Proverbs 4:7 strongly encourages us to get an understanding in all that we do. And it can be said that much of our problems stem from a lack of understanding. Sometimes that understanding is because we just havent walked into yet, sometimes it is because we reject it when it comes. Thus, this post on understanding the Church and the Kingdom. I will try to keep it as simple as possible. Hopefully, it can clear up some misunderstandings you have had, if at all and consequently help you better understand certain situations and circumstances happening around us. Many times we question how can these things happen in the church? It is confusing and distressing. Why? Because we do not have a proper biblical perspective of church and kingdom.
There are a lot of religious people who are employing the word “kingdom” as a new buzzword of sorts. It gives the appearance that such people are in tune with God, but on closer examination some are simply playing a word shell game. To the unsuspecting, it can be a deadly one, both spiritually and naturally.
One very important distinction to remember is that Jesus said the kingdom of God ( per Romans 14:17 love, joy and peace in the Holy Ghost) is within you and eternal. Conversely, the kingdom of man (buildings, money, fame, positions, sexual desires) is external and temporal. Most people see the church as a building ( i.e. New Joy Church 1500 West Adams Street). A building can be called a church but it is not the church. The reason is because buildings can be destroyed and/or used for altogether different purposes, even evil. Changing your thinking paradigm about the church versus a church will significantly enhance your ability to endure when the sinful excesses in the building conflict with the purity of the kingdom of God.
While the terms “church” and “kingdom” are generally used interchangeably by people, in scripture there are distinct differences in the two. Both are present expressions of The Lord Jesus Christ, yet one has not reached its perfection. (Eph 4:11-15).
Let’s deal with the kingdom first. In simple terms a kingdom is the domain or residence under authority of a king. When applied to God, David said it best in Psalms 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein. Thus it is clear that God’s kingdom comprises both heaven and earth. Heaven is under control, but earth is still in transition. As Jesus prayed: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.
One theologian described the kingdom of God like this:
In today’s parlance the equivalent of the Kingdom of God would be something like the Presidency of God rather than the Nation-State of God; or the Episcopacy of God rather than the Diocese of God. This Divine Regime or Presidency which operates by gracious mercy (because of God’s love) and righteous justice (because of God’s holiness) is unlimited, eternal, spiritual, and sovereign over all. Since Christ came in grace and in the flesh and began His earthly ministry, the inward earnest of the Kingdom life became accessible as a present mediatory EXPERIENCE for whosoever believes in Christ. The full outward manifestation of the Kingdom is a future vindicatory EXPECTATION when Christ comes again in judgment (Eph 1:7-14).
The Kingdom (of God, of Heaven) are also used interchangeably in scripture. Jesus did in several places but there are differences that should be noted. Both the “kingdoms” are ruled by God. The main difference is time. The kingdom of God is within us now, while the kingdom of heaven has not yet come. (Matthew 16:19,Luke 17:20,21)
The Kingdom of God is physically represented by the earthly Church of Christ (this is not the denomination of the same name).
The tale of two churches
As with many situations in the bible paradoxes exist and quite frankly appear to the undiscerning eye to be contradictory. Such is the case with what I will call the church triumphant and the church universal.
The church triumphant is triumphant (victorious) both now and forever. It has both corporate and individual applications. I take that from 1 Cor 2:14. The CT isnt defined as a denomination. Nor is it a nondenominational, interdenominational or independent religious body. It is understood to be comprised of those out of every kindred and nation, every tongue and tribe, who have been washed in the blood of the lamb and whose names are written in the lamb’s book of life. The church triumphant has formed and is forming daily as the Lord adds to the church. It is the church which, according to Matthew 16:18, is indestructible, built on the Rock. It is this church-bride which will be presented in that day: pure, holy, blameless, faultless before the presence of God (Jude 24,25). While the church triumphant is universal, the church universal is not necessarily triumphant.
The church universal is universal because it worldwide in terms of its logistical placement and membership. Thus, it is comprised of those who are joined to the physical church of Christ. It is a consortium of the denominations, nondenominations, interdenominations, et al. The church universal includes the wheat and the tare, the hypocrite and the saint, the open homosexual and the downlow choir leader, the sheep and the goats. It is from this church which will come those who find out that their good works are useless because they feigned relationship with Christ or had none at all. They will discover that they will be rejected because they added or detracted from the words of the Lord causing others to be lost. The church universal is in essence a snapshot of the doctrine of inclusion pre-judgment day. All are included, but the day of separation has not come (see Matt 25:31-46).
The church has “membership” rolls and on any given Sunday whether a person is redeemed or not, they can step out into the aisle, walk up front, shake the pastor’s hand and become a member. Even if they never confess Christ and are never born again and filled with the Spirit, they can remain “members” of the church. Even become “leaders”.
But not so in the kingdom of God.
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor 6:9-11
The entrance requirements are set not by the will of man, but by God. Only those who are redeemed, washed in the blood of the Lamb and sanctified by the spirit of Christ will come in. There’s no hand to shake , no secretary to see, no new members class to attend, no St Peter at the gate, just a change of heart and lifestyle. That’s not the gospel of inclusion, its the gospel of exclusion. And its 100% the will of God.