If you have tried to give an intelligent Scriptural answer to the question,“what is the Kingdom of God?”, you have found yourself dealing with a very difficult task. After diligently searching the Scriptures for the Scriptural answer, perhaps you are agreed with me that we might liken “the Kingdom of God” to the United States government. An employee of the United States government might be in the Post-office, the Cabinet, the House, the Senate, the Navy, the Army, the Secret Service, the Diplomatic Service, the Legal Department, or some other department. All of these employees of uncle Sam are under the one Federal government, but in different departments.
In the Scriptures there are different phases and departments of “the Kingdom of God.” In “the Kingdom of God,” God is King of the Kingdom. Note several statements quoted from the Law and the Prophets
“And when ye say that Nahash the king of the children of Ammon came against you, ye said unto me, Nay; but a king shall reign over us: when the Lord your God was your King.” I Samuel 12:12. “For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.” Psalms 47:7. “For the Lord is our defense: and the Holy One of Israel is our King.” Psalms 89:18. “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King: He will save us.” Isaiah 33:22. “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel your King” Isaiah 43:15. “The Lord hath taken away thy judgments, He hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not see evil any more.” Zephaniah 3:15. “But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts; and my name is dreadful among the heathen.” Malachi 1:14. “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord and His name one.” “And it shall come to pass that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.” Zechariah 14:9 and 16 and 17. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” Jeremiah 23:5. “This is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek thy face, O Jacob, Selah. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.” Psalms 24:6 and 7.
When Jesus Christ stood before Nathanael, that Israelite in whom there was no guile said. “Master, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel. “ Surely Jesus Christ was Israel’s Messiah and He is the King promised in Jeremiah 23:5 and in Zechariah 14:9, the King of glory promised in the Twenty-fourth Psalm. Therefore, we know that Jehovah was Israel’s King long before Jesus Christ was born in the city of David to occupy the throne of David and to reign over the house of Israel for ever. Luke 1:33. Jesus Christ is coming back to be a reigning King on earth.
In Zechariah 9:9 we learn that Israel’s King was to come riding on the colt of an ass. In Luke 19:30 to 35 we read that Jesus of Nazareth did that very thing. Pilate asked Israel’s rulers, “Shall I crucify your King? They answered. “We have no king but Caesar.”
Because Israel rejected Christ and His offered kingdom, He said to Israel: “Therefore say I unto you, ‘The Kingdom of God’ shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Matthew 21:43.
In Matthew 8:12 we learn that the Jews, whether they received or rejected Christ as Messiah, were called “the children of the kingdom.”
It is interesting to note that the expression “the Kingdom of God”, is found 35 times in the Gospel of Luke, whereas, “the Kingdom of Heaven” is found more than 30 times in Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven and “the Kingdom of God” frequently are used synonymously and interchangeably, but. not always.
Compare Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17, Matthew 10:7 and 8, Luke 10:9 and 11, and Luke 11:20.
“AND SAYING, THE TIME IS FULFILLED, AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND: REPENT YE, AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.” Mark 1:15. Matthew 4:17: “FROM THAT TIME JESUS BEGAN TO PREACH, AND TO SAY, REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND.” Matthew 10:7 and 8: “AND AS YE GO, PREACH, SAYING, THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND.” HEAL THE SICK, CLEANSE THE LEPERS, RAISE THE DEAD, CAST OUT DEVILS; FREELY YE HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.” Luke 10:9 and 11: “AND HEAL THE SICK THAT ARE THEREIN, AND SAY UNTO THEM, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS COME NIGH UNTO YOU.” “EVEN THE VERY DUST OF YOUR CITY, WHICH CLEAVETH ON US, WE DO WIPE OFF AGAINST YOU: NOTWITHSTANDING BE YE SURE OF THIS, THAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS COME NIGH UNTO YOU.” Luke 11:20: “BUT IF I WITH THE FINGER OF GOD CAST OUT DEVILS, NO DOUBT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS COME UPON YOU.”
