Post Title: The Upside-down Kingdom
I have an in-depth, twelve-part video course called Unveiling the Kingdom of Heaven, that I commend to you. For this teaching, I am highlighting some essential truths about the kingdom of God as Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed and demonstrated it.
The kingdom always advances by the Spirit, not the flesh; by the will of God, not the will of men. It is not an ecclesiastic organization. The church is not the kingdom, which is another noteworthy distinction. The church should bear witness to the kingdom, but the church is not the kingdom.
It is a process of growing and growth in which Jesus, as king, takes ever greater authority over the people who submit to Him, and that is the fourth point. So, point number one, the kingdom is a person. Number two, the kingdom is a power. Number three, the kingdom is a process.
Point number four, the kingdom is a PEOPLE
You cannot have the fullness of the kingdom of God at work in the world without people who receive the king because this king is not a tyrant. He does not take people captive by force. Instead, he extends an invitation to them. That is why many struggled to receive Jesus as king because they were looking for a David, a Solomon, a Moses, who could challenge the earthly kingdoms. They wanted a king who would come in power and take over political sovereignty and let God be the king over Israel.
Yet, the Messiah of Israel who announced the kingdom had come was put to death as a common criminal by the earthly power of Rome. Again and again, we witness that the kingdom of God, compared to the kingdoms of this world, is an upside-down kingdom.
It runs counter to every natural expectation and natural process because it is a supernatural process at work. The one who will be king over the whole world is the one who submits himself to death at the hands of a pagan kingdom.
The one who created the heavens and earth, the one who has the authority and power now humbly submits himself to punishment and crucifixion unto death on your behalf. It is truly an upside-down reality. It is a paradox; if you want to advance in his kingdom, the way up is the way down. The greatest spiritual gifts in the kingdom are not on the top shelf, they are on the bottom shelves.
To advance under God's kingship, you climb the ladder one rung at a time: lower, lower, lower.
Why? Because as you decrease, he increases—the kingdom comes with ever greater authority and power. This is why the kingdom is such good news for the outcasts of society. And why it is such a stumbling block to the powerful, the rich, and the wealthy because they are bound up in the kingdoms of this world.
Look in the mirror, friends. We are the powerful, the rich, the wealthy. I read a report that said the vast majority of the world subsists on two dollars a day. You are wealthy in ways you do not comprehend. That is why many of us do not seek first the kingdom. We want his kingdom to be joined to our other kingdoms.
In the beatitudes, when Jesus says, "How fortunate, how blessed," he gives a list that can be read not as prescriptive but as descriptive. In other words, it is not that you have to be poor in spirit, be a mourner, be meek to get into the kingdom.
Rather, in some respects, what Jesus is saying is, "How blessed are the ones I am ruling over. Those I am ruling over are the down and outers, the marginal ones of society. They are the ones who are broken in spirit, the ones who are mourning, the ones who are meek." Those society laughs at and kicks aside, they are the ones that receive his supernatural ruling and reigning in their lives. That is why it is good news for them.
This understanding is reflected in Paul a generation later, For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Cor 1:26-29).
The kingdom of God challenges every other kingdom.
If his kingship does not come first, his kingdom does not come in its authority and power, in its blessing. If you are so bound up with the agendas of your kingdom, so caught up with your own life, your issues, your purposes, your needs, your wants, then you have not received the fullness of the kingdom because it has not been, for you, first.
When the prophet Isaiah gave four powerful throne names to the coming Son, the Child who was to be born, he says, the government will rest upon His shoulder (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus is God's chosen king who came to rule and reign in righteousness. You come under the full blessings only when you come under his full dominion. He is not a tyrant. He is not going to seize your pocketbook and extract His portion of your income.
He is not going to break down the doors of your life and say, "You fool, stop doing this and give me control." If you want to continue in foolishness, so be it. If you want to be wise, then it is time to say, "Jesus, you be the captain of the ship. Please guide my life. I am getting out of the driver's seat."
Here is the blessing of the upside-down kingdom. The more you give him government—the more you let him exercise his kingly authority and power—the greater the wholeness, the peace. And of the increase of his government of shalom, there shall be no end.
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, for it is he who has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and has made them a kingdom and priests to our God (Rev 5).
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.