Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 16, 1949

Jesus And The Kingdom Of God

Jno. T. Overbey, Tempe, Arizona

Jehovah was early regarded as Israel's divine king. In the initial vision of Isaiah, the prophet exclaims, "I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of hosts." (Isa. 6:5) The same idea underlies the protest of Samuel against the appointment of Saul as king, "Ye say unto me, Nay, but a king shall reign over us; when Jehovah your God was your king." (I Sam. 12:12)

This conception of Jehovah as the divine king, however, did not prevent the Jews from paying homage to an earthly king, nor from cherishing hope that a human Messiah would come to establish a world-wide kingdom, and whose chief task would be to extend the authority and glory of Jehovah unto the ends of the earth. (See Isa. 11:1-10; 35:1-10; Micah 4:1-8; Hab. 2:14) This nationalistic conception was held by the common people in the days of their liberation from Babylonian servitude; in the days of the Maccabeans; and in the days of Jesus. Particularly in Jesus' time did the Zealots (a party springing up in the days of Herod the Great) hold to this idea.

Among the Pharisees (who dated their beginning from the days of John Hyracanus, about 135-105 B. C.) were many leaders who, realizing the impossibility of throwing off the yoke of Rome, believed that the kingdom of heaven would be miraculously established. They based their belief and expectancy largely on such passages as Daniel 2:44.

There was still a third idea regarding the kingdom. It was the idea presented in the Psalms (Psalms 24, 29, 47, and 95-100) in which the human king completely disappears, and the reign of God is presented. Jehovah reigns over man. His rule is to be just, merciful and righteous; and it will last forever.

Jesus' View Of The Kingdom

Some hold that Jesus, like the majority of the people of his day, looked forward to the establishment of a temporal kingdom with himself enthroned as king. Others teach that Christ shared the current apocalyptic hope of his day, and expected and taught the speedy second coming and the miraculous establishment of a supernatural kingdom. All competent Bible students, however, agree that Christ labored for and expected the establishment of a world-wide spiritual kingdom in which he should reign through eternity.

The phrase "kingdom of heaven" or its equivalent "kingdom of God" occurs eighty-four times in the Gospels. There is no other subject to which Jesus devoted greater attention.

The parables of the Lord furnish us with one of our richest fields of study relative to his teaching on the kingdom. By the parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4: 30-32) Christ taught that the growth of the kingdom is slow and natural. By the parable of the Leaven (Matt. 13:33) he taught the pervasive and transforming influence of the kingdom. By the parable of the Seed Growing Secretly (Mark 4:26-28) he taught the silent and progressive character of the kingdom. He said, "...first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear"; and that it is not due to man alone planting the seed, but to God who constantly nurtures and fosters it, "and the seed should spring up and grow, he (man) knoweth not how."

Israel's history had been a preparation for such a kingdom; John the Baptist had announced its approach (Matt. 3:1, 2); Jesus had reiterated the promise; and, finally, the work of the apostles marked its establishment in its true meaning and distinctive nature. It is to continue to spread throughout the world through increasing obedience of men to the will of God.

The Kingdom Is Within

Perhaps the crowning word in Jesus' description of the kingdom was, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, There! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17: 20, 21) The occasion of this statement was the question of the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God would come. It reflects their belief that it would be something sudden, catastrophic and revolutionary, instituted by God without man's having anything at all to do with its inauguration.

Jesus refuted their idea in his declaration, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation," that is, in a form to be seen by the human eye. In its coming no one can say, "Lo, here! or There!" This is the most illuminating utterance ever spoken by Christ concerning the true nature of his kingdom. In it he definitely rejects the then and now popular conception of a nationalistic, materialistic kingdom of heaven. He makes the kingdom individual and spiritual, something within the heart of man. This is in perfect accord with the strong emphasis which he always placed on the inner, spiritual and personal rather than on the external, material and national The kingdom of God is the invisible world of power and glory, parallel with the visible world of space and time, breaking in upon it and subduing it. In Jesus himself the process began; in and through him the kingdom of God came to men. To accept Christ is to accept God; to reject him is to reject God. Those who accept him now on the earth do here and now belong to the kingdom of God; and he will acknowledge them when he comes is glory. Those who reject him here and now will be denied by him when he comes in glory.

This rule of Christ must he predicated on man's willingness to dethrone Satan in his heart and life. There is not enough room in any man's heart for both God and Satan. Jesus provides the perfect example of God's reigning in one's heart and life. His meat was to do the will of the Father. Such must be the attitude of every man who would belong to the kingdom of God. He must be willing to say, "speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.' Obedience is the badge of his citizenship.

According to figures given at San Francisco in a recent convention of the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church), they are sustaining an average annual loss of 65,000 members who simply become inactive. This is not to bring surprise to those who know the compromising position and attitude of these people. Where there is a lack of conviction, it is to be expected that members will drop out.


"Character is what a man is in the dark."