The Kingdom Marketplace Part III: The Kingdom or Dominion?

Judging from the responses I have gotten from the kingdom marketplace series, I believe it’s time to define what I mean by bringing the kingdom of heaven on earth to earth. I had not planned on this message being a part of this series, but at this point I feel it necessary. What many think of when they hear the word “kingdom,” some of whom are brothers I admire, respect, and love, think it means what has been defined as the “postmillennial Christian reconstructionism” of the Christian political right, or “dominionism”. This group believes it is the Christian’s mandate to occupy or conquer all aspects of secular society for the kingdom of Christ. Most try to do that via political means. That is not at all what I am talking about in this series.

Then there are those in the dominion camp who believe we are to influence all aspects of secular society by bringing the kingdom of God into them, and I would very much agree with that [with the exception of politics, and that will have wait for another day]. How can bringing the kingdom of heaven on earth not lead to influencing our environments? If forwarding the Gospel in our worlds doesn’t do that, what are we doing here? Of course the Spirit in us influences, for if it changes individuals how can it not change environments made up of individuals? The important distinction is the Gospel forces itself on no one, and Jesus Christ did not come in to this world for the purpose of occupation or conquest. For example, kingdom saints in Washington would try to influence hearts via the Gospel. Dominionists in Washington would try to conquer America via laws.

The kingdom saint whom I write about in this series neither believes in or desires worldly power of any kind. His savior didn’t, though it was offered, and neither does he. The only power he is interested in is the power of God’s love flowing through him to provide whatever the Spirit wants it to provide to another in need. He pursues only the propitiation of his species by “making” others of his kind per the Great Commission.
Jesus came to earth as the embodiment of both the Godhead (Heb. 1:3, John 14:9) and the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 12:28, Matt. 3:1-3). How did He react to the temptation to conquer the land? When He perceived His people “intended to come and take Him by force to make Him king [something most who say they know Him today still do],” He ran (John 6:15). When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane and one of His disciples tried to defend the kingdom by earthly force, Jesus told him He could take dominion in but a moment but did not because it would have defeated everything He came to accomplish (Matt. 26: 51-54). Jesus was given another opportunity before Pilate to proclaim earthly kingship. His reply reveals any seeking earthly dominion understand not the kingdom this series is about: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world then My servants would be fighting…But as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).

The One who said we were to follow His lead through life was prosecuted by religious people who wanted Him to be their worldly Messiah/King, and were disappointed when He refused. After many years of suffering under the oppression of Roman rule, they believed their Messiah was to come as a conqueror who would set up another golden age of Israel on earth. When Jesus came as the son of a poor carpenter, lived as an itinerant preacher, and refused to fit in to their mold He was branded a blasphemer and an impostor. He died a martyr’s death at the hands of politicians who ruled over the kingdom of man, used by those religious leaders to do the dirty work God forbade them to do (John 18:31-32).

Yes, Jesus was crucified for the remission of sin, but the motivation behind those who prosecuted Him was their refusal to accept the idea the kingdom of heaven on earth was not external, but internal. It was not about a change in political or worldly status for nations, but transformation in the hearts of individuals. If the kingdom He brought was to lead to social dominion, would He not have done it at that time? Would He not have at least given us a glimpse of Himself as a geopolitical conqueror, and instructed us to do the same? Wouldn’t the Great Commission have been to “fill the earth and subdue it, and rule” as was Adam and Eve’s command in the Garden?

On the contrary, Jesus both modeled and taught humility, poverty, and submission to the world’s institutions (Rom. 13:1-7), and then set the extreme example of it by allowing politicians to crucify Him even though He was innocent. He espoused a different covenant, a different government (Isa. 9:6-7), a different command, and a different kingdom, and when He left us He warned life for His kingdom saints would be similar to the one He lived. We “would be hated by all because of His name” (Matt. 10:22), because it “hated Him because He testified of it, that its deeds were evil” (John 7:7). He said only “the elect” [His kingdom saints] would be saved from the persecution now swiftly coming upon us, had the days of that persecution not been divinely shortened “no life would have been saved” (Mark 13:20), and the number of those who were saved would be “few” (Matt. 7:14). If Christians are to be societal conquerors, how could any of this be so?

There will be a time coming when, it is true, Jesus will return as King of kings and Lord of lords. In that day His resurrected saints will return with Him in power to take dominion of the earth. But that time has not come yet, and will not until after we “are caught up together…to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17). We do not serve that King yet, and until we do His saints will face persecution as the carpenter did. They will be, in earthly terms, the conquered [societally] and not the conquerors. Until the King on the white horse returns, kingdom saints serve the resurrected carpenter on the cross. This kingdom does not rule over flesh, or governments, or institutions of man. It reigns in the heart, and desires only that other hearts are touched and transformed. That is the kingdom of heaven on earth this series is about.

This might be a frivolous argument if the stakes weren’t so high, but they are. For the Bible tells us there are two coming who will give those seeking societal conquest everything they desire. They will come with not only great earthly wealth and power, but miraculous signs and wonders as well [which usually goes hand in hand with dominionist theology]. The will “occupy” the earth’s systems in spectacular fashion. But these two will not be Jesus and the Spirit. They will be Anti-Christ and his holy spirit, the False Prophet, and for those who are deceived in to succumbing to their rule the stakes will be very high indeed.

The next installment in this series will deal with truth and perspective. You will decide what perspective of the truth you wish to embrace when it comes to the kingdom of heaven on earth. As Moses so aptly put it, “[God] calls heaven and earth to witness against [us] today, that [He has] set before [us] life and death, the blessing and the curse. [Let us] choose life in order that [we] may live, [we] and [our] descendants, by loving the Lord [our] God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him” (Deut. 30:19-20). Understanding and walking in the kingdom of heaven on earth truly is the difference between living and merely existing until we meet Him face to face, and it should influence those around us.