The Kingdom of God – An important Element of the Gospel
The world has been successively ruled by kingdoms. From a biblical perspective we see this clearly outlined by Daniel as he explains to the Babylonian king the contents of the king’s dream. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar, “…For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory” (Daniel 2:37). There were to be three similar kingdoms to follow the Babylonian kingdom. The progress of the dream’s revelation ends with a future fifth kingdom – the Kingdom of God. “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). This kingdom, the Kingdom of God, is the theme of Christ’s ministry. It is the message that Christ brought when He came to the earth. “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Luke 4:43). After Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist, He began in Galilee to preach the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:23, Mark 1:14). The Apostle Peter, when talking with the household of Cornelius, acknowledged that the gospel was given by God. It was God’s gospel, a message He sent to earth by Jesus (Acts 10:36-37). The good news of the Kingdom of God.
What is the Kingdom of God and what is its relevance to the Church today?
According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, the New Testament word used for kingdom is basileia, which denotes “sovereignty, royal power, dominion.” The Kingdom of God is a territory or people over whom a king rules – the king in this case being Christ and the territory is not of this world (John 18:36-37). It is a heavenly kingdom and the role of Jesus Christ is central to it. “…the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11). The gospel is a message about God’s spiritual Kingdom that does not exist on earth at this time, but will in the future. Christ’s centrality to the Kingdom is an important aspect of the message.
The gospel that Christ brought was not new knowledge. As we saw with Daniel’s dream interpretation, awareness of the Kingdom of God was available long before Christ. It was Christ Himself who said, “…Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). The Kingdom has been a part of God’s plan from the beginning. We are told that the gospel was preached to Abraham (Galatians 3:8) and later to Israel (Hebrews 4:2). The good news regarding God’s plan was proclaimed long before Christ’s ministry on earth. God has had a plan and a purpose for human kind from creation. What was lacking was the understanding of what His Kingdom truly represented. That knowledge came with Christ’s first coming as God in the flesh.
One of Christ’s purposes when He came in human form was to reveal the mystery of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:11). He illuminated aspects that were not understood from the Old Testament information. Much of the gospel message in the Old Testament pointed to a Messiah – the anointed One, the Christ – the Savior. “…We have found the Messiah (which is translated, the Christ)” (John 1:41). The prophet Isaiah foretold of the anointed One who would preach good tidings – the good news of salvation (Isaiah 61:1). When Jesus Christ stood up in a synagogue on the Sabbath day and read the same passage, He told the audience that He fulfilled that scripture (Luke 4:16-21). Christ came for the two-fold purpose of delivering a message of good news regarding the Kingdom of God and to offer Himself as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for sin. Through that sacrifice man could have the possibility of salvation in the Kingdom of God. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself” (Ephesians 1:7-9). The significance of Christ’s sacrifice ultimately leads to the Kingdom of God. That mystery has been revealed to God’s Church at this time.
God’s plan, which He has had from the beginning, is to create an eternal spirit family made up of humans who have been changed from physical into spirit. This change occurs at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42-54) and is the end of a process which begins with hearing the gospel of the Kingdom, repenting and believing (Mark 1:14-15). It is the process of salvation made possible by a Savior. “…I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). In this time order, man is offered to have a relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). Christ was the Firstfruit through His resurrection. Those called now who have the sacrifice of Christ applied to them, have the opportunity to be resurrected at Christ’s return “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:23). At the end of the millennial period (1000 years) the rest of mankind will have the same opportunity to know and participate in God’s great plan of redemption and salvation (Revelation 20:5). All will be resurrected again and be able to come to the knowledge of the core gospel message which the Church is privileged to understand now.
God created all that He created with purpose. The plan for the creation has not changed. “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope, because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21).
The gospel conveys the good news of Who God is, along with His plan and purpose for mankind. It is the good news of the coming Kingdom of God.