Let me establish something right up front: you don’t live in a kingdom. I accept that we currently have a Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, but you don’t live in a kingdom. In fact, even if you moved to England, where the Monarchy is far more important, you still would not be living in a kingdom – in spite of being part of what they call the United Kingdom. They are not united – Scotland can’t wait to break away and Ireland may be next and they are certainly not a kingdom in the true sense of the word. In fact, they haven’t been a kingdom for over 1000 years. Yes, England has a Queen and as a Commonwealth nation, Australia has the same Queen but we don’t have to think about her at all. In our day-to-day life we never have to refer to the Queen for any decisions we make. Now I think she is a remarkable lady and she is a committed Christian, but for all of my life I’ve pretty much ignored her and so have you. The last real king was King James – who gave us the King James Bible – and he passed that desire for absolute sovereignty on to his son Charles. But that cost Charles his life because the people of England were not having a king who ruled anymore. They were over it.
So our Queen today has very little power. There are a few things she can do but they’re really quite small. She does them superbly as a figurehead but she is not sovereign over her kingdom. She reigns, but she doesn’t rule and that’s the difference. The first essential thing to a kingdom is a king (or queen) who reigns andrules. We don’t have that. We have a constitutional monarchy and that means we have a monarch who doesn’t rule and doesn’t tell us what to do. The requirement to have a true kingdom is to have subjects who obey the sovereign. These are the two parts that make up a true kingdom – a sovereign who rules and subjects who are ruled. Only when you’ve got those two things, do you have a kingdom.
Now it’s because we are not a kingdom and have never lived in a true kingdom that we don’t really understand the phrase, the kingdom of Godor the kingdom of heaven.So we often treat God like a constitutional monarch, someone to wheel out on public occasions but not a God Who truly rules us as His subjects. If you were in a Jewish home and you sat down for a meal, they would address God before they touch the food, as ‘King of the Universe’ and that’s the basic Jewish understanding of God. In fact, in many languages in the world, King and God have a same word. So God is king of the universe. He is King of nature. He is King of history. I remember a chorus I used to sing as a boy, ‘God is still on the Throne’ and it used to give me a feeling of confidence and the truth is, God is still on the throne of our universe, whether we acknowledge Him or not, and clearly most people don’t.
I want to suggest to you that the biggest enemy of our faith is not atheism, but deism. There are people in our churches who really believe that God is what deism believes He is. Deism says God created the universe, but He is no longer in control of it. Therefore, you don’t pray about such things as the weather. Because God has created nature and nature now runs on its own laws. Almost as if nature is a big clock. God created the clock, but now it’s wound up and ticking and there is nothing that we can do about that, or even that God can do about it. Well, I know from personal experience that God can change the weather. He created nature, and He can control it if He so desires.
God also controls history. He is the King of the nations. He is King of kings, the Lord of lords and He controls things like elections. He has the casting vote. That does not mean that everything that happens is God’s doing but it does mean that He has the last word and so sometimes He gives us the government we need and sometimes He will give us the government when deserve. But God has the casting vote because He is king of the universe. But humanity is losing the concept of kingdoms. For example, since 1914 at least 24 crowned heads of Europe have disappeared. That’s 24 kingdoms which have disappeared and those who have kept a royal family have cut them off from ruling and given them a figurehead position, a constitutional monarchy, but not a true kingdom. So less and less of the people in our world understand the reality of a kingdom. That’s why just mentioning the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven means next to nothing to most people. Whereas in Bible times almost every nation was a kingdom and therefore the Bible doesn’t ever define the kingdom of God. People would have understood what was meant straight away, because they all lived in kingdoms. But it’s a strange idea, to Britain, to most of Europe and certainly to us in Australia. The idea of a king who rules a kingdom without a government, without elections, without a parliament, without an opposition, without anything that we take for granted in a democracy. That’s because the Bible has no room for democracy. There is not a trace of democracy in the Bible.
