Jesus was on trial for His life but as prophesied by Isaiah, said nothing when He stood before Pilate (Mt. 27:11-14; cp. Isa. 53:7). Ultimately, Pilate asked if He was the king of the Jews and after a brief exchange between them, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world; if it were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews but now is my kingdom not from hence” (Jn. 18:36).
Jesus’ words agreed exactly with what the prophets said earlier. Isaiah wrote, “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:6). How unusual, how preposterous that a wolf and lamb should dwell together, and that a leopard would lie down with the kid! That will never literally happen but in the kingdom of God those impossible things are reflected in the changed behavior of former enemies. They are changed because both have assimilated the nature and essence of the kingdom of God.
John wrote, “He came unto his own and they that were his own received him not …” (Jn. 1:10). There were many reasons why His nation rejected Him, not the least of which was that He did not offer them the kind of kingdom they expected and wanted. That was ever Israel’s problem. They asked Samuel, “Give us a king that we may be like the nations around us” (1 Sam. 8:5). God gave them what they asked for and Bible students know that did not turn out too well for them. Even the apostles of Jesus had misconceptions about the coming kingdom. James and John wanted Jesus to make them His “right hand” and “left hand” men in that kingdom (Mt. 20:22)! But God prepared not only to set up a kingdom, He determined what it would be and how it would function, and He never changed or altered that purpose.
Consider a few differences between worldly kingdoms and the kingdom of God. Start with Isaiah’s statement and “echoed” by Jesus: “and a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:7). When Jesus was asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, He took a little child and set him in their midst and said, “Except ye turn and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever there shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3-4). Worldly kingdoms are destined for utter destruction when children are their rulers (Eccl. 10:16) and yet in the kingdom of heaven we must have the spirit of a little child to enter it and be great therein. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.
Look at Matthew 19:23-24. Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, He said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. If that were true in the kingdoms of the world, where would all the funds come from that provide all the different services and benefits governments render their citizens? No matter whether one feels that the rich are taxed enough or not, it is a truth that a major part of our nation’s funds are taken from proportionally a very few. But in the kingdom of heaven it is easier for a camel to go through a (literal) eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. How many camels are you aware of that have gone through a needle’s eye? Lest we, or the Lord, be charged with saying no rich man can enter the kingdom of God, consider these words from Mark 10:24, describing the same event recorded in Matthew 19: “Children, how hard is it for those that trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God.”
Look at Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Eating and drinking are items of great importance in the kingdoms of men. Think of the many State Dinners with all the pomp, ceremony, and circumstances that are part of every nation in this world! Yet the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write that the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking. Jesus’ kingdom is NOT of this world.
Now look at 2 Corinthians 10:4 and Ephesians 6:12: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God …” and “For our wrestling is not against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness.” When Jesus was arrested, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Jesus rebuked him saying, “Put up your sword into its sheath. They that live by the sword shall die by the sword” (Mt. 26:52). Jesus taught us “resist not him who is evil” (Mt. 5:39). God’s kingdom is not advanced nor defended by carnal weapons. How long will a kingdom of this world survive if it is not willing to defend itself? Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.
How many battles and wars have been fought over borders! We think of Russia and Ukraine and their continuing war over Crimea; of India and Pakistan and their longstanding contention over a disputed region; and just recently, India suffered 20 casualties in a conflict with China over a disputed region. Yet, Christ’s kingdom is not of the world and Jesus said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! Or, There! For lo, the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:20-21). There are no geographical boundaries that spell out the extent of God’s kingdom for His kingdom is spiritual, not physical. And the principles of that kingdom must rule and guide us.
Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). It is impossible to enter God’s kingdom through physical birth: it requires a spiritual birth for one to be part of it. Astonished Nicodemus said, “How can a man be born anew when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born” (John 3:4)? Jesus said, “Verily, verily I say unto thee. Except one be born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Physical birth will never put a person into God’s kingdom because God’s kingdom is spiritual and one must experience a spiritual birth to be in it.
One of the most popular theories of professed believers in Christ today is the doctrine called “Premillennialism.” Millions apparently believe and teach this doctrine that involves a literal Armageddon with millions of combatants engaged in an actual, carnal conflict — a literal reign of Jesus on a literal throne for a literal thousand years, in a literal land (Israel), in a literal city (Jerusalem) which has a literal restored temple. Will man never learn? Jesus’ nation rejected Him because He was not the kind of Messiah they wanted and they rejected His kingdom for the same reason. Today multitudes would be insulted were one to suggest they were not true believers in Christ, yet they reject the kingdom He brought and want a physical kingdom just like all the kingdoms of the world. God’s kingdom is not of this world and those who know this truth appreciate and glory in that for they know while “all flesh is as grass and the glory thereof as the flower of the grass. The grass withereth and the flower falleth.” God made an eternal spirit to abide in man and it is for that spirit that God’s kingdom is prepared and of which it is. John adds that while those that were his own rejected Jesus “as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name. Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). As we study God’s kingdom, never forget the words of Jesus: “My kingdom is not of this world.”