Mark 1:15-15 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The Kingdom of God is the number one theme of the Gospels. It is the most recurrent theme in the Gospels in both variations it is known as, The Kingdom of God or The Kingdom of Heaven. It is also one of the most misunderstood and attacked truths today. This is why it is so important to get a grip on what Jesus was talking about.
In order to understand what the Kingdom is all about we need to look at Jesus’ interview with Pilate in John 18:35-37, Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (35) το βασίλειό μου δεν είναι αυτό το κόσμο
One of the strongest voices against defining the Kingdom as a geographic boundary is seen in this passage. Jesus says His Basilia (Kingdom) is not of this cosmos (World). Matthew 5:18 tells us what the cosmos needs, For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. The most common words for “earth” in Hebrew are ˒ereṣ and ˒aḏāmâ, with ˒ereṣ meaning the earth in contrast to heaven (Gen. 1:1; 2:1), to the sea (Gen. 1:10), and to the Underworld (“land of the living,” Isa. 38:11; cf. 26:19, “land of the shades,” meaning Sheol); or to territory, like the “land of Egypt,” (Gen. 47:13). ˒aḏāmâ (from ˒dm “be red”) refers primarily to the soil (Exod. 20:24) and occurs often in the expression the “face of the earth” (Exodus 32:12), i.e., the surface of the soil, the idea of the face of the earth (cosmos) and the substance the first man was made from (dust) is why he is called Adam (The Eerdmans Bible dictionary).
Understanding the concept of God’s Kingdom from a biblical point is really important. The reason for this is the way people have warped or perverted the understanding of Kingdom over the years.
Jesus Kingdom transcends Adam’s restrictions. This is why the idea that Jesus Kingdom is simply the application of a form of government over men is a serious error. I say this because there are many people in the world who believe that this is what Jesus meant, like Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and others who accept what we call ammillinarianism as a way to understand the return of Jesus. This way of thinking is creeping into Charismatic circles through the teaching called preterism or partial preterism. It’s a teaching that says that the prophetic pictures about the future that were painted in the NT were actually fulfilled during the early years of the church like the parousia (rapture). They say the Second Coming happened during the seize of Jerusalem in 70ad, and that our blessed hope is seen as our ability to subjugate the world by ruling the nations. Kingdom Now is just another variation of ammillinarianism.
When you have people who get filled with the Spirit, but were Seminary trained or educated by people who believe in a preterist view and start believing that it is true, like the late C Peter Wagner, or Harold Eberly, or Che Ahn, or many of my friends at Bethel, it becomes a problem. Just like becoming saved doesn’t automatically correct our way of acting, becoming Spirit Filled doesn’t automatically change our way of thinking or correcting bad theological positions. This is why we need to be biblically literate people, and produce biblically literate people.
Starting in the 1700’s during the Renaissance, people in the church started looking at the Kingdom as the churches response to human suffering. Liberal Theologians typically see God as the benevolent Father of everyone, and that He is working toward their ultimate salvation and redemption. Liberals have taken the idea of the Fatherhood of God and liberally applied it to everyone, and that He loves all men equally. Strains of this perspective have led people to embrace Universalism, a belief that everyone gets saved because God as Father will not reject His children in the final analysis.
The problem with this way of interpreting Scripture is Jesus. Jesus revealed God as Father in a very restrictive sense. He addressed God as Father about Himself and His disciples. That’s it. Everyone else was seen as children of the deceiver, the god of this world. And Jesus viewed all men as sinful, or capable of sinning. That’s where His grace came in, which has produced a Kingdom that isn’t of this world, and those who belong to it are simply sojourners, pilgrims in a hostile land.
Correct view: Fatherhood is a grace gift… Fatherhood: Jesus #1 concern about God (Matthew 6:1, 2, 7-15)… Only spoke to the disciples as God being Father… This was a divine mandate… We are called into a loving relationship… God really, really loves us
So liberals see the church as a social agency that is supposed to minister to the needs of broken humanity, and as we act with kindness and wisdom, we will enforce the Rule of God on earth through peace. That was the main way the European Church viewed the Kingdom in the early 20th Century. Two world wars shattered this notion and drained the faith of the faith of many, leaving Europe as essentially a non-Christian community.
The Kingdom in the OT revelation was seen as the Messianic Expectation, as they looked forward to how God would deliver them. From a religious perspective, this was a eschatological hope. From a secular or religious perspective, it was seen as National in the people and their politic.
By the 1st Century, the Jews had compressed the two ideas into one, as they equated the Kingdom with the King in a physical sense. They lost their future, spiritual expectations. 1st Century Jews were ammilinarians of their day.
Jesus was a both/and, not an either/or in His theological teachings on the Kingdom. It wasn’t just physical or future, it was both. Jesus viewed the Kingdom as being inaugurated by the establishment of his reign when He ministered during His first coming. His reign had a 3 fold expression: healing the sick, casting out demons, and the exercise of power over nature like the cessation of storms, walking on water, miraculous food provision, and the like.
The Kingdom carries within it a sense of conflict when you think about the three expressions. This is summarized perfectly in the Westminster Shorter Catechism when it states the purpose of Jesus as, “destroying the activity of satan in the world.” This conflict is primarily fought on the battlefield of the human soul, as that is the ultimate prize to be conquered. Salvation establishes Kingdom residents.
This battles engages areas like hunger (John 6), natural catastrophes (Mark 4:35), sickness (Luke 7:21), death (Luke 11-16), and truth.
It is a fight between two Kingdoms that is similar to the time between D Day (June 6th, 1944), and V Day (May 4/5, 1945.