So we have begun this year talking about what I believe is the most important subject in the Bible—the kingdom of God. And while I believe next week we will begin defining the kingdom of God by asking questions like “What is it?” and “When is it?”, it was necessary for us to answer the question— “Why is it?” So, this is how we have started covering this huge topic—by seeing how this message of the kingdom is threaded throughout the Scriptures. You see, in order for us to see the significance of this subject, we need to see the emphasis placed on it from Genesis to Revelation, wouldn’t we? So, that’s what we’ve been doing …
In part one of this mini-series teaching on the Gospel of the Kingdom, we began in the beginning of the New Testament and saw what the Lord Jesus Himself’s gospel was throughout His earthly ministry. So, we looked in the four Gospels and saw what He placed the emphasis on—clearly seeing that His message was the kingdom of God. Yes, time and time again throughout the Gospels we see the Lord saying, “The kingdom is like this” and “The kingdom is like that.” In fact, we learned that throughout the four Gospels, Jesus uses the phrases “kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, His kingdom, etc.” over 80 times! So, yes, even though He spent time talking about other subjects, all of Jesus’ teachings were absolutely kingdom centered. Therefore, we can correctly conclude that the kingdom of God was Jesus’ “sermon”!
Then two weeks ago, we moved on into talking about how the kingdom of God was not just Jesus’ message; it was (and still is) the message of the entire New Testament. And we saw how others from John the Baptist to the apostle Paul were also declaring the message of God’s kingdom in their ministries because Jesus said in Luke 16:16 that “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time, the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.” We learned that this meant that the Old Testament was up until John the Baptist came on the scene, but since then, the message has been of God’s kingdom. So, we gathered from this that the kingdom of God is not just a message of the New Covenant; the kingdom of God is the message of the New Covenant!
Church, it is obvious that the gospel of the kingdom is the alpha and the omega of New Testament doctrine! It is the first and the last regarding New Covenant truth. It is the first gospel being proclaimed and it is the last gospel being proclaimed! There is no other message of the New Covenant than the kingdom of God. Everything else we hear preached and taught from the New Testament Scriptures are simply things pertaining to this gospel.
Then, last week, we saw that the kingdom of God is not just the message of the New Testament; the kingdom of God is actually the message of the Bible itself—for it has been well said that the entire Bible itself could be described as “The Book of the Coming Kingdom of God.”
You see, the Old Testament, in and of itself is incomplete. Yes, it held signposts that pointed to God’s will of a kingdom. Yes, it proclaimed the good news of God’s Messiah and His entrance that would free them from their bondage. But this good news of an everlasting kingdom was not fulfilled until the New Testament was given. So, what we did last week is we began taking a journey through the Old Testament as we did through the New Testament and saw how Jehovah’s gospel has always been about a promised kingdom. But particularly, we looked at God’s chosen people—the kingdom of Israel—and saw how this kingdom message was proclaimed both to them and through them. And what we will find is that the gospel which we heard about already is no different than the gospel that they heard and that they experienced in measure.
We learned that throughout the Old Testament, we basically have the recorded history of God’s chosen kingdom: From Genesis to Esther, we have chronicled for us the glories and failures of the kingdom of Israel from a historical perspective. Then, from Isaiah to Malachi, we have the prophecies given to the nation of Israel about how He wanted His kingdom to operate. He also declared through His prophets how He was going to establish His everlasting kingdom through their promised Messiah.
But we specifically began with the calling of the Father of us all—the Father of faith, Abraham—and we saw how when God called him, He essentially gave him the gospel of the kingdom that “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (See Galatians 3:8). More specifically, we saw that God gave him a more detailed gospel in Genesis 17:6 by promising Him— “I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.” Who were these “kings”? Of course, we know that the Lord was referring to Israel’s kings such as Saul, David, Solomon, all the way to the King of kings, Jesus Christ!
You see, Jesus showed us that Abraham actually saw His day and rejoiced in it (See John 8:56). Abraham knew the plan that God had for us and heard the same good news which we have heard. Therefore, these promises that God made to Abraham are the foundation to the good news of the kingdom of God.
How about the sons and daughters of Abraham? Well, we saw that the children of Israel heard the good news as well in Hebrews 4:2 when we are told— “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them…” This verse was speaking specifically about the children of Israel during their journey through the wilderness and God’s promise to give them rest in the Promised Land. Of course, we understand in hindsight that the gospel that they heard was in type and shadow form because the land that God was going to give them as a heritage was a representation of our eternal “Promised Land,” the kingdom of God. You could say that their Promised Land was a type of the Promised Kingdom of God that we see fulfilled through the New Testament Scriptures.
