Occasionally, I hear well-meaning people say something about how they work to build the Kingdom of God. But I have never seen anyone actually accomplish it. Building the Kingdom goes beyond the human ken. Only God can build the Kingdom, and the Bible never asks us to do it.
That’s right. The phrase “build the Kingdom” never occurs in the Bible at all, nor does Jesus ask us to spread, extend, enhance, or otherwise effect the Kingdom. Instead, God calls us to enter the Kingdom and to preach the good news about the Kingdom.
To enter the Kingdom, we need to understand the nature of the Kingdom. Some people may think of the Kingdom of God (Mark, Luke, John) or the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew) as a place—specifically Heaven. But when Jesus calls on us to enter the Kingdom, he does not mean for us to go directly to Heaven (do not pass Go, do not collect $200.) The Kingdom of God certainly includes our abiding in God’s presence, beginning now and continuing forever in the New Heavens and New Earth. But “Heaven” does not offer the primary meaning of the phrase “Kingdom of God.”
When Jesus preached about the Kingdom in Aramaic—his mother tongue—he used the word malkuth. When he spoke in Greek—as it appears certain that he sometimes did—he used the term basileia. In either language, the words primarily mean “kingship, kingly rule, reign, or sovereignty,” not “the geographical area ruled by a king.” We enter the Kingdom by coming under the Rule of God. We come into God’s Rule when we confess that Jesus, whom God has exalted to the highest place and given the name above every name, is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11, NIV) and follow up that confession by living in obedience to the Word of God. Once we have entered the Rule of God, we manifest that rule by declaring the Kingdom, sharing the Good News of God’s victory over evil in the Cross of Christ and God’s sovereign right to rule in every human heart and life.
Only God can build, extend, enhance, or exercise the Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, when Jesus said “the Kingdom of God is like a net” (Matthew 13:47), he gave us a powerful clue about how our proclamation of the Kingdom works to serve God’s Reign. When we build larger and more effective personal networks, we increase the range of our relationships and our opportunities for modeling and declaring God’s Kingdom. In an important sense, our networking builds a web for the Kingdom’s message to run on, a conduit for the power of the Holy Spirit to flow through, even veins for the saving blood of Christ to course through.
I’d like to say so much more about the Kingdom Net, and I have—300 pages of practical advice, compelling stories of powerful Christians, and theological reflection about the meaning of our work in the world as men and women who have entered the Kingdom of God and live to proclaim it. You can order The Kingdom Net, Learning to Network Like Jesus on Amazon.com and other online booksellers beginning in August, 2013.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland Washington. He is the author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.