WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD: PART THREE
The Kingdom of God versus the Kingdom of Christ
The Scriptures appear to distinguish between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Christ. Are these two separate kingdoms? Interestingly, the phrase “Kingdom of God” is not found in the OT but as will be seen, it certainly is alluded to. The Scriptures indicate that God (YHWH) has established a ruling authority in the heavens which rules over all things. This ruling authority is identified as His Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God:
Psalm 103:19: The LORD (YHWH) has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.
Psalm 145:10-13: All you have made will praise you, O LORD (YHWH); your saints will extol you. They will tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all men may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.
After Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were delivered by God from the fiery furnace, King Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed that the Most High God’s Kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation (Daniel 4:3). This king made the same proclamation after having his sanity restored (Daniel 4:34). The title "Most High God" is used to describe YHWH throughout the OT.
It is also interesting that the Kingdom of Israel is twice referred to in the OT as the "Kingdom of the Lord" (YHWH) and YHWH is initially seen as king over Israel. After Israel rejected YHWH as king, the Kingdom of Israel was still seen as God's kingdom except that God now ruled through human kings such as David and Solomon and their descendants.
1 Samuel 8:7: And the LORD (YHWH) told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
1 Chronicles 28:5: Of all my sons--and the LORD (YHWH) has given me many--he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD (YHWH) over Israel.
2 Chronicles 13:8: "And now you plan to resist the kingdom of the LORD (YHWH), which is in the hands of David's descendants.
The Kingdom of Christ:
While the foregoing passages speak of the Kingdom of YHWH, in Daniel chapter 7 , Daniel has a vision of what appears to be Christ coming before YHWH to receive His own kingdom. Daniel is also told that the saints of the Most High will receive and possess the kingdom. The implication is that the kingdom given to Christ is given to the saints as well.
Daniel 7:13-14: In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days (an apparent title for YHWH) and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Daniel 7:18: But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever--yes, for ever and ever.'
Daniel 7:21-22: As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.
Looking at the foregoing Scriptures as a whole, it would appear that there is the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Christ and even the kingdom of the saints if the saints receiving and possessing the kingdom is equated with they being given a kingdom.
In Isaiah 9:6-7 we see a prophecy that appears to announce the birth of Jesus and shows Jesus will be given the responsibility of governing in association with reigning on David’s throne and over his Kingdom. Here the kingdom is seen as a governing authority.
Isaiah 9:6-7: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders…..Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
This prophecy is alluded to by the angel Gabriel in his telling Mary that she will give birth to Jesus. Here it is plainly stated that God will give his Son the throne of David. So the Kingdom of Christ is identified. It is David’s Kingdom which we saw in 1st and 2nd Chronicles is actually the Kingdom of YHWH over Israel.
Luke 1:32-33: He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
Nature of the Kingdom:
The Scriptures we have thus far looked at in this series appear to define the Kingdom as an entity that has glory, sovereign power, governance, dominion, authority and defined standards of behavior. Whether it is the Kingdom of God, of Christ or of the saints, these are the dynamics that appear to define and characterize the Kingdom. As we saw in Part Two of this series, the location of the ruling authority of the Kingdom is in the heavenly realm. In the remainder of Part Three of this series, we will investigate in greater depth the nature of the Kingdom with special attention to the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Christ.
The passages in Isaiah and Luke identify the nature of the Kingdom of Christ. Christ’s Kingdom is the restored governing authority over Israel. This governing authority had once been facilitated by YHWH through David, Solomon and the line of ruling kings from the tribe of Judah. Subsequent to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, Israel no longer had a king through which YHWH would govern them. With the advent of King Jesus, the anointed of God, the ruling authority of YHWH over Israel was being reestablished. That the kingdom comes from God the Father is evident from what is recorded in Luke 22: 28-30. This passage also records Jesus saying He conferred on his disciples a Kingdom. Such Kingdom is defined as sitting on thrones judging the tribes of Israel.
Luke 22:28-30: You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Since glory, sovereign power, dominion and governing authority appear to define what the Kingdom is, there has always been a Kingdom of God in so much as God has always had glory, sovereign power, dominion and governing authority over all reality. It would appear that God gave Jesus a kingdom (Daniel 7) characterized by these same dynamics so that through Christ, God’s rule would be reestablished over Israel and would include the Gentile world as well.
Therefore, the Kingdom of Christ was essentially the authority God gave Christ to facilitate the reestablishment of YHWH's rule through the facilitation of the New Covenant. Jesus was God's agent to reveal the dynamics of God's Kingdom which are enumerated in the New Covenant. NT Scripture shows that revealing what the kingdom was all about was the major focus. In the Ephesians 5:5, the kingdom is seen as both of Christ and of God. This passage is the only place in the entire New Testament where we see the phrase “kingdom of Christ." However, other passages allude to the kingdom of Christ.
Ephesians 5:5: For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person--such a man is an idolater--has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Hebrews 1:8: But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.
1 Timothy 4:1: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:
We have already seen the Scriptures showing God the Father to have a kingdom. Yet here it appears Christ has his own kingdom in distinction from that of the Father. This is further made evident in Colossians, 1 Peter and the Revelation
Colossians 1:13: For he (God the Father) has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.
2 Peter 1:10-11: Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Revelation 3:21: To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
So while it is true that the Son of God is given and has a kingdom and even shares His kingdom with His disciples as we saw in Luke 22:28-30, that kingdom has its roots in the Kingdom of God the Father and for all intents and purposes is the Kingdom of the Most High God. While Christ speaks of being a king and having a kingdom (John 18:36-37), He also speaks of it being the Father’s kingdom. We see this in what Jesus said at the Last Supper before He was arrested.
Matthew 26:29: I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom.”
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 26:29 is very telling. He is alluding to the time He will have come in His Kingdom and yet He speaks of it as being the Kingdom of His Father. In Revelation 12:10, the writer speaks of the kingdom being of God and the authority of His Christ. Christ is seen as the agent of God in exercising the authority of the kingdom.
Revelation 12:10: Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.
It should also be noted that in the Sermon on the Mount, in what has become known as "the Lord's prayer" (Matthew 6:9-10), Jesus instructs his listeners to pray to the Father and ask of the Father that His (the Father's) kingdom come and His (the Father's) will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Here we see the kingdom as being of the Father with its apparent seat of authority in heaven. It's instructive that it is the Father's kingdom the disciples of Christ are told to pray that it come and not the Kingdom of Christ. In Matthew 6:33 of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His listeners to seek the Father's kingdom above all else. In Matthew 13:43, Jesus speaks of the righteous shining like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father,
In 1 Corinthians 15:24, we see that after Christ accomplishes all that the Father has willed that He accomplish, Jesus hands over to the Father the Kingdom the Father conferred on Him.
1 Corinthians 15:24, 28: Then the end will come, when he (Christ) hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
Verse 28: When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
It is interesting that in Revelation 11 we see the kingdoms of this world becoming the kingdom of “our Lord and of his Christ.” By context it is evident that the Lord spoken of here is God the Father and to say “of his Christ” is to say of His anointed one. The phraseology here indicates the supremacy of God the Father as the head of the Kingdom and His Son being the one through whom the Kingdom is administered.
Revelation 11:15-17: The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever." And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.
A careful study of the Revelation will show that the “Lord God Almighty” is God the Father and thus the “he that will reign for ever and ever” is a reference to God the Father. This coordinates well with 1 Corinthians 15:24 where we see the Kingdom being handed to God the Father when all that needs to be accomplished is accomplished.
I believe the destruction of all dominion, authority and power spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15 was accomplished in the events associated with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in AD 70. These events facilitated transition from the Old Covenant system of death to the New Covenant system of life. After this was accomplished, the Kingdom of Christ became one with the Kingdom of God the Father. Please see my series entitled "When Does Christ Return" for a discussion of the the first century return of Christ.
The phrase “kingdom of God” is used 68 times in the NT and the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is used 33 times with all 33 occurrences found in the Gospel of Matthew. In looking at the many contexts in which these two phrases are used, it is evident that the phrase “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” have a broad range of application. These two phrases convey moral standards of behavior, the power to heal, governing authority, glory, sovereign power, dominion and the rule of God over all reality. Having a kingdom is having and exercising these dynamics. It is these dynamics that define what the kingdom of God is.
