In the beginning, God made mankind in his image and instructed them to "fill the earth," and "rule over the earth" (Gen 1:26-27). By implication this was to be a righteous, godly, and just rule. Mankind was to fill the earth with the "image" of God. Mankind did just the opposite, so God destroyed the world with a flood, starting over with one righteous family, and once again instructed them to "fill the earth" (Gen 9:1). But once again, they disobeyed and attempted to build a tower, a works of man's hands and testimony to human achievement, an object that bore the "image" of man rather than of God. God confused their language and scattered them throughout the earth.
When God called Israel out of slavery, he identified them as his "special treasure" and a "kingdom of priests." The word "kingdom" is reminiscent of the function that mankind was charged to perform in the beginning to "rule over" the earth. "Priests" function to bring people and God together. Therefore, "nation of priests" is reminiscent of the original charge to "fill the earth" with the image and glory of God. Rather than perform this rule with only God as over-ruler, the people wanted their own human monarchy. God granted the people's desire along with instruction on how the monarchy is to operate in accordance with God. The monarchy was to be an expression of God's "rule," and the nation was to demonstrate the glory of God to the nations. Both ultimately failed. They were selfish, oppressive, wicked, and not very different from the nations around them. Rather than looking like a nation of priests, they looked just like another pagan nation. The "Lord's" anointed became a mockery. Since the people did not live under the reign of God in their hearts, God took it away and they went into captivity. But God was not through. He promised to restore his reign once again in the future.
Bam! In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus bursts onto the scene preaching the new "Reign of God." "Reign" is a better rendering than "kingdom," because "kingdom" implies geographical and political boundaries. The original Hebrew phrase was Malkut Shemayim "Reign/Rule of Heaven," not "kingdom," which is a different word. The Greek language uses one word, basileia, to express either "reign/rule" or "kingdom." Context identifies which meaning is meant. The context goes back to the Hebraic image of the "Reign of God," which transcends geographical, social, or political boundaries. Indeed, Jesus said that his reign was not of this realm (Jn 18:36). This is why Jesus said that the reign of God is "in you" (Lk 17:21).
What is interesting is that Jesus takes many concepts of greatness and kingship and turns them on their head. Jesus was crowned with glory and honor not by conquest, but through suffering. In God's reign, the nobody becomes somebody and the somebody becomes nobody. In the Reign of God, kindness is returned for insults. In the Reign of God, one gives up everything in order to become rich. One gives up his life in order to live. One receives gifts in order to give. In the Reign of God, the greatest thing is to tend to the "least of these." In the Reign of God, those who are persecuted for righteousness are the blessed ones. In the Reign of God, everyone is equal and shares alike. Their hearts, minds, and souls no longer belong to the system of the world, but belongs to the Lord and King. These are the sorts of things Jesus demonstrated as being marks of the reign of God. Truly, the Reign of God is not of this realm.
Jesus instructs us to go out into all the world an preached the Gospel. Once again, we are instructed the "fill the earth" with the glory of the reign of God. A challenging and humbling question for myself is this: What marks of the Reign of God do I see in our life? Do we truly live under the Lordship of Christ? Do we fill the earth with the glory of the Reign of God?