The Kingdom of God
Donald P Ames
In Acts 8:12 we find, "But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike" (all quotes from NASB). Now, if the preaching of the "kingdom of God" was "good news" then, certainly we too should be interested in it, seeing that it is the fulfillment of that which was spoken by Daniel in Dan. 2:44-45.
However, to preach concerning the kingdom of God is not regarded by all as "good news" to be readily received. The premillennialists in various denominational groups (and a few brethren as well) argue the kingdom of God has not yet come, but refers to something the Lord will set up on earth when He comes again. The Mormons teach it was supposed to be ushered in during the mid 1800's and the Jehovah Witnesses claim it did not begin until 1914, Like the premillennialists, many of the Jews are still looking forward to its being established at some future date. If we can show, however, that what Philip preached was the fulfillment of what Daniel prophesied, it follows all these men are sadly deceived and deluded regarding the nature and establishment of the kingdom of God.
To Be Established By God
One of the first things affirmed by Daniel is that "the God of heaven will set up a kingdom." To illustrate the spiritual nature of it, he also reminded king Nebuchadnezzer that the stone was "cut out of the mountain without hands." Certainly we can see this was not going to be something of man's doings, but rather clearly an act of God. When the Jews sought to take Jesus by force and make Him;their king (Jn. 6:15), Jesus not only withdrew, but taught a great spiritual lesson to rid Himself of those seeing only fleshly relationships (Jn. 6:66). Had Jesus desired to set up a political, earthly kingdom, this would have been the "golden opportunity." Jesus' refusal to do so demonstrates this kingdom was not of an earthly nature, nor dependent on the will of man. Is it any wonder then that Daniel could boldly affirm: "the dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy."
Jesus further demonstrated the unique nature of His kingdom when He affirmed, "My kingdom is not of this world (does not partake of the nature of earthly kingdoms, DPA). If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered` up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this' realm." The fact He claimed, "the kingdom of God is in your midst" (Luke 17:21) also shows that it was not intended to be of an earthly nature, but different.
In fact, if one would but pause and reflect upon it, the whole teaching of the New Testament is against an earthly kingdom as sought by some today. Paul refers to the fact we are "citizens" of a new kingdom (Eph. 2:19, Phil. 3:20), and Peter refers to us as "a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" (1 Pet. 2:9). Since He "has made (past tense) us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father" (Rev. 1:6, 5:10; Cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9), it follows this kingdom must have been in existence during the days of the apostles. Yet, at the same time we are commanded to be in subjection to the authorities and powers that be (Rom. 13:1-2,, Titus 3:1). Can a man be subject to the laws of two earthly kingdoms at the same time? Or, does he observe, associate with and support but one? The double citizenship of Christians clearly demands we understand one of these kingdoms must be of a different nature. (We might also point out here that our citizenship in the kingdom of God also requires that a kingdom exist-else how could we be "citizens" in it?) Thus, it follows that we learn one is a spiritual kingdom and the other a physical kingdom.
In Days Of Roman Empire
Another stumbling block these false teachers encounter is that Daniel prophecied the kingdom of God would be set up during the days of the Roman empire. He did not affirm someday, 2,000 years later, another Roman empire like the original would be set up (as some claim), but rather "in the days of those kings. . .the dream is true, and its intrepretation is trustworthy." If God failed to do what Daniel foretold, the dream was not "true," the interpretation thereof was not "trustworthy," and Daniel is found to be a false prophet and liar (Deut. 18:20-22).
Turning to the New Testament, we find both John and Jesus teaching that the kingdom of God is "at hand" (Matt. 3:2, Mark 1:15). Now if it were "at hand" then, it would be "in the days of, those kings" and certainly not referring to something to be set up in the 1800's, 1914, or later. No wonder it was "good news" to those of Samaria (Acts 8:12).
