Why did Jesus focus on love for God, self, and neighbor? Why all the practice in living well? Because we’re born to rule and serve creation with God. That’s why salvation isn’t just about forgiveness, but about new life, learning to rule without causing harm. And to prepare, we need divine leadership—the Shepherd, Teacher, and Provider.
That said, let me share three life-changing observations:
The Future (Vision)
I used to see God’s kingdom as strictly future-oriented. But what if this is only partially true? What if the whole truth is that God’s kingdom on Earth is in process now, not yet full, but well underway since Jesus announced its presence among us?
Several years ago, I was reading a retirement-panning article that mentioned setting aside an inheritance. I suddenly wondered why we always associate inheritance with death. Why don’t we ever associate it with living, something you get when you’re born? Don’t we inherit personal traits, living arrangements, and social/financial circumstances at birth?
A light bulb went off—that’s what Jesus meant! The kingdom isn’t set aside; it’s all around, near, at hand. Inheriting its riches is a matter of stepping into its life-style—re-birth. And Jesus brought the keys.
I also realized that one way to steal an inheritance right from under someone is to convince them they don’t have access until later. Hide the keys. So the worries of the world make it seem that God is far away and doing nothing. But just because we’re blind doesn’t mean nothing’s happening.
The kingdom of heaven is what God is doing now on Earth. And He’s seeking partners to join His venture. Through Jesus, He’s re-creating a community of love. Those who train in the present age are precisely the ones who safely reign on Earth with Christ in the next.
Adam and Eve were specifically created to have dominion. Together with God, humanity’s purpose was to rule the earth. That was their kingdom within His. But to rule it rightly, they had much to learn, for they were created naïve, inexperienced, without wisdom.
A misleading, but widely held assumption is that God created Adam and Eve perfect (complete). But Scripture doesn’t say or imply that. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31)
God placed the tree of knowledge in their midst, but warned them not to eat its fruit. I don’t believe He never intended them to eat. It makes more sense that the tree was there precisely for them, just not for immediate consumption. Genesis doesn’t say this specifically, but I believe it’s implied there and elsewhere.
Obviously, God didn’t need its fruit. And isn’t the rest of Scripture loaded with commands to seek wisdom, knowledge, and understanding—biblical synonyms for experience? Jesus himself defines eternal life as knowing God and His Son (Jhn. 17:3). Plus, wisdom isn’t the same as intelligence. I know smart people who are quite foolish and rash. Intelligence is inherited, but wisdom must be pursued.
Growth and maturation have always been God’s plan for humanity, or for that matter, the entire creation. Even the incarnated Christ-child grew in wisdom (Luk. 2:52) and didn’t begin his ministry until fully prepared. This involved a confirming trip to the desert to de-bunk the devil’s lies (Mat. 4:1), something Adam and Eve weren’t able to do.
So, according to common biblical patterns, I believe they got ahead of God’s timing and ate before they were ready, thanks to the serpent. Eve saw that the tree was “good for wisdom,” jumped the gun, and Adam didn’t disagree (Gen. 3:6).
The Present (Life)
None of this seems connected to the present until you understand that a kingdom isn’t primarily a physical thing, but a function of will. In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard gave the best definition I’ve ever heard: A kingdom is the range of effective will and say-so the ruler has. It’s a system of existence, good or bad, in which whatever the ruler wants done gets done. This can include a physical domain, but primarily, it’s a way of life.
So the kingdom of heaven is the range of God’s effective will. Another light bulb went off for me—that’s why it isn’t strictly future and far away. It’s also here and now because God is here and now; and ordinary people currently do what He wants done here on Earth, smack in the midst of evil.
Because you inherited a will from God, you also have a God-given kingdom, just as Adam and Eve did. The idea is to get your say-so re-aligned with God’s. So maybe Jesus was right—the kingdom grows like a mustard seed becoming a tree (Mat. 13:31-32, Mrk. 4:31-32, Luk. 13:19), one life at a time.
In God’s kingdom, servants are the same as rulers because both are providers, just as God is. Both are empowered with say-so and authority. For example, Jesus didn’t come to be served, but to serve—not because he was a doormat, but because he rules/leads in great strength, authority, and wisdom. The stronger the servant becomes, the more they rule.
Suppose God wants to give you more control, not take it away. But it’s neither safe nor fitting until you’re prepared and trustworthy. So your “starter kingdom” is the life you’re living now. Relationships are the domain in which we practice being safe, care-taking leaders. The better you handle what you have, the more God adds unto you.
Trustworthy servants get increasing say-so, power, and control. It’s our life-driven purpose, and God is all for it. “Well done, good and faithful servant! Take charge of ten cities.” (Mat. 25:21, Luk. 19:17) So the better question is: Why wouldn’t Jesus (and all NT writers) focus on love for God, self, and neighbor, living well in good character and good will?
For me, this changed everything!