Is the Kingdom of God already here? ...

Lesson 5. God's Grand Design

James McBride: Since man was expelled from Eden he has longed for the return of a utopia - the Golden Age when he was at peace with the world and with his Creator. It has been a vain dream.

Philosophers have sought to construct their perfect world. For Plato it was The Republic. For Sir Thomas More it was Utopia. Campanella introduced us to the City of the Sun and the humanist and social reformer Andreae to Christianopolis. All represent the human hope of something better - what has been described as "vain dreams of perfection in a Never-Never Land".

Clearly, all the human effort for millennia throughout history has failed to unlock the door to lasting peace and prosperity for all. The key has not been found. For it simply is not in the capacity of the human mind to maintain for very long the essential elements that ensure a permanent "utopia".

But the good news is - utopia is coming! What mankind finds elusive is possible when God is in the picture. In His Word God describes it. And names it - The Kingdom of God.

In this lesson we will examine God's grand design for man. We will learn how His Kingdom will be introduced. And where and when. We will see that it does not depend solely on human effort but on the energy and power that flows from the divine Creator.

And we will see how you can be a part of a Kingdom that will never end, but will advance in power and scope throughout timeless ages.

The End of Time?

Many of the world's leaders in days gone by have been struck by the way in which events overtake the purposes of men. They see a hand behind the stage of history working out a plan. By contrast others fail to see such a purpose. Wrote eminent astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, "Everybody must wonder from time to time if there is any real purpose in life" [The Intelligent Universe].

"... he must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great design is being worked out here below" [Sir Winston Churchill to the US Congress, 1941]

"The history of mankind is not a purposeless history. It is a manifestation of the divine purpose" [British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin]

Bible students know God is working out a purpose. But what is it? There's a vague understanding that it has to do with "the Kingdom of God". But what does that mean? How and when will the Kingdom be established? Indeed, what is this "Kingdom"? This lesson will detail the Bible view of that Kingdom.

"The end of the world" is a common theme picked over not only by religious folk but also - perhaps skeptically - by the media. It has been the focus of theologians and the butt of music-hall jokes. A common conception is that the world - suddenly, with a bang - will disappear in a puff of smoke, with mankind exterminated.

Others, however, have the hope - but a false hope - that the world will go on in much the same way for ever. That man will simply go on evolving into something or other - hopefully better.

And millions of Christians pin their hopes on what they term "The Rapture" by which they - Christians only - will be snatched from earth to heaven to avoid the mass destruction of all mankind.

Will our planet soon disappear in a puff of smoke? Will mankind be expunged from his earthly home? Has God, perhaps, had enough of us?

For students of the Christian Bible there need be no such pessimism. There is a purpose. There is hope for mankind. God has a plan. We will soon see the next phase of that plan with the setting up of the rule of the Kingdom of God here on Earth. The soon-coming devastation of the planet is not the end!

Jesus Christ made clear that there is a coming "new age", that God has not abandoned mankind to destruction either by cosmic forces beyond our control or by mass suicide through destructive weaponry and through pollution. Time is not about to end! - Matthew 6:10, 16:28, Luke 22: 29, 30, John 18:36, Ecclesiastes 1:4

What Is a Kingdom?

It isn't difficult to figure out what is meant by "a kingdom". Strictly, there are not too many left, but in essence it is a sovereign territory with a Head of State, having citizens and governed by a body of law. The United Kingdom is an example. Queen Elizabeth II speaks of "My Kingdom".

A "king" in the Biblical sense is simply the leader of a nation, whatever he is titled and whatever the form of government.

We can begin to understand the Kingdom of God in a similar way. Through the prophet Daniel, God revealed a continuity between existing and future kingdoms and the Kingdom which He would establish to succeed them.

- ancient Babylon was at one time ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar, a despot with power of life and death over all his citizens. The account in the Book of Daniel tells of the King's disturbing dream. His Court occult "magic men" were utterly unable to interpret it - not surprising as the King couldn't even recall the dream! ... Daniel 2: 1-13. Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BC) had invaded Judah, capturing and burning down the Temple in 589 BC, and exiling most of the inhabitants, including Daniel. His empire is said to have stretched from the Atlantic to India.

- Nebuchadnezzar ordered their execution, and they were saved only because God revealed the dream's significance to Daniel ...vv. 14-23

- foretold was a succession of five world-ruling empires. Historically these were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome. In the dream the body parts of a huge statue pictured these kingdoms ... vv. 31-33. The Dream Image: Head of gold: Babylon. Breast/arms of silver: Medo-Persia. Belly/thighs of bronze: Greece. Legs of iron: Rome. Feet of iron & clay: end-time empire inheriting the territory of the Roman Empire.

