The Kingdom of God Concept In The Scriptures
The last five articles have surveyed the history of millennial views within organized Christendom. They demonstrated the fact that Premillennialism was the original view of the Church.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Beginning with the first issue of ISRAEL MY GLORY in December of 1942, the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc. has held firmly and without compromise to the premillennial view of Scripture.
The fact that Premillennialism was the initial view of the Church is quite significant, because it favors the conclusion that Premillennialism is the correct millennial view. It should be noted, however, that correctness of a view is not proven conclusively by the fact that it was the original view. Initial impressions and conclusions of human beings in any realm of knowledge can be incorrect. Because this is true, the ultimate test of correctness for any view in the realm of theology is not the question of it being the original view, but the question of its agreement with the Scriptures. In order for a view concerning the Millennium to be correct, it must agree with the teaching of the Bible.
Two previous articles (those that dealt with the Davidic Covenant and its fulfillment) in this series presented evidence to the effect that the premillennial view of the Millennium agrees with the teaching of the Bible. Further evidence to the same effect is found in an examination of the Kingdom of God concept in the Scriptures. The purpose of the present article is to examine that concept.
The Basis of the Kingdom of God Concept in the Scriptures
The Kingdom of God concept in the Bible is derived from the fact that God is sovereign. That this is so is indicated by David’s great expression which is recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12:
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.
In this expression David declared at least three significant things concerning God. First, God has sovereign power or authority to rule. Second, He has a realm of subjects (all that is in the heavenly and earthly realms) over which to exercise His sovereign rule. Third, He actually exercises His sovereign rule over that realm. All three of these things are essential in order to have a kingdom. Since God in His sovereignty possesses or does all these things, David declared that God has a Kingdom. The sovereignty of God, then, is the basis of the Kingdom of God concept in the Bible.
The sovereignty of God is also the basis of the biblical philosophy of history. This was noted in an earlier article. Since both the Kingdom of God concept in the Bible and the biblical philosophy of history are based upon the sovereignty of God, it would appear that both are related significantly to each other. Indeed, the Kingdom of God concept is the heart of the biblical philosophy of history and, therefore, is the central theme of the Bible.
Distinctions in the Kingdom of God Concept in the Scriptures
As the Bible deals with the Kingdom of God concept, it presents distinctions in that concept which at first appear to be contradictions. There are at least three such distinctions.
First, there is a distinction of time. Some Scriptures present the Kingdom of God as an entity already in existence from long ago: “The LORD reigneth. . . Thy throne is established of old; thou art from everlasting” (Ps. 93:1-2), and “The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all” (Ps. 103:19; cf. Lam. 5:19).
By contrast, other Scriptures indicate that the Kingdom of God is to come in the future; it is not here yet: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44; cf. 7:13-14, 27). When Jesus was present in the world during His first coming, He taught His disciples to pray that the Kingdom of God would come (Mt. 6:10).
Second, there is a 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 said the following to God: “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. . . and thou reignest over all” (1 Chr. 29:11-12). In Psalm 103:19 David declared that God’s kingdom ruleth over all (cf. Ps. 135:6).
Paul stated that God is “Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24).
By contrast, other Scriptures present the Kingdom of God as being earthly in scope. It has just the earth as its realm. In Daniel 2:35, 44-45, the stone, which represented the future Kingdom which God will establish, filled the whole earth. According to Zechariah 14:4, 9, when Messiah will stand on the Mount of Olives at His Second Coming, “the LORD shall be king over all the earth.” John foresaw creatures of God in 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).
In Daniel 7:13-14, 27, 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.” The third distinction in the Kingdom of God concept is a 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 mediator administers the divine rule on behalf of God. God gave a classic example of this direct administration of His Kingdom rule when He bound powerful King Nebuchadnezzar with a humiliating form of mental illness and thereby removed him from his throne (Dan. 4). No human agent caused Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity on behalf of God. God did it directly. The purpose of this sovereign act was to demonstrate the fact “that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men” (v. 17).
