We proceed in our studies with the expression "The kingdom of God" as found in the New Testament. In its broadest connotation, the term: "the kingdom of God" indicates God's kingship, rule, or sovereignty, recognized in the hearts and operative in the lives of His people, and effecting their complete salvation. Therefore, our Lord Jesus spoke of salvation as the kingdom or reign of God, in order to indicate the supernatural character, origin, and purpose of our salvation. Remember the salvation that God gives to His people, to His children, His elect ones, begins in heaven and shall redound to the glory of the Father in heaven.
When we look at Ephesians in this light, we will understand a little of God's purpose: "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him" (1:9, 10). This was God's purpose from eternity, that Christ would have a kingdom, a people made up of both Jews and Gentiles (2:14-17; 3:6); and that Christ would sit at God's own right hand in the heavenlies: "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under Christ's feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all" (1:20- 23).
Also in God's faithfulness that will never be removed (Psa 89:33), He has promised to those who are in Christ's kingdom, the true Israel of God, a life that will never end (John 3:16), a spring of water that will never cease to bubble up within the one who drinks it (John 4:14), a gift that will never be lost (John 6:37, 39), a hand from which the Good Shepherd's sheep will never be snatched (John 10:28), a chain that will never be broken (Rom 8:29, 30), a love from which they will never be separated (Rom 8:39), a calling that will never be revoked (Rom 11:29), a foundation that will never be destroyed (2Ti 2:19), and an inheritance that will never fade away, reserved for them in heaven (1Pe 1:4, 5).
All of this is included in the kingdom of God; it is performed by the Holy Spirit in the members of the kingdom who have come under the reign of Christ by His marvelous grace.
Now there are those who would limit the kingdom to a period of 1000 years, place it in the future altogether, and give it a prescribed location on the earth with the Jews being the principle actors and Christ with His disciples sitting on an earthly throne ruling with a rod of iron. They claim that there will be many classes of people in this kingdom: saved people with their new spiritual bodies, saved people with their physical bodies in which sin still dwells, and unsaved rebels who will yet turn on Christ at the end of a socalled golden age.
This is false; it is utter folly, for this is foreign to the teachings of those Scriptures which plainly teach that God's kingdom is eternal. Psalm 145:13, "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations." Not only is it eternal, but it is not involved with geography at all. Our Lord said to the Pharisees: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation...behold the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20, 21). It is a thing in us and not outside of us (in pomp and splendor): "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14:17).
Also the kingdom must be now in God's child, purchased by Christ, for Colossians 1:12, 13 tells us when God saves us we are made "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: and have been delivered from the power of darkness [the spiritual wicked kingdom of Satan] and translated into the kingdom of his dear Son." Yes, this kingdom is now, established in the hearts of God's children, and Christ has been crowned King and Lord of their lives.
Let us go further. There are those who build much of their argument for an earthly kingdom of 1000 years sometime in the future upon the assumption that the "kingdom of God" as spoken of in Mark, Luke and John, and the "kingdom of heaven" as spoken of in Matthew are two separate kingdoms; the kingdom of God being a heavenly kingdom and the kingdom of heaven being an earthly kingdom. One has God the Father as Ruler; the other has God the Son as Ruler.
But this argument is wrongly dividing of the Word of Truth, because if you will compare them as we are going to do now, you will find that the Scriptures show conclusively that these two terms are used interchangeably. Compare Matthew 11:12 where the expression "the kingdom of heaven" is used, and Luke 16:16 where the expression "the kingdom of God" is used; and you will find they are the same. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." That's Matthew, now Luke: "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." Listen now to a comparison between Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:14, 15. "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." And Mark: "Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, 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." Again, listen to a comparison between Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Now Luke: "Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God." One more will suffice and yet there are many more. Compare Matthew 13:31 with Mark 4:30, 31. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed." Now Mark: "How shall we liken the kingdom of God...it is like a grain of mustard seed."
What do we find then in a comparison of these Scriptures? We find that the inspired writers spoke of the same event; yet one used the term "kingdom of heaven" while the other used the term "kingdom of God." But they both are synonyms, meaning the one kingdom which is spiritual and not earthly (in the sense that Christ would have an earthly kingdom apart from the heavenly kingdom of God).
