Jesus often spoke in parables about a Kingdom. Was he refer ring to a real Kingdom, or were these merely stories to keep his audience amused? If he was talking about a real Kingdom - then where is it? Did it exist in his time? Does it exist today ...or is it still future?
John Morton: Some of the Old Testament prophets foretold that God would establish a Kingdom and the Israelite looked forward to a time when this would occur. When Daniel for instance, interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar's dream he spoke of a prophetic Kingdom whose ruler would be given dominion over all nation and peoples. Daniel said that an everlasting Kingdom would be se up by the God of Heaven (Daniel 2:44, 7:13-14). Isaiah spoke of the Prince of Peace who would rule Kingdom and "of the increase of his government and peace there would be no end" (Isaiah 9:6-7).
From the beginning of his earthly ministry Christ preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. The word gospel means `good news'. He came from God the Father with good news about the Kingdom that Isaiah and Daniel had spoken about. He travelled around the nation of Judah preaching the good news to all who would listen and he sent his followers out to preach the same message (Matthew 10:7, Luke 4:43, 8:1, 9:1-2, 11, 60). Men like Philip and Paul constantly risked their lives to spread the good news about God's Kingdom to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 8:12, 19:8, 20:25, 28:23 & 31).
So where is this Kingdom that the prophets, Christ and his followers preached about? Is it just a figment of the imagination in the minds of these enthusiastic believers? Is it in Heaven, here on earth, or is it some ethereal Kingdom in the hearts of men? Has it been and gone, or is it yet to come? When will the Kingdom of God they spoke of be established?
Not From Hence
At first many of Christ's followers expected the Kingdom to be established while he was still with them. They knew he was the prophesied Messiah destined to rule in God's Kingdom, but they did not realize that the Kingdom was for a time in the future.
Christ's disciples once asked him about the future and he gave them a brief synopsis of events that would take place toward the end of this age and immediately prior to his return when the Kingdom of God will be established on this earth (Matthew 24:1-31, Mark 13:1-37, Luke 25:5-36). He told them that he would return with power and great glory to introduce a world government to bring peace, prosperity and great happiness, such as we have never seen before. A small glimpse of what is in store can be gleaned from Chapters 21 and 22 of the Book of Revelation. This is the event that Isaiah and Daniel had spoken about.
Just before his death Jesus again confirmed that the Kingdom was for a later time. He told Pilate "My Kingdom is not of this world - my Kingdom is not from hence" (John 18:36). Even after his resurrection, when he appeared to his followers, Christ still spoke to them about "things pertaining to the Kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). It was to be a Kingdom of the future.
At one time the Pharisees asked Christ when the Kingdom would appear and he told them that they were not very observant because in effect the Kingdom was already among them in the personage of Christ himself, who was the emissary and future ruler in the Kingdom. He said "the Kingdom of God does not come with observation: nor will they say `See here!' or `See there!' For indeed the Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20-21).
A more accurate translation of what he said was "the Kingdom of God is among you" as shown in the margin notes of King James version of the Bible. Meaning that he (Christ) the future ruler of the Kingdom was standing there among them at that time. Unfortunately, many have mistakenly interpreted this single statement to mean that Christ was saying that the Kingdom is `within' the hearts or minds of human beings. Those who believe this claim have been misled by a poor translation as the margin note confirms and as other passages of the Bible clearly show.
Christ was addressing these comments to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day. It is inconceivable that he would be telling these same Pharisees, who sought to kill him, that the Kingdom of God existed `within' them (Mark 3:6). He rebuked them because they "shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men". He said "for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in" (Matthew 23:13). The religious leaders of the day were a stumbling block, to those who were being given the opportunity to learn about God's Kingdom.
Born of Water
When explaining the Kingdom to Nicodemus, who was obviously not of the same mind as the other Pharisees, Jesus said "Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God" - "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." and "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3-6). This clearly indicates that the Kingdom of God is to be composed of spirit beings and that man must become spirit to enter it.
Entering the Kingdom of God requires a process of conversion that begins when God calls a person to repentance. It is through the process of conversion that He provides a way for individuals to loosen the hold Satan has on their lives and to put themselves in God's hands.
Repentance is followed by baptism, and the immersion of the believer in water symbolizes the burying of the "old man" and the old ways they have repented of and turned away from (Romans 6:3-6). The reemergence from the water symbolizes the birth of the 'new man' to begin a new life (Acts 2:38, Ephesians 2:18-22, 4:22-32, Colossians 3:9-10). That is what Christ meant when he told Nicodemus that a man must be born of water (John 3:5). It is a physical, symbolic ceremony representing a birth to a new way of life in preparation for the Kingdom, which is yet to come.
Born of spirit
The spiritual birth Christ spoke about is the eventual resurrection to spirit life. Only those born both of water and of spirit can enter God's Kingdom. The Apostle Paul said "flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of God" - he also talked of resurrection when he said "the dead shall be raised incorruptible" "and this mortal shall put on immortality".
Continuing on the same subject of the "resurrection of the dead" he said "it is sown a natural body: it is raised a spiritual body ...as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (I Corinthians 15:50, 5153, 42-44). The spiritual birth is when physical human beings are resurrected as immortal spirit beings. The time between the birth by water and the spiritual birth is a critical period of learning and development where the individual establishes a close relationship with God, learns to live His way of life and to rely on Him for their every need. It is a time of great change in which the very mind of God is developed within the individual. Paul said "Let this mind be in you which is also in Jesus Christ" (Philippians 2:5).
For all of Mankind
While the Bible lists many types of sinners who will not be in the Kingdom, it does not mean to say that anyone who has sinned is excluded (Revelation 21:8, 27 & 22:15). We have all sinned (Romans 3:23). It is through the process of conversion that even the worst sinner can change and become acceptable in God's eyes. Some are called to repentance and conversion at this time, others will be called later on. Eventually all who have ever lived on this earth will have been given the opportunity to enter into the process of conversion.
Those who have not been called and have not repented, nor been baptized and received God's Holy Spirit in their lifetime, are not lost as some churches teach. It would be grossly unfair if the many millions who lived before Christ was born, or who never heard of Christ, were condemned to eternal death. God has a plan that provides a way for all who have ever lived to repent and go through the process of conversion so they too have the opportunity to enter into His Kingdom (A future article entitled "The Plan" will develop this theme).
This is the Kingdom the prophets like Isaiah and Daniel anticipated It is the good news Christ and his disciple preached, and it is the message that is still being preached today by the people of God. It is a message about the Kingdom that God will establish on earth when Christ returns. It is indeed a very real Kingdom and Jesus instructed us to pray for it to come (Matthew 6:10). Those who are called and respond in this life have a commission to continue preaching about the Kingdom to those who will listen.
The truth about the Kingdom of God is being presented to you right now! Are you prepared to listen - and to respond - to God's call?
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 5 Issue 4, July/August 2001. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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