Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Kingdom of Heaven

This study will look at some scriptures through the entire bible to see some of the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven (also called the Kingdom of God, the everlasting kingdom, and other names too). I intend to keep this fairly light with just enough of the background context given to help understand one or two main aspects of the kingdom from each verse/passage. If you do an electronic search for "kingdom" in bible software (such as e-sword which is free from you will see hundreds of results with most of them telling us something about the kingdom. All quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV). Here we go:

Exodus 19:6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel."
Moses on mount Sinai is speaking with God. God tells Israel that they shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Never in the history of Israel have they all been priests. I would argue that this is a much farther reaching statement from God than something that was said to mere "Israel of the flesh". Instead, it is fulfilled in all who are justified by faith in Christ, making every believer a part of the kingdom right now. This is shown in Revelation 1:6. How does the fact, that the Bible says we are in the kingdom now, fit in with other scripture which indicates the kingdom is still to come (2Timothy 4:18)? There is no contradiction if we have a right understanding of the nature of the kingdom, i.e. that it is both here and now, but also still to come in its fullness.

1 Chronicles 29:10-13 Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: "Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. (11) Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. (12) Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. (13) And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
This tells us very clearly that the kingdom belongs to God.

Daniel 4:3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.
The kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.

Matthew 3:1-2 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, (2) "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
In some sense the kingdom, while being already in existence, is something that can "arrive", i.e. there is a sense or context in which it did not exist. During the first century when Jesus was on the scene, Israel had an idea that their Messiah would restore the earthly kingdom of Israel to the Jews when he came. This was partially true. Christ showed that the kingdom of heaven is actually present among believers (see below) and can come to individuals when they become Christians.

Matthew 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The oppressed can know blessing in the kingdom.

Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus includes prayer for the kingdom to come to earth as part of an outline for how to pray. This could include prayer for the spread of the church's influence in the world, prayer for the salvation of our loved ones, as well as prayer for Christ to return quickly.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
The kingdom of God is to be higher in our priorities and desires than earthly needs.

Luke 17:20-21 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, (21) nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."
This verse shows that the Pharisees had a wrong understanding of the nature of the kingdom. They were expecting something physical from their messiah but Jesus offered something better that was spiritual. The heavenly kingdom will come in its fullness at the end.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
We have to be cleansed from our sins (born/washed of water) and then remade into something that will no longer sin (born again by the Spirit) before we can enter the kingdom. Though we have been born again, our transformation will not be complete until the return of Christ.

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
All of this should compel us to worship God in gratitude.

This has been a necessarily brief look at the kingdom of heaven. It is a central theme of scripture that we cannot avoid to learn more about. I'm quite excited about this as an avenue of study. Future posts will likely take a look in more detail at elements of the kingdom as revealed in the parables told by Jesus in the gospels. What Jesus had to say sheds a lot of light on the meaning of many old testament verses. I hope to discover in detail his perspective as God incarnate and the one who is directly responsible for our means of entering the kingdom.

May he help us to walk in his ways.


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