The Kingdom of God is Primarily Spiritual
Wouldn’t the kingdom of God be important to understand if you want to be a part of it? Here you can learn the characteristics of God’s kingdom and what it means to be a part of it.
Traditional Legal Model – the reign of God on Earth. God’s rule over His people. Those who do not submit to God’s rule are not part of His kingdom.
Biblical Healing Model – The principles of God, based on His character, being lived out in the lives of those who, by doing that, have His kingdom in their hearts.
Common Understanding of the Kingdom of God
Here are examples of the common understanding of the meaning of the kingdom of God:
“The answer is, the kingdom of God is God’s reign — his sovereign action in the world to redeem and deliver a people and then at a future time finish it and renew his people and the universe completely.” (https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-the-kingdom-of-god)
“Here are three things that the Kingdom of God means:
1. The rule of Jesus Christ on earth
2. The blessing and advantages that flow from living under Christ’s rule
3. The subjects of this kingdom, or the Church”
“There is another sense in which the kingdom of God is used in Scripture: the literal rule of Christ on the earth during the millennium.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/kingdom-of-God.html)
There are a number of aspects to the kingdom of God that sites such as those above do get into to various degrees but the emphasis is generally about God’s reign of a physical kingdom. This page shows that, Biblically, the millennium does not involve God’s physical reign on Earth.
The Kingdom of God not Physical
Let’s see what scripture says about the kingdom of God:
“And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.” (Mark 12:34)
Why did Jesus say that the scribe He was talking to was not far from the kingdom of God? It was not because he was soon to die and go to heaven (Of course, scripture teaches that the dead know nothing.) It was not because a physical kingdom of God was about to be established on earth. It was not that He was then physically near Jesus.
The scribe of Mark 12 was not close to the kingdom in either time or space so it must have been in the sense of his understanding. This is evidenced by the fact that Jesus was commenting on what the scribe had said:
“And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33)
In fact, Jesus made it clear that His was not an earthly kingdom:
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)
Recall that, on one occasion, Peter did use the sword in an attempt to defend his master:
“And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.” (Matt 26:51)
However, Jesus did not sanction that action:
“Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matt 26:52)
The Kingdom of God is More Understood Than Seen
“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
Some might argue that it will be very visible quoting verse 24:
“For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day.” (Luke 17:24)
Also, this verse speaks of a very visible coming:
“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” (Rev 1:7)
However, putting those verses together just proves the point that the kingdom is not primarily about anything physical. Revelation 1:7 is talking about Jesus’ coming not the coming of the Kingdom of heaven. He will be coming for those who have the kingdom of heaven in their hearts already.
It is not a kingdom that can be seen outwardly. Could it be something like a state of mind existing in a subject of the kingdom? (2 Cor 5:7)
The Kingdom Expected
There was a popular expectation in Jesus’ day that an earthly kingdom was about to be established:
“And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” (Luke 19:11)
“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
That the term “the kingdom of God” means the same as “the kingdom of Heaven” is shown by various gospel writers:
“And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:15)
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17)
Tim Jennings has a good comparison of the principles of God’s kingdom vs those of Satan’s kingdom:
How God reigns
How Satan reigns
|Love||Fear and selfishness|
|Evidence||Proclamation / claims|
|Design law||Imposed laws|
|Freedom / liberty||Coercion / force|
|Character / motive||Behavior / deed|
We can understand if a ruler or government is operating according to the principles of God’s kingdom or Satan’s kingdom by the methods they use to govern.
Godly methods will include truth, love, freedom and openness to investigation and questioning. Ungodly methods will employ censorship, accusations, deception, coercion, demands, control, mandates, intimidation and inciting fear in order to control.
Receiving the Kingdom Means a Change
Notice what Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
That suggests a change in nature, a starting over.
“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16)
“Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” (Mark 10:15)
How does a child receive any gift? – they just accept it in trust.
Does God want us to have the kingdom?
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
There are verses suggesting it might be hard to get in:
“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Matt 19:24)
It is not God making it hard to get into the kingdom. Remember, the kingdom is more of a mindset or an experience than it is a physical kingdom. What might make it hard? Probably our way of thinking, especially about Him.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt 6:33)
The pairing of “the kingdom of God” AND “His righteousness” indicates that they are inseparably linked.
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom 14:17)
“Not meat and drink” means not to do with physical things.
“But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” (Luke 10:10-11)
Jesus was saying not that a physical kingdom had somehow come near but that an opportunity to learn the truth of God’s kingdom had been made available – and they had spurned it.
Receiving the kingdom, becoming a subject of it means more than being a part of the religion of the day as Nicodemus was. It means recognizing, accepting and living by the principals of God’s eternal kingdom which are based on His unchanging and ever-merciful, loving character.
John the Baptist
Something was said about John the Baptist and the Kingdom of heaven that is very interesting:
“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (Matt 11:11)
It doesn’t seem to speak highly of John the Baptist. But please visit here to learn why Jesus said that and what it indicates about the kingdom that John did not understand. There is additional information on that page about the kingdom of God.
John had faith in Jesus as the Messiah – he was the one to publicly introduce the Messiah to Israel. However, he did not appreciate the principles of God’s way of dealing with people.
Thy Kingdom Come
“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.” (Luke 11:2)
Why would God encourage such a prayer if He had no intention of His kingdom being operational on Earth? That verse makes a connection between the kingdom coming and God’s will being done on earth meaning obedience by His subjects.
Other verses suggest that people on Earth are or will be a part of this kingdom:
“These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” (Dan 7:17-18)
The saints “take the kingdom” or, as it is more commonly translated, “receive the kingdom.” They are not taking the kingdom of God from kings of the earth who never had it. This verse links receiving the kingdom with a level of knowledge:
“Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment [discernment] was given [granted] to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” (Dan 7:22)
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt 24:14)
Christians look for that to happen shortly before the end.
“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Dan 2:44)
If God sets up a kingdom it is logical that He is setting up His kingdom. The setting up of that kingdom is initiated by an event described earlier in Daniel’s vision:
“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (Dan 2:34-35)
The Kingdom of God on Earth
Scripture says elsewhere what will fill the whole earth:
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa 11:9)
“For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab 2:14)
Does that mean the kingdom of God will be universally accepted or even acknowledged? Most likely it will not even be understood by all, but it will be available.
How could such a kingdom be set up anywhere on earth and stand forever? Wouldn’t it be interrupted by the Second Coming, the destruction of the earth etc?
If the kingdom that God sets up “in the days of these kings” is not a physical kingdom but a way of thinking, a set of attitudes in the minds of its subjects, it could continue right through the Second Coming and on into eternity.
So, if the kingdom of heaven is not referring to the physical location of heaven and some were part of the kingdom of heaven in John’s day, could the kingdom of heaven exist even now? Or perhaps the kingdom of heaven (a correct knowledge of God) has been largely lost over the centuries (think especially of the Dark Ages) and is only now being reestablished – “in the days of these kings” (Dan 2:44).
Is it possible that the 144,000 will more fully understand (even than John the Baptist did) the kingdom of heaven and will thus be able to live and share it with conviction and power?
Pray that you might see the light of the truth of God’s wonderful character so that this verse might be fulfilled for you:
“Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” (Col 1:13)
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