Christ’s Kingdom and the World
October 18, 2010
In John 18:36, Jesus proclaims that his “Kingdom is not of this world”. Many take this to mean that Jesus’ kingdom is somewhere else (heaven) and not on earth. This then justifies a negative and pessimistic view of the world (e.g. “our hope is heaven, this world is passing away”). If earth is a losing battle, why try to reform earth?
Is that what this passage is really saying?
Let me start with some context of that passage.The passage takes place when Pilate, the Roman Governor, is interviewing Jesus as he decides his fate (whether or not to crucify him). He asks Jesus why, if he was king, his own nation had handed him over to the Roman authorities. ‘Where’, Pilate is essentially asking, ‘is your army?’ Jesus responds by explaining where his authority and army truly is. He doesn’t need a band of soldiers. His kingdom comes from a different source. His kingdom is “of heaven”.
The Greek here is toutou (of this) and it is in the genitive case indicating one of the following senses:
– relationship indicated by the noun being modified (“Janet’s husband”)
– composition (“a wheel of cheese”)
– participation in an action (“the love of music”)
– origin (“men of Rome”)
– reference (“the capital of the Republic” or “the Republic’s capital”)
– description (“man of honour”, “day of reckoning”)
– compounds (“doomsday” (“doom’s day”)
When you use this verse to say that Jesus’ kingdom is not to be thought of being on earth you are assuming that toutou is in the composition sense (the ‘composition’ of his kingdom is in heaven). But I think that this assumption ignores the rest of the passage.
The rest of the passage is about the “origin” of his kingdom. In other words, it is not established by earthly efforts (such as his servants fighting for him). Let’s look at the passage again with this in mind:
John 18:36 Jesus answered, “[The origin of] My kingdom is not this world. If [the origin of] My kingdom was this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, [the origin of] My kingdom is not this realm.”
Most “messiahs” of Jesus’ day (and there were many who claimed to be messiahs in the first century) had kingdoms that were established by carnal (worldly) armies. But Christ’s kingdom is established by God and His providence not an army. The source of his kingdom is *of heaven* but the kingdom itself is established in heaven *and on earth* (Matthew 28:16-20). His battle would be fought not in the battlefield but on a cross. On the cross, he took on sin (and Satan and Caesar) and won. He rose from the grave (in *this world*) and conquered death (in *this world*).
Conversely, if Jesus meant that his kingdom is not on earth things become much more problematic. This statement would directly conflict with the Great Commission (“All authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to me”), the Lord’s prayer (“thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”), and countless other passages that state that his kingdom is *on earth*. Christ is the ruler of this world not Satan.
Scripture tells us that that Satan is on a leash (Rev 20:1-2) and he has to ask permission from God to do anything (Read Job 1 and 2).
Here is a fun video that shows how, in numerical and geographic terms, the kingdom of Christ on earth has grown through the centuries: