And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God cometh, he answered them and said,
“The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, ‘Lo, here!’ or, ‘There!’
For lo, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
From the beginning the Kingdom of God represented an important aspect of Jesus’ preaching and teaching: Jesus exhorted the Israelites to repent and change their ways because the Kingdom was at hand, and Matthew describes Jesus’ proclamation as the good news of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:17, 23). In His parables Jesus described the way the Kingdom worked: its message preached as a sower sows a field, its judgment awaiting as the separation of wheat and tares, its growth as the mustard seed, its preciousness as a box of treasure or an incomparable pearl (Matthew 13:1-46). Yet ever since many have found Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom confusing or challenging. Of what sort of Kingdom does Jesus proclaim? When was it to arrive? Who is in it? What comes of it?
First and foremost, what is a kingdom? A kingdom is that over which a king rules. On earth we generally understand kingdoms in terms of territories: for example, the United Kingdom is the land over which the Queen of England nominally rules, primarily over the island of Britain, Northern Ireland, and a few other dependent territories. Those who inhabit the lands of a kingdom find themselves under the rule of its king.
Thus in a similar way is the Kingdom of God: it represents all that over which God rules. Jesus proclaims the rule of God in His good news, or Gospel. Nevertheless Jesus features prominently in the Kingdom of God, for according to the Psalms God would appoint His Son to reign over His people (Psalm 2:1-12). The Hebrew word which is transliterated into English as Messiah (and from Greek into English as Christ) means the Anointed One and was understood to refer to the King (1 Samuel 16:11-13; so Psalm 2:1-12, Acts 2:36). Thus, to declare Jesus to be the Messiah or the Christ meant to declare Him to be the King. When the high priest asked Jesus whether He was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus affirmed as much, and declared that he would see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the power of Heaven (Matthew 26:63-64); before being stoned the Christian Stephen received a heavenly vision and cried out that he did indeed see the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). In these statements both Jesus and Stephen make allusion to Psalm 110:1-7 and Daniel 7:13-14; in these texts God is seen as giving power, authority, and a kingdom to “one like a son of man.” This is why Jesus can say that all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth after He ascended in Matthew 28:18; this is why Peter confidently declares that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ in Acts 2:38; and this is why Paul makes it known that God declared Jesus to be the Son of God in power through His resurrection in Romans 1:4. On account of His death, resurrection, and ascension Jesus was exalted by God the Father, fully declared the Son of God, His Anointed One who would rule over the nations, the one like a Son of Man to whom God the Ancient of Days would give an everlasting kingdom of which there would be no end, standing at the right hand of the throne of God until all enemies are made His footstool.
The Kingdom of God in Christ is the reign of Jesus. Since Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, in the widest sense possible, everything is under the reign of Jesus and is subject to Him (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-42, 47-50, 28:18, Philippians 2:9-11). Nevertheless, since the Devil still prowls around as a roaring lion, and makes war on the saints (1 Peter 5:8, Revelation 12:1-17), the Kingdom of God in Christ is most often associated with those who submit themselves to Jesus’ rule and follow after Him (Acts 8:12, 19:8, 20:25, 28:23, 31, Romans 14:17), as it is written:
[God the Father] who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love (Colossians 1:13).
Paul speaks of the Christians in Colossae as having been translated, or transferred, into Jesus’ Kingdom in the past tense, as something which had already happened. For that to be the case the Kingdom had to already exist! Thus the Scriptures teach that the Kingdom of God in Christ is here and now (cf. ibid. Revelation 1:6, 9).
Jesus’ Kingdom is not like the kingdoms of this world; His reign transcends all other rule. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16); He rules from Heaven over everything. The Kingdom has no earthly territory or headquarters, for it is not of this world (John 18:36). The Kingdom is not discernible with eyes of flesh; it is within our midst, represented by all those from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people who confess Jesus as Lord, described collectively as the Church of Christ, Jesus’ Body (Ephesians 1:20-23, Colossians 1:18).
Thus the church is the manifestation of the Kingdom of God in Christ on earth today; those who comprise it demonstrate their true citizenship by seeking to serve Jesus as Lord every day in their lives (Philippians 1:27, 3:20-21). They serve as they await the day when the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of God in Christ, when death the last enemy will be put under Jesus’ feet, when Jesus returns all power and authority to God the Father, and when the people of God assemble around His throne in the resurrection of life, when God’s will is fully done on the “new earth” as it is in Heaven, and God is “all in all” (Matthew 6:10, 1 Corinthians 15:20-58, Revelation 21:1-22:6). Thus the Kingdom of God is here, and Christians look forward to inheriting the Kingdom in its fullness (Matthew 25:31-46, Acts 14:22, 2 Peter 1:11). Jesus, the Lord, reigns. Maranatha; our Lord, come!
Ethan R. Longhenry