“The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.” ― Frederick Buechner
Isaiah 2:2-5 “ In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
This passage from the prophet Isaiah is on many Advent reading lists yet most people do not know why. It is a prophetic passage regarding the future (to Isaiah) expansion of the kingdom of God. As the Kingdom advances, people will be able to walk in the light of the Lord. The celebration of the advent of our Savior, Jesus, and the redemption of humankind is a celebration of the light that has come into the world, the light of the Lord. This is the light of the Kingdom of God within and among us.
This passage contains the most common Old Testament representations of the Kingdom of our God, which were the Mount Moriah on which Jerusalem was situated, the Temple, and Zion. These prophesies of the coming kingdom in the Old Testament era were not fulfilled in the physical Mount Moriah, or Jerusalem, or the Temple, or in Zion as it is used to identify the kingdom of Israel. The presence of God left the temple at the crucifixion, Jerusalem was sacked in 60 AD., and the temple was destroyed with the city. So just what is the Kingdom of our God now?
A kingdom involves three things, a king who rules, a people who are ruled, and the king’s actual rulership. Author and blogger Frank Viola has identified the Kingdom of God as “the manifestation of the ruling presence of our God.” In other words, it is wherever the rulership of our God is made visible and tangible on earth. The Kingdom of which the prophets prophesied and of which Jesus often spoke is now made up of all the people who have placed and will place themselves under the practical rulership of our God, the King.
Today this includes those people who are part of what the Greek New Testament calls the “ekklesia,” literally “those called out.” This is the past and present-day church, which locally is the community of people who have surrendered their lives to the Lordship of Christ Jesus, who are called out of this world and its systems, and are living by His indwelling Spirit. It is in these people we find “the manifestation of God’s ruling presence.” There is no Kingdom of God on earth that is not visible in the “ekklesia.” Importantly, the Kingdom, the ekklesia is not the organizational church with its denominations, church politics, and business operations. It is not the North American 501 c (3) business franchises, nor is it the buildings that dot the landscape. Those entities are at best para-church organizations. Few if any of them could be considered “at best.”
“The kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.” ― Brennan Manning
Jesus told His followers that the Kingdom was among them, implying that the Kingdom transcended the organizations of the day. The Kingdom of God is the people who are ruled, who incarnate or embody the kingdom just as Jesus Christ incarnated it. It is this Kingdom of which Isaiah prophesied, and which Jesus Christ came to earth to embody, define, and set in motion. Christmas, then is a celebration not just of the coming of the Christ as a child. It is a celebration of the purposes for His incarnation, and the expansion of the Kingdom of Light. It is also a celebration of our part in the Kingdom story.
“The Kingdom of God is a tricky concept, and I was always taught it referred to our heavenly reward for being good, which, now that I actually read the Bible for myself, makes very little sense. Others say that the Kingdom of God is another way of talking about the church, and still others say that it’s the dream God has for the wholeness of the world, a dream being made true little by little among us right here, right now. My answer? All of the above.” ― Nadia Bolz-Weber