- the Roman Empire (the legs) was in the end-time (v.28) to become a short-lived empire of ten kingdoms (the "toes" of the statue), loosely federated - and ready to fall apart any time ... vv.42-43

- ten nations will unite in a military alliance against God's people, and will then war with the returning Messiah ... Revelation 14. From the area ruled by ancient Rome will arise - in our day - a voluntary alignment of ten nations. It will provide the military force that opposes and subdues the modern descendants of ancient Israel and Judah, and will fight Jesus Christ at his return.

Daniel's prophecy describes the end of this final world empire. It will mark the end of six thousand years of human government, and the establishment of divine government on earth

-the final human kingdom will be destroyed by spiritual power, and succeeded by a divine Kingdom that will never be rooted up ... vv. 34, 35 & 44, 45

Daniel prophesied during the time of the "head of gold" in the sixth century BC. He was a high-placed official in that empire. So far his prophecies have proved correct in every detail!

The Kingdom of God

The Bible is clear that the "Kingdom of God" is not only a future Utopia. It has always existed, exists now and will exist forever.

- difficult as it may be for the human mind to grasp - God has always existed! However, most of us are programmed to imagine Him as a single Being. But we are, in the Scriptures, first introduced to God as a plurality.

- the Hebrew for "God" is elohim. The word is both singular and plural: "Let us make man in our image" ...Genesis 1:1, v.26

- despite what theologians may claim to be the meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4 ("The Lord our god is one Lord"), God's "oneness" implies unity of purpose and action (John 17:22), but encompasses more than one Being. The concept of a unity of this nature is exemplified by such words as family, church. Jewish tradition has narrowed the concept to a single Being, "strict monotheism".

The Godhead consists of a plurality of Beings. But as a future lesson show, something different from a "Trinity" is expressed in the Scriptures. The Name YHVH (often pronounced "Jehovah") is understood, when translated, as, which is, and which was, and which is to come ... Revelation 1:4. It is the personal name of God. (YHVH in the KJV is written as "LORD") "... the 'he which is and was and is to come' of John the Divine is the Jehovah of the old religion [i.e., of the Old Testament]" Dr. Farrar.

- Messiah existed from the beginning as a part of this oneness. He existed as "the Word", as YHVH, as The Angel (Messenger) of the LORD ... John 1:1, Colossians 1:15-17, Isaiah 40:25-26

- Jesus Christ is both Messiah and LORD, and as such is the coming King of kings, and the Supreme Ruler of the coming Kingdom to be established on earth. The Kingdom of God is literally the reign of God ... Matthew 21:5, Zechariah 14:9, 16-17, Revelation 17:14, 19:16

The Kingdom of God, then, has always existed. God has forever been Sovereign, reigning over His creation and jealously commanding the submission of all His creatures to His benign and loving rule ... Exodus 20:1-11, Nehemiah 9:6, Job 38-39, Psalm 8:3, 97:1, 99:1, Isaiah 66:1.

The Kingdom Now

The reign of God is a vibrant reality in this age and in our day. God has not forsaken the world but is actively taking part in bringing about His purposes.

-by "this age" we understand that time beginning with the ministry of Jesus Christ which began after the imprisonment of John the Baptist. Jesus proclaimed the "the Kingdom of God is at hand [or, imminent] ... Mark 1:14-15

- this is the essence of the Gospel: the message of the Kingdom of God. It was consistently preached by the apostles during their lifetime, and still remains the heart of the Gospel ... Acts 1:3, 8:12, 14:22, 19:8, 28:23, Colossians 4:11 etc. The Gospel preached by Jesus focused on the Kingdom the Reign, of God. It is at the true heart of the Christian message, but this has been obscured in our day by an exclusive emphasis on the person of Jesus.

- the Kingdom is an ever-present reality for the Christian, for we are day-by-day subject to His rule and indeed have the King dwelling in us ... Acts 5:32, John 17:21, 11 John 9, Hebrews 12:9, Ephesians 3:17, Matthew 7:21-27, Colossians 1:13

- Christians are heirs of God, but we have not yet inherited the Kingdom. As flesh and blood humans we must await the resurrection to inherit ... Romans 8:17, 1 Corinthians 15:50, Ephesians 1:14

- the resurrection happens at the return of Christ, and it is at that time we will come into our eternal inheritance ... I Corinthians 15:51-54, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Colossians 3:4, 24

- our place in the Kingdom of God is being prepared now. How we live determines our role in it. If we remain faithful we will be there ... Matthew 25:31-46, 14-30, Revelation 17:14

- note carefully that it is incorrect to assume that this is the totality of the Kingdom of God. Whatever influence it has in our day, its major significance is for the days ahead.

