As my plane descended into Gatwick on the morning of the Queen’s funeral, the lyrics of an old song kept playing in my head: ‘Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.’ The name of course was Jesus. The song was a 1970s Gospel tune by the Bill Gaither trio. I knew I would miss this queen, one beloved by her nation, who embodied many of the finest qualities of a monarch (albeit without the burden of actually ‘ruling’). But what of monarchy itself? Ironically, she was deeply appreciated by so many precisely because she didn’t try to assert her rule or ‘meddle in politics’. That’s not exactly how monarchies normally function! So, should we mourn their passing, or be thankful we’ve moved on?
Having grown up in a nation whose identity is proudly associated with throwing off the shackles of monarchy and tyranny, I’ve instinctively felt monarchy an outdated, outmoded, deeply flawed system of government subject to corruption and abuse of power. Just look at history! Yet biblically, I’ve had to rethink – one cannot deny the continuing relevance of ‘kings and kingdoms’. We too easily think about the ‘Kingdom of God’ in spiritual terms, forgetting that it is in fact – a Kingdom! There can be no kingdom without a king.
Recall Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan 2:44): ‘In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.’ How? By ‘a rock cut out of the mountain, not by human hands’ (2:45). Jesus the rock… something about that name. A recent meme says it well: ‘A thousand times in history a baby has become a king, but only once in history did a King choose to become a baby’. What will it be like when this King returns to rule? Will he be truly Good?
The difference between a corrupt kingdom and a flourishing kingdom is the goodness of its monarch. Putting the needs of others first, being willing to serve – even unto death? Setting an example, healing, restoring? I believe our Queen was good because she never lost sight of the King she served. And one day, ‘the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord, and he will reign for ever’ (Rev 11:15).