The Baptist Beacon
The Kingdom Of God
By Elder Timothy Binion
There is no difference in the meaning of the terms "the Kingdom of God" and "the Kingdom of Heaven." Both represent an idea deeply rooted in the Old Testament and was the central theme of Christ's teaching. When John the Baptist spoke of the Kingdom being "near" or "at hand" all understood that the Messiah was about to set up the long predicted Kingdom. The prophets, especially Daniel, prophesied of the setting up of a Kingdom. Jewish people were looking for and expecting this to happen when the Messiah arrived. The message preached by John and Jesus declared that the organization that Christ was about to establish, and did establish, was this Kingdom.
After John's ministry had ceased, Jesus proclaimed the fulfillment of the time designated by the prophets regarding the setting up His Kingdom. In Mark 1:15 Jesus said; "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." The Greek New Testament reads: "hggiken h basileia tou qeou." The Greek verb "Engiken" is in the perfect tense (Thayer 1988, 716). "The Greek perfect describes an action that was brought to completion and whose effects are felt in the present. Present in the time frame of the speaker, not the reader" (Basics of Biblical Greek 1993, 219). Jesus said the Kingdom of God has arrived. (Robertson 1930, 257). Jesus established His Kingdom with Calvary and the Church being part of His divine sovereign plan. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus put to rest the misconception of a physical Kingdom of God. This sermon answered the question in the mind of every Jew regarding the coming Messiah's kingdom. Jesus defined the Kingdom of God in this sermon by outlining it as spiritual in nature and visible in purpose.
The Church is a visible manifestation of the Kingdom of God. All of the laws of the Kingdom of God apply to the Church, and all of the promises to the Kingdom are promises to the Church. People get into the Kingdom of God through the efforts of the Church preaching the gospel. The Gospel of Jesus is to be preached throughout all the world and those that are born into His spiritual Kingdom are called out to unite with a visible Church. Through visible ordinances, baptism and the Lord's supper, there is a visible commitment to all the sayings, teachings and laws of the King, Jesus Christ. The Church is completely founded upon spiritual principles. However, the practical applications of these principles are visible. The church has been given the authority from the King to administer the ordinances and is entrusted with upholding and teaching the precepts of His Word.
Coming into the Kingdom is spiritual and life changing but not without commitment publicly and visibly. Jesus said: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" (Luke 12:32). The Churches of Christ have been recipients of Christ's offer. "Wherefore we receiving a Kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrew 12:28). Clearly the Lord did establish the Church and saved person to enter into the Church and the New Testament has no category for those who don't.
The fact remains that Jesus set up the Church while he was here and that this Church can and does fit the definition of a Kingdom. Every passage that characterized the Kingdom, characterizes the Church because the Church is made up of citizens of the Kingdom. The subjects of His Kingdom are those that believe and obey the truth. King Jesus rules and reigns in the heart of the saved. The Pharisees demanded to know when the Kingdom of God would come. Jesus said; "The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation." He goes on to say that the Kingdom is within you. The Kingdom of God that Christ set up is deeply rooted and intertwined with the souls of men. The Kingdom of God remains distant and unknown until one experiences spiritual life on the inside.
The Scriptures characterize one Kingdom, present, progressive and future. Jesus taught the Kingdom of God as a progressive experience in the life of the believer. When one repents and believes, the carnal mind is turned upside down. The experience of salvation puts us in the Kingdom. Paul wrote: "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Colossians 1:13). The search has ended. The pearl of great price is found.
"However, the object of our experience becomes the object of expectation."
Our hope is securely grounded in our experience present and future. Jesus many times paralleled the Kingdom of God with present, progressive things that culminate. Things like seed and harvest etc . . . (Mark 4:26-29) (Matthew 13:24 - 33). The future consummated Kingdom is now going through a present progressive state.
Growing pains in the heart of a believer long for the complete victory and the consummation of God's Kingdom. Then the kingdom, in complete universal righteousness will be offered up to the heavenly Father at which time a united and universal reign of God will occur. "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power" (1 Corinthians 15:24). Glory be to God this writer is in the Kingdom of God.