Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world…
Jesus brought Lazarus back to life after he had been dead for four days. Some of the Jews who witnessed Jesus’ miracle believed in Him. Some of them, however, left and told the Pharisees what Jesus had done. John records – “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, ‘What shall we do? For this man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.’” (John 11: 47-48) The Jewish leaders were faced with what they perceived as a political problem. Both their power and authority was being threatened. They were afraid that the influence they had over many Jews would be undermined by Jesus. Now this latest miracle; undeniably one that many people could not ignore, would cause even more people to follow Him. They viewed Jesus as a political threat. Although they were under the complete authority of the Roman government, they feared that any uprising might upset the existing “peace” they enjoyed under Roman domination.
Augustus ruled as Roman emperor from 27 B.C. until 14 A.D., and inaugurated Pax Romana, or Roman peace. He came to power restoring order to the empire. He attempted to return previous authority to the Roman Senate. However, the Senate did not want to become responsible for administration, so they granted Augustus more power. He then held the power of the Senate, and ruled as commander in chief of the Roman armed forces. Augustus brought both peace and prosperity; ultimately many Romans began to worship him as a god. (Pfeiffer 1482-1483)
John’s gospel record continues – “And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.’ Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.” (John 11: 49-53) The political fear of the Jewish leaders led them to seek Jesus’ death. How could they lose their nation? Better that they put Jesus to death, than suffer an uprising that would disturb their Roman overlords and threaten their peace and prosperity under Roman dominion.
When writing his gospel, John understood that Caiaphas unknowingly spoke prophetically. Jesus would be put to death for the Jews, and also for Gentiles. Caiaphas sought Jesus’ death; considering it a solution to a political problem. They saw Jesus as nothing more than a threat to the status quo. A status quo that they were sufficiently satisfied with. How incredible that raising Lazarus to life, caused the religious leaders to seek Jesus’ death. The religious leaders rejected the Messiah – “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1: 5) “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” (John 1: 10) “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” (John 1: 11)
Jesus was not seeking political authority. He came to seek and save the lost souls of Israel. He came full of grace and truth to fulfill the law which came through Moses. He came to pay the eternal price that could set all men free from sin through faith in Him. He came as God in flesh, revealing man’s ultimate need of salvation from their lost and fallen condition. He did not come to establish a kingdom that would be part of this fallen world. He said that His kingdom was not of this world. When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews, Jesus responded – “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’” (John 18: 36)
False religion, and false prophets and teachers always seek to establish a kingdom in and of this world. They attempt to set themselves up, not only as religious leaders, but as political leaders also. Constantine in 324 A.D. combined paganism and Christianity, making Christianity the state religion. He continued in his role as Pontifex Maximus of the Roman Empire’s pagan priesthood. Pontifex Maximus means greatest high priest or greatest bridge builder between the gods and man. Pope Francis uses pontifex as part of his twitter handle today. Constantine became a false spiritual leader and political leader (Hunt 107). Until his death he continued a brutal person, having both his oldest son and second wife executed for treason (Goring 117). Muhammad became both a religious and political leader after his exodus from Mecca to Medina in 622. This is when he began making laws for his community (Spencer 89-90). During this time, he also began raiding caravans and beheading his enemies (Spencer 103). Both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were ordained kings (Tanner 415-417). Brigham Young taught blood atonement (religious justification for killing apostates and other sinners so that they could atone for their own sins), and referred to himself as a dictator (Tanner 418).
Leaders who combine religious and political authority in order to enslave and dominate others are being led by Satan. Satan is the ruler of this fallen world. He has been defeated by Jesus’ death and resurrection, however, he still rules in our world today. After Ayatollah Khomeini had been in exile for 14 years, he returned to Iran and set himself up as leader. He claimed to set up “God’s government,” and warned that anyone who disobeyed him – disobeyed God. He imposed a constitution where an Islamic jurist would be the Supreme Leader of the country, and he became the Supreme Leader. A former officer in the Iranian Navy, Mano Bakh, exiled today in the United States wrote – “Islam is a government of its own. It has its own laws for every facet of its society and they are in complete disagreement with the United States Constitution. Unfortunately, Muslims are using our precious democracy to their advantage by claiming that they are a religion and that they have rights under the freedom of religion act. I have great respect for the United States Constitution and the land that has harbored me since I witnessed the barbaric takeover of Iran” (Bakh 207).
Jesus came to bring life. He did not establish a political kingdom. Today He reigns in the hearts of men and women who accept His sacrifice for them. Only He can set us free from both spiritual and physical death. If you are living under dictatorial oppression from a religious or political leader, Jesus can set your heart free. He can give you peace and joy in the middle of any oppressive or frightening circumstance. Won’t you turn to Him today and trust Him.
Bako, Mano. From Terror to Freedom – A warning about America’s affair with Islam. Roseville: Publishers Design Group, 2011.
Goring, Rosemary, ed. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Beliefs & Religions. Ware: Cumberland House, 1995.
Hunt, Dave. Global Peace and the Rise of the Antichrist. Eugene: Harvest House, 1990.
Spencer, Robert. The Truth about Muhammad – Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religions. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2006
Tanner, Jerald and Sandra Tanner. Mormonism – Shadow or Reality? Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 2008.