The Different Aspects of the Kingdom of God
There is much confusion in the church today in regard to the meaning of the words "kingdom of God" because of the failure to understand the different "aspects" of the kingdom. Once the different aspects of the kingdom of God are understood then this confusion is cleared up.
Gary DeMar correctly writes, "Even Nebuchadnezzar understood that God's 'dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation' (Dan. 4:34)" (DeMar, Myths, Lies, & Half Truths, Published by American Vision, 2004, 224)
The following verse confirms this principle: "The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all" (Ps.103:19).
The Lord is in total control over the universe which He created, so therefore He rules over it all. Here is more Scriptual evidence of this principle:
"Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all" (1Chron.29:11).
Even though there has always been creatures who rebel against the Lord, and even though the earth as a whole is in rebellion against the Lord, that does not change the fact the He rules over all, and the created universe is His kingdom.
"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit" (Isa. 57:15).
The eternal state exists in a completely different dimension than the created universe. Although men in the "flesh and blood" bodies live or exist in the "universal kingdom", that is not the case when it comes to the "eternal kingdom", as witnessed by the words of the Apostle Paul:"And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (1Cor.15:49-50).
Paul is speaking of the eternal kingdom in the following verse:"Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13).
The word "translated" comes from the Greek word methistemi, which means "to transpose, transfer, remove from one place to another" ("Thayer's Greek English Lexicon").
If the kingdom of the Son was on the earth when Paul wrote those words then there would be no need to "translate" the believer to the kingdom of the Son. In what way is the Christian "translated" into this kingdom?:
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God...For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:1,3).
"Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ...And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2: 5-6).
Once the sinner believes the gospel he is completely identified with the Lord Jesus, from His death and His life (Ro. 6:3) as He is now sitting at the right hand of the Father in the eternal kingdom.
The Davidic Kingdom
The Lord made the following promise to David:"And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever" (2 Sam.7:16).
This kingdom began with David's son Solomon: "And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever" (2 Sam.7:12-13).
"Then sat Solomon upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was established greatly" (1Ki.2:12).
Due to Solomon's abuses rebellion followed upon his death. The ten northern tribes, led by Jeroboam, split-off and left Solomon's son Rehoboam to reign over the two remaining southern tribes. Jeroboam's rebellion was the Lord's punishment for Solomon's sins (1Ki. 11:31-39).
The northen tribes then fell into apostasy and not long after the Assyrians invaded those tribes and hauled off thousands of Israelites into captivity. The two remaing southern tribes also fell into corruption and not long after King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Judea and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and sent many into captivity (2Chron. 36:16-21).
By this time it is clear that the kingdom promised to David has been put into abeyance, a state of waiting for the ascertainment of the Person entitled to reign on David's throne. The prophet Hosea wrote:
"For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days" (Hos.3:4-5).
On the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter told the Israelites exactly who had the right to sit on the throne in a restored Davidic kingdom:
"Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, He would raise up Christ to sit on his (David's) throne" (Acts 2:30).
Here is the oath to which Peter referred: "The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne" (Ps.132:11).
Restore the Kingdom to Israel
The Apostles of the Lord Jesus would have a very good understanding of the things in regard to this kingdom, especially considering the fact that they were with the resurrected Lord for many days while He spoke of things pertaining to the kingdom:
"To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).
The Apostles believed that the kingdom would be restored to Israel:
"When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6).
The Greek word translated "restore" is apokathistemi, and that word means "to restore to its former state" (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon).
The kingdom which the Apostles thought would be restored to Israel would be a kingdom resembling its former state, a kingdom with an earthly throne--the throne of David.
Despite the fact that that kingdom has not yet been restored to the Israel Gary DeMar throws his reason to the wind and writes:
"When will the kingdom be restored to Israel? It was restored to the 'Israel of God' (Gal. 6:16) in its earthly manifestation soon after Pentecost" (Ibid.).
Nothing could be further from the truth. The eartly manifestations which the nation of Israel enjoyed during the Old Testament times were not restored to Israel. Gary DeMar says that these things were restored to the "Israel of God", meaning the Body of Christ. However, how could the kingdom be restored to the Body of Christ since that Body never possessed the kingdom to begin with?
Gary DeMar is confused because he does not understand the various "aspects" of the kingdom of God and instead thinks that all the references to the kingdom of God are in regard to the same kingdom. He writes: "...we realize that in some sense God's kingdom was a present reality even before Jesus came to earth."
Yes, but this is in regard to the "Universal Kingdom". He continues, "First, it is equally obvious that the New Testament describes an approaching kingdom: 'The kingdom of God is at hand' (Mark 1:14-15; cp. Matthew 4:12-17). This means that there is a fuller expression of that already present glorious kingdom approaching as God takes on human flesh and personally oversees the kingdom that brings with it the once-for-all sacrifice promised so long ago in Adam and Eve" (Ibid.).
Gary DeMar would have us believe that although the kingdom is already on earth John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus were telling the Jews that that same kingdom was not yet on the earth but only "at hand". He would have us believe that even though the kingdom was already on earth the Lord Jesus told His disciples to pray in the following way:
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Mt.6:9-10).
Gary DeMar believes that the Lord Jesus was telling His disciples to pray for the kingdom to come to the earth even though that same kingdom was already there!In truth, the earth was already a part of the Universal Kingdom, but when the Baptist and the Lord Jesus said that the "kingdom is at hand" they were referring to the Davidic Kingdom.
The Wicked and the Kingdom of God
The Lord Jesus said, "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Mt.5:20).
