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Defining The Kingdom Of God Part 1

Defining The Kingdom Of God Part 1

Biblical Worldview Course – 5a



This session will survey the coming Kingdom spoken of throughout the Law and the Prophets, and establish the centrality of this same expectation throughout the NT writings.




The content of this classes notes are below with partial formatting. If you would like to see the notes with complete formatting,

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A.    The Kingdom of God has been one of the most disputed subjects in church history. Due to the centrality of the Kingdom in the Scripture, the essential questions about the Kingdom (i.e. ‘what is it?’, ‘what does it involve’, ‘how does it function?’, etc…) inform everything about how we interpret our existence and mission.

B.    While there are several issues of contention regarding the Kingdom, two or three of them stand out as being foundational in regards to our understanding of the Kingdom. Historically, the Kingdom of God has been explained as the Church (cf Augustine), moral ethic, divine reign (cf. Ladd), dispensational schema (the ‘salvation’ of Israel juxtaposed against the ‘salvation’ of Gentiles—the kingdom of heaven), and a few others.

C.   Most of the above mentioned explanations either disregard or discount altogether the simplest understanding of any kingdom. In this class we are going to be focusing on the Kingdom as an actual government. I.e. that the Kingdom of God is an actual government with dominion stretching over an actual region.

D.   Thus, the Kingdom of God is essentially to be understood as the domain over which God both possesses and exercises dominion and authority. In the context of God—both the creator and sustainer of the heavens and the earth—the region over which He rules is the heavens and the earth.

14 “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. (Deu 10:14 NASB)

E.    Every government essentially functions in the same way, and so we will simply explore the Kingdom of God in this way.[1] Government serves the same end as every other institution of human organization (i.e. marriage, family, community, etc…). We organize because we desire intimacy and well-being. Ideal government is simply a means of achieving intimacy and well being.

F.    The mechanics of ideal government:

1.    A Governor: someone who posses both love for the subjects (i.e. desire for their well-being) as well as power (i.e. the ability and endurance to achieve well-being for the ‘whole’).

2.    Law: that which the Governor (one possessing love and power) decides leads to the well-being of the whole.

3.    Punishment: enforcement of the Law is simply the expression of the governor’s love (i.e. desire for well-being) of the whole.

4.    Atonement and Amnesty: the governor’s love inevitably comes into conflict when His love for the whole demands the punishment of the offender, but his love for the offender demands his pardon. Atonement[2] is the suitable substitution for punishment offered to the humble and repentant, while amnesty describes a period of time extended by the governor within which offenders are exempt from punishment.

G.   Within this fundamental framework, God (i.e. the governor) reigns over His Kingdom (i.e. the heavens and the earth) in love (desiring the well-being of the whole) by clearly establishing what leads to well being (i.e. the law or righteousness).

14 “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. (Deu 10:14 NASB)

H.   The Gospel also fits within this framework since the fundamental invitation of the Gospel is to repent and believe in light of the period of amnesty before the Day of the Lord when punishment will executed and well-being ensured to the rest of the governed.

46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luk 24:46-47 NASB)

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2Pe 3:9 NASB)

15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” … 18 “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:15, 18 NASB)

[1] While it is acknowledged that all human institutions of government are fallen and corrupt, government even within it’s present fallen state—like the family, marriage, and other relationships—serves to explain part of the divine nature and the way that it interacts with us.

[2] Atonement cannot be haphazardly applied universally or the well-being of the whole is ALWAYS compromised. Atonement is applied only upon the repentance and acknowledgment of the authority of the ‘governor’. Cf. Mark 1:15 “…the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel. (ESV)



A.    Another source of confusion regarding the Kingdom of God lies in the many references through the Old and New Testament regarding the Kingdom of the God presently ruling (cf. 1 Chron. 29:11; Ps. 103:19; 145:11ff; Jer. 10:7ff; Dan. 4:3, 34; Jn. 19:11; Acts 17:24; Rev. 4:2ff) over all of creation (including the earth) and the future ‘coming’ of the Kingdom of God upon the earth. (cf. Rev. 11:15ff, Dan. 7:14ff, Rev. 1:7)

B.    Explaining the distinction between these two ‘Kingdoms’ has been the source of a great deal of controversy. This is primarily due to the application of a ‘kingdom’ within a Platonic worldview. The heavens and the earth constitute the sum total of reality. Both are substantial, both are material.

