By age thirteen, I had learned about the world’s empires and kingdoms, past and present. And I had lived through one called the Third Reich, which was supposed to last a thousand years but thankfully ended after a mere twelve (1933-1945).
I read the Bible for the first time at age 28 and was surprised to find much about kingdoms, like Canaan (Psalm 135:11) and Babylon — called the “glory of kingdoms” at first (Isaiah 13:19) but banished into darkness in the end (47:5). I was amazed that the people of Israel should want their nation to become a kingdom, like others, even after Samuel told them what a king would demand (1 Samuel 8).
In the New Testament I came across numerous references to the kingdom of heaven and kingdom of God. I read about the Devil taking Jesus up to a high mountain and promising to give Him all the power and glory of the world’s kingdoms if He would fall down and worship Satan (Matthew 4:8, 9). Unlike Israel earlier, Jesus did not fall to the temptation of the kingdoms of this world.
When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He twice stressed the Father’s kingdom: “Thy kingdom come . . . For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (6:9-13).
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus began, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). And concluded it “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 10).
Throughout history, the poor and the righteous have borne the brunt of persecution and oppression. The early Christians in Rome suffered even unto death under several emperors. Paul wrote to them that if we suffer with Christ, we will be glorified together and that our sufferings now can’t compare with the glory to be revealed in us (Romans 8:16-18).
Paul encouraged the Corinthians, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24).
Indeed, hundreds of years earlier, Daniel had seen visions of that event (see Daniel 7:13, 14).
Under the sway of the Devil, humanity still wants its kingdoms, its own forms of governments. We have tried just about everything: small monarchies, big empires, dictatorships, communism, democracies, and republics — and at times, even anarchy. All have failed or are failing.
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews lists God’s faithful who refused to live by the world’s systems and lived instead by His rule: Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, David — to name a few. Verses 35-40 describe what many of them suffered, such as torture, mockings, and scourgings. Verse 40 was written to Christians long ago, as well as to us, here and now: “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.”
Today, as we stand between the kingdoms of this world and God’s coming reign, we are reminded to “walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). We can do this now, together, knowing that someday soon the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord (Revelation 11:15).