A Few Words on the Kingdom

There are many Scriptures in the Old Testament that speak of God's kingdom and God's throne, both as subsisting at that time and to be taken up by Christ in the coming day. In Psalm 45 we read, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right sceptre" (verse 6). This verse evidently speaks of the eternal throne of God, and the second clause would seem to have in view the reign of Christ on earth. Solomon is viewed as sitting on the throne of Jehovah in 1 Chronicles 29:23, a type of the Lord Jesus as the true Son of David and Son of God.

The Kingdom of God

This aspect of the kingdom is the most comprehensive, every other presentation being some particular view of it. This is borne out by a comparison of Matthew 13:11 and Luke 8:10, where in the former the Lord says to His disciples, "it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven," while in the latter He says, "unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God."

God's eternal throne implies that His kingdom is eternal, and in relation to men we hear the Lord say to Samuel regarding Israel, "they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them" (1 Sam. 8:7). As we have seen, Solomon sat upon the throne of Jehovah, for God had given His authority to David and to his Son. When the Lord Jesus was on earth He said, "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you" (Matt. 12:28). God was present in the Person of the Son, therefore God's kingdom was here. The Lord showed this to the Pharisees who demanded when the kingdom of God should come, for He answered, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation . . . for, behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you" (Luke 17:20, 21). There was nothing to attract the natural eye, nor was there need to go anywhere else to look for it, because the kingdom was among them in the Person of the Son.

The Lord Jesus gave Nicodemus to understand that to see the kingdom of God, a man must be born again; and to enter the kingdom of God there must be a work of God in the soul produced by the Spirit of God through the word (John 3:3-5). Natural vision cannot perceive the things of God. The learned men of Israel could not see the kingdom present in the Son: they had not the eyes of their heart opened; they were not born again. It is still the same today. No matter how well educated a man may be in natural or religious matters, he cannot discern the kingdom of God without spiritual vision, and this vision only comes with a divine work in the soul. Nor can any enter God's kingdom unless they have been born of the Spirit.

Paul went about preaching "the kingdom of God" (Acts 20:25), and he wrote concerning it, "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). The practical results of being in God's kingdom are evinced in the lives of God's saints. Judaism had much to say regarding what should be eaten and what should not be eaten, but Christianity is not occupied with prescriptions and prohibitions: it consists of what is moral, of what is pleasing to God in the lives of His own. We are to manifest what is right in the eyes of God, all our steps are to be marked with peace, and our joy is to be from the Holy Spirit who gives us to enter into what is found in Jesus.

In 1 Corinthians 15:50 we have the expression "the kingdom of God," referring to what belongs to heaven, for, says the Scripture, "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." We shall enter God's kingdom in this aspect when our bodies are changed, and so made meet for the presence of God above. Our bodies of flesh and blood, which are mortal and corruptible, are suited for our present place of testimony, but not for our eternal dwelling with God in heaven. Verse 54 of this same chapter shows the condition of the new bodies that are suited for our being with Christ; they are incorruptible and not subject to death.

The Kingdom of Heaven

This term is used by Matthew, and comes before us in the preaching of John Baptist who said to those before him, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2). The kingdom of heaven was not yet present, but was at hand. The Lord Jesus preached the same thing (Matt. 4:17). Nebuchadnezzar had to learn "that the heavens do rule" (Dan. 4:26), and this is what the kingdom of heaven teaches. At the present time the Son of God is in heaven, He has not yet taken His kingly power on earth, and while the Lord is in heaven God's kingdom is viewed as the kingdom of heaven.

After the Lord Jesus had spoken the parable of the Sower, the disciples asked Him, "Why speakest Thou unto them in parables?" and the Lord answered, "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given" (Matt. 13:10, 11). The parables unfolded to the disciples the secrets of the kingdom, and these same parables hid the secrets from the people who had rejected the Lord and His testimony. The disciples were privileged to apprehend in some measure what the prophets and righteous men of earlier generations would gladly have known.

Some of the wonderful secrets of the kingdom of heaven are then spoken of by the Lord in the six parables that follow, each one beginning with the words, "The kingdom of heaven is like." The first three parables which were spoken to the multitude, the tares, the mustard seed, and the leaven hid in three measures of meal, tell of what marked the profession of Christianity. There was the sowing of the enemy of that which looked like that which was true, but which when it appeared was seen in its true character by the servants of the Lord. The tree was a monstrosity, not a herb; it gave shelter to many evils, as the profession of Christendom gives today. The leaven corrupted the whole system, and this is what we see around us, a corrupt profession that has a form of piety, but denies its power (2 Tim. 3:5).

The last three parables were spoken in the house after the multitude had been sent away (Matt. 13:36), and it was then the disciples asked to be instructed in the meaning of the parable of the tares. To secure the church for the joy of His heart, a treasure hid in the field of this world, the Lord Jesus sold all that He had and bought the field. The treasure was for His heart's affection (Eph. 5:25), the pearl of rare beauty that he could admire and use to reflect His glory (Rev. 21:21), and if in the parables He impoverishes Himself to procure the church, in reality He "gave Himself for it." At the present time the good fish are gathered into vessels by the servants of the Lord; the mere professors are cast away as worthless.

