3: A Disciple’s Guide to the Kingdom of God Within You — Constant Opportunities and Necessities Regardless of Circumstances
- Attitude and actions: “Follow in His steps” (1Peter 2:21 NIV) and you will be Christlike, as demonstrated in your life by the “fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). Each are characteristics of Christ, which are the standard for Christian conduct, and each are worthy of a separate discussion; but, in particular, God is the epitome of each: (1) Love is seeking the highest good of God first, then your neighbor’s good equal to your own. “God is love” (1John 4:16, 1Corinthians 13). (2) Joy is the emotion of great delight given to us by God, when we obediently “rejoice in the LORD always”(Philippians 4:4 KJV, Ecclesiastes 2:26 KJV). “You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand” (Psalm 16:11 NIV). (3) Peace is the condition of well-being, tranquility, and wholeness, for the “mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6 NIV). “Live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2Corinthians 13:11 NIV). (4) Forbearance or longsuffering is patiently enduring injury, trouble, or provocation to demonstrate God’s righteousness, wrath, and power, especially to gain the salvation of those who will repent and believe (Exodus 34:6). “What if God, although choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath — prepared for destruction? What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory” (Romans 9:22-23 NIV). (5) Kindness is God’s glory stooping to man’s needs, God’s power brought within man’s reach, which we are to emulate in helping others, as God “expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7 NIV). “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12 NIV). (6) Goodness is moral excellence or virtue, which is God in action with respect to the misery of His creatures. “You are good, and what You do is good; teach me Your decrees” (Psalm 119:68 NIV). “The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made” (Psalm 145:9 NIV). “His goodness appears in two things, giving and forgiving.” (7) Faithfulness is being true to one’s word or commitments, as God is to His promises. “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it” (1Thessalonians 5:24 NIV). “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” (Revelation 2:10 NIV). (8) Gentleness is not rough, severe, or violent. “By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you” (2Corinthians 10:1 NIV). “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5 NIV). And, (9) Self-control is restraint of oneself, as Christ before Pilate, “when they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1Peter 2:23 NIV). “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32 NIV). “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28 NIV).
- Right action. Any conduct, which is good, fitting, proper, just, or correct, is righteous or right action. “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1John 3:7 NIV). Will not the “Judge of all the earth do right” (Genesis 18:25 NIV), even as we should? The motivation for our right action or righteousness should be because “God made Him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21 NIV). The Spirit, the Word, and Providence (the circumstances of our situation) must persuade us of the rightness of any action to be undertaken; otherwise, “if anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (James 4:17 NIV).
- Understanding. More important than simply the knowledge of the correct answer or the memory of a rote procedure is the understanding of “why” the answer is correct and “why” the procedure works. “A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth” (Proverbs 14:6 KJV). The shortcoming of conventional education’s focus on the accumulation of factual knowledge should be correctly balanced by the spiritual understanding of Jesus Christ as the “Wisdom of God” (1Corinthians 1:24) in whom “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NIV). Emphasize understanding Christ and the knowledge of whatever is significant will come through self-education and other conventional means. Understanding is really simple obedience to God’s command, “Be ye of an understanding heart” (Proverbs 8:5 KJV).
- Patience. Bearing or enduring difficulty, pain, suffering, provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like is patience. But, most of all, the reason why we bear or endure is we have faith or confidence He means it for His glory and our good, i.e., “all for the glory of God” (1Corinthians 10:31 NIV), and “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28 NIV). Any wonder then that faith coming from hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17) produces patience or perseverance (James 1:3), when successfully tested, i.e., the “trying of your faith [Greek, pistis, confidence] worketh patience” (James 1:3 KJV)?
- Penitence. A regretting or repenting for one’s wrongdoing is penitence. Because “we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2 NIV), it is necessary for us to “confess our sins” (1John 1:9 NIV) to God, who will faithfully forgive us, and to “confess your sins to each other” (James 5:16 NIV), where personal offense has been committed, as well as the benefit of self-humility, when our “sins, which are many” (Luke 7:47 KJV), give us ample opportunity to “walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 NIV). To be remembered, truly confessed sin is likewise, truly forgiven. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9 NIV).
- Rejoicing. As noted earlier, the emotion of joy is given to those who rejoice, i.e., are glad and take delight. Rejoicing is obedience. “Rejoice in the Lord always [Greek, pantote, at all times]. I will say it again: Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4 NIV). Obedience to God’s commands makes us more like Christ and builds the Kingdom of God. We actually draw strength from rejoicing, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10 NIV). Paul and Silas demonstrated this after being illegally flogged and imprisoned. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:25-26 NIV). Instead of anger and bitterness, rejoice when someone commits wrongdoing against you, and see how God responds!
- Intercession. Pleading on behalf of another person to God is intercession. If we would pray to God for our own needs, then we ought to pray for our neighbor, because you are to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31 NIV). That is the simplicity of love. Rather than making intercession the domain of those who have achieved a higher level of spirituality, it is more plainly the simple duty of ordinary disciples expressing love through prayer. Pray for “your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14 NIV). Intercession is not a walled garden keeping in only disciples and keeping out everyone else, but it is an expression of love, where the intercessor desires and prays for others, what they desire for themselves. “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people” (1Timothy 2:1 NIV).
- Worship. Homage that is rendered to God is acceptable worship, only if it is exclusive. “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14 NIV). Respect given in acknowledgment of the worth of God’s person and character is the true worship God seeks. “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24 NIV). If studying the Scriptures seems a time consuming process, then it should give us an idea of how much God expects of those who must first understand Him before He can be given true homage. “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24 KJV).
- Praise. The act of expressing approval, admiration, commendation, or laudation is praise. The expression, “Praise the LORD” (Genesis 29:35 NIV), is both an injunction for yourself and others to praise the LORD, and a laudation that the LORD is being praised. David praised the LORD, “Many, O LORD my God, are Thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Psalm 40:5 KJV). Do we fear that common and profuse praise of God cheapens the praise? Only if we are deceived that much speaking is a substitute for heartfelt love, admiration, and fidelity to the High and Lofty One That Inhabiteth Eternity.
- Confidence. “Faith is confidence” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). In particular, “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). What do we hope for? Our hope is not merely that we might make it to Heaven; instead, our hope is in the LORD, that where He is, we might also be. “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3 NIV). Our confidence that God will do as His Word represents is translated into our motto, “For we live by faith, not by sight” (2Corinthians 5:7 NIV).
Should anyone mistakenly object to the fruit our lives bear in building God’s kingdom, let us take solace in Paul’s words, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1Corinthians 3:6 NIV).