Why should the Kingdom matter now?
I was burned out like a piece of bread in a jammed toaster. I had been in church for years and even worked as a full-time minister. None-the-less, the fire had gone out for me, and I was still smoking with bitterness and frustration. I was confident that I was saved, but I was having trouble being excited about that. I was crabby when I attended church. I was annoyed at the enthusiasm that other Christians seemed to be experiencing around me. It felt like I was spinning my wheels, but not getting anywhere. I needed something, but I wasn't sure what.
Around that time, I put out the word that I was available for narration work, especially doing audiobooks. An interesting book found it's way into my project cue. It was a book about end-time prophecy with a focus on the coming Kingdom. As I read through the book by John Claeys, I felt a spark. It wasn't ablaze yet, but it was the start of a forest fire in my soul.
Over the next few years, I worked with John Claeys and others on projects concerning the Kingdom of God. What I noticed astounded me. Focusing on the Kingdom revived my excitement, my walk with God, and even my desire to talk to others about Jesus. Maybe Jesus knew what he was talking about, after all, when he said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added to you.” I saw that happen in my life. I lived it. The more time I spent thinking about God's Kingdom plan, the more vibrant my spiritual life became.
I noticed another thing. As I poured my own thought life into seeking the Kingdom, overcoming sin became a reality. This old 82' model body is not sin-free, mind you, but I found success in areas that I had not experienced before. I started to have victories over sins that had plagued me for years. Focusing on the Kingdom was a big contributor to that success.
So, what’s this kingdom thing all about?
The word ‘Kingdom’ is used a little over 160 times in the New Testament. The vast majority of the uses are in the first three Gospels. The Gospels talk about the Kingdom of God/Heaven so much that not understanding the Kingdom is the same as not understanding those gospels.
I had experienced this confusion myself. When I was in Bible college, I remember thinking, what in the world is the Kingdom of God? I noticed that Jesus was always talking about it; I had read the Bible all my life, and even received a degree in Biblical Studies, but I didn't understand what He was getting at when He said “The Kingdom Of God" or “The Kingdom Of Heaven.”
That's probably because I was told by several people that “the kingdom" is allegorical. Supposedly it wasn't to be taken literally. I had a problem with that, though. I didn't see any indication in the Gospels that Jesus meant anything but what he said. Attempts to make the kingdom fade into the fog of allegory were frustrating to me. I could clearly see that the Old Testament promised a physical and literal King and Kingdom. Jesus claimed to be that King and promised a coming Kingdom. I realized that this single idea was the cohesive bond that made the Bible come alive. Things made sense. Not only that, but I fell in love with the Kingdom of God. My wife and I have joked that we are kingdom-heads.
Does Jesus really mean Kingdom?
When Jesus says, “Kingdom,” he means Kingdom; a literal world-wide government led by Jesus himself. This is the foundation of understanding the Bible as a whole. When we try to turn Jesus' words into some esoteric enigma, it frustrates people. I know, because it frustrated me. When we take Jesus at His word, the Kingdom appears out of the mist with all the trappings of a magnificent empire built of palpable substance.
Those who spent time with Jesus expected there to be a real Kingdom. At one point, Mrs. Zebedee, the mother of Apostles John and James, asked Jesus for a favor, that her boys would sit at his right and left when he started up the Kingdom. (Matthew 20:20) Clearly, she saw it as a literal Kingdom. The first time Nathaniel met Jesus, he called him the King of Israel (John 1). He saw Jesus as a literal king of a future kingdom. The criminal that died next to Jesus said, “Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) Even after Jesus was resurrected, the disciples still understood the Kingdom to be a literal coming government on the Earth. They showed this when they asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
This handful of examples are only a few in the sea of believers the New Testament puts forward. The Kingdom was understood as a literal government, run by Jesus in his capital at Jerusalem. The Old Testament prophets taught this, Jesus reiterated it, and the Disciples got the message. Not only that, they were eager to see it come to the Earth.
So, what should I do now about the coming Kingdom of Heaven?
The Kingdom was so important to Jesus that he told us to pray for its arrival on Earth every day. Do you pray for the Kingdom to come to Earth every day? You should. Jesus told you to. What? Didn't you know Jesus told you to pray for the Kingdom to come every day?
