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Summary Principles of the Kingdom of God

As I have researched and written on these Worldview Areas, two studies have been the most rewarding for me. First was God's Holiness, Law, Love, Grace, Mercy, Justice, and Equity and now, the Kingdom of God.

In only a few hours, the reader-student can research this subject himself or herself. There are over 400 verses in the Old and New Testaments that refer to the “kingdom of God,” “the Kingdom of heaven,” and “kingdom” in the Bible, mostly in the New Testament and mostly in the Gospels. And, if you only look at the verses in Matthew alone, you will have most of the understanding of this concept. Perhaps, while the idea of the Kingdom may be foreign to many Christians, in Scripture its descriptions are quite detailed and comprehensive. This study could/should change your concept of God and His plan for your life! See Bible Search below. (Go to www.biblegateway.com, and look for Keyword Search.” You have options for entry of more than one word.)

The Kingdom of God is Biblical worldview or Biblical ethics, comprehensively applied!

(Methodology: Here and throughout this website, I do not try to give exhaustive references of Scripture. For most concepts, there are numerous correlative texts that are not cited. There are actually numerous verses on my of the following concepts.  I have listed and briefly discussed more of these verses on the Kingdom elsewhere.

1. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of heaven are one and the same concept. The two names are used interchangeably by Jesus Christ and the writers of the New Testament ((Matthew 25:31-46, 26:26-30; Luke 22:14-23). The Lord’s Prayer itself makes this link. “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.”

The Kingdom of God is one and the same as The Great Commission, the “gospel of the Kingdom” (Matthew 24:14). Thus, the work of the Church extends far beyond the simple presentation of personal salvation in Jesus Christ. It is the “discipling of the nations.” It is the implementation of justice and mercy at every level: individuals, families, churches, voluntary organizations, and states. See “Missionary endeavors… below.

Definitions. I have constructed three definitions which are intended to have the same meaning. This concept is so rich that several definitions help to bring it out. I will use the “Kingdom of God” or just the “Kingdom” here and throughout this website.

(A) The Kingdom of God is the progressive implementation of God’s rule “on earth, as it is in heaven,” to be completed when He judges mankind finally into Heaven or Hell, with temporal blessings and cursings that extend to both Christians and pagans.

(B) The rule of the Holy Spirit as Christ’s representative on earth and the rule of the Father in heaven, primarily manifested on earth in the regenerate and the Church among all nations, who bring a portion of heaven (peace and joy) to earth by their rule of righteousness (ethics or worldview) under Biblical authority in conscience, family, voluntary organizations, and civil government, to be consummated with the new heavens and the new earth.

(C) Peace and righteousness (ethics and worldview) that is effected by the Holy Spirit in individuals, families, voluntary organizations, and civil government in all nations, as they govern these areas consistently with the Word of God, manifested primarily through the influence of the regenerate and the Church (Romans 14:17; Hebrews 7:2; Hebrews 12:11; James 13:18), to be consummated with the new heavens and new earth.

Definitions from other authors. See References below.

The Kingdom of God is the new world-order, in heaven and on earth, produced by the revolutionary changes brought about in Jesus' fulfillment of the Old Covenant in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. (Peter Leithart)

The Kingdom of God is (a) the universal rule of Christ over all things, both redeemed and non-redeemed; (b) the special, saving rule of Christ over His people: (c) the life, wisdom, holiness, power, and authority that Christ grants to His people; or (d) the permeating influence of the Word and Spirit in the world. (Coalition on Revival, # 2 of Articles of Affirmation and Denial on the Kingdom of God)

2. Membership in the Kingdom. Membership in the Kingdom of God and the invisible Church have the same criterion: regeneration. In John 3:1-21, as one of the primary passages on regeneration, Jesus states “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (verse 5). And, in Titus 3:5, regeneration is inextricably linked to the work of the Holy Spirit: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” This concept is not limited to these two verses, but they will suffice here. Regeneration has been discussed more fully elsewhere.

Faithful angels are members of the Kingdom. Fallen and rebellious angels (demons) are leaders of the spiritual world against the Kingdom.

3. The effect of the Kingdom of God: blessings and cursings. The Kingdom affects both the regenerate and the unregenerate through the behavior of both, as their thinking, speech, and behavior work is consistent (blessings) with God’s instructions (laws) to mankind or they are inconsistent (cursings). The primary responsibility, however, for implementation of the Kingdom falls upon the regenerate, as individuals, families, and The Church.

