The Mystical Teachings of Christianity by Jim Lewis
The Kingdom of God is a major theme in the teachings of Jesus. What He meant by the Kingdom of God has been discussed by theologians and laymen for many years without any definite conclusions. There are a number of views about it; the holder of each particular view thinks his is the final interpretation. When we try to determine what someone else has in his mind and what he means when he presents certain ideas, we must admit there is only one way to get a more realistic view and that is from the Spirit of Truth that inspired that person in the first place. That same Spirit of Truth is here today, the Spirit of Truth that spoke through Jesus Christ, to reveal to us the truth about God’s Kingdom—where it is, what it is like, and how to enter the Kingdom.
When a mystical idea is given a literal interpretation, the meaning is lost. The literal interpretation is confused and fraught with contradictions. This has been the ease with the Kingdom of God idea. If we are to understand what Jesus was really trying to convey we must be willing to put aside our present views and consider other possibilities.
One of the big questions that has been asked is, “Is it a present and immediate experience with Jesus?” If it is, then some explanations are necessary to clarify why other aspects of the Kingdom have not been made manifest—the peace, the ruling supremacy of God and other things identified with the Kingdom.
There are other questions that we might ask, such as, “Did He mean that it was to come in the future? Or, was it to be both in the present and in the future also?” Traditional theology has no satisfactory answer to any of these questions. Depending upon which group you ask, it is possible to get an affirmative answer about all three questions.
To further complicate the issue there are four more questions that need answers: Will the kingdom be a golden age realized on earth? Or will it be the establishment of an eternal kingdom in heaven? Will it be established through an act of God alone? Or will the coming be in conjunction with an individual known as the Messiah?
Some feel they have solved the problem by asserting that the Kingdom will come on earth in the future, or near future, and with a Messiah—in this case a returned Messiah. There have been religious zealots in the past who have predicted the coming of the Kingdom, but it has not come; their dates have passed. Some are predicting that it will soon happen, perhaps by the year 2,000 A.D. But this is only a hope, a wish, or a misguided assumption. Planet earth will probably still be turning in its appointed orbit with a healthy future ahead of it when the year 3,000 A.D. arrives.
In spite of the fact that Jesus said quite a bit about the Kingdom of God, there doesn’t seem to be any sensible explanation or definition as to what the Kingdom of God is, where it is, if it is available to all or just to a select few.
The basic idea was taken from Judaism. This may be questioned, but every idea has been questioned by someone. The idea of God as universal and absolute ruler was developed from the time of the eighth century prophets. Before then the people believed their God to be a local deity whose jurisdiction was limited to the territory of Israel. To leave Israel was to leave the jurisdiction and influence of God; He could not be worshipped in a foreign land. Moses wanted to get the people out of Egypt so they could worship their God. And Moses himself was out of Egypt when he received the Commandments and the guidance to be the leader of the Hebrews.
They also had another false notion. They felt that God needed them as much as they needed Him. He couldn’t let others control and defeat them. If He did not have them to rule over, what would He have to do? He had chosen them and He couldn’t let their enemies dominate them. The prophets let them know differently. The later prophets stated that God rules universally, or at least He is supposed to. This idea presented a problem, for it didn’t seem that God was in charge at all. Therefore the idea developed that sometime in the future God would establish His rule.
The Apocalyptic literature attempts to solve this discrepancy on the inadequacy of the rule of God by stating that Satan was in control now with God’s permission. This is a mystical truth but not a literal one. Satan, a symbol of the negative beliefs and attitudes in consciousness does seem to have control of our lives at the present and these negative beliefs do have God’s permission for He gave us freedom to believe whatever we choose to believe.
It was also believed by the Apocalyptic writers that the sufferings and troubles of the time were signs of the approaching end. The end would come and a great new golden age would be ushered in. God would set up His kingdom and save His followers. Literally this has not happened for the Jews or the Christians, although the traditionalists are still looking toward the future. Mystically it has already happened and is still happening.
Let us consider some basics that Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God. Where is it? In Luke 17:21 it is recorded that Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” Some explain this as being in the “midst” of you. That seems more like a rationalization to avoid facing the truth of the inner Kingdom. Some like to think of the Kingdom as being up in the sky, but it isn’t. The Kingdom of God is right within your consciousness and mine.
