Christ’s Kingdom Is Not of This World

What Jesus offered was utterly different

John Peckham
Christ’s Kingdom Is Not of This World
Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash

Are You the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked Jesus (John 18:33). Pilate did not know the One who was before him for judgment  was Himself the King of kings, unto whom all judgment has been given (John 5:22).

“My kingdom is not of
this world,” Jesus replied
(John 18:36).

Let those words sink in: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

To what kingdom do you belong? Where does your allegiance lie? If pressed to choose between your nation and the way of Christ, where would your loyalties reside?

These are perhaps easy questions to answer in words, but actions speak louder than words. Do our lives attest to our allegiance to Christ and His way of unselfish love?

Perhaps you’ve heard the question: If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

And by “Christian” I mean a follower of Christ—one who accepts and serves Jesus as Savior and Lord. This entails, among other things, that one follows the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14:4).

In Jesus’ day many were looking for a king who would deliver them from Roman oppression and receive honor in an earthly kingdom.

What Jesus offered was utterly different. If we are not careful, we might also find ourselves looking for the wrong things and, in the process (wittingly or unwittingly), offering allegiance to someone or something other than the one true King—Christ.

Scripture teaches directly, “Do not put your trust in princes” (Ps. 146:3).

This is especially important given that human nature is infected with sin and selfishness. As Jeremiah 17:9 puts it: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

Our ultimate allegiance must not lie with any fallible man or woman, but with the One whose character is perfect and everlasting unselfish love—”Jesus Christ the Righteous” (1 John 2:1).

Many today call us to put our trust in this or that earthly “prince” and, in so doing, to treat the other “side” as the enemy—to demonize them.

But Scripture is also clear that our fight is not “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). For this struggle  Scripture further instructs us to put on the spiritual armor of God and to persevere continually in prayer “with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” for the sake of the message and mission to which God has called us (verse 18).

Elsewhere, the Bible instructs us to respect and, when possible, obey our earthly rulers (Rom. 13:1). And Scripture teaches further that as far as possible, without compromising the convictions of our faith, we are to live at peace with all people (Rom. 12:18).

But this must be understood in light of the rest of Scripture, which also teaches that many rulers are not endorsed by God. As God Himself laments: “They set up kings, but not by Me; they made princes, but I did not acknowledge them” (Hosea 8:4).

And we are also very clearly warned that if what earthly rulers or leaders call for is opposite to God’s commands, we must obey God. As Peter responded to the authorities of his day when confronted with the command to refrain from teaching  and preaching in the name of Jesus: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Ultimately we have one king—Jesus. His kingdom is unlike human kingdoms and nations—it is the kingdom of unselfish love, which will have no end. So let us be careful not to put our trust in earthly princes or politicians—not to give our allegiance to mere men or women, but to reserve it for the Prince of Peace.

John Peckham

John Peckham is associate editor of Adventist Review and research professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University.