In these Scriptures we learn that. “the Kingdom of God”, then at hand, was the same as “the Kingdom of Heaven” that was at hand. The prophesied Kingdom was at hand because the prophesied King was in the midst of Israel.“The time was fulfilled.” The King and the Kingdom prophesied in the Davidic Covenant of II Samuel 7 were at hand. The Church, which is the Body of Christ, in which there is neither Israelite nor Gentile, was not at hand. Speaking scripturally correct, the Lord Jesus is called the Head of His Body rather than the King of that particular Church; although the members of that Body have been translated into the Kingdom of Christ. (Colossians 1:13) and are laborers in the Kingdom of God (Colossians 4:11). They are being preserved unto the heavenly Kingdom. II Timothy 1:9.
But now let us compare several statements in the Gospel of Luke concerning “the Kingdom of God.”
Luke 16:16: “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time “the Kingdom of God” is preached, and every man presseth into it.” Luke 10:9: “And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, “The Kingdom of God” is come nigh unto you.” Luke 11:20: “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt “the Kingdom of God” is come upon you.” Luke 17:20 and 21: “And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when “the Kingdom of God” should come, He answered them and said, “The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo, here! or lo, there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 19:11: “And as they heard these things, He added and spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the Kingdom of God should immediately appear.” Luke 21:31: “So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that “the Kingdom of God” is nigh at hand.” Luke 22:18: “For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until “the Kingdom of God” shall come.”
Surely before John the Baptist and Jesus were born, God was the King of Israel and there existed “the Kingdom of God.” But in Luke 16:16 we learn that beginning with the ministry of John the Baptist, “the Kingdom of God” was at hand in a sense that it was never at hand in the period covered by “the Law and the Prophets.”
When the King, Jesus of Nazareth, was approved by God in the midst of Israel, by performing miraculous healing and other supernatural signs, “the Kingdom of God” had come nigh to Israel. The Lord Jesus said, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. “ “The Kingdom of God has come nigh unto you.” But remember the words of Christ in Matthew 15:24: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is all so different from the Lord’s proclamation by the pen of Paul in Titus 2:11: “FOR THE GRACE OF GOD THAT BRINGETH SALVATION HATH APPEARED TO ALL MEN.” And Colossians 1:5 and 2:1 to 2:“For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the Word of the truth of the gospel.” “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister: Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body’s sake, which is the Church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you to fulfil the Word of God: Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of the mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The King, in physical form on earth, presenting the prophesied Kingdom of God to His “Kingdom” nation, Israel, and healing all manner of diseases, was quite different from “the grace of God” at hand for aliens of the commonwealth of Israel, heathen all over the world. The truth Paul proclaimed concerning them and to them was quite different from the Messianic Kingdom for Israel, promised by all the holy prophets since the world began. Acts 3:19 to 21.
This was the Kingdom of God for which Joseph of Arimathea was waiting. Luke 23:51. This was the Kingdom that was in the mind of the twelve apostles, in Acts 1:6: “When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel?”
Now note carefully Luke 19:11: “And as they heard these things He added and spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the Kingdom of God should immediately appear.”
Jews, familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures, knew that their Messiah would set up His Kingdom and their Kingdom at Jerusalem. They were wholly ignorant of God’s predestinated and eternal purpose concerning the Body of Christ. This truth and spiritual program was God’s secret, withheld from Israel’s prophets. Therefore they knew nothing of this parenthetical “grace” period, which began after Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.” Romans 11:13.
The Jews had the right to think that the Kingdom was at hand after Christ had proclaimed it, and when Jesus was nigh to Jerusalem. They thought the King of glory would enter in.
In Acts 3:19 to 21 the Kingdom was again offered to Israel. But again the rulers rejected the resurrected Messiah. They sinned against the Holy Spirit. But God did not bring hasty judgment against them. Jerusalem was not destroyed until more than thirty-five years after the Lord Jesus pronounced the judgment of Luke 21:21 to 24.
But how literally that judgment has been fulfilled.