"But," someone objects, "that was before the Jews rejected Jesus." To so claim would make the kingdom of God dependent on man and not God (and what would stop the Jews from rejecting Him again the next time, or the time after that?). Jesus promised His disciples, "Truly I say to you, there are some of those who ale standing here who shall not taste of death until they see he kingdom of God after it has' come with power" (Mark 9:1). If this statement were made before the Jews had decided to reject and crucify Jesus, then one of three things must be true: (1) some of the apostles are still living or did until it was set up, (2) Jesus later made a: correction of this teaching, or (3) Jesus lied about it. We know the apostles are not living today. There is no record of the second point, and Peter denied the third (1 Pet. 2:22). Therefore we must conclude sonrne of the apostles lived to see the kingdom of God in their day! Actually, if we were to look back to Mark 8:31, we can see Jesus was already aware of His rejection and death before ever making that statement (see also Matt. 16:18-19, 21, 28).
Since the kingdom of God was "at hand@ ( Mark 1:15), to be set up "in the days of those kings" (Dan. 2:44), and to come during the life time of the apostles "with power" (Mark 9:1), it follows if we can now find out when this "power" came, them we could find out when the kingdom actually was established. In Acts 1:8 Jesus pointed out they would receive this special "power" when they rectiived the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:14 shows us when they received the Holy Spirit-and the power-and the establishment of the kingdom which was to accompany it.
But let us also consider some other points in addition to the above. If the kingdom of God would not be set up for some 2,000 years or more, why did Jesus "waste" the time of Nicodemus by telling him how to get into it? Why not watit and let him enjoy the "second chance"? Jesus should have instead told Nicodemus what he needed to do to be saved before the kingdom was in existence. The truth is, His reply shows the "at hand" nature of the kingdom of God.
Again in Matt. 6:33 He instructed, "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." But, how can one seek something that is not even going to be set up for 2,000 years yet in the future?
The future-kingdom theorists also make the reply of Jesus in Luke 9:62 seem very foolish. Why should this man be concerned about the kingdom of God if he were not even going to live long enough to see it established?
Again, Jesus readily acknowledged being "king of the Jews" (Matt. 27:11-the goal he was to obtain then), and the disciples were later accused of still teaching there was another "king" (Acts 17:7, Cf. John 19:12). Would this have been likely if the kingdom were over 2,000 years in the future? Who told those in Athens about this "king"? Why did not Paul deny it if the kingdom were not in existence? Jesus also laid claim to being king in Matt. 19:28 (Cf. Titus 3:5) and that His kingdom exists here on this earth (Rev. 5:10, Cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9). He further affirmed He now rules from the throne of God on high (Rev. 3:21, Acts 2:30-33) in whose army we engage in a spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-20) until the end of time (2 Pet. 3). If the kingdom is still in the future, why was this teaching so prevalent even long after the death of Jesus Christ? Did the Holy Spirit fail to guide the apostles into "all truth" (John 16:13)?
During the days following His resurrection (Acts 1:3), Jesus "wasted" His time by talking about a kingdom that had now been rejected (per future-kingdom teachers). One would surely think Jesus ought to have realized His disciples needed teaching pertaining to the church ("set up as a substitute"???) rather than talking about a kingdom that they would never live to see anyway. Interestingly enough, it was during that forty days in which He taught them "things concerning the kingdom of God" that He also taught them the great commission (Mark 16:16, Matt. 28:18-20), so if this pertains to the kingdom of God, we are left without even a plan of salvation today. Indeed such false teaching casts a reflection upon the very wisdom of God.
However, with all the teaching related to the kingdom being "at hand," even Jesus' own disciples, looking for an earthly kingdom like the rest of the Jews (Acts 1:6), began to think He was going to set it up "immediately" when He entered Jerusalem (Luke 19:11-15. (By the way, if it were 2,000 years yet to come, why did they get that impression?) Jesus' answer clearly demonstrated He had to die first (go to a distant country), then He would receive the kingdom (Acts 2:30-33), and return in final judgment (v. 15). He will not return to receive a kingdom, but to end his reign and return it to the Father-at "the end" (1 Cor. 15:24-25). Again the false teachers are at odds with the Bible.
