One of the predominant themes, and in fact many would say the providential and primary theme contained in the Bible, is the thematic concept of the Kingdom of God. It seems to make its initial appearance in Genesis 1 and its final form arrives in Revelation 20-22. It is a theme that is continuously present in both the Old Testament and New Testament. It is introduced through the patriarchs and prophets, clarified by Jesus and John the Baptist, finds its theological explanation by Paul and Peter and its culmination is described in the Book of Revelation by John. However, it should not surprise us that not everybody understands the Kingdom of God in the same way.
Let me invite you to hear from Dr. Dave Anderson as he introduces this most important theological theme.
“It is obvious that the title of this lesson is taken from what is commonly referred to as the ‘Lord’s Prayer.’ But it is not so obvious to most of the people who repeat this prayer on at least a weekly basis just what they are praying for. What is this ‘kingdom’ to come? Is this a reference to heaven? Are we praying for ‘heaven on earth’ or what?
Most people are somewhat surprised to discoverâ€¨ that the gospel (good news) of Matthew, Mark and Luke is not about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sometimes I ask students to imagine that I am someone who would like to go to heaven when I die. I am in a car wreck with five minutes to live, and they have discovered me alongside the road. My only hope for heaven is the words they will share with me. And I encourage them to give me some good news, the gospel, if you will. But they are limited in what they can use. They can only give me the gospel message from Matthew, Mark or Luke. I will not receive anything from John, Romans, Ephesians, or any of the rest of the Bible.
Most of the students are stumped. At the end of five minutes, I have expired. Dead and gone to hell. No one seems to be able to get me to heaven out of the first three Gospels (referred to as the ‘Synoptics’). Yet they are called ‘Gospels.’ Surely they must have some good news to share. And that they do. But the gospel focus of the Synoptics is the Kingdom. In Mark 1:14-15 we read: ‘Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.‘”* Jesus was preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. That is what He was inviting people to believe in. Naturally He was not inviting them to believe in His death and resurrection because He had not yet died and risen.
But let us be clear. Are we suggesting that the Synoptics present a different way of getting to heaven than the rest of the Bible? Not at all. We are just suggesting that the emphasis of these three Gospels is not getting to heaven. It is getting the kingdom of God on earth – “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It is the Gospel of John which focuses on our getting eternal life (John 20:31). That is the expressed purpose of John’s Gospel.
But let us back up a minute. We are going to suggest that the kingdom of God is not only the focus of the first three Gospels, but also the entire Bible. It is not the only theme running from the beginning of the Bible to the end, but it is one of the majors. So let’s go to Genesis and try to get the Big Picture before we go any further.”
Our understanding of the kingdom of God will have a dramatic effect on our theology of salvation. This pervasive and powerful theme is the glue that connects the overarching plans of God. Dr. Anderson concludes:
“The very heartbeat of God’s kingdom program is missions. Let’s remember that Adam was supposed to be fruitful and multiply and take dominion over the earth. Finally, mankind has populated the earth. But dominion? No. Oh, yes, there have been attempts at dominion over the earth: Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and now perhaps a conspiracy for One World Order (see Psalm 2:2 for a prediction of a conspiracy of world leaders to achieve One World Order). But there will be no worldwide dominion until Jesus comes again. Then His scepter will sweep out from Jerusalem with centrifugal force until He has conquered the World Dictator (the Antichrist) and set up His Kingdom over all the earth (Psalm 110).
But our Lord wants servant kings from every tongue, tribe, and nation to serve with Him in His dominion over the earth. The purpose of all this, as we have seen in earlier lessons, is that the nations might glorify God. Through world evangelization, or perhaps we should say worldwide discipleship (see Matthew 28:19-20), each person is given the same opportunity for the eternal security (the love of God) and the eternal significance (a meaningful place of service forever) you have received if you are a believer. And as individuals in each tongue, tribe, and nation respond positively to the gospel and teachings of Christ, God is glorified. What does that mean again? The glory of God is ‘an open, public display of his character qualities (attributes).’ As the nations are brought out of darkness into His light, they become trophies of His grace, His love, His mercy, His omnipresence, His omnipotence, His omniscience, His justice, His truth, His faithfulness, His goodness and on we go.
Tired of the ho-hum rat race of just trying to exist, God’s Kingdom program and our participation in it (missions) gives us a reason for living which transcends the mundane, the trivial, and the banal. It gives you a chance to make your life count for eternity.”
Serving Him with you until He comes for us,
Fred Chay, PhD
Managing Editor, Grace Theology Press