The ninth installment in the series “Essential Doctrines” may be unfamiliar to some. For this article, the doctrine of the kingdom of God will be examined. What is the doctrine pertaining to the kingdom of God? Why should it be believed? Why is it essential? These questions will be answered in this article.
What is the doctrine?
The kingdom of God comes from the Greek phrase basileian tou theou, literally “kingdom of God” (e.g. Matthew 19:24) or the “kingdom of heaven.” It refers to the rule of God. George E. Ladd writes, “The key to an understanding of the kingdom of God is that the basic meaning of the Greek word basileia, as of the Hebrew malkūt, is rule, reign, dominion” (Ladd 1988, 1269). The doctrine essentially holds that God is the supreme ruler of all. God is ruler over creation (Psalm 94). God is shown to be ruler over all nations (Psalm 22:28; 47:2, 7-8). God is shown to provide covenants, or contracts between God and humanity. Garden writes,
“Many of the prophets looked for the ‘day’ when God would not only restore the fortunes of his people Israel and Judah but also establish an everlasting era of peace, justice, and mercy. Then, Israel and Judah would again become one kingdom (Jer. 30:3; Ezek. 37:15-22), ruled, perhaps, by a descendant of David (Isa. 9:7; Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 37:24-26). There would be a new covenant between God and his people (Hos. 2:16-20; Jer. 31:31-34), and peace would obtain not only among all nations (Isa. 2:2-4; 19:19-25) but throughout the whole creation, among all living things (Hos. 2:18; Isa. 11:6-9; 65:17-25). Such hopes, however, were not fulfilled during the biblical period” (Garden 1985, 527-528).
God is a God of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33), is a God of love (1 John 4:8), and is a God of holiness (Revelation 4:8). So, why is there so much war, hatred, and corruption? This goes back to the problem of sin. However, sin did not originate with humanity. Sin originated with the father of sin…the very first to introduce sin to creation…Satan (John 8:44). Satan (Satanos, literally “Adversary”) was cast out of heaven (Luke 10:18) and engineered the fall of humanity (Genesis 3:1). Satan twists God’s truth (Matthew 4:6, Psalm 91:11, 12) and opposes the work of God (Zechariah 3:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:18). Obviously, God allowed this to occur because God allows for the freedom of the will (2 Chronicles 12:14)…to what extent is debated by theologians. Nonetheless, it can be seen that there is a battle between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. This battle is known as spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is a very real thing. Every person is affected by this battle. But the end result of the battle has already been decided.
The main thrust of Jesus’ message, especially as presented in the Synoptic Gospels, is the kingdom of God. Garden writes, “The great majority of references to the Kingdom of God in the nt are in the first three Gospels. Here, the basic message of Jesus (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15) and his disciples (Matt. 10:7; Luke 10:9, 11) was that the Kingdom of God had come near” (Garden 1985, 528). Jesus proclaimed that God’s kingdom had come and had already won (Mark 14:25). While the effects of Satan’s attacks are evident, it will not always be so. Jesus said,
“Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:4-8, NKJV).
Jesus states further in the passage,
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31, NKJV).
The kingdom was ushered in through the work of Jesus. As Wright states,
“What I miss, right across the Western tradition, at least the way it has come through to the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, is the devastating and challenging message I find in the four gospels: God really has become king—in and through Jesus! A new state of affairs has been brought into existence. A door has been opened that nobody can shut. Jesus is now the world’s rightful Lord, and all other lords are to fall at his feet” (Wright 2011, 37).
Thus, when a person enters the kingdom of God through Jesus, one has joined a victorious kingdom. But one must remember the warnings of McDowell, “When we live out Jesus’ kingdom worldview, we are engaging in a mighty spiritual conflict to overthrow Satan’s kingdom, the kingdom of this world, and establish Christ’s kingdom in its place” (McDowell and McDowell 2010, 350). It is a warning because if the kingdom of God has come in Jesus, then one has an instant enemy by accepting Christ: the enemy is Satan.
