Kingdoms of Heaven and Earth: An Introduction

Jesus said that the kingdoms of this world will pass away. Plenty already have. The Egyptians. The Greeks. The Romans. The Soviets. The Americans? A quick survey of human history will tell you that earthly systems have a way of crumbling.

But there are those who reject such inevitability and believe that human systems (and humanity) can be perfected — that with the right knowledge, the right motivations, the right textbooks, the right policies, and the right leaders, evil can be eradicated. For them, the failures of history are failures of planning, not failures of people. “We are all inherently good,” they will say. “Evil, in all of its forms, must simply be prevented.” And thus, if there is no natural inclination to evil, certainly we can avoid it with the right foresight. All we need to do is come up with the right plan.

But for those of us who believe in the Fall of Man and sole redemption through the cross, Jesus’ words are an obvious truth and humanity’s question becomes one not of perfecting human societies (an impossibility on this earth), but of maximizing human potential. In this worldview, life is not about reaching a well-planned utopia of absolute security, but about pursuing a life of choice and risk that yields absolute liberty. Unlike the utopian’s dream, this pursuit is defined by engaging the risk, not avoiding it. It is defined by stepping out in faith, by beating the earthly odds, and even by paying the consequences. In this pursuit, responsibility and accountability are the reward, not just some means to a static end.

We often find ourselves caught somewhere in between.

We want to step out and trust in God, but we don’t want the vulnerability that comes with it. We want to let go of our earthly scheming and latch on to God’s vision, but when push comes to shove we dilute it down to something that’s comfortable or understandable. Even when it comes to the “big” things God has called us to — saving the Lost, healing the sick, feeding the poor — we are ready and willing to heed the call but prone to forget or abandon the mission.

Yet wherever we stand, we can see evil all around us. Sometimes it angers us, often it unsettles us, and almost always it effects us. So, understandably, we want to come up with a solution and we want to institutionalize it. We want to pull together as a community and come up with a plan. But when it comes to the evil itself on a personal level, we don’t want to deal with it. We want to ignore it, excuse it, or even rationalize it. We want to blame the world (or the “system”) when in reality we are at the very heart of it. We as individuals compose the core of our communities. We as individuals determine the outcomes of our cultures.

Rather than press toward the heavenly solution (i.e. the Cross), we press toward earthly solutions (i.e. human systems) and try to impose them on others in hopes that we might eradicate the “root causes” of evil and do away with pain and suffering altogether.

But Jesus approached things differently. Rather than looking at the root causes of evil, He saw evil in its earthly context and offered a non-earthly solution. Rather than focusing on eradicating sin in the here and now, He offered an example — an alternative. He didn’t outlaw sin and mandate pure living. He gave us a choice. He offered Himself as a bloody and broken sacrifice and simply said, “Your move.”

Why would He do that?

Free will requires choices, and with those choices come consequences. Relationship with God is not a one-stop, altar-call sort of thing. It is a challenging pursuit that requires a lifestyle of choosing God. It is a struggle in which success is far from automatic. It’s not easy to give up everything you have for the Gospel. It’s not easy to lay down your life for a friend. It’s not easy to love your enemies. But in the end, such self-sacrifice has a reward, and such a reward would be meaningless without free will. It would be all for nothing without the choice, the struggle, the risk, and the relationship.

This is the essence of Radical Individualism. It isn’t that earthly systems cannot accomplish good, and it isn’t that we should crawl into a hole and passively watch as evil runs rampant destroying people. Radical Individualism is simply about realizing that the center of human existence is about our individual relationships with God, and about keeping those relationships first in our lives. Only when we as individuals learn to follow God’s unconventional wisdom will we know how to use the tools of this world for His glory. Only then will joining together in community be a true and worthwhile endeavor.

The Remnant Culture, therefore, is the culture that achieves this sort of success. It is a True Community of individuals in which each is pursuing relationship with God to the fullest. It is not a culture defined by geography or ethnicity or tradition or political identity, but by the maximization of individual potential through heavenly eyes.