It is a mistake to imagine that mere "belief in Jesus" is the totality of salvation ... James 1:19-26. Following our repentance, be baptism and laying on of hands (for the imparting of the Holy Spirit) God requires our obedience to His will, as revealed in the Scriptures.

"Ernest" [Gk arraboon, Ephesians 1:14], meaning "part payment in advance", is the term for an engagement ring in Modern Greek. When we are given the Holy Spirit following baptism we are "betrothed" to God, become put of His Family. Prayerfully study the "parable of the talents" in Matthew 25. How we perform in this life has eternal consequence in the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom To Come

God's Kingdom, then, is relevant to our present life. But its main import is for the future. The Kingdom - as we saw at the beginning of this Lesson (review it!) -will have real dominion on earth. It is prophesied to succeed the four great prophetic empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, and will be just as real!

- Jesus was born as the rightful heir of the Kingdom of Judah - a kingdom which in his day was governed by the Edomite King Herod ... Matthew 2:2, 27:37, John 18:37

- he asserted that his Kingdom was not to be realized during this era. That is, the Kingdom of God will not exercise direct authority over the nations during this age between the first and second coming of Jesus the Messiah. The Christian church is not to expand using means more suited to rapacious tyrannical regimes. The appalling bloody record during the middle ages of those who claimed, as "christians" to be promoting the Kingdom of God brands them as devilish, whatever the denominational label worn. ... John 13:36, II Corinthians 10:4, Zechariah 4:6. It is important to carefully differentiate between the various meanings of our English translations as related to the original language. An example is the word world (John 18:36). Here it is the Gk kosmos.

- Jesus was also prophesied to take over an earthly throne, that of King David of the House of Judah. He will be sovereign over all Israel, King of an eternal dynasty ... Luke 1:32-33

-but he will also be "king over all the earth" ... Zechariah 14:9

-Jesus as the promised Messiah (see Lesson 3) is destined to return from Heaven to overthrow human regimes and to bring them under the rulership of God. He returns as an all- conquering King of Kings and Lord of all Lords - that is, as the supreme political and religious overlord ... Revelation 17:14

The Return of Christ

Ahead of us, according to the Bible prophecies, lies a time of worldwide disruption. Its horrors will surpass anything we have read about or seen. The real atrocities that surface on our television screens reflect the true nature of mankind lurking beneath the thin veneer of civilization. Six thousand years of recorded human effort have failed us. Our rejection of God's values will bring us to the brink of annihilation.

- Jesus predicted that human life would come to the edge of extinction. Only God's direct intervention to shorten those terrible times will save us ... Matthew 24:22

- the large number of prophecies being fulfilled in our generation confirm that we are close to this time of destruction. (Review Lesson 3 which demonstrated the accuracy of the prophecies concerning Jesus).

- the order God established at mankind's creation will be restored at the return of the Messiah. Jesus returned to heaven where he will remain until that time ... Acts 1:9-11, 3:19-21. The "restitution" [Gk apokatastasis] signifies the restoration of an estate to its rightful owners [Vine: Expository Dictionary]. It is also used "of repairs and restorations of temples" (Dr. Abbott-Smith).

- God delegated the care of His creation to Adam at the time when he was in harmony with Him, before His "image" in Adam was shattered by sin ... Genesis 1:26-28, Romans 1:19-32. There is a direct link between human sin and physical events on earth - e.g., the "curse", the Flood, the enslavement of the House of Israel and then the House of Judah.

- the good news, the heart of the Gospel message, is that God will intervene in man's affairs by sending Jesus Christ to bring peace and harmony to troubled mankind ... Romans 8:18-23

The teaching that Jesus has already returned and is on earth is mistaken. His coming will be as obvious as a flash of lightning across the sky ... Matthew 24:23-28.

The World To Come

The Bible speaks of a world to come. It is the high point of man's existence in the flesh, when mankind will once again be educated in God's ways - the lifestyle which alone brings the fullness of joy, the "golden age" which has been man's quest since his expulsion from Eden.

- while nowhere directly expressed in Scripture, there is a pattern which supports the idea of a notional six thousand years of human history followed by a thousand years of divine rule on the pattern of the seven day week.

