“My Kingdom Is Not Of This World”
When Jesus was in the judgment hall of Pilate, he “called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (Jn. 18:33-36).
In verse 36 of this chapter, Jesus makes a far-reaching declaration regarding the nature of His kingdom. The spiritual nature of this kingdom is manifested by His own words found in our text. On the surface, the following points can be noted concerning the distinctive nature of this kingdom:
• It did not rise from this world as do physical kingdoms (Dan. 7:3-17).
• Its laws are not worldly; it is a kingdom whose laws are written the hearts of men and of divine origin (Heb. 8:10).
• It is not a visible physical kingdom (Matt. 4:8).
• Its soldiers and armor are not worldly and neither are its weapons (Matt. 26:51-54; 2 Cor. 10:3, 4).
• Its mission and design are not worldly – only spiritual.
• Christ would not allow His disciples to aim for positions of prestige and power, but rather commanded humility (Matt. 18:1-4; Jn. 13:4-9).
• Its subjects, though men, are in the world, but are not of the world (Jn. 15:18, 19).
• If this kingdom was designed to physically oppose civil governments of men, he would have armed them with physical tools of battle.
For the purpose of clarity, please note that in this article the words “kingdom” and “church” are used repeatedly. I recognize the words “kingdom” (basileia, Gk) and “church” (ecclesia, Gk) are translated from different Greek words which have different definitions. “Kingdom,” basically, means “the sphere or realm of God’s rule” (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words), whereas “church” refers to the “called out” (Thayer) by means of the gospel of Christ. Alien sinners who are obedient to the gospel are “called” by God (1 Thess.1:1; 2 Thess. 2:14), and they constitute the “church,” or those called “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). God, Who calls us by His gospel (2 Thess. 2:14), calls us “unto His kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12), and has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). Therefore, those in the “church” at Thessalonica were in the Lord’s “kingdom.” This conclusion is consistent with Matthew 16:18 & 19 wherein the words “church” and “kingdom” are used interchangeably by Christ, meaning that with reference to their constituents, they are one and the same! This is further evidenced by a study of Matthew 26:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, verses which reveal that the Lord’s supper, which was instituted by Christ to be observed in His “kingdom,” was observed in the “church.” Consequently, those in the church have submitted to the “rule” (the gospel) of God and have been brought into “the sphere of God’s rule,” or into His “kingdom.”
Having made these preceding remarks, it is evident that members of the church are citizens in the Lord’s kingdom. We will now examine the kingdom (or church) of Christ and discuss ways in which this “kingdom is NOT of this world.”
First, this kingdom has No Earthly Origin! It was built by Christ in the “latter days” as Daniel prophesied it would be in Daniel 2:36-44. Hence, it was built by Christ in the days of “the Apostles whom He (Christ) had chosen” (Acts 1:2; Matt. 16:13-28). This kingdom came into existence with “power from on high” on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47; Mk. 9:1; Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4). Its purpose is eternal (Eph. 3:10-11), and saved souls were added to it by the Lord (Acts 2:47).
Second, this kingdom has No Earthly Head or King! Christ is the ONE and ONLY head (Eph. 5:23, 24, 32; Col. 1:18), Catholic false doctrine notwithstanding. Jesus Christ has “all authority” by His own claim - “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). The King of this kingdom, Christ, “is the blessed and only Potentate, the king of kings and lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). The church (kingdom) is His body and purchased with His “own blood” (Col. 1:18; Acts 20:28; cf. Heb. 9:12; 13:12; Rev. 1:5).
Third, the King of this kingdom has No Earthly Reign! The King (Jesus Christ), is now reigning on the “right hand of God” (Mk 16:19; Acts 2:33; 7:55, 56; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22)! His reign will continue until “death is his footstool” (1 Cor. 15:20-28). We can know that Christ is now reigning because death is still present. Just go to any mortuary where you can stare death in the face. According to the Hebrew writer, Christ is our High Priest “forever” (Heb. 5:10; 6:20; 7:12-28). What earthly king has ever reigned forever?
Further, Paul testified that Christ will not return to reign on earth, when he wrote, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Note especially, verse 17 - “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Christ will not set foot on this earth, according to Paul!