In Matthew 19:23-24 we find the expressions "kingdom of heaven" and "kingdom of God" used in the same illustration by our Lord. "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Here again is proof that the expressions are the same.
If as the dispensationalists tell us, that the expression "the kingdom of heaven" means an earthly kingdom over which Christ will rule for 1000 years and the nations of the earth enter into this kingdom after the so-called tribulation period by virtue of their friendliness to the Jew (and they give Matthew 25:31-40 as proof of this), then we need some explanation of the following verses wherein the expression "the kingdom of heaven" is used in the book of Matthew. "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Mat 5:20). This verse then excludes from this kingdom all those who do not have a righteousness that is better than the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and the Scriptures speak of only one righteousness that does this and that is the righteousness of Christ which is imputed to every child of God in the new birth. So this leaves out all unsaved souls.
Matthew 7:21, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Here again all are excluded from this kingdom who have not bowed their will to the will of the Father and are doing the will of God. This leaves out all unsaved souls, for only those who are in Christ and indwelt by His Spirit can do the will of the Father.
Matthew 16:19, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Was the apostle Peter given the keys, the authority, to open an earthly kingdom, or was he given authority to use the keys to preach the gospel which opened the kingdom to the Jews in Acts 2 and the Gentiles in Acts 10?
Matthew 18:3, "Verily, I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Here again only those who have a child-like spirit can enter into the kingdom. This leaves out all unsaved souls, for only those in whose heart the Holy Spirit has worked can ever have a child-like spirit or disposition. See also Matthew 19:14.
All of these Scriptures correspond to our Lord's words in John 3:3-6, that the only way any one can enter God's kingdom is by the new birth, by becoming a new creation, and by this work being done by the Spirit of the living God. This rules out then the remotest possibility of the kingdom of heaven being different from the kingdom of God. They are one and the same: a spiritual kingdom.
It was not, and had never been in God's eternal purpose, to give Christ an earthly kingdom. To this fact our Lord gives full agreement in John 18:36 when standing before Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."
Let us go further. There are those who say that Christ preached the gospel of the kingdom, which was an earthly kingdom over which He would be Ruler and the Jews rejected it, so He turned to the cross as His second choice; but will come someday and will yet set up this kingdom. These same people go on and say that Paul preached a different gospel which was the gospel of the grace of God. But, this is just not so! There is only one gospel, the good news of the grace of God in His mercy to poor sinners in the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of His cross-work for which purpose He came into the world, and for this purpose only did He come. Therefore, the gospel of our blessed Lord, and the gospel of Paul, His servant, was the same.
Paul preached of this kingdom of God, which is the rule and reign of Christ in the heart and operative in the life. Acts 19:8, "And Paul went into the synagogue and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God," which is the rule and the reign of Christ the King in the hearts and lives of His people who make up His kingdom.
Listen again to Acts 20:25 as Paul sums up to the Ephesian elders his preaching among them: "And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more." And what did he state in verses 20,21 & 24 to be the content of his preaching concerning the kingdom of God?--"I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ...to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
Listen again to the blessed apostle as he preaches to the day of his death, and what is he preaching? Acts 28:30, 31: "And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, 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" (see also Acts 28:23).
"The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14:17). "The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power" (1Co 4:20). When the King comes in power with His word, men are saved and made subjects of this kingdom which is a spiritual kingdom.
There are many more Scriptures I could give you to show that the kingdom of God was preached long after Christ went back to heaven, but these will suffice.
As there is but one kingdom of God, even so God recognized but one gospel, that is the gospel preached by our Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry. This is the same gospel preached by John the Baptist, and all the apostles and inspired writers of the New Testament. Paul preached this same gospel and even pronounced a curse upon any who would dare preach "another gospel." Nor was this gospel foreign to the Old Testament saints, for in Galatians 3:8 we see that this same gospel had been presented to Abraham, who was saved by believing it, and who thereby became the father of all the righteous.