The thought of a "kingdom" is very prominent in the Bible. Over and over it is mentioned. The expression "the kingdom of God" is used 68 times in the New Testament. The expression "the kingdom of Heaven is used 31 times all in the book of Matthew. The expression "the kingdom of Christ" is used once. They seem to be used interchangeably. The point is that it was a major point to Jesus and the apostles and should be one we should be well versed about. Yet there seems to be some confusion and ever disinterest among much of the Christian community.
It was not a confusing issue to Jesus. In Matthew 6:33 he says, "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you". In Mark 1:14 it is said of him, "Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God".
It was an important issue to Paul. In Acts 28:30&31 it is said of him while at Rome, "Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him".
"Preaching the kingdom of God", what are they talking about? Ask someone that and they might mention Luke 17:20&21. Here Jesus says, "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." What does he mean? Many people look at that and say, "he must mean that the kingdom of God is not an actual kingdom as we know it but must be some mystical thing that we don't understand". This is probably one of the most confusing statements about the kingdom and I'm going to spend a little time with it. First Jesus is here speaking to the Pharisees whom he has repeatedly chastised. Surely he is not saying here that God's kingdom, whatever it is, is a part of them. In the margin of some Bibles it gives "among you" as a replacement for "within you". "The kingdom of God is among you". This seems to be a much better translation, but it then is saying that Jesus is the "kingdom of God". We haven't yet defined just what is meant by the expression "the kingdom of God", but it seems reasonable to think of Jesus as the representative of that kingdom. It seems that that is all that he is saying.
In Psalms 145:10-13 it says, "All thy works shall praise thee, O LORD; and thy saints shall bless thee, They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, and talk of thy power. To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations". This kingdom and dominion, whatever it is, sounds definitely as though it is a good thing, and it sounds as though it is an ongoing thing. I'm here going to present a thought given by Benjamin Barton, a prominent Bible scholar at the turn of the century. This was given in a discourse in Philadelphia in 1903. In speaking about the importance of the kingdom of God and about the above scripture, he made the point that the kingdom of God came into existence when God created his only begotten Son. I can't give his whole talk here, but the point is that God's kingdom began way back there and is an ongoing and everlasting thing. The earth and its people have not been a part of it ever since the fall of man. That will change when Jesus completes what he has yet to do.
In Matthew 6:10 Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven". Christian people have repeated this prayer for 2000 years. I don't know what most of them think of when they pray it, but to me and to those that see it as I do it is asking for the return of man and the earth to that kingdom. It is obvious that God's will is not done on earth now. Why is it not? I think all would agree that it is because of Adam's transgression. He lost life and his home in Eden. In the process he lost his place in the kingdom of God.
When the Apostles asked Jesus if he was now going to restore the kingdom to Israel 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?" he didn't chastise them for asking it. The question was not if it would happen but when.
The promise made in Isaiah 9:6&7, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this," confirms this thought.
"The government will be on his shoulders," that is a promise folks, a real government. "The Lord will perform this," that is also promise. That will happen, not because of man, but in spite of him.
Many scriptures can be sited to confirm the thought that when Christ returns he will rule over the earth. I think a lot of the Christian community believes that. Also I think they believe that his Church will rule with him. 1Cor. 6:2. The question is what is the purpose and what will be the outcome? That would be the main point of contention in this whole lesson. This is getting long enough now, but since this is also probably the most important point in this lesson, I will continue.
It is the common thought that Christ's Church, the followers of Jesus in this age, are the only people that will receive salvation. The rest, because they were born with immortal souls and cannot die, will live on in a place of distress. It is my contention that the Bible does not support that thought. The purpose of Christ's return and his rule with the Church is to help mankind walk up the "highway of holiness" and reach a condition of perfection that will allow them to stand before God and live forever in a condition of bliss.
Isaiah 35:8,9,10, "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
Revelation 22:17 (KJV) "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Revelation 21:3,4 (KJV) "And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
In the fifteenth chapter of Acts is an account of a Council held in Jerusalem to discuss the Gentile brethren in the church. After Peter, Paul, and Barnabas had spoken, James said the following, Acts 15:13-17 "And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things." After the Church is taken out, the seed of David will set up a kingdom "that the residue of men may seek for the Lord". Isn't that what I' saying?
In Isaiah 26:9, it says, "for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." That is what it is all for. When that happens the earth and its inhabitants will be back part of the "kingdom of God".