THE KINGDOM OF GOD:
A Comparative Study
A COMPARATIVE STUDY ON THE KINGDOM OF GOD AS PRESENTED BY MAJOR CHRISTIAN GROUPS
In as much as the Kingdom of God is a core teaching of The Lord Jesus Christ, the entirety of ‘Christianity’ offers a truckload of varying explanations yet none complete and satisfying to a faithful’s logical comprehension. Let us take a look at how major ‘Christian’ churches understand this teaching.
The Christological Dimension
Here we see that “the Kingdom is not a thing, it is not a geographical dominion like worldly kingdoms. It is a person; it is he. On this interpretation, the term ‘Kingdom of God’ is itself a veiled Christology. By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence.” (Pope Benedict, Jesus of Nazareth, Part 1)
The Idealistic/Mystical Dimension
Here we see that The Kingdom of God resides in the heart of man. Church Father, Origen  wrote, “those who pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God pray without any doubt for the Kingdom of God that they contain in themselves, and they pray that this kingdom might bear fruit and attain its fullness.”
The Ecclesiastical Dimension
Here we see that the kingdom of God is in the here and now, present in and through the Church. Yet it is a mixed reality that will only be perfectly realized at the end of history. This current “mixed” state can be seen as the Church on earth which now grows in the field of the world with both weeds and wheat until the harvest when Christ says he will “tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned. But gather the wheat into my barn” (Matt 13:30).
Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament the term "kingdom" (malkut[tWk.l;m] and[Alexandreuv"]basileia [basileiva])is understood as dynamic in nature and refers primarily to the rule or reign of a king. Itis seldom used in a static sense to refer to a territory. As a result, in the vastmajority of instances it would be better to translate the expression "kingdom ofGod" as the "rule of God." That Jesus understood it this way is evidentfrom such passages as Luke 19:12 ("A man of noble birth went to a distant country tohave himself appointed king, " literally "to receive a kingdom [basileia]";cf. also v. 15); Matthew 6:33 ("seek first his kingdom"); and Mark 10:15("receive the kingdom of God like a little child").
Understood as the "reign of God" it is possible for Jesus to announce that infulfillment of the Old Testament promises the reign of God has arrived. In Jesus' comingSatan has been defeated ( Luke 10:18 ; 11:20-22 ), theoutcasts of Israel are being gathered as predicted ( Mark 2:15-16 ; Luke 14:15-24 ),the Old Testament promises are fulfilled ( Luke 10:23-24 ),the resurrection of the dead has begun ( 1 Cor 15:20 ), anew covenant has been inaugurated ( 1 Cor 11:25 ), thepromised Spirit has come as the prophets foretold ( Mark 1:8 ). Indeed thekingdom is "already now" realized in history.
However, the consummation of the "already now" still lies in the future. Thecoming of the Son of Man, the final resurrection, faith turning to sight, are "notyet." The kingdom of God is both now and not yet. Thus the kingdom of God is"realized" and present in one sense, and yet "consistent" and futurein another. This is not a contradiction, but simply the nature of the kingdom. The kingdomhas come in fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. A new covenant has beenestablished. But its final manifestation and consummation lie in the future. Until then weare to be good and faithful servants ( Luke 19:11-27 ).
God’s Kingdom is a government established by Jehovah God with a King chosen by God. Who is the King of God’s Kingdom? Jesus Christ. Jesus as King is greater than all human rulers and is called “the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords.” (1 Timothy 6:15) He has the power to do far more good than any human ruler, even the best among them.
5. From where does God’s Kingdom rule, and over what?
5 From where will God’s Kingdom rule? Well, where is Jesus? You will remember learning that he was put to death on a torture stake, and then he was resurrected. Shortly thereafter, he ascended to heaven. (Acts 2:33) Hence, that is where God’s Kingdom is—in heaven. That is why the Bible calls it a “heavenly Kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:18) Although God’s Kingdom is in heaven, it will rule over the earth.—Read Revelation 11:15… Here is another truth about God’s Kingdom: Jesus will not rule alone. He will have corulers. For example, the apostle Paul told Timothy: “If we go on enduring, we will also rule together as kings.” (2 Timothy 2:12) Yes, Paul, Timothy, and other faithful ones who have been selected by God will rule together with Jesus in the heavenly Kingdom. How many will have that privilege?