Jesus also said that the Kingdom is at hand. This implies that is available right now. You do not have to go anywhere to find it. You do not have to wait for any outer conditions to take place. You do not have to die to find it or enter it. Jesus stated that others had already entered it and that many more would find and enter it before the generation He was speaking to had passed away.
There is another statement that should help us realize that the Kingdom is not something outside ourselves. He said that “It comes not with observation.” He told us not to be deceived when others come around saying, “Here it is” or “Here it comes”. We have seen this repeatedly in the past and there are probably many who would say it is imminent now. Mystically this is also true, but not literally.
What is the Kingdom like? Jesus gave a number of parables to describe the awesomeness of the Kingdom of God. One of the favorites of many is the Parable of the Mustard Seed. When the seed is sown it is the smallest of seeds, yet when grown, it becomes greater than all herbs. It puts forth great branches so that the birds of heaven can lodge under these branches or, if you prefer Matthew’s account, in the branches. The ideas we get from the Kingdom of God do seem insignificant. When they are compared with human, intellectual possibilities, the so-called rational seems greater than the spiritual illumination. But the spiritual is always greater, for with it “all things are possible”.
The birds of heaven have a twofold meaning—human concepts and spiritual concepts. Both can find lodging in our consciousness, but it is the spiritual that gives one power and mastery over the inner and outer as Jesus had total self-mastery of His life and affairs.
How does one respond when he discovers the Kingdom? In another parable Jesus gives us the answer. It is called the Parable of the Hidden Treasure. A man finds a treasure hidden in a field. He realizes that he has something of tremendous value, but the field does not belong to him. He decides to hide the treasure so that he can go and sell all that he has in order to raise the money to purchase the field.
There are some things we should keep in mind about this parable. Finding the Kingdom doesn’t mean one automatically enters it or has access to it. There are many people who have found it but are not in it and are reaping very little benefit from this knowledge. However, it is a very powerful motivating force when we discover this Kingdom, even if it is only an intellectual discovery.
The man was excited about his great find. Do you think he had trouble selling all he had? Probably, for he was no doubt attached to many of his possessions. Some of them may have had more personal value than material value and this may have made it difficult for him to sell them. This man, however, did not let personal attachment cloud the issue—what he found was of superior value. This is not the only time Jesus said we must be willing to give up all in order to enter the Kingdom.
Another similar parable is the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. In this parable a merchant was seeking a pearl. He probably had a customer for whom he wanted to find an especially fine pearl. In his search he finds one that captivates him, one that is far beyond his greatest expectation. He has never before seen a pearl like this. He, too, goes and sells all he has in order to buy the pearl. That was a considerable investment—all he had. He wasn’t concerned about future sales, for he knew this pearl would make him richer than he had ever been before in his life. He didn’t hold back for a rainy day or for a “just in case” event. He wasn’t concerned about the fluctuation of the market.
On the human level we are told not to go overboard. Take it easy and diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This may be good advice on the human level, but it is terrible advice on the spiritual level. It is because we have held back in trusting God completely or stepping out in full assurance of faith and belief that we get only mediocre results in our lives. In these parables Jesus is saying to us that when you find the Kingdom, don’t hold back. Do all within your power and means to enter into it. Just knowing about it will not satisfy you or give you the results you desire.
I can’t begin to tell you of the value of this inner Kingdom. If you were a multi-billionaire you would still feel poor compared to the value of this Kingdom. The same would be true even if you were a king with unlimited material wealth.
Many are searching all over the earth for power, for wealth, and for health. All the time it is right under their noses, so to speak. It is here, right now, and it is accessible to you. For many the coming of the Kingdom is imminent. They are on the verge of entering it; they are about to experience the New Birth. Yet there are many who would not recognize it even if they saw it. They are like the individual searching for gold who would not recognize the ore even if he saw it. He would probably take out mica thinking it to be gold.
