Two Kingdoms

Aren’t laws and rules supposed to make people live by justice and fairness so that good prevails over evil? That’s what we’ve been taught and what we mostly wish was true.

Earlier I said that the two trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden depict the two laws –the only two laws– that God uses to determine if we are acceptable to Him or not. Let me explain . . .

Laws describe how things work through actions and results (causes and effects, offenses and punishments). Those two laws identify two, non-overlapping spiritual kingdoms –or realms. We choose between them for our eternal residence by whom we believe in –put our faith in –rely upon –trust.

For Sure There’s Death

The tree of death corresponds to the law of sin and death. I call it the “tree of death” because God said “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (from Genesis 2:17). The name of the law comes from this Romans passage . . .

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:1-2)

The kingdom of death is for those who are separated from God. It’s where we all began.

You see, being the authority of what was good and what was evil was reserved for Him. Yet Eve exposed her envy by eating that tree’s fruit. She wanted His position –to be like God, the supreme judge, the ultimate authority. We were all like her. It’s proved out by our lingering judgmental ways . . . thinking “I’m right and they’re wrong.”

Remaining in that kingdom is the result of continuing to rely upon ourselves –justifying our own innocence and assessing others’ guilt (convinced of our rightness and their wrongness, our good and their evil). It’s what Job did in his first 41 chapters.

There’s Also Life

The tree of life corresponds to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. It’s the other law in Romans 8:1-2.

Right here and now, since we’re believers, we’re in the kingdom of life (the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven). It’s our home as the promised bride of Christ –we’re flawless and perfectly pleasing in His eyes. We’ve been forever joined with Him (from Ephesians 5:25-32).

Entering His kingdom as that bride was the result of humbly trusting God –realizing our initial separation and the futility of our independence. Job realized his situation and consequentially trusted God –it’s in Job 42:1-6.

Those two laws describe how to recognize our original condition as citizens of death –and how to obtain eternal life as citizens of the kingdom of God.

We’ve Crossed the Threshold

We started out in death’s kingdom, under its reign –and we couldn’t escape by physically walking up to the tree of life and picking its fruit. Genesis chapter three explains that tree was taken out of human reach and angels stand guard.

They carry a blazing sword that serves as a welcoming beacon for those who seek eternal life and as a foreboding deterrent to those who are still trying to be God –the Judge. By faith we’ve seen that tree of life: the cross –and we’ve eaten its fruit: Jesus’ blood and flesh (from John 6:51-58).

Please take one more look at that Romans chapter eight passage and consider the impact of that transition for your life.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

Where Is Your Citizenship?

It’s your choice . . . and dual citizenship isn’t an option. Are you going to continue being the authoritative judge –evaluating who (and what) is good and evil– even using Scriptures as your basis? That’s natural for citizens of the kingdom of death –insisting on their goodness and demanding justice is everywhere in this world. Or will you –as a citizen of God’s kingdom– let Him do the judging while you represent Him to those you meet?

That’s the choice Jesus gave His disciples in the parable of “The Unrighteous Judge” –sometimes labeled “The Persistent Widow.”

It begins with “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (from Luke 18:1-8). Most of the time this passage is used as inspiration for us to keep asking God for what we want –hoping that He will eventually relent and fulfill our desires. But there’s more to the story.

This time let’s focus on Jesus’ heart-probing (and often overlooked) question at the end. “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

The parable goes something like this . . .

There was a judge who really didn’t care about anyone except himself –not even God. And there was a widow who repeatedly went to that judge begging for help against an opponent who had been goading her. Finally, after tiring of her begging, the judge agreed –not for her good– but so that she would quit pestering him.

Then Jesus equated the widow with God’s chosen people. (Both of them wanted to put an end to their opponent.) He concluded the parable by saying that “God will bring about justice for them quickly.”

This is the crucial point in His message –and we can’t understand it if we allow those added titles to restrict our attention. Let’s back up to where His message began –at Luke 17:22. That’s where He was telling them about His return on Judgment Day –when justice will be finalized. The parable about the widow and the judge was to provoke the disciples’ thinking.

Would they allow God to transform them using adversity? Soon they would see their beloved Jesus crucified by the Romans and they’d be betrayed and persecuted by their own people. Could they trust Him to be the Judge –realizing it might be a long time before His reckoning? Or would they decide for themselves who and what were good and evil –like the widow did?

The parable began with “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” So what was it that they were to pray for if it wasn’t for their adversaries to be taken away?

Surely, they were to have faith in Him –to trust that He knew what He was doing. They were to pray “Thy kingdom come . . . Thy will be done . . . Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding . . .” His imminent crucifixion (followed by their own suffering) would memorialize the opening of the gates to His kingdom –the kingdom of life.

When the Son of Man comes, will He find you being the Judge of good and evil? Or will He find you living by faith while facing adversity –trusting God to be patient and merciful with everyone just like He has been with you?