WORTHY OF THE KINGDOM

by Thomas W. Finley


Chapter Four

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

We now approach a most inspiring view of the future. We Christians need inspiration and vision in order to be steadfast in our race. How can we resist the pull of the world and inbred sin upon our souls? One very positive help in this regard is our vision of the future. Moses is our example. "By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was LOOKING TO THE REWARD" (Heb. 11:24-26).

Here Moses represents the faithful Christian (Heb. 3:5). He refused to enjoy his earthly heritage and the pleasures of sin, because he saw something more valuable than all the treasures of the great Egyptian empire. He was "looking to the (future) reward." This reward, as we shall see, is something to be realized in the future millennial Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. A day is coming, a time of 1,000 years, that will be more glorious and wonderful than anything we could possibly imagine (1 Cor. 2:9).

Before describing this glorious Kingdom in detail, it will be helpful to the reader to realize some key ideas concerning the use of the word "kingdom" in the New Testament. The Greek word used for kingdom is basileia. This word is used numerous times in the New Testament and one must carefully analyze its usage in any particular passage to determine its exact meaning and reference.

George E. Ladd states: "The primary meaning of the New Testament word for kingdom, basileia, is ‘reign’ rather than ‘realm’ or ‘people’. A great deal of attention in recent years has been devoted by critical scholars to this subject, and there is a practically unanimous agreement that ‘regal power’, ‘authority’ is more basic to basileia than ‘realm’ or ‘people’."[1] Theologian George Ladd goes on to tell us, however:

This definition of the word basileia must be taken as the point of departure for the meaning of the ‘kingdom of God’ in the Gospels; but it will become immediately clear that the abstract meaning by no means exhausts the content of the phrase. It is impossible to substitute ‘reign’ or ‘royal power’ or ‘sovereignty’ for basileia everywhere it occurs. The term often passes from the abstract sense to the concrete. Ordinarily, a regal authority would involve a people, and would find its expression in a certain realm or domain. This normal extension of the meaning of the word is to be discovered in the New Testament both in the secular and religious areas. Satan took Jesus up into a high mountain to tempt him and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matt. 4:8). The word here refers to distinct domains ruled by separate kings or rulers...If we may indicate our findings at the outset we may say that our study of the New Testament data has led to the conclusion that the kingdom of God is the sovereign rule of God, manifested in the person and work of Christ, creating a people over whom he reigns, and issuing in a realm or realms in which the power of his reign is realized. We must beware of over-simplification; but if this definition of the kingdom of God is taken as the key to the biblical teaching, it will be found that the diverse passages on the kingdom can for the most part be satisfactorily and consistently exegeted.[2]

The Bible declares God’s sovereign rulership in all generations: "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endures throughout all generations" (Ps. 145:13). The literal marginal reading of "an everlasting kingdom" in this verse is "a kingdom of all ages". God’s everlasting Kingdom can take on different forms in different epochs. It is true that the matter of "the Kingdom of God" mentioned in the New Testament has been much debated among Bible teachers. Nevertheless, it seems apparent from the Scriptures that there is a present stage of God’s Kingdom, which consists of a spiritual realization of the Kingdom among today’s believers who have had God’s Word sown in their hearts (Mk. 4:3-20), who have been transferred into the Kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13), and who currently enjoy the Kingdom of God in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).

The Kingdom of God, however, is to be manifested in a much fuller way in its future stage. The coming Kingdom is realized only when Christ personally returns to earth to set up His 1,000-year Kingdom (Lk. 19:11-15). In this coming Kingdom, the scope of His direct rulership is the entire earth. As we study the Kingdom of God in future chapters of this book, it is important that we keep in mind these two stages of the Kingdom of God. Some verses in the New Testament that refer to "the Kingdom of God" speak of the present stage, whereas other verses may speak of the future stage. We must carefully examine each reference in order to accurately determine if it speaks of the current aspect of the Kingdom or if it may speak of the Kingdom to come. A few New Testament verses refer to aspects of the Kingdom of God other than these two aspects.