C.   At creation, the Lord decided to create a throne in the heavens from which He alone would govern over the heavens and the earth. We will call this the ‘Universal’[1] Kingdom of God.

1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it. (Psa 24:1 NASB)

14 “Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. ” (Deuteronomy 10:14, NASB)

11 “Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine. ” (Job 41:11, NASB)

  • 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ … 34 “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ (Dan 4:32, 34-35 NASB)
  • 21 On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. 22 The people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” 23 And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Act 12:21-23 NASB)

In the Beginning - Genesis 2:2, Psalm 8:6

D.   Secondly, He decided—as an expression of His own absolutely sovereignty over the heavens and the earth—that a son of Adam should reign over the earth. Thus, in the beginning, God established His good pleasure to have a son of Adam ruling over the earth in perfect intimacy with Himself. This will be referred to as the Messianic Kingdom.

9Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other (i.e. who makes the decisions in the equation); I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure‘; (Isa 46:9-10 NASB)

  • 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen 1:26 NASB)
  • 3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. … 16 The heavens are the heavens of the LORD, But the earth He has given to the sons of men. 17 The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence; 18 But as for us, we will bless the LORD From this time forth (i.e. the day of the Lord and the resurrection) and forever. Praise the LORD! (Psa 115:3, 16-18 NASB)

In a preliminary survey of the very extensive array of Biblical references to the Kingdom of God, especially in the Old Testament, the investigator will be impressed by a series of differences which at first sight may seem to be almost contradictory. Some of the more important of these differences may be stated as follows: First, certain passages present the Kingdom as something which has always existed; yet other places it seems to have a definite historical beginning among men. (Compare Ps. 10:16 with Dan. 2:44.) Second, the Kingdom is set forth in Scripture as universal in its scope, outside of which there is no created thing; yet again the Kingdom is revealed as a local rule established on earth. (Compare Ps. 103:19 with Is. 24:23.) Third, the Kingdom sometimes appears as the rule of God directly, with no intermediary standing between God and man; yet it is also pictured as the rule of God through a mediator who serves as channel between God and man. (Compare Ps. 59:13 with 2:4-6.) … Some of the above distinctions, if not all, have been noticed by Biblical scholars and attempts have been made to explain them; sometimes by asserting the existence of one kingdom with two aspects or phases; or by the assumption of two kingdoms. For example… These citations, deliberately selected from authors of widely different viewpoints, will be sufficient to show that the distinctions mentioned above are not imaginary. The question is how to explain them… In one sense it would not be wholly wrong to speak of two kingdoms revealed in the Bible. But we must at the same time guard carefully against the notion that these two kingdoms are absolutely distinct, one from the other. There is value and instruction in thinking of them as two aspects or phases of the one rule of our sovereign God. In seeking for terms which might best designate these two things, I can find nothing better than the adjectives “universal” and “mediatorial.” These are not exactly commensurate terms, of course, but describe different qualities; the first referring to the extent of rule, the latter to the method of rule. Nevertheless, in each case the designated quality seems to be the most important for purposes of identification.[2]

E.    The harmony of the two thrones (i.e. governments) will be fully restored at the end of the thousand year reign of the Messiah on the earth when the heavens and the earth are completely restored to their original glory and union.

