The King of the Kingdom

The King of the Kingdom

Every kingdom has a monarch, the person who rules over that particular kingdom, and in this regard the kingdom of God is no exception. However, it is unique concerning who its king is: the kingdom of God is the rule of God the Father exercised through the king he has appointed to reign – Jesus Christ.

The title ‘Christ’ is important for understanding and appreciating Jesus as king of the kingdom. Note that: Christ is a title; his name is Jesus (which means ‘the Lord saves’). His title is literally ‘the Christ’ or ‘the Messiah’. They both mean the same thing (Messiah comes from the Hebrew and Christ is its Greek equivalent). They mean ‘the Anointed One’ – the title used in the Old Testament to describe the king, who was anointed with oil (which symbolised the Holy Spirit) to rule the kingdom on God’s behalf. Sadly, not every king acted in this way. David, however, was Israel’s greatest king; that is why Gabriel said to Mary about the son she would bear “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). Jesus wouldn’t be the natural king of a geographic, earthly kingdom; he would be born, grow, live, die, rise again and ascend to heaven as the king of the kingdom of God!

The coming king

Several hundred years before Jesus was born, Daniel interpreted king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream regarding the giant statue that was felled by a small stone which eventually became a mountain and filled the whole earth (Daniel chapter 2). He prophesied about the kingdom God would establish through Jesus:

…the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed…it will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever. (Daniel 2:44)

This reminds us of the characteristics of the kingdom we saw in an earlier article. Let’s mention one more incident in Daniel: in chapter seven we see someone called the Son of Man – a human being – led into the presence of the Ancient of Days (God):

He was given authority to rule, and glory and a kingdom; so that people of every nation and language should worship him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14).

This is why Jesus described himself as the Son of Man throughout the Gospels; in doing so he was declaring himself to be this person mentioned in Daniel. He said he was the king of God’s kingdom, the Messiah/the Christ – the Anointed King.

Jesus described a king

The New Testament plainly shows that Jesus is a king:

  • He was a king by natural descent – he came from a line of kings (Matthew 1:6);
  • He was born a king (Matthew 2:2);
  • He claimed to be the king of a kingdom (John 18:36-37);
  • He died a king: (John 19:19);
  • He rose and ascended to heaven a king: (Hebrews 1:3); and
  • He is called the King of kings – the king over all other kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

Jesus acted as a king

If we understand that the kingdom of God is God’s rule exercised through his king Jesus, then in the Gospels we will see how Jesus exercised his kingly rule. He demonstrated his kingship in his teaching and actions. He ruled over:

  • Diseases (Matthew 4:23);
  • Evil spirits (Mark 5:1-17);
  • Creation (Mark 4:39);
  • Satan (Luke 16:13);
  • His enemies (John 7:30); and
  • Death (John 11:43-44).

The present king

Of course, Jesus is the king of the kingdom now. When he ascended to heaven “he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High” (Hebrews 1:3). The New Testament is full of references to the fact that Jesus rules and reigns now over all things and all people. One of the most remarkable is found in Ephesians, where Paul writes:

[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. And he put everything under his feet… (Ephesians 1:20-22)

So right now Jesus is actively ruling over all things as the King of the kingdom. Through his sinless life, his death and resurrection, and his ascension, he has conquered all his enemies and now sits in triumph and victory on his heavenly throne. This wonderful reality is expressed in us his disciples by our faith in him and our declaration that ‘Jesus is Lord’!  

Characteristics of the Kingdom

Characteristics of the Kingdom

Having asked ‘What is the Kingdom of God?‘ let’s now explore four aspects of God’s kingdom that set it apart from all other ‘kingdoms’ – human institutions of all kinds.

1. The kingdom of God lasts forever

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your rule is for all generations. (Psalm 145:13)

This characteristic alone makes the kingdom of God unique – it lasts forever and therefore never comes to an end. Unlike every human kingdom the kingdom of God can never decline or pass away. This is vitally important and should affect our understanding of world history and the impermanent nature of human institutions. For example, the Roman Empire lasted several hundred years and ruled much of the known world. The Soviet Union dominated much of Eastern Europe. The British Empire stretched across vast areas of the earth. They lasted a long time; now they are gone. The Nazi Third Reich was meant to last a thousand years; it lasted twelve. 

