The Kingdom of God: The Christian’s Participation in the Battle of “Empires”

This is the part 2 of 2 (see below for part 1)

The biblical picture of the Christian life shows us participating in the battle between Kingdoms. We, as Christians, are identified with the deliverer (Christ) in His conquest over the dark kingdom of Satan. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “Empire” as “Imperial or imperialistic sovereignty, domination, or control.” In light of this definition, we need to see ministry as our participating in the battle in which the “Empire of God” is subverting the “Empires of Satan” as they are manifested in our day in their imperialistic domination or control over the hearts of people and in the evil social structures that control people.

What are the “evil empires” that vie for the hearts of the 21st Century generation?

Walsh and Keesmaat make a very strong argument that consumerism (including the dark side of such things as capitalism / materialism / globalization / commoditization) is an evil empire that has people today in bondage. “A society directed by the consumerist imperatives of global capitalism is driven by images with a vengeance. And these images—purveyed especially through that quintessential image-producing medium, television—must change constantly in order to create and sustain an insatiable desire for more consumer goods and reach the ultimate goal of economic abundance.” (Colossians Remixed, p. 84).

Another systemic empire that Christ seeks to subvert through his people is racism. Michael Emerson and Christian Smith make the case that social structures in American society have sustained a racialized culture that dominates and subjugates African Americans. This empire is not being overthrown by the Kingdom of God because white evangelicals (in their propensity to focus on individual sin rather than societal sin) are unconsciously missing the issues of systemic racism. (Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America [New York: Oxford University Press, 2000])

Another empire that imprisons the human heart today is the desire for power or prestige. Many in our culture have bought the lie that life is mostly about gaining powerful and prestigious careers.

Yet another empire to which people are in bondage is the empire of individualism. The self-serving ideas of individualism / self-actualization / self-esteem have sovereignty in our culture’s consciousness. We live in a society of increasing solitude, where community is fabricated, where friendships are rare, and where the ultimate goal is individual satisfaction. Stan Grenz has issued a clarion call that the Kingdom of God announced by Christ is a call to create a community.

Another evil empire that is binding people revolves around wrong notions of sexuality—today’s American society promotes an ever-increasing sexual dominion over our thoughts and attitudes.

Technology, as great as it is, can be an empire that vies for the hearts of people.

The Kingdom of God has come to overthrow these kingdoms. Jesus is setting both individual hearts and the culture free. I see my ministry to college students as bringing the good news of the Kingdom to those who are in the bondage of these kingdoms.

Can you think of other “kingdoms” that Jesus’ Kingdom of God can subvert and overthrow?


Scot McKnight said...

This is a nice taxonomy on problems.
The power one is most interesting to me, and it makes me think of Nouwen's stuff.

Bob Robinson said...

I think I should have separated out power and prestige.

Prestige is individualistic--it's about getting ahead in the world; the inner desire for self-grandeur and self-image. It's what so much of contemporary college education boils down to for so many.

Power is more systemic--people in powerful places working diligently to keep societal structures in place to keep themselves and those like themselves in power.

Both need to be overthrown by the followers of the King.

Bob said...

I don't know what kingdom this is but I think one of the kingdoms that needs to be overthrown is this breakdown of the family--more specifically manhood. There are so many kids (and adults) running around who were either abused, neglected or abandoned as children. This has left an awful scar on people's identity, security, and sense of worth. The lack of positive models of a man, father, husband, marriage is rampant. So many kids are growing up with stunted or absent relational skills.

Great post.

Bob Robinson said...

Here's another:
The Empire of Globalization. Tom Sine makes us realize that globalization is the latest evil empire that is seeking to destroy souls--it is a religion of promised progress and prosperity, with the shopping mall as the place of worship and global domination as its goal.

I blogged on Tom Sine's book earlier.

FreeThinker said...

So you want to "overthrow kingdoms" so people will have to live in your kingdom?

I think you will find some resistance ...

Bob Robinson said...


Not "my" kingdom, but the Kingdom of God (see previous post).

And, yes, many are foolish enough to resist the Loving King who is trying to free them from the oppression of evil kingdoms...
...it's sad, really.

Jesus (the "King," The "Son of God") said, "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

This is a Kingdom of FREEDOM, not the kingdoms of bondage that we are currently experiencing in our world.

Scot McKnight said...

The thematic verse for your view of the Kingdom is Matt 11:11-12. I like the missional aims of your study here.

Bob Robinson said...

The words of Jesus Christ:
"I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it." Matthew 11:11-12

We need to be in the vanguard of this kingdom advance! I believe that most of us American evangelicals are much more content to live comfortable lives way behind the battle lines.
But it is time to become the Vanguard Church.

Byron said...

Colossians Remixed is the best book I've read this summer, and has formed a good bit of the basis for my summer series through the book of Colossians, entitled, "Jesus v. the Empire". Today, interestingly enough, I took on the empire of radical individualism as I tried to handle Col. 3:18, 19. A great book; certainly one that a radical such as yourself would love. Some of it is a bit way out, but the general thesis is excellent, and I recommend it heartily.