"The Kingdom of His Dear Son"

God in His sovereign goodness has "delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Col. 1:13). If in certain aspects of the kingdom of heaven we see the working of the enemy, in this aspect in Colossians there is nothing but the working of God, and those who are in the kingdom of the Son of His love are those whom He "hath made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col. 1:12).

True believers in the Lord Jesus Christ have been brought by God under the authority of His own Son, the One in whom all that He is has been, and is, set forth. Under Christ's authority there is divine protection for us, and divine direction. It is through Him we learn the mind and will of God, and we also learn the love of the Father as knowing that the affection of the Father rests upon the Son. Only One who is so dear and so near to the Father could bring to us the Father's thoughts and desires for those He has entrusted to Him.

The Kingdom of the Son of Man

In Daniel 7 the prophet saw in vision the four great empires that have followed the removal of God's authority from the kings of Judah; the fiery stream came forth from the throne of God destroying the fourth empire; the other three "had their dominion taken away; yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time" (Dan. 7:9-12). Then Daniel saw One "like the Son of Man" coming with the clouds of heaven, and to Him was given universal and eternal dominion, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

This aspect of the kingdom is clearly that of the future day, when Christ will be seen as "King of kings, and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:16), and when there will be the fulfilment of what is written of the Son of Man in Psalm 8. The Lord referred to His kingdom as Son of Man when, in Matthew 13:41, He spoke to His disciples of gathering "out of His kingdom" by angelic means "all things that offend, and them which do iniquity." Again, in Matthew 25, the Lord speaks of the Son of Man coming in His glory, and sitting on the throne of His glory to judge the sheep and the goats (verses 31-46).

From 1 Corinthians 15 we learn that this is the mediatorial kingdom of the Son of Man, everlasting in the sense that it will never be succeeded by another, yet everlasting in another sense, as we shall see later. Christ's kingdom in relation to the millennial day is the answer to His rejection by men, God's answer to the cross. He will indeed reign as the true Son of David over Israel, but as Son of Man His dominion, as seen by Daniel, is universal. The mediatorial kingdom lasts for a thousand years, then is given up by the Son to the Father, that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, may be "all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).

It is regarding His coming kingdom that the Lord says to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne" (Rev. 3:21). Then too will be fulfilled the promise of the Lord to His twelve disciples, "when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28).

The Father's Kingdom

The prayer for which the disciples asked the Lord begins with the words, "Our Father . . . Thy kingdom come" (Matt. 6:9, 10). In this the Lord was teaching His disciples to look for the day when the saints would be with the Father in His house in heaven. From this and other Scriptures we can gather that the Father's kingdom has to do with heaven. In that day His will will be accomplished on earth even as in heaven under the reign of the Son of Man. When the saints are glorified with Christ, the light of heaven shedding its beams over the earth, then "shall the righteous shine forth as the sun," sharing the glory of Christ, the Sun of righteousness, "in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43).

Heaven is again brought before us when the Lord, after instituting His supper, said to His disciples, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29). In Mark 14:25 the words "kingdom of God" are used, confirming that the term "kingdom of God" embraces all, the others being special features of God's kingdom. In Luke 11:2 some translators give, "Father, Thy Name be hallowed; Thy kingdom come," omitting the words "which art in heaven." It is also interesting to see that in Luke 22:18, after partaking of the Passover, where we may view the disciples as representing the remnant of Israel, the Lord says, "I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come." For the remnant of Israel on earth in the coming day it will not be the Father's kingdom in heaven, but the kingdom of God on earth.

The Everlasting Kingdom

We have seen from 1 Corinthians 15 that the Lord Jesus will give up His mediatorial kingdom in which He rules over all, heaven and earth, as Son of Man. When the earth, as now formed, has passed away there will be no need for the kingdom in this aspect any more. It will have served the purpose of subduing all things to Him, of bringing in the reconciliation of all things (Col. 1:20). There is however an aspect of Christ's kingdom that will never pass away, even as it is found in 2 Peter 1:11, "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

Was it not to this that the Apostle Paul refers when he said "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (2 Tim. 4:18). The wearied, aged Apostle, about to seal his faithful testimony with his blood, looked for the eternal glory of his Lord in His heavenly kingdom. Long before, Nebuchadnezzar had addressed "all people, nations, and languages, that dwelt in all the earth," telling them of "the high God" whose "kingdom is an everlasting kingdom" (Dan. 4:1-3). During the millennium the heavenly saints are in the heavenly paradise, serving God and the Lamb, and "they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads" (Rev. 22:1-4).

Added to these wondrous words are these, "and they shall reign for ever and ever" (verse 5). Here we see the heavenly saints reigning for the ages of ages, and we know that it is as sharing the kingdom of Christ, His "everlasting Kingdom" as both Nebuchadnezzar and Peter testify, and the "heavenly kingdom" for which Paul looked. So that after the mediatorial kingdom has been given up, all things having been secured for the divine will, the heavenly side of the kingdom of God, the heavenly kingdom of our Lord, will continue for all eternity. All evil will have been done away, so that the eternal kingdom will be unclouded bliss for all who will be privileged to have part in it under Christ.