John the Baptist came announcing, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” (Matt 3:2).
Jesus announced His ministry with the same: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”
(Matt 4:17). The primary focus for each was God’s chosen people of ancient Israel. Both
denigrated Israel’s religious leaders as “You brood of vipers!” (3:7; 12:34).
“The Heaven Guy”
I once invited a visiting pastor to take the pulpit on a Sunday morning service in a church of
which I was pastor. Asking me on what subject I felt he should preach, I replied, “The Kingdom
of God”. What we got was a description of Heaven – golden streets and all. Where is Jesus,
then? Conclusion: sitting on a throne awaiting further instructions? We have since referred to this
pastor as, “The Heaven Guy”.
In 11 words found in Matt 20:27, Jesus defined the Kingdom of God to an anxious mother asking
Him to elevate her two disciple-sons into command within the Kingdom – one on His right side,
and the other on His left: “…whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave”. Few of
us are in the market to be anyone’s slave, let alone even God’s!
Identity of Kingdom with Nationhood:
It all began with ancient Israel and continues to this day. The Kingdom of God to ancient Israel
was the Messianic restoration of its dominance as a nation. It continued under the merger of
Christianity with Rome in the 4th Century. The Western European nations vacillated back and
forth; the Puritans were largely intent on the new colonialism becoming “A City on a Hill”.
On Jan 6, 2021, our nation witnessed Christian symbols carried in a march on the Capital by
thousands of professing Evangelicals protesting the 1st Amendment separation of Church and
State, espousing a moral superiority they were violating in every sense of the word. Their
Messiah, other than the Living Lord, was a high priest of the idolatrous American Dream of
prosperity and success, fitting neatly into the 1980s Church Growth Movement.
The Jesus Remedy:
If the Kingdom of God is mostly future, latitude is granted for Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount
(Matt 5-7) to be shoved off into the distant Eschaton, licensing professing Christians boldly to
hate “other”. If, on the other hand, the Kingdom is wholly present and within, it becomes a
subjective moral code, leading to self-exaltation with little or no future hope. The remaining
option posits the Kingdom as the ongoing reign of God through Jesus, exalted King of kings and
Lord of lords. As such, Kingdom citizenship, present already but not yet fulfilled, is measured
against the precepts of the Sermon on the Mount, considered to be otherwise unattainable.
There being little appetite for the latter, the hypocrisy of Christian nationalism is thereby
prospered by that portion of the Evangelical community that has committed itself to doing for
God what God seems unable or unwilling to do for Himself.