What is the Kingdom of God and why is it important?
If I was to say that it is the place where you might spend Eternity, it should become more important.
How does it fit with other beliefs, such as heaven and hell?
Jesus Preaches the Gospel of the Kingdom
In some churches, the subject of the Kingdom is hardly heard, but what does the Bible say?
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14&15)
We know that the word "gospel", means "Good News". This means that Jesus was preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
What is the Good News concerning this Kingdom, why did Jesus preach it and why is it important to us?
Firstly, the Kingdom is not just a New Testament idea. We can find it throughout the Old Testament as well. Sometimes it is talking about the literal Kingdom of Israel and other times it is talking about a future Kingdom, which has yet to be set up.
The Kingdom in the Old Testament
Yahweh is good to all. His tender mercies are over all his works. All your works will give thanks to you, Yahweh. Your saints will extol you. They will speak of the glory of your kingdom, and talk about your power; to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, the glory of the majesty of his kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. Your dominion endures throughout all generations. Yahweh is faithful in all his words, and loving in all his deeds. (Psalm 145:9-13)
In this passage, we see that the "Saints" will speak about the Kingdom and make it known to the "sons of men"; also that the Kingdom is everlasting.
It is worth mentioning what the Bible definition of a "Saint" is:
Source: Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
one separated from the world and consecrated to God; one holy by profession and by covenant; a believer in Christ (Ps. 16:3; Rom. 1:7; 8:27; Phil. 1:1; Heb. 6:10).
Because this Kingdom is described as an everlasting Kingdom, we know the Bible is not talking about the Kingdom of Israel, because that was overthrown and the people taken into captivity, centuries before the birth of Christ.
This next prophecy was spoken about Jesus, about 500 years before his birth:
Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from that time on, even forever. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will perform this. (Isaiah 9:7)
Again, we have the idea of an everlasting Kingdom, but also there is everlasting peace, with the centre of power being on the throne of David, which would be in Jerusalem.
It is these pictures of the Kingdom that not only give hope and encouragement to believers of all generations, but also describe it sufficiently for us to realise that the Bible is not talking about anything found in the world today.
In the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44)
If you get a chance, it is worth reading the whole of Daniel chapter 2, which is a prophecy about the various Empires that will rule over Israel until the "Time of the End", when Jesus (the Stone) will return to smash those empires and set up God's Kingdom.
Here are some words from Daniel chapter 7:
18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever. ...21 I saw, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22 until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. ..... 27 The kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole sky, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
We won't get distracted by who the "horn" is, although it is a Bible symbol for a human ruler. The important facts we see from this passage is that this "horn" will persecute Christ's faithful followers (the Saints) until he returns to set up the Kingdom, at which time the faithful will help to govern the Kingdom (here it says they will judge and elsewhere it says they will be "Priests and Kings"). Again we see that the Kingdom will be an everlasting one.
There are some who feel that the Kingdom of God is a state of mind, or an organisation (such as "The Church"), that people can belong to now. However, such concepts do not fit well with how the Kingdom is described in Scripture. For a start, we can be sure from the words we looked at from Daniel chapter 7, that the "Saints" (Christ's followers) will only possess the Kingdom after the return of Jesus to Earth, sometime in the future.
From Isaiah, chapter 9, we read about a permanent state of peace, justice and righteousness and we that this has never existed in the world.
In Isaiah, chapter 11, we read these words:
The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; The calf, the young lion, and the fattened calf together; and a little child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze. Their young ones will lie down together. The lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play near a cobra's hole, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den. They will not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
This is another picture of peace and even total harmony in Creation. But we also read - "the earth will be full of the knowledge of Yahweh". Yahweh is God's name. So is the earth full of the knowledge of Yahweh? Many would say that knowledge of God is decreasing rather than increasing.
If we look forward to the New Testament, we can find these words in Revelation, chapter 21:1-4.
I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice out of heaven saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with people, and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away from them every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; neither will there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more. The first things have passed away."
This gives a real problem for those who think that their reward is in heaven, because it clearly states that God is going to come down out of heaven to be in the new creation to dwell with His people. We know that God is everywhere and heaven will always be His dwelling place, but clearly, when God wishes to be with His people, He comes to earth. We can also see that in this Kingdom, there will be no more death, or crying, or pain. Clearly this cannot be a state of mind or the Church, as some claim.
In Luke chapter 9, Jesus tells this parable. It is fairly clear that he is telling the story about himself.
He said therefore, "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. He called ten servants of his, and gave them ten mina coins, and told them, 'Conduct business until I come.' But his citizens hated him, and sent an envoy after him, saying, 'We don't want this man to reign over us.' "It happened when he had come back again, having received the kingdom, that he commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by conducting business.(Luke 9:12-15)
The nobleman (Jesus) went to a far country (heaven) to receive a Kingdom (from his Father) and then returned. He tells his servants to work while he is away (doing the will of God). Many citizens reject Jesus as their King but despite that, he returns and then judges his servants.
These and many other Scriptures show us what the Kingdom is and give us a glimpse of what it will be like. Since the "Signs of the Times" suggest that we are in the last days before the return of Jesus from that "far country", shouldn't we be watching and waiting and using the time wisely, so that when Jesus beings us to account, he will say: 'Well done, you good servant! Because you were found faithful with very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.' (Luke 19:17)?