9. How many will rule with Jesus, and when did God start to choose them?
9 As pointed out in Chapter 7 of this book, the apostle John was given a vision in which he saw “the Lamb [Jesus Christ] standing on Mount Zion [his royal position in heaven], and with him 144,000 who have his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.” Who are those 144,000? John himself tells us: “These are the ones who keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:1, 4) Yes, they are faithful followers of Jesus Christ specially chosen to rule in heaven with him. After being raised out of death to heavenly life, “they are to rule as kings over the earth” along with Jesus. (Revelation 5:10) Since the days of the apostles, God has been selecting faithful Christians in order to complete the number 144,000.
Church of God (Seventh Day)
The kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven) is realized in three phases:
The Present Kingdom
The spiritual kingdom of grace exists now as God rules in the lives of obedient believers. This kingdom was announced and revealed through the prophets and the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. We enter this kingdom when we turn from sin to serve God through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Millennial Kingdom of Christ
Jesus will return to earth in power and glory to resurrect the righteous dead, bestow immortality and eternal life upon the resurrected and the living righteous, avenge the saints, and be glorified in them. His earthly reign of one thousand years will be a universal kingdom in which all principalities, powers, and enemies are overcome. At its conclusion, the unrighteous will be resurrected to suffer annihilation at the great white throne judgment.
The Eternal Kingdom of God
God’s eternal kingdom will begin when Jesus Christ, having put all enemies under His feet, turns the kingdom over to the Father. God will dwell with the redeemed in a new heaven and a new earth where no disappointment, defilement, or death can enter and where righteousness and peace will prevail forever.
Latter Day Saints
The kingdom of God on earth is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (D&C 65). The purpose of the Church is to prepare its members to live forever in the celestial kingdom or kingdom of heaven. However, the scriptures sometimes call the Church the kingdom of heaven, meaning that the Church is the kingdom of heaven on earth.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, but it is at present limited to an ecclesiastical kingdom. During the Millennium, the kingdom of God will be both political and ecclesiastical.
THE DISCIPLES’ UNDERSTANDING OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Although each one of the above cited Christian groups seems to have a hint of the truth about The Kingdom of God, the different understanding of all these major Christian groups concerning this topic are incomplete and confounding. Let it be clear that the true disciples of Christ have a clarity in understanding about this topic as they are connected with the Truth, The Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His Word.
What did Christ say concerning the God’s Kingdom? At one point, Christ was asked by the Pharisees about this issue and here’s how He explained it to them:
Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20-21)
“Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.””
The Lord stated that “the Kingdom of God is WITHIN YOU”, meaning that even in their time as well as our present time the Kingdom of God could well be well had or received. This the reason why when Christ showed His example how to pray to God (Matthew 6:9-10) He uttered, “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name Your kingdom come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. What does Christ mean by this statement? That when God’s kingdom comes and is received by men, God’s WILL be done both on earth and in heaven? Let us then focus our study on these three related topics – 1) God’s Kingdom, 2) God’s Will, and 3) the heavenly abode, as these three topics are very well intertwined.
KINGDOM OF GOD
The Kingdom of God is the REIGN OR DOMINION of Christ as the banner or ensign of God with God's government and authority.
Christ is the banner of God (Isaiah 11:10-12)
“10 “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.”
11 It shall come to pass in that day
That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time
To recover the remnant of His people who are left,
From Assyria and Egypt,
From Pathros and Cush,
From Elam and Shinar,
From Hamath and the islands of the sea.
12 He will set up a banner for the nations,
And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
And gather together the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.”
The Government of God (Isaiah 9:6)
“6 “For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”
John the Baptist confirms the increase of His Government (John 3:30-31)
“30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.”
The Authority vested on Christ (Matthew 28:18)
“18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
The reign and dominion of Christ with the government and authority of/from God, being God’s banner or ensign for the world, is the Kingdom of God. What is His title or position of authority in His reign or in God’s Kingdom?
King of Kings who will rule them in heaven (Revelation 19:15-16)
“15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. 16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Why is Christ called King of Kings and Lord of Lords in the prophecy of Apostle John? Because He reigns with other Kings and Lords, His disciples (John 8:31) and chosen ones who believe and follow Him and whom He considers His friends:
Chosen to a Royal Priesthood (1 Pet 2:9)
“9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…”
Kings and Priests who shall reign on earth (Revelation 5:9-10)
“…And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.””
