Recently, I was involved in a lengthy e-mail dialog with a friend of mine on a number of issues. The expression “The Kingdom” came up and I realized that he and I had some disagreements on what exactly it is and what it has to do with present-day believers. So I thought I had better clarify my position which I believe is the biblical position, on the Kingdom.
The New Testament and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) use the Greek word basileia, which can mean either “kingship” (the actual rule of a king) or “kingdom” (the sphere of rule).
The Old Testament concepts still appear to be valid in the New Testament and in the present age. There are essentially two aspects of the Kingdom, corresponding to the two definitions given above. One is the eternal reign of God over the heavens and the earth. God reigns (Psalm 45:6; 103:19; Daniel 4:3, 17, 32, 34; 6:26)! A second aspect is that of the future reign of God on the earth through His Messiah, His anointed Davidic king (Isaiah 9:6, 7; 11:1ff; Psalm 2:6; Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:24; Revelation 11:15). This is the Kingdom spoken of in the New Testament.
The expressions “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven” (literally “the Heavens”) describe the same entity. In the Jewish mode of speaking in Jesus’ day, “heaven” was often used as a euphemism for “God.” Matthew’s gospel, the more Jewish gospel, is the only place in the New Testament where the expression “Kingdom of Heaven” is used – 37 times by my count. All other writers use “Kingdom of God.” Often he uses Kingdom of Heaven where the other synoptic gospels use Kingdom of God in the same context. Compare Mark 1:14, 15 with Matthew 4:17; Mark 4:11 with Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:30, 31 with Matthew 13:31. Matthew also uses the expression “Kingdom of God” 4 times. Other expressions are also used throughout the New Testament, such as “His Kingdom,” “the Kingdom of their Father,” “Your Kingdom.” All refer to the same entity. There is no basis for attempting to define these as different spheres of rule.
Both Jesus and John the Baptist preached “The Kingdom has drawn near” (ēggiken) (Matthew 3:1; 4:17) and other such expressions. It seems that the Kingdom had drawn near in the person of Jesus the King, although Israel rejected the Kingdom when they rejected the King. Hence, it is still future in our days as we await His return. Jesus promised Hs disciples at the Last Supper, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s Kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
The expression “mysteries of the Kingdom” is only found in three parallel passages in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10). A mystery is a truth revealed in the New Testament which was not previously known in the Old Testament age, though it is not incompatible with Old Testament teaching. The Kingdom mysteries are expressed through parables. They have to do with the age preceding the inauguration of the Messianic Kingdom.
Some major “mysteries” are:
-- There will be a period of growth of unspecified length.
-- Good and evil will increase together.
-- The inauguration of the Kingdom will be preceded by a period of judgment.
Not all will enter into this Kingdom, only a select few. Others will be banished to “outer darkness.” There are a number of expressions that describe this entrance. Compare Matthew 19:16-24: “have eternal life,” “enter into life,” “enter into the Kingdom of Heaven,” “be saved.”
We who have placed our faith in Christ in this age are members of that Kingdom (Colossians 1:13) even though it is still future.
There is no real basis for the popular teaching that the Kingdom is some present inner thing. The word translated within in Luke 17:21 NIV is entos and is better translated “in your midst” as the NASB does. Jesus is not telling the Pharisees that the Kingdom is “within” them (of all people!), but that it was right there in their midst in the person of the King – Jesus Himself.
Nor is there any basis for the teaching that the preaching of the Kingdom was only for the period of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We find it still being preached in the book of Acts (1:3; 8:12), even by Paul (Acts 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31). It is referred to frequently in his epistles.
Some Dispensationalists teach that Jesus’ ethical teachings, such as the Sermon on the Mount, are part of “The Law of the Kingdom” and have no application for us in the Church Age, the Age of Grace.
However, this seems to be completely arbitrary. Nowhere in the New Testament is this expression “The Law of the Kingdom” used, and nowhere is it even implied. The Sermon was directed at Jesus’ disciples (Matthew 5:1; Luke 6:20). Later, not long before His ascension into Heaven, Jesus told some from this same group, “Go … make disciples … teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20).
He set the maximum of His commands as “all,” and the duration as “always.” What part of these two words don’t we understand?