There are a number of views about the Kingdom of God and whether it is presently in existence or not. Most views
take a literal understanding, but there are a number that take an allegorical interpretation. For example, some
take an Ecclesiastical interpretation and see the Kingdom of God as the present Church and deny the existence of
a future kingdom for Israel. Some take a Personal interpretation and understand the Kingdom of God as a personal
and spiritual experience with God; the kingdom is the rule of God in the hearts of Believers. And others see a
Social interpretation where the Kingdom of God is the social order of equality and human rights as a consequence
of doing what Jesus would do.
This variety of interpretations reflects the challenge of understanding Jesus' revelation of the Kingdom of God
through parables, their hidden meaning and their eschatological nature. What is the Kingdom of God and what does it
mean to Christians?
Old Testament – Background to the Kingdom
It is without a doubt that the Kingdom of God involves a King who rules, a people who are ruled and a sphere
where this rule is recognized. Since Satan's challenge to God's rule, God plan has been to reassert His sovereignty
through Divine Covenants with man.
With the Abrahamic Covenant, seen in
Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:14-17;
and 22:15-18, God initiated the process to restore His created image
of God from the corruption introduced by Satan. This unconditional covenant promised Abraham and his descendants a
land, a nation and a blessing. It was a guarantee of a permanent national existence, a perpetual title to the land
and the honor of being the means of blessing to all.
The Covenant of Land is developed in
and expands on the Land portion of the Abrahamic Covenant. While the nation of Israel presently has a portion of
the Promised Land, the nation of Israel has not returned to God nor have they obeyed Him; thus, the promises of the
unconditional Land Covenant remain to be fulfilled.
The Covenant of the King, seen in
2 Samuel 7:8-17 and
1 Chronicles 17:8-15 expands on the promise of a descendant King and
means of blessing to others through the Abrahamic Covenant. It is an unconditional covenant foreshadowing the Kingdom
of God; it is a guarantee that David's lineage will be forever a royal line, the right of rule will forever belong
to a descendant of David and through one of the house of David, the theocratic Kingdom of God will be fully realized.
Based on the Divine Covenants and prophetic revelation, the nation of Israel had a rising expectation of a Savior
that would establish justice, destroy enemies and renew life
(Isa 1:24-28; 9:6-7;
Jer 23:5-8; 31:31-34;
Ezek 37:24-28; Dan 2:44-45;
7:13-14; Zeph 3:14-20).
However, the nation of Israel expected a human messiah who was a military political leader like
David and lower in divine position than God. Few understood that the Kingdom was a gift from God appointed to human
beings by a unilateral covenant, but Jesus certainly did (Luke 22:29).
New Testament – Essence of the Kingdom, Relationship to Jesus Christ, and Its coming
The New Testament introduces the term "Kingdom of God", and Old Testament references to it crystallize in the
person of Jesus Christ.
While the Old Testament presents the idea that the Kingdom of God involves a King who rules,
a people who are ruled and a sphere where this rule is recognized, the New Testament presents a concept that is
unparalleled in human history.
The Kingdom is Inaugurated
With the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel signals the inauguration of the Kingdom of God by explicitly linking
the birth to the covenant God made with David (Luke 1:31-33). Jesus
will receive the throne of David, reign over the house of Jacob and His rule will be everlasting. The unconditional
promise of a King begins the process of being fulfilled.
The Kingdom is Near
After John was put in prison, Jesus began His public ministry and announced the coming Kingdom of God to Israel,
"The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel"
(Mark 1:15; Matt 3:2;
The emphasized verb "is" is in the Greek grammatical form of past perfect tense, which means that
something has happened and its results continue. In this sentence something decisive has happened and the result,
"the Kingdom of God," is coming and near.
Jesus introduces the idea that the Kingdom of God is exclusively associated with salvation through
Christ. To enter the Kingdom, one must be "reborn" (John 3:1-21).
Yet Jesus' proclamation is more than calling human beings to repentance. It is an announcement
of the immediacy of the Kingdom of God; God is about to initiate His world wide reign.
Under Jesus' instruction, there were other messengers proclaiming the nearness of the Kingdom of God. The
proclamation was made to towns, cities and homes that 72 messengers visited
For those who accept Jesus' message, there is blessing and healing, "… and heal those who in it
who are sick, and say to them, 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you.'"
