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DD2: Kingdom of God or “King’s Kids”?

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 2

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 2: The Extraordinary Message
Deeper Dive #2:
Kingdom of God or “King’s Kids”?

Copyright © 20231

by
Jim Kerwin

Title tile for 'Coming to Grips with Kingship and Collective AmnesiaIt’s important not to confuse the two teachings!

Please let me add this “deeper dive” side note to the discussion in Chapter 2, “Coming to Grips with Kingship and Collective Amnesia.” I’m concerned because I continue to encounter certain cadres of believers who tend to misconstrue the phrase “Gospel of the Kingdom of God” and translate it mentally into that modern message which might be labeled “the Gospel of the ‘King’s Kids’.”

They have been taught something that goes along these lines: Since they’re born into God’s family, and He is the King, believers are, by association, “royalty,” that is, “King’s kids.” As proper princes and princesses, they have special privileges and “kingdom authority.” What analogy can I use? It’s as though sugar-craving children, armed with such “royal authority” and possessed of their Father’s carte blanche, are turned loose in a proverbial divine “candy store,” claiming piles of promises, appropriating boatloads of blessings,2 and even “speaking things into existence” — all by “faith.”

Now, for certain, the New Testament holds forth the hope and possibility of reigning with Christ.

This is the import of what Jesus promises to the Twelve Apostles:

  • 27Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” 28And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
  • Matthew 19:27-28

We might note several important points in passing:

  • Peter is speaking for the group, and that group has “left everything and followed” Jesus (v. 27).
  • Jesus restates Peter’s restriction that His promise is for “you who have followed Me”; and He limits the fulfillment to the future: “in the regeneration” (v. 28). Even for the mighty Twelve, “reigning” wasn’t within the scope of their earthbound lifetimes.

Jesus made at least one other pronouncement along these lines to the same group, partly as a means of ending an argument about who would be “the greatest” (i.e., which of them would rule in the kingdom which they as yet misunderstood and misconstrued):

  • 27c“…I am among you as the one who serves. 28You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; 29and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you 30that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
  • Luke 22:27c-30

Here we note two other qualifications for such reigning in the future:

  • There’s the implied qualification of being a servant to all, like Jesus (v. 27c). This, by the way, follows the same logic and flow of Paul’s glorious kenotic passage (Philippians 2:5-11), in which Jesus humbles Himself from His existence as the Ultimate “King’s Kid” (Lord, forgive me for using such a banal description of You!) to that of God’s suffering slave (in 2:7 Paul uses doûlos / δοῦλος) who died the ignominious death of the cross. It is from death, then, which God the Father raises Christ to reign and receive homage as Lord and King, the One to whom every knee will bow.
  • Those who will reign must be “those who have stood by Me in My trials” (v. 28). This, by extension, can also be the suffering to which Jesus calls us in this lifetime.

Not convinced of that last point? Consider Paul’s words to Timothy in the second chapter of his second epistle. Having exhorted his “son in the faith” to “suffer hardship” (v. 3) as Paul himself suffers hardship (v. 9) and “endures” all things, the apostle then reminds his protégé of a well-known creed3 among Christians of their time:

11It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him,
we will also live with Him;
12If we endure,
we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us;
13If we are faithless,
He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself.
– 2 Timothy 2:11-13 –

Note the condition clearly stipulated in the first part of verse 12 — IF we endure, we shall also reign with Him. That word endure is an interesting one in the Greek: hupoménō (ὑπομένω). A simple verb, ménō (μένω – abide, remain, continue), gets combined with a common preposition, húpo (ὑπό – most notably meaning under, as in hypodermic). The resulting hupoménō means to abide or remain under. That makes the rendering of to endure in most modern New Testament translations quite correct. But to tease out the flavor of the word, it also helps to know it can be translated as persevere (cjb, lbla, nbla), patiently endure (williams), patiently endure pain (weymouth); and older translations render the verb into English like the King James does — If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him — the word choice also preferred by J. B. Phillips in his New Testament translation.

