The Kingdom of God as described by Jesus Christ first and foremost should be seen as an alternative to the traditional Jewish concept. When the spiritual and political leaders of Judah/Judaea talked about "kingdom," they meant Israel as it was under David. They meant a divinely assisted restoration of an earthly state free from the clutches of Roman authority.
In the time of Christ, Rome ruled its restive territory through royal proxies, such as King Herod. Although Persia had administered Judah similarly, the Zoroastrian empire built by Cyrus the Great respected and honored the Jewish faith. The Hellenistic Greeks and Romans who followed rejected and despised Jewish faith and ritual, leading to simmering hostilities.
Christ taught that the earthly realm of Judaea in his time, ruled by wealthy puppets of an empire with a hostile culture, held no promise of salvation for the Jewish people. Its leaders and many of its people had fallen for the allure of the sensually charged Hellenistic culture that favored enjoyment of worldly things and ideals over the discipline required by the Jewish faith.
From this notion came the Western Christian notions of civitas mundi and civitas deo as later explained by St. Augustine. While one had to live in the kingdom of the world, obey its laws and tax requirements, each individual could aspire toward and fulfill the expectations of the Kingdom of God. This idea of kingdom gave Christ’s followers hope despite being surrounded by prejudice, harassment, and dangerous hatreds.
St. Augustine expounded further on this dualism over three centuries later. It remains a foundational ideal in Western Christianity, although Eastern Christians who later formed the Orthodox Church favored tighter religious and political authority fusion.
Rejection of the Hellenistic culture propped by Roman authority meant rejecting Hellenistic values. These include putting too much pride in personal wealth, political power or personal influence, and indulging socially acceptable hatred such as prejudices against tax collectors and prostitutes. The Kingdom of God sees all individuals as equal, from paupers to the powerful.
Christ’s revolution in political and social thought differs from those in modern times. They seek to control the state to effect their ideas of change. From Christ, we learn that politics, government, and many of society’s notions of what is important do not matter at all. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God is eternal and what should occupy most of our attention since it, not that of the world, leads to salvation.
For those on the bottom rungs of society at the time with no hope of rising to an even more comfortable life, the message of another kingdom that valued each of them as individuals proved popular and alluring.
The Kingdom of God’s values are those articulated by Christ. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you have more, share with someone who has less. Treat all with love and compassion. Do not soil the sacredness of religious spaces with the commerce of the...
world. Repent fully and completely of the wrong done to others, intentional or not. Every individual enjoys the love and grace of God regardless of birth or social station.
Most importantly, each person must aspire toward these values through choosing of their own free will. Compulsion of good actions ignores the point.