Understanding the Kingdom of God is important in the life of the believer, especially considering that Jesus instructed his followers to be concerned about it above everything else. In addressing the Kingdom of God I will seek to answer two main questions: 1) what is the Kingdom of God? And, 2) why did Jesus instruct us to seek first this Kingdom? By answering those questions the benefits of the Kingdom of God are revealed.
While preaching His most famous sermon, Jesus said “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” This key instruction was given after emphasizing that no one can “serve two masters” and by a series of reminders of Gods faithfulness that is obviously seen in nature. The conclusion being that if God takes care of those aspects of His creation, how much more will He take care of us. In this context, another way we could phrase this passage of Jesus’ teaching is, why be concerned with the trivial matters of life when we could be focused on what matters most, the Kingdom of God.
A. What is the Kingdom of God?
The kingdom of God refers to His absolute rule over all things. Before defining this rule more specifically a couple things should first be understood concerning the kingdom’s existence and how mankind participates in it.
1. THE KINGDOM HAS ALWAYS BEEN
The kingdom of God existed before humanity; this is somewhat obvious but important to point out because the kingdom is not man-made or even about us. Humanity has the privilege of experiencing a kingdom that is far superior to anything we could create or rule, this kingdom is godly and heavenly. In the beginning chapter of the book of John, understanding can be gained of the eternal rule of the Godhead. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Scripture teaches us that life originates with God. We read of our beginning in the book of Genesis, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Adam and Eve, who were the beginning of mankind, for a time, experienced a life that was full and complete as participants in God’s kingdom, just as He intended when He created them. When God breathed His Life into Adam consider the transaction that took place. Rather than beginning with the dilemma of sin mixed within their nature, like we are, Adam and Eve were perfect. In the same way that a parent naturally passes on certain traits and characteristics to their offspring, I suggest that God passed onto them the fullness of His love, the fruit of His Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Life freely flowed from God to his created beings.
2. SIN AFFECTS HOW AND WHEN MANKIND PARTICIPATES IN THE KINGDOM
When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, a life-altering shift took place. Sin entered each of their hearts through disobedience to God. This event is described beginning in Genesis 2:
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
When God instructed Adam concerning the tree, He clearly told him that he would die from eating it. How and why would Adam and Eve die? Scripturally we understand that life is more than flesh and bones but more importantly spiritual. Because of this, Adam and Eve would not only die physically but also spiritually. Later on we read that they actually ate from the tree:
“Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”
Ultimately death entered humanity because a disconnect happened between man and Gods Kingdom. Essentially Adam and Eve unplugged their self from life and power when they ate from the tree. This is true because life originated, and is sustained, in/by God and therefore cannot exist without Him.
Because of this separation between God and mankind the kingdom of God would need to be re-established on the earth. This has been done through the work of Jesus Christ as he led a perfect life and defeated death and Satan by resurrecting from it. Throughout scripture a double-meaning is gathered concerning the fulfillment of the kingdom. In one sense it is already here through Christ’s rule within the believers’ heart, and in another the kingdom is yet to be completely established. Or, in other words Gods rule is already taking place but not yet.
“These two understandings of the kingdom are both truly taught by the Word of God and coexist in a type of already/not yet reality. They are so interwoven that to refer to them as separately is a misstatement; rather, we ought speak of the two aspects of the kingdom as truly a future kingdom that has penetrated the present.”
In the book Foundations of Pentecostal Theology Duffield and Van Cleave differentiate between the Church and future reign of God:
“The Church is not identical to the kingdom of God, for the kingdom of larger than the Church. However, the Church is the present instrument of the kingdom and will inherit the kingdom (Jas. 2:5; 2 Pt. 1:11)”
“The ultimate kingdom of God will include, not only the Church, but the Old Testament saints, the regathered remnant of Israel, and the righteous nations that will be a part of the millennial reign of Jesus (Mt. 25:32-33; Rv. 20:4; Is. 66:18-23; Jer. 3:16-18; 23:3-6; 31:10-12; Zec. 14:8-9).”
B. Why Does Jesus Instruct Us To Seek The Kingdom Of God First?
As stated above living outside of submission to Gods rule leads to death which presents the answer as to why Jesus would tell us to seek His Kingdom first, because living according to and in the kingdom of God is life. Consider the following passages:
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
“Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
In each of the above portions of scripture, there is a direct correlation between Gods kingdom and life; when a person is a participant in God’s Kingdom they have received power for living according to Gods original plan. Life is more than living for God, but more importantly from God (in His power, through the life He gives us). It is more beneficial for the believer to receive the kingdom of God than to seek to fulfill it. His kingdom is being fulfilled as the believer receives life in Christ.
Adam experienced an unhindered relationship with God, a life untainted by sin. Jesus came that we might have life (unhindered relationship with God, restoration). One can conclude that Jesus instructs us to seek first His kingdom because He desires that we would live and experience the life God created us to have.
The kingdom of God is His absolute rule over everyone and all things. His power has existed from all time. Because of sin, mankind’s participation in Gods kingdom has been affected. Sin separates us from God but through Christ one can be redeemed and enter into Gods kingdom.
God’s kingdom should be understood in two ways: 1) It has been established on earth in the hearts of those who put their faith in Him. And, 2) He will come again wipe out all sin and its leaders.
It is Gods desire that we be part of His kingdom because in it is life. God created us to fellowship with Him and sent Jesus to fix what was broken, our fellowship with Him. To summarize, the kingdom of God is life as He intended it.
 Matthew 6:33-34, NKJ
 Matthew 6:24, NKJ
 John 1:1-4, NKJ
 Genesis 2:7, NKJ
 Galatians 5:22-23, NKJ
 Genesis 2:16-17, NKJ
 Hebrews 4:12
 Genesis 3:4-7, NKJ
 Genesis 2:7
 Colossians 1:16-17
 Colossians 3:15-17
 Revelations 20:1-10
 Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, pg. 452
 Matthew 7:13-14, NLT
 John 3:3, NKJ
 Romans 14:17, NLT
 John 10:10, NKJ