Someone has said, “The only Hell that Christians (the regenerate) will ever experience is their life on earth, and the only Heaven that pagans (the unregenerate) will ever experience is their life on earth.” These statements are full of the reality of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness (the world, the flesh, and Satan). They also mention the “goodness” of God’s common grace and the overflow effects of His Kingdom.

4. The establishment of the Kingdom of God is by both the spiritual (supernatural) activity and the work of the regenerate. God’s supernatural activity includes such acts as the crossing of the Red Sea, Daniel’s interpretation of dreams, Christ’s resurrection of the dead, the manifestations of Pentecost, regeneration of believers, establishment of national rulers, and historical events that have enhanced the spread of the Kingdom, such as, Greek, the universal language of the time of Acts; the printing press that preceded the Reformation; the English common law that was foundational to America as a nation; and the defeat of the Spanish.

While these events are momentous and awesome, the greater work of the Kingdom has been carried out in the regenerate, simply following His instructions and commands.

Works of the regenerate, God’s miracles, and His Providence are different ways to effect the same Kingdom. With only a few exceptions, God advances His Kingdom through His people. These advances may be individual acts (Martin Luther’s posting of his theses), movements of peoples (all those who implemented the Reformation), councils of the church (various), hospitals and hospices, and missionary endeavors. All the great achievements because of Biblical Christianity are staggering to consider from a moral perspective. See Great Social Reform Because Jesus Lived.

5. The Kingdom of God began with the ministry of Jesus Christ and later the “procession” of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. John the Baptist and Jesus both said that the Kingdom of God was at hand” (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 10:7). The ministry of John the Baptist is the end of the prior work of God among mankind. the Kingdom of God (Matthew 11:11).

The Kingdom of God is implemented, primarily, by its members: Christians as individuals and The Church, as a body. While the Holy Spirit works above and beyond the regenerate, His work is primarily through individual Christians, families, and the Church. Only these have the sustaining power and knowledge of God and His ways to implement His “will on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Old Testament era involved shadows and types of the Kingdom of God. First was The Creation Mandate (Genesis 1:28), given to two people who failed in their Fall. Next, the mandate was stated after The Fall and The Flood to eight people (Genesis 9:1-17). Later, God chose Abraham and his descendents, the nation of Israel, to more fully and specifically to manifest one Kingdom on earth (Israel - Genesis 12:1-3). All these people failed to implement God’s directives. God Himself, as the Trinity, has implemented the final Kingdom which will never fail nor end (Luke 1:33). (For more on the relationship of the events of the Old Testament to the Kingdom, see Henry Stob, Ethical Reflections, 1978, pages 62-71 —to be posted on this website.)

These are not dispensations in the theological sense of what is commonly called “dispensationalism.” While in a real sense these different periods may be called dispensations, they never present salvation by any other means than Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death. Those saved before Jesus, actual time on earth are still saved in the same way, even though Jesus’ time was future. The one exception was for Adam and Eve only: they could have been saved by “works,” that is, keeping the one rule that God had given to them.

6. God has already powerfully manifested His Kingdom on earth. Regardless of a Christian’s view of millennialism, the Kingdom of God has had undeniable, powerful effects on planet earth. These include the marked reduction of human sacrifice and slavery, orphanages for abandoned and unwanted children, universal education, hospitals and other caring institutions, global exploration, modern science, English common law, The United States of America, and many other reforms (simply because Jesus fulfilled His mission). While even these “goods” may be used to evil purposes, in general, they have been to the benefit of mankind.

The manifestations of the Kingdom are not found in the “greatest” of philosophers. Certainly, one manifestation of the Kingdom is the defense and loving care of the most defenseless in any society. There is virtually no other philosophy or religion, conceived by the “greatest philosophers” and religious teachers in history, that obligates mankind in this way.

Infanticide by abandonment and exposure were almost universal before cultures were exposed to Christianity. Consistently, "None of the great minds of the ancient world -- from Plato to Aristotle to Seneca and Quintilian, from Pythagoras and Aristophanes to Livy and Cicero, from Herodotus and Thucydides to Plutarch and Euripides -- disparaged child-killing in any way. In fact, most of them even recommended it.... They blindly tossed lives like dice." (George Grant, Third Time Around: A History of the Pro-Life Movement from the First Century to the Present, Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1991, page 12.)

