“My kingdom is not of this world…” John 18:36
There is much confusion surrounding the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of earth. Christians, citizens of God’s kingdom, live in and under earthly governments. But just because God approves of earthly governance does not mean those governments are identical, or even parallel to, the kingdom of Christ. Often, they are enemies of the cross of Christ. We must distinguish between the heavenly and earthly authorities.
There was a brief period when no earthly government existed. Beginning at Creation and lasting until the days of Cain. Genesis 4:17 notes that Cain built a city. Such would likely have had some kind of centralized authority. Going forward, we encounter increasing and total corruption of mankind, resulting in Noah’s flood (Genesis 6 -9).
By Genesis 10, we are reading of nations (vs. 5) established by the descendants of Noah’s sons. Egypt is already a mighty nation when Abram and Sarai travel there in Genesis 12. It would be the Egyptian monarch who would order the enslavement of Israel’s sons. After their miraculous release from captivity, the Lord crafts them into his own nation with a divinely given code of law, often called the Law of Moses. In this divine economy, there are no human kings, princes, or presidents. There is no governing body apart from God. Judges occasionally rise to adjudicate disputes and to deliver the people from external oppression.
Soon, God’s people turn on him and demand a king “like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:7). Though displeased, God allows them to have a king. Ideally, God would still be the ultimate sovereign. But in short order, we see faithlessness invade the throne, and God’s people begin a slow descent into wickedness. At the beginning of the reign of the fourth king, a schism divides the people into two distinct nations.
In the historical background, mighty nations have arisen and would soon enslave Israel. The larger of the two was captured by Assyria and the smaller, by Babylon. Seventy years after its capture, the smaller kingdom is allowed to re-establish themselves in Jerusalem. Although frequently overrun by more powerful nations, Israel continues until the absolute destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. At that moment, and probably earlier, the governments of the world were fully secular.
Rome morphed into the so-called Holy Roman Empire, but it was as corrupt and wicked as anything seen before. Its governance was always rooted in humanity and never found itself anchored in the authority of God. The very existence of that Empire was an affront to Christianity.
Our point is that no human government is on par with God’s kingdom. Some are better than others, but in the end, all are inferior to “the kingdom of his beloved son” (Colossians 1:13). Therefore, we argue that any allegiance to our earthly government must be second to our citizenship in heaven. Any activity of a political or governmental nature must be viewed carefully through God’s eyes, not our own.
In coming posts, we will develop these ideas further. Please watch for future articles.