3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; (Rev 22:3 NASB)

24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom (Messianic) to the God and Father (Universal), when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He (i.e. the Messiah) must reign until He (i.e. the Father) has put all His enemies under His (i.e. the Messiah’s) feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He (the Father) is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him (the Messiah). 28 When all things are subjected (by the Father) to Him (the Messiah), then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One (the Father) who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all (Governmentally). (1Cr 15:24-28 NASB)

[1] While the phrase ‘Universal Kingdom of God’ does not appear in the Scripture, the Scripture is clear that the throne of God governs with absolute authority over the sum total of reality (i.e. the heavens and the earth) and is thus universal.

[2] Alva J. McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom: An Inductive Study of the Kingdom of God (BMH Books, 1959), 19-21.



A.    Central to understanding the present universal kingdom of God is understanding the way that it presently functions. God presently offers forgiveness of sin to all who repent and believe in the atonement which He provided.

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, (between Jew and Gentile) 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (i.e. the glory of the Kingdom and the resurrection) 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— – (Rom 3:21-25 NIV)

B.    Governmentally, this is referred to as amnesty. Often applied at the inception of a new government, amnesty is the period of time in which punishment is suspended and pardon offered. The condition upon which it is offered is repentance from allegiance to another government or governor

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus. 21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. … 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” (Act 3:19-21, 26 NIV)

C.    God, functioning within this context as the Governor has offered ultimate pardon during this present time to all who repent and believe. Moreover, salvation is simply pardon—applied after the period of amnesty is over. Thus, we are saved from the second death at the end of the age by accepting the offer for pardon now.

6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection (); over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. (Rev 20:6 NASB)

22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (Mat 10:22 NASB)

5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1Cr 5:5 NASB)

D.   The day of the Lord is the day in which the wicked are punished, ending the period of amnesty. It is not only the hour of punishment for the wicked, but of reward for the righteous also. The reward of the righteous comes with Jesus on the day of the Lord. Thus, Jesus always commanded the righteous to store up treasures in heaven, waiting until the day of the Lord to claim their reward.

5 Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” … 9 Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news (LXX ‘euongellizo’), Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news (LXX ‘euongellizo’); Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward (for the righteous) is with Him And His recompense (for the wicked) before Him. (Isa 40:5, 9-10 NASB)

  • 12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (Rev 22:12 NASB)
  • 1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Mat 6:1 NASB)
  • 23 Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. (Luk 6:23 NASB)
  • 18 “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18 NASB)

E.    Historically, there have been countless attempts to explain the presence of evil (i.e. bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people) on the earth. John Calvin proposed that God causatively orchestrates evil for His own purposes. Jacob Armenius argued that God is too kind to orchestrate evil without consent for humans, and that it only exists because God honors the free will of humans. Thus, most of the Protestant movement spends most of it’s time arguing if God is sovereign or if God is loving.[1]

F.    The Scripture explains this apparent dichotomy with the term patience. God has absolute sovereignty over the heavens and the earth, AND He loves the inhabitants of the earth—both the righteous and the wicked. He is exercising His sovereignty in accordance with His love for the wicked.

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2Pe 3:9 NASB)

G.    The truth is that He has established a real day in which He will reward the righteous and punish the wicked. In light of this day, the wicked are called to repent, and the righteous are called to persevere until that day.

12 For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning Against everyone who is proud and lofty And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased. (Isa 2:12 NASB)

30 “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Act 17:30-31 NASB)

33 The LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. (cf. Rev. 20:15) 34 “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” (Exd 32:33-34 NASB)

[1] The early split and current divide within Protestantism (Calvinism/reformed and Lutheran or later Armenian) is due largely to Platonic assumptions about the Kingdom. Within this context the word ‘sovereign’ or ‘sovereignty’ in the Scripture is interpreted as referencing God’s causation of all events. The words in both Hebrew and Greek simply mean ‘king’ or ‘kingdom’, and are simply a reference to the fact that He rules on a throne over the heavens and the earth. Thus, the argument is actually like saying, “Do you believe that God is the King ruling over the heavens and the earth, or do you believe that you have free will?”

Bill Scofield (52 Posts)

Bill is husband to Charis, and father to their 6 children. He is a Bible teacher, elder, and missions trainer.

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