What Is the Kingdom of God?
What Is the Kingdom of God?
In Mark 1:1, we read of the “beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Gospel means good news. What was the gospel—or good news—Jesus preached? Verse 14 gives the answer: “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.”
Christ’s gospel is the Kingdom of God. Why is it important for us to understand the Kingdom of God? Because, Christ said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (verse 15). In order to be saved, we must believe the gospel! To believe, we must know what it is. What is the Kingdom of God?
The book of Daniel was recorded at the time of the Chaldean Empire, between 605 and 562 b.c. The nation of Israel had already been taken out of its land and into Assyrian captivity in 721-718 b.c. Judah was still in the area that is called Israel today. But the people of Judah were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldean Empire. Nebuchadnezzar became the first world-ruling leader.
During the second year of his reign, he had a troubling dream. It troubled him so much that he demanded the magicians and sorcerers of the kingdom to come before him to interpret its meaning. None of them could.
Daniel, a Jewish teenager, was called before the king. God had given Daniel great wisdom and a special talent for understanding “all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17).
The dream Nebuchadnezzar had is recorded in Daniel 2. It was of a great image. The image’s head was made of fine gold; its breast and arms were made of silver; its belly and thighs were made of brass; its legs were iron, and its feet were part iron and part clay (verses 31-33). In the dream, the king saw a stone smite the image at its feet, causing it to fall down and to shatter (verses 34-35).
Not taking any credit for the interpretation himself, Daniel quickly directed Nebuchadnezzar to the real Source behind the true meaning: “there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days” (verse 28). Notice! Not only was it God who revealed it, but the meaning was for the latter days—the time we live in now!
The great image represented four world-ruling kingdoms. The head of gold represented the existing Chaldean Empire (verses 37-38). It was to be followed by “another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth” (verse 39). These were to be world-ruling kingdoms, with leaders, or kings, ruling over people right here on Earth. In history, the Chaldean Empire was succeeded by the Persian Empire, which was followed by an even more powerful Greco-Macedonian Empire.
The fourth kingdom, represented by the two legs of iron, would be the greatest worldly kingdom of all: the Roman Empire (verse 40). It began around 30 b.c. and extended through a.d. 476, when it was crushed. But since that time, there have been six resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire, with the seventh and final resurrection now forming in Europe. Many other prophecies pinpoint the specifics concerning the seven resurrections. History has confirmed what God prophesied.
But what is important with regard to the question of the gospel is that all of these kingdoms were world-ruling kingdoms with governments presiding over subjects, or people.
Now notice verse 44: “And in the days of these kings [referring to the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire to be comprised of 10 nations or kings] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Finally, after 6,000 years of a world that has escalated in violence and misery, God will set up His Kingdom, crowning Jesus Christ as King of that Kingdom (Luke 1:31-33). In the dream, God’s Kingdom is represented by the stone that struck the image in its feet.
The kingdoms discussed in Daniel 2:37-40 all ruled over people here on Earth. And so will God’s Kingdom! Yes, the Kingdom of God will be a literal government, just as the Roman Empire ruled over people. That Kingdom will be set up when Jesus Christ returns at the sound of the last trump (Revelation 11:15).
The fact that Christ has not yet returned to Earth to set up that Kingdom should clarify exactly what the Kingdom of God is not. It is not in your heart. And it is not the Church. God’s Kingdom is going to “break in pieces”—literally smash—the kingdoms of this world. Plainly, that has not happened yet.
But there is more. God’s Kingdom will be a world-ruling government. Who will be in that Kingdom? And why? Again, just what is the Kingdom of God?
Have You Seen the Kingdom?
In John 3, Jesus answered some critical questions about who would actually be in the Kingdom of God and how they would get there. Nicodemus, a Pharisee who knew Jesus was a teacher from God, questioned Christ. Notice verse 5: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” We clearly see that the Kingdom of God is something one can enter into. How? By being born of water and of the Spirit.