Furthermore Jesus affirmed He would partake of the Lord's Supper with the disciples "in My Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29). Yet we find them partaking of it in the church (1 Cor. 11:23-29,10:16). If the kingdom and the church were not one and the same, why did Jesus so instruct Paul to apply Matt. 26 to this situation?
Jesus also affirmed that He had fulfilled "all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms" (Luke 24:44). Did He lie about this statement, meaning he only did part of what God had in mind for Him and would come at a future date to do the rest (John 17:4)? Such is the position future-kingdom theorists put Jesus in. This being so, it also necessitates us returning to the Law of Moses (Matt. 5:17-18) since all is not "fulfilled." But, since the Law was abolished on the cross (Col. 2:14, Rom. 7:1-4, Eph. 2:14-16), it follows He must have accomplished His mission, and therefore all prophecies related to the establishment of the kingdom of God must be fulfilled as well.
We find early Christians were in the kingdom of God (Col. 1:13, !Rev. 1:9, 5:9-10). Thus we know that "at hand" could not mean 2,000 years in the future. Some of Paul's associates were called "fellow-workers for the kingdom of God." (Col. 4:11-How could they work for that which would not exist for 2,000 years?) Others were rebuked for having the wrong attitude about the kingdom (Rom. 14:16-18) and still others were to be barred from it by the practice of various sins (Gal. 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Eph. 5:4-5). Such warnings would be useless unless the kingdom of God did exist and they were affected by it.
Since the terms of entry (John 3:5) and the results (Col. 1:13) were, associated with the identical marks of the church (Acts 2:38, 41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13), we readily see the two are not separate, but the same institution referred to by different descriptions (and used interchangeably in Matt. 16:18-19). All teaching related to the kingdom being set up points to Acts 2:1-4, yet we find the church coming into existence there (v. 47), and following this date all teaching related to either the kingdom or the church pointing backwards. Thus we are forced to conclude they are one and the same institution.
To Fill The Earth
Daniel also prophesied it would fill the whole earth (Dan. 2:35), and "consume" or "put an end to all these kingdoms." This was the very point of Paul's teaching in Rom. 10:18, Col. 1:6 and 1:23. The early church went everywhere "preaching the word" (Acts 8:4) and this, in turn, included the "good news about the kingdom of God" as a part of their preaching Christ (Acts 8:5,12). No wonder wherever they went, they were accused of teaching: loyalty to another king than Caesar by their enemies (Acts 17:7).
To Stand Forever
The last point mentioned by Daniel is that "it will itself endure forever" and that "that kingdom will not be left for another people." Not only does this separate it from earthly kingdoms, but returns the reign of God directly over His people (see 1 Sam. 8:7, Isa. 9:6-7, Acts 2:30-33). Since Jesus now reigns on the throne of God and David (1 Kings 2:12, 1 Chron. 29:23), He has "all authority" (Matt. 28:18, Eph. 1:2123) and there is nothing lacking, save He who gave it to Him - (1 Cor. 15:27). In fact, God Himself testified to the eternal reign of Christ in Heb. 1:8-"But of the Son He says, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.' " Paul affirms we have a kingdom which can never be destroyed (Heb. 12:28) and that Christ is to reign till "the end" (1 Cor. 15:24).
But, if Jesus is to deliver it up, how can it be eternal? Simply in that it will, always be ruled by God (Deity) henceforth (John 1:1-3, Heb. 1:8). Thus it will never be left to another and the throne of God (Seat of Authority) returns to God as direct ruler over His people.
Friend, do not let some false teacher deprive you of the "good news of the kingdom of God" by a false and unscriptural theory, drawn up by man, that denies the existence of His kingdom. Rather, like those of Samaria, believe the word of God and obey it ("when they believed ... they were being baptized" - Acts 8:12), and Jesus will wash your sins away (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 22:16), translate you into His kingdom (Col. 1:13, Acts 2:47), and grant unto you the blessed hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7; Gal. 3:26-27).
Truth Magazine, XVIII:41, p. 10-12