At the end of his negative experience, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the fact that his mental illness was an expression of the sovereign rule of God’s Kingdom (v. 34). He described the directness of God’s Kingdom 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). Nebuchadnezzar called God “the King of heaven” (v. 37).
God gave another demonstration of the direct administration of His Kingdom rule when He killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who were threatening Jerusalem (2 Ki. 19). God did this in one night and without the aid of any human agents. Concerning this sovereign administration of His Kingdom rule He declared the following:
Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: That I will break the Assyrian in my land. . . This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. 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. 14:24-27).
By contrast, other Scriptures present the Kingdom of God as being God’s rule administered indirectly through a human mediator just over the earth. Psalm 2:6-9 portrays God establishing Messiah as King to rule over the nations and all parts of the earth. The fact that Messiah will administer God’s rule on His behalf is indicated by two things. First, God calls Messiah “my king” (v. 6). Second, any rebellion against Messiah will also be rebellion against God (vv. 2-3) and will bring God’s wrath (vv. 4-5).
Daniel 7:13-14 depicts God giving the Son of Man a Kingdom to rule over. This Kingdom will consist of all people, nations and languages (v. 14) and will be “under the whole heaven” (limited to this earth) [v. 27]. A parallel passage (Dan. 2:44) indicates that this Kingdom which is given by God to the Son of Man is God’s Kingdom, for it declares that this Kingdom 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 are describing an earthly Kingdom of God in which God’s rule is administered indirectly through a human mediator, the Son of Man who comes 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 declares that one of these Persons (“he” – singular) will reign. Revelation 19 and 20 clearly indicate 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 the rule of God is administered indirectly through a human representative, Christ.
There are, then, three significant distinctions in the biblical Kingdom of God concept. There is the distinction of time: the Kingdom of God has been in existence for a long time, but it also has not yet started. There is the distinction of scope: the Kingdom of God is universal in scope, and yet it is just earthly in scope. There is the distinction of 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 mediator just over the earth.
The Explanation of These Distinctions in the Kingdom of God Concept
In spite of how it may appear, these distinctions are not contradictions. Instead, they are indicators of the fact that the Kingdom of God has at least two aspects or expressions.
The Universal Kingdom of God is the first aspect or expression of the Kingdom of God. The Universal Kingdom of God is the rule of God over the entire universe (including the earth) and everything in the universe.
Ever since God created the universe, He has reigned as sovereign Lord over it. Thus, Paul declared that the God who created things “is Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24). This Universal Kingdom rule of God, then, has been in existence since long ago, and it will always be in existence.
The dispensations are the different ways in which God administers His Universal Kingdom rule over the earth during earth history. In an earlier article, it was noted that a dispensation is a particular way of God administering His rule over the world as He progressively works out His purpose for world history. It could be said, then, that each dispensation is a particular expression or phase of the Universal Kingdom rule of God over the earthly province of His Universal Kingdom. For example, the dispensation of grace is the present expression or phase of the Universal Kingdom rule of God over the earth.
Sometimes God administers His Universal Kingdom rule directly (not through a mediator), and sometimes He administers it indirectly through a mediator or representative.
Because the Universal Kingdom of God is His rule over the entire universe, it is the broad aspect or expression of the Kingdom of God.
The Theocratic Kingdom of God is the second aspect or expression of the Kingdom of God. A theocracy is the form of government in which the rule of God is administered through a mediator or representative. In light of what a theocracy is, and in light of the biblical teaching concerning this aspect of the Kingdom of God, several conclusions can be drawn concerning the Theocratic Kingdom of God.
First, the Theocratic Kingdom of God is a more narrow or limited aspect of the Kingdom of God than is the Universal Kingdom of God. This is so because the Theocratic Kingdom of God is only one expression or phase of the Universal Kingdom.
