The Kingdom of God
There are two divine kingdoms
At some point in God’s existence as the uncreated Spirit he chose to create systems in which the glories of his nature and the qualities of his love and goodness and holiness that were present and experienced by the persons of the “Father” and the “Son” and the “Spirit” could be present and experienced by different created beings who would be designed to exist and to function in special systems for their personal lives. The initial system for doing this was known as “The Kingdom of Heaven”. It was basically a spiritual system that was composed of spiritual elements and occupied by spiritual beings, including the Persons of God Himself and those whom God created that are known as “angels” and “cherubim”.
From this “Kingdom of Heaven” God chose to create another system that He could occupy with His three Persons and in which his nature and its particular qualities could be displayed and experienced by creatures who were basically composed of physical cells that were designed to function in a physical system of atoms and molecules that existed as physical elements that is recognized as the physical universe, which includes the “earth” and all of its physical forms of matter. All of these forms of matter are designed to exist and to function in accord with God’s will. The forces that control the operation of some of these elements that make up the solid masses of the universe do this somewhat automatically, including those that control the functions for plants and animals, but for the human beings that God created he provided some special forces that were intended to make them into creatures that would reflect His divine “image” of love and goodness through the choices that they would personally make and that of the additional human beings that they would be enabled to produce. All of the plants and animals in this physical system are created with reproductive powers, but this power for human beings is especially intended to be used by them in cooperation with God to establish and to maintain a realm of existence in which God’s special qualities can be consistently experience and His glory recognized and celebrated in a unified gathering of God’s Persons and His created beings, including those from His spiritual and physical systems of existence. The basic fact regarding this purpose is stated by Jesus in His personal prayer to the “Father” during His important teachings to his small band of “disciples” prior to his arrest and crucifixion and eventual physical departure from them (See John 17:1-26, particularly verses 5, 11, 21-26). The physical system for the display and experience of God’s special qualities with some of his created beings is “The Kingdom of God”.
God’s intended establishment of his physical kingdom
This divine intension was an expression of God’s will for his creation of the physical universe and the “Earth” with its abundant “garden” of “good” “food” for the human beings that he “created” in his Trinitarian “image” and placed within that “garden” (For the context of these terms see Genesis 1). God even intended to share his divine authority over his creation by giving “dominion” over “the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” to these human beings (See Genesis chapters 1-2, particularly verses 1:21-26, 29-31; 2:8-9), which he apparently has never offered to any “angels”. Further details regarding God’s intensions for his physical realm of displayed glory and authority can be discerned from Jesus’ very special prayer to the “Father” for the Father’s direct blessings upon his “disciples” and those who would “believe in” him as he was preparing them for his departure to return to the “Father” in the “Kingdom of Heaven” (See John 17 for this prayer). Note in Jesus’ prayer the emphasis that he places upon the “glory” of unity and love that marked the relationship between the Persons of the “Father” and the “Son” in God’s “Kingdom of Heaven” “before the world existed” (John 17:5) and which should be present in their relationship with each other and with Him and the “Father” in their lives in the “world” (See John 17:11, 21-23, 26). The glory of God’s love and goodness was to be on display by the unified “dominion” of ruling authority between these human creatures and God in this physical “Kingdom of God” that was full of his good resources and kept in order by his loving will.
The key to the establishment of this “Kingdom of God” was presented by God in “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). And God indicated to these human creatures that they “may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). When they disobeyed this commandment of God and chose to eat from this tree, as reported in Genesis 3:1-24, their relationship of unifying love and authority with God was broken and their bodies became subject to death and they were left on their own to determine what would be “good” or “evil” in the world that was also subject to some particular curses of God and was then placed under the dominion of Satan. Without the obedient trusting choice of these human creatures in his loving and wise guiding will, God chose to postpone the establishment of the physical “Kingdom of God” on this “earth”.
God maintains his personal relationship with humans without establishing his Kingdom with them
When God discovered that Adam and Eve, the first two human beings that God had created and with whom he had sought to establish a physical Kingdom, had disobeyed his command and refused to trust him, he implement his judging curses against them, the seductive “serpent” Satan, the ground that produced the “good food” for the nourishment of their bodies, and announced his judgment of death upon their bodies. Each of these judgments were rendered by God for all of these created beings and resources until he would choose to change them or remove them in accord with his sovereign will. And he immediately removed Adam and Eve from the “good” “garden” in which he had placed them so they and their descendants would not have access to “the tree of life” the fruit of which would have enabled their physical bodies to exist forever.