Again, Jesus answered in verse 3, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God is also something one might see.
It is the Kingdom of God. God is that Kingdom! Yet God is spirit (John 4:24). In order to see it, we must be born again, which means it must be a spiritual birth, so that we might see God. John 3:6 verifies this: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Consider this point: If the Kingdom of God—His world-ruling government—has not yet been set up on Earth, and in order to see it, you must be born again, then what does that tell you concerning the popular belief among traditional Christianity concerning born again? There are many sincere people who think they are now born again—and are not. One cannot see the Kingdom of God until a spiritual birth has occurred.
Paul wrote, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God …” (1 Corinthians 15:50). If you are flesh and blood, then you haven’t seen the Kingdom of God yet. It’s impossible! We won’t see it until our spiritual birth occurs. And that happens when we are resurrected to spirit. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed [to spirit]” (verse 52).
Jesus Was Born Again
Few people realize it, but Jesus Christ was born again! But it wasn’t the kind of birth traditional Christians believe they have experienced.
Before the universe was created, there were two Beings—God and the Word (John 1:1). In John 1:14, we see that the Word was “made flesh.” At that time, He became the “only begotten [Son] of the Father.” He came in the flesh to overcome and conquer Satan, thereby qualifying to replace him on the throne of this Earth. Jesus qualified to be King of God’s Kingdom. While in the flesh, Jesus also taught and trained disciples in preparation for the beginning of the Church of God. Then Christ was apprehended and eventually crucified so that He might die for us—because all have sinned (Romans 3:23). His life was worth more than all who have ever lived, because God created the universe through Him (Ephesians 3:9).
That is where most people stop—with Christ’s death. But remember: God is a Kingdom. That Kingdom didn’t end with the death of Christ. It was about to begin! “And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). In order to see God’s Kingdom, one must be born again. Christ had already been born once of the virgin Mary. But He died. He was in the grave three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40). Christ gave up His immortality for you and me.
But God raised Him from the dead (Acts 13:30). And what did Christ become when God raised Him up? Romans 1:3 says that “Jesus Christ our Lord … was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” There is that first birth. He was made flesh, born of a human mother, Mary, of the seed, or lineage, of David. But notice verse 4: “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” After being born once and then dying, Jesus became the Son of God when He was resurrected to immortal spirit life—when He was born again!
It is true that even while in the flesh, God referred to Christ as His beloved Son (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11). But at that point, Christ was only God’s begotten Son (John 1:14). He was actually made a Son (Hebrews 7:3), or became the Son, when He was born again by a resurrection from the dead.
Firstborn of Many Brethren
Yet Christ was only the firstborn. He went through the first spiritual birth ever—before Abraham, David, or any of the saints in the Bible. He was the first. But He won’t be the last. Romans 8:29 says that Christ will be “the firstborn among many brethren.” These brethren, as Paul points out in verses 12-14, are those Spirit-begotten individuals within the true Church of God. Remember, Christ trained disciples so they might eventually teach the Church. Why? To prepare the brethren for their second birth.
Who are the members of God’s Church? “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). If you are Christ’s, an heir according to the promise, then you are a member. Romans 8:9 explains further: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” We will be Christ’s if we have the Spirit of God.
Paul goes on to say what the Spirit actually makes us: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (verse 14). And again in verse 16, we are referred to as “children of God” if we have the Spirit.
Like Christ, we, even though flesh and blood, are considered children of God if the Spirit of God is dwelling in us. But we haven’t yet been born. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We will be like the glorified Christ because we will have experienced the same born again process He did.
It’s the same process! Notice Romans 8:11: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
So the Kingdom of God is to be a world-ruling government. Now we are beginning to see who will fill the different offices within that government. God is calling a few out of this world (John 6:44) to teach and train for positions in that government so they might actually rule with Christ in the World Tomorrow (Revelation 2:26-27; 3:21).