For those who reject His message, Jesus makes clear that their disapproval does not impede the
Kingdom of God, "Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be
sure of this, that the Kingdom of God has come near."
There are consequences for those who do not receive the messengers, "The one who listens to you
listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me."
The Kingdom of God that Jesus presents appears to be intimately associated with Jesus Himself.
Faith in the Messiah is integral to the Kingdom and here the verdict that will be passed on to a person in final
judgment was determined by the attitude that he adopted towards Jesus at that present moment
(Matt 11:20-24; Luke 10:2-16).
The Kingdom is Here
While Jesus speaks of the nearness of the Kingdom of God, there are instances where He says that the Kingdom is
here especially when speaking to Jewish religious authorities!
As Jesus' ministry grows, Jewish religious authorities increasingly object to Jesus' portrayal of Himself as the
Messiah, Son of David. Opposition becomes rejection when, after healing the demon possessed deaf mute, Jesus is
accused of using demonic power. Jesus responds, "If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God
has come upon you." (Matt 12:22-28;
The emphasized verb "has" is in the Greek aorist tense which means that something has taken place
at a point in time. Usually this refers to an action in the past; in the context of the passage, the Kingdom of God
has arrived by the time of Jesus' exorcism controversy.
The Jews fully expected their messiah to perform miracles; but, not this Messiah. While Jesus'
exorcism was performed by the Holy Spirit and proof that the Kingdom of God has dawned, the Jews denied the supernatural
event testifying that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Jesus' reference to "the finger of God"
(Luke 11:14-20) affirmed that the source of His power was God Himself
(Ex 8:19). Indicative of the authoritative presence of the Kingdom
was the unleashing of God's power against demons.
Despite Jesus' many supernatural miracles, the Pharisees continue to ask for evidence that heralded the Kingdom
of God. Jesus responds with, "The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, 'Look,
here it is!' or, 'There it is!' For behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst
(Luke 17:20-21). Jesus makes clear that the onset of the Kingdom
of God is not an observable process. The paradox here is that is that the Pharisees did not objectively observe and
recognized the Messiah and the presence of the Kingdom of God!
There has been some controversy in the translation of
Luke 17:21. The Greek preposition "entos" mean "pertaining to a
specific area inside something." This has led some translations to read, "… because the Kingdom of God is within
you" (NIV, KJ, NKJ). Given that the Pharisees whom Jesus is speaking to are non-Believers, this translation does
not make sense. When speaking of the Kingdom of God, Jesus speaks in the context of human beings entering into the
Kingdom not visa versa; thus a more accurate translation, which fits the context of the verse, is "the Kingdom of
God is among you" (NASB, NET).
Jesus' Kingdom of God is supernatural; defying Judaism's concept of a conquering king and national statehood,
Jesus' speaks of one based on grace, not merit, and inseparable from His own person and power.
Theologian Dr. Bertold Klappert sees it succinctly as: "It is Jesus Himself in whom alone the
future kingdom of God is present, in whose words and deeds that kingdom has already appeared. It has come already
in that Jesus seeks out the company of tax collectors and sinners offering them fellowship at table and so promising
them forgiveness of their sins. As the king invites to His feast the beggars and homeless
(Matt 22:1-10), as the father's love receives back the prodigal son
(Luke 15:11-32), as the shepherd goes out after the lost sheep
(Luke 15:4-7), as the woman searches for the lost coin
(Luke 15:8-10), as the master out of goodness of his heart pays
the laborers hired at the last hour the full day's pay
(Matt 20:1-15), so Jesus goes to the poor to give them the promise
of forgiveness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:3)."
The Kingdom is Yet Future
While there is an intimacy of the Kingdom of God to His Person, Jesus reveals to the disciples that the Kingdom
of God is ushered in suddenly and without warning with the return of the Son of Man
(Mark 13:1-37; 14:62;
Luke 17:22-37). The arrival of the Kingdom will be unexpected and
The sudden arrival of the Kingdom of God is portrayed by images of the sudden onset of the
catastrophic Flood (Matt 24:37-39;
Luke 17:26-27), the sudden destruction of Sodom
(Luke 17:28-33), the unexpected burglar
(Matt 24:42-44; Luke 12:39-40),
the sudden arrival of the homeowner (Matt 24:45-51;
Luke 12:35-48), or the sudden arrival of the bridegroom
For the benefit of His disciples, Jesus interprets many of His parables with images of violence
and judgment. The Parable of the Tares
(Matt 13:24-30; 36-43) and the
Parable of the Dragnet
(Matt 13:47-50) reveal that the Kingdom of God does not culminate
until Judgment takes place.
