The Kingdom of God, of course, is not the only kingdom; or so it seems. Throughout human history nations have emerged with a variety of governments, each devoted to its own survival. Some of these have elevated the rights of its citizens and others have sought to crush the notion of personal achievement in the common class. The “kingdoms of this world”, as the seventh angel in Revelation calls them (Rev. 11:15), are a mixed bag, and most of us who are born into a free society realize we are among the most fortunate.
I cannot deny that there are such things as “kingdoms of this world” since they are referenced in the scriptures. But I believe it is important that we not see the competition as “league play”. In other words, the kingdoms of this world are not equal in scope, power or significance to the Kingdom of God. They only exist because of God’s permissive will, and He has clearly employed even pagan nations as instruments to carry out His plans.
What is the “permissive will of God?” It is the freedom He has given mankind to choose its own way, and the limited influence He has permitted Satan to have to test our hearts. This helps us make sense of Romans 13:1 where Paul writes, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Romans 13:1). God doesn’t form governments, for surely He would weed out those with evil intent in the process. But He allows them to develop, and works through them all for His purposes.
All of this is to say, one could make the case for the position that the kingdoms of this world have never been, nor will ever be autonomous. They are by design subject to God’s wisdom, and on that day He brings human history to an end, every system on earth will bow to His wishes.
Therefore, the competition is fundamentally submissive to a higher authority, but strong at present. While God’s ultimate preeminence is assured, the tension that now exists between good and evil troubles us greatly.
The kingdoms of this world are Satan’s tool as he competes for control of our hearts. He knows once he has these he can also claim our time, energy and finances. The gifts and ambitions God has put in us can be swallowed up by our selfish human nature and our potential by regret.
Is it any wonder Jesus prayed for His Father’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven? In His limited time on earth, Jesus encountered spiritual misery everywhere He turned. The kingdoms of this world had done a poor job answering the deepest needs of God most prized created beings. Perhaps you will agree with my assessment that not much has changed.