Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 13, 1955
NUMBER 23, PAGE 8-9b

God's Kingdom

Thomas Allen Robertson

God's kingdom is referred to by different names in the Bible. Each name used refers to a different relationship of the same institution. For example, the terms kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven refer to the same institution. Generally speaking, in referring to this institution Mathew uses the name "Kingdom of heaven," while Mark and Luke use the name "Kingdom of God." This interchangeable use is shown by a comparison of Mathew 11:11 and Luke 7:28. In these passages the writers are referring to the same incident and one uses one name as the other uses the other name and thus show their identity to be the same.

In the prophetic books of the Bible the term "mountain" is used symbolically for "kingdom". God's kingdom was symbolized in Daniel 2 by a mountain growing from a "stone cut out of the mountain without hands." This becoming a "great mountain" says Daniel, is the "kingdom" which God was to set up that would never be destroyed. In Isaiah 2:2, the prophet said, "It shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain (kingdom) of Jehovah's house shall be established." In I Timothy 3:15, Paul tells Timothy that he is writing that he may know how he ought to behave himself in "the house of God, which is the church of the living God." Therefore, the kingdom of Jehovah's house is the church. The names "kingdom of God", "kingdom of heaven," "mountain of Jehovah's house," and "the church" are but different names for the same institution and it is commonly known today among men as the Church of Christ. (Rom. 16:16).

Only One Kingdom

When we consider this institution as a kingdom we know of course that there is but one. We never hear any one refer to the kingdoms of God" for all are fully aware that there is but one kingdom. The Bible always refers to it in the singular number and all men in sneaking of it follow that pattern. It would perhaps be safe for us to say that you have never heard anyone refer to this institution "The kingdom of God" in the plural number. It is God's kingdom, the kingdom of heaven and there is but one.

Likewise when Christ speaks of his church he uses the singular number. He says, "Upon this rock I will build my church" Matt. 16:18. So also speaks the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:47 as we read, "The Lord added to the church daily." It is never "churches" (plural), but always "church" (singular). Paul speaks of it in the same way as he says "The church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28).

When we sometimes read of churches in the Bible it is always a reference to various congregations of the one church. It is "The churches of Christ" (Rom. 16:16) "the churches of Judea" (Gal. 1:22), and "the seven churches" (Rev. 1:20). This last reference when considered in its context, shows clearly the meaning of the plural term, that is, it shows that Christ speaks of congregations of the same church in various cities of that section.

The Church Important

As we thus contemplate the kingdom of God we can see its importance. Many People have been led to believe that the church is a non-essential institution. However,when we see that the church and the kingdom are the same we can readily see the importance of being in it. Our souls are eternal and for them we need an "eternal citizenship." The kingdoms of this world will not stand for ever, and if they did we can not stay in them by reason of death. Therefore it is important that while we are in this earth we gain a "citizenship" in the one kingdom that shall stand forever.

Paul says, "Our citizenship is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20), and surely that is the need of every individual. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are subject to the will of God as it is revealed in Christ. Citizens of the kingdom of God, members of the church, endeavor to keep God's will on earth as it is Kept in heaven and thus fulfill the prayer of Christ.

However the important part of the matter is the final destiny of the kingdom. When Christ comes with the clouds of heaven he is going to "deliver up the kingdom of God, even the Father" (I Cor. 15:24). Therefore those in the kingdom will be presented to the Father but those not having citizenship in the kingdom will be left behind to endure the fires of God's wrath.

More than this, when we consider the church as the "body of Christ" we can easily see the importance of being members of it. Paul speaks of this in Eph. 5:23 as he says of Christ, "Being himself, the saviour of the body." Since he is the saviour of "The Body" it is apparent to all that those who are not in "the Body" do not have Christ, as their savior. Then since "the body" is "the church" we can see and understand that to have Christ as our saviour we must be members of his church.

This is even more clearly set forth in Paul's picture of the matter in Acts 20:28. Here we read, "The Church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood." The church is that house, that family, purchased by the blood of Christ "our passover" who hath been sacrificed for us (I Cor. 5:7). Christ has purchased the church which is the "house of God" and if we are to be saved by the blood of Christ we must be in the house or church which he has purchased.

The Identity Of The Church

Now knowing the importance of being in the church and realizing that God is building but "one church" we need to know which this is in the midst of a multitude of "churches" in the world today. In the New Testament we have the divine church clearly revealed. We can by reading there, find certain definite identifying characteristics of the church and then, locating the church having these identifying marks today, we can know that it is the "church of the Lord."

The time and place of the establishment of this church was the day of Pentecost following Christ's resurrection in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:4-47) This church is built by the preaching of Christ's word for that is the seed of the kingdom. (Luke 8:11) This preaching was to begin at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47) and Isaiah had said that "the word of the Lord shall go forth from Jerusalem". (Isa. 2:4) Therefore Jerusalem is the starting place and the day of Pentecost is the beginning time. These are identifying characteristics of the true church that must not be minimized or overlooked. In view of this any church that points to Rome, Geneva, London, Boston, Los Angeles or any other city as its beginning place is not the one that we read about in the Bible.

Moreover Christ said, "Upon this rock I will build my church." He is the founder and the builder of his church. He is the one that can add men and women to it. Men do not join it but Christ adds them to it as they are saved in obedience to his will. Any church that men can join or to which men hold the key and into which men are accepted according to the will of men cannot be the one that Christ is building.

Men, we must consider the law of this church. The word is the seed and by it all additions to this church are produced. Likewise in it all government is by and according to the word of God. Paul said, "Every scripture inspired instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work. (II Tim. 3:16, and 17) Nothing other than the word of God was used to govern that church. No creed, manual or confession of faith was ever found necessary and those governed by such today cannot be the one we read about in the New Testament.

Finally we must consider the name of the church. The modern names of the modern churches are not scriptural. The church which today is the same as the one we read about in the Bible will have a name found in the Word of God. Name alone will not identify, but it is one of the identifying marks. The church in the Bible is found wearing the name of Christ for he said, "I will build my church." It being his it should wear his name. It being his bride it should surely wear his name and therefore other names take away the glory and honor that should be given to Christ.

How To Enter

Now having learned the identifying marks of the church from the Bible we will also learn from it how we may become members of the church. There is but one way of becoming a member of the church of the Bible and that is to have the Lord add you to it (Acts 2:47) "Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain" (Pea. 127:1) Therefore we want to learn that we must do the Lord's will and how the Lord will add us to his church.

In Acts 2:47 we read that "the Lord added to the church such as were being saved." Then if I can become one of "such as are being saved" I will be added to the church by the Lord.

Three times in the Book of Acts the question "What must I do to be saved?" is asked, and each time people are taught to do certain things, the same things. If we today will ask the same question and have the same answer to do it, surely God will do for us what he did for them.