Lesson 33: The Church and the Kingdom
Why am I here? I am here to participate in the reign of Jesus Christ. Besides knowing that Christ will one day conquer His enemies, I also know that I will take part in His kingdom . Christ will establish a perfect and eternal kingdom, and every church-age believer will reign with Him in it.
Before proceeding any further, we must clarify the difference between two biblical kingdoms: God’s universal kingdom and His mediatorial kingdom. The universal kingdom is God’s absolute sovereignty over all His creation. The mediatorial kingdom is His personal rule of specific individuals through a mediator (or representative). This latter kingdom began in the Old Testament and is the ultimate goal of history (see Lesson Twenty Two). It is in this kingdom that believers will one day co reign with Christ their King.
[A mediator is a go-between or representative. A mediatorial kingdom is an earthly, political, kingdom in which God rules thru a mediator. God’s universal kingdom is the fact that God rules over the universe.]
The mediatorial kingdom is known by various names, such as “the kingdom of heaven,” “the kingdom of God,” or simply “the kingdom.” Generally, the context determines which of these two kingdoms (universal or mediatorial) the author has in mind. In this lesson, “the kingdom” refers to the mediatorial kingdom.
[The Schofield Reference Bible makes a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven, but the two are synonymous and used interchangeably. Most dispensationalists make no distinction between the two.]
One should not confuse the kingdom with salvation or the church. Though people often use these words interchangeably, the kingdom is a distinct idea.
[I.e., “Joe has entered the kingdom,” meaning “Joe got saved.” There are a couple of passages which teach that one enters the kingdom in some sense at the point of salvation. However, we’ll see that it’s best to keep the kingdom and salvation separate ideas. The kingdom will be a physical reality. The church does not fulfill all the kingdom promises.]
This lesson will explore the nature of the mediatorial kingdom, its history, and the church’s relationship to it.
[Remember that when we use the word “kingdom” in this lesson, we’re talking about the mediatorial kingdom, not God’s universal sovereignty or salvation.]
I. The Nature of the Kingdom
The Bible indicates that the kingdom of God includes three elements: (1) a divinely-chosen ruler , (2) a realm of subjects to be ruled, and (3) the actual act of reigning . Unless all three are present, there is no kingdom. David bears this out when he says:
Yet the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the house of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. Of all my sons–and the LORD has given me many–he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. 1 Chronicles 28:4 5
The prophet Daniel also stressed these three elements when he wrote of the Messiah’s future reign:
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13 14
[According to this definition, is Jesus Christ currently ruling over His kingdom? No. Some might say that He is ruling the church as its head, or that He rules the hearts of believers, but this is not in keeping with the kingdom idea Jesus and the apostles taught. They taught a literal, earthly kingdom, not an invisible, spiritual one.]
II. The History of God’s Kingdom
Throughout the Bible, God has consistently ruled through human representatives. Following are some of the men God has used or will use in this way.
This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, “Who made you ruler and judge?” He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. Acts 7:35
Moses was God’s representative. God ruled Israel through him.
B. Saul and David
So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed [David] in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him. 1 Samuel 16:13 14
Saul was God’s representative king. However, because of his disobedience, God took away his right to rule (1 Samuel 15:23) and the special anointing of the Spirit that went along with it, the “ theocratic anointing .” [Review the idea of the theocratic anointing.] At this point, we should note two facts: (1) At the moment that the theocratic anointing was given to David, it was taken from Saul (David feared the same fate later in life according to Psalm 51:11.). (2) God began a dynasty with David through which He would rule His people. From that time on, every king over God’s kingdom had to be from David’s line.
[God] said to [David]: “Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.” 1 Chronicles 28:6 7
As mentioned above, every mediatorial king since David had to be of Davidic descent. This included Christ (Isaiah 11, Matthew 1, and Luke 3).
1. Christ’s kingdom was foretold .
Because of Israel’s rebellion, God temporarily ended His kingdom arrangement with the nation. [This occurred in 586 BC with the Babylonian Captivity.] However, from that point on the prophets foretold that God would one day restore His kingdom in an eternal fashion.
The former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem. Micah 4:8
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Isaiah 9:7
[Note that the same sort of kingdom that David had will be restored. Was David’s kingdom a spiritual one? No, it was literal, earthly, etc. So will be Christ’s.]