Where is Israel? Exactly where Christ said they would be in Luke 21:20 to 24. In what spiritual condition is Israel? In exactly. the condition the Holy Spirit in Romans 11:25 and 26 declared they would be. Surely the supernatural preservation of Israel should convince any skeptic that the Bible is the infallible Book of the infallible God. What about Jerusalem? Simply read Luke 21:20 to 24 and the headlines in the newspapers in 1940 A.D. We are all waiting. Israel is waiting for the fulness of the Gentiles to come in, for the fulfillment of “the times of the Gentiles.”
In the meantime, where is Christ?
“THAT THE GOD OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE FATHER OF GLORY, MAY GIVE UNTO YOU THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM, AND REVELATION IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM: THE EYES OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING BEING ENLIGHTENED: THAT YE MAY KNOW WHAT IS THE HOPE OF HIS CALLING, AND WHAT THE RICHES OF THE GLORY OF HIS INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS. AND WHAT IS THE EXCEEDING GREATNESS OF HIS POWER TO USWARD WHO BELIEVE, ACCORDING TO THE WORKING OF HIS MIGHTY POWER. WHICH HE WROUGHT IN CHRIST WHEN HE RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, AND SET HIM AT HIS OWN RIGHT HAND IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES. FAR ABOVE ALL PRINCIPALITY AND POWER, AND MIGHT, AND DOMINION, AND EVERY NAME THAT IS NAMED, NOT ONLY IN THIS WORLD BUT ALSO IN THAT WHICH IS TO COME: AND HATH PUT ALL THINGS UNDER HIS FEET, AND GAVE HIM TO BE THE HEAD OVER ALL THINGS TO THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY, THE FULNESS OF HIM THAT FILLETH ALL IN ALL.” Ephesians 1:17 to 23.
Note the position and possessions of the believing sinner who is at peace with God
“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches, of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3. “To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:6 and 7. “In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will: That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.” Ephesians 1:11 and 12. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:13.
All of this is so different from Christ’s earthly ministry to the Jews in the land of the Jews. While on earth the Lord Jesus was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is significant in Luke’s Gospel that outside His immediate family the announcement of the birth of the Shepherd-King was made to shepherds while they were in charge of the flock “And the angel said unto them, Fear not for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10 and 11. The heavenly messengers were careful to mention the city of David. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus Christ is Israel’s Shepherd-King, not Head of the Church. Note the “fear not” of Luke 12:32:
“Fear not, little flock: for it is, your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.” Luke 12:32 and 33. Note also verses 22 and 29:
“And He said unto His disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on .” “And seek not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.” Note also Luke 9:3: “And He said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.” Luke 9:3. “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” Luke 6:35. “He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” Luke 3:11. Note also Matthew 5:40 to 42: “And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”
If Christians, especially those with a number of little children, should obey all of these instructions and dispose of all their property, give away their money, retain only one coat, and divide their bread, certainly they would want to hear the voice of the Lord say, “fear not.”
They might hear Him say, “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” I Timothy 5:8.
Members of the Body of Christ are to obey Romans 12:13: “Distributing to the necessity of saints: given to hospitality.” But they are not to have a Kingdom communism such as God ordered for Israel.
Let us note the “communism” program in Acts 2:44 and 45: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” Acts 4:34 and 35: “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the price of the things that were sold.” “And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”
From these Scriptures we learn that the same Kingdom program; as to the disposition of earthly possessions, which was God’s order while Jesus the King was in the midst of Israel, continued to be God’s order during the several years that the twelve apostles and the Holy Spirit were witnesses to Israel in the land of the Jews concerning the Messiahship and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Surely we know that this was a Messianic “Kingdom” program and not God’s spiritual program for members of the Body of Christ, under the dispensation of the grace of God, while the Kingdom is in abeyance. This should teach us not to begin the postponement of the Kingdom until after the message of Acts 5:29 to 32: “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him.”In Romans 14:17 the Holy Spirit has given to members of Christ’s Body an interpretation and meaning of “the Kingdom of God” different from “the Kingdom of God” which was at hand when Jesus, the King, was here. That phase of the Kingdom of God will again be at hand with the fulfillment of Luke 21:27 to 33.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.