The Cross Always Comes Before the Crown!
There is clear scriptural distinction between today, the time before the manifestation of the kingdom of God, and that day in the future when the kingdom of God will be revealed. 1 Indeed the Kingdom of God has always existed2, and we become members of that kingdom at the time we place faith in Jesus Christ and are born again.3 We spiritually become members of that kingdom and are called citizens4, but we remain in time, here on earth, surrounded by the kingdom’s of this world, serving as ambassadors to the people of the worldly kingdoms.6 The kingdom of God is not seen here yet, nor can it be seen until the King comes. Jesus said himself, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”7 Paul lived as though the kingdom would be manifested later8 and rebuked those who confused today’s kingdoms with the Kingdom that will come.9
The reason this becomes an issue is that our view of the Kingdom will determine our attitude toward our role as a servant today10; it will influence the significance we place on material possessions today11; it will determine how we assess circumstances12 (good and bad) today. To have a wrong view of the kingdom could derail our purpose and God’s calling on our life13 because, simply put, we will resist the truth and purse a lie14. We could turn from God’s will to follow a fantasy.
Today we are servants of an unseen kingdom15. Paul, James, Peter, Jude and John called themselves servants in time,16 but recognize themselves as kings when the Kingdom comes17. To live as a king today and reject the position of servant hood is to subject yourself to Jesus’ warning that when the Kingdom comes “there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.18” We may not be willing to sacrifice today what it takes to become the type of king God has planned for us in eternity.19
Jesus was tempted by Satan to take the kingdom before he took the cross.20 Likewise, the people wanted Jesus to take the kingdom of the Jews from Rome on Palm Sunday, but instead “he humbled himself and became obedient to death.”21 Even his disciples’ first major concern after the resurrection was not obedience but “restoring the kingdom.”22
God is not restoring us to Adam’s position. He was “the earthly man”23 He is changing us into “the likeness of the man from heaven,”24 and we will see it!25
6-2 Co.5:20; 4:5; 2:14
8-Rm.8:18f;2 Co. 4:17; also, 1 Pt.4:13; 5:1
9-1 Co.4:8; 1 Tm. 6:5; also, Rev.3:17;
10–John 13:12-17; Matt. 20:25-28
11-1 Tm.6:5, 9, 11
16-Rm.1:1;Jm.1:1; 2 Pt.1:1, Jude 1;Rv.1:1
17-1 Co. 4:8; 15:49; 1 Pt.2:9,11;1 Jn.3:2; Rv.2:26
24–1 Co. 15:49