4.3. The Arrival of God’s Kingdom

When the New Testament opens, we find John the Baptist preaching, Mat. 3:2) [emphasis added]. Later, when John was imprisoned, Jesus too preached, “the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark Mark 1:14). During this time of Jesus’ early ministry while his disciples had no understanding of His destiny on the cross, they too announced, Mat. 10:7) [emphasis added]. At the time of these early pronouncements, there is no additional explanation given to the hearers concerning the nature of this kingdom. It is evident that these pronouncements were in keeping with the expectations set forth by the very promises of God in the Old Testament. Promises which would have been familiar to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Isa. Isa. 49:5; Mtt. Mat. 10:5-6; Mat. 15:24; Mark Mark 7:27; John John 1:11; Acts Acts 10:36).

Thus, read in the light of its evident Old Testament context, the phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ does not refer to a kingdom located in heaven as opposed to the earth, but rather to the coming to earth of a kingdom which is heavenly as to its origin and character.1

After the religious leaders of the Jews committed the ultimate sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit by attributing the works of Jesus to demon-possession (Mtt. Mat. 12:24-31; Mark Mark 3:22, Mark 3:28-30; Luke Luke 11:15; John John 7:20), Jesus began using parables to teach new truths concerning this kingdom (Mtt. Mat. 13:1, especially Mtt. Mat. 13:52). An important new truth which Jesus began to reveal was the delay before the kingdom of God would come fully on earth: Luke 19:11) [emphasis added]. 2

When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, His example included a petition to the Father to bring about His kingdom on earth (Mtt. Mat. 6:10).3 Later, Jesus told His disciples that in the “regeneration” they would sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mtt. Mat. 19:28). Immediately prior to his ascension, the disciples asked about the coming of the kingdom: “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts Acts 1:6). Jesus never corrected this expectation of the kingdom of God on earth, but indicated that the timing of its arrival was yet future and that in the meantime a special period of time characterized by the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit to move the gospel across the world was the more immediate task (Acts Acts 1:7-8).

Jesus had just been speaking for forty days of the kingdom of God (Acts Acts 1:4), and no doubt the content of his discussions prompted this question. Christ’s answer must not be understood to be a denial of the hope reflected in this question, a hope firmly founded upon the provisions of the Davidic Covenant and the predictions of the prophets (Isa. Isa. 11:11; Isa. 55:3), but a confirmation of it. If the disciples were mistaken in this hope, this would have been a most opportune time to correct them, but Christ did not (John John 14:2; John 20:29; Rom. Rom. 15:8). Yet, misunderstanding this, many expositors have gone far astray in their understanding of the prophetic plan of God revealed in Scripture. Misunderstanding on this point is virtually fatal to understanding Biblical prophecy as a whole.4

This last book of the Bible includes key events related to God’s kingdom coming to earth and its extension into the eternal state. The King extends His rightful rule over all the nations (Rev. Rev. 12:5+; Rev. 19:15+). Here is recorded the final defeat of the kingdoms of man (Ps. Ps. 2:1-2; Dan. Dan. 2:34-35, Dan. 2:44-45; Rev. Rev. 1:5+; Rev. 19:15-21+), the ushering in of the Millennial Kingdom on earth (Rev. Rev. 11:15+; Rev. Rev. 20:4+), the demise of the kingdom of Satan (Rev. Rev. 20:2+, Rev. 20:10+), and the permanent dwelling of the King among His subjects (Rev. Rev. 21:3+; Rev. 22:3+).

Although relatively little is said concerning the earthy nature of the Millennial Kingdom in Revelation Rev. 20:4+, this is but a small slice of all that God has said concerning this time of peace and great blessing upon the earth: Isa. Isa. 2:1-4; Isa. 9:7; Isa. 11:1-16; Isa. 60:1-12; Isa. 65:17-25; Jer. Jer. 23:3-8; Jer. 31:31-40; Eze. Eze. 37:15-28; Eze. Eze. 44:1-Eze. 48:1; Zec. Zec. 8:1-17; Zec. 14:8-11; Mic. Mic. 4:1-8. That this period cannot refer to the eternal state (Rev. Rev. 21:1+, Rev. 22:1+) is clear for it includes the continuance of physical birth, (Isa. Isa. 65:23), sin (Isa. Isa. 60:12; Isa. 65:20), and physical death (Isa. Isa. 65:20).

