As we explore the kingdom of God, it will help us if we have a simple definition in our minds. In a nutshell, therefore, the kingdom of God is the rule of God. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for kingdom (malkut) means sovereign power, dominion, reign. A king (melek) is one who rules and reigns. Similarly, in the New Testament, kingdom (basileia) means sovereignty, royal power. A king (basileus) means one who rules and reigns. Interestingly it also means a lawful king as opposed to a tyrannos – a usurper (‘tyrant’ derives from this word). A kingdom is the realm over which a king or queen rules and exercises his or her authority.
Therefore, the kingdom of God is God’s right to rule as God. It is God’s kingship, his authority, his reign. It’s the realm in and over which God exercises his rule and reign. It follows that the kingdom of God, therefore, is the will of God. (Remember how Jesus taught us to pray: ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’). Bryn Jones put it like this: ‘The kingdom of God is the place where the will of God is done to the exclusion of every other will’. This explains why we often find verses like these in the Word of God:
Yahweh reigns! He is robed in majesty; Yahweh is robed, enveloped in strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be shaken. Your throne has been established from the beginning; you are from eternity. (Psalm 93:1-2)
Yahweh is king forever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. (Psalm 10:16)
Hundreds of passages assert directly or indirectly that God rules, he reigns, he is exalted, he sits on a throne, he is the mighty King. We have to ask, however: Who and what does God rule over? What is the extent of his rule? In the natural world there are limits to the rule of a monarch. In the United Kingdom our monarch has limited authority and rule; she is what we call a constitutional monarch. She is queen of the United Kingdom, but she is not the queen of the United States of America. Her rule and reign have limits, and this is the case for every earthly monarch. The king of Spain is not the king of Italy. However, God’s kingdom is different: he rules over everywhere, over everything, over everybody. God’s rule is not confined to certain places or people; he does not merely rule over Christians or the church. He rules over all things and all people! He rules the entire universe, all of creation:
Yahweh has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19)
The Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men. He gives it to anyone he wants and sets over it the lowliest of men. (Daniel 4:17)
God demonstrated his power in the Messiah by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens – far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Ephesians 1:20-21)
It’s true that people resist, deny or rebel against God’s rule; but that doesn’t change the reality that he rules! Practically, this is seen in the fact that Jesus is Lord of lords, he is King of kings ( Revelation 19:16), he is seated on his throne at the right hand of God the Father, ruling and reigning over all (‘right hand’ is a symbol of rule and authority). When I became a Christian I was born again into the kingdom of God. I didn’t ‘make’ Jesus the Lord of my life; I didn’t invite him to become my King. He was my Lord and King before I was born; and in my new birth I surrendered to him. I didn’t ‘give’ him my life; he owned it already! I didn’t grant him permission to enter my life. In a real sense he took ownership of what was already his as the King of the kingdom. This is the very essence of Christianity: living under the rule of God in his kingdom.
Next time we will discover several more important aspects of the kingdom of God.