The Kingdom of God’s Sovereign Grace
Posted at thinkGospel.com:
Understanding the kingdom of God is fundamental to our understanding and enjoyment of the gospel. Salvation—the new birth—is an entrance into the kingdom (John 3:3) which we are commanded to “seek first” and before the things of this world (Matthew 6:33). However simple these truths may be in relation to salvation, the broader teaching of the kingdom theme gets a little more complicated the deeper you dig. We are taught to pray that God’s kingdom would “come” (Luke 11:2), and we are waiting for it (Revelation 11:15), and yet we are told that the kingdom is within us (Luke 17:21). Furthermore, we believe that the King is on His throne, and yet we can see that all things are not yet under His feet (Hebrews 2:8).
On the surface many of these kingdom aspects seem self-contradictory and rather confusing. How can we pray that the kingdom would “come” if it was “at hand” two thousand years ago when Jesus was on earth? If we are already in the kingdom (i.e., been born again) and the kingdom is in us, how can we still be waiting for it?
The confusion arises when we think of the kingdom in terms of location and try to give it geographical, tangible, or temporal dimensions. Some think of the kingdom only in terms of heaven and eternity. Some think of intriguing eschatological events such as the rapture, the return of Jesus, the millennium, the anti-Christ, Israel, etc., etc. Others think of the kingdom as synonymous with the visible church and tend towards a social and ethical emphasis. Over-emphasizing any one of these aspects only results in a caricature of the kingdom, distorts the biblical doctrine of the kingdom, and adds confusion to an already complicated study.
It is true that the goal of the kingdom is eschatological—the consummation of all things when He will have put down all principalities and powers and when every knee will have bowed to Him. However, the focus of the kingdom in the Scripture is soteriological and always has immediate application and implication to life in the present. This is true of both the Old Testament prophecies and also of the New Testament (e.g., notice the application to the present in 1 John 3:1–3). Our study of the kingdom should be a means of grace.
So what is the kingdom of God and how should we understand it, appreciate it, and live in the light of it?