7. The Church and the Kingdom are not identical. This dimension of the Kingdom may be the most difficult to grasp. How can the Kingdom be more than the Church? In these ways. Christians perform good social works (feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, developing orphanages, etc.) that are direct, physical blessings to unbelievers. Christians enact Biblical laws which promote justice for all who are under that jurisdiction. Christians’ behavior and their ethics and laws influence social behavior in general. So, while only the regenerate can be members of the Kingdom, its blessings extend far beyond its members.

The Kingdom is Biblical worldview in action. Comprehensive, Biblical worldview that is implemented by Christians and the Church is identical with the Kingdom of God.

8. Christians err seriously when they limit their citizenship to heaven only. Without doubt, Christians are pilgrims whose destiny is their Father’s house with many mansions (John 14:2). But, the very Lord’s Prayer itself, which every Christian prays, calls them to be effect God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.” Regardless of one’s millennial position, this petition is a strong call for Christians to implement his Regency on earth. Moreover, the argument can be made that Christ’s Incarnation, as well as God’s activity in history, legitimizes earthly pursuit of justice and righteousness in every sphere of human activity.

As we will see below, since the Kingdom is contiguous with Heaven, heavenly citizenship begins now! As we will see also, Christians will rule in heaven. We will not be passive. Should not we begin our training for heaven now?

Readers should not confuse the “social gospel” of liberal Christianity with this call for Christians and The Church to be agents of change on earth. Somewhere in the last 250 years, social change became identified with liberal Christians, even to the call for armed revolution where injustice reigns. During the same time period, “fundamental” Christians divorced personal pietism from social action.

Reader, note the context of my message here: regeneration of souls and Biblically guided action! I am as far from such a “social gospel” as one can be. The time has come for Bible-believing Christians to unite once again the full gospel message with The Great Commission of “making disciples of all nations” and implementing “God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.”

(Sometime soon, I plan to write an article on the argument for postmillennialism apart from passages of Biblical prophecy. I think that the arguments for millennial positions are misplaced. We ought, instead, to simply obey what God has called His people to do in all the descriptions of His Kingdom that are discussed here.)

9. Undeniable truths concerning the Kingdom of God. There are clear Biblical statements and positions that are virtually impossible to deny without being inconsistent and illogical. They are inescapable truths, regardless of one’s eschatology. A simple review of all the verses that pertain to this subject is all that is necessary for these conclusions. I have named many of those verses, detailed the thoughts of many verses, and discussed these truths in this Summary. Perhaps, naming them briefly and concretely will help readers realize the clarity of what the Bible says about the Kingdom.

A. The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of heaven, The Great Commission, and the implementation of Biblical ethics and Biblical worldview are one and the same.

B. The Kingdom began with Jesus Christ’s ministry on earth and the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son.

C. Only the regenerate can be members of the Kingdom. Evidence of their regeneration is their good works. (See Glossary definition of Good Work on this site.)

D. Jesus Christ is the King of the entire universe. He is The King of Kings and The Lord of Lords with the Government upon His shoulders.

E. The Lord’s Prayer petitions that the Kingdom is “to come” and that God’s will is “to be done as it is in heaven.”

F. The Kingdom is growing (parable of the Mustard Seed), will never fail, and will be consummated in the reality of Heaven itself.

G. Jesus Christ will eventually place all His enemies under His feet.

10. Perhaps, understanding the Kingdom should precede one’s grappling with millennial issues. My work on these Summary Principles on the Kingdom is my first real study of the Kingdom of God. What has most amazed me about this study is not only the number of references in the Bible on the subject, but the detail about what the Kingdom is.

I fear that we Bible-believing Christians so much in love with our favorite verses, proof texts, and systematic theology that we neglect to study the Bible itself. Faith (noun) and believe (verb) are another example. There are at least five meanings of the word faith in the New Testament. Do you know what they are? All you have to do is use a concordance and look up all the verses on faith and believe. Such a study is not difficult or complex, but it will take some hours. I would prefer that you do the study, but you can read my short book on faith for some insights.

But, the point is simply to study what the Bible says on the Kingdom of God. I have posted my raw notes, which are not complete, which can be a beginning for you. Such a study may have some bearing on your millennial position.

11. Perhaps, God prefers that His people reign, rather than be persecuted. The United States may be the battleground for whether persecution of Christians takes place here and in other Western countries. Frankly, I prefer not to be persecuted! But, some Christians either by their millennial position or by their passivity for whatever reasons, are opening the gate very widely for their own persecution.

