Has the Kingdom Come?
One of the most prevalent false doctrines in a general religious sense relating to the theme of eschatology, or “The End Times,” is the doctrine of premillennialism. Many religious people believe that when Christ returns, it will not terminate our earthly state, but will begin another dispensation of time in which Christ will begin to reign in an earthly, physical kingdom for a thousand years. This popular false doctrine leaves the concerned Bible student asking the question “Has the kingdom come?” In other words, are we in a church-age looking for the coming kingdom-age? Of course, the Bible speaks of the reality of the kingdom of God. Luke records, “But when [the Samaritans] believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12). The apostle Paul also preached the kingdom of God (Acts 20:25). In fact, the closing words of Luke in Acts declare,
“And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house [in Rome], and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:30-31).
Thus, let us answer the question “Has the kingdom come?”
Yes, the kingdom has already come, because the Old Testament prophecies point to its fulfillment in Acts 2. For the sake of space, let us notice just one among many Old Testament prophecies relating to the kingdom. In Daniel 2, Daniel reveals and interprets a dream that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon dreamed. His dream serves as a prophecy for “a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed” (2:44), which sounds much like what Jesus said concerning the church, “…and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about an image made with four metals that represented four world empires that ruled from the days of Daniel in Babylon to the days of Jesus Christ. As he described the image from head to toe, we see the digressive qualities of the metals to represent the digression of authority and strength that would follow. The head of gold represented the Babylonian Empire—Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar, “Thou art this head of gold” (2:38). Historians have recorded the greatness and grandeur of this kingdom. Historians think that Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for his wife because she was homesick for the beautiful green and flowery hills of her childhood. The silver arms and breast represented the Mede and Persian Empire—in his interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel said, “And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee” (2:39). Daniel told the last ruler of the Babylonian Empire, King Belshazzar, “Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians” (5:28). The brass belly and thighs represented the Macedonian and Greek Empire, about which Daniel would prophesy later in Daniel 8:21 concerning “the king of Greece.” The iron legs and feet of clay and iron represented the Roman Empire. While Rome ruled with an iron fist, its division between the Caesar and the Senate led to the weakest form of authority and government. Then, Nebuchadnezzar sees a stone “cut out without hands (denoting its divine origin), which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and break them to pieces” (2:34). Then, after destroying this image, the stone “became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (2:35). This stone represents Jesus Christ Himself. On one occasion, Jesus quoted the psalmist and declared, “Did ye never read in the scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’” (Matt. 21:42). The apostle Peter declared to the Jews concerning Jesus in Acts 4:11, “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” In addition, he wrote in his first epistle, “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner” (1 Pet. 2:7). In his interpretation of this dream while describing the fourth kingdom, Daniel proclaims, “And in the days of these 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 forever” (2:44). Therefore, we must take one of the following conclusions: God failed in delivering His prophecy, Daniel lied and was not a true prophet of God or God established His kingdom during the Roman Empire as we find recorded in Acts 2. I submit to you that the Bible clearly teaches the latter.
Yes, the kingdom has already come, because the gospel predictions point to its fulfillment in Acts 2. As we come to the gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we find that the events they recorded occurred during the Roman Empire (Luke 2:1; 3:1). John the Immerser comes onto the scene first by “preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 3:1-2). Do not be alarmed at the usage of the phrase “kingdom of heaven” versus the phrase “kingdom of God” in other passages. Matthew uses this phrase in an attempt to teach his Jewish audience about the spiritual nature of this kingdom, as opposed to a physical nature about which they only knew. Even the apostles misunderstood the nature of the kingdom before Jesus ascended into heaven: “When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1:6). Jesus soon followed thereafter “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15; Matt. 4:17-23). He instructed His apostles, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and as ye go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matt. 10:5-7). He even taught them to pray, “After this manner therefore pray ye… Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:9-10). Nevertheless, He made a very important promise: “Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1). After His death, He promised His apostles, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), which He says would occur in just a few days (Acts 1:8). This is exactly what took place in Acts 2:1-4.
Yes, the kingdom has already come, because the New Testament epistles point to its existence after Acts 2. While the Old Testament and the gospel accounts point to the future coming of the kingdom, the New Testament epistles all state that the kingdom is currently in existence, referring to it in its present state (cf. Col. 1:9-13). The Hebrew writer wrote, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:28). John declared, “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:9). Therefore, Christ is now reigning in His kingdom until the time shall come when He will deliver it to His Father (1 Cor. 15:23-25).
Yes, the kingdom has already come, because the Bible uses the terms “kingdom” and “church” interchangeably. The church is the house of God (Isa. 2:2-4; cf. 1 Tim. 3:15). The church is the tabernacle of God (Amos 9:11; cf. Acts 15:13-18). The church is the flock of God (Ezek. 34, 37; cf. Acts 20:28). The church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12). In like manner, the church is the kingdom of God (Matt. 16:18-19).
Yes, the kingdom has already come, because all the necessary components of a kingdom exist now. The first component of a kingdom is a territory. The territory of this promised kingdom is universal—it comprises the whole world, every nation within it. “and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isa. 2:2). “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” (Matt. 28:19). “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15; cf. Rom. 16:25-26). The second component to a kingdom is subjects. The subjects for this promised kingdom are whoever will receive the grace that God has offered through redemption and will comply with the terms of citizenship. The apostle Peter proclaimed to Cornelius, “But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35). Paul penned, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). John hears and records, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come, and let him that heareth say, Come, and let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). The third component of a kingdom is a king. The King for this promised kingdom is Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is now reigning on His throne (cf. Isa. 9:6-7). Jeremiah declared,
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Jer. 23:5-6)
Perhaps the greatest passage on this matter is Zechariah 6:12-13—if Christ is serving as High Priest (which the book of Hebrews states that He is), then He is also serving simultaneously as our King! The wise men came with the question, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2). The angel announced to Mary,
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33; cf. Acts 2:22-36)
Paul penned, “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). The fourth component to a kingdom is a law. The law for this promised kingdom is the perfect and all-sufficient word of God. Jesus announced, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Paul wrote, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). James declared, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:25), and later stated, “So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:12). Thus, all four components exist presently, because the kingdom of God is in existence now—it has already come!
In conclusion, Timothy Dwight was the President of the prestigious Yale University in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and yet, he knew more about the kingdom of God than many do today when he wrote the beloved lyrics, “I love thy kingdom, Lord, the house of thine abode; the church our blest Redeemer saved with his own precious blood.” It is this kingdom that exists now and has already come, to which Jesus provides entrance (John 3:3-5).