In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. – 1 Timothy 6:13-16
The kingdom of God (or heaven) carries the idea of God coming into the world to reveal and display His power, glory and authority over all powers, including the power and control of Satan in this sinful world. The kingdom speaks of God’s present activity and involvement in the course of human events in order to accomplish His purposes and reveal Himself and His plans to people.
Jesus initiated His public life with a simple but stiff challenge to repentance (Matthew 4:17). It was actually a familiar message – identical, in fact, to the message of John the Baptist, Jesus’ fore-runner (3:2). Both urged their listeners to repent, to change their minds and hearts, not merely for the sake of change, but in light of what they called “the kingdom.”
- Jesus is the King
The most important thing to notice is that a kingdom exists because Jesus is the King. He is the Messiah, the Saviour promised by not only Israel’s King, but the international Christ for all the nations. At the beginning of His life, magi came to Herod, asking where they could find the King of the Jews (2:2). At the end of His life, Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He affirmed that He was (27:37).
So in Matthew 4:17-25, the King was declaring His kingdom. Foretold by the Scripture and announced by John, Jesus had come to establish His rule. However, He disappointed the expectations of many people – both then and now.
- Where is the Kingdom?
For a few brief decades, Israel had enjoyed a relatively prosperous, peaceful monarchy under David and his son Solomon. Some Old Testament passages prophesied that the Messiah would reestablish that sort of kingdom. Was now the time? Would Jesus overthrow the iron rule of the Romans and set up a political state? He did not. In fact, He told the Roman governor Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world, that He did not have an army fighting on His behalf (John 18:36). And He told the Pharisees that the kingdom was not something tangible and observable, but was “within” them (Luke 17:20-21)
Then is Christ’s kingdom simply a spiritual concept, a powerful but abstract ideal? No, because He made a definite promise to His disciples that they would rule the tribes of Israel in His kingdom (Matthew 19:23, 28). They apparently took Him literally (Acts 1:6).
- When Is the Kingdom?
No less puzzling is the question of when the kingdom has or will come. As they began their ministries, John the Baptist and Jesus declared that the kingdom was “at hand.” But a few years later, when Jesus’ followers asked whether He was ready to restore Israel’s kingdom. He put them off; that was something that only His Father could know, He told them. Sometimes the kingdom seemed to be a present reality. At other times, it seemed to be a hope for the future.
Even today, theologians stridently debate over whether and in what form the kingdom has already been established, is currently in the process of being formed, is coming in the future, or is not coming at all. Like most questions that cannot be answered definitively to everyone’s satisfaction, agreements are few and positions strongly defended.
Source: Culled from SALM’s article in the Spectator newspaper.