The Church Is to Marry Christ
By one Spirit, the Spirit of God, those who have been called out of this world are baptized into one Body (1 Corinthians 12:13). The Body is one, yet made up of many members (verse 12). That one Body is the Church—composed of those who have been begotten as children of God. The Church, as Paul clearly points out in Ephesians 5, is preparing now to marry Jesus Christ at His return. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).
But let’s understand what this all has to do with God’s Kingdom. As we have seen, that Kingdom will be a world-ruling government. In that government, God reigns supreme over all. Christ confirmed that when He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing …” (John 5:30). Christ came to do the will of His Father. By so doing, He qualified to replace Satan on the throne of this Earth.
God has given “all power” to Christ, His firstborn Son, to rule and administer the government of God on Earth—in God’s Kingdom. But Christ is just the firstborn. Many others have been called and, with Christ, are begotten sons and heirs according to the promise. God is their Father. Soon, those saints will marry their Husband, Jesus Christ. It will all occur when they are born again as spirit beings. And it is at that time, as we have already proven, that they will in fact see the Kingdom of God.
Father, Son, Husband, Bride, marriage, birth, children; these terms all denote family. And that has everything to do with the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? It is the world-ruling government of God. But who will be administering that government? God’s Family!
In short, the Kingdom of God is the Family of God.
That may come as a shocking revelation to some of our readers. But it is true, and provable, nonetheless. When we write about the soon-coming Kingdom of God, we are actually speaking of the Family of God.
“For this cause [because of Paul’s trials and tribulations] I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14-15). There is a Family, or Kingdom, in heaven. Right now, Christ is the only one who has seen the Kingdom, because He alone has been born again by a resurrection. He has seen God and therefore seen the Kingdom. That Kingdom is God. God is a Family. The Kingdom of God is the Family of God administering the government of God. When that Kingdom is set up, everyone on Earth will know it!
What Does It Mean for You?
Now it becomes clear how this affects each of us individually.
“The very foundation of any stable civilization,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in the August 1985 Good News, “is a solid family structure.” As you look at the deteriorating family values in the once-mighty Western nations, it becomes clear why our nations are falling. The family is divided. Nations are divided politically, socially and racially; politicians, celebrities, activists and a host of others blame certain individuals, races or political parties. Few, however, seem serious about the real cause of the shocking downfall: family breakdown.
A happy family based on solid values, with the father as the head and provider for the family and a submissive wife teaching obedient children, is a thing of the past—the whole idea is ridiculed in this “modern” society.
“Nothing in this material world,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “is as important as a happy homelife with father, mother and well-taught happy children—a close-knit family” (ibid.). Living the right way produces happiness—not seeking after those things that seem pleasurable.
A house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). That is the case for any physical family, but it also applies nationally. The end-time nations of Israel are deeply divided and cannot stand much longer. That fact alone proves we are fast approaching the end of this age, when Christ will return to restore right and proper family values.
For those who have been called out of this deteriorating society into the Church of God, or the Family of God in embryo, the task is clear. Preparing for the Kingdom of God begins in the home. When God’s ministers talk about qualifying to be in the Kingdom of God, it doesn’t mean just trying to get there—like trying to get to heaven as so many falsely believe. It’s about preparing and qualifying for the Family of God.
Mr. Armstrong warned Church members of this fact in no uncertain terms: “The Kingdom is the divine Family of God. If we cannot live as a family should live, according to God’s spiritual law, now, while in God’s Church, we simply won’t make it into God’s Kingdom (which is His divine Family!)” (ibid., January 1981). For families that have suffered because of neglect of the proper roles, now is the time to get it straight with God. For those who have made mistakes in family life, now is the time to turn to God in repentance. Judgment is now upon the house of God (1 Peter 4:17-18). Why? Because the house of God, His Church, will eventually become the Kingdom of God—the actual, Spirit-born Family of God!