Prophesied as Priests and Ministers (Isaiah 61:5-7 NIV)
“5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the Lord,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
7 Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.”
Friends of The Lord (John 15:13-16, 19)
“13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you… 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
The prophesied workers of Christ in His fields and vineyards, are His priests and ministers who will do His global work of salvation. They are the ones whom He taught of everything that He heard and learned from God, and for that reason, He already considers them to be His friends - and for them He offered His life for their salvation. The same priests and ministers are also made subordinate Kings (thus, royal priesthood) of Christ, Himself being The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The chosen ones with the Royal Priesthood or Kingship shall REIGN WITH HIM, ON EARTH (Revelation 5:10) AND IN HEAVEN (Revelation 22:5). How shall they reign with Christ on earth as “kings and priests to God?
The signs of The Lord’s disciples (Mark 16:17-18)
“17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.””
The disciples reign with the power and authority of Christ in such that demons will be afraid of them and that they can do the powerful works of Christ to teach His truth and take on the false teachings of the devil, and the power to heal. Also, as friends and subordinate kings of Christ (The King of Kings) they are guaranteed to receive anything that they ask from Him and God, for as long as they are asked in His name – in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Guaranteed to receive anything that they pray for (John 15:7)
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
The real disciples of Christ are much loved by Christ that they are given an unlimited source of blessings and power from Himself and God. The only requirement is for them to abide in Him that His Words will also abide in them.
THE WILL OF GOD
Does this understanding tie up with the The Lord’s prayer about God’s WILL that shall be done on earth and in heaven? What is the WILL OF GOD that shall be fulfilled concerning His kingdom? To deepen our analysis, let us understand how the WILL OF GOD is directly related with HIS KINGDOM:
The Will of God (John 6:39-40)
“39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.””
The Almighty God gives people to Christ. The same people who are promised everlasting life will also receive the Kingdom of God or the Reign and Dominion of Christ. It is God’s WILL for them, both on earth and in heaven, that no one among them shall be lost. This is Christ's logic when He explained that the Kingdom of God is within you - because those who believe Him will receive His Reign and Dominion even in this world while awaiting relocation to the promised land of inheritance, after all they are NOT ANYMORE OF THIS WORLD.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses Group is partially correct in teaching that “God’s Kingdom is a government established by Jehovah God with a King chosen by God” who is The Lord Jesus Christ. What they failed to understand is that those whom Christ reigns with are not only the 144,000 but all who are chosen by The Lord to be His friends and disciples. The 144,000 only represent the saved Jews, which is Christ’s first mission order as prophesied in Isaiah 49:6 (preserved ones of Israel), confirmed by Christ in Matthew 10:6 and 15:24, and witnessed by Apostle John in Revelation 7:2-8. His other mission is to be the light of the Gentiles, also in Isaiah 49:6, also witnessed by John in Revelation 7:9-17, who will also inherit the promised place of inheritance, eternal life and will also reign as kings forever and ever (Revelation 21:24, 26 / 22:5).
KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE HEAVENLY ABODE
While the Catholics believe that the Kingdom of God is Christ Himself, other groups like the Latter Day Saints and Iglesia ni Cristo (MCMXIV) believe that the Kingdom of God on earth is THEIR PARTICULAR CHURCH and on judgment day their members will be transferred into the Kingdom of Heaven. Truth is, the Kingdom of God is not any church on earth, nor the heavenly abode by itself. The heavenly abode is the inheritance promised by The Lord in John 14:2-3, 23, the prophesied sanctuary rock (Isaiah 8:14), or the ‘ekklesia’ or assembly built by Christ on Himself as the rock (Matthew 16:18), defined by Apostle Peter as the spiritual house built on the chief corner stone (who is still Christ), and rendered by Apostle John as the Holy City and New Jerusalem. While the heavenly abode or Holy City is simply the territory or real estate of the promised inheritance, it becomes the Tabernacle and part of the Kingdom of God by virtue of the united rule, reign or dominion of God, His Son Jesus Christ and all His people (Revelation 21:22 / John 17:21-23 / Revelation 22:5).
While all other religious groups have been studying this topic for centuries, they still fail to reach at a complete and satisfying understanding. Only the true disciples of The Lord are given the totality of understanding of the Kingdom of God being the Reign of Christ with His disciples and friends for this simple reason:
The Anointed (1 John 2:20)
“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.”