5 Things Everyone Should Understand About the Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God is the primary message of Jesus throughout the gospels. Gordon Fee a well-respected theologian states rightly, “You cannot know anything about Jesus, if you miss the kingdom of God…” Jesus’ main message is so foundational that we cannot truly understand Him without understanding the message He declared. So what is the Kingdom of God? That is an easy and a difficult question. One that I’ve been wrestling with for months. Here are some main concepts that I have found helpful in understanding the Kingdom of God:
The Kingdom of God is God's Kingdom.
This might seem too simplistic. Yet, one must understand this before proceeding in understanding the kingdom. God is the King of His Kingdom. He rules sovereignly over His Kingdom. Since, this kingdom finds its power from God it is powerful. It is a righteous kingdom because its King rules in righteousness. It is good because this King defines what is good. It will never end because God will never cease to rule sovereignly throughout the cosmos. The Kingdom of God will be triumphant in the King’s purposes because this King never fails.
The Kingdom of God is tangible.
It seems that the Jews during Jesus’ ministry all had similar ideas about the Kingdom of God. They thought of it as a political kingdom of earth ruled by the Messiah that would see Israel claiming victory over its enemies. Most of the questions asked about the kingdom to Jesus revolve around timing of the kingdom. Yet, Jesus rarely speaks about time in regards to the kingdom. Instead, He often speaks about the kingdom in relation to location. He says that the Kingdom is “near” or “at hand” both are terms that have location at the center of their meaning. Jesus thinks of the kingdom as a place. It’s something tangible that can be seen, entered, and is also very close.
The Kingdom of God is salvific.
Much of Jesus’ teachings on the kingdom are given through parable. While this makes it difficult to ascertain certain characteristics about the kingdom, it does give us a unique feel for the kingdom. Throughout Matthew 13 and other passages he describes the Kingdom of God by saying it is “like” and then tells a parable. In these passages the conclusion of the story is often either delivering for the characters within the parable or one of suffering and anguish or as Matthew states “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This place of despair can easily be interpreted as Hell so then the place of delivery or the Kingdom of God would be Heaven. Other passages describe the kingdom as salvific in nature. Even Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross point to this, when asked by the thief to “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replies, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” The Kingdom of God is a place of delivery.
The Kingdom of God is connected to Israel.
Most scholars agree that Jesus did not derive the kingdom concept, but continued the theme from past revelation in Scripture. The Old Testament is where we find this idea of the kingdom originate. It goes back to the Garden where as John MacArthur says, “God’s kingdom program started in Genesis 1 when the King of the universe created the world in six days. There is a King - God. And there is the realm of the King - earth.” The calling of Abraham begins to show the coming nation of Israel as God’s vessel for continuing the Kingdom narrative throughout the Old Testament. Then in II Samuel 7 eternally connects Israel with the Kingdom of God through the Davidic Covenant. This is why in Acts 1 when following 40 days of the Resurrected Christ specifically teaching his disciples about the kingdom, the disciples ask Jesus if He will restore the kingdom to Israel. His response is not negative toward their understanding of the kingdom, but only with their desire to know timing. Could the disciples be wrong about this basic concept of the kingdom being connected to Israel after 40 days of specific teaching on the subject? I don't think so and the entirety of Scripture would point to this conclusion.
The Kingdom of God is the Gospel.
Not only is the nature of the Kingdom salvific, but the message of the Kingdom of God is said to be the gospel throughout the Word of God. In various sections of Scripture the message about the Kingdom of God is said to be “the gospel of the kingdom” such at Matthew 4:23 and Mark 1:15. Paul is said to have proclaimed “the kingdom in Acts 20:25 and “the kingdom of God” in Acts 28:30. Acts 19:8-10 is unique in that it uses “the kingdom of God,’ “The Way,” and “the word of the Lord” interchangeably. The Kingdom is not just the focus of Jesus’ ministry, it is also the central focus of the Gospel according to Luke. The Gospel is about how the King has provided the means to become citizens of His Kingdom once more.
We often speak of the Gospel but do we speak of the Kingdom? Do we know what it is? If your definition of the Kingdom is solely wrapped up in eschatology I would repeat Fee’s words to you “You cannot know anything about Jesus, if you miss the kingdom of God…” Here is what I have come to the conclusion regarding the Kingdom of God.
- Patrick Schriener, The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross
- John MacArthur, Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth