Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

Theology > Church > Nature of the Church > Church and Kingdom


In the New Testament the Kingdom is announced by both John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1-2) and Christ (Matt. 4:17; 6:33; 11:11-12; 12:28; 13:11; 19:14, 23-24), but it is never defined. The Gospel of the Kingdom was the message of the Apostles who were sent by Jesus and instructed to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:5-7; see: Acts 13:46). Following His resurrection Jesus spoke to His apostles of “the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3), and when Philip, one of the initial deacons, traveled to Samaria he “preached the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 8:12). To the Ephesian elders toward the end of his third missionary journey Paul reminds them that he had “gone preaching the kingdom of God” (Acts 20:25), and he affirms that this is “the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (v. 24). Finally, to conclude this brief summary of the historical developments regarding the proclamation of the Kingdom, we have the final verses from the book of Acts:

Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him (28:30-31).

In Matt. 16:18-19 Jesus speaks of the Church (“I will build My church”) and of the Kingdom (“the keys of the kingdom”); James Denney commented:

It is worth remarking that in this passage the Church and the kingdom of heaven are apparently alternative expressions for the same thing (Studies in Theology, 178).

What, then, you may ask, is the distinction between the two? I am not confident that in principle there is any. The explanation of their use in the new Testament is to be sought, I imagine, rather in historical than in dogmatic considerations (Studies in Theology, 184).

It is interesting to note that Jesus spoke more about the Kingdom than He did the Church. From Jesus we learn that the Kingdom is present and is coming, that it is not of this world but is active in this world. The Kingdom is of God not of man—it is a society of believers that is separate from the unbelievers of the world. The things of God and the things of Caesar are distinct and do not meet for compromise. In the words of Augustine, there is the City of Man and the City of God.

Christ consistently refused to be identified as King or to initiate an earthly kingdom; rather, He came as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah and even projected suffering and death for those who identified with Him. From one perspective, this marked the beginning of His earthly rule, but, in another sense, it was totally inconsistent with an earthly rule. The choice is not one or the other but the proper integration of the two.

The Kingdom is the realm in which the believer lives, the realm of the rule and reign of God in and through Christ. It is the invasion of the Eternal into time in a manner that had not taken place in the Old Testament; it is the manifestation on earth of that which will ultimately transform all things, for all things will become new. In Christ there is the initiation of this eschatological fact.

There is absolutely no justification for the contention that Jesus began His ministry with the offer of the Kingdom and when it was rejected by Israel He turned to the concept of the Church. Jesus did not change plans. The Kingdom was neither postponed nor replaced. Such thinking is without justification in light of the teaching of the Text.

The Kingdom is both present and future; it has come and it is coming; it is reality and it is potential. The process of the Kingdom is the action of God whereby He is continually working His purpose in history to put down all opposition to His rule and to establish His eternal rule in His Creation.

The Lord Most High is awesome;
He is a great King over all the earth.
Ps. 47:2

The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
and His kingdom rules over all.
Ps. 103:19

The Gospel is the announcement of the Kingdom (Matt. 24:14; see: Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31). The Kingdom is the rule of God in history, and the coming to pass of that rule in history through Christ; the Kingdom is in place and the Kingdom is in progress and the Kingdom will be. Within the rule of God or underneath the rule of God, there are those who willingly submit to that rule and rejoice in being part of the realm of God’s present and future Kingdom. And others will have no part of it.

The Church is part of the Kingdom, with the Kingdom concept being larger than the concept of Church—the Kingdom concept includes the concepts of the Church and the nation of Israel. The Church constitutes the people of the Kingdom.

The Church, the people of Christ, is one manifestation of the Kingdom. Other people of the Kingdom surely include Adam, Eve, Abel and Seth, also Noah and Job. Additionally the people of the Kingdom would include the redeemed of the nation of Israel, those who constituted true Israel. Thus, all of these individuals, the saved from the entire historical era, together form the citizens of the Kingdom. The saved of the current age are referred to as belonging to the Church, but the Church is part of the Kingdom. The word “church” simply refers to current group of saved individuals, which are ultimately part of a larger and more comprehensive group.

Understood in this sense,
it is easy to comprehend
that the Church is not organizational
but relational.

Return to: Nature of the Church;  Next Article: Israel and the Church

For overview of THEOLOGY, see: Site Map - Theology
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.