Our starting point must be to recognise the fact that we all find ourselves between two opposing power systems: the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this World. It’s a division clearly expressed by Jesus himself (Matthew 22:15–22). In summary, the Kingdom of this World represents those systems, structures and organisations of politics, economics and power that owe no allegiance to God. They set their own agenda and goals and seek to gain them with the aid of political persuasion, finance, the media and even, if necessary, with force.
The Kingdom of the World is proud: delighting in its authority, and displaying it in its buildings, mass media and grand events. Sometimes the Kingdom of this World appears in apparently competing forms, such as left- or right-wing politics, yet, deep down, there is but a single system: a Kingdom of the World that seeks to control all in every way.
The Kingdom of God is, in contrast, very different. It is a countercultural movement across all nations made up of those men and women whose allegiance is not to any power system but to Jesus Christ who has redeemed them. Sometimes, the Kingdom of this World may openly and visibly oppose God’s Kingdom through abuse and persecution. Perhaps more frequently – and more dangerously – it may disguise itself in the language of God’s kingdom and, by doing so, seduce God’s followers into supporting it.
The responsibility of those in the Kingdom of God has always been to resist the direct and indirect attacks of the Kingdom of this World. It’s a long, tough battle and it isn’t over yet. That final victory (guaranteed by the victory of the cross) will only occur at the coming of Christ when, as Revelation 11:15 (NIV) tells us, the ‘Kingdoms of the World’ will become ‘the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah’.
Given this idea of two warring kingdoms, let me lay down three foundation stones for how we are to think about how we live in the world, whether tumultuous or not.
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