Jesus Christ and the Future Kingdom of God Part Seven
When Jesus Christ was on earth during His First Coming, He said “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk. 1:15); and He taught His disciples to pray “Thy kingdom come” (Mt. 6:10). In what sense was He referring to the Kingdom of God in these expressions? To answer these questions, we must examine the Kingdom of God concept in the Bible.
The Basis of the Concept
The concept of the Kingdom of God in the Bible is predicated upon the sovereignty of God. King David’s expression in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 indicates this.
Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. Thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.
Here David declared three things concerning God: First, God has sovereign power, or authority, to rule. Second, He has a realm (all that is in the heaven and in the earth) over which to exercise His sovereign rule. Third, He actually exercises His sovereign rule over that realm. These three are essentials to have a kingdom. Since God, in His sovereignty, possesses or does all these things, David declared that God has a kingdom.
Distinctions in the Concept
The Bible presents three distinctions in the Kingdom of God concept: time, scope, and administration. At first, they appear to contain contradictions.
The Distinction of Time. Some Scriptures present the Kingdom of God as an entity that has existed continually since God created the universe: “The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all” (Ps. 103:19); “The LORD reigneth…Thy throne is established of old; thou art from everlasting” (Ps. 93:1-2); “Thou, O LORD, remainest forever, thy throne from generation to generation” (Lam. 5:19). The apostle Paul declared that the God who created all things “is Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24).
By contrast, however, other Scriptures indicate that the Kingdom of God is to come in the future; it is not here yet. Some six hundred years before Christ, the prophet Daniel foretold, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom” (Dan. 2:44). Christ, in fact, taught His disciples to pray that the Kingdom of God would come (Mt. 6:10).
The Distinction of Scope. Some Scriptures present the Kingdom of God as being universal in scope: It has the entire universe as its realm. As noted earlier, David indicated that it includes “all that is in the heaven and in the earth.” David also declared that God’s “kingdom ruleth over all” (Ps. 103:19; cf. 135:6). The apostle Paul stated that God is “Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24).
Nevertheless, other Scriptures present the Kingdom of God as being earthly in scope: The earth alone is its realm. In Daniel 2:35, 44-45, the stone—which represented the future Kingdom that God will establish—filled the whole earth. In Daniel 7:13-14, the future Kingdom (which God will give to the Son of man, who comes with the clouds of Heaven, and to the saints) is described as being “under the whole heaven” (Dan. 7:27). According to Zechariah 14:4 and 9, when the Messiah will come to earth at His Second Coming, “the LORD shall be king over all the earth.” The apostle John foresaw creatures of God, during the future Tribulation period, talking about the kingdom (singular in the Greek text) of the world becoming the Kingdom of God and His Christ (Rev. 11:15).
The Distinction of Administration. Some Scriptures present the Kingdom of God as being God’s rule administered directly by Him over any or all parts of the universe. No human agent administers God’s rule on His behalf. For example, it was God, not a human agent, who inflicted King Nebuchadnezzar with insanity (Dan. 4). The purpose of this sovereign act was to demonstrate “that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men” (v. 17). Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that his insanity was an expression of God’s Kingdom-rule. And he described the directness of that rule as follows: “he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (v.35).
Without the aid of human agents, God killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2 Ki. 19). Concerning this direct administration of His Kingdomrule, God declared, “Surely…as I have purposed, so shall it stand: That I will break the Assyrian in my land…For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall annul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” (Isa. 14:24-25, 27).
But by contrast, other Scriptures present the Kingdom of God as being God’s rule administered indirectly, through a human agent, just over the earth. Psalm 2:6-9 portray God establishing the Messiah as King, to rule the nations and all parts of the earth. The fact that the Messiah will be God’s agent, who will administer God’s rule over this earthly province of God’s universal Kingdom, is indicated by two things. First, God calls the Messiah “my king” (v. 6). Second, any rebellion against the Messiah will also be rebellion against God (vv. 2-3) and will bring God’s wrath (vv. 4-5).
