We have come to the part of our “What is the Gospel” series that is typically overlooked when modern Christians present the “Gospel.” We talk about Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, but often leave out any serious discussion of the kingdom; if we mention the kingdom at all, we often equate “kingdom” with “church.” The kingdom is actually the very heart of the Gospel story and kingdom is about far more than the church.
God’s Kingdom Defined
When we think of a kingdom, we often think of a place or we think of a group of people. However, the word translated “kingdom” in our Bibles can also refer to a king’s rule and reign. The word “kingdom” can be a rather abstract idea, as opposed to a concrete idea, like a place or a group of people.
Think about how we use the word “office.” The word “office” can have a concrete meaning, as in a room where a person works. But “office” can also be used in a more abstract way to refer to a person’s duties, responsibilities, and authority. We talk about “the office of president,” and by that, we aren’t referring to the Oval Office but to the duties and authority of the presidency.
Similarly, when the New Testament speaks of God’s kingdom, it isn’t talking about a place or even a group of people, but about God’s rule and reign. And when you read, “kingdom of heaven” you shouldn’t think it is the place of heaven being discussed but the rule and reign of heaven. The phrase, “kingdom of heaven” is just another way of saying “kingdom of God,” since heaven is the unseen realm where God dwells.
This is why it’s a mistake to equate the “kingdom” and the “church.” The church is made up of people who are in the kingdom, but “kingdom” encompasses far more than just the people. “Kingdom” encompasses everything God is doing in the world as the sovereign King. “Kingdom” isn’t just the people over whom God rules, but his rule itself.
God’s Kingdom Established
Currently, God the Father reigns as King, but he does so through a mediator, Jesus the Messiah (1 Timothy 2:5). The fully divine “word of God” became fully and completely human (John 1:1-14) to reestablish God’s rule and reign over the earth. Jesus, the human being in whom all the fullness of God dwells bodily (Colossians 2:9) is now reconciling God and humanity.
As the great priestly-king, Jesus is bringing God to people by fully revealing God to us. And he is bringing us to God by taking away our sins. God’s rule and reign continue to come to the earth as people see the character of the Father in the person of the Son. God’s rule and reign continue to come to earth as people receive the grace, mercy, and forgiveness offered by the Father in the name of the Son. God’s rule and reign continue to come to earth as the Father and Son continue pouring out the Spirit on humanity, conforming us to the image of the Son.
This is what Jesus means when he speaks of the reign of the “Son of Man.” The prophet Daniel said a time would come when a Son of Man would be lifted up into the clouds to reign beside the Ancient of Days. Daniel writes (7:14):
And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Jesus, the Son of Man, is the mediator of God’s rule and reign. He is the one through whom the Father currently reigns. He is the one through whom the Father is reestablishing peace and justice on the earth. He is the one the Father has anointed “to bring good news to the poor…to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2).
God’s Kingdom Delivered
But the Father will not always rule and reign through a mediator. Paul writes that there is an end goal to the current arrangement. After Jesus raises the dead, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24).
After Jesus destroys his enemies (we will discuss that next week), he will “deliver” or “surrender” the rule and reign over to God the Father. In other words, no longer will the Father rule through a mediator, but he will rule personally. Jesus’ mission of uniting God and humanity, uniting heaven and earth (Ephesians 1:10), will be complete.
Because sin and death will be no more, humanity will no longer need mediation. Jesus will, of course, continue to reign, but all of us will be glorified to reign with him (Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12). It will be like Eden, the Father will finally be with his redeemed sons and daughters. The royal family, both human and divine, will be complete.
I love you and God loves you,
P.S. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to read the other articles in this series, “What is the Gospel?” and subscribe to the e-mail list so you don’t miss the next post in the series.