by Rayola Kelley
Q: I have heard a lot of emphasis on the kingdom of God that has brought confusion to me as to what I need to understand in relationship to this subject. Even though I am not sure why I am confused, could you clarify what I need to understand about the kingdom of God? Thanks.
A: I can certainly understand why there is much confusion about this issue. There are various teachings in which the kingdom of God serves as the center focus. There is the “Kingdom Now” teaching which believes that the Church, not Christ, will set up the future kingdom that is yet to come. There is “Replacement Theology” where the Church has supposedly “replaced” national Israel. There is also the teaching about establishing the kingdom of God in a physical sense among Christian groups that will prepare, replace or protect believers from the governmental intrusion that is fast taking center stage. I am sure that I am only touching the surface of these teachings or groups. Regardless of the abuse or misuse of the concept of God’s kingdom, the Scriptures hold the key to understanding what the kingdom of God is.
There are two terms used interchangeably in Scripture: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. There are those who believe there is a slight difference between these terms. The kingdom of God embraces all that is being done on behalf of His kingdom, while the kingdom of heaven is mainly associated to His work on earth. Whether this slight difference is true or not, at the core of the kingdom of God is that His will is being done, whether in heaven or on earth (Matthew 6:10).
To understand what role the kingdom of God is to have in our lives, we must understand what God’s will is. This will cut through the various heretical teachings that have flooded Christendom. God’s will is simple: He wants people to believe upon His Son to ensure the salvation of their souls. When it comes to man, his very salvation has to do with God’s plan and work of redemption that took place on the cross of Christ. With this in mind, let us now consider some of the references to the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, to see if this simple presentation bears out in Scripture.
When John the Baptist came out of the wilderness, he declared in Matthew 3:2: “Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John was preparing people to understand that the work of God, redemption, was at hand.
In Matthew 4:17 Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Consider the tense of what John stated about the kingdom, which was in relationship to future tense, while Jesus’ statement is in relationship to past and present tense. The kingdom was at hand because Jesus was the one sent forth to do the work of the kingdom so that the plan of redemption could be brought forth in this world.
In Matthew 4:23, we read about the Gospel of the kingdom. The gospel is the good news of the kingdom. We know the good news that was established by Christ’s death, burial and resurrection was that man could possess eternal life and now partake of the fullness of salvation, as well as the kingdom of God.
In John 18:36, Jesus stated that His kingdom was not of this world. In other words, it did not have its source in the world, function as the world, nor did it belong to it. We are told to first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all matters concerning our needs would be taken care of (Matthew 6:33). Matthew 12:38 tells us that believers make up this unseen kingdom, and that the entrance to it comes through, by and because of who Jesus Christ is and what He did for us (2 Peter 1:9-12). In Matthew 25:34, we are told that we must inherit or possess this kingdom. Luke 12:32 tells us it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us this kingdom. In other words, all that is attached to this unseen, eternal kingdom is what the Father desires to give us by way of promises, while it is Jesus who will preserve us unto His heavenly kingdom for His glory (2 Timothy 4:18). Hebrews 6:12 and James 2:5 reveals that it is only through faith that we can inherit the promises of the kingdom. Finally, we have this important bit of information about the kingdom of God in Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Clearly, it is a spiritual kingdom that is not only fruitful, but is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
To me, these Scriptures confirm that the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven has to do with God’s will being carried out, especially where it comes to mankind and the necessary work it will take to bring His will about in the lives of His people. Jesus is king of this kingdom that needs to be brought forth in the lives of His people at the place of redemption. The work of the kingdom has to do with the salvation of men’s souls, and ensuring that eternal life is brought forth in each of us. Clearly, man cannot bring this realm forth, nor will this spiritual kingdom replace national Israel. It is not meant to be instituted among the people, but in them through the indwelling presence of His Spirit. The emphasis of the kingdom of God is not the kingdom itself; rather, it is His work of redemption to bring forth the life that will identify each believer to an eternal inheritance. This inheritance includes being citizens of an everlasting kingdom.
I do hope this will somewhat clear up the confusion you may be having concerning this matter.