So, as earthly beings, what is the right way to pursue His will through earthly channels? If earthly systems are corrupt and will eventually die off, how do we best use them to serve God in the here and now? Is there a right way? Is there a right policy? Is there some human system that God would prefer over another, or is salvation simply up to us as individuals? If Jesus said His kingdom is “not of this world” and that “heaven and earth will pass away,” why should we even care about earthly systems in the first place, and how can we hope to achieve God’s will through them? If man is both the problem and the solution, how are we to build God’s kingdom on earth without losing sight of our eternal Kingdom in Heaven? was birthed from these questions. When it comes to the answers, I have my own hypothesis and I assume you have yours. But whatever your viewpoint is on these issues, I sincerely hope you’ll join me in pursuing the answers.


Joseph Sunde

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  • Cousin Julie

    JOE!!! THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm surprised and amazed and proud of you.

  • Stacy

    YAY! love it!!! nice work & congrats!

  • Ryan

    Congrats Joe!! It's been a long time in the making and it looks great!

  • Ryan

    … and I just read your introduction. Great stuff. I've often thought about the differences between the two mind-sets that you've outlined here: the perfecting v. the maximizing. What a great job you've done laying those ideas out. The only true answer in the here-and-now is to seek God while living “outside of the garden”.

  • Terry Pearson


    Congratulations on starting your blog. I love the first post! I look forward to reading more soon.

    See you on Sunday.

  • Paul Spak

    Joseph Sunde,

    Great blog! All the pages are complete and solid (about, articles, reads, links). I know this took lots of work.

    Well done my friend!

  • Courtney

    Wow. Great job J. I love the look of your blog. I'm hoping to become smarter just by skimming through your posts. hehe.

  • Courtney

    Wow. Great job J. I love the look of your blog. I'm hoping to become smarter just by skimming through your posts. hehe.

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  • Timothy Jerry

    Great blog, very meaty, and thought provoking! Keep it coming.

  • Tina Faagai

    RT @RemnantCulture Kingdoms of Heaven and Earth: An Introduction

  • Doug

    Joseph, nice website!  It is refreshing to see a believer that focuses more on God than human recognition.  What is your idea around the thought that our impact on society is not nearly as important as our recognition that God is to be glorified in everything?  As we play our part in that goal, the true goal is reached… glorifying God–not fixing the here and now.  Fixing the here and now only happens as a byproduct of our unwavering dedication to the glory of God.

  • Remnant Culture

    Thanks for the kind words, Doug. That’s very close to the hypothesis I follow on this blog, which in many ways is similar to themes found in John Piper’s book, Desiring God. The love of man is corrupt and therefore we must align our hearts to the Love of God. Only then will we be able to truly love our fellow man.

  • Plastique

    Hmmm… it would seem that attempting to “build God’s kingdom on earth” via a “Remnant Community” is still seeking an earthly based “solution” and differs only from a “planned society” in its method: perfected individualism through common belief in God vs common belief in something else – the ultimate goal being able to live in peace and harmony with other creatures, or, as some might say, a utopian society.

    I don’t have to believe in the sacrifice or put my faith in a particular god to want or be able to make the right choices. We take our cues from society and culture as to what is right, but your heart is molded by family and friends. I believe that whatever our belief system, we inherently know the difference between right and wrong, and that it is the duty and responsibility of those who raise us to teach us how to recognize and act on what is right.

    The Native American story of the two wolves characterizes the internal struggle with good vs evil just as well as the Jesus story. And there are many others as well, across culture and time.

    I too believe that earthly kingdoms will fail. Because humans are weak, not because they don’t believe in a particular god. We are weak because we lack a foundation in the three basic tenets: peace, love and understanding. How you get there is an individual choice.

    Recognizing the good in you that is also the good in me…