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Two Kingdoms


Did you know you are a citizen of not one but two kingdoms? Martin Luther observed that we are in kingdoms of Earth and of heaven. In the heavenly kingdom, God rules perfectly. In the earthly, God has delegated authority to rulers who often exercise it imperfectly. While Paul answered first and foremost to God, He suffered and benefited because he was a Roman citizen.

Paul’s case was one of the first matters Festus took up after he replaced Felix. Perhaps this was because he knew the Jews had sent letters to Rome criticizing Felix. Festus visited Jerusalem, where Paul’s opponents demanded that he be transferred. Their request was a ruse. If Festus granted their petition, they intended to kill Paul while he was on route. Instead, Festus invited them to present their case to him in Caesarea (vv. 4–5). Festus attempted to curry favor with Paul’s opponents by suggesting that his trial take place in Jerusalem. But Paul thwarted him by claiming his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar. It is possible that he merely meant that Festus should render judgment in the case instead of Paul’s opponents in Jerusalem. But it seems likely that Paul saw bias in the governor’s suggestion of a change of venue for the trial. By appealing to Caesar, Paul not only kept the trial out of hostile territory, but he also obligated Festus to ensure his safety on the journey to Rome.

Before his departure, Paul had the opportunity to speak to Herod Agrippa II. Festus claimed that the purpose of the meeting was so that he could consult with Agrippa about the case.

>> When we, as Christians, exercise our rights and responsibilities as citizens, the system does not always act in our favor. But we can know for certain that God is at work in both kingdoms to accomplish His perfect purpose. That is why, in Romans 13:4, Paul calls civil authorities “God’s servants.” There is only One True Authority.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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