THE KINGDOM OF GOD
A. Most of us have heard the phrase “the kingdom of God.” In Scripture, there are two primary ways in which the kingdom of God is understood. The first is the kingdom of God in a universal sense. Universal means everything everywhere. From His throne in the highest heavens, God oversees all His creation. He is King and Ruler over everything in all creation. He rules over all. The heavens and the earth are the kingdom over which God rules from His throne in the highest heavens.
Psalm 103:19 (NIV)
The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
Job 41:11 (NIV)
Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.
Deuteronomy 10:14 (NIV)
To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.
1 Chronicles 29:10-11 (NIV)
10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
B. Question: Who is the King of the universal kingdom of the heavens and the earth?
C. Question: Who are the subjects of this universal kingdom?
D. In other parts of Scripture, the kingdom of God is described and understood as an earthly kingdom that will be established by the Messiah on the earth at the end of the age.
24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.” 25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.” 26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” 27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed are these: 29 “As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come (future reality being described), and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen (future reality being described). 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind. 31 “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands (something not created by man). It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them (judgment). 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain (a kingdom, cf. vs. 44) and filled the whole earth (the earth the center of this kingdom’s expansion). 36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory (Babylon a kingdom on the earth); 38 in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. 39 “After you, another kingdom will rise (earthly kingdom), inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth (earthly kingdom). 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom (earthly kingdom), strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom (earthly kingdom) will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. 44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will (future reality)set up a kingdom (the kingdom of God, that fills the earth) that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will(future reality, at the end of the age) crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.” 46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”
Isaiah 2:1-5 (NIV)
1This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: 2 In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. 3 Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. 5Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
Isaiah 9:1-7 (NIV)
1Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan— 2The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. 3 You have enlarged the nation (geographically and in number, including resurrected saints, cf. Is. 49:8ff, 66:7ff; Dan. 12:13), and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. 4For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor (cf. Is. 11, Zech. 12-14). 5 Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
E. So, Scripture describes the Kingdom of God in two senses. First, the universal kingdom. God rules over the heavens and the earth presently from His throne in the highest heavens over all creation. Second, the future kingdom of the Messiah on the earth. This kingdom awaits a future establishment in context to God’s judgment of the earth at the end of the age, when all rebellion will be crushed. This kingdom will have its governmental headquarters in Jerusalem. Jesus, the Messiah, will sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem and rule the earth in righteousness from there. Both are the kingdom of God in an important sense.
F. Question: Which one of these – the universal kingdom or the Messiah’s future earthly kingdom – are we a part of simply by virtue of the fact that we were created by God and are therefore a part of His creation?
G. Who is a part of the universal kingdom in this wicked evil age? The righteous, the wicked, animals, etc?
H. Which one of these – the universal kingdom or the Messiah’s future earthly kingdom – do you think requires repentance and faith in the Messiah in order for someone to have a place in it?
I. Let’s read the following verses. As we read, ask the following question: Which kingdom is being proclaimed as good news?
Mark 1:14-15 (NIV)
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
J. When John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles proclaimed that the kingdom of God is at hand, they were proclaiming the coming kingdom of the Messiah. Inclusion in this kingdom requires repentance and faith in Jesus as Lord.
K. We saw from Daniel 2 that the Messiah’s kingdom will be established in the Day of the Lord, when God will crush all rebellious earthly governments and blow them away like the chaff.
L. Several hundred years even before the Messiah showed up on the scene the first time, the prophets Isaiah (Is. 13:6, 7), Ezekiel (Ezek. 30:3), Joel (Joel 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14), Obadiah (Obad. 15), Zephaniah (Zeph. 1:14), boldly proclaimed the nearness of the Day of the Lord. Jesus understood His message about the kingdom of God being “at hand” in the same way – a statement of urgency, irrespective of when the end of the age actually arrives in history.
Zephaniah 1:14-16 (NIV)
14 “The great day of the Lord is near— near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. 15 That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, 16 a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers.
Luke 10:8-15 (NIV)
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. 13 “Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.
M. To first century Jews, it would not have been good news that God’s universal kingdom was now “near” or “at hand,” because God’s universal kingdom had always been “at hand” from the beginning of creation! God had been sitting on His heavenly throne from the beginning. “Let Your kingdom come” means nothing if we’re talking about the universal kingdom, because it is already here. Their hope was the coming kingdom of the Messiah to be established at the end of the age. This too is our blessed hope:
Titus 2:11-14 (NIV)
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
N. Therefore, when God created the heavens and the earth, these became part of His kingdom. All of God’s creation is a part of His kingdom. God has authority over His kingdom. God is seated on a throne in the highest heavens. God is seated over the heavens and the earth as King. He has all authority and power over the heavens and the earth. God’s kingdom over all creation is His universal kingdom. God rules over everything from His throne in the highest heavens. Part of that kingdom is in rebellion against God. But God is being patient with the human rebels. Would be as if Oregon were to rebel against the United States. Just because Oregon thinks it is on its own wouldn’t really mean that. The US government would squelch that rebellion in due time. The difference is that God loves the people rebelling against Him.
O. The universal kingdom and the Messiah’s coming kingdom are dynamically related. The Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the Eternal Word of God who has always existed. He has always been King. And when He became flesh, the Word became Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, the God-Man, has been raised to the Father’s right hand. Like King David, He has been anointed King. And yet, also like David, He is waiting patiently for the Father to give Him David’s earthly throne.