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What is the Kingdom of God?

These words are part of a prayer known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. ‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’

  • Matthew 6:9-13

They are straightforward and unambiguous, and countless people have repeated them many times. However, for the vast majority their meaning is lost. It is therefore not surprising that they do not understand what they are asking for. In reality, the Lord Jesus Christ is to return to establish God's Kingdom on earth and this is the very essence of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. Ever since Jesus taught his disciples this prayer, true believers have been asking God to establish His kingdom here on earth, that His will may be done on earth as it has always been done in heaven. There can be no doubt then that the kingdom which we must pray for, is to be a divine kingdom, to be set up here on earth and that when it comes, men and women will learn to do His will.

The Bible does not teach that the Kingdom of God is the church, or a spiritual reign of grace in the hearts of believers, or that it is in heaven (although of course, God does rule there too - see Ecclesiastes 5:2; Matthew 5:34). Instead, the Bible teaches that the Kingdom of God will be a literal kingdom here on earth, when God's promise will be fulfilled: ‘but truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord’

  • Numbers 14:21 (see also Habakkuk 2:14)

It is essential then that we know just what this kingdom is, for how can we look forward to something that we do not understand? It may come as a surprise to many people to learn that thousands of years ago God chose the land that is to be the very centre of His kingdom, the land which we now know as Israel, with its capital city Jerusalem. It is soon to become the capital of the whole world. Jesus will reign there as he said to his disciples: ‘But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.’

  • Matthew 5:34-35

David, who reigned as king in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, described this city as: ‘Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth… Mount Zion... the city of the great King’

  • Psalm 48.2

Mount Zion is part of Jerusalem and God has chosen to place His name there as He reminded David’s son, King Solomon.

  • 2 Chronicles 6:6

God's Kingdom in the past

The ancient nation of Israel agreed to obey God's law and they became the kingdom of God on earth (see Exodus 19:3-8). They were given a succession of leaders, judges and finally kings. Nevertheless, throughout their history, Israel remained God's kingdom. Samuel, the last of the judges was reminded of this when the people clamoured for a human king, like the surrounding nations. God said to Samuel: ‘…they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them,

  • 1 Samuel 8:7

King David recognised that it was the kingdom of God over which he ruled. Referring to the succession of his son Solomon, he said: ‘...he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel.

  • 1 Chronicles 28:5

After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided into two parts, the northern kingdom of Israel with its capital in Samaria, and the southern kingdom of Judah with its capital in Jerusalem. King after king reigned over Judah in Jerusalem. Some were good kings but the majority were evil, so much so that the nation became corrupt and turned to idolatry. After 400 years God brought His kingdom to an end through the fulfilment of these remarkable words of the prophet Ezekiel, addressed to their last king, Zedekiah: ‘I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him’

  • Ezekiel 21:27 KJV

But even then did you notice there was a promise of restoration in these words? Note from that verse that someone was to come ‘whose right it is' to occupy the throne of this future kingdom of God. Of that restoration Ezekiel prophesied:

‘And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again ...they shall be my people, and I will be their God’

  • Ezekiel 37:22-23

These words were written a long time after King David's death and refer to that greater son of David who was to come. This is confirmed by the words of the angel to Mary, the mother of Jesus: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

  • Luke 1:32-33

Jesus is the one ‘whose right it is’, the one who is heir to the throne of David, who will reign over the whole world from Jerusalem.

God's appointed king

Jesus clearly understood that he was destined to be that king. At his trial Pilate asked him: ‘Are you a king then?’ He replied: ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world . . .’

  • John 18:37

Over the cross on which he was crucified, was written: ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’

  • Matthew 27:37

His enemies of course had intended to mock him, but what Pilate had written was true. This was the main theme of our Lord's preaching while here on earth; it was the gospel or good news of the coming Kingdom of God (see for example Matthew 4:23 and Luke 8:1). When Jesus sent his disciples to preach, it was the same message: ‘He sent them to preach the kingdom of God...’

