Not of the World

Rev Kees de Vreugd - 12 April 2021

“My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36)

When Jesus is brought before Pilate, he asks Him the question: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus’ answer is rather remarkable. “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” After all, the Jews who have brought Jesus to Pilate, in fact, have brought no accusation against Him at all. It seems that Pilate wants to deal with the Jews and their issues as little as possible. Then Jesus speaks the well-known words: “My kingdom is not of this world.”

“Jesus speaks the well-known words: ‘My kingdom is not of this world.'”

What does He mean? Is Jesus saying that a kingdom on earth is not His intention but that it is about a heavenly kingdom?

You could hear it that way, and so it is sometimes explained. But is that correct? Let us have a closer look at what Jesus is saying.

The primary meaning of both the Greek and the Hebrew word for kingdom is kingship. The word can also mean the territory where the kingship is valid. Literally, the text does not say ‘of this world’ but ‘out of’. It is about the origin – where does this kingship originate? The world (Greek: cosmos) – can refer to the order of the world. This world (order) is dominated by the Roman Empire, of which Pilate is the highest representative. The emperor of that empire could grant somebody a kingship. Herod, for example, once travelled to Rome to receive there his kingship, his royal title. Jesus’ kingship is not of this world order. He does not receive His kingship from the Roman emperor but out of heaven. His servants, therefore, also will not fight for Him with earthly means. But He will establish His kingship on earth.

‘The whole world has to become His kingdom’

The whole world has to come under the rule of this heavenly kingship. The whole world has to become His kingdom. But the weapon with which the world shall be conquered is the gospel of the kingdom.

Pilate, in fact, was faced with a tremendous decision. He could have recognised Jesus’ kingship. For his authority was given him from above (John 19:11), i.e. by God. Then Jesus’ kingdom would have been ushered in. But Pilate preferred the earthly authority of Rome.

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