Check out the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6. No doubt, you've heard the Lord's prayer recited in movies, sporting events, and probably even said it yourself. Jesus didn't intend us to repeat the Lord's prayer word-for-word, but instead, he meant it as a model for daily prayer. We know it's a model for daily prayer because the word “daily" is right there in the middle of it.
A main fixture of the Lord's prayer is that it begins with a request for God's Kingdom to come to Earth, and ends with a reminder that the Kingdom belongs to God. The Lord's prayer focuses our minds on the coming Kingdom of God. He wants us to think about and pray for the Kingdom to come every single day. If you're not doing that, you should. It's a life-changer.
What will the Millennial Kingdom be like?
Here are some of the things that the Bible tells us about this future Kingdom Era. Some of what's below is gathered by implication; other bits are explicitly expressed.
The Kingdom of Heaven will be established on Earth. (Matthew 6:10) The first phase will last 1000 years. (Revelation 20) In this Kingdom there will be two kinds of people in the Millennial Kingdom of God. There will be mortals and resurrected. Believers who have previously died, and any believers currently alive will be resurrected when Jesus returns. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) Resurrected Believers will have specialized bodies, like the one Jesus had after his resurrection. (Philippians 3:21) These bodies are physical, able to eat and drink, are incorruptible, sinless, and immortal. (1 Corinthians 15:54) They may be capable of the incredible things that Jesus did post-resurrection, like appearing and vanishing.
The mortal inhabitants of the Kingdom will be born and live out their lives on the Earth. Although there is not much information in the Bible, it's believed that the mortal population of the Kingdom will come from the host of children who died before reaching the age of accountability. (Matthew 19:14) That population will grow rapidly through natural means. Although they are technically mortal, they will be able to live many centuries, much like the first inhabitants of Earth, as mentioned in Genesis. People born on Earth in that era will live so long that a 100-year-old person will seem like a child. (Isaiah 65:20) There will be plenty of work for them to do, which will be a blissful experience.
Those who are resurrected with glorified bodies will no longer have to deal with sin. However, the mortal citizens of the Kingdom will be like humans have been for generations, capable of sin. The mortals will be able to live through the whole millennium that the Kingdom exists, with one caveat. The King will not tolerate his citizens committing capital offenses. If a mortal citizen commits certain crimes, they will be subject to capital punishment. The courts will try cases that would be considered unimportant today. In speaking about the judicial system of the future Kingdom, Jesus explains that being angry with a brother will make someone subject to judgment, and calling someone a name like “fool" will earn that kingdom citizen the death penalty. (Matthew 5:22) The standard in the Kingdom will be much higher for moral living, but the citizens, it seems, will be much more capable of living up to that standard. This is likely because Satan will be out of the picture during the Kingdom. (Revelation 20)
Jesus will rule and administer his government from Jerusalem, which will be the most important place on Earth. He will also teach from there, but his teaching will be broadcast throughout the world, whether by word of mouth, or by technology, or other creative means. He will settle international disputes, have weapons melted down to make farming tools, and stop all military training because there will be no more war. (Isaiah 2)
His government will continually be increasing (Isaiah 9:6-7) and will be manned by those he deems faithful enough to trust with positions of power. (2 Timothy 2:12) Resurrected believers will be given responsibilities in his administration based on their faithfulness during their previous lives. There seem to be a handful of known positions available. Kings, Judges, counselors, and shepherds are the ones we know of. There are likely many more positions, but these are ones specifically mentioned in scripture. An example is King David, who will be resurrected to be the governing ruler of Israel under the King of Kings, Jesus. (Ezek. 37:24-25) The 12 Apostles will be Judges under David. (Matthew 19:28) There will be other nations in the Kingdom that will have local kings subject to Jesus. (Zechariah 14) Resurrected believers (that's us) who were faithful in their mortal lives (that's now) will be appointed to government offices by the King at a ceremony called the Judgement Seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:9-11, Romans 14:10-12)