  • Luke 9.2

That is why Jesus is coming back - to set up the Kingdom of God here on earth. This kingdom will be the restored ancient Kingdom of Israel. The disciples of Jesus clearly understood this, so much so, that after his resurrection they were eager to know when it would happen. They asked him: ‘...Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ His reply indicated that the time was not yet, but was predetermined by his Father

  • Acts 1:6-7

The extent of the Kingdom

The Kingdom over which Jesus will rule will extend far beyond the first Kingdom of God. Indeed it will extend over the whole earth and it will last for ever, as foretold by the prophet Daniel: ‘... the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.’

  • Daniel 2:44

In the Psalms we are given some amazing prophetic word pictures of the time when God's kingdom is established on earth. Read through Psalms 2 and 72 from which the following verses are taken: ‘Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion... Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.’

  • Psalm 2:6,8

‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’

  • Psalm 72:8

The rule of Jesus Christ

When Jesus was born, the angels sang for joy: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men!’

  • Luke 2:14

From that day to this there has not been any real lasting peace on this earth, and there never will be, until Jesus returns to establish God's Kingdom. The Old Testament prophets tell us a lot about the Kingdom and give glimpses of the time of peace and tranquillity, when all nations will be blessed as promised to Abraham, Israel's founding father (see Genesis 12:1-3).

The Prophet Isaiah foretold that Jerusalem will be the centre of government in the coming Kingdom of God: ‘... out of Zion (Jerusalem) shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.’

  • Isaiah 2:3

Sheep near Jerusalem, a symbol of living in peace

Picture John Theodor / istock

Referring to the King of the Kingdom: ‘... the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgement and justice from that time forward even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.’

  • Isaiah 9:6-7

The prophet Micah also describes the great changes that will take place: ‘He (Jesus Christ) shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.’

  • Micah 4:3-4

But before there can be peace and security, men and women must learn to walk in God’s way. As long as men and women continue to go their own way there will be no peace. The nations will be instructed in God’s way as we learn from the prophet Isaiah: ‘Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; he will teach us of his ways, and we shall walk in his paths …”’

  • Isaiah 2:3

Later in Isaiah it states: ‘…your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it…”’

  • Isaiah 30:20-21

The Kingdom of God is the subject of many Old Testament prophecies. Here are some further prophetic word pictures from the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘…the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing… They shall see the glory of the LORD... the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert... and the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.’

  • Isaiah 35:1-2,5-6,10

‘They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of my people, and my elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.’

  • Isaiah 65:21-22

What a glorious picture of tranquillity and healthy living is presented here! This is what men and women have striven for and have been unable to obtain, yet it is a picture that will become a reality when all people are subject to God's laws.

The return of Jesus Christ

After his resurrection, Jesus was taken up into heaven. His disciples who witnessed him go, were told: ‘... This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.’

  • Acts 1.11

Jesus then is to return literally to this earth (See also Acts 3.19-21).

But when? As we have already noted, Jesus told his disciples that no one knows the exact time (see Matthew 24.36; Acts 1:6-7). However, during his ministry Jesus gave some very important and unmistakable signs about events which were to occur in the world, so that his followers might be prepared for his return (see Luke 21:25-28).

We believe that we are now living in the times spoken of by Jesus; we stand on the very brink of these world-changing events when he will return to establish God's Kingdom. God's kingdom is a very important part of the true Christian Gospel. We urge you to study God's Word the Bible, diligently. It is a great privilege, for in so doing you will have an opportunity to know and believe these wonderful divine promises. You can then become associated with the Lord Jesus Christ through belief and baptism. When Jesus returns as King, you will, if found faithful, live for ever with him in that glorious Kingdom here on earth.

Let us then continue to pray all the more earnestly, as Jesus taught his disciples to pray: ‘your kingdom come.’

Editor’s note: This is a re-print of an article by Roy Shakespeare published in this magazine 20 years ago.
The writer is now asleep in Christ, awaiting the day when his Master will return to raise the dead and reward his faithful servants with places in the Kingdom of God.
Source Light on a New World - Volume 32/2

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