By Frank Jamerson
Some who are teaching that there is no distinction between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are teaching an absolute distinction between the kingdom and the church. When those who profess to be teachers of God’s word say “the kingdom of God is not the ekklesia, the church,” it is time to get your concordance and look at the Bible uses of these words!
Uses of Kingdom
The word “kingdom” is used several different ways in the Scripture. First, it may refer to God’s rule. The Psalmist said, “For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations” (Ps. 22:28). Three times Daniel reminded Nebuchadnezzar that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Dan. 4:25, 26, 32). God’s rule includes all nations, therefore, in this sense, all are in his kingdom.
Second, it may refer to the rule of Satan. Jesus said, “if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matt. 12:26). Satan offered to give Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” if he would bow down and worship him (Matt. 4:8, 9).
Third, it may refer to heathen nations, or people over whom men rule. Moses wrote about “the beginning of his (Nimrod’s) kingdom” (Gen. 10:9, 10). He gave to Gad, Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh “the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan…. (Num. 32:33). Isaiah called Babylon “the glory of kingdoms” (Isa. 13:19). Many other passages could be quoted to show that the word “kingdom” often refers to the nations ruled by men.
Fourth, it may refer to God’s special people under the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel. Three months after Israel came out of Egypt, God said that if they would keep his covenant, “then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. . . (Exod. 19:1-6). This was a temporary relationship, for Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:43). Christ’s death abolished “the law of commandments contained in ordinances” that was given to the nation of Israel, and made Jews and Gentiles one in Christ (Eph. 2:13-22).
Fifth, it refers to the Messiah’s rule over the saved, the church. Daniel said when “one like the Son of Man . . . came to the Ancient of Days” he would “be given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him…. (Dan. 7:13, 14). Paul said when God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places . . . He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:20, 22). Note that he was made king when he ascended to the Ancient of Days and he was made head when he was seated at God’s right hand! This is a different kingdom from the kingdom of Israel. Jesus said, “Among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). John was in God’s Old Covenant kingdom, but he was not in this kingdom. He preached “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).
Jesus said we must be “born again” in order to see, or enter this kingdom (John 3:3-5). Paul said those who are in Christ are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17) and that we are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3, 4). “Repentance and remission of sins” was “preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). It was on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) that people were baptized into Christ, thus becoming “new creatures” and added to the kingdom of Christ. When those people were forgiven of their sins (Acts 2:38), they were delivered “from the power of darkness (Satan’s kingdom) and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13).
Uses of Church
The word “church” (ekklesia) is used in at least three senses in the New Testament. First, Stephen referred to those who had been called out of Egypt as “the congregation (church) in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). This was not the kingdom that was to be established in the “last days” (Dan. 2:44). Second, it may refer to a mob or a judicial court. When Paul was in Ephesus there was a great tumult over his teaching. “Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly (church) was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together” (Acts 19:32). The city clerk quieted the mob and said, “If you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly (church) . . . And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly (church)” (vv. 39, 41). Obviously, this was not the Jewish nation, which had been called out of Egypt, nor was it the church of the Lord, who had been called out of the kingdom of Satan. Third, it may refer to the saved, the kingdom of Christ. Paul said, “Just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25, 26). Those who are washed, baptized into Christ, are in the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13). He is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22, 23) or the king of the kingdom (Dan. 7:14; Acts 17:7). Both refer to those over whom Christ reigns. No Bible believer should think of the kingdom as an earthly organization, nor of the church as a political institution. The church, or kingdom, is simply those who are saved and who submit to their head or king!
No, the word “church” does not always mean the same as “kingdom.” In fact, church does not always refer to “the church,” nor does kingdom always refer to “the kingdom”! Jesus told the apostles he would not “eat … or drink until the kingdom of God comes . . . And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:16-18, 29, 30). In Acts 2:42 we read that the believers in Jerusalem “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” If the kingdom was not established on Pentecost, why were they “breaking bread”? Later we read about disciples in Troas meeting on the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7), and the church in Corinth observing the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 11). Obviously, the church and the kingdom refers to the same people in these passages.
Those who are purchased by the blood or Christ are his church (Acts 20:28), or his kingdom (Rev. 5:9, 10), and look forward to being presented “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” when “He delivers the kingdom to God the Father” (2 Pet. 1:11; 1 Cor. 15:24).
Guardian of Truth XLI: 17 p. 20-21
September 4, 1997