Fourth, this kingdom has No Earthly Headquarters! Unlike headquarters of denominations of men, there is no physical address, no phone or fax number and no web page. No one can mail a letter to the headquarters of this kingdom.
While denominations of men have earthly headquarters, like the Mormon church headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, or the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church in Rome, Italy, the headquarters of this kingdom cannot be found or visited in any city or country on earth. However, through prayer, we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
If Christ is on the “right hand of God” (Mk. 16:19; Acts 2:33; 7:55 & 56; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22) and Christ is the one and only Head of the church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18), then it follows that the headquarters of this kingdom is in Heaven and not on earth!
Fifth, the faithful citizens of this kingdom are “In The World But Not Of The World!” The peculiar nature of this citizenship was declared by Jesus (Jn. 15:19; 17:14-17). Citizens of this kingdom must live holy lives as the apostles taught. Peter wrote, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:13-16). Its citizens are a “peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9; Tit. 2:14). We must emulate Christ and strive to maintain pure lives; hence, we must be free from unrighteousness (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Col. 3:1-14). Additionally, we must endure trials until the end (1 Pet. 4:12-19), and live faithful lives “unto death” (Rev. 2:10).
Sixth, the mission of this kingdom is Not a Fleshly Mission! Its mission is solely spiritual and divine – to accomplish the purpose of God for which it was designed (1 Tim. 3:15; cf. Eph. 3:11). Upon examination of the work and worship of the first-century church, you will find that the church did the following: (1) Preached the gospel to all the world (Matt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15, 16; Col. 1:23-28, Eph 3:10). (2) Edified its members in the faith (Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:5-10). (3) Cared for its own needy or destitute saints (1 Cor. 16:1-2; Acts 4:31-37; 6:1-7). (4) Disciplined its members who walked out of order (2 Thess. 3:6, 14; 1 Cor. 5:9-13).
Its mission is not intended to satisfy the whims, wants or wishes of man, but only to accomplish the eternal purpose of God (Eph. 3:11; Matt. 7:21-23). It is not an organization to provide fun, food, and frolic (recreation). It is not a social or recreation club. It is not in business venture or in the business of entertainment. Its mission is not to provide for ANY fleshly lusts of man. Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).
Seventh, the organization of this kingdom is Not of Earthly Design! The design, in all its simplicity is seen in Paul’s statement, “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1).
This kingdom has servants or evangelists (preachers) as were Paul and Timothy. It has bishops (overseers) or elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Tit. 1:5-11; 1 Pet. 5:1-4; Acts 20:28). All of whom were men, not women, meeting the divinely given qualifications and watching over the flock among them in a certain locality (1 Pet. 5:1-2). It has deacons or servants (1 Tim. 3:8-13) and saints (faithful members).
It is interesting to note that there is no man-made order. There are no dioceses or district bishops, no wards, no one-pastor systems (Tit. 1:5-7, Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Tim. 3:1; 1 Pet. 5:1-2). There are no men who are “reverends” (Ps. 111:9), there are no “fathers” (Matt. 23:8-11) and no “priests” who wear special collars or special garb (1 Pet. 2:5-10). No “clergy-laity” distinctions are found or ever implied anywhere in the New Testament!
The Lord’s church is a divine organization. It was designed by God’s wisdom (Col. 1:9-2:4; 3:16; 4:5; Jas. 1:5; 3:17). It was built in fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose and promise (Eph. 3:10-11). It was built on a divine foundation (Matt. 16:16-18; Eph. 2:20). It includes all those redeemed by the blood of Christ and who have been added by the Lord (Acts 2:47; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 5:25-27; 1 Pet. 1:18; 1 Cor. 12:13-31). Its subjects have been pricked in the heart with the gospel message and baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27) and live their lives “faithful unto death” to the glory of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
Eighth, this kingdom has No Man-Made Doctrines or Creeds! Its rule and authority are the words of Christ and His apostles, found in the New Testament, of which Christ is “the mediator” (Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). The Bible is its ONLY rule of faith and practice. Its “platform,” and “creed,” if you will, are the Holy Scriptures (Heb. 9:15-17; 10:9-10, 19-22; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:3, 4), the “faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The word “once” found in Jude 3, is from the Greek word hapax. W. E. Vine in his Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words, defines this significant word as follows: “(b) ‘once for all,’ of what is of perpetual validity, not requiring repetition, Heb. 6:4; 9:28; 10:2; 1 Pet. 3:18; Jude 1:3.” Hence, there is no need nor any authority for any “later-day-revelations” or man-made traditions.
