There is a needed distinction in our understanding of the Biblical idea of our adoption into God’s family as daughters and sons of the King of Glory. I fully believe that “kingdom language” is necessary in the body of Christ. I think that referring to the kingdom of God or kingdom of heaven not only aligns us with the preferred language of Jesus, but it also gives us a constant reminder that government, as we in Western civilization know it, will not be the same. We will no more elect God to be our leader than we have elected oxygen to be the sustaining stuff of our physical bodies. So, referencing and meditating on “the kingdom” is a marvelous and glorious thing.
However, there is always a temptation to run everything too far aground for its own good. In this particular topic, we find an enormous ditch awaits our giddy feet when we begin to look at earthly monarchies and attempt to take our applications for the kingdom of heaven from them. I’m not saying that every aspect is dissimilar, but I am saying that it’s easy for us to find the things that we like about them and then apply that to the eternal kingdom; and we make these haphazard applications at our own peril.
I obviously cannot exhaust this issue, but the idea that brought it into my mind today comes from Hebrews 4 and a very popular verse in Christendom:
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16 ESV
There are two places in this verse where we find a great deal of beauty and peace. First we see that we are able to come before the throne with no fear of backlash or punishment. There is no danger of the King on this throne turning to the captain of His guard and silently issuing a death sentence for the one who would come before the throne in need of help. We can be confident, because of the work of Jesus Christ, that God will always accept His children into His presence, into His courts, and before His throne. Any rejection of this bit of grace in action is not just in error but in violent opposition to the Gospel itself. The King has come to rule and reign, and His rule and reign counts relationship with His people as integral to the joyful beauty of His kingdom.
The second place in this verse that is notable is found at the throne itself. Philip Yancey in his book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?”, references a scene from John F Kennedy’s presidency that offers a moving picture of this verse. During the height of affairs of state, with the Oval Office bustling with some of the most important and influential men in the world, with decisions on the table that could literally alter the entire globe…in the midst of all of this intensity it apparently was not uncommon for Kennedy’s young son John-John to ease through the door and sit at his father’s feet and play under the Resolute Desk without a care in the world. He was not asked to leave, because you don’t manhandle the son of the leader, if the leader says he stays, then he stays.
That story is beautiful, and a grand picture of Hebrews 4:16, but there is one point that must be made clear: John-John never climbed into the chair and tried to make his own decrees regarding matters of state. The comforting piece of Hebrews 4:16 – and admittedly the frustrating part for some who foolishly over-reach the idea of being made “spiritual royalty” – is that it is not the one who needs help who sits on the throne. We do not sit on any throne, we are the ones who need to know that there is One greater who sits on the throne of the universe. There is too often a tendency for us to “assume power” simply because we are the favored subjects, even sons and daughters, of the King. We have no authority intrinsic to ourselves, we are merely those who carry out the commands and edicts of the real King. There is no room in any kingdom for multiple, supreme rulers.
I say all of this, though it should be obvious, because I fear that in our attempts, which may be carried out with the purest motives, to be the children of God we too easily slide into attempting to be God. If He has not said something is wrong or foolish, we should be careful in making those sweeping decrees. If He has not condemned someone, then we should be very careful not to condemn them either. If He has stated that there are those outside of the fold that are still His children (John 10:16), then we should be very cautious in how staunch we are as to who exactly we can look over the fence post at with arrogant contempt.
It is not a bad thing that we aren’t on the throne. The responsibilities of running the universe are not in our hands. But, tragically, under the guise of “royalty” some of us want to keep trying to run it on our own. Friends, if there is one benefit that being a son or daughter of the King comes with, it is the fact that we don’t have to make all the decisions. We should be excited to let that blanket of peace fall around us and give us rest in the midst of a tumultuous world.