Most people understand the idea of a Kingdom or monarchy. It is a land or a realm where a king or queen rules. Examples in the bible include Kings Saul, David, Solomon, and the succession of Kings in Israel and Judah. Examples of monarchs today are Queen Elizabeth of the British Empire and Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain where he has been the ruling since 1999i. What may be confusing are kingdoms where the king or queen is mostly ceremonial and the land is instead governed by a democratically elected government like Britain is today. In Israel, the king was the absolute ruler and that is the kind of kingdom of the Kingdom of God or Heaven at which we will be looking. Just remember the kingdom of God is the realm where God is the king or absolute ruler.
Before Jesus began his ministry John the Baptist began preaching about the Kingdom:
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 3:1-2 ESV)
Likewise, Jesus, from the first of his ministry, preached the same message:
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 4:17 ESV)
Jesus continued that theme throughout his ministry on earth:
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. (Mat 9:35 ESV)
Then when Jesus sent out the twelve he made a point about the importance of the Kingdom of God:
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. (Luk 9:1-2 ESV)
Preaching the Kingdom of God is central to the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.
Here are some verses about the Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God that help us understand what it is (while there is some debate among scholars, the terms Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are used interchangeably):
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God [emphasis added] has come upon you. (Mat 12:22-28 ESV)
We learn something about this kingdom here; in it, the Spirit of God is energized to rule over demons! And there is a critical defining bit here about what this Kingdom is, “if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The “place” of this Kingdom is where the Spirit of God is! The place of the Kingdom is the spiritual realm.
This brings up another point. The Devil is real. Jesus taught about him, how he works, and what he can do. With Jesus, you have nothing to fear, but without him, as we shall see, you are living in the devil’s realm.
Another benefit of the residents of the Kingdom of Heaven is understanding:
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven [emphasis added], but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. “Hear then the parable of the sower: (Mat 13:10-18 ESV)
People in the kingdom of heaven have their understanding opened to be able to see the things of God while the people of the world are blind to them. Only people in the Kingdom can understand what is going on with God. The world blinds people to the realities of both what God and the devil are doing. The world says God is dead, or not doing anything for anyone really, or its all science, and there is no devil, devils are just characters in horror movies and so on and so on. The word of God shows us the life of the Redeemer so that we can share in the true life that is available to us. Jesus is a worthy Lord, follow him!
The Gospels are chock full of teaching about the Kingdom:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
(Mat 7:21 ESV)
This verse says that it isn’t enough to go to church and act like a Christian. God looks at the heart and what people are really doing in their lives.
Perhaps some think that this is much ado about nothing because God created the earth, right? So he should already be king, right? Well, he did but he’s not. Look at these verses:
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
(Joh 18:36 ESV)
I (Jesus speaking) will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,
(Joh 14:30 ESV)
Jesus is talking about Satan here who literally is the ruler of the world! For a moment I want to look at the Epistles for further enlightenment. Paul expanded on what this means:
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2Co 4:4 ESV)
1 John adds this:
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1Jn 5:19 ESV)
Basically, mankind was given dominion over the earth in Genesis:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion [emphasis added] over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen 1:27-28 ESV)
But Satan gained that control (dominion) when he got Adam to sin:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned [emphasis added] from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom 5:12-14 ESV)
I repeat: Satan gained dominion from Adam when he got him to sin. Part of Redemption is freeing believers from the god of this world, Satan.
So, now, back to what Jesus taught. Here again, are previously mentioned Gospel Kingdom verses relating to the topic of two kingdoms:
And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?… But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Mat 12:26,28 ESV)
Jesus declares here the battle of the kingdoms, the kingdom of God, and that of him who is enemy to God: Satan. The realm is the spiritual realm. And Jesus got very specific about the fact that every person is either in one or the other. First, read this whole passage:
Do not lay up treasures on earth for yourselves, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up treasures in Heaven for yourselves, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye. Therefore if your eye is sound, your whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, Do not be anxious for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Behold the birds of the air; for they sow not, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them; are you not much better than they are? Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his stature? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They do not toil, nor do they spin, but I say to you that even Solomon in his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Therefore if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much rather clothe you, little-faiths? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, With what shall we be clothed? For the nations seek after all these things. For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
(Mat 6:19-33 MKJV)
Now, let’s look at how the above discussed the living in different Kingdoms. “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon”, this verse is saying you are either in one kingdom or the other. What is mammon, you say. It is part of the realm of Satan where “treasures on earth” are heaped up. The passage describes those under mammon who pursue treasures on earth including foods, drinks, fine clothes, but also any earthly treasure: houses, jewelry, vehicles, entertainment experiences. The passage describes that pursuit as full of darkness and evil. Pursuing the other kingdom means seeking the righteousness of God. And the passage says that amazingly, people in the Kingdom of God get earthly riches, they just don’t pursue them first, they pursue God first.
Look at the battle between the two kingdoms in this parable:
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom (emphasis added). The weeds are the sons of the evil one (emphasis added), and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Mat 13:36-43 ESV)
This could be called the plight of the sons of the kingdom versus the plight of the sons of the evil one. This parable is preaching the benefits of the Kingdom of God. The sons of the kingdom are clearly the winners here. There is also prophecy in this parable, that the Son of Man will send his angels and throw in the fiery furnace.
There are so many references in the Gospels to the Kingdom. Look at these parables:
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven [emphasis added] may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Mat 18:23-35 ESV)
In the Kingdom of God God expects us to have mercy on others the way He has mercy on us, Here’s another parable:
“For the kingdom of heaven [emphasis added] is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
(Mat 20:1-16 ESV)
In the Kingdom of heaven, God expects us to realize that greatness isn’t determined by who was born first or called first.
There are many more. For an exercise look at the references to the Kingdom of God in the Beatitudes.
Jesus proclaimed many things about the Kingdom and it was and is a main emphasis in his teaching ministry.