In Part 1 we talked about the obsession of some believers with “winning souls in the kingdom of God” and how ill-perceived that idea is, to the point that it has redefined evangelism. In fact, the problem is even bigger – people have taken evangelism outside and apart of the entire Christ-centered life, and have made it an end in itself. Just as that preacher said, it has become the ultimate goal, or the obsession, of many believers. Now, it is one thing to have a passion for seeing sinners turn to the Lord and being saved (and to be sure, not all of them are in the world; there are many such in the church herself), and a completely different thing to consider this practice as the pinnacle of Christian activity. There is something else we ought to be obsessed with, and we will see it here.
The preacher said something that we need to highlight. You see, the Lord warned us that we will have to account for every idle word we utter, so we need to make sure we don’t speak idly. He said, “Our ultimate goal in the kingdom of God…” In the KINGDOM! This is another very misunderstood and very misapplied term. In fact, theologians and ordinary believers cannot agree among them what this means, “the kingdom of God”. Some suggest that it refers to a realm, a place, perhaps in heaven, that is expected to take over this world one day. Yet others think of it as a nature, something that we become with the new birth. If we are to see it under either of those interpretations, we will run into a myriad of problems. To take the above quote as an example, how does one operate in the kingdom, if the kingdom exists only in heaven? Because nobody can dispute the fact that earth is not exactly God’s kingdom. Neither can anyone disagree with the other fact, that although we have been born from above, we still live in a physical body, which is the fallen, Adamic nature. Then we can only consider the other, true meaning of what that kingdom is.
A kingdom, besides a territory, is the state of being ruled by a king, in other words, where a king reigns sovereign. Only when we see it under this light it makes perfect sense, and sheds plenty of light into everything said about the kingdom of God in the Bible. The Lord described it in an undisputable way: “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21, KJV). Here we have a unique situation, where the King James version gets it right, while other translations have missed the point. “The kingdom of God is inside you”! How can a realm or territory exist inside people? Or how can a nature remain hidden, undetected? We know very well that a nature is manifested through certain undisputable signs. But as the Lord said, the kingdom of God is the state of people who have completely surrendered themselves to God and He rules supreme through them; it is the state of no more living, but Christ lives in them (Galatians 2:20). It is safe, then, to read “the sovereignty of Christ” where we read “the kingdom of God”. Besides, this is why we call Him “Lord”. If he does not have absolute rule in us, we call Him “Lord” in vain, and therefore we use words idly.
So, now that we have this clarified, let’s attempt to read again that preacher’s statement: “Our ultimate goal where Christ has the absolute rule, where He reigns sovereign, is to win souls”. To put it differently, as Christ has the absolute rule, His obsession (which becomes our obsession) is to win souls. We are saying then that Christ came in the form of man, sacrificed Himself, and rose in glory, so that souls will be saved! And that’s all! There is nothing else in that epic act, but to merely save souls. Exactly how wrong and short-sighted this is, we will find by taking a look at what God is actually preoccupied with.
What was God’s purpose when He created man? What was His purpose when He chose to save some from the flood? What was His will when He sacrificed Himself? Why did He create His (HIS) church? Why is He saving sinners? Why does He plan to destroy this heaven and this earth and to make new ones? What is the meaning of the marriage of the Lamb to His beloved bride? This is a topic in itself, way too large to explain it here. But to help us understand the issue at hand, I will say this: the name of the Son is not only Jesus, not only Christ or Messiah, but also Emmanuel. This is what God had planned from the beginning, and this is the dominant purpose in His plans: for God to be with us! He made men so that we will be His family (Ephesians 1:5), His dwelling place (1 Peter 2:5), His body (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 3:6, etc.), and His bride (Ephesians 5:25-27). This is why Jesus taught us to start our prayer by asking for His kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10, 33). Our obsession needs to be with God obtaining absolute, sovereign rule in people’s lives, so that He will be all in all (Colossians 3:11; 1 Corinthians 15:28). This is what the church, complete with all her individual members, is to be exclusively occupied with.
How often do you hear pastors and other preachers talk about this? The frequency of “salvation” messages, as compared to “kingdom” ones, shows today’s traditional church’s focus and preoccupation. Undoubtedly, salvation is a part, the very beginning of the course to the kingdom, but after one enters the race, then what? Nobody ever gets a winner’s prize by merely entering a race, but only the winners do. It is no different with God’s purpose, as we see in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. “To the overcomer…”, He says. To overcome signifies struggles, obstacles, persecution, perseverance, faithfulness. How does anyone encounter those elements by being content with joining a group of believers or the body of Christ, even when it is done earnestly? I pray that the Holy Spirit will remove the veil from our eyes, so that the kingdom of God will actually become our personal and corporate truth.