But we saw that this gospel of a kingdom and its Messiah was even declared through the prophets: For example, in the Book of Isaiah, we looked at a prophecy of the gospel that we even have repeated in New Testament Scriptures: Isaiah 52:7 says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him who brings good tidings, that publishes peace, that brings good tidings of good, that publishes salvation; that says, your God reigns.” What do these bringers of good news say? They say, “Your God reigns!” That sounds like kingdom talk, does it not? So, the gospel of the kingdom was prophesied! These good news bearers would declare— Our God reigns! In other words, our Lord and God reigns as King! God’s kingdom is at hand and His Messiah, Jesus Christ, reigns as King over it! Amen!
But we saw that Isaiah was not the only prophet to prophesy concerning God’s promised kingdom: we see a lot about God’s kingdom in the Book of Daniel. Yes, arguably the most detailed prophecy concerning God’s good news of a kingdom is found in the Book of Daniel. In fact, the theme of this prophetical book is the sovereignty of the kingdom of God over all the other kingdoms of the earth—past, present, and future.
We looked in detail at Daniel 2:34-35 where Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and we saw that God’s kingdom was illustrated by a stone that was cut out without hands and how that stone crushed that which represented the kingdoms of this world. Daniel explained that this stone, which was cut out without hands, struck the image, and broke it into pieces. It crushed it until it became like chaff from the summer threshing floors and the wind carried them away and no trace of them was found. This too was prophesied through the mouth of our Savior: When Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22— “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” He also added another statement which we can clearly see perfectly coincides with this prophecy in the book of Daniel. He said, “Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Luke 20:18). In his explanation of the dream, Daniel went on to say that this stone then became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. So, after the Rock of Ages struck these other nations and brought them to naught, it grew and became a great mountain which eventually covered the whole earth. For those who are learned in the Scriptures, this picture of God’s kingdom filling the whole earth should sound very familiar. It sounds a lot like Jesus’ parables concerning the kingdom of God, doesn’t it? In Jesus’ parables of the mustard seed and of the leaven, He described the kingdom of God as starting off small but becoming increasingly greater—covering and filling the whole earth. Friends, this is God’s ultimate plan for His kingdom. It is for it to grow up like the mustard seed—from being one of the world’s smallest seeds to becoming one its greatest trees! It is for it to spread like leaven—like leaven infiltrates the meal—until it leavens the whole lump!
So, from the promise given to Abraham to the prophecy given through Daniel, we clearly saw that this gospel of the kingdom has always been God’s good news to His chosen people! In fact, when He originally created man, His initial plan was to give him dominion over all His creation. This was God’s purpose for mankind then and it is no different now: He wants us in His kingdom and ruling and reigning with Him forever!
But we also found that in the Old Testament the kingdom of God is not just specifically referred to; it was also illustrated in the kings and kingdoms of Judah & Israel. Yes, all of these examples of the Old Testament, although true and real-life stories that actually happened, are simply types and shadows meant to exhort, encourage, and instruct us in how God wants His kingdom to operate. God intended for us to learn from the good kings like David, Solomon, Josiah & Jehoshaphat and also from the bad kings like Ahab, Rehoboam, and Hezekiah. All of these examples were recorded for our admonition so that we could learn the concept of God’s kingdom and how we are to rule and reign with Him as kings in it.
So, we saw that this is the reason that you see the gospel of the kingdom so freely proclaimed by John the Baptist and, after that, Jesus in the beginning of the New Testament. Have you noticed that you never see the Jews responding to the messages of either John or Jesus with, “What is all this kingdom stuff you are talking about?” No, you never see a response like that because they knew and understood God’s concept of a kingdom. Why? It was because His kingdom was emphasized throughout the Old Testament! It was a promise made to Abraham and this gospel was consistently proclaimed throughout the law and the prophets. It was the promise for which the nation of Israel hoped in!
In fact, we saw in Luke 3:15 that God’s chosen people were expectant of the kingdom of God when John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness. This means that they were eagerly looking for the manifestation of God’s promise of a kingdom. This is also the reason why their leaders asked John as to whether he was the Christ or not. So, I can assure you that they would not have been looking for God to establish His kingdom and sending His King unless this is the message that they were used to hearing in their Scriptures. Why? Because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (See Romans 10:17). Not only that but hope also comes through the Holy Scriptures as well (See Romans 15:4). Yes, friends, even the Old Testament contained a gospel which fueled the faith and hope of God’s chosen people.