There are a few other examples of appointments mentioned by Jesus when he says that a very 'faithful' and 'good servant' will rule over ten cities, and another moderately faithful servant will rule over five cities. There are also unfaithful servants who will not be assigned even a single city. (Luke 19:17) This is why it's so important for us to be faithful now. Believers who live out their lives as lazy and unfaithful to Christ will be in the Kingdom, but left out of this amazing opportunity to work with Christ in his administration. Unfaithfulness doesn't jeopardize a believer's eternal salvation, but it makes kingdom rulership unlikely. (1 Corinthians 3:15) Believers who were completely unfaithful during their mortal life will be put in the “darkness outside,” which seems to represent a lack of reward and responsibility in the Kingdom of Heaven. They will be denied the right to reign with Christ, even though they will be saved in the Kingdom of Heaven forever. (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30)
The planet will change. It's not clear whether this will be an automatic change or will result from Jesus teaching his kingdom citizens to maintain the Earth. The Bible tells us that the deserts and wildernesses will become lush and productive land. (Isaiah 41:18, Isaiah 32:15) Predator animals will no longer hunt, kill, and eat prey but will be vegetarians. Animals will no longer pose any danger to people. In fact, children will be able to lead wolves, bears, and lions around. Mankind will have dominion over the Earth in the way that he was supposed to originally. (Isaiah 11)
The Kingdom will last for 1000 years. During that time, Satan will be imprisoned and out of the way so he can't tempt people. The end of this era will come when he is released and set loose to lead a vast number of the mortal Kingdom's citizens into rebellion. (Revelation 20)
Why did you write this book?
I wrote For The Sake Of The King in hopes that it would inspire believers to look forward to the Kingdom, and live well now. This is a story I've been “chasing" for a lot of years. Early in my writing career, I dreamed about constructing a story set in the millennial Kingdom. This came with some challenges. This book that you just read is probably my tenth attempt, though, in actuality, I've lost count.
One challenge to penning a story like this is the common view of “heaven.” The common view of “heaven" in popular culture is that all the goody-two-shoes will sit on clouds, play harps, and do nothing for eternity. This idea always bothered me and, in fact, made me feel a little sick. After years of studying the Bible and the Kingdom of God, I concluded that those descriptions of Heaven were not only false but very damaging to the Christian faith. They are also damaging to the artistry of crafting a robust fictional story that a reader can delve into.
This book is fiction. It is, however, what I call potential fiction. I don’t know exactly what the future Kingdom of God will look like, but the Bible gives a good deal of information on it. Although this story was not approached as a scholarly work, I have tried to keep known facts about the Kingdom intact. For a scholarly book on the subject of the millennial Kingdom, I like A New World Coming by John Claeys.
I have also invented several plot devices for the sake of the story, but each of these plot devices was carefully considered, and it is my opinion that they fall within the realm of possibility when considering the known perimeters of the Millennial Kingdom of God.
No doubt, the future Kingdom of Heaven will be so much more than we can possibly imagine. This book is designed to inspire and excite you with the possibilities that might wait for us in the Kingdom of God/heaven.
What do we have to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, to have eternal life, all you must do is believe in him for it. In the book of John, he says, “God loved the world so much that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) So if you want to enter the Kingdom, you must believe in Jesus for eternal life. Eternal life, and the kingdom citizenship that comes along with it, are a free gift that you can’t earn, return, or lose.
What do we have to do to be well-rewarded in the Kingdom of Heaven?
All who believe in Jesus will have eternal life, but each person's experience will be different in the Kingdom. Those who obey his word and are faithful to him in their mortal life will be rewarded in the future Kingdom. Those who are faithful are described as good servants, joint heirs, rulers, and many other things in the new testament. It's so important that you believe in Jesus for eternal life. Once you've done that, it's imperative that you follow him with your life if you want to be rewarded and trusted with great responsibility in the Kingdom to come. The essence of eternal reward is the closeness it offers the recipient. For more about eternal reward, see my book, Eternal Rewards: It Will Pay To Obey.
I hope, with all my heart, that this book has inspired you to not only believe in Jesus but given you the encouragement to live obediently in light of the Glorious King (Jesus) and his coming Kingdom. I hope to see you in the Kingdom of God, and I can't wait to see what mysteries await us.