Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32 NIV)
Throughout the New Testament Jesus commonly refers to the “Kingdom of Heaven”. From the beginning of his ministry to his resurrection, the concept of a “kingdom” was passionately planted into the spirits and minds of those who would listen to him.
With all the references and parables on the subject, one would think it would be an easy concept to understand and grasp. However, the idea of just what that kingdom includes continues to puzzle many people even to this day.
There are four general concepts of what Jesus is describing in terms of the kingdom of God. While there are many variations, I do believe most fall into one of these categories. Some will embrace several of these ideas.
1. The Future Kingdom: This view focuses on the belief that God will come to earth to establish an earthly kingdom. This, of course, is the center of many controversial beliefs including “end-times” teachings. The idea of this future kingdom is somewhat, yet not always, based in the belief that Christ will come back to establish the kingdom he was not able to set up while he was on earth.
2. The Political Kingdom: The idea of a political kingdom centers on the belief that God’s kingdom is defined by religious empires. Think in terms of the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages as well as other more recent religious empires centered on religion.
3. The Institutional Kingdom: This view sees the institutional church as being God’s kingdom on earth doing the will of God through bureaucracy and administration.
4. The Mystical Kingdom: The final major view of the Kingdom of God believes that the kingdom is of a spiritual nature. A person who becomes a spiritual disciple of Jesus is given the understanding of the Spirit to discern the will of the Father. The person “separates” themselves from the world by surrendering his/her desires and embracing the desires of Christ.
As I look around the world of “Christianity”, I discover that many describe themselves as falling into the first three descriptions, sometimes a combination of the three. However, there are many who see themselves in the mystical kingdom.
No matter where you fall, I strongly encourage you to dig deep into the scriptures and examine the very words of Christ. As I read the reaching of the Master, I am becoming more convinced that we are focusing our attention on ideas and concepts that neglect the true areas needed to mature in Christ.
Jesus states the kingdom is within us. That means that spiritual kingdom, while a so-called “mystical” kingdom, can manifest itself in many ways. However, the mark of a true disciple is defined by our views on “end-times”, being part of a church, or becoming involved in politics designed to combat evil. It rests solely on our relationship with Christ.