A Passport authenticates my citizenship of the United Kingdom. I need it if I am to enter another Kingdom. It tells officials in that Kingdom who I am so that they can check if there is any reason why i should not be allowed to enter and to put their stamp of approval on it. In another sense, since I am a Human Being, I am a citizen of the world.
Sunday November 21st was called stir up Sunday. Traditionally the last Sunday before Advent and also known as Christ the King Sunday.
Although celebrated a couple of weeks ago, as it is Advent and we joyfully wait to celebrate the arrival of Jesus among us I want to say something about the Kingdom of which Jesus is King, the King himself and the implications, as outlined in Matthew 25, for the citizens of this Kingdom.
Jesus sits at the right hand of God and rules over all creation. His Kingdom is, therefore, not only the whole earth and everything that is in it but all the Universe with billions of suns [stars] in each of billions of galaxies.
Our Lord Jesus Christ made the Kingdom of God His primary teaching focus. He is, of course, the door to His Kingdom, as well as the foundation and the capstone. His Kingdom was and is His Central message. If you research and compile all the major teachings of Jesus you will see clearly that His foremost concern was for His disciples to know as much as possible about His Kingdom.
For example, in the Lord’s Prayer, the concern after honour to His Holy Father was, “Thy Kingdom Come.” Jesus is born as God’s son in absolute oneness with His eternal, loving, holy and almighty Father. His primary concern is for the Kingdom of God to be fully established to give great and worthy honour to His heavenly Father.
This suggests that there is a parallel spiritual kingdom which is eternal. The Kingdom is now, real and physical, as well as spiritual and eternal: a Kingdom of Honour and righteousness.
The Gospels describe Jesus as proclaiming the Kingdom as something that is both “at hand” and a future reality [Mark 1:15]. Jesus Christ, through His incarnation, death, resurrection and exultation, has ushered in the messianic age so that the Kingdom of God, in both its material and spiritual dimensions, may be understood to be present in an incipient fashion, while at the same time awaiting consummation in the future age following the second coming.
The cross can be seen as a singularity bringing together not only the spiritual and physical creation but the past, present and future work of God in His Kingdom.
The present aspect of the Kingdom refers to the changed state of heart or mind [metanoia] within Christians [read Luke 17:21]. Jesus emphasises the spiritual nature of His Kingdom by saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within [or among] you.” The reported activity of Jesus in healing diseases, driving out demons, teaching a new ethic for living, and offering a new hope in God to the poor, is understood to be a demonstration of that Kingdom in action in the here and now. The King, as Jesus Christ, has already come in disguise and in humility and through his Holy Spirit wants to exercise His kingship over each and everyone of us.
The Kingdom of God is within the heart of every believer. Is Jesus sitting on the throne of your heart? There is a sense in which the Kingdom of God is not yet complete. There is yet to come a time when God’s perfect will be done on earth. Because God loves us He cannot force us to do His will; but there will come a time when we will all choose to do that. This will be a time when Jesus will return in Glory [v.31]. This return will be sudden, without warning and decisive.
The King Himself
I remember sleeping out in the open in the African bush and waking up in the middle of the night staring up at the night sky. Wow! What a vast array of stars! I realised I was just a spec. upon a spec. of a vast Universe of over 2 trillion galaxies!! I was reminded of Paul’s writing in Collossians 1: 16-17. ‘For by Him all things were created: things in Heaven and earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Jesus is therefore first and foremost our creator King, we owe our very existence to him as creator and sustainer of the universe and our own humanity. He made the things that we can see and the things we can’t see (scientists are more and more making visible what was previously invisible to us- however, a vast proportion of the universe exists but may always remain invisible and a mystery to us). He is ruler and creator of kings, kingdoms, rulers and authorities. Everything has been created through him and will ultimately be for his glory.
It is little wonder then that Paul reminds us in Phil.2:9-11 quoting Isa. 52:13, ‘Therefore God exulted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’
Jesus, as God of an infinite as well as a finite universe has so many characteristics that his Kingship is almost indefinable. How do you picture Jesus? As the Good Shepherd? As a friend of children? As one who loves unconditionally? As one who stills the storm? The one who heals? The teacher?
He is all these things and more but the passage from Matthew 25 brings us face to face with Jesus the judge. We don’t often picture Jesus as the Judge. Maybe we are reluctant to speak of Jesus this way because Jesus as judge is connected with the Last Judgement: and the last judgement is something that many in our present time find incomprehensible or offensive. That some would find themselves cast into hell seems inconsistent with a loving God. So what does the passage form Matthew tell us about our
Citizenship in God’s Earthly Kingdom
It tells us, as we wait at the Customs Gate of the eternal kingdom that judgement awaits everyone, there will be no exceptions, no favourites, no excuses. It tells us that we are accountable. That Jesus will look into our passport and check us against his list in the book of life. I am free to live my life as I please, but in the end I shall have to give account to the one who gave me my life – Jesus the King. And he will decide whether I wil be allowed to reside in his restored and renewed eternal kingdom.
It tells us that we are not all going in the same direction though by different roads, as many like to believe in this pluralistic age. We will not all end up in the same place. We may not have the right visa in our passport. It is possible to be utterly lost, and Jesus warns us of that possibility here.
It tells us that there will be great surprises on that day. Many who are confident of their condition will be undone and many rate themselves very lowly and unworthy will be surprised at their reception.
It tells us that the heart of Christnity is the relationship with Jesus Himself which shows itself in loving, sacrificial care of others, in particular the poor and needy.
It tells us that people who have never heard the Good News will be judged by their response to what light they had, and in particular to their response to suffering humanity.
Our challenge is to mould our lives according to the Kingdom values upon which Jesus will judge us, and these values are all motivated by self-less love of Jesus and our neighbour spelt out Matth25:35-40. If we live by these values, prompted by love, then as we stand before the judgement seat of the king we will see our name indelibly printed across our passport image and He will see Himself sitting on the throne of our hearts and we will hear the words, “We done my good and faithful servant; come share in my glory.”