It’s important to understand the meaning of the phrase “The Kingdom of God”, because it was central theme of Jesus Christ’s preaching and teaching. The phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ (also ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or ‘Kingdom of Light’) appears more than 80 times in the New Testament.
Origin & Meaning of The Kingdom of God
The gospel of Mathew presents Jesus as King, the Messiah, the rightful heir to King David’s throne, the Son of David. In the Sermon on the Mount, we see Jesus speaking with authority as a king. In chapters 8-10 Jesus performs miracles that establish His credentials as Messiah, fulfilling all of those Old Testament prophecies to prove that He is the rightful King. As more and more evidence piles up that Jesus is the Messiah, this rejection from the leadership of Israel grows more and more desperate. They begin to fight for their positions as leaders, priests, scribes, lawyers, and pharisees—caring more about themselves than the people of Israel. Finally, when we get to chapter 11, Jesus pronounces severe judgement on Israel for rejecting Him. And then He gives an invitation—not to Israel as a whole, but to individual believers within Israel saying Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. The nation has rejected Him, so He turns to individuals. We see this same pattern when Jesus is dealing with the churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
The Kingdom in Parables
Back in chapter 10 of Matthew, Jesus had sent send the 12 disciples out. Matthew 10:7 says 7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God and explained these parables to His disciples. He told earthly stories with heavenly meanings, comparing something familiar (mustard seed, leaven, lost coins, a man who sowed a field) with something unfamiliar–heaven. He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?” (Luke 13:18), and then gave us examples of what the kingdom of heaven would be like. An overall statement that we glean from the parables of the Kingdom is that the kingdom of God is a mixed bag (especially in the 8 parables of the Kingdom in Mathew 13). The kingdom will have both wheat and tares and it will be like a big net that drags in all kinds of fish, some to be kept, some to be thrown away. A kingdom purchased by Jesus out of the earth, a costly pearl that Jesus gave up His place in heaven to come here and purchase, but one that goes through the process of refinement and sifting, separating the wheat from the tares. These parables of the Kingdom are important to us, because we are still in this period of time between the first time when Jesus came, and was rejected, and the Second Coming of Jesus.
Two Aspects of the Kingdom
So, there are two basic aspects of God’s Kingdom. The first is God’s Universal Kingdom. It means that God rules everything, everywhere, at all times, forever. In Psalm 29, we read that The Lord sat as King at the flood; Yes, the Lord sits as King forever. In Psalm 103:19, we see the extent of God’s reign: The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all. And it is this aspect of the kingdom that Jesus is instructing us to pray comes to pass in our verse: Mathew 6:10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
There is a second aspect of the Kingdom of God, that we as humans have to deal with. God decided to rule on the earth through human instruments (Gen 1:26;28). This delegation of authority had grave consequences when Adam and Eve fell victim to the lies of Satan in Genesis chapter 3. They gave up their authority to rule as God’s delegates, and the enemy became the god of this world. The earth is in rebellion against God. We’re praying “God, rule on earth the way that you rule everywhere else in the Universe” when pray in Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
The Personal Nature of the Kingdom
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasizes the role, character and actions of the individual Citizen of Heaven. This has caused many Christians to understand the kingdom of God to mean just an inner spiritual experience—the rule of God in people’s hearts. Jesus clearly emphasized this aspect of the Kingdom. Luke 17:20-21 “Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” And again, Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingship is not of this world.”
And so these verses do not necessarily imply that the kingdom has no aspects that are external to the believer, but rather that the Kingdom came near in the person of Jesus, and that for those who believe in Him as Lord and Savior the Kingdom is a present reality within us that we will someday get to experience as a reality, together, all around us. In these verses, Jesus is emphasizing the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God, but He is not excluding or separating this spiritual nature from the Kingdom that will be revealed in it’s future consummation.
It’s a current reality now experienced by the believer in our spiritual life, as we are reminded of by Paul in Romans 14:17 “17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Paul also taught that followers of Jesus Christ enter into the Kingdom of God at salvation in Col 1:13: 13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. So, we see both the “internal-now” and the “external-later” aspects of the Kingdom. The apostle Peter described the future reward of those who persevere in the faith: 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:11) (also Heb 1:14; Titus 3:7, etc.).
Not just the Church
The church is part of the Kingdom, a very special part, the Bride of Christ, but the kingdom is not just the church. The Kingdom of God also includes those Old Testament believers who waited for the Messiah, Jesus. In Luke 13:28-29: “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.” The Kingdom of God is established and has it’s origin and rule with God, and grows by God’s design alone John 3:3 “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
We must keep our eyes on Jesus, the King. Do we want to demonstrate the passion compassion and love that Jesus had for people? Yes, we are commanded to love people and care for them all over the Old and New Testament. But, we must remember that these works are a result of our love for Jesus, because He loves them; they are not an end in themselves. Jesus didn’t just call people to follow him in a way of living; He called them to die to themselves, to be born again into a new life eternal. It’s not about reforming a reprobate life through our own efforts, but about giving our lives to serve Jesus Himself, and letting God transform us into His image. We are under His lordship.