Where Christians have opportunity, I do not believe that God wants His people to be persecuted. Now, certainly I would never minimize the suffering of Christians past and present. I would rather almost anything happen to me, rather than to be seen in that light. However, the Scriptures seem clear to me that ultimately His saints are rulers, not subjects of martyrdom. We will judge angels (I Corinthians 6:3), sit on God’s lesser thrones (Revelation 4:4), and were intended to “have dominion” over the earth from the beginning (Genesis 1:26).

Certainly, the Kingdom of God is about humility, “the least will be the greatest” and the “meek shall inherit the earth.” However, the passages that I just cited and many others speak of dominion, ruling, and judging. An historical model is found in the Puritans who demonstrated humility and willingness to rule (albeit imperfectly, as will always be the case on earth). Perhaps, the modern equivalence of “winsome,” as a model for Christians, should also be that of a solder for Christ. Why cannot vigorous leadership be dynamic and aggressive, as part of being “winsome?”

The Puritan was made up of two different men; the one all self-abasement, penitence, gratitude, passion; the other proud, calm, inflexible, sagacious. He prostrated himself in the dust before his Maker, but he set his foot on the neck of his king.” See my summary on the Puritans and the original work cited there.

There is no question in my mind that the United States is the pinnacle of God’s Kingdom on earth through its basis in Mosaic law, as historically developed in English Common Law, John Calvin, William Blackstone, and others. However, that greatness is seriously threatened today, not by all the leftists and liberals, but by the neglect of worldview application by God’s people in the comprehensive and conscious manner of our founding fathers (imperfect, and sometimes not even true believers, though they were).

The “personal peace and affluence” criticized by Francis Schaeffer, the “don’t polish brass on a sinking ship” of the pre-millennialists, and general worldview apathy and ignorance of most evangelicals are allowing the leftists and liberals to gradually take over this country. They have almost succeeded, but I do not believe that it is too late, if more Christians fall on their faces before God, seeking His forgiveness, and then repenting to understand the full Biblical application of His truth to every area of life. Perhaps, a Biblical study of the Kingdom of God could spark some interest in causing “God’s will to be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.”

But, patriotism and the identity of the United States as one manifestation of the Kingdom, should not be equated. We must not have the idea that we will support “my country, right or wrong.” Indeed, currently, America strays far from her Biblical roots and in many quarters is hostile to Biblical faith and ethics. So, American Christians must be careful not to place patriotism over Christ’s Lordship through Biblical truth.

12. Jesus Christ will one day be established visibly to everyone on earth and in heaven, as the King of Earth and Heaven. All millennial positions eventually establish His Kingdom. So, the disagreement is when and how that happens, not the reality itself.

The Kingdom of God is continuous and contiguous with Heaven itself. After the old heavens are destroyed by fire and the new heavens and earth are established, then will our time in heaven will begin (II Peter 3:7-13).

13. One of the primary manifestations of the Kingdom is the basis of civil law in Biblical ethics and law. I have reviewed how civil law changes the behavior of the citizens under it through their pattern of behavior and fear of punishment. Law is legislated morality.

Other manifestations include the same rule of Biblical ethics and law in government of self (conscience), the family, and voluntary social organizations. Individual Christians should be activists to establish this rule of ethics and law in their sphere of influence.

14. Another primary manifestation of the Kingdom are works of mercy by individual Christians on their own and in their families, voluntary social organizations, and churches. See Summary Principles of Social Justice.

Non-Christians may also do these works under the influence of the regenerate (as individuals and their institution) and under their own consciences that reflect the innate ethics and law of God. However, their depth and breadth of motivation can never match the power of the Holy Spirit working in His people.

Most of the scenes of judgment involve the reviews of social responsibilities of individuals (for example, Matthew 25:31-46).

15. Vocation has its identity with the Kingdom of God. Today, too many Christians see “working for the Lord” as being only in the context of The Church or being a missionary. A conscious concept of the Kingdom of God makes any ethical endeavor a “working for the Lord“ —to advance His Kingdom “on earth as it is in Heaven.”

16. Is there an opposing Kingdom? Yes and no. There is no opposing Kingdom in the likeness of the Kingdom itself. The opposing forces to the Kingdom are “the world, the flesh, and the Devil.” These forces do not have an organizing entity, as the Holy Spirit is the organizing and motivating force of the Kingdom.