But in spite of these judging actions, God did initiate a personal effort of redemption in personal relationships of trusting faith with especially selected individuals that he chose to work with in his corrupted creation. These individuals included Noah with whom he chose to work to save humanity from his wrath and with Abram and his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob and Jacob’s twelve sons with whom he established a covenant of faith and Moses and Joshua and Samuel and other judges and king David and his son Solomon and a whole list of prophets for his “people” (the Israelites who were descendants of Jacob). Some of these individuals were temporally effective in their cooperative work with God, but their efforts were not always well received by the “people”, so the nation of Israel was not able to become the shining “light” of God’s providental love and forgiving grace in the world.
God sends his Son to earth to complete his redemptive work in his physical system
Jesus, the “Son of God”, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a young virgin, Mary, who was engaged to a young man, Joseph, who were both descendants of King David. Jesus was born as a human infant in the village of Bethlehem in the tribal area of Judah. After living for thirty years as a member of Mary’s family in the village of Nazareth where he served the family and the village as a carpenter, which had been the work of Joseph, Jesus left his home to launch his personal work of redemption for “the people of God” and God’s created physical system with all of its human beings.
Through three years of public service as “the Son of God”, Jesus in an intensely personal and daily relationship with the “Father”, who had sent him, engaged in an intensive ministry with thousands of individuals throughout the areas of Judah and Galilee and even neighboring areas to reveal more of God’s good loving will and grace to them, his special divine nature and authority, and God’s intended plan to establish “The Kingdom of God” on his physical “earth” where his glorious love and trusting willful choices could be globally displayed for all his creatures to see. Through personal miracles and authoritative teachings Jesus attempted to make the grace of God and his redemptive plans for humanity clear to his audience, and especially to a few “disciples” whom Jesus had personally called to “follow” him so that they could learn more about him and the “Father” and become trained and equipped by the “Spirit” for their cooperative work with God in his physical system of existence. Jesus spoke of “The Kingdom of God” and taught of its nature and its coming to “earth” through his authoritative role as “the Son of Man” who would establish its presence on “earth”. But before he could establish this “Kingdom of God” on “earth”, he had to serve as God’s “lamb” to personally pay the price of redemption from sin for all human beings. And Jesus did this by submitting his physical body to a physical cross to suffer the physical pain and shame of being crucified and the spiritual separation from the “Father” for the sins of the world that were placed upon him and he physically died. His physical body was buried in a physical tomb outside of the walls of Jerusalem, but three days later he was physically raised from his tomb and was physically seen by hundreds of his “disciples” and followers for forty more days before he returned to heaven to be personally present with the “Father”.
Conclusion regarding The Kingdom of God
Before Jesus was crucified, he gave his small group of “disciples” some very personal words of instruction regarding their relationship with him and their new roles in God’s ongoing work of redemption for his creation. He gave them the “Spirit” who would continue to teach them the wise truth of God’s loving will and empower them to implement and to complete their new roles of cooperative trusting service for God. This gift of God’s “Spirit” and its blessings has been repeatedly given to God’s chosen servants in this physical system as God continues his redemptive work and moves ahead with his intended plan to establish a physical global “Kingdom of God” on this “earth”. “The Kingdom of God” will be established by Jesus, not the church, in his role as the authoritative “Son of Man” when he returns to the “earth” on “the Mount of Olives” with God’s redeemed elected servants and the “angels” to implement his victorious ruling and loving authority over sin and death and Satan and all of his created rebels that was postponed when Eve and Adam rebelled against God by refusing to trust him in the physical “garden” with all of its “very good” resources where they had been placed. This initial “Kingdom of God” will be under the direct personal rule of Jesus as “The Son of Man” and the “Second Adam”, not as a democracy, for “a thousand years” and then it will displayed as part of God’s “new heaven and a new earth” and the “new Jerusalem” (See Revelation 21 for the context of these last terms) to which all of God’s redemptive work for his creation, both spiritual and physical, is moving.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV Study Bible English Standard Version (ESV®), copyright © 2008 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.