2. Christ’s kingdom was offered .
Both Christ and John the Baptist preached a kingdom message. Christ came to earth as the promised king, the Messiah . However, the Jews rejected His offer and brutally murdered Him.
John the Baptist preached:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” – Matthew 3:2
Christ likewise proclaimed:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 4:17 (See also Matthew 4:23 and Luke 11:19 20.)
The disciples were told to preach:
“The kingdom of heaven is near.” Matthew 10:7
Note: The offer of the kingdom to Israel was a genuine offer. However, God’s plan included Israel’s rejection and Christ’s death . Thus, Christ came to earth for two reasons: First, He came to offer the kingdom to the Jews. Second, He came to make involvement in the future kingdom possible. By allowing Himself to be crucified, He provided the way of salvation so that men could know Him as King.
[There is some debate regarding what would have happened had the Jews accepted Jesus as their Messiah. Some say that the Millennium would have begun right there. It’s a moot point because Israel did not accept Jesus as their Messiah at this time.]
3. Christ’s kingdom was postponed .
The kingdom of God has been postponed. It is not in existence today. After His resurrection, Christ gave His disciples further instruction concerning His coming kingdom (Acts 1:3). The disciples assumed He would immediately restore the kingdom to Israel and begin to reign. Christ, however, taught otherwise.
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” Acts 1:6 7
[This is a good text that shows that the disciples were expecting a literal, earthly kingdom. If the kingdom was a spiritual one (i.e., salvation), they wouldn’t have asked this question, because the kingdom would have been in effect.]
4. Christ’s kingdom will one day be established .
At His second coming, Christ will establish His earthly reign. It will be a literal, physical kingdom centered in Jerusalem.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. Revelation 22:3 (See also Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 7:13 14, and Luke 1:31 33.)
III. The Church and the Kingdom
God’s mediatorial kingdom actually involves three stages: the Old Testament theocracy , the millennial kingdom, and the eternal kingdom. As mentioned in Lesson Thirty Two, the Tribulation will culminate with the second coming of Christ. At that time, Christ will utterly destroy His enemies, temporarily bind Satan, and set up His millennial kingdom (“millennium” means 1,000 years). After the Millennium, Satan will be released from his temporary bondage, lead a final revolt, suffer defeat, and be condemned to eternal punishment (Revelation 20:1 10). God will then judge the unsaved of all ages at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11 15), destroy the present heavens and earth and create new ones (2 Peter 3:10 13 and Revelation 21:1), and establish His eternal kingdom (Revelation 21:2ff).
A. Church age believers are citizens of the kingdom.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. Colossians 1:13
Our citizenship is in heaven. Philippians 3:20
One must interpret these verses in terms of “positional” truth. Positional truth describes that which the believer possesses but does not experience. Thus, even though we still live in this sin-darkened world, and Christ’s kingdom has not yet been established, we are free from the power of sin and are citizens of Christ’s kingdom positionally.
B. Church age believers will reign in the kingdom.
To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. Revelation 3:21 (See also Revelation 20:6.)
In this verse, Christ is speaking to church-age believers. The word “overcomers” refers to those who have overcome Satan by faith in Christ (1 John 5:4 5). Therefore, all church-age believers will be part of the royal family. We will co reign with Christ in the eternal kingdom.
[This is true only of church-age saints. OT believers will have no part in the millennium.]
Learning to Live It
1. The trials of life are numerous. Jobs, family, ministry, and illness often cause difficulty. How might the material learned in this lesson affect the way one deals with the trials of life?
It should help us to cope with them better/persevere through them, knowing what awaits us at the end (Rom 8:18, Heb 11:10, 13-16, 24-26). We know that there is more to life than this life. Everything in history and in the universe is moving to its predetermined end. Our trials play their part in God’s plan for history. We know the end of the story. We’re on the winning team. Our trials are really quite temporary. We have an eternity to be free of them and to enjoy true happiness.
2. How might the knowledge of these facts affect the way one views the short time during which he lives upon this earth?
It is relatively insignificant when compared to eternity. Our eternal destiny, however, is determined in this life. A great time of joy is in store for us. Also, we don’t need to “go for the gusto” now, as if this is all there is. We can defer/put off some pleasurable things until later. We ought to live in light of eternity.