What is the goal of Christianity? For many people, it is believed that the goal is going to heaven. If the goal of the gospel is simply to get people into heaven, as many believe, what is its relevance to daily life? The apostles did not preach the gospel the way many do today (“Pray the sinner’s prayer so you can go to heaven when you die.”). When we look at the eight gospel sermons found in the book of Acts, not a single one of them is about the afterlife. Instead, they say that the world now has a new emperor and his name is Jesus! This was the great hope, that the world is to be redeemed and not left in ruin.
The Gospel of the Kingdom
The good news of Jesus Christ and the good news of the Kingdom are the same. Unfortunately, Jesus is often preached without reference to the Kingdom. But apart from the Kingdom, there is no Gospel, and there is no salvation.
Every preacher mentioned in the four Gospel accounts focused on the Kingdom.1 It is the one constant, central theme of the Gospel message (Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14; Luke 4:43, 8:1). The imminent arrival of God’s Kingdom (and not the promise of going to heaven) was the thrust of Jesus’ Gospel message. It provided the rationale for evangelism. The words ‘gospel’ and ‘kingdom’ are so interconnected that the New Testament writers use the term “Kingdom of God” 20 times to describe the good news of salvation. The Kingdom is all over the pages of the New Testament.2
Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God more than he talked about anything else because it was the reason he was sent.
Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God more than he talked about anything else because it was the reason he was sent.
At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
What is the Kingdom?
Since the majority of the Gospel accounts are filled with references to the Kingdom of God we should be able to get a pretty clear picture of what it is. Simply put, the Kingdom of God is the manifestation of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10). The Kingdom involves three elements: the King, God’s rulership, and the people who are ruled. A kingdom is a ‘dome’ over which someone is ‘king.’
We don’t use words like “kingdom” very much anymore, so it is perhaps the “Kingdom of God” is better understood in modern terms such as the “Jesus Nation.” The Jesus Nation is a realm of relationship with God and others that is in harmony with God’s will and God’s way. Jesus presented us with God’s way with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Jesus came to inaugurate a movement. As the one sinless person in history, Jesus is the one and only perfect reflection of what it looks like for God to reign over a person’s life fully. Jesus is thus the perfect embodiment of the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God always reflects the humble, loving, self-sacrificial, and non-violent character of Jesus, especially as it is displayed in his self-sacrificial death.
People enter this Kingdom when they surrender their lives to the lordship of Christ. They are then called and empowered by the Spirit to display the character of Jesus in all that they do. In Matthew 6, when Jesus taught us how to pray, he says it simply: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” The Kingdom is God’s will being done.
When is the Kingdom?
John the Baptist proclaimed, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” He did not say, “the kingdom is 2,000 years away,” or, “the kingdom is being delayed indefinitely.” Yet many popular Bible teachers hold that the Kingdom is entirely in the future. This idea was born in the mid-nineteenth century with a movement called the Plymouth Brethren—the inventors of ‘dispensationalism.’ They taught that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was for the Jews and the “gospel of grace” was for the Gentiles. The history of how this perversion became so pervasive in American Evangelicalism is quite sinister, but the topic of another article. In summary, this doctrine was popularized by C. I. Scofield, who published his famous Scofield Study Bible in 1909. Scofield’s Bible was used at Moody Bible Institute, and it spread throughout evangelical schools all across America. Although the majority of scholars have refuted it throughout the years, the doctrine is still with us today.
If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
Scripture claims that the Kingdom is near, it is here, and it is coming. Some scholars have referred to this as the “now and not yet.” The Kingdom is here now, but it isn’t here fully. Individuals and groups can be considered to manifest the Kingdom of God only to the degree that they display Christ’s loving character. To the extent that any individual or group fails to display this character, they indicate that they are not under the reign of God, regardless of what beliefs they profess or what titles they ascribe to themselves. Paul writes, “for the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (Romans 8:19). Christ lives within the citizens of his nation and through them, his will is done. When God’s will is done, the Kingdom is manifest.
Where is the Kingdom?
Being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The coming of the Kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Unlike nations of the world, the Jesus Nation has no borders. The Kingdom is manifested in moments of time where things happen the way that God would like them to happen, otherwise known as “where God’s will is done.” We live in a world with moments and places where God’s will is not done: poverty, child abuse, sex trafficking, violence, slavery, injustice, and more. God is inviting us to join him in his great Kingdom renewal project. As we grow in our discipleship to Jesus, as we learn to be with him, learn his teaching, become more like him, and carry on his work in the world, the Kingdom of God grows; where God’s will is done on Earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
The Kingdom of God is here on Earth, and will be for all eternity.
The establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth is a joint effort between the Creator and humankind. God is willing to risk success and failure so that humans might learn to rule responsibly. While the Kingdom is already here, it is not yet fully. Scripture promises that God will liberate the planet from the bondage of death and decay (Romans 8:20-21). We read in the book of Revelation a poetic telling of our current spiritual reality; that heaven is being brought down to Earth so that Jesus might dwell among his people on this planet for all eternity.
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
Who is the Kingdom?
The Old Testament nation of Israel failed her mission to be God’s Kingdom. She was supposed to be a blessing to all the nations but chose to only bless herself. She was supposed to serve Yahweh alone but chose to run after other gods. She was supposed to only have God as her King but chose to install wicked human rulers. Therefore, she lost her place as representing the Kingdom of God. Tragically, Israel became like all the other wicked pagan nations and was thrown into exile until the time of Jesus.
Jesus is the embodiment of the Kingdom of God, sometimes called the “Kingdom of Christ” (Ephesians 5:5). Wherever Jesus was in the first century, there too was the Kingdom. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus would sometimes speak about himself as the equivalent of the Kingdom. For instance, sometimes he would say “for my sake” and others he would say “for the sake of the kingdom” (Matthew 19:29, Luke 18:29). Likewise, wherever Jesus is active today, his Kingship is submitted to, and full allegiance is given, there is the Kingdom.
Jesus was (and is) the answer to the failure of Israel. Just as Israel was chosen to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6), citizens of God’s Kingdom “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9). The Church (ekklesia) of God, citizens of the Jesus Nation, are called to be the fulfillment of ancient Israel. Paul calls followers of Jesus the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) because Jesus “has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father.” (Revelation 1:6 NLT).
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.
What Nation are you a Citizen of?
In the Garden of Eden, something pivotal happened. Adam and Eve, rather than obey the voice of their Creator, ironically obeyed the voice of a seductive creature over which they had been given rule and dominion. In doing so, they relinquished their authority to him. This seductive creature was the serpent, the deceiver who led the whole world astray. Now, a kingdom emerged in the garden paradise that rivaled God’s own. From this time forward, another voice challenged God’s authority over people’s lives. Meanwhile, other rebellions took place in the spiritual realm that resulted in other gods having authority and dominion over the nations. Humankind has become divided; some will comply with God’s voice, and others will submit to the voice of the enemy and the way of Empire.
Two kingdoms exist simultaneously side by side, God’s and Satan’s, each one bidding for the allegiance of God’s people.
Salvation is much more than spiritual deliverance from personal sin. It includes rescue from political forces and structures that have aligned with Satan. Heaven has already started to be reunited with earth. The Kingdom is where heaven overlaps with the physical. The Kingdom is the redemption of creation.
The fact that Jesus inaugurated a new nation, means that people are forced to choose which nation they will be a citizen of. We may be born into a nation of the world, but once a Christian is “born again” they are born into the Jesus Nation. We can’t have dual citizenship. Scripture claims that in the worldly nation we live in, we are foreigners, strangers, and exiles. Our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God alone! (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 1:17)
Jesus-followers are tasked with proclaiming the good news that the Kingdom of God is here and that anyone can be a part of it.
Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
In order to fully understand what the Kingdom of God is, we need to understand what it is not. We need to understand what its rival is: empire. Seeing this contrast is key to making sure we are participating in the Kingdom of God alone. Click here to learn more about empire.
- Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 23, 5:3, 10, 19, 20, 6:10, 33, 7:21, 8:11, 12, 9:35, 10:7, 11:11, 12, 12:25, 26, 28, 13:11, 19, 24, 31, 33, 38, 41, 43, 44, 45, 47, 52, 16:19, 28, 18:1, 3, 4, 23, 19:12, 14, 23, 24, 20:1, 21, 21:31, 43, 22:2, 23:13, 24:7, 14, 25:1, 34, 26:29; Mark 1:15, 3:24, 4:11, 26, 30, 6:23, 9:1, 47, 10:14, 15, 23, 24, 25, 11:10, 12:34, 13:8, 14:25, 15:43; Luke 1:33, 4:43, 6:20, 7:28, 8:1, 10, 9:2, 11, 27, 60, 62, 10:9, 11, 11:2, 17, 18, 2, 12:31, 32, 13:18, 20, 28, 29, 14:15, 16:1, 17:20, 21, 18:16, 17, 24, 25, 29, 19:1, 12, 15, 21:10, 31, 22:16, 18, 29, 30, 23:42, 51; John 3:3, 5, 18:36
- Acts 1:3, 6, 8:12, 14:22, 19:8, 20:25, 28:23, 31; Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20, 6:9, 10, 15:24, 50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 1:13, 4:11; 1Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:1, 18; Hebrews 1:8, 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Peter 1:11; Revelation 1:6, 9, 5:10, 11:15, 12:10