Therefore, we saw that this gospel of the kingdom is all throughout the Old Testament, beginning in God’s calling of Abraham to the prophecies of the future in the major and minor prophets. So, now that we have established the fact that the kingdom of God was Jesus’ message, the message of the entire New Testament, and the message that Israel heard as well, let’s look at one more thing that will further establish us in that it’s all about God’s kingdom.
You see, from the beginning of Genesis, God began establishing a kingdom through Adam in telling him to have dominion over all of His creation. Then at the end of the Book of Revelation, we see the restoration of Paradise on the earth as God’s kingdom descends from heaven. This is the story—the gospel, if you would—of the entire Bible: It is the good news of God’s kingdom.
THE KINGDOM GARDEN
So, let’s conclude this series on the Gospel of the Kingdom by looking back to the beginning—in the Book of Genesis. Today, I want us to look at the bookends of the Bible and see that establishing His kingdom on the earth has always been the Lord’s intention with His creation.
In Genesis 1:26, we see that on day six, God created man. In it, we are told— “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’”
So, when God had this discussion amongst Himself to make man, He desired to create Him in His image and according to His likeness. That means that God made Adam to look like Him and be like Him—and the “be like Him” part is further described in this verse because He goes on to say, “let them have dominion …”
The word “dominion” here literally means to “rule or reign.” It’s actually translated “rule” more times than it is “dominion.” So, the Lord’s very first mandate for mankind was to “rule and reign.” That sounds like more kingdom talk, doesn’t it? Yes, God’s will for man in the beginning was for him to rule & reign, having dominion over His creation.
This goes back to what we have learned about us being the kings that Jesus is King of. God’s will & desire has always been for us to rule & reign as kings over His creation. It began this way on the sixth day of creation and was reinstituted by Jesus after His resurrection. Yes, His will has always been for those created in His image and likeness to be “like” Him and rule over their domain. Amen?
Now the example of Adam in the Garden might not be one that we quickly associate with the kingdom of God because the imagery we have of Eden is a little different than what we might have of a kingdom. But what we need to understand is that God’s idea of a kingdom might be different than ours too. When we think of kingdoms, we might think of thrones, crowns, castles, etc., but when God thinks of His kingdom, He thinks of a place where He simply rules, reigns, and His will is being done. In other words, as Jesus taught us, His kingdom does not necessarily come with observation. It’s not about looks; it’s about the will of the King being done. So, you can see symptoms and manifestations of it, but it’s not something we will be able to fully see with the naked eye. You can have scepters & crowns, thrones & kings, but if the King’s desires are not being fulfilled, then that is not His kingdom.
You see, the Jews were tempted to think this way, weren’t they? When expectantly looking for their Messiah, they looked for a Saul—someone who would look the part and check off all of those proverbial boxes of what a king was supposed to both look & act like. But the prophet Isaiah said concerning Jesus that there was no beauty that we should desire Him. In other words, Jesus was not going to look the part—and this didn’t just mean in regard to His physically appearance; I believe it also meant that he didn’t fit the bill of what their carnal eyes were looking for because He didn’t come initially doing what they pictured the Messiah doing. And this was partially the reason why they had a hard time receiving Him.
Well, the problem with putting things in a box like this is we might miss the Lord and His kingdom like the majority of Israel did 2,000 years ago. His kingdom is not eating & drinking. It is not through physical observation by looking here or looking there. It is a spiritual kingdom which is manifested in this physical world around us with every heart that is made new and every work of the enemy that is decimated. Amen! This is why Jesus told His disciples to go about healing the sick, casting out demons, etc. and saying, “The kingdom of God has come near to you!” Why did He tell them to say this when destroying the works of the devil? It is because the King’s rule & reign is being manifested in those people’s lives! Hallelujah!
Now granted, we might not have any other evidence of God’s kingdom when this happens, but that is what we are taught in the Scriptures—that the kingdom of God is evidenced in fruit like righteousness, peace, joy, healing, and deliverance.
So, my point is that the kingdom of God was on full display in the Garden of Eden because God’s rule & reign was on perfect display by every need being met, no oppression of the devil present, and heaven on earth was being experienced. That, my friends, is the kingdom of God in full manifestation!
