What Is the Kingdom of God?

What Does the Bible Say About the Kingdom of God?

What Is the Kingdom of God in the Bible?
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The phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ (also ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ or ‘Kingdom of Light’) appears more than 80 times in the New Testament.  Most of these references occur in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

While the exact term is not found in the Old Testament, the existence of God’s Kingdom is expressed similarly in the Old Testament.

The central theme of Jesus Christ’s preaching was the Kingdom of God.

But what is meant by this phrase? Is the kingdom of God a physical place or a present spiritual reality? Who are the subjects of this kingdom? And does the kingdom of God exist now or only in the future? Let’s search the Bible for answers to these questions.

What Is the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God is the realm where God reigns supreme, and Jesus Christ is King. In this kingdom, God’s authority is recognized, and his will is obeyed. 

Ron Rhodes, Theology Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, offers this bite-size definition of the Kingdom of God: “…God’s present spiritual reign over His people (Colossians 1:13) and Jesus’ future reign in the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20).”

Old Testament scholar Graeme Goldsworthy summarized the Kingdom of God in even fewer words as, "God's people in God's place under God's rule."

Jesus and the Kingdom of God

John the Baptist began his ministry announcing that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matthew 3:2).

Then Jesus took over: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ ” (Matthew 4:17, ESV)

Jesus taught his followers how to enter the Kingdom of God: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, ESV)

The parables Jesus told illuminated truth about the Kingdom of God: “And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.’ ” (Matthew 13:11, ESV)

Likewise, Jesus urged his followers to pray for the coming of the Kingdom: “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ ” (Matthew 6:-10, ESV)

Jesus promised he would come again to earth in glory to establish his Kingdom as an eternal inheritance for his people. (Matthew 25:31-34)

Where and When Is the Kingdom of God?

Sometimes the Bible refers to the Kingdom of God as a present reality while other times as a future realm or territory.

The apostle Paul said the Kingdom was part of our present spiritual life: “For 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, ESV)

Paul also taught that followers of Jesus Christ enter into the Kingdom of God at salvation: “He [Jesus Christ] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13, ESV)

Nevertheless, Jesus often spoke of the Kingdom as a future inheritance:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.’ ” (Matthew 25:34, NLT)

“I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 8:11, NIV)

And here the apostle Peter described the future reward of those who persevere in the faith: “Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:11, NLT)

In his book, The Gospel of the Kingdom, George Eldon Ladd provides this remarkable summary of the Kingdom of God, “Fundamentally, as we have seen, the Kingdom of God is God's sovereign reign; but God's reign expresses itself in different stages through redemptive history.

Therefore, men may enter into the realm of God's reign in its several stages of manifestation and experience the blessings of His reign in differing degrees. God's Kingdom is the realm of the Age to Come, popularly called heaven; then we shall realize the blessings of His Kingdom (reign) in the perfection of their fullness. But the Kingdom is here now. There is a realm of spiritual blessing into which we may enter today and enjoy in part but in reality the blessings of God's Kingdom (reign).”

So, the simplest way to understand the Kingdom of God is the realm where Jesus Christ reigns as King and God’s authority is supreme. This Kingdom exists here and now (in part) in the lives and hearts of the redeemed, as well as in perfection and fullness in the future.

(Sources: The Gospel of the Kingdom, George Eldon Ladd; Theopedia; The Kingdom of God, Acts 28, Danny Hodges; Bite-Size Bible Definitions, Ron Rhodes.)