Second, the Theocratic Kingdom of God 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 is the rule of God 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 mediator or representative (through 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 of God is restricted just to those times when God has an Adam administering His rule over the entire earth. There are only two such time periods for this present earth – first, the time between man’s creation and fall and, second, the time of the future Millennium.
Prior to the fall of man, the Theocratic Kingdom of God existed on planet earth. God made Adam the human administrator of His rule over the earthly province of His Universal Kingdom. Adam did not obtain his position or authority on his own; it was given to him by God (Gen. 1:26, 28; Ps. 8:3-9). Thus, it was God’s rule that was administered over the world system by Adam from the time of his creation to the time of his fall. This means, then, that during the first dispensation of the Universal Kingdom rule of God over the earth, that rule was in the form of a theocracy.
Tragically, things did not continue that way forever. Satan persuaded Adam to defect from God (Gen. 3). Through this fall of man away from God, God lost His representative who was to administer His rule over the world system. As a result, the Theocratic Kingdom phase of His Universal Kingdom rule of the earth was also lost.
When Adam defected from God, he handed over to Satan the authority to rule the world system which God had entrusted to him. Satan specifically declared that this was so in Luke 4:6. This means, then, that, as a result of his getting Adam to defect from God, Satan usurped the rule of the world system away from God. Thus, the lost theocracy was replaced by a satanocracy.
Satan’s rule has continued to dominate the world system since the fall of man. Several things indicate that this is so. During His first coming, Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world” more than once (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). The word translated “prince” means ruler.1 Satan had authority to offer the rule of the world system to Jesus (Lk. 4:5-6). Paul called Satan “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4, literal translation), and John declared that “the whole world lies in the evil one” (1 Jn. 5:19, literal translation). James warned that whoever is a friend of the present world system is the enemy of God (Jas. 4:4). The Scriptures assert that believers are strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11). Jesus indicated that His followers were not of the world system even though they were in it (Jn. 17:14-18). Peter warned believers in the world to be vigilant because their adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour them (1 Pet. 5:8-9). Thus, believers are in enemy territory while living in the present world system, for that system is ruled by God’s great enemy.
It is important to note that, even though Satan usurped the rule of the world system away from God when Adam fell, 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 the fall. Thus, centuries after Adam’s rebellion David could write; “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1), and God could declare: “the world is mine, and all the fullness thereof” (Ps. 50:12). In addition, as noted earlier, during the course of world history, God has exhibited His continuing Universal Kingdom rule over the earth through such sovereign acts as His binding of King Nebuchadnezzar with mental illness (Dan. 4). These sovereign acts have been for the purpose of demonstrating the fact “that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men” (Dan. 4:17).
Beginning immediately after the fall of Adam and continuing throughout Bible times, God made promises to the effect that He would crush Satan and his rule of the world system, that He would cast Satan and his satanocracy out of the world, that He would accomplish this through a Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus Christ, and that He would restore His Theocratic Kingdom rule to the earth by turning over the rule of the whole world to Jesus who would function as the last Adam.
Examples of such prophetic promises are: in Genesis 3:15 God indicated that a man-child, born of woman during world history, would crush Satan. In Psalm 2 God expressed His determination to establish His anointed One (His Messiah), His Son, as His King in Jerusalem and to turn over to Him the nations and the uttermost parts of the earth. He also declared that His King would crush the godless forces of the world. In Isaiah 9:6-7 God declared that a man-child, who would be born during history and who also would be called “The Mighty God,” would rule a Kingdom government upon the throne of David. He clearly indicated that it would be the zeal of the LORD, not the zeal of man, which would bring this about. In Isaiah 11 God foretold that a descendant of Jesse would crush the wicked and would rule righteously and faithfully in complete harmony with God and that animals would be completely tame and vegetarian in diet and that the earth would be full of the knowledge of the LORD during that rule. In Daniel 7 God portrayed Himself giving the Son of Man a future Kingdom to rule over in conjunction with the Son of Man’s coming with the clouds of Heaven. God indicated that this Kingdom would consist of all the nations and peoples under the whole Heaven.