Is Satan the ruler of the opposing Kingdom? Yes and no. While Satan’s goal is certainly to thwart God at every turn and to overthrow Him, His power and influence is limited. He knows that the battleground lies in man and mankind. But, the very nature of evil in himself, in his demons, and within men themselves does not have an organized focus. Men’s selfishness makes them enemies of each other. Each one wants his own rule, power, and influence. Each devil wants the same thing for himself. The Devil, and indeed, all godless beings, can only rule by deceit and fear of punishment. He cannot “draw all men unto Himself.” He cannot woo men into following him blindly without deceit and intimidation.

In my opinion, all these that oppose the Kingdom of God will eventually triumph to their own ends. One of my concepts of Hell is its total individuality —every man and demon for Himself. And, Satan will “rule” over this chaotic nightmare, as he will be the most powerful being there.

In a philosophical sense, Satan can never win in the way that he desires. The only organizing influence is the goodness of God. Evil by its very nature can only destroy. It cannot build anything that is permanent, good in the ultimate sense, or worth the allegiance of men or angels in the long run. Evil beings, including Satan, only have influence to the degree that they stir the selfish desires of others.

17. We win! Every Christian acknowledges that Christ was victorious from the grave and will establish His Kingdom upon His Second Advent. Then, why do we not live like we are winners? As described above, there is really no contest. On one side is the omnipotent God and His work in space, time, and eternity, loving men unto His leadership. On the other is “every man (and demon) for himself.”

18. The Kingdom is continuous and intergenerational in time. As we have seen, the Kingdom continually grows in time until it is translated into Heaven. As is developed in Summary Principles of the Family, God’s primary mode of evangelism is through the family. This intergenerational movement fits with the development of the Kingdom whereby momentum and power is built from generation to generation.

19. State welfare is not a manifestation of the Kingdom. There is nothing right about state welfare. It steals from one group to give to others. It imposes a huge administrative cost. (I have seen estimates from 75-90 percent.) It promotes laziness among its recipients. It gives without regard to responsibility and true need, based upon some arbitrary category of persons. It dehumanizes its recipients, making them into helpless victims. It promotes class warfare, giving “rights” to recipients, as well as establishing groups of “haves” and “have nots.” It trains recipient children in “the ways that they should (not) go.” It promotes illegitimate marriages and weakens the role of husbands. And, more.

20. The relationship of the Kingdom of God to the Church. (A) “The Kingdom of God creates the church. The redemptive role of God brings into being a new people who receive the blessings of the divine reign.” (George Eldon Ladd, Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, 1960, page 313). (B) In so far as the visible Church is instrumental in the establishment and extension of the Kingdom, it is of course subordinate to this as a means to an end. The Kingdom may be said to be a broader concept than the Church, because it aims at nothing less than the complete control of all the manifestations of life. It represents the dominion of God in every sphere of human endeavor.” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 11th printing, 1969, page 570)

Perhaps, this relationship may be summed up in this way.

In relation to the Kingdom, the Church may be defined as the totality of those who at any time have been delivered by the power of God’s reign in Christ from the toils of sin and death and have been reconciled to God. As such the Church is the living, burning center of the Kingdom, a witness to its presence and power, a harbinger of its final coming. It is not the Kingdom, it is narrower than the Kingdom, but it is its central component. (Henry Stob, Ethical Reflections, 1978, page 69)

21. Missionary endeavors must implement the idea of the Kingdom of God. From all the above, missionary efforts throughout the world are too narrowly focused. They are focused on the salvation of individuals and their incorporation into local churches. However, the Church is an agency of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the goal of missions must be the implementation of the Kingdom of God, as they understand it from a Biblical study.

I believe that the current teaching by most missionary agencies is setting the stage for national disasters because of this narrow focus. Even “saved” souls still have within them the “old man” (the flesh or the sin nature). Thus, judicial discipline is necessary in the local church, and civil law (based upon the Word of God) is necessary for godly rule of local, regional, and national governments in the civil realm.

Historically, the leaders of the Reformation knew this truth. Prior to them, European and English common laws (based upon the Mosaic Law) knew this truth. Now, in modern times, this foundation has largely been forgotten and neglected. Its omission from modern evangelism and missions is a major failure of those endeavors. The Great Commission, as it is proclaimed today, is largely a Truncated Commission! And, the Church without judicial discipline is a Church with unnecessary impurity and corruption.

References

Online Bible Keyword Search - Do your own study using the keyword search feature as a concordance: Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom (sort out those passages that refer to a kingdom under some human king and his earthly kingdom)

The Kingdom of God: Peter Leithart

Coalition on Revival: Affirmations and Denials


 
 

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