Now I have probably seen the film The Ten Commandments a dozen times and its a great film but the Director, Cecil B Demille, made a speech when the film was released and he said, “This film is about the beginnings of Western democracy.” What a load of nonsense! This film was based on the Bible and the Bible doesn’t ever mention democracy. It only speaks of a theocracy – where God is King of the universe and we are all made to be His subjects. Why then don’t we want a kingdom? Why do we pursue a democracy? Why do we love having an election? Well, it gives us the power and we can kick a government out within a few years of them being voted in. That’s democracy – it gives us power – and that’s one of the most serious challenges to the kingdom of God, as we’ll see.
Of course, when you look at nature and history, it doesn’t look like God is in control. We must face the fact that there are things that happen in nature, like earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, cyclones, bushfires etc. that kill hundreds and thousands of people. It’s not easy to believe in a good God Who is in control. When you look at human history and you see the slaughter that has gone on, with humans killing each other, by the thousands, by the millions. It’s hard to reconcile. There has not been a period of 10 years in all of history without war, not 10 years of peace. In fact just since ‘the war to end all wars’ there have been 36 more wars. We say that God is the king of history so why on earth does all this keep happening? Human beings have always wrestled with the contrast and contradiction between what we see and what we believe. There are many ways that we have ingeniously decided to solve this problem. One is called dualism. That is the belief that there are two Gods – one is good and one is bad. Sometimes we benefit from the good God and sometimes the bad God takes over. That’s called dualism. There are others who say, the answer is in polytheism – ‘poly’ meaning many. So there are many gods and you’ve got to keep them all happy. So the first question when things go bad is ‘which God did we upset or do we have to appease?’
But then there have been real debates about God Himself – and here’s the big dilemma. Is God all powerful? Is God good? If He is both of those, then why doesn’t He stop all the wars? Why does He allow evil and suffering? Why does He seemingly turn a blind eye to what’s happening in our world? Some people conclude that God is weak and that He can’t solve the problems and is just waiting for us to help him. That’s not the answer but even inside Church I am hearing people imply that God is weak. Well, if God is all powerful then you’ve got to tackle the other question and conclude that God is not good. He’s just playing games with us and we are helpless in His hands. Therefore we can’t complain – we’re just His creatures and we’ve got to accept His will regardless of whether good things or bad things happen. Of course neither of those answers come from the Bible where it states all the way through that God is both good and all powerful. So we’re left with the question, ‘Why do things happen as they do?’ Until we face this question squarely and honestly, we won’t understand the rest of the Bible. The only explanation is that there must be more than one Kingdom operating in the world. Now that is the Bible’s answer. There is more than one king and more than one kingdom.
In fact, every member of the human race, wants their own kingdom. The very first human beings, said, ‘God, we’re not going to let you tell us what to do. We will decide for ourselves, what’s good and bad for us, and what’s right and wrong.’ So Adam and Eve made that choice. They wanted their own kingdom in which they were sovereign. So if they wanted that fruit, forbidden or not, they would decide for themselves – and they did. Every single one of us has now been tainted by that desire to have our own kingdom. Your home can be your kingdom; your family can be your kingdom; and you can rule like a king or queen. But it’s bigger than that – it impacts all areas of life in our society. We have seen many kingdoms grow in the commercial world. A person starts a small business but then it must grow bigger, because the boss wants a big kingdom – and he will soon have a kingly car to drive in – and soon have branches opening everywhere. There is hardly a human being who has gone into business who hasn’t started building up his own kingdom, preferably with his own name everywhere. In the political world you find the same thing: a politician wants to promote himself as King and build a larger kingdom, which he can control. Even in the Church realm we see someone set up a Church and then they want more Churches under their name and pretty soon they are building a kingdom.