This also applies to financial organisations, kings, presidents and prime ministers; they rise and fall, they come and go. Why? Because they are human, and all have an inbuilt impermanence. The kingdom of God stands in stark contrast; it will outlast every human kingdom, because it’s the kingdom of God. God is everlasting and infinite (unlimited); therefore his kingdom is everlasting and infinite. God will last forever; so will his kingdom!

2. The kingdom of God increases forever

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:7)

The kingdom of God not only lasts forever; it also increases forever. The kingdom doesn’t outlast everything else by the skin of its teeth, like a boxer who’s fought twelve rounds and scrapes to victory on points while battered and bruised, out on his feet. Or like an army that secures victory but is severely depleted with the eventual outcome uncertain to the end. The kingdom is not the last man standing.

It lasts forever in increasing measures and dimensions because it’s the kingdom of the infinite, unlimited God. This also means that the kingdom will continue to increase even in the coming age. It’s not confined to this time before Jesus comes again; it will continue to exist and continue to increase even in the age to come. The coming of Jesus in glory as the King of the kingdom won’t mean the end of the kingdom; it will herald the beginning of a major increase of the kingdom. The very DNA of the kingdom is for it to grow and grow!…

3. The kingdom of God is unshakeable 

Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. (Hebrews 12:28)

This aspect of the kingdom should fill us with immense confidence and give us a sense of complete security. The kingdom can’t be shaken: it doesn’t wobble or crumple under pressure or threat. It never worries about its future; its foundations never crack or fall apart. The kingdom of God has all the power and authority of God running through it. God is unshakeable, his throne is secure; he can never be deposed. He rules. Now it’s true that the kingdom can be threatened by its enemies; it can be attacked, it can be rebelled against and its authority refused. But it can’t be shaken. This is evident in a graphic way in Isaiah 14 where we see Lucifer’s attempt to overthrow God and his kingdom by stealing God’s throne for himself. There was no pitched battle or long struggle for power. There was no doubt about the outcome. God immediately cast Lucifer out and he became the devil. No matter what earthly kingdoms or powers do to try and extinguish or destroy God’s kingdom, they are doomed to failure. 

4. We are always receiving the kingdom of God

Since we are receiving a kingdom… (Hebrews 12:28)

This same verse reveals something about the kingdom in how it works towards us and in us.  It explains something of the ever-increasing nature of the kingdom. Admittedly, this aspect can lead to confusion if we don’t understand its nature and how it works. The Word of God talks about the kingdom now and the kingdom yet to come; it is ‘now’ and ‘not yet’.

When we’re born again we enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-5); it has come to us in all its fulness and is now actively at work in us through the Holy Spirit. (Always remember the kingdom of God is not a ‘thing’; it’s the rule – the life of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ – of God the Father). This is the ‘now’ element of the kingdom – we are in it now, it has really come to us. However, there is also the ‘not yet’ element of the kingdom – the future element in which the last enemy to be defeated is death and Jesus will hand the kingdom over to the Father (1Corinthians 15:20-28). The return of Jesus will herald in the age to come! In the meantime we also are receiving the kingdom: the word ‘receive’ used in Hebrews 12:28 means to take something to yourself by showing strong personal initiative, to take something aggressively to yourself. It describes how we practically apply the kingdom to ourselves; we continue to receive it actively – ‘aggressively’. We positively, continuously embrace the kingdom of God with all that we are. It’s a constant attitude; we receive the ever-increasing kingdom all the time. And as we receive it we grow, we mature, we grow up in our faith. We become the means by which God increases his kingdom (even though he’s not confined to us). Jesus put it like this:

From the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of God has been forcefully advancing and the forceful have been seizing it by force. (Matthew 11:12)

This doesn’t mean we grasp it for our own ends or become physically violent – not at all. It just means that our attitude is positive and we actively embrace the rule and power of God, and enjoy living it in increasing dimensions. This is how the kingdom comes…

What is the Kingdom of God?

What is the Kingdom of God?

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.

