Jesus Christ and the apostles preached the gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God. But exactly what is that Kingdom?
"And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel:2:44).
We have seen that Jesus Christ and the apostles preached the gospel—the good news—of the Kingdom of God. But exactly what is that Kingdom?
There are many ideas about the Kingdom of God. Some think it is the church. Others believe it is an ethereal concept that resides in the hearts of Christians. Some think it is the collective good of humanity.
What does the Bible say? What is the Kingdom of God?
The word translated "kingdom" throughout the New Testament is the Greek word basileia, which denotes "sovereignty, royal power, [and] dominion" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, "Kingdom"). A careful examination of the Bible reveals that the next phase of the Kingdom of God is nothing short of a world-ruling monarchy that God will establish on this earth through Jesus Christ!
An overview of world governments
This amazing truth is made clear in many Bible verses. The prophet Daniel was inspired to record a description of world governments spanning a period of thousands of years. His prophecy, recorded in Daniel:2:28-45, describes King Nebuchadnezzar's vision of five world-ruling empires. When we read these verses, we see that the fifth kingdom, the Kingdom of God, is a literal kingdom that has not yet come to earth.
In this passage, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, dreamed of a huge image of a man consisting of a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet composed of a mixture of iron and clay.
God gave Daniel, a prophet in Nebuchadnezzar's court, the ability to interpret dreams (Daniel:1:17; 2:28). Through God's inspiration, Daniel revealed that the four divisions of this image were actually four successive world empires. God, through Daniel, identified the first of the kingdoms, the head of gold, as the Babylonian Empire (Daniel:2:38).The next two kingdoms are identified in Daniel:8:1-21. This chapter records a subsequent vision that foretold and gives more detail about the second and third empires. These two kingdoms are identified as "the kings of Media and Persia" and "the kingdom of Greece." History confirms that the Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire (recorded in Daniel:5:30, 31), which was in turn toppled by the Grecian Empire of Alexander the Great.
In chapter seven these four kingdoms are pictured again, this time as four beasts. This vision characterizes the empires as wild animals, predicting their harsh and oppressive domination of their subjects.
The fourth kingdom is characterized as especially cruel. History records that Alexander's Grecian kingdom was succeeded by the Roman Empire. This kingdom is shown here as challenging the very authority of God and persecuting His saints (Daniel:7:25). It has 10 horns (verse 7), which are 10 extensions or resurrections of the fourth great world-ruling empire (verse 24). These resurrections of this fourth kingdom continue through history to our day, and the final resurrection of this empire is depicted as existing at Jesus Christ's return (verses 8-14).
Human governments replaced by God
It is in the days of this fourth kingdom that God will replace these earthly kingdoms with His Kingdom. "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel:2:44). We see that the fourth kingdom continues to rule until Christ returns to establish His Kingdom on earth.
God's Kingdom—foretold repeatedly in Daniel—is the same Kingdom about which Jesus Christ preached. There can be no mistake about the nature of this Kingdom. The four kingdoms described in Daniel 2, 7 and 8 ruled over people and lands. They were great world empires with dominion and power to rule, warring against and conquering other nations. They had kings, governments, laws and subjects. They were literal kingdoms, whose ruins are visible to this day.
So, too, will the Kingdom of God be a literal kingdom ruling over the whole earth. Daniel:7:27, speaking of the establishment of this Kingdom, adds: "Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him" (NIV).
Major powers will fall
The wonderful news of the coming Kingdom of God is the heart and core of Jesus Christ's message for humanity. Jesus will return to earth and establish this Kingdom. He will be the Ruler of the Kingdom of God. Notice this prophecy of Jesus Christ's return: "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'" (Revelation:11:15). Jesus Christ will assume rulership over literal kingdoms on earth.
The governments of mankind, with their inherent inability to solve human problems that are rooted in humanity's inability to choose the right way to live (Proverbs:16:25), will be replaced by a form of government that can at last solve those problems. Jesus Christ Himself will rule the nations of the earth!
This is the gospel—the good news—that Jesus Christ taught. The focus of Jesus Christ's message was the announcement of a coming world government (Luke:21:31). This government will not be ruled by selfishly motivated humans but by Jesus Christ Himself, under the direction of Almighty God!
Daniel was not the only prophet to speak of this time. Micah:4:1-3 also describes this time of unprecedented peace: "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it.
"Many nations shall come and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
As described in this passage, when Jesus Christ establishes His government, humanity will begin to recognize the blessings that come from obedience to God's ways and laws and will stream to Him to learn that way of life. Christ will settle disputes between peoples and will have to "rebuke strong nations" that reject His direction and authority.
Prophecies of Jesus Christ's rulership
Isaiah, speaking of the future reign of Jesus Christ, describes what kind of ruler He will be: "... The government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever . . ." (Isaiah:9:6, 7).
