March 08, 2023
Do we understand the phrase: “The Kingdom of God”? David and Karen Mains discuss the importance of followers of Jesus understanding what He meant when He talked about His Kingdom.
The question that we need to ask ourselves if we understand that the kingdom of God is an essential theology: Am I conforming my life, changing my behaviors, or reconsidering my goals in any way in light of this biblical emphasis?
Karen: Do I understand the theology of the Kingdom of God? What is it in Scripture and how does it function?
David: Well Karen, I’ll jump into the conversation.
Karen: You can take a stab.
David: I’ve talked about the Kingdom and dreamed about the Kingdom for years.
Karen: Worked for the Kingdom.
David: Yeah, that’s fair.
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife, noted author Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
David: Well, let me see if I can define the Kingdom of God just as we begin. All right, this is a thing that’s very much a part of my being because I’ve done many programs on it. I’ve preached when I’ve gone out to different meetings, the Kingdom of God. I should probably say at the very outset, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are two phrases that Jesus used, and they were synonymous, I believe, in his thinking. Some people would say they have different meanings. I don’t think so. Let me give you just an example. In Matthew 19, 23 and 24, Jesus is talking. He says, I tell you it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. He’s also repeated what he just said which is typical of a lot of the Jewish way of communicating. He said, Jesus says it’s hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So he said it, then he resaid it, and one time he says, Kingdom of Heaven. The other time he says, Kingdom of God. They mean the same thing in my mind. Of course, the question is, what does it mean? Because there’s nowhere does Jesus say, when I say Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven, this is what I mean.
Karen: Well, let’s define it a little bit. So, is that Kingdom somewhere in the past? Do we have it when Jesus was here on Earth and then it’s gone because he’s gone? Was it in the present? Is it in the future?
David: The Kingdom was where Christ reigned in a person’s life. It didn’t have a geographic boundary. You couldn’t say the kingdom of God was like the kingdom of England or France or Germany or India or whatever because you can’t see it on a map. It’s inside people’s hearts. But it’s wherever individuals bow their knee before Jesus, are obedient to how he teaches and then they reap the benefits of what that kind of living is like. That’s how I would define it.
Karen: So that’s the question we’re essentially asking our listener and ourselves. Is the reign of Christ preeminent in your thinking and in your living?
David: Yeah, because there’s no way in my mind Karen where you can say I would like to bow before Jesus and ask that my sin be forgiven. And that my life be changed, but I kind of have reservations about that king idea. I’m not sure that… because he said some radical things. I’m not sure I want to say wherever he said something that’s my rule of life. Well in the kingdom of God he forgives you your sins, but he forgives you partly so that you can be a part of his kingdom which brings goodness for the whole of the earth.
Karen: Christ actually says that doesn’t he, in a certain scripture. Can you recall what that scripture is?
David: I’m not sure exactly what you’re referring to. But if someone wants to go say to the New Testament, begin in the book of Matthew you will find that he refers to the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven almost 50 times. Now that’s a lot of times. If you read Luke, he talks about the kingdom of God. In Jesus’ words over 40 times. You get about 25 times in the book of Matthew and it’s there in the book of John. It’s in the book of Acts. It’s in the epistles. You may not get it directly saying the kingdom of God, but you get these hints that show how strong it was. For example, Peter says we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
Karen: It’s beautiful.
David: Yeah! His majesty the king. That’s what we, or eyewitnesses, to and heard with our ears and so on. It is the primary message of the New Testament.
Karen: Wow. So, if that’s true, why do you think the kingdom of God was Christ’s major emphasis when he was here on earth? Why do you think that was such an important theme for him?
David: Well because He’s God’s son.
Karen: He is majesty.
David: But he is.
David: He is the rightful king. Someday that will be on everybody’s lips. Someday every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of his Father. That hasn’t happened yet. But it was true when he was here. Some people understood it, embraced it. Other people get away with him. We don’t want anything to do with him.
