For Christians, Jesus is our Savior, Lord, High Priest, Prophet, and King. Each of His roles serves a different function for us. This study will focus on Jesus as our King.
There are four basic requirements for the existence of any kingdom. These apply to kingdoms of the world and to God’s kingdom. Every kingdom must have: (1) a king, (2) a realm, (3) subjects, and (4) statutes. If any one of these is absent, then we do not have a kingdom.
The king is the head of the kingdom. In a true monarchy, all power and authority resides in the king. The realm consists of geographical boundaries that define the physical borders, which contain the land over which the king has dominion. The subjects are the people who live within the realm of the kingdom and who live under the authority of the king. The statues or laws describe the king’s commandments concerning the behavior of the subjects of the kingdom.
In the beginning, God established himself as King over the people of Israel. Eventually, this did not please the people and they wanted an earthly king. They wanted to be like all the other nations on the Earth. We read about this in 1 Samuel Chapter 8. These verses describe what it is like to live in an earthly kingdom. It describes a two class society, where the earthly king possesses power and wealth and has the authority to force people to serve him and his interests. In a kingdom, the concept of personal rights only applies to the king. He has the right to do whatever he wishes and everyone else must obey him. He is completely free and everyone else serves his interests. In an earthly kingdom, the subjects are called serfs. As is shown in the following passage of scripture, the people of Israel were not only asking for a king, but they were in fact asking to become serfs. God understood this and warned them of the danger, but they persisted in their desire to give up the freedom they had with God to live in bondage to a man.
1 Samuel 8:1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba. 3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. 9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. 10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. 11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. 18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. 19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. 21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. 22 And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.
The four characteristics of an earthly kingdom also apply to the kingdom of God. However, the functioning of these characteristics in the kingdom of God are quite different. The book of Matthew excellently describes the qualities of the true spiritual king and his kingdom. The following scriptures identify Jesus as the king who rules over the heavenly kingdom of God. Matthew uses the term “kingdom of heaven and the other Gospel writers use the term “kingdom of God.” Both of these terms describe the same kingdom. I will use the term “kingdom of God” in this series of studies on the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
This verse establishes that Jesus is in the kingly lineage of David. Jesus was not conceived from the seed of Joseph, but was raised in the household of Joseph, who was a descendant of King David and a descendant of Abraham who was the father of all Jews. A family tree can be one method that is used to establish a person’s rightful kingship.
Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
In the preceding verse, and in the next passage, we see that there was external evidence that others recognize that Jesus was understood to be a king from the time of His birth. A king needs to be recognized by his subjects.
Luke 2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. 25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
Next we take a look at events in scripture that announce the king’s arrival.
Matthew 3:1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
John had the task of making straight the path in preparation for the arrival of King Jesus. When a worldly king would plan a visit to a city, the people of the city would often rebuild the roads in honor of the king. They would straighten the roads, make them level, and make them smooth. John prepared the way for King Jesus by proclaiming the king’s arrival, by preaching repentance, and by baptizing those who repented for their sins.
Matthew 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Thus far, scripture proclaimed the king, the wise men of the east proclaimed the king, prophets proclaimed the king, and now we see that God the Father confirmed the divinity of His son Jesus. Once it had been clearly established that Jesus is king, we see that Jesus was driven out into the wilderness so He could be tested. The testing would determine whether His character and His ability to withstand temptation were consistent with the position He would occupy as king of a spiritual kingdom. Would His behavior and His knowledge of scripture be sufficient to overcome the prince of this world?
Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Jesus had the opportunity to become king of the world – to be king over all nations, but he would not submit and worship Satan. He could not submit to anyone, but to His heavenly Father. He clearly stated that His kingdom would not be of the worldly realm. In doing so, He passed the test of kingship.
Matthew 4:13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: 14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, 15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; 16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The prophets spoke of Jesus as being a great light in the darkness. The appearance of His holy light in the world pushed hard into the sin filled darkness of their lives. His light revealed their sin and proclaimed the long awaited kingdom. His kingdom was now at hand — it was standing right there in front of them. Could they see it? His kingdom would not be established through political or military means, but through repentance. He was not calling them to join together on His behalf for earthly conquest, but to individually repent for their sinful ways. He was showing them that the proper response to an encounter with God and His kingdom is to repent.
The First Subjects of His kingdom
Matthew 4:18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.
