The Kingdom of God Is Among Us

Whenever I hear people talk about the kingdom of God, it seems like it’s always referred to in the future tense. Lately, I’ve begun to wonder if the kingdom of God isn’t already all around us.

Let us assume that the kingdom of God is where God dwells. Christians have for years argued about the nature of God; Mormons claim to know the nature of God. Of the many things that are said of His nature, by Mormons or other Christians, most seem overly abstract and difficult to relate with. For example, we have “all-knowing”, “omnipotent”, and “eternal” — words that we can’t even begin to wrap our minds around. Even the famous statement “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become” doesn’t seem to resonate much with our everyday experience. It’s no wonder the kingdom of God is talked about in the future tense.

As I was studying 3 Nephi 11 this past week, I had an interesting insight into both the nature of God and the kingdom of God that, for me, puts both in a very present context.

You’ll recall that in this first chapter of Christ’s visit to America, Christ is laying down His doctrine: belief, repentance, and baptism. This must be substantially important to him because he repeats himself several times in the chapter. In one of those repetitions, Christ says to the people that if they believe and are baptized, they are saved and “inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 33); in a later repetition, he says that those who believe and are baptized will receive the witness of the Holy Ghost, which bears record of the Father and the Son (v. 36). The next two verses makes it fairly clear that receiving the witness of the Holy Ghost and inheriting the kingdom of God are related. Here’s what I think that relationship might mean.

In 1 John 3, it says that “we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (v. 2). When we see him, we will know that we are like him and know that we are sons of God. In Matthew 25 Christ says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (v. 40), and King Benjamin says “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). We are children of God and so are all the other people children of God, and what we do to them we do to God.

So in a sense, when we are surrounded by others, we are surrounded by God. Is it possible that this is part of the nature of God (that he is always around us in others), and the Holy Ghost gives us witness of this? Certainly, this witness – that we are surrounded by God – would be essential to our ability to live the two great commandments (love God and love your neighbor, which is to say, love God). Might not this lead us to inherit the kingdom of God?

Now if we go with my original assumption – the kingdom of God is where God dwells – and I am correct about my interpretation of the scriptures here, then the kingdom of God is indeed among us. God dwells here among us and therefore His kingdom is here among us. That is a very present kingdom (as opposed to future), one that is right before us at all times, one that we can inheret simply by believing right now, turning toward God and receiving a witness of things as they really are.

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10 Responses

  1. This is a great post! It works, however, only for a particular sense of “Kingdom of God.” I believe many prophets and saints look forward to a actual political authority to be established on the earth at the onset of the Millennium, run by the Savior Himself. Certainly this kingdom is not here yet, even if the foundations for it have been laid. But I assume that this is not kind of kingdom you are talking about… it seems to be more that kind of kingdom that is implied by membership in Christ’s church, by becoming the sons and daughters of Christ through baptism, etc. Am I right?

  2. My original comment was going to take the argument that the “Kingdom of Heaven” literally refers to the kingdom given to the “Son of Man” at the Millennium, and then comment that “Kingdom of God” does also interpret quite nicely as whatever incarnation the Gospel current exists (be it the restored church, the church at the meridian of time, etc).

    I ran off to find some nice, scriptures to back up my hunch, but I found this nice little quote that summarizes what I wanted nicely.

    “The kingdom of God on earth is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D&C 65). The purpose of the Church is to prepare its members to live forever in the celestial kingdom or kingdom of heaven. However, the scriptures sometimes call the Church the kingdom of heaven, meaning that the Church is the kingdom of heaven on earth.

    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, but it is at present limited to an ecclesiastical kingdom. During the Millennium, the kingdom of God will be both political and ecclesiastical. ”

    Its probably “cheating” to just jump to a vague reference that agrees with me, but I’m a bit lazy right now.

  3. Nice post, Joe.

    I’ve been thinking lately that a lot of Mormons (myself included, often times) tend to think of the Celestial Kingdom as “out there” and “far away.” But in reality, this very earth is where the Kingdom of God now is, and where it will be forever, with eternal glory. The same thing for our physical bodies. And for our relationships, whether it is married and family relations, or our relations with the entire family of God. And the same thing with the priesthood authority.

    I see the Kingdom of God with us in at least these four senses: the earth, our physical bodies, our relationships, and the priesthood. It is the latter, however, that is the truly necessary ingredient. Without the priesthood, the former three could not be set apart or consecrated. The earth is consecrated for preaching the gospel, and temple, meetinghouse, and other church grounds are consecrated. In terms of our bodies, newborn bodies are blessed (baby blessings), bodies are immersed in water (baptism) and enabled to receive the Holy Ghost — all by the priesthood, and all in places that have been sanctified (usually). These bodies are further washed, anointed, and clothed in the temple (on holy ground, once again). And then, these bodies are joined together for time and eternity — and thus bringing all four elements together: the earth, our bodies, family relationships, and the priesthood. Even those who have passed on are still with us (their spirits roam this earth and their bodies have returned to the earth), and they too are joined with us through the priesthood.