"Judgment and justice" will be hallmarks of Christ's coming rulership, in contrast to the injustice, short-sightedness and oppression that all too often characterize the governments of the world. Peace will break out throughout the world-in marriages, families, communities and nations. As prophesied, "there will be no end" to peace under Jesus Christ's reign. The Prince of Peace will bring calm and goodwill to a world that has never known true peace.
Under Jesus Christ's righteous rulership, mankind will at last learn God's ways and experience this wonderful peace. Educational institutions will teach people how to live, not just how to make a living. Biblical principles for healthy and lasting relationships will be thoroughly explained. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah:11:9). The multiple millions of people who have never known God's laws or ways will at last have access to that wonderful, saving knowledge.
Causes of humanity's problems
Humankind has had thousands of years to experiment with governments, administrations and lifestyles, so why have we been unable to solve our problems?
Human government has not succeeded because, in the final analysis, humanity simply does not know how to live. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God warns that "it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah:10:23).
Solomon, king of ancient Israel, put it bluntly: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs:14:12; 16:25).
Sadly, mankind has proved the truth of those words for generations. Under human rule, the world has never seen a time that was free of war, strife, turmoil and suffering. Conditions today are so grave that mankind has the ability to erase human life from earth many times over!
Why should this be?
Our world is threatened by overwhelming problems because we have rejected God. God Himself has made this clear over the centuries through His prophets. Under God's inspiration, King David wrote of mankind: "They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one" (Psalm:14:1-3).
The prophet Jeremiah also noted that humans are largely blinded by the deceit of their own evil motives and intents. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah:17:9).
Humanity separated from God
The prophet Isaiah added: "Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity ...
"Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace" (Isaiah:59:1-4, 7, 8).
God's ways are different from man's. "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isaiah:55:8, 9).
The apostle Paul described the inevitable results of rejecting God and His way of life: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans:1:28-32).
Jesus Christ will intervene to save humanity
Left to itself, mankind would annihilate all life from earth. Does this sound shocking? It is. But Jesus Christ Himself said it is so! Describing the time immediately before His return to earth, He said: "It will be a time of great distress; there has never been such a time from the beginning of the world until now, and will never be again. If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God's chosen it will be cut short" (Matthew:24:21, 22, New English Bible).
Jesus Christ tells us that He must intervene to save us from ourselves. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew:24:29, 30).
This glorious event is described in greater detail in Revelation:19:11-16: "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."
The millennial Kingdom and beyond
Jesus Christ will usher in a literal kingdom, the Kingdom of God, on earth. But this is not the end of the story. Notice Revelation:11:15: "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'"
We have seen that Jesus Christ will establish His reign over the nations in a literal kingdom. This kingdom is depicted in Revelation:20:3-7 as lasting 1,000 years. Yet, in the verse quoted just above, we are told that "He shall reign forever and ever." In other words, the thousand-year reign (commonly called the Millennium, Latin for "thousand years") is just the beginning of Jesus Christ's eternal reign in the Kingdom of God.
Indeed, the millennial reign that Jesus Christ shares with the resurrected saints-to whom the Kingdom will be given-will take place for the very purpose of offering entry into the eternal Kingdom of God to all mankind. Millions of physical human beings alive at the return of Jesus Christ will live into the Millennium, and in turn many generations of humans will be born and live during that time. They will all be given an opportunity to be changed from this physical life and body to spirit, to be granted eternal life and to enter into the eternal Kingdom of God.
The truth that the Kingdom of God is ultimately an eternal kingdom, not just a thousand-year period, is made plain by Jesus Christ. In Matthew:19:16, we read of a wealthy young man who asked Jesus the fundamental question: "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" Jesus went on to explain what the young man must do. When it became clear that he was not willing to do what Jesus commanded, Jesus Christ went on to say in verse 24 that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Here, entry into the Kingdom of God is equated with eternal life.
Yes, the millennial reign of Jesus Christ will open the door for millions of human beings, then already being ruled by the Kingdom of God, to be saved and actually enter into the eternal Kingdom of God. The Millennium, a time of unparalleled peace, happiness and prosperity, will be just a foretaste of the even greater eternal Kingdom!
Transformed heaven and earth
After the thousand years are ended, yet another incredible sequence of events is prophesied, as we read in Revelation:21:1-7: "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God ... And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.'
"Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' And He said to me, 'Write, for these words are true and faithful.' And He said to me, 'It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.'"
Access to the tree of life—eternal life, from which humanity has been cut off since the time of Adam and Eve (Genesis:3:22-24)—will be given to those who obediently keep God's commandments (Revelation:22:14).
Eternal life as children of God awaits those who enter His Kingdom.