The Kingdom of God
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
When the word ‘kingdom’ is used there is generally connected with it: a realm, boundaries of geographical space, rule of force, an army and police forces to maintain order, a monarch on a throne with all the trappings. How different and greater is the kingdom of God. As we shall see, it is not: buildings, a place, miracles, earthly power and glory, material things of this world.
In a kingdom of this world if the throne is vacant, there is still a kingdom. But with the kingdom of God, if there were no king, Jesus, there would be no kingdom.
In Medieval Europe when kings flourished under feudalism there was a concept of a liege lord. To the lord one who lived on his estate or lands owed everything. One depended totally upon him. One lived on his domain and was tied to the land. When he mustered his troops for war, one fought. At the top of the feudalistic structure was the king. In the kingdom of God, Jesus, our King is at the top and all who live under Him owe direct allegiance to Him. We truly owe Him everything depending on Him for all and fighting His holy war with the Gospel.
The kingdom of God (or of heaven) is the gracious rule in the heart of Christ the King. Generally, we speak of three kingdoms: l) kingdom of power – in this God rules all creation with His almighty power, 2) kingdom of grace – this being the church on earth, consisting of each one who believes with Christ ruling the human heart, 3) kingdom of glory – being above or heaven where all the dead in Christ await the final day. In this study we are considering the kingdom of grace. We speak of the Holy Christian Church as having two wings; those on earth and those in heaven. On earth the church militant is still fighting the good fight of faith, while in heaven the church triumphant is enjoying the bliss and glory Christ gives. It is still one church with one head, Jesus. So too the kingdom is really one with one King. It could be better understood as a kingdom that is a continuum. We begin under His rule here on earth and then continue in heaven, but of course with radical changes. The continuum is in Gabriel’s words, “and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Lk.1:33 Jesus our King rules for ever, from now on into eternity. “…of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, Of God, is for ever and ever. The righteous scepter is the scepter of Thy kingdom.” Heb. l:8
O Jesus, King most wonderful, Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou Sweetness most ineffable, in whom all joys are found!
Thee may our tongues forever bless, Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express The image of Thine own! TLH #361st. 1,5
Two references in particular help us to understand the kingdom of God, that is of grace. Lk. 17:20-21, “Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ’Lo here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.’” The phrase “in the midst of you” can also be translated “within you,” which in either case shows that it is not a material or physical thing, but spiritual, among or within. Here Jesus says both what the kingdom is and is not. It is not to be “observed.” It is “in the midst of you.” He gives both the positive and negative presentation.
The second passage is Rom. 14:17, “For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Here again there is a negative and a positive aspect presented. Food and drink are externals, and the kingdom is not chiefly concerned with externals. Righteousness, peace and joy are internal items bestowed on us by the indwelling Spirit of God. Jesus’ gracious rule is not with the rod of iron on the external body, but with His love in the heart and mind. With these passages and others we see clearly.
Hail, hosanna, David’s Son! Help, Lord, hear our supplication!
Let Thy kingdom, scepter, crown, Bring us blessing and salvation,
That forever we may sing: Hail, hosanna! To our King. TLH # 55 st. 4
The kingdom is also ‘not’ many other things. The Lord must direct His disciples (then and now) repeatedly no to earthify the kingdom. In Lk. 19:10 we read that the disciples “supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” Jesus taught the parable about the nobleman who went into afar country and in the meantime entrusted his servants with money until he would return. Of course the kingdom that the disciples thought was going to appear immediately was an earthly one like Herod’s. Still at the ascension they ask, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” “To Israel” is indicative of what kind of kingdom they were even at that time looking forward to, an earthly. Remember how earlier the two sons of Zebedee and their mother sought to have the two prominent thrones next to the King for these two to sit on. And the other disciples, why were they upset? Was it because these were so foolish to ask for such a wrong thing or that these two had asked first and might get what they also wanted?
As we study the Word we see that the disciples were certainly disappointed in Gethsemane when Jesus was taken away. How could the kingdom come about with the King under arrest and to be crucified? The two disciples on the road to Emmaus expressed their disappointment that the one supposed to “redeem Israel” was dead. Do we sometimes also get a bit chagrined that the kingdom is so spiritual? Are we so different than the first disciples?
Studying what the Word says about this gracious rule points us away from earthifying it.
Here are tribulations, not thrones and glory. Here we go through many tribulations until we enter the kingdom above. Acts 14:22 His grace in our hearts sustains us knowing that He is in charge and all must work for our good despite what appears outwardly. Be alert, “I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” Christ in our heart now assures that we will be in glory later. And if our condition here seems to indicate anything but living under a great King, we are focusing on the wrong things. “Listen, my beloved. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him?” Here we operate by faith. We see in a glass darkly when it comes to the kingdom of glory, but we know that with the limitation of sin gone, it is enhanced tremendously. To sustain our faith we need to see what we can see clearly, and that is God’s Word. We know that He has gone ahead to set the table, furnish the hall and prepare our kingly residence. To assure us He miraculously also inhabits our heart with the Gospel treasure of forgiveness and love to keep us for “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Mt.25:34 We will “eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” as He promised. Lk.22:30 As the repentant dying thief, when asking for life in the kingdom heard, so we hear that at the point of death we will be transferred to glory. Lk. 23:43 And now to sustain us, He walks with us and talks with us along life’s troubled way. His light guides our way as His grace, favor undeserved and divine, rules our heart.