In reviewing the 33 references to the kingdom of heaven within the context in which these references are found, not once do we see Christ identified as the king of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is referenced only in association with it being near at hand, it being preached, what it takes to enter it, parables about what it is like and exhortations to seek it at all costs. While we don't see Christ directly identified as king of the "kingdom of heaven" in any one of these references, we do see God the Father implicitly identified as the kingdoms king in three of these 33 references. In Matthew 7, the Father is not identified as the king of the kingdom of heaven per se but there is implication that He is.
Matthew 7:21: "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
In Matthew 13, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a man who sows good seed in his field representing the righteous sons of the kingdom and an enemy sowing bad seed representing the wicked. The man who sows the good seed is identified as Jesus and the enemy as the devil. At the end of the age, Jesus is seen as sending His angels to weed out of His Kingdom the wicked while the righteous are seen as shining like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.
Matthew 13:43; Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
In this parable we see Jesus as having a kingdom and yet, after all is said and done, it is the Father’s Kingdom into which the righteous are received. In Matthew 18 is the parable of the settling of accounts. The king of the kingdom of heaven appears to be identified as the Father as revealed by Jesus’ statement at the end of the parable..
Matthew 18:23: Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
Matthew 18:25: "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
In reviewing the 68 times the phrase "kingdom of God" appears in the NT, it, like the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” is referenced mainly in association with it being near at hand, being preached, statements about what it is like and exhortations to do what is necessary to enter it and avoid what will keep one out of it. There is not one occurrence of the phrase, “kingdom of God” in the entire NT that explicitly associates it with God the Father or with Jesus being the king of such kingdom.
However, as already discussed, there are references to the “kingdom of heaven” that show the Kingdom is the Father’s Kingdom. In Matthew 6:33, the disciples are exhorted to seek his (the Father’s) kingdom. In the “Lords prayer” the disciples are told to pray for the Father’s kingdom to come. In 1 Thessalonians 2:11 Paul speaks of being called into God’s kingdom. Throughout his writings, when Paul uses the word God, it can be seen by context to refer to the Father. Therefore, when Paul speaks of the Kingdom of God, he is speaking of the Kingdom of the Father and implicitly identifying the Father as king of the Kingdom of God. As shown in my series on this website entitled, "The God of Jesus," the Father is YHWH and YHWH is the ruling authority over all reality which is seen as His Kingdom as discussed at the beginning of this essay. So in contrast to the Kingdom of God, what is the Kingdom of Christ?
I believe the Kingdom of Christ directly relates to the Covenantal transition that took place in the first century. (See my series: "When Does Christ Return" and my series entitled "Hebrews: A Study in Covenantal Transition"). God empowered Christ (His anointed one) to facilitate the transition from the Old Covenant system to the New Covenant system. This transition culminated in the events associated with the first century return of Christ in judgement against first century Israel. The power, authority and dominion given to Christ to accomplish this transition are all dynamics of being a king over a kingdom.
Entering into the Kingdom of Christ was all about participation with Christ in this transition. This transition involved the change from obeying the letter of the law to obeying the spirit of the law. This transition involved passing from spiritual death unto spiritual life which was facilitated by the death, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ. Once this transition was accomplished, the Kingdom, which had been granted by the Father to Christ for the purpose of facilitating this transition, was handed back to the Father as Paul informs us. It was absorbed into the eternal Kingdom of the Father. Therefore, to be in the kingdom of Christ is to be in the Kingdom of God the Father. Today, there is only one kingdom and that is the Kingdom of God the Father which has always existed as discussed in the opening paragraphs of this essay.
Today, Christ continues to rule as a king at the right hand of the Father in His Fathers Kingdom. While still in this physical body, we can participate in this kingdom by embracing its behavioral standards, something I discuss in detail in Part One of this series Upon physical death we are transported to the location of the governing authority of the Kingdom of God which appears to be somewhere in the heavenly realm as I cover in detail in Part Two of this series.
In Parts Four and Five of this series, we will examine the fourteen parables Jesus gave about the Kingdom to see what they tell us about when the Kingdom arrives, what is its nature and who is initially included and excluded from the Kingdom.