So it happens in almost every sphere we touch, this rebellion against God which says, ‘You’re not to be king of this. I’m King here, or I’m Queen here … and you don’t tell me what to do.’ Now the Bible just calls all that what it is: sin. To establish your own kingdom, be your own boss and declare independence from God – is rebellion. It’s sin. So not only is God King of the universe, human beings are kings and queens in their own little kingdoms. However, the Bible also says that behind all these human kings and man-made kingdoms, there’s something else – or someone else actually – and that is the devil, whom the Bible calls ‘the king of this world.’ When you understand human rebellion and your desire to have your own kingdom and add to that the devil as the king of this broken world – you can now explain everything that is happening in this world. To understand this world and our place in it, we have to accept the Bible teaching which makes it crystal clear that human beings are not at the top of creation. Evolution has gotten hold of our mindset so that we think mankind is at the top of creation as the most developed creature there is. That makes us rather proud – but it just isn’t true. We are not at the top of creation. We are above the animals, but we are below the angels in God’s creation.
There is a whole level of life above us that has more intelligence, more strength and more speed. Angels can travel around the universe far quicker than our fastest jets. Now, unless you really do believe in angels, you just won’t understand the worldview of the Bible. The angels were created superior to human beings and we need to remember that. Just as human beings have rebelled against their Creator and said, ‘We want our own kingdom, where we rule and where our will is sovereign,’ the same thing happened among the angels – long before we ever showed up. In fact, one third of the angels rebelled against the kingdom of heaven and this is an insight that is essential to our understanding the Bible’s view of our world. Now among this third of the angels who rebelled is a lead angel called Lucifer or Satan. The Bible also calls him the devil and He behaves like a dragon who has his own kingdom, and his kingdom is this world. In the Bible he is called ‘the god of this world,’ also ‘the prince of this world’ and ‘the ruler of this world.’ The New Testament also says that we know we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the hands of the evil one.
Now we can begin to understand why the world is in such a mess – it’s because we are in rebellion against the kingdom of God. The rebellion in heaven which Satan led, is still happening. Human beings are now in rebellion against heaven within their own personal kingdoms and Satan and his fallen angels have set up their kingdom on earth. Do you know that Satan has even managed to change the Lord’s Prayer? Towards the end of that model prayer Jesus gave us to pray is the line, ‘deliver us from evil.’ That’s what many translations give us and that’s what most of us have learned and prayed thousands of times, I’m sure. However, the Greek word translated ‘evil’ here can also be translated ‘evil one’ and most of the main translations today now use ‘evil one’ rather than ‘evil.’ Now of course, this is one of Satan’s oldest tricks – to persuade us that he doesn’t exist as a person and that evil is just a thing or some impersonal force. Satan is a created being and so are all those fallen angels who rule this world with him. But Satan doesn’t want us to think about him as an actual personal enemy and so he is very happy for us to pray ‘deliver us from evil’ rather than to think there are actual beings involved in all that is wrong in our world. That’s the first characteristic of the devil’s kingdom: deception which is why Jesus called him ‘the father of lies.’
Let me just run through the other characteristics of Satan’s kingdom – since his kingdom is this world. Deception is the first one and darkness is also a main characteristic of Satan’s kingdom. Light is the kingdom of the Lord and we come into His light from the darkness. Satan never opened a day club – it was always a night club – and most of Satan’s evil is done in darkness. In Nazi Germany, the Gestapo came to your house at three o’clock in the morning, when you didn’t expect them. That was characteristic of all the Nazi Gestapo activities and all the arrests of the Jews and the enemies of the state. Satan rules the kingdom of darkness and he loves to hide things. He hates to have his works brought to the light and exposed for all to see. Satan conceals – Jesus reveals. Always remember that.
