THE NATURE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The original Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. That we should repent because The Kingdom is coming to the earth, was announced by John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus, and Christ’s Apostles. At some point, early in the Christian Era, the original Gospel was changed to the gospel of going to Heaven to live in a mansion. In our day the original Gospel of repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth is being restored.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:1,2)
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of the God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14,15)
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)
Matthew uses the term “Kingdom of Heaven.” The other three Gospels employ the term “Kingdom of God.” I know of no basis for regarding the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God as two different kingdoms. In terms of the New Testament, they obviously are the same kingdom. The Apostles of Christ did not preach about Heaven, only about the Kingdom of God.
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3)
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:5)
Jesus’ reply to Nicodemus reveals the nature of the Kingdom of God. It begins as an inner kingdom, an inner rule of God. Later, when the Lord returns, the inner rule in the saints will be visible as an outer Kingdom. But for now, we are dealing with an inner kingdom.
Why must we be born again in order to see and enter the Kingdom of God? It is because the Kingdom is Christ. It is not of flesh and blood. It is Christ who is born in us. He Himself is God’s Kingdom, God’s Word, God’s rule.
The Lord Jesus is the Word of God, through whom God created all things, made flesh. As we partake of Christ’s body and blood, the Word of God is written in our mind and heart. This is the Kingdom of God. This is our resurrection. This is our flesh being made the Word that we might be part of our Lord.
The term “born again” is widely used in the Christian religion. But we are using it incorrectly. We are speaking of a largely mental conversion to the Christian religion. In actuality, to be born again is to have the Word of God planted in our personality. If we take care of it by prayer, obedience, and meditating in the Bible, the seed finally will grow into a Son of God.
All of the parables of the Lord Jesus are about the Kingdom of God. There is no parable having to do with going to Heaven, as far as I know. The Lord Jesus always taught about the Kingdom of God.
The parable of the sower, probably the most important parable of the Kingdom, tells of four types of the human personality. One type has considered several religions or idols, and the seed lays on top of the ground. In a second type of personality the seed germinates. But the ground is hard and rocky and the seed of the Kingdom dies because it does not have an adequate root system.
A third type of personality is cumbered about with numerous cares and problems. These are weeds that choke out the germinating seed.
It is only the fourth personality, the honest and good heart, that faithfully nourishes the germinating plant. Of the fourth personality, some bear fruit, bear the Kingdom of God, to a thirtyfold extent; some to a sixtyfold extent; some to a hundredfold extent.
This is the true nature of the Kingdom of God. It is a seed that has come from God. It is planted in us. It grows. In two of four kinds of people it bears no lasting fruit.
What shall we say about these two kinds of people. They heard the Word of God. They “accepted Christ.” The seed germinated in their heart. They attended church. They busied themselves in Gospel work. But for one reason or another, the plant died. It bore no lasting fruit.
The fruit, by the way, is the image of Christ. It is the Kingdom of God.
You mean there are numerous “believers” in the Christian churches in whom the Kingdom has died? I mean exactly that. If it were not so, would Jesus have spoken this parable to us?
If such indeed be the case, there certainly is a huge difference between the Kingdom of God and the Christian religion. This is true. All religion, including the Christian religion, is constructed from people putting together traditional practices and words that they believe are pleasing to God and will ensure their entrance into some kind of paradise after they die.
Like the Christian religion, many religions began in some sort of supernatural event. This certainly was true in case of Judaism and Christianity. But as time goes by, the Presence and will of God are lost. What is left is man’s idea of what we ought to do.
In the case of Christianity, what was supposed to be an inner growth of Christ has become an external ritual of practices and beliefs that are intended to ensure our entrance into Heaven so we may recline in our mansion and do nothing of significance for eternity.
It appears to me that there is a remnant of people in the Christian churches who know God. They are hearing the Spirit today. The Spirit is telling these people that it is time for us to confess our sins, as He points them out to us, to declare them to be evil, and with the help of the Lord Jesus, turn away from them with all our might.
If I am not mistaken this is the voice of the Spirit today. If I am correct, then it is true that if the seed of Christ is to come to maturity in us we must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as He enables us to put to death the acts of our sinful nature.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:13,14)
Notice that if we are living in the Spirit of God, the Spirit leads us to put to death the actions of our sinful nature. If we do not, the Kingdom of God dies in us. It does not bear lasting fruit. If we are faithful in cooperating with the Spirit in putting to death the deeds of our sinful nature, we will mature into a son of God.
But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28)
Notice how the Lord Jesus referred to Himself and His ministry as the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul told us that if we yield to our sinful nature we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Why is this? Because the Kingdom of God does not accept sin.
This is why it is so important today to distinguish between the gospel of Heaven and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. If we permit the Holy Spirit to bring us into the Kingdom of God, the Spirit will enable us to drive the sinful compulsions from our personality. If our goal is to be in the Kingdom, then this is what we will do.
But if our goal is to go to Heaven to live in a mansion, why should we bother to follow the Spirit of God into deliverance from sin? We go to Heaven by grace not by being holy, it is taught, so why take the trouble to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, as Paul exhorted us? The gospel of Heaven is “another gospel,” about which the Apostle Paul warned us.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23,24)
The above passage is contrary to much popular Christian preaching. We are told today that God wants us to be prosperous, even rich! If we have faith and think positively, money will be given to us.
You know, this does not make much sense. The Lord said that it is difficult for people with money to enter the Kingdom of God. Why then would we want to be rich if it is going to hinder our entrance into the Kingdom of God? The Lord did not say it would hinder our entrance into Heaven. Did you notice that?