And a big part of God’s kingdom that we see in the Garden is that dominion given to Adam. But notice what else God mandated him to do— In verse 28, the Lord then tells them— “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
Now we obviously know that to be fruitful and multiply is referring to procreation but notice the next terminology God uses— “fill the earth and subdue it”: This phrase “fill the earth” sounds a little more like occupying the earth, doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds to me like a conquering kingdom that is taking ground over the face of the earth. But he didn’t just bless man with the mandate to fill the earth; He also said to “subdue” it. The word “subdue” literally means “to bring something into subjection and to make it subservient.” So, not only was mankind given the responsibility to procreate and fill the earth; he was also told to bring all of creation into subjection (i.e. to rule over it).
Then in Genesis 2:15, we see God placing man in the Garden of Eden to “tend and keep it.” That shows us who was truly in authority and responsible for Eden—it was Adam. So, that answers a lot of questions folks have had over the years as to why God allowed Satan in the garden to tempt man in the first place. Well, we see here that it was Adam’s responsibility to both tend and keep the garden. The word “keep” here literally means to “guard.” So, Adam should have done something about the serpent. It was His job, not God’s! The Lord had delegated that authority over to him.
So, the fact remains that it was Adam’s job to have dominion over his domain! This shows us that this has always been God’s intention for mankind—to have dominion, to guard our domain, and subdue it. As the Psalmist stated— “The heavens, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; the earth He has given to the children of men.” (Psalm 115:16). Therefore, the earth is ours, and it is up to mankind to properly rule & reign over it as God intended from the beginning. But even more important than that is that we, the church, establish God’s kingdom here, bringing heaven to earth. That is ultimately what He wills from us on the earth today!
And lastly, what made the Garden of Eden paradise was the fact that God’s kingdom was present in both the physical and the spiritual. So, God’s intention has certainly always been to have His kingdom established in both the spiritual and the physical realms. We know this because it started out this way in Eden. The Garden was a perfect example of how God wanted His kingdom in both realms. Then, of course, through the temptation and fall of man, both were lost. Spiritual death was inherited by the son of man, and Adam and Eve lost their life in paradise.
But then we see God beginning to reestablish His kingdom in the natural because that is what He had to work with. As we have seen, He began to do this through Abraham which eventually came to be called the kingdom of Israel. Then when Jesus came on the scene, He began to reestablish God’s kingdom in the spiritual realm—fully accomplishing it through His resurrection.
But God still wills to see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. And the day is coming when Jesus returns that He is going to restore the garden of God—His heavenly Jerusalem—on the earth and will have His perfect will done—a kingdom established in both the spiritual and the natural.
And that is precisely what we see at the end of this Book—no, not at the end of Genesis, but the end of the Bible itself …
As we’ve learned not so long ago, what the Lord created in the beginning is what He plans to restore at the end of time. Yes, what we will see today is God’s heart and the culmination of His will for His creation in the final two chapters of the Bible: It is to make all things new again!
Interestingly enough, when you read Revelation chapter 21 & 22, you see God essentially restoring what He created in Genesis chapters 1 & 2. In other words, He will recreate in the end what He created in the beginning. No, it will not look completely the same, having the name Eden, but it will be paradise restored, nonetheless. Glory to God! And what this shows us is the way things were in Eden before the Fall and the way things are on the earth after Jesus’ return are God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will for His creation.
Now Revelation 21:1 begins with the apostle John saying, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” Church, this is the Day we are to be looking forward to! It has been prophesied over and over of a new heavens and new earth where peace will be experienced, no more death, no more killing. Only paradise and promise will be experienced in those days!
Now one thing John made sure to describe to us about what he saw is the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven to the earth (See Revelation 21:2). He described this city as a bride prepared for her husband. So, I don’t know if the wedding march will be being played when the holy city is coming down from heaven to the new earth, but what I can guarantee you is that the full measure of the same joy and excitement a husband experiences when he sees his bride coming down the aisle is going to be experienced in believers when they see the New Jerusalem descending to the earth. Hallelujah!
Then in verses 3-8, John heard a loud voice describing several characteristics of this new heavenly Jerusalem that will reign over the new heavens and the new earth:
The first thing we are told is that the tabernacle of God would now be with men and He would dwell with them. Again, God’s original and eternal plan is to come down and make His home with us! He did it in the Garden of Eden when He would come down and fellowship with man in the cool of the day, and He will do it again when Paradise is reestablished in the Millennium. This is God’s perfect will—to abide with us forever! This is undisputedly the greatest benefit of heaven being brought to the earth.
