Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom

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The following article is an excerpt from Renald Showers’ book The Foundations of Faith. Dr. Showers examines Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God, which has given rise to varying interpretations of the nature and timing of the Kingdom. Understanding these passages will help you comprehend God’s authority and plan for our world today and forever. We hope this excerpt edifies and encourages you in your faith and your knowledge of Jesus’ teaching!

The Kingdom of God has at least two aspects: the universal and theocratic. Given these distinctions, to which of these aspects of the Kingdom was Jesus Christ referring when He said, “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15) and when He taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10)?

Christ’s Reference to the Kingdom

Jesus’ statement, “the kingdom of God is at hand,” indicated that there was some sense in which the Kingdom was not yet present. The fact that He taught His disciples to pray for God’s Kingdom to come indicated the same thing. That prayer was a petition, asking that God’s Kingdom come, in some sense, in the future.

Since the universal Kingdom has existed continually since God created the universe, that aspect was already present when Christ indicated that there was still some way in which the Kingdom of God had not yet arrived. Evidently, Christ was not referring to the universal Kingdom aspect of the Kingdom of God in His statement and teaching on prayer.

However, since the theocratic Kingdom ceased to exist after the fall of man, that aspect of the Kingdom was not present when Christ said, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Thus it is the theocratic Kingdom of God that corresponds to what Christ’s statement indicated—that there was some sense in which the Kingdom was not yet present.

The same holds true with regard to Christ’s model for prayer. He taught His disciples to pray for God’s Kingdom to come in the future. The theocratic Kingdom of God will exist again during the future Millennium when Christ Himself will reign for 1,000 years. It will be the last phase of God’s universal Kingdom-rule over this present earth. Thus the theocratic Kingdom aspect of the Kingdom of God matches the sense of the Kingdom of God involved in the prayer that Christ taught.

In both instances, therefore, Christ was referring to the future theocratic Kingdom of God, not to the universal Kingdom. Clearly, He indicated that the theocratic Kingdom of God was not yet present but will be in the future.

Meaning of Christ’s Reference

Since Christ referred to the future theocratic Kingdom of God in His statement and model for prayer, what did He mean when He indicated that the Kingdom was “at hand”?

Because Jesus Christ, who possessed the power necessary to establish the future theocratic Kingdom of God, was present on Earth, that Kingdom had the potential to be established while He was here.

Normally, when people say that something is “at hand,” they mean that it is near. Consequently, when Christ said, “the kingdom of God is at hand,” He indicated that there was some sense in which the future theocratic Kingdom of God was near while He was present on Earth. In fact, the word translated “is at hand” means “approach, come near,” and the tense indicates that Christ was saying, “The kingdom of God has come near.” But in what sense was it near then?

It was near in the sense of its potential for establishment in the world. Because Jesus Christ, who possessed the power necessary to establish the future theocratic Kingdom of God, was present on Earth, that Kingdom had the potential to be established while He was here. That is what Christ meant when He said, “The kingdom of God is at hand”; and that is why He taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come.”

Requirements for the Kingdom

What is required before the theocratic Kingdom of God can be reestablished in the world? John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1–2), Jesus Christ (4:17; Mark 1:15), and the apostles of Christ (Matthew 10:1–3, 7) all declared that the future theocratic Kingdom was “at hand.” Their message also referred to that Kingdom both as “the kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of God.”

But the fact that both versions of the message are designated “the gospel of the kingdom” (4:17, 23; Mark 1:14–15) indicates that both referred to the same Kingdom. Thus John the Baptist, Christ, and His apostles all indicated that the future theocratic Kingdom of God was near in the sense of its potential for establishment in the world while Christ was present on Earth.

Yet the gospel of the Kingdom included more than the declaration that the future theocratic Kingdom was near. It also included a twofold command for its hearers: They were to believe that it was near (“believe in the gospel” [Mk. 1:15]), and they were to repent because that Kingdom was near (“Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Mt. 3:2; 4:17]).

The Kingdom would not be established until the hearers believed in the content of that gospel and repented.

The declaration that the Kingdom was at hand, combined with the command to believe and repent, implied that the theocratic Kingdom would not be established until the hearers of that gospel obeyed its twofold directive. In other words, the Kingdom would not be established until the hearers believed in the content of that gospel and repented.

The theocratic Kingdom of God is yet to come. It was not established with the nation of Israel of Christ’s First Coming. Instead, its establishment has been postponed until His Second Coming.

We have much to look forward to when Christ comes again!

About the Author
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Renald Showers

(1935-2019) Dr. Renald E. Showers was an author, trusted theologian, and Bible teacher for the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Visit foi.org/rshowers for more biblical resources from Dr. Renald Showers.

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