The Kingdom of Heaven, a term only Matthew uses, is the Kingdom of God that comes from Heaven. This is obvious because in the one passage (above), Jesus calls the Kingdom the Kingdom of Heaven, and then, the Kingdom of God.
The Old Testament speaks of the God of Heaven but never of the Kingdom of Heaven. None of the Apostles used the term, “the kingdom of Heaven.”
The reason I am making such a point of this is that the current emphasis on dying and going to Heaven, or being “raptured” into Heaven, is not only unscriptural, but it is leaving the believers in a state of babyhood. Instead of striving each day to enter the Kingdom of God by following the Holy Spirit, they are waiting for a “rapture” to bring them to Heaven or to die and go to Heaven.
They speak of “gloryland”; of “my mansion in the sky”; “when I get there”; “when I sing and dance beside the river.” All of this is debilitating. What Christ is interested in is change into His image. This is the fruit He is looking for. What good does it do for God and Christ if we “sing and dance beside the river” if we still are in the image of Adam?
Christ simply cannot be a brother of Adam, and Adam, according to Paul, cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
According to the Prophet Isaiah, the destiny of Christ, Head and Body, is to bring justice and peace to the nations. How can the redemption of the world be brought about if the “saints” are comfortably asleep in their mansions?
False doctrine is being preached today. I notice that little by little the term “kingdom” is appearing in Christian music. But this is a recent innovation. Before now the hymns and the preaching were about leaving our body and going to Heaven.
It is time now for us to whom God is speaking about the Kingdom of God, to begin to speak and write about the nature of the Kingdom of God. The people are following a false doctrine. The unscriptural doctrine of the “rapture” flows from the concept that making our eternal home in Heaven is the goal of our salvation.
Maybe if you buck the trend and begin to preach and write about the Kingdom of God, people may not understand you at first. But there are some fervent disciples who will understand you. Eventually the understanding of numerous Christians will include the Gospel of the Kingdom. This is what happened with the Pentecostal message!
“Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” (Matthew 21:31)
We of today would say, and I no doubt many preachers have, “the tax collectors and the prostitutes will enter Heaven before you.” How are we going to prosper if we depart from the Scriptures?
Speaking of adding to God’s words, the famous John 3:16 often is quoted in the following manner: “God gave His Son that whoever believes in Him will go to Heaven and not to Hell when he or she dies.”
Is that what is preached? Is that what the Bible says? Again I ask, what does the Bible actually say? “Should not perish but have everlasting life.” This, by the way is referring to bodily immortality. The inward, spiritual nature does not perish! The body will be raised from the dead in the Day of Resurrection and live for eternity.
I believe at this point I should clarify some differences:
Eternal life has nothing to do with Heaven. Eternal life actually is the Presence of God and Christ that enters our personality as we keep our faith in Christ and obey Him at all times.
The Kingdom of God has nothing to do with Heaven. It is the Presence of God and Christ in us, teaching and enabling us to do the will of God.
Heaven is a city, Mount Zion, in the spirit world. This is where the elect are ministered to until they are ready to descend to the new earth as the new Jerusalem.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, (Hebrews 12:22)
Eternal life is life lived in the Presence of God and Christ. It is the Resurrection Life of the Lord Jesus. Every time we resist a sinful desire and choose to do what God desires, we are fed in the Spirit with the Body and blood of the Lord Jesus. This is what it means to deny ourselves and follow Jesus. The goal is bodily immortality in the Day of Christ.
The Kingdom of God is an inner rule that governs our behavior so we are pleasing to God and righteous in His sight.
Heaven is a place in the spirit world where God, Christ, the Father, the saints, and holy angels have their residence.
Heaven is a place. We can have eternal life and not be in Heaven. We can be in the Kingdom of God and not be in Heaven.
We see and enter the Kingdom of God today as we are born of God and then carefully nourish the Divine Seed until it bears the fruit of the image of Christ.
Our goal is not Heaven, Mount Zion, because, according to the Scripture, we already have come there.
By teaching that the purpose of salvation is to bring us to our eternal home in Heaven, and that we go there by grace and not by a change in what we are, we have destroyed the moral vitality and strength of the Christian believers in America, and perhaps in other parts of the world.
Eternal residence in Heaven is a gift freely given to us without any change on our part, it is taught. Who would be so foolish as to refuse the gift of eternal residence in Paradise?
Well, we have a sinful nation to show for the departure of the Christian churches from the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. I think it will not be too long before God reveals His displeasure by bringing down our nation to a third-class, or lower, status in the world. Accompanying this degradation will be much bloodshed.
Whether this disastrous chaos is going to result from a civil war, as the opposing ideologies in our nation finally decide to vent their rage by killing each other; or whether the Muslim activists will set off an EMP bomb in the air or a nuclear device in several cities; I cannot say.
I think the Spirit of God has told me that the leadership of the world will pass to an Eastern country—probably China, would be my guess—because the government there, unlike our own in many instances, is striving to preserve morality.
It is the duty of every government on earth to strive to preserve morality. Morality is defined in much the same manner by decent people everywhere. The laws of morality in the Bible are the same as in our conscience, our conscience coming from the same God who wrote the Bible. Those governments that do not enforce moral behavior will be removed from power. I believe this is what is going to happen to our nation.
When the Lord Jesus appears, the kingdom of this world will become the Kingdom of God and of His Christ. Then what is now in our inward nature will fill the nations of the earth, and God shall be All in all.
The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
(“The Nature of the Kingdom of God”, 3286-1)