In a recent address, Pope Benedict stated that:
"Today we celebrate, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King. We know that in the Gospels Jesus rejected the title of king when it was understood in a political sense, along the lines of “the rulers of nations” (cf. Matthew 20:24). Instead, during his passion, before Pilate he claimed a different sort of kingship. Pilate asked Jesus plainly, “Are you a king?” Jesus answered, “You have said it; I am a king” (John 18:37). A little before this, however, he had declared, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36)."
In this passage from John 18:36 is found justification for the Christian church teaching that, in addition to the existence of a spiritual "kingdom" of the here and now, the Kingdom of God (Heaven) is some ethereal place where the good will live in disembodied bliss after death. The bible agrees that there are indeed two aspects to the Kingdom of God (Heaven) and states clearly that one aspect is comprised of the invisible body of the followers of Jesus, so in this at least the Christian Church teachings are correct. But that is where the similarity ends.
John's gospel speaks of these two aspects of the kingdom and uses the same Greek word 'kosmos' translated as 'world' to describe both.
The invisible kingdom of the here and now comprised of the followers of Jesus who are not "of this world."
"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (John 2:16-17)
As we can see in this passage, the Greek word 'kosmos' translated as 'world' clearly does not carry the meaning of a physical universe but is used by John to describe different value systems.
The visible future kingdom when Jesus will reign as king.
"My kingship is not of this world." (John 18:36)
By examining the Hebrew standing behind the Greek text of John 18:36 [he basileia he eme ouk estin ek tou kosmos toutou] we will find an entirely different meaning than that given to it by Pope Benedict.
In this instance, John's use of the Greek word 'kosmos' translated as 'world' carries the meaning of a physical universe but one which is yet future. It is based on the Hebrew expression 'olam-ha-zeh, olam-he-bah' [the 'present age' contrasted with the 'age to come']. The meaning of the ending of the verse then follows naturally "but now is my kingdom not from hence." In other words, when Jesus answered Pilate, he said that his kingdom was still in the future.
My position has always been that if the interpretation of an individual verse steps outside the themes and motifs which mould the entire corpus of the bible into a coherent whole, then the translation, interpretation, or my understanding of that verse is faulty. Let's see how my interpretation of John 18:36 fits within the parameters set by the bible.
After the Exodus, YHVH was seen as a 'deliverer' who had saved his people through his human agent, Moses. Throughout subsequent centuries and manifold troubles, an idea arose that YHVH would one day send another 'deliverer' - one like Moses - who would save his people from their enemies through another human agent.
Old Testament authors, building and enlarging upon the expectations of their predecessors, finally developed a complete picture of this 'deliverer', this 'messiah'. He would be a descendant of King David; he would usher in the Kingdom of God on earth and rule as its King in the name of YHVH.
The 'mystery' doctrines of the Virgin Birth, the Miraculous Incarnation, and the Trinity serve no purpose other than to confuse the issues and to make understanding of the 'kingdom' plan impossible.
The New Testament records that this hoped-for 'deliverer,' this 'messiah,' was about to be born:
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David;
and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:31-33)
The intent of the infancy narratives in both Matthew and Luke was towards the end of proving that Jesus of Nazareth was entitled BY BIRTH to sit on this "throne of his father David". If he were not, they could not claim - and be believed - that the hoped-for Israelite Messiah had come. There is no conflict between the two genealogies: one is that of his supposed father, the other is that of his biological father. Millennial confusion, obfuscation, and deliberate distortion are the products of the later imposition of the doctrine of the 'Virgin Birth'.
A popular misconception is that the apostles were expecting the immediate appearance of the Kingdom of God. The first disciples became Jesus' followers in the belief that he was the promised Messiah, the great King who was to come. They were correct about the man but wrong in their assumption that the foretold kingdom was to be established immediately. Jesus corrected their assumption with the parable concerning a certain nobleman who went into a far country to receive a kingdom, and then returned. It is clear that Jesus did not expect to establish his kingdom until after he returned from that “far country.”