The coming millennial Kingdom is needed to outwardly, visibly reverse the universal rebellion of man, and to establish the righteous reign of God so that His will is done "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). Presently, the world is riddled with sin and rebellion with all their sorrowful consequences. But there is a coming age of 1,000 years that will witness conditions that are in total contrast to this present age. Moreover, the fundamental reason for this contrast is that during that 1,000 years the Lord Jesus Christ will have undisputed, absolute rule over the earth (Rev. 11:15). All of the marvelous conditions and blessings manifested during that era are due solely to His rule.

Let us look now at some of the magnificent features of that future form of the Kingdom.

The Lifting Of The Curse

The fall of Adam brought in a curse upon the earth (Gen. 3:17-19). Under the curse, man must labor among thorns and thistles to produce food. This means the cursed earth frustrates man’s efforts to make a living. This will be changed during the millennium when all creation is released from its bondage to corruption (Rom. 8:21). At that time, "the desert shall rejoice, and blossom like the rose" (Is. 35:1, KJV). "Instead of the thorn bush, the cypress will come up and instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up; and it will be a memorial to the Lord" (Is. 55:13).

Also, the aggressive, destructive nature of the animal kingdom will be undone and "the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them" (Is. 11:6). "And the lion will eat straw like the ox. And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain" (Is. 11:76-9). This lifting of the curse may be gradual, occurring in significant stages during the millennium.[3]

Satan Will Be Bound

The devil, man’s hateful enemy (1 Pet. 5:8), will be bound during the 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-3) so that man will cease to be the victim of his machinations.

Sickness Eliminated

The healings Christ performed in His earthly ministry foreshadowed the Kingdom condition (Matt. 8:16-17; Heb. 6:5). In that future age the full realization of what He accomplished on the cross in respect to our bodily healing will be made evident (Is. 53:4-5). "And no resident will say ‘I am sick’; the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity" (Is. 33:24). "Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb will shout for joy" (Is. 35:5-6).

Peace

His reign will bring in peace. "And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war" (Is. 2:4).

Righteousness

"Behold a king will reign righteously, and princes will rule justly" (Is. 32:1). "But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth" (Is. 11:4a).

Joy

"The whole earth is at rest and is quiet. They break forth into shouts of joy" (Is. 14:7). "So the ransomed of the Lord will return; and come with joyful shouting to Zion; and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Is.51:11).

Comfort

"Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people, and will have compassion on His afflicted" (Is. 49:13).

Material Prosperity

"And they shall come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the bounty of the Lord--over the grain, and the new wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; and their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again" (Jer. 31:12).

Holiness

"They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord" (Is. 11:9a).

Fullness Of The Holy Spirit

"I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants" (Is. 44:3b).

This listing of Kingdom blessings is not all-inclusive. We can see from it, however, that the coming age will be more wonderful than man has ever dared dream. But there is more. Beyond the aspect of blessing lies the dimension of deeply significant purpose. All philosophers and psychologists would agree that man yearns for fulfillment, a fulfillment that is not realized through the mere satisfaction of the basic human physical and emotional needs. So man has tried to achieve fulfillment through accomplishment (i.e., work, sports, etc), service to fellow man in noble causes, or other means. Although these may add to man’s feelings of worth, something is yet missing. We must reach back to God’s original purpose for man in the activity of creation in order to understand man’s role in the coming Kingdom.

God’s last item of creation was man. Man is seen to hold a unique and preeminent place among God’s creatures. "Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’" (Gen. 1:26). Among God’s creation, man alone is created in God’s image, and man alone is designated to have the rulership over the earth.