So Satan’s kingdom is a kingdom of deception and darkness. It’s also a kingdom of disease. That’s one of his biggest weapons in the human realm and that’s why you see so much healing of disease when Jesus showed up and His kingdom began to overtake the kingdom of darkness. Now of course the easiest way to conquer any enemy is to divide them and Satan loves to divide Christians from one another or set them against one another. So Satan’s kingdom is also built on division among human beings. And the final ‘D’ for us to remember is death. In John 10:10 we read where Jesus said that Satan comes to kill, steal and destroy. Now if you’ve done any work among young people, you will see the death that Satan brings. I’m not just talking about physical death, though it does include that and drugs and suicide are responsible for taking so many young lives every day. But I’m talking about spiritual death – to be done to God – that’s one of Satan’s main objectives. He wants people to turn away from the Father. When the prodigal son came home, the father said, “This is my son who was dead …” But he wasn’t physically dead – he was living it up in Antioch, spending all his money and having a great time. But all that time he was dead to his Father. And it’s that kind of death which is characteristic of Satan’s kingdom, a deadness to God.
Look at the people today in your own community – go and talk to them about the gospel and you will see what reception you get from most of them. It’s amazing how utterly dead people can be towards spiritual things. In many of them there is absolutely no response. Their desire for God and the things of God has completely gone. That kind of death is a horrible. People are alive in the flesh, but they’re dead in their spirit and without a supernatural resurrection, that’s how they will stay. So that’s the Bible’s explanation as to why this world is in such a mess and it’s been in that mess from almost the very beginning. It is because people have rejected the will of God as their rule of life. It’s because so many angels have also rejected God’s rule. So when Jesus began His ministry after His baptism, what was the first thing He did? He disappeared into the wilderness to spend time with Satan, before spending time with God’s people – an interesting priority. Jesus recognised the real power that was holding people in bondage and unless He first bound ‘the strong man’, He could not liberate all his victims.
Of course that doesn’t make sense to people who don’t believe in Satan or his power in this world and so they haven’t got the ammunition to handle so many situations in this broken world. They are therefore left with blaming God when things go wrong. Hasn’t this always been the case? We blame God for the wars that we start, and that we fight. Why does God allow us to go to war? But He didn’t start the war and is He not responsible for our choices. You see if you only have a vague idea that God is in total control of everything that happens then you are locked into blaming Him for all the bad things and we thereby get sucked into the devil’s greatest lie.
So all of this raises a huge question and it’s the question God is asking us. ‘Why do you want Me to be sovereign when you don’t want to be subject to My will?’ That has been the problem since the Garden of Eden. We want God to be sovereign, but we don’t want to be subject – which means we don’t want Him to be sovereign at all. For if God is sovereign, then He is sovereign according to His will, not ours. We all want God to do things that we decide He should be doing. I hear it all the time in the Church and I read it on the Facebook pages of Christians. We tell God what He needs to do but stop short of accepting His sovereignty over what we do. We make our own choices and then try to tell God what His choices should be.
‘Let God be God’ is only a quaint catch-phrase because for God to really be God in our life, we must subject ourselves to Him completely. That means our mind, our will, our emotions, our body, our health, our possessions, our money, our ambition, our work life, our home life, our leisure time – absolutely everything is in complete submission to God. To ask God to heal our bodies, when we are not willing to put our bodies under His control and Lordship, is sheer hypocrisy. We plead with God to bring revival but ignore the call of Jesus to embrace His mission personally and share the gospel with those He leads our way. We treat God like Queen Elizabeth – we are happy for Him to reign like a constitutional monarch and we honour Him to a point and say really nice things about Him – we are even happy to listen to His Easter and Christmas message – but we stop short of allowing Him to rule as our Sovereign. So for us He is King in name only. This is why the kingdom of God is not visible in our world and even in many Churches. For the average person living in our nation today and for many attending Church meetings today, they do not see the reality of kingdom of God where Jesus Christ rules and reigns and His disciples surrender and submit to Him in every area of their lives.
So brothers and sisters, if we truly mean what we say when we pray, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” then that will require everything we are, everything we own, everything we think, say, and do, to be brought into submission to the King of Kings. Then, and only then, will He truly rule and reign; then, and only then, will the world see the Kingdom of God rise above the kingdom of this world; then, and only then, will all mankind finally understand who they are and Whose they are.