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What is the Kingdom of God?
These words are part of a prayer known as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’.
‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’
They are straightforward and unambiguous, and countless people have repeated them many times. However, for the vast majority their meaning is lost. It is therefore not surprising that they do not understand what they are asking for. In reality, the Lord Jesus Christ is to return to establish God's Kingdom on earth and this is the very essence of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. Ever since Jesus taught his disciples this prayer, true believers have been asking God to establish His kingdom here on earth, that His will may be done on earth as it has always been done in heaven. There can be no doubt then that the kingdom which we must pray for, is to be a divine kingdom, to be set up here on earth and that when it comes, men and women will learn to do His will.
The Bible does not teach that the Kingdom of God is the church, or a spiritual reign of grace in the hearts of believers, or that it is in heaven (although of course, God does rule there too - see Ecclesiastes 5:2; Matthew 5:34). Instead, the Bible teaches that the Kingdom of God will be a literal kingdom here on earth, when God's promise will be fulfilled: ‘but truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord’
- Numbers 14:21 (see also Habakkuk 2:14)
It is essential then that we know just what this kingdom is, for how can we look forward to something that we do not understand? It may come as a surprise to many people to learn that thousands of years ago God chose the land that is to be the very centre of His kingdom, the land which we now know as Israel, with its capital city Jerusalem. It is soon to become the capital of the whole world. Jesus will reign there as he said to his disciples: ‘But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.’
David, who reigned as king in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago, described this city as: ‘Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth… Mount Zion... the city of the great King’
Mount Zion is part of Jerusalem and God has chosen to place His name there as He reminded David’s son, King Solomon.
God's Kingdom in the past
The ancient nation of Israel agreed to obey God's law and they became the kingdom of God on earth (see Exodus 19:3-8). They were given a succession of leaders, judges and finally kings. Nevertheless, throughout their history, Israel remained God's kingdom. Samuel, the last of the judges was reminded of this when the people clamoured for a human king, like the surrounding nations. God said to Samuel: ‘…they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them,
King David recognised that it was the kingdom of God over which he ruled. Referring to the succession of his son Solomon, he said: ‘...he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel.
After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided into two parts, the northern kingdom of Israel with its capital in Samaria, and the southern kingdom of Judah with its capital in Jerusalem. King after king reigned over Judah in Jerusalem. Some were good kings but the majority were evil, so much so that the nation became corrupt and turned to idolatry. After 400 years God brought His kingdom to an end through the fulfilment of these remarkable words of the prophet Ezekiel, addressed to their last king, Zedekiah: ‘I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him’
But even then did you notice there was a promise of restoration in these words? Note from that verse that someone was to come ‘whose right it is' to occupy the throne of this future kingdom of God. Of that restoration Ezekiel prophesied:
‘And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again ...they shall be my people, and I will be their God’
These words were written a long time after King David's death and refer to that greater son of David who was to come. This is confirmed by the words of the angel to Mary, the mother of Jesus: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
Jesus is the one ‘whose right it is’, the one who is heir to the throne of David, who will reign over the whole world from Jerusalem.
God's appointed king
Jesus clearly understood that he was destined to be that king. At his trial Pilate asked him: ‘Are you a king then?’ He replied: ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world . . .’
Over the cross on which he was crucified, was written: ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’
His enemies of course had intended to mock him, but what Pilate had written was true. This was the main theme of our Lord's preaching while here on earth; it was the gospel or good news of the coming Kingdom of God (see for example Matthew 4:23 and Luke 8:1). When Jesus sent his disciples to preach, it was the same message: ‘He sent them to preach the kingdom of God...’
That is why Jesus is coming back - to set up the Kingdom of God here on earth. This kingdom will be the restored ancient Kingdom of Israel. The disciples of Jesus clearly understood this, so much so, that after his resurrection they were eager to know when it would happen. They asked him: ‘...Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ His reply indicated that the time was not yet, but was predetermined by his Father
The extent of the Kingdom
The Kingdom over which Jesus will rule will extend far beyond the first Kingdom of God. Indeed it will extend over the whole earth and it will last for ever, as foretold by the prophet Daniel:
‘... 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 for ever.’
In the Psalms we are given some amazing prophetic word pictures of the time when God's kingdom is established on earth. Read through Psalms 2 and 72 from which the following verses are taken:
‘Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion... Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.’
‘He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’
The rule of Jesus Christ
When Jesus was born, the angels sang for joy: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men!’
From that day to this there has not been any real lasting peace on this earth, and there never will be, until Jesus returns to establish God's Kingdom. The Old Testament prophets tell us a lot about the Kingdom and give glimpses of the time of peace and tranquillity, when all nations will be blessed as promised to Abraham, Israel's founding father (see Genesis 12:1-3).
The Prophet Isaiah foretold that Jerusalem will be the centre of government in the coming Kingdom of God:
‘... out of Zion (Jerusalem) shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.’