The Approaching Kingdom:
In preparing the way for Christ, John the baptizer proclaimed: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3.2).* Jesus preached the same message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4.17); “surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matt. 12.28); “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand . . .” (Mark 1.15). Jesus said to his contemporary disciples: “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9.1; cf. Matt. 16.28; Luke 9.27).
During the ministries of John the baptizer and Jesus, the kingdom was at hand. The kingdom was to be fully realized during the lifetime of Christ’s 1st-century disciples. The kingdom was to come with power. When Peter confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16.16), upon that solid foundation Jesus promised to build his church (v. 18). The Lord’s very next statement to Peter was: “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . .” (v. 19). Why did Jesus promise to build his “church” and then immediately mention the “kingdom”? Either he was abruptly changing subjects or there is a connection between the church and the kingdom.
The Kingdom Realized:
Between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus spent nearly six weeks speaking to his apostles “of things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:1-3). He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem “for the promise of the Father,” and they would receive “power” when the Holy Spirit had come upon them (vv. 4, 8). N.B. The kingdom was to come with “power” (Mark 9:1) in Jerusalem (Isa. 2:3). In Acts 2 the Lord’s promise to them was fulfilled, and Peter stood with the eleven and began to preach the gospel (v. 14). N.B. Peter had been promised “the keys of the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19). Keys are a means of entrance, and when Peter preached the gospel and his hearers obeyed it, they were “added” to the community of the saved, i.e. the church (vv. 41, 47).
From Acts 2 onwards we read of the existence and growth of the church (5:11; 8:1, 3; etc.), proclaimed as “the kingdom of God” (8.12; 19.8; 20.25; 28.23, 31), into which penitent baptized believers enter and serve (2.38, 41, 47; 8.12; 14.21-22; cf. John 3.5; Col. 1.13; 4.11). In Col. 1.13 Paul writes: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.” The apostle John was “in the kingdom” and affirmed that the Lord “has made us to be a kingdom . . .” (Rev. 1.6, 9; 5.10 NASB).
Christ is now reigning in his kingdom (Acts 2.30-36; Rom. 15.12; 1 Cor. 15.24-25; 1 Tim. 6.13-16) and all Christians are citizens of it (Eph. 2.19). It is not a physical kingdom “of this world” (John 18.36) but is a spiritual kingdom, governed from heaven, that will be delivered to God the Father when Christ comes again (1 Cor. 15.23-25).
Citizenship in God’s kingdom is actualized when one’s sins are forgiven (Col. 1.12-14; Rev. 1.5-6) and is maintained by faithful and holy living (Rom. 14.16-17; 1 Cor. 4.20; 6.9-10; Gal. 5.21; Eph. 5.5; 1 Thess. 2.12; James 2.5; 2 Pet. 1.10-11). Note the connection between church/kingdom in Matt. 16.18-19; Col. 1.13, 18; Heb. 12.23, 28. Note also the connection between suffering in this life and being part of God’s kingdom (Acts 14.22; 2 Thess. 1.4-5; Rev. 1.9). Those who are now citizens of God’s kingdom have an inheritance in the future heavenly kingdom (1 Cor. 15.50; 2 Tim. 4.1, 18; 2 Pet. 2.11).
An important aspect of the message of missions is the gospel of the kingdom of God. This was the message preached by John the baptizer, Jesus, the apostles, and early evangelists. The kingdom of God is synonymous with God’s sovereign rule, but only those who accept and submit to the Lord’s reign can comprehend, enter, and comprise God’s spiritual kingdom. This spiritual kingdom is variously designated as the kingdom of heaven, of God, and of Christ.
The sovereignty of God, having been challenged by Satan and rejected by men through the ages, was to be established on earth by way of the Messiah and his kingdom – prophesied throughout the Old Testament. During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the kingdom was said to be “at hand,” “upon you,” and ready to be realized during the lifetime of Christ’s contemporary disciples; it was to come with “power” and Peter would be given its “keys.”
On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the power was demonstrated by the Holy Spirit and Peter preached the gospel, through which obedient hearers were added to the community of the saved. The kingdom of God is the church into which all penitent baptized believers (purified of sin) enter and obtain heavenly citizenship. This spiritual kingdom will last beyond this life on into the eternal heavenly kingdom of God.
--Kevin L. Moore
*Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the NKJV.
Related Posts: Kingdom of God Part 1, Part 2, The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, And With Many Other Words, The Church of the NT