    I can say for myself that I experience the Kingdom of God not only because of these present realities, but also because of how these experiences point forward to the resurrection, the Millennium, and eternal life. In this way, I believe, Latter-day Saints can be witnesses (through the Holy Ghost, as you described Joe), of things that are yet to come. My present body, because it has been baptized and received the Holy Ghost, and because it has been prepared for the Resurrection — there is a sense in which I experience the resurrection even now. Because the earth has been consecrated in preparation for the Millennial reign, there is a sense in which I have eyes to see, in the words of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that “Earth’s crammed with heaven / And every common bush afire with God.” Because I have been sealed to family members for eternity, there is a sense in which my interactions with them are colored with images of eternity. And there is a sense in which, through the priesthood I hold and through the covenants I have made in the temple, that I experience being a king in the Kingdom of God.

    And as I await the literal return of the King of Kings, there is a sense that He is with me even now. A sense in which the victory over my sins is already won, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of His love.

    The question is whether I choose to stay in this Kingdom. Not whether I will someday be there.

  4. Jeff – I think you’re somewhat right about the kingdom being composed of those who have “entered in at the straight gate”, however I am reluctant to exclude those who live Christ-like lives without knowing Christ in the abstract sense (or even through baptism). In other words, I’m not sure that people living as though they were members of the kingdom would not be considered “members” at least in some sense.

    On the other hand, I’m afraid I can’t accept the division between the “kingdom” as I discuss it and any sort of political kingdom ruled by Christ. While I see that there will be significant differences between what we now call the kingdom of God on earth and the “millennium”, I do not think there will be fundamental differences. Separating these two is just another way of looking forward and missing what is right in front of our face. (This is how I read D&C 65, by the way).

    Finally, I found it interesting that in the Matthew account of the Lord’s prayer, the second line is “Thy Kingdom come”; in 3 Nephi 13, this line is omitted. I’m open to opinions about why this line was omitted, but I find it interesting that the Atonement at least temporally, Christ had “descended below all things” in between one account and the other. Perhaps the kingdom had already come as a consequence?

  5. I can agree for the most part, Joe. However, I believe that during the Milliennium, we’ll have a political system where the leaders are chosen and anointed by the Savior Himself. We don’t have that today. In other words, right now all we have are man-made governments, but then we’ll have a God-made government.

    Kind of a comparison: Once upon a time no churches had divine authority from God, but were rather constructions of men. Then Joseph Smith came along and we had a bona fide God-made, divinely authorized church. Right now, we have no governments with divinely appointed officials, but rather man-made, democratic systems. In the Millennium, we’ll have a bona fide God-made government, complete with divine authority. This has actually been the teaching of modern prophets since Joseph Smith.

  6. I’m not certain if I agree or disagree with Jeff’s comments on the Savior anointing the political leaders of the Millennium.

    On one hand, isn’t that the exactly how the Kingdom Of God (i.e. the church) is currently run? Be that the calling and laying on of hands either by it inspiration or by direct chain of authority from the President of the Church by the direction of Christ).

    My counter refute to that first argument is that Jeff is referring to the political manifestation of God’s direction in the governing of the land and people. I guess I just see one as a direct extension of the other, and it makes sense to me that when all things are restored the division between church and government will be closed.

    On the other hand, the Kings of Israel were anointed by the Prophets, and that fell apart rather quickly. I’d think, just as our ecclesiastic leaders are still prone to error, that similarly selected political leaders are likewise prone to error. Ought a political government headed be Christ in which authority or jurisdiction be perfect? I’m uncertain.

    My own counter refute to my second thought is that the Kings of Israel are a bit of a shoddy example. That government was created in answer to conditions and the requests of the people that do not correlate to that the Millennium (to my understanding).

  7. And why do we always seem to come back to politics on this blogsite? I’m shoddy at best on political topics.

  8. I wasn’t trying to tie it into politics… just agreeing with Joe, but at the same time reserving a sense in which we still await for a kingdom yet to come.

  9. Well, it is here and it is being built, right?

    The marvelous work and wonder has begun to come forth.

  10. Any one interested in this topic needs to read Rethinking Theology: The Shadow of the Apocalypse

    The opening paragraph reads:

    According to the Gospels, one of the most frequently repeated of Jesus’s messages during his earthly ministry was “The kingdom of God [or “heaven”] is at hand.”1 Indeed, early in his ministry Jesus describes preaching the kingdom of God, the reign of God, as his very message.2 He does not announce that the kingdom will come near, but that it has already done so. As odd as it may sound to our ears, in the New Testament to preach the gospel is to preach the present nearness of the kingdom of God.

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