Let’s do a contrast study for a moment.
Jesus says there is a domain called the “Kingdom of God.” It is the range of God’s effective will. It is wherever God’s will is done. It is the sphere in which everything that happens meets with God’s approval and delight. Everything is precisely as God wants it to be—where the greatest humble themselves like little children. There are no big shots. No arrogant egos. No one ever has an anxious thought. Every encounter between people causes them to walk away with more joy than they had before they met. As the apostle Paul says, “The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Watching over this whole realm as its greatest servant and most joyful caretaker is the magnificent God—the Father of Jesus—who is endlessly celebrated for his infinite, self-giving love.
This, Jesus said, is the Kingdom of God. It exists. Right now. People you know and love who trusted God and have died and gone before us are immersed in this reality right now.
Then there is the “kingdom of the earth.” How’s that going?
Violence. Betrayal. Thousands of babies dying daily due to malnutrition. Women being sexually assaulted or marginalized or objectified by men. People killing others in the name of religion. God’s creation getting polluted. Vows of fidelity being broken. Racial injustice constantly smoldering and often exploding. Culture wars. The politicization of almost everything. Cynicism and fear and depression and isolation. Who does it look like is running the show here?
Things in the kingdom of the earth are not going well. There is not much good news for the poor or weak or old or plain or uneducated or vulnerable.
But Jesus has a plan. He describes it in the world’s most famous prayer:
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
In other words, “Here’s my plan. I’m going to bring this down here.”
Like a lot of Christians, I grew up praying the “Beam me up, Scotty” prayer from the old Star Trek series. I thought we were supposed to ask God to get us out of this messed-up earth so we could go to heaven.
But Jesus taught a different prayer. Not “Get me out of here so I can go up there.” But “Make up there come down here.” “Make things down here run the way they do up there.”
Jesus told us to ask God to bring heaven—“your kingdom,” “your will”—down here to my office, my neighborhood, my small group, my family, my country. Starting with my life, my body, my little kingdom.
Jesus’ gospel involves the greatest offer of all time. The salvation of your whole life, both now and then. Not just getting you into heaven but getting heaven into you. When you get what Jesus is offering, it’s like finding treasure in a field that you’d sell everything to possess and laugh all the way to the bank. If it were a late-night TV infomercial, you’d call without delay.
It is good news.
The great question is this: Do you really believe it can happen? Do you really believe that the Kingdom of God can be established on this earth, starting with you?
John Ortberg, Eternity Is Now in Session: A Radical Rediscovery of What Jesus Really Taught about Salvation, Eternity, and Getting to the Good Place (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2018).
I have just completed a series of lessons on the theme of Eternity Is Now In Session. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year.