THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Nalini D. Kadam
Israel was a physical nation, chosen to be an expression of the Kingdom of heaven. It was to be different from all other nations. After many centuries of failure and sabotage from the hand of the evil one, Israel was in a very sad condition. And then at the appointed time John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saving, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt.3:1-2).
Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye, and believe the Gospel" (Mk.1:14-15).
The Jews understood the term, 'the Kingdom of heaven.' At Sinai God said to Moses, "And you shall be to Me a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation." These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel (Exo.19:6). Israel at first was theocracy. God was their king and they formed His Kingdom. When the Israelites failed to obey Him, God chose the Levites as His Kingdom of priests. When all of them failed Him totally, God sent His Son to birth His church, as His holy nation, to proclaim His glory to the world. The prophets referred to the Messianic Kingdom again and again. The glorious Kingdom of God is one of the major themes of the Scriptures.
The word 'kingdom' is capable of three different meanings: 1) The realm over which the king reigns, 2) the people over whom he reigns, 3) the actual reign or rule itself. All these meanings are found in the New Testament.
In the New Compact Bible Dictionary, the 'Kingdom of God' is defined as, "the sovereign rule of God manifested in Christ to defeat His enemies, creating a people over whom He reigns and issuing in a realm or realms in which the power of His reign is experienced." Entrance into the Kingdom of God is by the new birth (Jn.3:3-5).
The term ‘Kingdom of heaven’ is used synonymously with ‘Kingdom of God’ in the Bible. 1. The Kingdom of God is universal. The Lord has established His throne in heaven and His Kingdom rules over all (Psa.103:19; Matt.24:14). 2) The Kingdom is ever lasting—an eternal reign. “Your Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations (Psa.145:13; Rev.11:15; Exo.15:18; 2Pet.1:10-11). 3) The Kingdom is both spiritual and physical. The church is a Spiritual kingdom, Israel was a physical kingdom. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col.1:13). Jesus said, “For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you” (Lk.17:21). The Kingdom here was a spiritual aspect—a Kingdom that was already present because the King Himself was present. In the spiritual Kingdom on the earth (the church) every believer is a royal priest. “For the Kingdom is the Lord’s And He rules over the nations” (Psa.22:28; Rev.20:4). 4) The Kingdom is glorious—He is ‘the King of glory.’ The Lord of hosts, He is the king of glory (Psa.24:10). 5. The Kingdom is most precious. Jesus presented the Kingdom of God as very precious indeed, something to be more greatly desired than any earthly comfort or joy. To miss the Kingdom would be eternal disaster, with weeping, wailing and the gnashing of teeth. “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt.6:33). When we seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness we seek God’s rule in our life. Jesus gave two simple parables to illustrate the great value of the Kingdom of God, a) parable of the hidden treasure (Matt.13:44), b) parable of the pearl of great price (Matt:13:45-46). 6) The Kingdom is opposed by evil. Jesus told of the enmity of the evil one, and his attempt to sow evil in the Kingdom in the parable of wheat and tares (Matt.13:24-25,36-43).
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.5,6,7) Jesus preached the Kingdom laws. He defines the nature and limits of the Kingdom, the condition for entrance, its laws, its privileges and rewards. The Sermon on the Mount sets forth the constitution of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is dynamically active to defeat evil and redeem sinners. Jesus said that His ability to cast out demons was evidence that the Kingdom of God has been introduced on earth and healing showed it. Healing cannot be separated from the Kingdom of God. Jesus sent the disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Miracles of healing were the proof of the power of that Kingdom.
The Kingdom Of Heaven
The word 'kingdom' occurs 55 times in Matthew, for this is the gospel of the King. The expression 'Kingdom of heaven' is found 35 times here and nowhere else in the gospels. Of the 14 parables recorded in Matthew, 12 begin with "The Kingdom of heaven is like..." Jesus likened the Kingdom of heaven to the sower, the tares, a mustard seed, leaven in dough, a hidden treasure, a pearl of great price, a dragnet (Matt.13).
The parables, called the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven (Matt.13:11), describe what the presence of the gospel of Christ in the world will be during this present age until the time of His return when He will gather the harvest (Matt.13:40-43). We see no bright picture of a converted world. There shall be tares mixed with wheat, good fish and bad fish, leaven in the loaf (leaven is always a type of sin). Then there is an abnormal growth of mustard seed that admits fowls of the air to lodge in its branches, only Christ will determine what is good and what is bad at the harvest. He will divide.
Rejection Of The King
Jesus came to His own and His own received him not (Jn.1:11). The Kingdom was first presented to the rightful heirs, the children of Israel (Jews), but they refused the offer, rejected the King and finally crucified Him. Jesus announced that the Kingdom should be taken away from the Jews and given to another nation, "Therefore, I say unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt.21:43). The announcement offended the rulers and they sought to lay hands on Him (Matt.21:46).
The Kingdom is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews-whoever will believe. When the Kingdom was rejected, we find a change in the teaching of Jesus. He began to talk about the 'Church' instead of the Kingdom (Matt.16:18). Jesus is calling out for anyone, Jews or Gentiles, to belong to His Church, which is His body (Eph.2:14-18).
The Kingdom of God in its present form began when Christ was rejected and will continue until He comes back to rule on this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. Those in the Kingdom of God confess that God rules all things. Some do so only with their mouth without having accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. Others are true believers. The Kingdom continues on earth after the church has gone to Heaven.
Manifest In The Church Age
In the Church age, all believers have become citizens of a new, spiritual form of the kingdom. Each believer has been individually delivered from the Kingdom of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of light, the Kingdom of His beloved Son (Col.1:13). Paul preached the Kingdom of God (Acts.28: 23,30, 31).
After the rapture, there comes the tribulation judgments followed by the second coming of Jesus Christ to earth. Then after the judgement of nations, Christ the Prince of peace will establish His kingdom-millennial Kingdom upon the earth in Jerusalem for 1000 years (Rev.20:4) and Satan will be bound for thousand years (Rev.20:3). The millennium is an age of peace, glory, holiness, fullness of joy, comfort, true knowledge, spiritual instruction and security. The curse on the creation will be removed. Jesus was referring to the millennial Kingdom when He taught His disciples to pray for the Kingdom of God (Matt.6:9-10).
The Eternal Kingdom
After the millennial reign of glory, there will be the white throne judgement. Then the Kingdom will again take on a new form-the eternal reign which incorporates the new heavens (universe) and new earth (Rev.21,22). New Jerusalem descends (Rev.21:2-8). We are looking forward to new heavens and a new earth (2Pet.3:13). The terms 'new heaven'(s) and 'new earth' are found in only two other places, Isaiah 65:17-18;66:22. The Kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever (Rev.11:15; 1Cor.15: 24-25).