NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–King George III was just 22 years old in 1751 when he rose to the throne of England and assumed leadership of the most powerful kingdom on earth. It stretched westward and controlled the American colonies and dominated trade eastward through India as far as Hong Kong. However, just a little more than 250 years later, the United Kingdom once ruled by George III now is a fraction of the size and no longer a dominant world power.
But George’s kingdom is not alone in its faded glory. The Roman Empire encompassed nearly all of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa for nearly 1,000 years. The Ming Dynasty in China governed a sizeable portion of the world’s landmass. Persia and Syria were both aggressive kingdoms with far-flung influence. All of them failed to survive despite seemingly endless resources and the bold predictions of their respective rulers.
Enter Jesus. He was born in a manger to working parents. He grew up the son of a tradesman in a house that most likely had dirt floors. His robes were not the purples of royalty but the browns prominent among the common people whose livelihoods were found working fields, fishing or selling goods in a crowded market. Imagine being in the crowd and hearing a man like this shout above the noise, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near!” I’m certain most of us would huff and ask, “By whose authority is this carpenter heralding a kingdom?”
Jesus couldn’t be any more different from the rulers of history’s various kingdoms. What matters obviously isn’t what the messenger looks like but who the messenger is.
It makes no difference that people then — and now — deny or discredit Jesus’ statements that the Kingdom is here (Matthew 4:17) and that He is the exclusive way to it (John 14:4). Disputing these facts is the same as rejecting the idea that man landed on the moon. Regardless of how passionately someone may deny either doesn’t change the actuality of both. Our postmodern culture emphasizes the relative and is offended by the absoluteness of God’s Kingdom and the singular entrance into that Kingdom through Jesus.
But the Kingdom is confrontational. Jesus states the fact it is here and gives the option: repent or reject. Repentance requires that we make a moral commitment and willingly submit ourselves to His reign, making ourselves loyal subjects of His Kingdom. In fact, the Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the lives of believers and in the world. This is not an idea that Jesus introduced with the New Testament. God carved out of His infinite dominion a place called earth. Here He set time in motion and has been intimately involved with its operation ever since. He does as He pleases; earth is a part of His Kingdom. The Old Testament clearly indicates this as well as the New.
It’s worth noting that a distinctive difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of humanity’s most powerful rulers is that God’s Kingdom is expanding while the others are relegated to history books. Every time someone asks Jesus to be his or her Savior, God’s Kingdom expands. This irreversible tide is rising among every tribe and nation. Jesus provides a glimpse of what the throne room of God’s Kingdom will one day look like (Revelation chapter 4 and 7:9-10).
As Christians, He has commanded us to go. He refers to us as “the good seed” He sows in the field of the world (Matthew 13:37-45). Seed produces a crop that is harvested. The Kingdom of God is going to grow because He has determined it will. He expects believers to be part of that Kingdom growth. It’s also a generously given opportunity to serve a King whose Kingdom will have no end.
Draper is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.