Christ condemned denominations of men and their religious error! Jesus warned, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13; cf. vs. 1-9). This warning of Jesus was not a lesson on horticulture, but rather, a stern warning to the religious scribes and Pharisees of His day and His warning still stands! Catholics, Mormons and any other religious people steeped in traditions of men and so-called “latter-day-revelations” should take note! There will be a rooting day when all religious error will be “rooted up!”
Ninth, the battle of this kingdom is Not a Fleshly Battle! Consider our text again, John 18:36 - “...My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
The weapons of this battle are not carnal or fleshly (2 Cor. 10:3-6). The armor is spiritual in nature because the war is a spiritual war (Eph. 6:10-19). Even though the weapons are not carnal, the armor is not physical, and the battle is not a fleshly battle, it is a fight nonetheless. It is a fight to obtain the crown, as Paul wrote Timothy (2 Tim. 4:7). It is a fight for ones own spiritual survival (1 Cor. 9:25-27). It is a fight against the devil and his angels for the souls of men (Acts 20:27-32; 1 Cor. 15:32). It is a defense of “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The great battle of this kingdom is “the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7)!
Tenth, entrance into this kingdom is Not Granted By Man or Doctrines Of Men! Entrance does not come by one “accepting Jesus as their personal savior,” saying the “sinner’s prayer,” by a vote of any religious organization or by any creeds or doctrines of men.
In order to enter this kingdom, one must comply with the divine formula. Alien sinners must be “born again.” Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). How is one “born again?” Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3:5-6). How is one “born of water and of the Spirit?” By obeying the gospel of Christ and by being baptized (immersed in water) into Christ “for the remission of sins,” as the Holy Spirit has revealed by the pen of inspired writers in the Scriptures (Gal. 3:27; Acts 22:16).
Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (Jn. 12:48). The words of Jesus clearly state, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16; cf. Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3, 4;1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
That settles it! No man can alter or circumvent the divine requirement for salvation. When one obeys the gospel of Christ by hearing and believing the gospel, repenting of their past sins, confessing their faith in Christ before men and being baptized in the watery grave of baptism, the Lord and only the Lord adds these saved souls to the church (Acts 2:37-47). No one can be added to this kingdom by following any earthly formula!
Finally, this kingdom offers No Earthly Reward! The reward is not silver, gold or earthly riches (1 Pet. 1:4). Jesus warned not to put confidence in earthly riches; therefore, the riches of this kingdom are spiritual in nature (Matt. 6:19-21).
The reward is likened to a crown. Peter referred to it as a “crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 5:4). Paul calls it “an incorruptible crown” (1 Cor. 9:25); “the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8). James calls it “the crown of life” (Jas. 1:12). John called it a “crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). This crown is unlike any earthly crown or reward for it “fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 1:4).
The final reward (the crown) is eternal life in Heaven with God and His Son Jesus Christ, “which is far better,” Paul told the Philippians (Phil.1:23). The faithful can expect to be with the saved of all ages, in the company of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1); and it will be a place of indescribable bliss (Rev. 21:1-7).
In conclusion, this kingdom is Solely Spiritual in Nature! It has a divine builder – Christ. It has a spiritual and divine purpose – to spread the gospel of Christ “to all nations,” so the souls of men might be saved (Matt. 28:19; Lk.19:10). To make it anything else goes beyond the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn. 9-11) and disgraces this blood bought institution (Heb. 10:26-31; Acts 20:28). Become a subject of this divine kingdom today by obeying the gospel, while you have the time and opportunity. Become a citizen of this kingdom, which is truly OUT of this world!