Matthew 4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. 24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. 25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.
In the preceding passage, Jesus began to attract subjects to His kingdom through the use of His kingly power and authority. In the next passage, Jesus clearly states the fact that He is king and describes those who are part of His kingdom.
John 18:33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? 36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Thus, we see that Jesus is king of a kingdom that is not of this world. Its realm is heavenly, and it is invisible to men who are not partakers of God’s truth. In other words, it is not defined by geographical boundaries. It does not have an army that uses violent means to protect the king or the borders of the kingdom. Its subjects are those who recognize truth and respond to the voice of the king. The subjects of His kingdom seek to obey the statues of His kingdom, because of their love for the king. They do not obey the king on threat of death, rather, their obedience is a sign of their gratitude and love for the one who granted them eternal life. Those who are not of His truth do not hear the voice of the king and cannot perceive the kingdom of God. They are also incapable of complying with the statutes of His kingdom, because of their rebellious attitude.
From the previous scriptures we were able to confirm the existence of a spiritual kingdom. Three of the four conditions for a kingdom were confirmed. We saw that Jesus is the king, His realm is the kingdom of God or heaven, and His subjects are those who freely follow after Him. But what about the fourth condition? Where are the statutes? Every kingdom must have statutes, otherwise it would be a kingdom of anarchy and the king would not have authority over the subjects or the boundaries of His realm.
Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
The preceding scripture is the opening passage in the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is contained in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. The stage is set as Jesus sits down in the open air of a mountain side and prepared to speak. Jesus did not need a palace, a throne, golden crown, royal robes, or need to hold a jeweled scepter to express His authority. He simply sat down on a mountainside and proclaimed the truth of His kingdom. He spoke with the authority of a king, because He was a king, and many people could perceive the truth of His words. He did not speak in the dead religious style of the Pharisees and scribes, but brought life back into a corrupted legalistic system of manmade laws. From His seat on the mount, He taught the principles and commandments that apply to every subject in His kingdom. His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount are the statutes of His spiritual kingdom.
As king, Jesus took the four characteristics of a kingdom and turned them upside-down and inside out. He was a servant-king who humbly ruled and reigned through being obedient to our Father in Heaven. His realm has no physical borders and was invisible to everyone except those who lived in it. His subjects did not enter into His kingdom through physical birth, but were born into it from above through the Spirit of God. Subjects could not voluntarily move into his kingdom by changing their address or by exercising self-effort to obey kingdom statues. His subjects had to be born into the His kingdom through the regenerative power of a second birth.
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
The subjects of earthly kingdoms are ultimately called to obey the king or die. The subjects of the kingdom of God are called to die to self and to acquire the likeness of their king. King Jesus has given eternal life to the subjects of His kingdom. His subjects have been given a natural desire to obey the statues and commandments of the king. They long to obey, because they long to be just like their king who obeyed the Father. They do not obey the commandments of Jesus to preserve their lives, rather, they have been given eternal life so that they could lose their lives and become living sacrifices. They are willing to become living sacrifices for the kingdom, because that is exactly what their king did, and they want to be just like their king in every way.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
The subjects of the kingdom of God are called to turn away from conformity to the standards of the world, and to live by the biblical principles that King Jesus has established. They are called to have their minds renewed and their hearts transformed through a lifestyle of repentance so that they may live within the perfect will of God.
When we live by the statutes of the kingdom of God, we will respond to the call of the Spirit who teaches us to live in complete obedience to the true King. This is not a casual relationship with intermittent obedience, but one where the light of Christ shines into every corner of our lives. We are called out of the kingdom of Satan to live as the true sons and daughters of God the Father, and to be the brothers and sisters of the King – Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 12:46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
There are many people who deny that Jesus is king. They deny the existence of His kingdom and His statutes that He proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount. Some people promote the idea that a person can be a Christian without living in the kingdom that Jesus established on the Earth.
Help me to clearly understand the truth about King Jesus, His kingdom, His statutes, and the characteristics that mark a man or woman as being part of His heavenly kingdom. Prevent me from falling prey to non-biblical teachings that deny the existence of God’s kingdom on Earth today.
I pray that as we study the Sermon on the Mount, you will kindle a fire in our hearts to become more like King Jesus. Help us grow in faith and understanding, so that we can become living sacrifices who can lay down our lives upon your spiritual altar, and bring glory to you.