When will it come? The hour cannot be foretold, for it is an individual experience. Jesus said a preparation was necessary. He said, “Watch and pray.” The time you take each day to read, study, and meditate is a necessary preparation. The time you spend making an effort to release the past, even the so-called desirable things of the past, is all part of the preparation. The important thing is to be persistent and consistent; stick with it! Some people fluctuate. When things are going well, these people love God and are willing to believe; when things are not going so well they give up the search, or they give up the attempt to “sell all they have”. Selling all you have is not referring to a willingness just to give up material possessions. This has been practiced in the past. Individuals have renounced the world of appearances, taken vows of poverty, and lived a meager existence; still, they have not found the kingdom, much less raised the capital necessary to obtain it. This is a figure of speech and should not be taken as an indication that it can be bought. It is easy to give up the “things”. It is the giving up of negative beliefs, attitudes, and habits that are the most important as far as the Kingdom is concerned.
Jesus told another parable about this preparation. It is called the Parable of the Net. It is like a net that a fisherman casts into the sea. When he draws it in he finds he has gathered all kinds of fish and other things. He then selects the good, putting it into vessels, but casts away the undesirables. This sorting of beliefs, habits, and attitudes is a challenging process but a very necessary one. We must ask ourselves where we have put our values—on tradition or truth. What is more important to us—Principle or things? What is more important, making money or developing character; achieving personal goals or self-improvement? Some people concentrate so intensely on achieving their personal goals that they violate most, if not all, of the principles of the Kingdom trying to do so. Jesus advised about this when He said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” The answer of course is nothing.
Some people waste their time looking for signs as to when the kingdom will come. Yet Jesus said none would be given, at least no outer, cataclysmic signs such as earthquakes, wars, and devastation. Only the inner sign, the “sign of Jonah”. This isn’t something mysterious. The “sign of Jonah” was a recognition of a need to repent. Both Jonah and the Assyrians needed this, Jonah because he thought the Assyrians didn’t deserve to be saved, and the Assyrians because they were so cruel. Guess who got the point first? It was the Assyrians, who repented; Nineveh was saved, at least for the time being.
Jesus knew it would be difficult for one who believed himself to be absolutely right to enter the Kingdom. That’s why He said the sinners, the harlots, and the tax collectors would enter before the “sons of light”. Who are the “sons of light” today? They are those who think they have the final absolute truth, who believe their salvation is taken care of so that they do not have to give any further consideration to seeking the truth; they know it already. They just have to sit back and wait for the gates of the Kingdom to open which they think will happen at death. How surprised they are going to be!
Jesus spent more time teaching the sinners; they were open and receptive. The religious leaders of His day were closed-minded and He knew it was useless to try to teach them anything new. Traditionalists in any religious faith will find it difficult not only to find the kingdom, but to enter it or even understand anything about it. And they will probably spend many incarnations seeking it.
In the Beatitudes Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This probably should read the Kingdom of God, for Matthew had the tendency of changing all Kingdom of God expressions to Kingdom of Heaven. Being a conservative he would not speak or write the name of God. However, the “poor in spirit” are those who realize there is a great need in their soul to know the truth about life, about God, about themselves and others. This statement has nothing to do with material poverty; it refers to a condition of the soul. Those who think they have it made are the “rich in spirit”. At least they think they are rich, but are actually the poorest of the poor.
The Kingdom of God is the absolute, eternal, and unchanging Presence of God within you and within me. It is the Mind of God in us, that part of us that is the same in essence as God. It is the Source of all wisdom and intelligence. It is the Life that we are seeking that can heal any condition. It is the Substance of all that we will ever need to take care of any outer requirements. It is that Presence and Power which, when we let It express through us, when we let It have full power and control over our every thought and feeling, will give us Self-mastery both inwardly and outwardly.
When Jesus was asked about how we should pray He gave us the prayer known as “The Lord’s Prayer”. In this prayer we are told to pray, “Thy Kingdom come”. Do we realize what we are asking for? We are asking for the full baptism of the Holy Spirit. We are asking for the New Birth. We are asking for a transformation in consciousness and experience. We are asking for a great deal, for the Kingdom is of inestimable value.
“You must become as a little child,” Jesus said, in order to enter the Kingdom. This means that it takes only a simple trust, a sincere, unbiased desire to know for the sake of knowing and not for the benefits. It also means a willingness to try, to make the effort necessary. When we do, the joy of the Kingdom is ours.
© 1981, Dr. James C. Lewis
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.