Karen: Interesting at the end of his life, the sign above the cross that Pilate put there was king of the Jews.
David: Well, he was more than that.
Karen: He was more than that. But I mean, that’s like an extraordinary proclamation made by a man who was a Roman ruler.
David: Yeah. Then on top of that, you get the centurion who was there at the crucifix. Certainly, this man was the son of God.
Karen: Son of God. As he’s dying…
Karen: As he’s laying down, extraordinary. So, I’m going to ask our listeners if they have ever sat under any preaching or been in a Bible study that emphasized this concept of the kingdom of God. And I think that many people who have been in faith-based situations for a major portion of their life have never heard preaching on this theology. More and more recently, I’m recognizing there’s people who understand what we mean when we’re talking about the kingdom of God or what the scripture means. But years ago, when you started to preach on this, this was when you were in the pastorate. And at that point in time, you did a series on the Christian, the church, and society. That was the first time in my life. I mean, I wasn’t old. I was young when I met you and I was probably 24 or so. When we spent on that church, I had been in Bible preaching churches all of my life. I mean from diapers on. And I don’t believe I had ever heard anyone speak about the kingdom of God and these were Fundamentalists conservative churches.
David: Well, we came to life… to church life. We were both raised in the church, different churches. I was raised in what people would call a fundamentalist church. But we came through a great divide in the Protestant church. There were what I was told were liberals and then there were us, the conservatives. But the world was changing. Scientific things had come in more. There was a question: really are the scriptures the word of God…
Karen: I came out of a German higher criticism idea looking at the scriptures and basically saying that they’re not God inspired.
David: There was a question. There was a question about the authority.
Karen: Humanity here and some things seem to be erroneous and so that sort of thing happened.
David: There was a split between people who held to the scriptures and talked pretty much about being born again. That was their huge emphasis. And then on the other side, people who they were trying to figure out where they were. You know all of this that was happening in the educational world and so on and continued to talk about the kingdom of God. They didn’t talk about except a man be born again; he can’t enter into the kingdom of God. They didn’t talk about that as much. The conservative side talked that way. That’s what I was raised, and I heard about being born again.
Karen: Almost every Sunday.
David: Goodness for it.
David: It was helpful to me. Except a man be born again He cannot enter the “what”?
Karen: Kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God.
David: Kingdom of God. But the more liberal side of the Protestant church, they were talking still about the kingdom of God and there was this emphasis that as human beings we could bring in the kingdom. In fact, if we would bring in the kingdom then Jesus would return. And see what we’ve done. It was a good emphasis. But the conservative side didn’t talk about the kingdom as much because that’s what the liberal side was talking about.
Karen: So, there’s a reactionary sort of avoidance, right?
David: That’s exactly right.
Karen: Oh wow.
David: Which is unfortunate. But we have come past those days some. There is still a conservative liberal breach in a sense.
Karen: But there’s a renewed look at theology that’s not in reaction to that split.
Karen: I think that in the last 10, 20 years there’s been people who haven’t lived through that. They didn’t have to go to any.
David: That’s all ancient history.
Karen: Ancient history, yeah.
David: So, the kingdom of God is being rediscovered in many ways through the whole of the conservative wing of the Protestant church. And that’s a very healthy thing and I’m glad for it. Karen, I didn’t know anything about the kingdom until I went to college. I went to a college where the motto was for Christ and His kingdom. And I thought, what in the world is this kingdom thing? And so, I began to hear about it in my college years and then began to study it more when I got out of college through seminary and then and so on. I read people that we weren’t supposed to read. East Island Jones was wonderful about the kingdom. If I say John Wesley. He had a book about the kingdom of God, and I began to explore this more and more and saw that it was so much a part of scripture. And it was exciting to me.