This word-theme ­­— endure / persevere / suffer — aligns nicely with Jesus’ words about “those who have stood with Me in My trials.” Ripping we shall reign with Him from 2 Timothy 2:12 and clap-happily claiming the remaining phrase as a conditional-less promise sounds like a path to “spiritual easy street.” But if you put that “promise” back into its full context and with its condition — IF we patiently endure / persevere / suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him — how many takers are willing to “claim the promise” once they discover the condition required?

No sensible parent, however proud they are of their child, would give a sharp meat-cleaver to a three-year old, or a loaded gun to an eight-year-old, or the car keys to a twelve-year-old. They aren’t yet mature enough. They haven’t been trained. The child doesn’t know the danger and responsibility required. And God is a much better Father than any of us who have the privilege of being parents. Thus, He doesn’t give “kingdom authority and power” to immature believers. They go through testing, discipline, hardship, pain, and anything else their heavenly Father thinks fitting for their preparation. In the end many levels of authority and power will be awarded to those who qualify, but only in the wake of “the judgment seat of Christ” before which “we all must appear” (2 Corinthians 5:10).4

Why should that be thought strange? Think of these words about the Lord Jesus Himself:

  • 7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.
  • Hebrews 5:7-8

If Jesus Himself “learned obedience from the things which He suffered,” one can only imagine the real learning curve which awaits name-it-and-claim-it “kingdom kids.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how the reigning of believers is depicted in one of the closing chapters of Revelation. We should not be surprised to discover that those chosen to reign have endured and suffered:

  • 4Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
  • Revelation 20:4-6

James said, “We count those blessed who endured (James 5:11a). Endured? James uses the same Greek word we discovered in 2 Timothy 2:12 above, namely, hupoménōpatiently endure pain, persevere, suffer. And these martyrs for Jesus, who patiently endured, who suffered and willingly offered up their lives, are depicted in our Revelation 20 passage above as blessed indeed, reigning with the Lord Jesus during the thousand years.

We proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, not the message of the “authority of ‘king’s kids.’” Live a life of loving obedience to the King, “abide under” His dealings, endure patiently what He allows to come your way, submit to suffering if He should decide that is what is best for you, and maybe you, too, will qualify to “reign with Christ.”

“I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation….”
– Hebrews 13:22a kjv

 

Additional material: We pursue the subject of “reigning with Christ” along somewhat different lines in the Bible study Reading, Writing, & Reigning.


Endnotes:


  1. This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book The John the Baptist Experience: Book 2: The Extraordinary Messenger; copyright © 2023 by Jim Kerwin. All rights reserved.

    Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from New American Standard Bible (nasb) Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA. All rights reserved. Used by Permission. www.lockman.org

  2. Never mind that many of those promises require conditions for fulfillment (as we shall soon see regarding an important “reigning” promise), which are conveniently ignored. Not surprisingly, certain promises (like 2 Timothy 3:12) and blessings (like Matthew 5:10-11) are ignored altogether!
  3. A creed? At least that! We may be reading here the lyrics of an early Christian hortatory (i.e., exhortative) hymn. This is hardly the cotton-candy of modern “worship.” It reminds me a great deal of one of Charles Wesley’s almost forgotten, but very challenging, hymns, the last two verses of which say:

    Arm me with jealous care,
    As in Thy sight to live;
    And O Thy servant, Lord, prepare
    A strict account to give!

    Help me to watch and pray,
    And on Thyself rely,
    Assured, if I my trust betray,
    I shall forever die.

    (From Wesley’s A Charge to Keep I Have).

  4. On these faithful service / judgment / qualification / reward lines, see 1 Corinthians 4:5; and consider the positive (and negative!) outcomes of “the parable of the talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) and “the parable of the ten minas” (Luke 19:11-27). Not everyone qualifies; and of those who do, not everyone qualifies on the same level.
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