One further detail must be set in place regarding these kingdoms; both kingdoms are eternal. God’s kingdom is, and will be, found in heaven, God’s abode (Matthew 6:9), which is an eternal place (2 Corinthians 5:1), an incalculable place (Jeremiah 31:37), a place of reward (1 Peter 1:4), a place of unending happiness (Revelation 7:16-17), a place for angels (Matthew 18:10), a place of rest (Hebrews 4:9), and a place prepared for the saints (Luke 10:20, John 14:1-5). Satan’s kingdom will be found in a place called hell. Hell is described as a place of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46), prepared for the Devil (Matthew 25:41), prepared for false prophets (Revelation 19:20), and a place of devouring fire (Isaiah 33:14). The saints of God are told to endeavor to keep others from going to hell (Jude 1:23). The powers of hell cannot overcome nor prevail against the kingdom of God (Matthew 16:18). These two kingdoms will be separated by God. In fact, the kingdom of Satan will be quarantined and removed from God’s kingdom. Which kingdom will the reader choose?
Why should the doctrine be believed?
Several reasons exist as to why the kingdom of God should be believed. The evidences concerning the afterlife will be dealt with in the final article given in the series on the return of Christ. However, in order to accept the kingdom of God as a reality, one needs to accept certain tenets. Evidences have been presented for many of factors involving the belief in the kingdom of God.
The Existence of God
Obviously, before one could accept the kingdom of God as a reality, the existence of God would need to be demonstrated. See the article “Essential Doctrines (Part 1): The Doctrine of God’s Existence” found at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/essential-doctrines-part-1-the-doctrine-of-gods-existence/.
The Person of Jesus
Jesus’ divine nature would need to be shown as valid. For evidence concerning the person of Jesus, see the article “Essential Doctrines (Part 3) The Incarnation of Jesus Christ” found at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/essential-doctrines-part-3-the-incarnation-of-jesus-christ/.
The Resurrection of Jesus
The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that the kingdom of God is victorious. For evidence concerning the resurrection, see the article “Essential Doctrines (Part 6) The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” found at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/essential-doctrines-part-6-resurrection-of-jesus-christ/.
The Positive Change Made By Christ
The kingdom of God’s impact can be seen in the positive change made in the lives of individuals who have received Christ in their lives. As a pastor, I have seen families mended and lives transformed by the power of Christ. William Booth is a great example of a man who experienced the power of Christ and was led to eventually begin a great organization in the Salvation Army that is one of “the largest social aid providers in the world, helping more than 32 million people in the U.S. alone. The Christlike compassion of one couple over 140 years ago has been translated into a force of 4.5 million volunteers aiding those in need” (McDowell and McDowell 2010, 358). Multiple examples are found in every generation since the time of Christ. Christ has transformed lives. The Christian worldview has led to the establishment of science and great freedoms to societies in which its principles are enforced.
Why is the doctrine essential?
The kingdom of God is essential because Jesus made it essential. The phrase “basileian tou theon” is listed no less than fifty times in the gospels alone. Because Jesus stressed the importance of the kingdom of God, the doctrine is essential. Since God is eternal, it should not be a great stretch for one to believe that God’s kingdom is also eternal. Seeing as how God is the ultimate creator of all things, it should not be difficult to find that God will be victorious over Satan and his opposition.
When the kingdom of God is understood, the Christian can experience great joy and comfort since God has ensured victory. Death loses its sting as heaven is understood as a reality. The problems of this world become part of the grand story climaxed by the return of Christ. In essence, our worries should be lessened by the grand assurance of God’s ultimate deliverance from suffering and sin. That deliverance is found by becoming part of the kingdom of God…a kingdom that has no end.
Garden, R. H. H. “Kingdom of God.” Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Edited by Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. 527–528.
Ladd, George E. “Kingdom of God (Heaven).” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Edited by Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988. 1269.
McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. The Unshakable Truth: How You Can Experience the 12 Essentials of a Relevant Faith. Eugene: Harvest House, 2010.
Particular Scripture references were found by the work, Torrey, R. A. The New Topical Text Book: A Scriptural Text Book for the Use of Ministers, Teachers, and All Christian Workers. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001.
Scriptures, unless otherwise mentioned, comes from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.
Wright, N. T. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. New York: Harper One, 2011.