I think one thing that has led to this is the misconception that Jesus came to change things. Therefore, a change in definition would not seem too out of line since he changed so many things. However, Jesus certainly did come to challenge and to correct but not to change. It wasn’t that the Jewish leaders were wrong in applying the Law – just in their way of executing it. They were making man-made “laws” equivalent to God’s Law and it caused a misapplication of what God had originally intended. Therefore, Jesus did not come to change the Law or to null the Law but to fulfill it. Jesus himself stated this: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Mt 5:17-18).
But wait a minute, you may say, Paul state that we are no longer under Law but under grace. That is true but not because Jesus did away with the Law. After all, if Jesus did away with the Law even the Ten Commandments would be null and void, but they are still in effect. So, how do we put this together? We have to recognize that a large part of the Law was prophecy. When a prophecy is fulfilled you don’t go back and say the prophecy is in effect. It is now a done deal and in some way null and void – not because it won’t happen but because it did happen. The same is true here. Jesus fulfilled the Law. He was the one to whom all of the sacrifices and rituals pointed. When he came, died, was buried, and rose again, these animal sacrifices and rituals were made null and void. Again, not because the concept was no longer needed, but because Jesus fulfilled the concept. A sinless sacrifice was needed and Jesus fulfilled that requirement. There is no longer a need to use an older system when something newer is now in effect. Therefore, Paul could cay he was dead to the Law because he was now alive in Christ, the fulfillment of the Law. And, we can only keep the Ten Commandments because of the Holy Spirit who indwells us – not because we can do it ourselves.
So….if Christ did not come to change but to fulfill, how does that relate to the term ‘kingdom of God.’ Well, he was preaching that
He was the fulfillment of that – if only the people and the Jewish leaders would accept him. Therefore, he was also referring to a literal kingdom and not a spiritual kingdom.
Let’s look at a few scriptures where the misalignment has occurred. To better understand, we will need to look at the context of what was said and not just what was being said.
The scripture that has been the linchpin of Christ teaching a spiritual kingdom has been Luke 17:20-21: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘there it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” The Greek word for ‘within’ is entos. While it can mean ‘within,’ it can also mean ‘among’ or ‘midst.’ So, how do we know which one is implied? We need to look at the context surrounding the statement. Jesus was talking to the Pharisees so it would seem odd to say to them that the kingdom of God was within them. After all, Jesus had called them “hypocrites,” “whitewashed tombs,” and that they were condemned (Mt 23:25, 27, 33). How would Jesus then state that His kingdom was within them – or in their hearts? Jesus was rather saying that the kingdom was in their midst. Actually, right in front of them. Jesus had been preaching that he was the one to bring the kingdom to them. Therefore, Jesus was saying that if they would only believe in Him, the kingdom would be established at this time. Still not convinced? Then look at the next few verses. Jesus is then telling his disciples that he must first suffer many things before his kingdom is established; but when it will come there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind then – it will be as obvious as lightning (Lk 17:22-25). This further proves that Jesus was referring to a literal kingdom and not a spiritual kingdom. With this verse now being shown to be consistent with a literal interpretation of ‘kingdom of God,’ it then sheds different light on other scriptures that have been interpreted in light of Luke 17:20-21.
What about all the parables of the kingdom? To be honest, I am not sure how they get interpreted as being spiritual or of the kingdom being in our hearts. They all end in a separation of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ at the ‘end of the age’ (Mt 13:40) or as the literal
Millennial Kingdom is set up. The parable of the sower (Mt 13:1-23), of the weeds (Mt 13:24-30, 36-43), of the mustard seed (My 13:31-32), of the yeast (Mt 13:33), and of the net (Mt 13:47-50) all show that Satan will have followers disguised as those of the light to create confusion and deceive many. However, God knows who is who and all will be sorted properly in the end (Mt 13:49). Then the parable of the hidden treasure (Mt 13:44) and the pearl (Mt 13:45) show the priceless value of understanding the importance of the kingdom of God. Actually, the interpretation of these parables could apply to our current life looking forward to the literal kingdom or could apply to literal kingdom itself. We know that in the millennial kingdom not everyone will be pleased with King Jesus (Ps 2:9; Is 65:20). Then when Satan is let out of the Abyss (Rv 20:7), he works with those dissatisfied and again makes war with Jesus and Jerusalem (Rv 20:8). He is ultimately defeated but it is surprising just how many recruits he gets even
after a perfect environment is established (Rv 20:8-9). This really shows how wicked our human hearts can really be. We cannot blame our state entirely on Satan. He only uses what we make available to him.
Therefore, there is no place in scripture that Jesus redefined what the Jews were expecting when he preached the kingdom of God. What he preached, how he taught his disciples how to pray, and the parables he told were all about a literal kingdom and not a spiritual kingdom. So what is happening today, the time between Christ first coming when he died for our sins (fulfilled the prophecy of the Law and the first 3 Jewish festivals) and his second coming when he will set up his literal kingdom (a fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles)? If we are not part of his spiritual kingdom, what are we? We, as the Church, are his bride (Ep 5:22-23) and will rule with him in his kingdom. We are not ruling now, we are preparing ourselves for our bridegroom to return. We are seeking to help others know of his coming so they, too, can be part of the ceremony and rule with him as well (2Co 5:11). After all, Peter states that we are no longer of this world (1Pt 2:11), so our kingdom is not in this world but of the world to come. We, too, can state with John, “Come Lord Jesus” (Rv 22:20) because our happiness will only become greater in the life to come in the real and literal kingdom of God.
What is the Kingdom of God? - Part 1
God’s Plan for Nations