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.
Filed under: Mormon Doctrine, Relationships, Theology | Tagged: baptism, Book of Mormon, children of God, Christ's visit to America, Doctrine of Christ, Gift of the Holy Ghost, God, Gospel of Jesus Christ, Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ, Kingdom of God, LDS, Love, Mormon theology, Mormons, Scripture, sons of God, Theology, Two Great Commandments |