What Did Jesus Mean by, “My Kingdom is Not of This World”?

We often ignore a critical piece of information given to us by Jesus in John 18:36 — “My Kingdom is not of this world.” If we understood him correctly, it would eliminate many false beliefs. Unfortunately, these false beliefs are built-in traditional dogma.

Jesus preaching

Jesus preaching

Praying to change the world:

Many priests and pastors lead their congregation in prayers to change hurtful worldly conditions. First, they assume that God knows about these conditions. Second, they assume that unless they beg God to do something He/She/It might not bother.

How could God let such conditions create major suffering for humans, animals, or the environment? How can this belief be reconciled with the teaching of Jesus that “God is love” (John 4:8)? How could such a loving God be so callous toward Its creation?

Is God all-powerful?

Some Christians entertain the proposition that by all evidence God is not all powerful. This is contrary to the traditional teaching that God is omnipotent. But it would explain God’s ignoring the events that bring about so much suffering for Its creation.

This way of thinking about the nature of God goes further. It cancels the commonly accepted and fundamental belief concerning the nature of God. Namely, that the One and only God is necessarily Omnipresent (present always and everywhere), Omnipotent (the only power there is), and Omniscient (all knowledge).

These two visions of the nature of God are not encouraging. On the one hand we have a callous God, and on the other we have an impotent God. In both cases we are left with a limited God and a quandary for most Christians.

Evolution in our understanding of the nature of God

Some 2,000 years separate the life of Abraham from the life of Jesus. During that time, the Bible gives us evidence of an evolution in awareness concerning the nature of God. Abraham and Moses had a very human-like concept of a powerful god to fear. In contrast, Jesus presented us with the God of love.

Even in the Old Testament we have an evolution from the God of the early prophets to the God of Isaiah and later prophets. Consider the God of Abraham asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac, or the God of Moses punishing the sins of the father to the third and fourth generation. In contrast, later in the Bible, we have the God of Habakkuk who declared that God is, “too pure to behold inequity” (Hab. 1:13).

An evolution in consciousness concerning God’s nature took place during the 2,000 years leading to Jesus. It is reasonable that in the subsequent 2,000 years and beyond there would be a continuation of that evolution. It is driven by God-seeking men and women.

The metaphysical movement

During the late nineteen century in the United States of America, there was a very active metaphysical movement. One of its tasks was to explore the nature of God. The metaphysicians established the logical necessity for the one and only God (the fundamental premise of monotheism) to be Omnipresent, Omnipotent, and Omniscient. They went further, based on the teaching of Jesus, to declare that in addition God is all-loving (Omni-love).

The metaphysicians of the nineteen-century knew of the oddity of their conclusions about God. Their conclusions stood in stark contrast with the evidence of the nature of human life. How could God be all powerful and all loving and allow for our diseases, poverty, wars, death, and catastrophic natural events.

The solution to the quandary had its roots in Jesus’ saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

There are not two worlds:

Jesus was not suggesting that there are two worlds — God’s kingdom and “this world.” He was telling us that what humans experience is not the world of God but only a subjective reality. It is subject to our individual sense of reality. We are clearly not experiencing what God created because we are not able to perceive the eternal perfection of God’s kingdom.

Our human perception is limited by our five physical senses. It is also subject to our early conditioning. From very early childhood we were exposed to other people’s views of the world and of everything surrounding us. Since it is what each one of us experience, it creates a collective view of what we think the human reality is, and we live accordingly.

Our early conditioning shapes our sense pr reality:

Our conditioning includes a lot of false ideas that we absorbed unaware during our early youth. It formed our state of mind influenced by a deep sense of separation. From an early age we experienced a separation from things and other people. That experience created an awareness of duality.

We were taught concepts of duality such as the pairs of opposite (good and bad). We also experienced what is known as subject — object dualism (me and the bird I am watching).

Men do not see it:

The sense of separation experienced in our youth expended to apply to the entire environment. To some this perception engendered an uneasy feeling of not belonging, of exclusion. That mindset also engendered a false sense of separation from the divine.

We learned to accept separation as a fact of life between ourselves and the rest of the world around us. It became our reality. Since this happened to everyone, it also became the collective reality.

This collective human myopia is described in verse 22 of the gnostic gospel of Thomas, “the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.”

The allegory of Adam and Eve and dualism:

Duality affects all our perceptions and understanding of the world around us. It is what Genesis explained with the so-called “Adam dream” resulting from the “Fall of man.” It refers to the allegory of Adam and Eve suddenly separated from Paradise. This happened the moment they accepted the notion of good and evil — the root of duality. This was in contrast to the state of bliss and of oneness with God and God’s creation that they enjoyed before duality entered their awareness.

Duality and a resulting false sense of separation from God define the human condition. Our life-long spiritual trip is to transcend that false sense by rediscovering our spiritual nature and the bliss of oneness. It is what the Bible refers to as a return to “the Father’s house.”

Such a trip can only take place in the consciousness of each individual. It is a journey that starts with the realization that “this world” is a set of appearances. Appearances are maintained by our individual acceptance of beliefs formed by the collective consciousness. It is the power we give to these beliefs that become the power we give to appearances.

Unanswered prayers:

The words of Jesus, “My kingdom is not of this world,” explains why so many prayers are seemingly unanswered. That saying explains that God is never involved in anything that is neither Godly nor Godlike. That is an impossibility since an omnipresent God could never be outside of Itself.

God’s creation is already complete, perfect, and eternal. There is nothing for God to repair or to complete. But because our deep sense of separation became part of traditional dogma, we do not see God’s spiritual reality.

Our perception is limited both by our imperfect physical senses as well as an erroneous and massive collective conditioning received since infancy.

Our state of consciousness:

Our life experience is shaped by the beliefs and values that constitute our state of consciousness. Today’s state of consciousness becomes the essence of our life experience tomorrow. Becoming aware of our beliefs, actions, and intent starts the process of changing the nature of our life experience and of our tomorrows.

We have a measure of the spiritual task ahead of us when we realize the meaning of, “My kingdom is not of this world.” With that realization, we embrace the idea that earthly appearances are a misperception of the collective consciousness. It has nothing to do with the perfect reality of God’s creation. We would stop expecting God to fix our human problems.

We would understand how we cause our own experience including all its obstacles. We would focus on purging our false beliefs concerning the nature of God and of our human condition. It requires serious pondering of the meaning and consequences of Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omni-love.

Making righteous judgment:

While trying to replace a callous God or an impotent God with an Omnipotent God, we must avoid a trap. That would be trying to reconcile earthly appearances with God’s Reality. We would be replacing one conundrum with another.

Clearly, we cannot from our human perspective get our arms around divine Reality. But we can accept the notion that our human reality is subjective. It is also a mental and psychological creation resulting from collective consciousness.

We now can see why Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances, but make righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Here Jesus asks us to discount appearances and replace them by a righteous judgment.

What is a righteous judgment? One that is based on the highest spiritual truth we are capable of. Jesus is asking us to make the effort to raise our vision from the temporal to the eternal. The temporal being imperfect and the eternal being perfection Itself — God’s Reality.

Finally, we need to understand that each one of us is in truth part of God’s Reality. We came from that Reality and will return to that Reality upon completion of our spiritual trip in consciousness.

An extract from the essay of the same name from the recently published book, Religion, Politics, and Reclaiming the Soul of Christianity: A Spiritual Imperative for Our Time and Our Nation, by Jon Canas. Available at: http://Reclaimingthesoul.info

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