Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (John 18:36 ESV)
We are political creatures. All throughout human history we have been obsessed with obtaining and maintaining political power. From tribal leaders to despots to emperors to kings, the human story is one of political evolution and revolution. Given that, imagine the turmoil caused by Jesus of Nazareth when he comes onto the scene of human history. Recall the story of his birth as told in Matthew’s gospel and how Herod was “greatly troubled” at the announcement of the magi from Persia. Recall throughout the gospel accounts how Jesus upset the status quo of the Pharisees and the religious leaders of Jerusalem.
The anticipation surrounding Jesus was that as the Messiah, he would remove the Roman yoke of oppression, cleanse Jerusalem of its religious hypocrisy, and re-establish the Davidic Kingdom. Now imagine the disappointment following the crucifixion of Jesus. All of this Messianic buildup surrounding Jesus and it ends disgracefully with his execution as a common criminal.
The disappointment surrounding Jesus comes as a result of misplaced expectations. It comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God and the nature of Jesus’ ministry. When Jesus confronts Pilate, he has already been arrested by the Jews and beaten. He is then handed over to Pilate for examination because Roman law prohibits the execution of criminals except through Roman authority. As he is being examined by Pilate, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” As has been apparent all throughout John’s gospel, Jesus is speaking about spiritual truths that his hearers fail to comprehend.
The Kingdom of God is not about political conquest or overthrowing the established political order, it is about something much more important! The kingdom of God is about overthrowing the dominion of Satan in this world. It is about overcoming the darkness of sin and evil that has enveloped God’s good creation. It is about the reclamation and restoration of the original created order from the death, destruction and distortion that was brought about by Satan’s temptation, sin, and the fall. No one understood that because, as sinful human beings, they were already part of the system; they were experiencing spiritual myopia.
The death of Jesus Christ, far from being a defeat of the Messianic mission, was the killing blow to the powers of sin and evil and death. The victory of the Kingdom of God came three days later when Christ walked out of that tomb. The Kingdom of God is not of this world…not yet! It is growing and being built as people are being rescued from this world of sin and death and being brought into the Kingdom of God by the power of the Holy Spirit as He applies the redeeming work of Christ to them. However, there will come a day, when Christ returns when his kingdom will be of this world; when the final defeat of Satan and this current world order will be secured. At that time, the words of the seventh angel of Revelation will be true: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria!