The word of the kingdom is the gospel. We must believe the gospel. We do not have to accept Jesus. What did He mean by the kingdom when He said we must repent and believe the gospel of the kingdom? What did Jesus mean by kingdom?
Early in Jesus’ ministry He commanded people to repent and added that the kingdom “is at hand” and the “time is fulfilled.” That is what the gospels of Matthew and Mark report.
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (NASB)
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 (NASB)
Since these verses tell us that Jesus did not command people to “Repent and believe the gospel of the kingdom” the question we will answer is, “What did Jesus mean by the kingdom?” It is also important to notice that Jesus never used the phrase “gospel of the kingdom.” You will soon discover that both the Old and New Testaments refer to several kingdoms that all belong to God.
An important truth that is often missed is that the Old Testament repeatedly calls God a king and states that He is king over “His land.” That is, God is King and has a kingdom. His kingdom includes the unrighteous and righteous in heaven and on earth as we will soon discover.
First, Psalm 10:16 clearly reveals that God is King over the earth. This means that God is over believers and unbelievers.
The LORD is King forever and ever;
Nations have perished from His land.
Psalm 10:16 (NASB)
Psalm 24:8-10 worships God who is king over His creation.
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates,
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in!
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
He is the King of glory. Shelah.
Psalm 95:3 adds that God is King over all gods. Once again, our God has been and is a King. This agrees with Matthew 6:33 which says that God already has a kingdom. John 18:36 records a statement by Jesus that reveals He already had a kingdom while He was here on earth.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” John 18:36 (NASB)
Repeatedly we have been told that when Christ walked among us, He was already a King and had a kingdom.
Yet, Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; 2 Samuel 7:14-17 and Zechariah 14:9 drop hints and provide direct prophesies that God will have a kingdom some day on the earth. Matthew 6:10 clearly states that there is a future kingdom, and at the same time God already has a kingdom in heaven. The verse is the first line from what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. But actually the prayer is a model prayer for us since Jesus would never have prayed for His sins to be forgiven since He never sinned.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10 (NASB)
Kingdom is Near
Therefore, we must ask why Christ when He walked among us told us to repent for the kingdom is near (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15)? What kingdom was He talking about since there was already a kingdom that included the entire creation: the unrighteous and the righteous. This truth helps us understand the kingdom parables of Matthew 13 where we are told that the kingdom includes the unrighteous and righteous and at the end of the age, the unrighteous will be sent to eternal punishment but not the righteous (for example: Matthew 13:36-43). Yet, only the righteous will enter the kingdom — the millennial kingdom. Later in John 18:36 Jesus said that He has a kingdom already. So about which kingdom was He talking?
Also, notice that in John 3:3 Jesus told Nicodemus he could not enter the kingdom unless he was born from above.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3 (NASB)
Which kingdom did Jesus refer to? In Acts 14:22; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21 and 1 Thessalonians 2:12 we are taught that only Christians will enter the kingdom. The unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom. They go to eternal punishment or hell. Only the righteous go to the kingdom — the millennial kingdom which becomes the eternal kingdom.
Which kingdom did Jesus refer to? The answer is that Jesus was referring to the future millennial kingdom which only Christians will enter. In fact, no one can enter the eternal kingdom called the New Earth and New Heaven unless they live in the millennial kingdom. For more about who enters the earthly, millennial kingdom read, “When and where does the Goat and Sheep judgment occur?”
Millennial Kingdom On Earth
Near the end of Jesus’ ministry the disciples asked Jesus when the kingdom would be established. Here is their question.
While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately. Luke 19:11 (NASB)
The verse reveals that the disciples believed the kingdom of God was coming soon, but they were wrong. Yet, in Matthew 25:34 Jesus said that the kingdom had been prepared. That is, it was planned.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'” Matthew 25:34 (NASB)
In Acts 1:6-7 Jesus tells the disciples the kingdom is yet future. In 1 Corinthians 15:24 we are told that Christ will hand over the kingdom to God the Father some day. This kingdom is described in Revelation 20:4-6. It is a one thousand year kingdom.
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Revelation 20:4 (NASB)
It is also called the millennial kingdom. It is prophesied throughout the major and minor prophets.
Now we can answer the question, “What did Jesus mean by the kingdom” at the start of His ministry? The answer is He was referring to this kingdom — the millennial kingdom on earth. Literally, the kingdom was near in comparison to the time from the beginning of the creation to the appearance of Christ. In theology there is an expression that describes what Jesus meant. The expression is “already, but not yet.” That is, Jesus was declaring that they were experiencing the future kingdom already because He was there in their presence.
“For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:21 (NASB)
In the earthly, millennial kingdom there will be no disease and people will live hundreds of years. Just read Isaiah 65:17-25. This passage cannot be describing the eternal state since no one dies in the eternal state. Therefore, the answer to the question, “What did Jesus mean by the kingdom” is that He announced the kingdom was near. He was the King of the kingdom and they would be experiencing the benefits of the kingdom. The kingdom was “already but not yet.” It had not yet arrived. In fact, if the Jews had accepted Him as King, He would have immediately become the king and the millennial kingdom would have started.
Daniel 2:36-45; 2 Peter 1:11 and Revelation 21-22 describe the final and eternal kingdom. Daniel 2:36-45 makes it clear that the millennial kingdom will become the eternal state and fulfill the promise to King David that the kingdom will exist forever (2 Samuel 7:14-16).
We have discovered that a kingdom has existed in heaven since the creation. It is God’s kingdom over the angels and the universe. There is also a future kingdom called the millennial kingdom which will transition into the eternal state. These kingdoms belong to Christ and God the Father. Both of them are Kings and are ruling and will rule in honor and glory! Glory and honor be to our God!
Suggested Links:Are the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven the same?
Why did Jesus say the Kingdom of God was in their midst?
When and where does the Goat and Sheep judgment occur?
Correct kingdom view is Premillennialism and not Amillennialism
The Millennial Kingdom and Christ the King
The Millennial Kingdom