With this being the season we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, whom we likewise celebrate as our King I thought I would ask the question – What is the Kingdom of God? I would like to answer this question by answering a few other questions. Namely, 1) Who is the King? 2) Who are the citizens of the Kingdom? 3) And finally, is the Kingdom still future, is it now or is it a both/and situation? In addition to answering these questions as a means of answering the main question I will address the two main biblical Kingdom of God concepts and communicate what I believe to be a simple warning concerning what we should not say about the Kingdom.
I will begin by addressing my tertiary questions regarding the Kingdom, in order that we may progress to the main question(s). The King of the Kingdom is Jesus Christ as evidenced in Scripture (Rev 19 – 20). The citizens of the Kingdom seem to be two-fold; the Church made up of believing Jews and Gentiles as well as the restored nation of Israel. Two compatible concepts explain God’s kingdom. First, God reigns over the Universal Kingdom containing His entire creation. Second, the coming kingdom, called the Mediatorial Kingdom where Christ establishes His kingdom on earth.
God reveals the concept of the Mediatorial Kingdom in Genesis 1 where He commands man to subdue and rule over creation. The Abrahamic Covenant begins to detail the Mediatorial Kingdom explaining to Abraham he will be blessed personally, a great nation would come from him, and the nation of his descendants would be the mechanism for blessing the nations. The Old Testament records the development of Abraham’s descendants into a great nation, Israel, and their decline due to their disobedience. Israel’s glorious reign ends with the Babylonian Captivity occurring because of their hard-hearts and open rebellion against the Lord.
The New Testament picks up with the introduction of the Messiah who is born from a virgin and with the royal lineage (Matt 1:1-7; 23). He came to save Israel from her enemies and rule over her. His reign would bless both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus begins His ministry as Messiah announcing, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17). What does Jesus mean by “kingdom”? Lack of explanation seems to communicate a harmonious idea between the OT kingdom presented, Jewish knowledge, and Jesus’ meaning. The OT Kingdom calls for a literal restoration to the Davidic throne on earth ruled by Jesus the Messiah. If the kingdom Jesus had in mind was different from Jewish expectations, then it is fair to expect Jesus to correct Jewish doctrine regarding the Kingdom.
Unfortunately, from our perspective, the Messiah is rejected by His people meaning no restoration of the nation nor will the Kingdom be initiated at this point. This rejection results in the murder of the King, but the death of the King brings about salvation for all who repent and believe. Furthermore, the Mosaic Law ends because the Messiah inaugurates the New Covenant (John 13; Hebrews 8) prophesied by Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34). After His resurrection and defeat of death, Christ commissions His Church to take the message of salvation to the nations bringing Gentiles into the Kingdom promises of God.
When Christ’s earthly ministry ended the Kingdom promises to Israel and the world are still communicated as future. The apostles still looked forward to a future restored Kingdom even after spending forty days with the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:6-8). They ask, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). The Lord does not rebuke nor correct them instead, He says, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own Authority” (Acts 1:7). Therefore, we can look at the Church Age as a time of preparation before the Lord returns to establish His Kingdom.
If the Church Age is properly understood as a time of preparation then the Kingdom must be future. However, this is not to imply that believers do not enjoy some Kingdom benefits even today with spiritual blessings found in the New Covenant: forgiveness of sins, indwelling Holy Spirit, eternal inheritance.
The short answer to the question; What is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is a time in the future when Christ returns to assume the Davidic Throne and rule physically over His creation. This rule occurs in two-stages; first when Christ rules for one thousand years where He then conquers the final rebellion of Satan and his followers on earth (Rev 19:19 – 20:10). Thereafter, the earth will be restored and Christ will rule in the Eternal State where only His followers are present with Him.