The Kingdom Generally: Chapter 2

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 15
Questions are often asked at Bible readings and in religious periodicals with regard to this important subject, which is so largely dwelt upon in the holy Scriptures, such as, What is the Kingdom of God? What is the difference between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven, or the Kingdom of the Son and the Kingdom of the Father? To what period of time or to what dispensations do the various passages referring to the subject apply - past, present or future?
Many conflicting answers have been given to these questions, which evidently have not given full satisfaction to the inquirers, for they return to the same simple questions over and over again, showing that the subject of the kingdom is still imperfectly understood.
The main difficulties that appear to confront the student, in his endeavors to understand the precise bearings of the numerous passages relating to the kingdom, are the different names given to it, and the apparent dissimilarity of circumstances and meanings that seem to be connected with the terms, such as “the Kingdom of God” and “the Kingdom of heaven.”
How, say the inquirers, are we to understand and apply such dissimilar references to the kingdom as the following: “The kingdom of God is at hand”; “That ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel”; “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field,” or “a grain of mustard seed,” or “is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal”; “The kingdom of God is within [or among] you”; “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”; “He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he [John the Baptist]”; “Shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His kingdom”; “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost”; and many others.
In considering these and similar references, we might at first sight be inclined to think that they refer to more than one kingdom - to different kingdoms, established at different times. But a moment’s reflection will suffice to convince us that this could not possibly be the case. For evidently there can only be one Kingdom of God for all time, and under all circumstances.
When, however, we are led to see that this one kingdom is presented in different ways, and may be regarded from different points of view, or viewed in different aspects, and further, that the numerous references to it in Scripture refer to different periods of time, necessitating its presentation in different phases, then we are in a position to understand the whole subject clearly.
A kingdom manifestly implies a king to rule or reign over it, and of this Kingdom of God the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is declared in Scripture to be the King, for all power is given unto Him in heaven and in earth (Matt. 28:1818And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matthew 28:18)); “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father” (Matt. 11:2727All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)); “But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom” (Heb. 1:88But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. (Hebrews 1:8)); “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth” (Zech. 14:99And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9)); “Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory” (Psa. 24:1010Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah. (Psalm 24:10)); “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion” (Psa. 2:66Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. (Psalm 2:6)); “Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve Him” (Psa. 72:1111Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. (Psalm 72:11)).
This kingdom, regarded in its essential and fullest character, may be defined as the RULE OF GOD, or the sphere in which He rules and reigns supreme, which is equally true of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven. And this rule of God, that constitutes the basis of His kingdom, is displayed in two ways: in God’s spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of believers, and in the Lord as King literally reigning over the house of Israel and the whole world in the millennium, which will be the glorious consummation of the kingdom.
The foregoing definition applies to the kingdom in all its phases - past, present and future - for its character, resting on God’s immutability, must ever be the same throughout all ages.
On referring to the complete List, it will be seen that the word “kingdom” alone (without the words “God” or “heaven”), taken in its general sense, is equivalent to the phrase “the Kingdom of God” in the New Testament, but with this difference, that the passages (with perhaps a few exceptions) containing the word “kingdom” alone, both in the Old and New Testaments, refer exclusively to the third phase, or the establishment of the kingdom on the earth during the millennium.
It is true that under the other names reference is likewise made to the millennial phase (thus showing identity of meaning throughout), but they are not so exclusively used as those in which the word “kingdom” appears alone to set forth the third phase, or the reign of Christ on the earth.
In examining all the direct references to the kingdom in the Old Testament, it is interesting and instructive to note that, from the earliest period, the inspired prophets were enabled by the Spirit of God to extend their vision down the long vista of time, and across all the intervening ages of history (including the entire Christian dispensation, which was never made known to them or counted in Jewish history), to the time of the end when the Lord Himself should come in person to establish His glorious reign of righteousness on the earth, when all shall be subject to Him, the one holy and righteous King over all the world. It was the burden of most of their loftiest prophecies. It was the grand theme that inspired their rapturous songs and kindled their enthusiasm, while they seemed to be ever filled with holy delight in looking forward to it.
Thus, through these inspired utterances of the seers specially sent to God’s ancient people, the Israelites, this future prospect of the coming Messiah became their one grand and all-absorbing hope. And the bright halo that ever surrounded this glorious hope in their thoughts seems to have completely hindered them from ever seeing that any humiliation or suffering of their Messiah, although plainly predicted, could possibly intervene between their expectations and the full establishment of the kingdom. Their eyes were solely fixed on their Messiah King, coming in all the glory of His divine majesty to rule over the house of His father David, and it is this that still continues, up to the present day, to be the one cheering hope of every devout Israelite.
Now if a Jew were asked the question, “What is the Kingdom of God or of heaven?” his unhesitating reply would be, “The coming of the Messiah to reign over the house of His father David, and to be King over all the earth.” And no doubt this would be substantially a correct answer and in strict accordance with the Old Testament scriptures, from which alone, as a Jew, any knowledge of the subject could be obtained. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that this is, after all, the main answer to the question in its first conception, while it contains the germ-thought or underlying principle that runs more or less through all the passages referring to the kingdom in the New as well as the Old Testament.
But we have to supplement this answer by the further knowledge we derive from the New Testament references to the spiritual rule of God during the present interval, or Christian dispensation, which may be regarded as a mystical and parenthetical stage or phase of the Kingdom of heaven. Hence, we cannot possibly arrive at a correct apprehension of a great many references in the New Testament to the kingdom without taking into account the fact that they refer solely to this intermediate aspect or phase of the kingdom and not to the millennium at all.
For example, the parables in Matthew 13, in which the Kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man who sowed good seed in his field, to a grain of mustard seed, and to leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, must obviously be exclusively applied to the present phase of the kingdom as seen in the state and circumstances of Christendom as a whole, and therefore could not in any sense be applied to the millennium.
We shall look a little more fully into this point when we come to consider the three branches of the subject, its Aspects, its Constitution and its Phases, in that order.