The belief in the Messianic Kingdom does not rest on this passage [Rev. Rev. 20:4+] alone. In fact, it hardly rests on it at all. The basis for the belief in the Millennial Kingdom is twofold. First: there are the unfulfilled promises of the Jewish covenants, promises that can only be fulfilled in a Messianic Kingdom. Second: there are the unfulfilled prophecies of the Jewish prophets. . . . The only real contribution that the book of Revelation makes to the knowledge of the Kingdom is to disclose just how long the Messianic kingdom will last—namely one thousand years—for which the term Millennium is used. This is the one key truth concerning the Kingdom that was not revealed in the Old Testament.5

See Millennial Kingdom.

Tenney identifies three NT principles which receive special emphasis within the Revelation: judgment, redemption, and the establishment of the kingdom of God.

Judgment, redemption, and kingdom are interrelated parts of the public establishment of God’s salvation. judgments are the fate of the unrepentant and the unredeemed, as the kingdom is the destiny of the redeemed believers. Redemption exempts one from judgment, and makes him ready for the kingdom.6

This redemptive work of God goes beyond the establishment of a mediatorial kingdom ruled by Jesus in Jerusalem for one thousand years. It includes the redemption of all that was originally given to man and the restoration of conditions prior to the Fall (Gen. Gen. 3:6, Gen. 3:14-19). See the discussion concerning Genesis and Revelation as Bookends for more information on the complete restoration brought about through the events recorded in the book of Revelation.

The arrival of God’s kingdom on earth is inseparably linked with the arrival of the King Himself. “The return of Jesus to this earth is the central theme of this book. It will deal with events leading up to, accompanying, and following the Second Coming.”7 The kingdom has no temporal power prior to the Second Coming.8 This emphasis on the imminent coming of Jesus Christ is found in many statements throughout the book (Rev. Rev. 1:7+; Rev. 2:25+; Rev. 3:3+, Rev. 3:11+; Rev. 16:15+; Rev. 19:11-16+; Rev. 22:7+, Rev. 22:12+, Rev. 22:20+). This last book of the Bible amplifies the teaching found throughout the NT that believers are to live in constant expectation of His return.9


Notes

1 Alva J. McClain, The Greatness Of The Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), 280.

2 The future aspect of the kingdom is found throughout Scripture: Ps. Ps. 110:1; Dan. Dan. 7:11-14, Dan. 7:21-22, Dan. 7:25-27; Mtt. Mat. 6:2; Mat. 7:21-22; Mat. 19:28; Mat. 25:31; Mat. 26:29; Mark Mark 14:25; Luke Luke 11:2; Luke 19:11, Luke 19:15; Luke 21:31; Luke 22:16-18, Luke 22:29-30; Luke 23:51; Acts Acts 1:6-7; Acts 14:22; 1Cor. 1Cor. 15:24; 2Ti. 2Ti. 4:1; Heb. Heb. 2:8; Rev. Rev. 3:21+; Rev. 11:15+, Rev. 11:17+; Rev. 12:10+; Rev. 19:20+.

3 “Bauckham asserts that Revelation as a whole can be seen as the fulfillment of the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: May your name be made sacred, your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. The earthly scene, where his name is not made sacred and his will not done, is soon to be transformed by the sovereign action of the enthroned God.”—Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 33.

4 Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Acts 1:6.

5 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 381.

6 Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 30-31.

7 Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 15.

8 “The papacy has ever grasped at ‘temporal power.’ She wants to rule the world now, before Christ comes—thus proving herself false; . . . God’s saints, with their Lord, await expectantly the Father’s time.”—William R. Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1994,c1935), 60.

9 This is known as the doctrine of imminency which states that the return of Jesus for His church (the Rapture) can occur at any moment without warning. There are no preconditions —events which must transpire—before He comes. The pretribulation rapture position is the only position which preserves the doctrine of imminency in that every other rapture position holds that the Rapture takes place after the beginning of the Tribulation. If Jesus could truly come “tonight,” but the Tribulation (Daniel’s 70th week) cannot start until Antichrist signs a covenant with Israel (Dan. Dan. 9:27), then mid- or post-tribulation Rapture is not ‘imminent.’ NT passages which teach the imminency of His return include: 1Cor. 1Cor. 1:7; 1Cor. 4:5; 1Cor. 15:51-52; 1Cor. 16:22; Php. Php. 3:20; Php. 4:5; 1Th. 1Th. 1:10; 2Th. 2Th. 3:10-12; Tit. Tit. 2:13; Jas. Jas. 5:7-9; 1Jn. 1Jn. 2:28; Rev. Rev. 3:11+; Rev. 22:7+, Rev. 22:12+, Rev. 22:17+, Rev. 22:20+.