Karen: Well, I will say that listening to you preach as a young pastor’s wife, your wife, that message, the Christian, the church and society, it really sunk in. It just totally changed my outlook, my faith and how we were to live in the world and what we were called to be and called to do. It was a radically new and transforming understanding. Now if I’ve heard something about the kingdom and we’re talking about it now, then I need to ask myself if this is true that the Bible emphasized the kingdom of God. That was one of Christ’s major teaching topics. What does that mean then as far as how I should be living?
David: Well, again, you can’t say, Jesus, I want my sin forgiven, but I don’t like the idea of living by your rule. I don’t like the idea of you being king and me being your subject. And so, you can’t do that. The messages are involved together. Just like, again, we talked in John 3, except a man be born again, he can’t enter the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is huge. We live in a democracy. It’s a little bit hard for Americans as part of a democracy to think kingdom terms. We like our freedom. The whole of a democracy, everyone is created equal in a democracy. Well, that’s part of kingdom thinking. We all have equal value because God is our creator.
Karen: And that comes directly out of scripture, out of the scriptural understanding. And it’s the bedrock of democracy. So, in a way, we wouldn’t understand democracy if we hadn’t adopted, in a way, perhaps we’re not even aware of this essential theology that God has created all men equal. That’s right in the Bill of Rights.
David: Yeah, human beings have great value because they’re created by God.
David: That’s biblical. That’s as bedrock to Christianity as you can get.
Karen: The question that we need to ask ourselves if we understand that the kingdom of God is an essential theology: Am I conforming my life, changing my behaviors, or reconsidering my goals in any way in light of this biblical emphasis?
David: If you ask me that question…
David: …it’s the most important thing in terms of my whole mindset. That’s why I have traveled the world because it’s important to God that there is fairness throughout the world. He’s made a world that could feed all people. All people are not being fed because people are living in anti-kingdom ways. You know, when Jesus comes to reign, people all over the world will be fed.
Karen: He will establish a kingdom of goodness. I like to think of the kingdom of God as a kingdom of goodness. We will all have our place in the sun.
David: Yes, we will. It doesn’t mean everybody has the same. It doesn’t mean that somebody can’t be more aggressive and have more provisions, but all people will know the goodness of God’s bounty.
Karen: And I think we can also establish that each person will be in a place where they can live up to their God-given potential.
David: And they will have the option to bow before the king, even then. I have learned that I love being an American, but I’m a citizen of the world, partly because I’m a member of the kingdom of God. And it behooves me to know what’s happening in the world. Not just politically, I’m not talking, but in terms of fairness to all people. And I personally have tried to allow myself to be exposed to these major problems and do what I can. Is what I’m doing all that significant? No, I feel like… I feel so insignificant.
Karen: Yeah, but with millions of people do their little part for the kingdom of God…
David: Uhh…hmnn. Yeah
Karen: … that makes a huge difference, a huge difference in the world.
David: Yeah, okay, the kingdom, you’re basically asking the question, how important is it to us? I think it’s incredibly important to you.
Karen: So, one of the things I do when I’m taking a self-audit regarding the kingdom is I ask myself. When I repeat the Lord’s prayer, what do I feel when I hear these words, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” How do we feel about that? My soul leaps a tiny bit. I’m longing for a time when that kingdom, goodness, is transparent and impacts the entire earth and all the creatures in it. When you have Kingdom living as your mindset, your personal position in it is not as important as the corporate whole.
David: I’m trying to put into words, Jesus felt his followers should live with the Kingdom of God as the driving reality in their lives. Jesus felt his followers should live with the Kingdom of God as the driving reality in their lives. It’s fair to what Jesus taught.
Karen: That would include this whole concept of Christ being Lord and Master and us coming to him and asking for forgiveness for our waywardness in our past lives.
David: Yeah, it includes the New Birth basically.
Karen: We are receiving his forgiveness, but that’s so that we can then step into this master plan, this major plan of the Kingdom of God. This day is what we’re asking of our listening audience. How are you doing in a relationship to your understanding of the Kingdom of God?
David: Yeah, is it the driving force in terms of your schedule for this day?
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