April/May 2014 - Vol. 73
The Kingdom of God series
Part 3: Extending the Kingdom of God
Parable of the Apartment Building

by Carlos Mantica

Following on the previous two chapters which explain the Kingdom of God (Part 1 and 2), we know that the Lord Jesus does not just simply choose disciples so they can wait around to go to heaven some day. The Lord chooses disciples for his own in order to carry out his mission in the world. 

For this purpose:

1. Christ inaugurates the Kingdom of God on earth, with his death and resurrection defeats the devil, sin and death, and is constituted by the Father as the LORD of heaven and earth.  But this is just the first phase of his work. At present, not everything is under his authority and lordship (even we are not), and God’s full plan is for all things to have Christ as their head one day. St. Paul says in Ephesians 1:9-10:

[God] has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
2. For the accomplishment of this mission, the Lord uses a strategy—he chooses a people, which is his Church. Since this mission is far above man’s ability, God then sends his own Spirit, God’s omnipotence and wisdom. It is the same Spirit who on the day of creation was moving over the waters; the same Spirit who begot Jesus in Mary’s womb; the same Spirit who made Jesus rise from the dead; the same Spirit who on the day of Pentecost came to empower the Church for the fulfillment of Christ’s mission in the world.

Such is the second phase of God’s plan: giving us his Spirit in order to have a Church with power.

3. The third stage of his plan will take place when Jesus Christ returns in glory and majesty. It is he who will one day make a universal reality out of the things which each one of us is called to gradually accomplish in himself or herself and in the people around us. He will make all things new and will then be all in all. And he shall reign forever and ever, Amen!

Dying or living for the Kingdom of Heaven?
Nowadays, many people are waiting to die in order to go one day to the Kingdom of Heaven, instead of living for the Kingdom of Heaven to come to us.

To which of these two groups do you belong, brother or sister? It really is all up to you. The Lord’s mission is quite clear. That’s what he chose us for; it is for that, and only for that, that he calls us and enables us. It is for that that he incorporates us into the Church through Baptism. 

We have no space or time left for more theology. This chapter is designed for those who want to make the fulfillment of this MISSION a reality.

What I’m going to deal with here is concrete things we are supposed to do, and practical suggestions about how to do them. Again, I would like to stress that the important thing is not being able to say, “How nice all this is!”, but to say, “This is true!” And, which is more important, to say, “Yes, this is for me!” 

And since I am sure that you have chosen to move over to live in the Kingdom of God, forsaking forever the kingdom of Satan and thus becoming Christ’s helpers for the fulfillment of his mission, what I want to talk to you about is 

  • how to take the good news of salvation to others
  • how to lead men and women to Jesus, their Savior
  • how to take men and women to this piece of the Kingdom which is the Church
  • how to help make this Church truly become the beginning of the Kingdom of God on earth, a place where all men can get a glimpse of what the world will look like when Christ is its only and true Lord.

The Parable of the Apartment Building
We will understand God’s strategy better through a parable I wrote some time ago. It goes like this:

The Kingdom of God is like a residential development that a certain Lord built once. Right at the center of the development he built a beautiful apartment building. When he was done, the Lord saw what he had made, and he found it was good.

He then filled it with tenants, and drew out a set of bylaws, so that all of them could live there in peace and harmony. But after some time he saw that the tenants had changed his work into a ruin, a true hell. None of the facilities seemed to work well.

Many apartments had no light, because disobedience to the bylaws resulted in having the power source cut. The administrators had reserved the use of the elevators for themselves, so they were the only ones who could go up to the higher places. The residents did not know each other, and those in the lower floors hated the ones in the higher floors, and vice-versa. The whole building seemed to be about to crumble down. 

So the Lord planned to do something about this, and said to himself, ‘I’m going to start all over again. In the same development I will build a new building, high on the top of the hill so everybody can see it. I will dwell in this building myself, and I will set my Son in charge of its administration, and my Advocate in charge of maintenance, so this new stage will be a model for all those who live in the first one.”

And this Lord so loved his tenants, that he sent his Son to build the second building on the hill at a very high cost. For this purpose he used the same blueprints he had used for the former building, and when the second one was finished it was no different from the preceding one, except that the Lord himself dwelt in it, and it was under the management of his Son and under the maintenance of his Advocate.

He then invited some of the old tenants to move for free to the new facilities, so they could tell the others what all this was like. They moved with everything they had, leaving behind only those old things that would not match their new house.

The new tenants did not lose their contact with the tenants of the old building or leave the neighborhood. Whenever they came to visit their old friends, they would help them both to repair the old building and to protest and fight the abuses of the old management. But they were aware that their true mission was not that, but was rather to announce what the Father and the Son had done, and to witness to what the Advocate was doing in the new building and invite them to move over to it. “What we have seen and heard we announce to you, so that you will live in condominium with us.” They also understood that it was just a matter of time, because the old building was going to be unavoidably demolished. And the Lord would add each day to the new building those who would be saved.

So much for the parable.

God's solution for the world
Given the situation of the world, God does not choose to destroy it as he did in the times of Noah. He is not satisfied with admonishing people, as he had done through the prophets, nor does he send his Son to repair it, but to build a new Israel, planted in the midst of the nations and built on a hill.

The solution God offers the world is only one, and it is called the Church. In God’s strategy, this Church will act as a sacrament of salvation. It will be a sample, a sign, a model of what the world can be if God dwells in it and if Christ is its head. But also, even now, it will be the instrument for accomplishing his work of salvation in this world.

That’s why the Church calls the laity to the restoration of the temporal order, to insertion in the old building, in order to make it more just, more human and more bearable, but without forgetting that our true mission is the extension of GOD’S KINGDOM, and not the improvement of men’s kingdoms.

We are supposed to bear witness to what it means to live in the Kingdom, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ; and, as a group, to be the beginning of that Kingdom and the sample of what the whole development will look like one day, when the world as a whole will have Jesus Christ as its Head and Lord.

Go to > Part 4: Three Tools for Mission: Word, Witness, and Community

The Kingdom of God

Part 1: What is the Kingdom of God?
Part 2: Jesus' Teaching on the Kingdom of God
Part 3: Extending the Kingdom - Parable of the Apartment Building
Part 4: Tools for Building the Kingdom: Word, Witness, and Community

This article is adapted from the book, From Egghead to Birdhood (hatch or rot as a Christian), (c) copyright 2001 Carlos Mantica. 

Carlos Mantica is a founder of The City of God community (La Cuidad de Dios) in Managua, Nicaragua, and a founding leader of the Sword of the Spirit. He served as president of the Sword of the Spirit between 1991 and 1995. 

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