Introducing the Kingdom

Introducing the Kingdom

It’s quite possible as Christians that when we read the Word of God we can sometimes overlook, misunderstand or even miss themes that in fact are vitally important.  These themes play a major role in determining how we read and interpret the Word of God; they also help us to understand the reason why God has placed us on this planet.  Most importantly they explain why God the Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into this world.  One of these vitally important themes is the ‘Kingdom of God’; that is what this series of articles is concentrating on…

The Word of God contains over 290 direct references to the kingdom of God; it also has hundreds more indirect references.  For example, whenever you read of thrones, sceptres, governments, ruling and reigning, footstools, or of Jesus ‘sitting at the right hand of God’, these tell us something about the nature of the God’s kingdom.  Once we start noticing it we discover that the kingdom of God features all the way through the Word of God.  Here are some familiar verses; note how they all refer to the kingdom:

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; and your dominion endures through all generations. (Psalm 145:13)

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. (Isaiah 9:7)

The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is here; repent and believe in the good news. (Mark 1:15)

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. (Matthew 6:33)

Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)

The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

After [Jesus] had suffered, he also presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

This is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, your name be honoured as holy. Your kingdom come, your will be done here on earth just as it is done in heaven. (Matthew 6:9-10)

These verses are only a small selection of the hundreds of references to the kingdom.  You’ve probably often read them if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time.  I must admit that for many years I did, without noticing the emphasis on the kingdom that they contain.  They all give the kingdom of God a prominent mention.  Just note for now a few: 

After his resurrection Jesus had only forty days left on earth before he would ascend to heaven.  What did he talk to his disciples about?  The kingdom of God.  Of all the things he could have discussed with them, he chose the kingdom (Acts 1:3).  We rightly emphasise the new birth – that we all need to be born again, to become new creations.  But the only time Jesus spoke about it he put it in the context of our entering the kingdom of God (John 3:3); when we are born again, when we receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we enter his kingdom!  In his earthly ministry the content of Jesus’ preaching and teaching was the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23).  He seemed to speak about the kingdom all the time (he also ‘did’ the kingdom, as we shall see in future articles).  He told us to make the kingdom of God our priority, to keep on seeking it (Matthew 6:33).  And in one of the most famous references, what we call the Lord’s Prayer, when Jesus taught us pray to our heavenly Father, he instructed us to pray about the kingdom of God before anything else (Matthew 6:9-10)…  

I’m sure you will agree with me that these verses alone, among the hundreds more in the Word of God, demonstrate the central importance of the kingdom of God.  Next time, therefore, we will ask a simple question: what is the kingdom of God?

Rooted: Genesis 1-3

Rooted: Genesis 1-3

Theology is ‘the study of God’ and for Christians it’s a dynamic pursuit; we can know God because He makes Himself known and by His Spirit He leads us into all the truth! So, in this first series – GENESIS 1-3 & THE ROOTS OF THEOLOGY – we explore the opening three chapters of the Bible and discover what they begin to tell us about the big issues that affect everyone, everywhere, every day – including: God and His cosmos, man and his mission, Satan and sin, and God’s wonderful plan to restore all things…

This series is in 4 parts: [1] In PART 1 we look briefly at the creation account of the opening chapter, and see that God first “formed” and then “filled” all things, creating order and beauty, and blessing growth and multiplication. [2] In PART 2 we see that the beginnings and roots of all our major doctrines are found in these three chapters, we look at the overarching “eternal purpose” of God, and at what the Bible tells us about the fall of Lucifer and his angels. [3] Then in PART 3 we look in more detail at the nature of temptation and sin and the catastrophic consequences of Adam’s fall, before discovering that whereas God cursed the serpent in Genesis 3, He clothed and covered Adam and Eve, and banished them from the Garden to ensure they wouldn’t live forever in their fallen state. [4] Finally, in PART 4 we see that the work of Christ, the “last Adam”, deals with all the consequences of the first man’s Fall and brings about about the restoration of all things. We discover that on the Cross, Jesus triumphed over sin and death; He cast-out the ruler of this world, revealed God’s glory and brought forth His Church (Jn 12:23-33) – and thus made a way for all the blessings of Eden to be fully restored in the Age to Come (Rev 21-22)!…