To be in God’s image simply means that man, in his living and character, is to express what God is like. Only man can fulfill this role among the creatures of Genesis Chapter One, since only man possesses characteristics that are found in God. Dr. Scofield points out that "While God is infinite and man is finite, nevertheless man possesses the elements of personality similar to those of the divine Person: thinking (Gen. 2:19-20;3:8); feeling (Gen. 3:6); willing (Gen. 3:6-7). That man has a moral nature is implicit in the record and is further attested by the N. T. usage (Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10)."[4] Such a unique equipping also prepares man to be commissioned with the responsibilities of rulership over the other items of created earth.

It is in the coming Kingdom that all that was lost through the fall will be more than restored. The fellowship we have now with God will be intensified then as the New Covenant is realized in the fullest possible way (Jer. 31:33-34; Heb. 8:6-12), and our bodies will be redeemed, giving us freedom from the presence of sin (Rom. 8:23). As a result, we will spontaneously radiate the life of Christ, thus being "in His image". Further, and most significantly, God will share His dominion over the earth with all overcoming believers (Matt. 25:21, 23; Lk. 19:17, 19; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26-27; Rev. 3:21; Rev. 20:4,6).

As there was a Sabbath rest in which God enjoyed His completed creation, so there is a future Sabbath rest (Heb. 4:9). A number of Bible teachers, including notable early church fathers, have believed that God’s redemptive plan follows the pattern of His creative plan. There were six days of creative activity followed by the Sabbath day of rest wherein the completed work was enjoyed.

In like manner, some writers feel that God restores the creation through "six days" (six days meaning 6,000 years per 2 Pet. 3:8) of redemptive activity and then has a Sabbath day rest of 1,000 years--the millennium. Scholars have determined that this concept of seven millenniums of God’s earthly activity was the common belief among Jews at Christ’s time and that this belief was widely held by the early church.[5]

It should be observed that God patterned Israel’s calendar on a septenary (seven period) system (Lev. 23). Also, "seven is the number which in its full sense speaks of the perfect accomplishment of divine work."[6] The word seven itself is derived from a root word that means full or satisfied, which meaning is fundamental to the closely related word for Sabbath.[7] Even if one had trouble agreeing with a 7,000-year plan, it is of interest to note that the Scofield Bible divides God’s dealings with man into seven dispensations, with the seventh and final one being Christ’s coming 1,000-year Kingdom.[8]

The significance of Christ’s coming Kingdom of 1,000 years is that it is a time when man’s purpose will be finally realized. God can truly rest at that time because His intention in man’s creation will at last be a reality. Thus, after prophesying of the sublime conditions of that future era in the first nine verses of Isaiah 11, Isaiah then concludes with the thought that there "his rest shall be glorious" (Is. 11:10, KJV). The future millennial Kingdom was foreshadowed by the type of the Sabbath in the Old Testament. (A Biblical "type" is some person, place or thing in the Scriptures that presents a picture of some future reality.) There, after completing His redemptive work with man, God will rest in satisfaction as He views man, in His image, ruling over the earth.

Before we conclude this chapter, we need to underscore something very notable about this coming Kingdom. A prominent characteristic of this Kingdom will be the pervasive element of eternal life, the life of God. God’s purpose for man is that we might share His unique life. When Jesus came at the first advent, He announced that His intention in coming was "that they (His sheep) might have life and might have it abundantly" (Jn. 10:10)." In His prayer in the upper room on the night before His death, Jesus prayed for all those who would become believers in Him: ". . . that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (Jn. 17:2-3). Although we have this life now (Jn. 3:16), the fullness of the experience of this life, which is the fullness of our knowledge of God, will be realized in the coming age. The following comments from George Ladd are helpful:

