• johned@aibi.ph

Word Study - The Kingdom (of God)

by John Edmiston

As the world draws close to the year 2000 and Christians ponder the meaning of a "New World Order" the Bible teaches us of a far more radical and truly ideal New World Order - the Kingdom of God, brought in through the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and inaugurated in power on the day of Pentecost. This word study will help bring this powerful doctrine to light and give you confidence and hope as you face the future - no matter what the political outcomes are. This article draws heavily upon from G.W. Bromiley's "Theological Dictionary of The New Testament".

The two main Greek words are "basileus" a King, and "basileia" a Kingdom. Ancillary words are "basileuo" to be king, to reign and "symbasileuo" to reign together with. The main phrases we will be concerned with are "basileia tou theou" Kingdom of God and "basileia ton ouranon" Kingdom of Heaven.

The "king" is the legitimate ruler. In both Greek and Hebrew thought the King derives his authority from God and is the source of all law in the land. For us this means that Jesus Christ is the authoritative governor of the heavens and the earth. It is His laws ultimately that must be obeyed. Even the kings, princes and tyrants of this world, the city state despots, the Jewish Sanhedrin and Caesar himself are accountable to the "royal law"(James 2:8) handed down by Jesus Christ. Thus Jesus is truly the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Tim 6:16) before whom every knee will bow to the glory of God the Father.(Phil 2:9-11)

Christ is king in the NT. He is first "king of the Jews" (Mt. 3:2; Mk 15;2, etc.), accused as such (Lk. 23:2-3), but also treated as a pretender (Jn. 19:12). The people want him as king in a political sense; hence he resists their pressure (Jn 6:15). Yet in a true sense he is indeed the promised "King of Israel" (Mt. 27:42; Mk.15:32).He enters Jerusalem as such (Zech. 9:9; Mt. 21:5), and as such will conduct the last judgment (Mt. 25:34). Outside the Gospels the NT seldom refers to Christ as King of the Jews or of Israel (though cf. Acts 17:7). John offers a christological definition of the kingdom in 18:37, and Revelation gives the royal title a cosmological dimension. I Tim. 6:16 gives Christ the same title as Revelation: "King of kings and Lord of lords:" I Cor. 15:24 implies the kingship of Christ when it speaks of the subjection of all other rule, authority, and power until at last the kingdom is handed to the Father

There are three "ideal Kings" in Scripture - Melchizedek, David and Jesus Christ. Melchizedek is a priestly King who received tithes from Abraham. David was the great earthly King of Israel who, though flawed, walked with God and Jesus Christ is the Messiah, Redeemer and God. These three kings are important for our understanding of the Kingdom of God. The constant theme of the prophets is that the Kingdom of the Messiah would be a better version of David's reign(Isaiah 9:6,7; 16:5; 55:3-5).

A more ideal version where peace would be more profoundly experienced.(Jer 23:5-8) It was as if we were to look at the Davidic kingship as the closest human approximation to the Kingdom of God. When Jesus came His messiahship and the nature of His Kingdom was acknowledged by the title "Son of David" as well as "King of the Jews". Hebrews expands on the idea of a priestly Kingdom with its exposition of the role of Melchizedek in chapters 6 & 7 and the vision of the heavenly Zion in Hebrews 12. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of believer-priests (1 Peter 2:5,9, Revelation 1:6) with Jesus as the High Priest (Hebrews 8:1,2 , 9:11).

The Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of The Father/Kingdom of Christ

These four expressions refer to slightly different aspects of the one reality. The Kingdom of Christ is the realm where Jesus Christ is the Messiah King, this Kingdom will put an end to all earthly Kingdoms (Rev. 11:15). Its present aim is stated in a difficult portion of 1 Corinthians 15- verses 24-25:

"Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet."

Thus we see that Christ's Kingdom while it "has no end" (Luke 1:33) gains its continuity from becoming the "Kingdom of the Father". As the purified and holy Messianic Kingdom it stands between the present evil age and all the ages to come. Thus wrongdoers will have to be gathered out of it by angels and the last judgment (Matt 13:41) and it will come while this earth in its present form and some will see the Son of Man in His Kingdom (Mt 16:28). It was inaugurated at the cross, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ- most particularly through the ascension.

The thief on the cross realized that Jesus was in the process of entering into His Kingdom (Luke 23:42). Christ's Kingdom is "not of this world" John 18:36 and is not gained by force or militant discipleship (Jn 18:36). It is clearly linked with Christ's appearing (2 Timothy 4:1) and we are to be saved for it (2 Tim 4:16). Entrance into it is for Christians, especially those committed to spiritual growth (2 Peter 1:11). Christ's Messianic Kingdom will have no place for evil and sinners will have no inheritance in it. (Ephesians 5:5). This verse also tells us that the kingdom is "the kingdom of Christ and of God". (Ephesians 5:5 NKJV) For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

The kingdom of heaven emphasizes the nature of the Kingdom as being "from above" and both transcending and interpenetrating earthly Kingdoms just as heaven both transcends and interpenetrates our present reality. It is a term chiefly used by Matthew. It is clearly a reign of God that is not arrived at by human effort but which is graciously given "from above". The term "Kingdom of the Father" (Matt 13:43, 26:29, 25:34, Luke 12:32) It is His Kingdom that we are to pray for in the Lord's prayer (Luke 11:2) and His kingdom in which the righteous shall shine like the sun (Matt 13:43).

