The bible is full of the drama of human interaction: deception, wars, romance, family dysfunction, betrayal, forgiveness and reconciliation, genocide, political upheaval to name a few. Encoded in the narrative are powerful truths meant to reveal God and His ways to us. These are not just stories; they contain truths meant to transform us and equip us to stand. In this article we want to look at one such narrative – Jesus as He stood before Pilate – an event which contains profound truth that can help us especially in this vital time of God’s dealings with the earth.
John 18:33-38 NKJV
Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered him, "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?" 35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." 38 Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no fault in Him at all."
In reading this I want us to hear the certainty and clarity that resided in Jesus. I also want you to hear the clash of the two systems – two completely different systems of value and standards which are absolutely opposed to each other. The interaction between Jesus and Pilate is a collision between the Kingdom of God, which is dominant, and the empires of man, which are weak and temporal.
In reading Jesus’ response to Pilate a couple things are implied
- The Kingdom of God was more powerful than the Empire of Rome, it was superior. We can say that the Kingdom of God is superior to the Empires of man.
- The Kingdom of God was not only superior but it operated by different standards and values, it is not earthly in its motivation. Jesus said my servants are 'not of this world'.
This encounter was put here in the word of God to make us aware of the true structure of reality. There are in fact two systems of life, one system we can refer to as the Kingdom of God the other as the Empire of Man.
Jesus clearly states 'my Kingdom', his realm of dominion is not of this world; the laws, principles and values by which His Kingdom operates are very different from the Empires of the earth. Jesus made a clear distinction and it is important that we not simply give agreement to this fact but that we ensure that the principles of the Kingdom of God exist powerfully within our own hearts.
There are other areas in the Word of God where we see the reality of the clash of Kingdom and Empire taking place, one such place is in the book of Daniel. Daniel was required by Nebuchadnezzar to not only know the dream but to also interpret the dream that God gave to Nebuchadnezzar. In the account we are given very vivid imagery of the clash between the Kingdom of God and Empire of men.
Daniel 2:9, 40-45
9 “But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place. After that kingdom has fallen, yet a third kingdom, represented by bronze, will rise to rule the world.
40 Following that kingdom, there will be a fourth one, as strong as iron. That kingdom will smash and crush all previous empires, just as iron smashes and crushes everything it strikes. 41 The feet and toes you saw were a combination of iron and baked clay, showing that this kingdom will be divided. Like iron mixed with clay, it will have some of the strength of iron. 42 But while some parts of it will be as strong as iron, other parts will be as weak as clay. 43 This mixture of iron and clay also shows that these kingdoms will try to strengthen themselves by forming alliances with each other through intermarriage. But they will not hold together, just as iron and clay do not mix.
44 “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. 45 That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain.”
There are some important issues that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream tells us about earthly empires.
- I find it interesting and noteworthy that God describes the empires of the world as precious metals, gold, silver etc but the image used to describe the Kingdom is a stone -- not a high quality material by earth’s standards, much like a lowly teacher and healer from Israel standing before Pilate the earth’s potentate.
- The empires are gradually decreasing in quality over time; the movement is from precious metals to iron and clay. This implies that the closer we arrive at the end of time, there is a continual and inevitable degradation of earth’s system. This is an unstoppable reality because it has been decreed in the Word of God: 9 “But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place."
- While the trajectory of the earth’s empires is downward, the movement of the Kingdom as represented by the stone is one of increase, growth and expansion. 44 “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever.”
- The fourth issue that we can extract from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is that not only are the two systems moving in opposite directions, the Kingdom of God will clash and destroy the earth’s empires, demonstrating irresistible force and power. We are living in a time when earthly systems are clearly under attack. This image in Daniel implies that crisis or severe transition of systems in the natural order of nations is part of the spiritual process of the end. Fragmentation in the order of the nations presents an opportunity for the stone to strike the image.
What are the Implications for the Church in the Earth?
These two situations – Jesus before Pilate and Daniel interpreting the king’s dream – clearly reveal the required attitudes and posture we need to adopt as we exist in the midst of the crisis.
Like Jesus heading directly towards the cross but who stood unbowed before Pilate, we are to live in the boldness and clarity of identity that comes to us from God. We are to live with our eyes fixed on the things of above, knowing that the Kingdom of God is in fact superior and that the principles of life that we see in the earth are inferior despite the external allure and projection of power. We must know that we live by superior standards and values; if we are not internally convinced of it we will compromise.
The two entities of Empire and Kingdom are two very powerful icons that are embedded within the word of God. We want to further consider them as we choose to powerfully define ourselves not in the way the earth does, based on natural power, wealth and political influence, but according to the Kingdom of God. We have to choose to live according to the principles of the Kingdom of God and choose NOT to live according to the Empire principles that exist within the earth.
Now that we have seen the contrast between the Kingdom of God and earthly empires, in subsequent articles I want to deal with why Ancient Egypt was chosen to be the primary contrast with God’s movements in the earth in 2014 and which forms the basis of The Arc of Empires.