Here the Lord is referring to the Davidic Kingdom. When the Lord Jesus returns to set up His kingdom the unrighteous will be "punished with everlasting destruction":
"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thess.1:7-9).
Gary DeMar writes: "...the kingdom requires the new birth and sanctification to enter in (John 3: 3; Matt. 7: 21; 18: 3) and prevents the unrighteous from entering (Matt. 5: 20; 1 Cor. 6: 9-10; Eph. 5: 5). Yet, in another respect, in its earthly form, it contains even the wicked (Matt. 13: 36-43)." [emphasis mine] (Ibid., 225).
According to Gary DeMar's "reasoning" the unrighteousness cannot enter but at the same time the same kingdom "contains even the wicked". He fails to understand that the verses which he quotes in regard to the "wicked" (Matthew 13: 36-43) are in reference to the Universal Kingdom and not to the Davidic Kingdom:
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Mt. 13:41-43).
This "parable of the tares of the field" is one of the "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven". The words "kingdom of heaven" are synonymous with the words "kingdom of God" (compare Matthew 3: 2 with Mark 1: 15), and when those words are used they can refer to either the Universal Kingdom or the Davidic Kingdom. At Matthew 13 the reference is to the Universal Kingdom. At the "end of the age" the Lord Jesus will return and gather out from the earth all things that offend in His Universal Kingdom. At this point in time there will no longer be any people who are rebellious on earth in His Universal Kingdon or in the Davidic Kingdom.
Kingdom of God Taken Away From You
Gary DeMar writes, "First, Israel had the kingdom, an extension of the Old Covenant kingdom, therefore it was a present reality: 'The kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it' (Matt. 21: 43). Jesus could not take from them what they did not have" (Ibid., 223).
Here we can see that Gary DeMar recognizes that there is indeed one aspect of the "kingdom of God" that relates to the Davidic Kingdom--what he calls the "Old Covenant kingdom".
In order to understand the meaning of the words of the Lord Jesus at Matthew 21: 43 we must look at the verses which precede this one where He spoke the "parable of the householder" (Mt. 21:33-40). A householder had a vineyard and he leased it to tenant farmers In order to receive the fruits of that vineyard which were due him the householder sent his servants to collect those fruits. Then the farmers killed those servants. Next the householder sent his son and the tenants killed him. After telling this parable the Lord Jesus asked:
"When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those farmers?"
And they answered, saying, "He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will lease out his vineyard unto other farmers, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons." Then the Lord Jesus replied, "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
Considering the parable and the Lord's words we can see that the subject is in regard to the "responsibility" concerning the "kingdom of God". When the householder returns he will take away the "responsibility" which the unfaithful farmers had in regard to the vineyard. The nation of Israel had the "responsibility" in regard to God's kingdom. The Lord Jesus Himself had told the Jews, "Ye are the light of the world...Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt. 5:14,16). He had said that"salvation is of the Jews" (Jn. 4:22).
Israel was the Lord�s agent to the world to bring the knowledge of the true God to the world. That was there responsibility in regard to the "kingdom of God". But due to their unfaithfulness this responsibility was to be taken away from them.
The Kingdom of God Has Come Upon You
Gary DeMar writes, " 'But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you' (Matt. 12:28). 'The truth is, Jesus did cast out demons by the Spirit of God.' The conclusion that we should reach is the kingdom of God came upon the church in the first century' " (Ibid.).
If the kingdom had already come upon the earth when the Lord Jesus spoke those words then why did the Lord Jesus say that it would only be "near at hand" at the time when the people living in the nations will see the Lord coming in a cloud?:
"Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory�So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is near at hand" (Lk. 21:26-27,31).
When the Lord said that "the kingdom of God has come upon you" He was speaking to the Pharisees who had said that the Lord cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons (v. 24). Surely these men were not saved and they were not members of the church. Despite this Gary DeMar writes that "The conclusion that we should reach is the kingdom of God came upon the church in the first century".
This makes no sense whatsoever. To understand what the Lord is saying we must understand the context. First, the Lord was denying that He was casting out demons by Satan's power. He then used the example of the Jewish exorcists, saying that they too cast out demons, and they did so by the power of God (v. 27). So if they had that power why did they not think that He had the same power? After establishing the fact that His power was according to the power of God He then said that "the kingdom of God has come upon you", using "figurative" language to express the idea that His casting out of demons was done by the power of God.
Is The Christian Reigning With Christ Now?
Gary DeMar writes that "Christians have been raised up with Jesus as a testimony to our rule with Him (Eph. 2: 6)" [emphasis mine] (Ibid., 226). So he places the Christian's ruling with the Lord as early as the time when Paul wrote his epistle to the Ephesians. He continues on this theme, writing that Christians 'participate with Him in His reign.' Not only the Apostles, but all true Christians are spoken of as 'kings and priests unto God.' They are a 'royal priesthood.' They are now 'reigning with Christ', even while they live in a sinful world " [emphasis mine] (Ibid, 234).
Gary DeMar overlooks a very importand passage when he makes the assertion that the Christian is reigning with the Lord Jesus as early as Paul's ministry, a passage that says that the "reigning with Him" remains in the future:
"And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5: 10).
If the Christian was ruling with the Lord Jesus as early as the time when he wrote the epistle to the Ephesians then John would not write that "we shall reign on the earth".
Then Shall He Sit Upon the Throne
Gary DeMar writes, "Christ's ascension is described in Scripture as an enthronement (Eph.1:20-23; Phil.9-11)" (Ibid., 230).
However, the plain words of the Lord Jesus refute this because He says that He will not sit upon His throne until He comes in His glory:
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: And before Him shall be gathered all nations" (Mt. 25:31-32).