The relationship between the various levels of Kingship (God, Christ and believers) is summed up in Luke 22:29,30:

"And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

God bestows a kingdom on Christ who then bestows a kingdom on His followers so that they become "kings and priests to our God" (Rev. 1:6, 5:10). We are twice called co-rulers with Christ (1 Cor 4:8, 2 Timothy 2:12) but this information is not given to us so that we may be filled with inordinate pride as the Corinthians seemed to be (1 Cor 4:8) but so that we will be encouraged to endure in service with patience and obedience ((2 Timothy 2:12).

However the concept of us reigning with Christ is of fairly broad application (Rev. 20:6) and Billheimer in his book "Destined For The Throne" has suggests that part of the reason for us learning to pray is so that we will "know the ropes" of Kingdom rulership when we take up our prepared places in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:7).

The major reference is of course to the "Kingdom of God" which is unshakeable ((Hebrews 12:28), heavenly (2 Tim 4:18) and eternal (2 Peter 1:11). Here are 12 short notes on the Kingdom:

  1. God gives the Kingdom as a gift (Luke 12:32) to those who seek it above all things (Matt 6:33) God calls us to it (1 Thess 2:12), sets us in it (Col 1:13), and makes us worthy of it (2 Thess 1:5).

  2. The Kingdom belongs to the poor in spirit, the persecuted and the "child-like". (Matt 5:3,10; 19:14)

  3. The unaltered natural ("flesh and blood") man cannot enter the Kingdom of God(1 Cor 15:50). The Kingdom is entered by being "born again" (John 3:3)through irrevocable commitment (Luke 9:62) producing a new man in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor 5:16,17).

  4. The Kingdom is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17)

  5. The Kingdom of God is accompanied by real power (Mark 9:1, 1 Cor 4:20)and is the most powerful kingdom of all.(Revelations 11:15)

  6. This Kingdom power is manifested in healings, miracles, exorcisms and raising of the dead (Matthew 4:23,24; 10:7,8 ; 12:28, Luke 9:2; 10:9)

  7. It is a "glorious kingdom" - it will surpass all other kingdoms in wisdom ,beauty, power, and wealth. (I Thess 2:12, Mark 10:37, Matt 6:13, 2 Tim 4:18, Rev. 21:10-22:5)

  8. The Kingdom has small and humble beginnings - but grows!. (Matt 13:31-32)

  9. The Kingdom of God interpenetrates the structures of this world with an almost "invisible influence" (Matt 13:33, Luke 17:20-21) and is spiritually discerned (Mark 4;11; John 3:3, cf 1 Cor 2:14). Eventually it will be made manifest or obvious to all (Matthew 25:31-34, Phil 2:9-11; 2 Tim 4:1,18), the structures of this world will collapse, (Rev 11;15, 18:1-19:7) the heavens and earth depart (2 Peter 3:10) and only the Kingdom of God remain. (Hebrews 12:26-29, Luke 1:33) .

  10. The kingdom is brought into being by being proclaimed - this proclamation can be to individuals or to entire communities..The gospel is this proclamation.(Mark 1:14, Matt 4:23, Luke 4:43, Acts 8:12)

  11. The kingdom is "a living thing" and participates in the properties of living things such as growth, vigor and having a "time of harvest". (Matthew 13:24-33)

  12. The Kingdom of God requires some diligence to enter in. Like a prized pearl or treasure it must be sought and valued above all things (Matthew 13:44, 45) And a certain spiritual alertness and readiness of heart is always required of believers. (Matt 25:1ff).Radical steps may be necessary if we are to fully enter it and leave the hindrances of this world behind. (Matthew 5:29-30; 19:12). Temporary enthusiasm is insufficient (Luke 9:62) and the cost must be counted(Luke 14:28) and sometimes the supreme sacrifice be paid (Matt 10:37-39).

The kingdom, and entering it, are so important for us that we must be ‘diligent to enter in'. Some interpretations of grace minimize this aspect of diligence. Sin is the greatest hindrance and certain sins will ensure that we are ‘outside the kingdom'. The intent of the process of sanctification and washing with the blood of Christ is to remove these sins from us.

(1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NKJV) Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, {10} nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. {11} And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Wealth is another great hindrance to inheriting the Kingdom of God.

(Matthew 19:23-24 NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. {24} "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

As are a preoccupation with worldly things (Luke 9:20ff), spiritual lethargy (Matthew 18;23ff; 25:1ff), and absorption into a self-centered lifestyle (Matthew 25:31-46). People can be hindered from entering by legalistic teachings (Luke 11:52) or released into it through the apostolic proclamation of Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God (Matthew 16:19).


This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.