Daniel 7:13-14 depict God giving the Son of man a Kingdom over which to rule. This Kingdom will consist of “all people, nations, and languages” (v. 14) and will be “under the whole heaven” (v. 27), meaning limited to this earth. A parallel passage (Dan. 2:44) indicates that this Kingdom is God’s Kingdom, for it declares that it is set up by the God of Heaven. A comparison of Daniel 2:35 with verses 44 and 45 shows that this Kingdom of God will fill the whole earth. Thus Daniel 2 and 7 describe an earthly Kingdom of God in which God’s rule will be administered indirectly by a human agent, the Son of man, who will come with the clouds of Heaven.
Similar concepts are presented in Revelation 11:15, which talks about the kingdom of the world becoming the Kingdom of God and of His Christ and then indicates that one of these Persons (“he”—singular) will reign. Revelation 19 and 20 clearly signify that Christ is that one Person who will come to earth to reign over this Kingdom of God. Here again is the picture of an earthly Kingdom of God in which God’s rule is administered indirectly by a human agent, Christ.
There are, then, three significant distinctions in the biblical concept of the Kingdom of God: time (the Kingdom of God has existed continually since God created the universe, but it also has not yet started); scope (the Kingdom of God is universal, yet it is just earthly); and administration (the Kingdom of God is the rule of God administered directly by Him over any or all parts of the universe, but it also is the rule of God administered indirectly through a human agent over the earth alone).
Explanation of These Distinctions
In spite of how it may appear, these distinctions are not contradictions. Instead, they indicate that the Kingdom of God has at least two aspects, or expressions.
Universal Kingdom of God. This is the first aspect, or expression. It is the rule of God over the entire universe (including the earth) and everything in it. This rule has existed continually, ever since God created the universe.
The dispensations are the different ways in which God administers His universal Kingdom-rule over the earth during its history. It could be said that each dispensation is a particular expression, or phase, of God’s universal Kingdom-rule over the earthly province of His universal Kingdom. Sometimes God administers this rule directly (not through a human agent) and sometimes He administers it indirectly, through a human agent.
Theocratic Kingdom of God. This constitutes the second aspect, or expression, of the Kingdom of God. A theocracy is the form of government in which a human agent or representative administers the rule of God. In light of the nature of a theocracy and the biblical teaching concerning this aspect of the Kingdom of God, several conclusions can be drawn concerning the theocratic Kingdom of God.
First, it is a more narrow, or limited, aspect of the Kingdom of God than is the universal Kingdom. This is so because the theocratic Kingdom is but one aspect of the universal Kingdom.
Second, the theocratic Kingdom is restricted to God’s rule over the earth. It does not involve His rule over the entire universe. By contrast, the universal Kingdom of God concerns God’s rule over the entire universe (including the earth).
Third, the theocratic Kingdom of God is restricted to the indirect administration of God’s rule through a human agent or representative (an Adam). It does not involve God’s direct administration of His rule. By contrast, the universal Kingdom of God involves both the indirect and direct administration of God’s rule.
Fourth, the theocratic Kingdom is restricted just to those times when God has a human agent (an Adam) administering His rule over the entire earth. There are only two such time periods for this present earth: the time between man’s creation and fall and the time of the future Millennium. Thus the theocratic Kingdom constitutes the first and last phases of God’s universal Kingdom-rule over this present earth.
When God’s first human agent (Adam) fell, the first phase of the theocratic Kingdom was lost; Satan usurped the rule of the world system away from God and has dominated that system ever since. It is important to note that God’s ownership of the earth, and His universal Kingdom-rule over the earth, did not end at that time. Only the theocratic-Kingdom phase of His universal Kingdom-rule of the earth ended at the fall of man. Other phases of His universal Kingdom-rule have been present on the earth since that time. Thus, centuries after Adam’s rebellion, David could write, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1).