- the concept of a seven-day week has no logical origin in astronomy in contrast to the year or the month. Yet the week is almost universal to all nations. The Bible describes its origin as divine choice ... Genesis 1:1-2:3, Exodus 20:11

- prophetically God sees one day as representing one thousand years of human time. By extension the whole of human history is encompassed by a prophetic week, a concept which was widely understood among the Gentiles long before the time of Jesus ... Psalm 90:4, II Peter 3:8. "Plato [d. 437 BC] maintained that world would be destroyed at the of end of six thousand years, that then the day of judgment would come" [Godfrey Higgins: Anacalepsis, v. I p.202]. "Hesiod [8th C. BC] may have been acquainted with that early tradition of six millenary ages of the world which prevailed throughout the east" [Wm Hales: Analysis of Chronology v. I p.44]

- we can thus speculate that six thousand years of human effort will be followed by one thousand years of "rest". This matches what the Bible predicts ... Hebrews 4:9, Revelation 20:5. The chronology of the Bible "adds up" to roughly 6000 years from Adam until the Present. It has been calculated (Archbishop Ussher) that Adam was created in 4004 BC. Note that there are "chronological gaps" in the Bible which have been bridged in various ways.

The divine rule for a thousand years will be a high point of the Kingdom of God. It is the time when the Christian hope will at last be realized. The 1000 years is commonly known as the Millennium. The Bible teaching has been called pre-millennialism. There are also some misinterpretations of the Bible teaching on the Millennium: A-millennialism denies there will be a 1000 year reign a the Messiah. Post-millennialism: Jesus will return after the Church, through preaching, converts the world.

- a superficial reading of the New Testament has led many to believe their destiny as a Christian is to "go to heaven" at death. But as we showed in Lesson 4, death is a suspension of consciousness. The true Biblical Christian hope is to be resurrected at the return of Messiah ... I Corinthians 15:50-54, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Colossians 3:4

- salvation is by grace. However, the Bible speaks of rewards to be claimed at the return of Christ ... Revelation 22:12, 11:18, Romans 2:6-10

- Jesus gave his disciples promises about the time when they will be resurrected. The promises will be fulfilled on earth in the coming Kingdom of God ... Matthew 5:3, 5, 10; 19:27-30, Revelation 5:10

- note the others who will at that time share in these positions of leadership in the Kingdom ... Luke 13:28, Hebrews 11, esp. v.13-16, 39-40, Ezekiel 37:22-25, Jeremiah 30:7-9

- all those Christians who remain faithful will be a part of the administration of the Kingdom of God ... I Corinthians 6:1-4, Revelation 5:10

Subjects of the Kingdom

A famous fallacy is that Christians will, at the return of Christ, remove to heaven for the thousand years. It is claimed - on a misreading of an Isaiah prophecy - that no human will be alive at the beginning of the Millennium.

- following the vast destruction which is predicted to befall planet earth prior to the coming of Messiah, there will be human survivors ... Isaiah 24:6, Zechariah 14:16-19

- an example is that the nations of descended from ancient Israel will quite literally be decimated. Awful destruction is prophesied upon Israel, the natural result of our awesome sin ... Ezekiel 5:12, Amos 5:3

-it is these survivors and their progeny who will be the subjects of the Kingdom. The saints - those called now into the Family of God - will be "kings and priests" leading them in God's ways ... Revelation 5:10, Isaiah 2:2-5, Matthew 19:28 Matthew, in his Gospel, uses Kingdom of Heaven for Kingdom of God. Read Matthew 6. Note that the meek will not be in a different place to the poor or the persecuted!

The prophet Zechariah tells us that after the return of Messiah all nations will be required to observe the annual Festival of Tabernacles. This eight-day Festival (see Leviticus 23:33-43) in part relates in its symbolism to the 1000-year reign of Jesus. The. weekly Sabbath also symbolizes this 1000-year rest.

The Millennium expresses the "reign of God" in a real way. Mankind will learn the true paths, live as God intended and enjoy peace, abundant health and the fruits of a productive pollution-free earth.

A future Bible Basics will explore this fascinating relationship between the Festival of Tabernacles and the Millennium. We will also describe in detail this time when our God reigns.


Reprinted with permission of Church of God, UK. Email comments to: COGUK@aol.com
Editor: James McBride.
Request literature mentioned from Church of God Outreach Ministries at information@cgom.org

Bible Basics is published by:
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COGUK Bible Basics 1. Preparing to study the Bible.
COGUK Bible Basics 2. Can you trust the Bible?
COGUK Bible Basics 3. Jesus, the Messiah
COGUK Bible Basics 4. What is Man?
COGUK Bible Basics 5. God's Grand Design (the Kingdom of God)
COGUK Bible Basics 6. When God Reigns (6,000 years of history + 1,000 years ahead)


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