The Kingdom

The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.

Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Matthew 3:2; 4:8-10,23; 12:25-28; 13:1-52; 25:31-46; 26:29; Mark 1:14-15; 9:1; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2; 12:31-32; 17:20-21; 23:42; John 3:3; 18:36; Acts 1:6-7; 17:22-31; Romans 5:17; 8:19; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 11:10,16; 12:28; 1 Peter 2:4-10; 4:13; Revelation 1:6,9; 5:10; 11:15; 21-22.

In this video, we trace the origins of the word “gospel” and how it ties the story of the Old Testament together with the story of Jesus and his announcement of God’s kingdom. Jesus brought God’s rule and reign to the world in a very upside-down way, which is the best news you could ask for.

The Gospel of the Kingdom, The Bible Project

This doctrine describes the rule of God over his creation as king, including how the rule is exerted and structured and what its ultimate purpose is.

The kingdom of God is a theme that can be traced back almost to the beginning of the Old Testament. It first appears in Genesis 14, where we find Abraham offering a tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek, a mysterious king who was later accorded a semidivine status (Psalm 110) and to whom Jesus was likened (Heb 5:6). The psalter contains a number of so-called “royal” psalms in which the king is portrayed in eschatological terms that go beyond anything normally associated with a human ruler. This is particularly obvious in Psalm 2, which is quoted and applied to Christ in Hebrews 1.

The kingdom of God was a favorite theme in the preaching of Jesus, but the full scope of its meaning and implications has been the subject of much discussion. On the most basic level, we may say the kingdom of God is present wherever the king is to be found. Jesus is present by his Spirit both in the church and in the world. Some have entirely identified the kingdom with the church, but although the church is certainly included in and representative of the kingdom, most theologians would say that the kingdom is a broader concept in its full and final sense. The church is a missionary organization, whereas the kingdom is more often conceived as the results of that mission’s fulfillment.

The eschatological dimension of the kingdom is prominent in the New Testament. Jesus the king appears mainly in a very humble guise—riding a donkey on Palm Sunday, for example, or dying on the cross, where his kingship was “officially” proclaimed by the Roman authorities, probably with intended sarcasm (Luke 23:38). Only in the eschaton is the king revealed in his glory, as we see in the book of Revelation.

Of particular significance for the nature of the kingdom is the question of the thousand-year reign of the Messiah, known as the “millennium,” which is described in Revelation 20. How literally this should be interpreted has been a major source of controversy for centuries. Many Christians have taught that the return of Christ will usher in a this-worldly reign of one thousand years before the final judgment and the dawn of the age to come (though there are considerable differences among interpreters as to the precise details). The mainstream of historic Protestant and Catholic churches have usually followed the teaching of Augustine (354–430), who claimed that the millennium is symbolic of the era of the church, and that it should not be understood as a literal prophecy.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the coming of the kingdom, which strongly implies that it has not yet arrived, at least not in its fullness. He also said that his kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36), meaning that it is a spiritual and not a political reality. Whether (and to what degree) this kingdom can be manifested in earthly institutions is a matter of great controversy that goes back to the legalization of Christianity in the fourth century and the subsequent elevation of the church to the status of the state religion of the Roman Empire. Apart from the subsequent tendency sometimes evident in Christendom to equate the state with the church, modern commentators have often claimed that social reform movements have brought the kingdom of God to bear on human society. Others focus more on spiritual manifestations of a charismatic type and claim that these manifestations are a sign of the coming kingdom. The rediscovery of apocalyptic as a genre of literature has contributed to most theologians coming to a more united understanding of the symbolism of the book of Revelation that has resulted in a decline of traditional millenarianism, but there is still some way to go before it can be said that there is a generally agreed understanding of this important doctrine.

Gerald Bray, “The Kingdom of God,” in Lexham Survey of Theology, ed. Mark Ward et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).