By Roger Hillis
“Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say “See here!” or “see there!” For indeed the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17:20-21).
The first century Pharisees just didn’t get it. They had so many misconceptions about the nature of the Lord’s kingdom and they passed most of those mistaken ideas on to their children and their children’s children. The biggest problem was that the entire Jewish nation was looking for an earthly kingdom. Many still are.
Thayer defines kingdom as “1. royal power, kingship, dominion, rule . . . 2. a kingdom i.e., the territory subject to the rule of a king … 3. frequently in the N.T. in reference to the Reign of the Messiah …. (96-97).
There are therefore two major thoughts from the word “kingdom.” One involves the “concrete” use of the term as realm or territory. The other usage is more “abstract” and refers to the Lord’s reign or authority. Both usages are found in the Bible.
There are clear instances where the idea of rule or do-minion is in view. See Psalms 103:19 and Daniel 4:31. Territory is not under consideration here; authority is. And the word “kingdom” sometimes means territory. See 1 Kings 11:13, 34-37 as an example. Something to rule over is implied in the word itself.
The problem arose because, every time a Jew saw or heard a Messianic prophecy, he read “powerful, earthly king who will lead our armies into victorious conquest of all other nations and free us from foreign oppression.” And the Jews had this concept driven into their minds for so long that nothing else registered. More than 400 prophecies about the coming Anointed One all told them (from their perspective) that the Christ would be their physical deliverer. Here are just a few of those verses:
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 (Dan. 2:44).
These great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever (Dan. 7:17-18).
There are many others. As you have time, read Isaiah 2:1-4, 9:1-7, Micah 3:9-4:8, and Zechariah 8:20-23. This kingdom, ruled by the Son of David, would be the most powerful kingdom ever and would be eternal.
It was under those conditions and in that type of atmosphere that Jesus came into the world. He was the Messiah, the one who would deliver them. But his deliverance was from sin and spiritual bondage, not from national oppression. Both John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1) and Jesus (Matt. 4:17) preached that the kingdom was “at hand.” It was not some 2000 years in the future; it would be established in the lifetime of his auditors (Mark 9:1).
But the Jews still did not understand. For hundreds of years, their ancestors had been telling them of this powerful, earthly Messiah who would be the answer to all their national problems. They could not shake that impression and, on many occasions, when Christ did something awe-some, they thought their dreams were coming true. “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He de-parted again to a mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:15). They wanted an earthly king so badly!
Even the apostles did not fully comprehend until the Holy Spirit came on them on Pentecost. As late as Acts 1:6, they asked Jesus, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
And of course, many today still make the same mistake. They continue to look for the establishment of Christ’s physical kingdom on earth, based primarily on a misunderstanding of Revelation 20. The kingdom which they seek will never come. Christ’s spiritual kingdom already is here.
Many of the verses which speak of the kingdom tell us of the territory over which he rules the church. See John 3:5, Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 1:13, Hebrews 12:28, and Revelation 1:5 (ASV). There are also numerous verses which use the term “kingdom” to refer to Christ’s power, authority and majesty, and not to the territory over which he exerts that dominion (see Luke 1:31-33; 2 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 11:15; 12:10).
Are you a part of the kingdom of the Lord? Are you a faithful Christian? Have you made Jesus the Lord and King of your life? If not, continue to read and study the Bible. Obey its commands and the Messiah will add you to his kingdom. “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). May God bless your search for truth.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 4 p. 25-26
February 20, 1997