Just consider the following passages which say ‘not’ to an earthly kingdom. Lk.12:15 Jesus said, “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Personally as well as throughout the church we look forward to the real riches which are to be fully ours in heaven. Why should there be an earthly kingdom with all the earthly trappings for us? This pales in comparison to what is to come. Now the promise is treasured up in our heart. When the Pharisees asked when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered that it does not come with observation as we saw already. Out among the people it was the same desire for a kingdom of Israel with a good king who would be a bread king. After Jesus had fed the 5000with twelve baskets of fragments left over the people “were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king…”Jn.6:15 While Jesus provides, there is no question about it, all we need to live the abundant life here, the most important provision is the spiritual, not the ‘bread.’ Jesus withdrew from the crowds to the hills.
As it was with the Pharisees and with the crowds of people, so it was sadly also with the disciples. In the incident with the mother and her two sons, Mt. 20:20-28, it was the wrong throne, wrong realm, wrong attitude. Here we do not rule, but serve, as our Lord did, “…whoever would be great among you must be your servant…the Son of man came not be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mt.20:26,28 With His gracious rule in our heart we would bend down as He did and wash each others feet. This is the manifestation of the kingdom of God.
In Mk. 13:1-2 as the disciples view with amazement the grandeur of the temple you can just see in their minds the transference of this earthly glory to a palace and throne and
and king here and now. When Jesus says one stone will not be left upon another, He directs them away from the external which perishes. The true grandeur is the King who takes up residence in my heart and enlightens my dark understanding, an internal, spiritual thing. In I Cor. 4:20 we read, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but in power.” Here we remember that Jesus comes with His Word, that we continue in. The Spirit is the inspirer and implanter of the Word, which is able to save our souls and on the last day our bodies. To change from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light is by the living and active Word, sharper than any two-edged sword able to pierce… It is Jesus in the heart through His Word.
Thy kingdom come. Thine let it be in time and in eternity.
Let Thy good Spirit e’er be nigh Our hearts with graces to supply
Break Satan’s power, defeat his rage; Preserve Thy Church from age to age. TLH 458 st.3
The Kingdom is Spiritual
We have a sinful inclination to ruin the good and true. This applies to the kingdom of God and what it means. So we must remember that the kingdom is Jesus. Without Him there is no kingdom. In Him we have forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death and the devil and eternal life. This is spiritual. Whether it is John the baptizer or our Lord saying it, ”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Mt. 3:2, 4:17) the message is Jesus and spiritual. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” Mt. 6:33 It is not the material but the spiritual first, last and always that is the most important. There is a lot packed into our Lord’s statement, “My kingship is not of this world…” Jn. 18:36 His rule is not of this world, but in the world in the human heart.
We have the power because the King is within and among us. We know the secrets of the kingdom (Mt. 13:11) because the Spirit discloses them to us. We have entered the spiritual realm of the great King through the water and the Word having been born again. Jn. 3:3,5 Now what is required of us in our total devotion to the King, to whom we owe everything, is faithful service. Lk.9:62 But let us remember what comes with His rule. True enough, we the poor in spirit, those who humble themselves under His gracious rule have His kingdom. And we are joyful in this. Mt. 5:3 We also though can fully expect to be persecuted for righteousness sake. Yet ours is still the kingdom. Mt. 5:10 You see they can hurt the body and even kill us, but they cannot take Jesus from our heart.
The King of Love my Shepherd is, Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His, And He is mine forever. TLH # 431 st. l
In fifteen of the 39 recorded parables of our Lord the kingdom is explicitly mentioned
in the parable or in the explanation. These are: Mt. 13:11,19 Sower, 13:24 Tares,13:31 Mustard Seed, 113:33Leaven,13:44 Treasure Hidden, 13:45 Pearl,13:47 Dragnet,18:23 Unforgiving Servant,20:1 Workers in the Vineyard, 21:31 Two Sons, 22:2Wedding Feast, 25:1Wise and Foolish Virgins, Mk. 4:26 Growing Seed, Lk. 21:31 Fig Tree, 19:11 Minas(pounds). This is not to say that the kingdom is not implied in others. Jesus shows in these parables that as we live here it is to be a life under Him without regrets, but even more so of joy and eagerness in the kingdom that is a continuum.
As the kingdom is a continuum there is a great comfort for our life here in Revelation’s broad, prophetical picture. John writes about this kingdom of grace in continuum as the pictures were given to him. In chapter four, the Throne Vision, the perspective is from eternity and glory and triumph. From this perspective our King carries out His gracious rule in time. In 11:15 we see that this kingdom shall be forever. Just as in Dan.2:44 this kingdom “shall never be destroyed” and ”shall stand forever. ”Christ has come and died and rose again. “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.” Dan. 4:3 Long prophesied now fulfilled and lived out in our New Testament lives; that is the kingdom. The worst enemy of His grace has been defeated. “…Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down…” Rev. 12:10 Upon the basis of this fact, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” Heb. 12:28 We are now in a victorious warfare, the victory having already been won by the Christ, “they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with Him are called chosen and faithful.” Rev. 17:14 No matter how awesome Gog and Magog with all their allies appear, the victory is already won on Calvary by the King. Though now the fight may take from us our goods, fame, child and wife and even our life, it cannot take from us the Christ. Now in time He expands His gracious rule, pictured in Rev. 19:11-16 by the Rider on the white horse, who is the Word of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. This continues until the end when the last of the elect are called.
Spread, oh, spread, Thou mighty Word, Spread the kingdom of the Lord,
Wheresoe’er His breath has giv’n Life to beings meant for heav’n.
Lord of Harvest, let there be Joy and strength to work for Thee
Till the nations far and near See Thy light and learn Thy fear. TLH #507st. l,6
We are now involved in what Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” Mt. 24:14 We are in the kingdom which does not end and the entrance has been
richly provided for us. I Pet. l:ll Therefore, ”To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” I Tim.l:17