In contrast, just before His crucifixion, Jesus saw the advent of the Kingdom in the imminent future. He speaks
of not eating the weekly Passover again "until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God"
(Luke 22:15-16) nor "drink of the fruit of the vine from now on
until the Kingdom of God comes" (Matt 26:29;
Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18).
And while dying on the cross, Jesus tells the repentant thief that "today you shall be with Me
in Paradise" (Luke 23:42-43). Implied is the idea that upon death,
they both will enter the Kingdom of God.
It is not apparent to the followers of Jesus that the Crucifixion is essential for the coming of the Kingdom of
God (Mark 15:43). Cleopas, who does not recognize the resurrected
Jesus, tells Him, "… we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel"
Only after the resurrection do the disciples fully understand the Crucifixion and truly believe the exalted status
of Jesus as Lord and Christ, heir to the throne of David and Son of Man
(Acts 2:22-36; Phil 2:9-11).
Jesus' crucifixion pays the price for atonement, and the redemption of one's sin provides the
means for a human being who believes in Jesus to be righteous before God and gain entrance to His Kingdom.
With His crucifixion, Jesus fulfills His prophetic words, "Truly I say to you, there are some
of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom"
(Matt 16:28; Mark 9:1).
At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus preached the dawning of the Kingdom of God; after the
resurrection, the disciples preached about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the proclaimed of the Kingdom
(Acts 8:12; 28:31).
The Kingdom of God was seen synonymously as the Kingdom of Christ (Eph 5:5), and Christians were encouraged to be
patient as they look forward to His return (James 5:8).
The Kingdom is Realized
While the Bible is not completely explicit about details of the final consummation of the Kingdom of God, one
can gain some sense of its realization.
The consummation of the Kingdom of God begins with the return of Jesus Christ
(Matt 26:64; Mark 14:62;
Luke 22:69; Rev 19:11-19).
With the rule of God prevailing, there is Judgment when all living beings are judged for their sins
(Rev 20:1-15) and culminated with the destruction of death and Hades
At the end of time, Jesus Christ hands back to the Father the Kingdom that He received from Him
(1 Cor 15:24-28).
The rule of Christ and the rule of God are not two kingdoms that follow one another in succession,
but one kingdom of Christ that issues finally in the kingdom of God. The Kingdom of Christ is seen as identical to
the Kingdom of God (Rev 11:15;
There is a new heaven, new earth, and a new Jerusalem
The people of God's Kingdom would only be those whose name is in the Book of Life
God's plan of reclaiming His rule over His Creation, which began with His Divine Covenants with man, is finally
fulfilled with the return of the King, Jesus son of David, Messiah Son of Man who restores the image of God and
makes human beings righteous through atonement, and Lord God of the new heaven and earth and whose rule will last
It is only in the sense that the Kingdom of God is tied up inextricably with His own person and actions does Jesus
declare it to be near and already present. This is the secret and mystery of the Kingdom of God.
With the Kingdom of God manifested in the person of Jesus Christ, the individual is confronted with
a decision. Belief in the Savior demands obedience to the words of Jesus and a call to ethical reforms that mean self
denial. Yet it can only be received with the faith of a child
(Matt 18:3; Mark 10:15;
Luke 18:17; John 3:3).
Aware that the future rule of God was predicted on His death and resurrection, Jesus brought about the long
promised eschatological rule of God, and in the fullest sense, entrance into the Kingdom of God is in the future
For the above reasons, the Kingdom of God is seen as both "already" and "not yet."
1. Brown C, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publishing House, (1979).
2. Gaebelein F, ed., The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, & Luke, Grand Rapids:
Zondervan Publishing House, (1992).
3. Walvoord JF and Zuck RB, eds., Bible Knowledge Commentary, Wheaton: Victor Books, (1985).
4. Ladd, GE, The Presence of the Future, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, (1974).
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