Verse 4 goes on to say that He will wipe away every tear, that there shall be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain, because the former things have passed away. How awesome is that going to be!?! All of these things that were brought on by the curse of sin will die—that is, they will not be a part of this new everlasting kingdom. Glory!
Then in verse 5, John sees where God said, “Behold, I make all things new.” This is what the Lord did for us through Jesus as it pertains to our salvation, and it is what He will ultimately do with His creation and for His creation. Amen.
For example, in Second Corinthians 5:17— “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” That sounds an awful lot like what God said He would do with His original creation, doesn’t it? Yes, all of the old things (that is, the heavens and the earth that He created in the beginning) will pass away, and yes, all these things will become new! That’s the new heavens and the new earth—where righteousness dwells! This is the kingdom of God on full display!
But the fact is, this process started in each of us the day we got saved: The old creation we were born into through the transgression of Adam passed away on the day we received Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. At that moment, you and I became a new creation where Jesus made all things new in our spirit. This left us in the position to hope in the same transformation to take place in our outward man that took place in our inward man. And this will be experienced around the same time that God makes all things new on this earth! Amen.
Then, in verses 6-8, we see the Lord saying, “It is done!” Again, similar to what Jesus said when He hung on the Cross— “It is finished”—when this process of restoration and redemption began. So, we can now see that it is finished and it is done just like it was in the Garden. Amen.
THE NEW JERUSALEM AND OTHER CITIES
Now in the rest of Revelation chapter 21, we have this New Jerusalem described in glorious detail. And because we see John spend some nineteen verses describing what this city will look like, we need to know that this is a big part of what we have to look forward to. So, let’s look at a couple of distinguishing characteristics of this city of God’s kingdom that is to come …
The dimension laid out to us in Revelation 21:15-16 equates to it being 1,400 miles in length, width, and height! This would stretch north and south from Canada to Mexico, and east and west from Macon, GA to Colorado Springs. If each story were a generous 12 feet high, this would give it 600,000 stories! That means that it could be anywhere from 600,000 – 1,200,000 stories, depending on the height of each story. (See illustration).
Now a building’s greatest strength is its foundation, and the New Jerusalem was said to have not one foundation, but twelve, each decorated with a different gem (See Revelation 21:14, 19-20). John names twelve stones, eight of which correspond to the stones of the high priest’s breast-piece (See Exodus 28:17-20). Church, whatever God builds will last! (See Hebrews 11:8-10).
Then, in verses 22-27, we see the glory of this New Jerusalem—that there will be no temple in this Jerusalem because the Father and Son will be its temple, there will be no need for the sun and moon there to illuminate it because the Lamb is its light, and the city’s gates will always remain open.
Now as we move on to Revelation chapter 22, we see where John was shown a pure river (clear as crystal) of the water of life that proceeded from the throne of God. He saw the tree of life there. And then in verse 3 we see something that should excite us— “no more curse.” Glory! And in verse 5 we see that we shall reign with the Lamb forever and ever!
You see, this concept of reigning with Christ is another thing not understood by many. Sure, we see Jesus as coming to reign, Him being the King of kings. But who are the kings He is king of? We are! He is the firstfruit of many brethren—so we, as sons of God, are meant to rule with Him. Yes, rule over sin, the curse, and death now in this life, but over the New Earth that will be created. Amen!
Jesus taught us things that lead us to presume that many other cities will be on the New Earth—not just the New Jerusalem. We get this through Jesus’ stewardship parable, the Parable of the Minas, where He indicates we will be given cities to rule over as we faithfully steward what He’s given us in this life (see Luke 19:11-27). It is for this reason that I believe the New Earth will contain many different cities just like we have now. There will be the capital city of the New Jerusalem, but other cities given to His faithful servants to reign over in His stead.
So, when we refer to this New Jerusalem you have to understand that this is, in fact, referring to the kingdom of God, which the city of Jerusalem on the earth today represents. So, even though the terminology might be different, the concept of God’s kingdom is the same.
Church, this is the summarization of this, the Revelation of Jesus Christ—it is a promise that our King will return again, and He is bringing His kingdom with Him. All of us who serve Him now, will reign with Him then.
This is our hope, and this is the message of the Bible! It is that the curse will die! His kingdom will come! A new heaven and a new earth will be created with a new capital city, the New Jerusalem. The Lord will dwell with us and there will be no more tears, only blessing! And we will enjoy what God intended in the beginning—heaven on earth. Even so, Come Lord Jesus, Come!