God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to inform her that she would give birth to a man-child, who would be called Jesus and the Son of God and who would reign over a Kingdom upon the throne of David (Lk. 1). Jesus indicated that His death constituted a judgment of the godless world system and guaranteed the future casting out (the verb is future tense in the text) of Satan from the world (Jn. 12:31). Paul, writing several years after Jesus’ death, declared that God would crush Satan in the future (the verb is future tense) [Rom. 16:20]. John declared that the Son of God came for the purpose of destroying the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8; cf, Heb. 2:14). Jesus declared that, as the Son of man, He would come with the clouds of Heaven at His future Second Coming (Mt. 24:29-30), that then He would sit upon His throne (Mt. 25:31) and send the righteous into the Kingdom (Mt. 25:34) and that then the earth would experience its regeneration (Mt. 19:28). Peter asserted that the earth would experience the future times of refreshing and restitution of all things promised by God through the prophets when Jesus would return from Heaven at His Second Coming and be present on earth again (Acts 3:19-21). Paul called Jesus “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) and indicated that He would reign over a Kingdom (1 Cor.15:24-25).
All of these promises indicate that God has a purpose for the history of this present earth. His purpose is to glorify Himself by demonstrating the fact that He alone is the sovereign God. Satan challenged the sovereign rule of God by usurping the rule of the world system away from Him through the defection of God’s first Adam. God has determined to demonstrate His sovereignty by crushing Satan and his rule of the world system, by casting Satan and his satanocracy out of the world and by restoring His Theocratic Kingdom rule to the earth with Jesus administering that rule over the entire earth as the last Adam. Since the Theocratic Kingdom originally existed and was lost during this present earth’s history, it is essential that God restore it during this same earth’s history. If the history of this present earth ends without that restoration, then God ends up being defeated by His great enemy during this course of history. Just as the Universal Kingdom rule of God over the earth during the first dispensation was in the form of a theocracy, so must the Universal Kingdom rule of God over the earth in the last dispensation be in the form of a theocracy, if God is to accomplish His purpose for the history of this present earth.2
It is significant that the Book of The Revelation, which was the last book of the Bible written and, therefore, the capstone of all biblical revelation, portrays the following sequence of events: first, God’s systematic attacks against the satanocracy through three series of judgments upon the earth during the Tribulation period (Rev. 6-18); second, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth with the final crushing of Satan’s forces (Rev. 19:11-21); third, the casting out of Satan from the earth and his imprisonment in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:1-3); and, fourth, the Kingdom reign of Christ over this present earth for 1,000 years (the Millennium) [Rev. 20:4-6]. It is important to note that The Revelation portrays all these events taking place before the destruction of the present earth (Rev. 20:11). In other words, it portrays God crushing Satan and his satanocracy, casting out Satan from the earth and restoring His Theocratic Kingdom during this present earth’s history. The fact that God would portray this sequence of events in the book which is the capstone of all biblical revelation would seem to indicate that He intends this sequence of events to play a key role in the great climax of the present earth’s history and, therefore, in the fulfillment of His purpose for its history.
Only the premillennial view of the Millennium agrees with the Kingdom of God concept as it is presented in the Bible. The amillennial view does not agree with it, for Amillennialism rejects the concept of the restoration of the Theocratic Kingdom to this present earth during its history. The postmillennial view does not agree with it, for Postmillennialism rejects the concept that the Theocratic Kingdom will not be restored to this earth until Jesus Christ returns in His glorious Second Coming at the very end of this present earth’s history after the Theocratic Kingdom has been restored to earth through human effort.
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of The New Testament, (4th rev. ed.; Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 113.
- For a fuller development of God’s purpose for history see: Renald E. Showers, What on Earth is God Doing? (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1973).