Imagine waking up one day to learn you are no longer a citizen of the United States but of another country — a place you’ve never even seen.
Taking your first sip of coffee (even if you don’t like coffee, you’re drinking it this morning), you vaguely remember how this ‘crisis of identity’ came to be. Sometime back, you pledged loyalty to an unseen realm. The country you’re now a citizen of is a monarchy. You were drawn to its King. Free of wacky elections, ticks and mosquitoes, high taxes, guided missiles, and an uncertain future, your new country promises a world of peace, fulfillment and unending life like no place on earth. Without hesitation, you believed the promises of this amazing king. You jumped in with both feet.
Only now are you waking up to reality of being a stranger in a foreign land. Turns out, you’re still entitled to live in the US for as long as you wish: The US government does not have diplomatic relations with your new country. In fact, most people have never heard of your new country.
Yikes! What will the neighbors think? You can’t even find your new country on the map! Your friends and family will think you’re nuts!
But your heart knows. You love your new King. It’s as though you’ve known him all of your life. You have faith in his promises — and his words, that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not being seen.” Everything down to the very fiber of your existence tells you, “This is who I want to be; this is my identity.” It’s like you’re finally home (except you’ve never actually been home).
So why can’t others see or just trust that the kingdom in which you’ve now become a citizen is quite real?
Reality is a moving target, thanks to frail human logic and therefore far more difficult to perceive than most people think. Most people confine reality only to that which can be detected by the physical senses. If it cannot be seen or at least tasted or touched, it cannot be real. On the other hand, if it can be seen or heard, maybe it is real.
Where’s the line? Is “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Call of Duty” real? After years of sophisticated computer graphics, not everyone is able to distinguish reality from fiction.
And so we live on amidst the distorted perceptions of a culture afflicted by its sustained, day-in, day-out suppression of truth. Think of it as a dense haze that confines our perspective within a toxic atmosphere of glittering diversions. Truth and reality lie unseen beyond that cultural cloud of reflective haze, whether people see it or not.
Fortunately, Scripture is the gold standard of reality.
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11.3).
The faithful of old “acknowledged they were strangers and exiles on the earth,” Hebrews 11 tells us. “Those who say such things show that they are seeking a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
Until we get there, the Kingdom of God remains a physically unseen realm that faith makes real. It is also a realm both realized and immediate. It is realized in that the Gospel has been fulfilled in the death and resurrection of its King, Jesus the Messiah. It is immediate in that its emissaries, naturalized as subjects under the power of the Gospel, carry on the King’s work of reconciling new citizens until the time is fulfilled.