Jesus said to Nicodemus, "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," and "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Jn. 3:3-5). These verses associate the Kingdom of God with eternal life. They indicate that one must enter into life in order to enter into the Kingdom of God; he must be born again. . . . God’s word offers a life higher than the physical life which all men enjoy. It is the life of the Kingdom of God. We are all familiar with this text, "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." But frequently we dissociate eternal life from the truth of the Kingdom of God and do not usually think of eternal life as an aspect of God’s Kingdom. However, these verses join together these two great Biblical realities. They are in fact inseparable. The life which Christ came to bring us is the life of God’s Kingdom. . . . Eternal life belongs to the future Kingdom of glory and to The Age to Come; yet this eternal life has become available to man in the present evil Age. . . . In the Age to Come, the life of that glorious Kingdom means perfection of our fellowship with God and of our knowledge of God. We shall see Him face to face. Life eternal means that we have already been brought into a personal relationship with God here and now. Life eternal means that God has become our God and we have become His people, and that we have begun to share a fellowship with Him; we have begun to share His life. This knowledge of God properly belongs to The Age to Come, to the day when the Kingdom will finally be established. . . . Here [in the coming Kingdom] is a picture of a consummated fellowship when men have entered into a personal, profound, perfect knowledge of God. . . . But the teaching of our Lord in the Gospel of John is that already we have entered into eternal life; already we have been introduced into this knowledge of God. Somehow, the future has become present. The blessing of the Age to Come has been made available to men now. Not in its fullness and perfection, to be sure: yet the knowledge of God in John 17:3 is not promise; it is realization, present experience, a present fellowship which will be wonderfully enlarged and perfected in The Age to Come.[9]

The rich young ruler really did not know the true and rich meaning of the eternal life he asked of Jesus. He thought it simply involved resurrection from the dead with life in a future realm of blessings. However, when Jesus held out to him the prospect of entering "into life" (Matt. 19:17) in the next age, He was offering the highest possible experience for man. The millennial age will be saturated with God’s life. In speaking of the millennial earth, Isaiah prophesied: "They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Is. 11:9; compare Jn. 17:3).

In this chapter we have seen a rich, significant and beautiful vision of the coming age. We have glimpsed some of the glory of the coming Kingdom of Christ. What a contrast to "this present evil age" (Gal. 1:4). We must ever remember that the reason it will be so glorious is because Jesus will be the King; He will reign there. In that seventh and final dispensation man can realize the purpose of his creation. In the millennium, he can have the richest possible experience of the life of God, thus expressing Christ as his life in perfection (being fully in the image of God). Further, whether it is on the renewed earth or in the heavenly New Jerusalem (as some believe), men and women can realize their destiny to have dominion over the earth, reigning with Christ for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:4).

During that era, the Psalmist’s revelation of the high calling of man is finally fulfilled. "What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, and dost crown him with glory and majesty! Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands" (Ps. 8:4-6a).

Like Moses, may we set our eyes on that coming Kingdom reward, forsaking the pleasures of sin and the riches of this life. More than anything, we should desire to be there with Christ in His glorious Kingdom.

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)

[1] George Eldon Ladd, Crucial Questions About the Kingdom of God, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1952), p. 78.

[2] Ibid., pp. 80-81.

[3] Ray E. Baughman, The Kingdom of God Visualized, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972), p. 191.

[4] C. I. Scofield, The New Scofield Reference Bible, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 3.

[5] One of the most thorough documentations of this view being held by the ancient Jews and the early church is found in George N. H. Peters’ work, The Theocratic Kingdom, Proposition 143, Vol. II, pp. 448-460. He cites the following church fathers as proponents of this sabbatical plan: Papias, Barnabus, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Tertullian, Lactantius, Cyprian, Ambrose, Origen, Jerome, and, surprisingly, even Augustine. Since the early church, some of the teachers who have endorsed this view are Bishop Latimer (1552 A. D.), Archbishop Usher (who compiled his famous Bible chronology in 1650 A. D.), Martin Luther, Phillip Melancthon, Joseph A Seiss, Robert Govett, Clarence Larkin, D. M. Panton, Arthur W. Pink, and R. E. Neighbor.

[6] F. W. Grant, The Numerical Structure of Scripture, (Neptune, N. J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1887), p. 52.

[7] See E. W. Bullinger, Number in Scripture, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1894) pp. 167-168.

[8] Scofield, pp. 3-4.

[9] George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, (Reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 66-67,72-73.