the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.Romans 14:17
If you’re a disciple of Jesus, your destiny is to enjoy life in His kingdom forever.
The Kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, and God’s kingdom are three equivalent ways of describing the realm over-which God reigns.
All kingdoms include these common elements: a king, his citizens, and the laws of the realm. Before Jesus came, the Jewish concept of the Kingdom of God was that a descendant of David would restore Israel to the stature it had under David and Solomon.
While a person can argue the concept of the ‘Kingdom of God’ can be found in the Hebrew Bible, it’s not a primary doctrine. However, it did become the primary focus of God’s Spirit-led leaders, beginning with the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus.
The Kingdom of God in John’s Ministry
Before Jesus began His ministry, God sent John the Baptist to ‘prepare the way for the Lord.’ He proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)
In other words, John said God is overthrowing the Devil’s kingdom of sin and violence. The Messiah is coming. He is restoring God’s kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace to mankind. Therefore, repent (turn from your old way of thinking) and prepare to follow the Messiah.
The Kingdom of God in Jesus’ Ministry
From the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry to the very end, Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God as His primary message.
The beginning of Jesus Ministry
After John baptized Jesus, the Spirit compelled Jesus to fast 40 days in the desert wilderness, where the Devil sorely tempted Him. Having overcome all temptations, Jesus returned “in the power of the Spirit” and these were His first words:
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14
Jesus’ Primary Message
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Matthew 6:31-33
The End of Jesus’ Earthly Ministry
On Jesus’ last day as a mortal man, His message about God’s kingdom is why Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to crucifixion. Here’s the sad transcript from that day:
Pilate tried to release Jesus, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who declares himself a king is defying Caesar.”
When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat on the judgment seat at a place called the Stone Pavement, which in Hebrew is Gabbatha. It was the day of Preparation for the Passover, about the sixth hour.
And Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your King!” At this, they shouted, “Away with Him! Away with Him! Crucify Him!”
“Shall I crucify your King?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” replied the chief priests.
Then Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified, and the soldiers took Him away. Carrying His own cross, He went out to The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on each side, with Jesus in the middle.
Pilate also had a notice posted on the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.John 19:12-15
Jesus, the Resurrected Messiah
After His suffering Jesus presented Himself to them with many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a span of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.Acts 1:3
Jesus Now Holds the Keys of Death and Hades
About 60 years after Jesus’ resurrection, the Apostle John saw the glorified Messiah. John wrote,
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. But He placed His right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I was dead, and behold, now I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of Death and of Hades.Revelation 1:7-18
The Kingdom of God in Apostolic Ministries
The Post-Resurrection Disciples’ Focus
Out of all the things the disciples could have asked the resurrected Jesus, they asked Him about the restoration of the (Davidic) kingdom to Israel.
And while they were gathered together, Jesus commanded them: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift the Father promised, which you have heard Me discuss. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they came together, they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”Acts 1:4-6
The Kingdom of God is So Much Better Than They Expected
In 33AD, the disciples didn’t realize the Kingdom of God was much bigger than they imagined. God’s Kingdom isn’t simply going to be the restoration of David and Solomon’s reigns in the Mideast region. God’s plan is much better.
When it’s fully manifested, the resurrected Messiah’s kingdom won’t just apply to Israel. Rather, God’s heavenly Israel will have global authority over all nations on earth. (Revelation 2:26-27)
Since Jesus now now holds the keys of death and Hades, He has the authority to determine the eternal destiny of every person descended from Adam and Eve.
The Foundation of God’s Kingdom
The Kingdom of God isn’t founded on military strength. Rather, it’s founded on righteousness, justice, love, faithfulness, and the hope of immortality.
Mighty is Your arm; strong is Your hand. Your right hand is exalted. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; loving devotion and faithfulness go before You. Blessed are those who know the joyful sound, who walk, O LORD, in the light of Your presence.Psalm 89:13-15, Ps 97:2
The last line in the verses above reminds me of immortal Adam and Eve walking in Eden, in perfect fellowship with God before they sinned.
Philip Preached the Kingdom of God. Miracles Followed
But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed.Acts 8:12-13
The Kingdom of God in Paul’s Ministry
Paul’s Message After Being Stoned to Death
Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, presuming he was dead.
But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. And the next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe. They preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples and encouraging them to continue in the faith. “We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.Acts 14:19-22
Paul’s Message and Miracles in Ephesus for Two Years
Then Paul went into the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But when some of them stubbornly refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way, Paul took his disciples and left the synagogue to conduct daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that everyone who lived in the province of Asia, Jews and Greeks alike, heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and the diseases and evil spirits left them.Acts 19:8-12
Paul’s Message in Rome
Many people came to the place Paul was staying. He expounded to them from morning to evening, testifying about the kingdom of God and persuading them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and the Prophets.Acts 28:23
Paul’s Final Two Years Before Martyrdom
Paul stayed there two full years in his own rented house, welcoming all who came to visit him. Boldly and freely he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.Acts 28:30