A Biblical Survey of the Kingdom: Still Coming – Part 4

That the kingdom did not come in the gospel accounts is vindicated with the apostles’ question and Jesus’ response in Acts 1:6-7:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

The apostles had just finished a forty day intensive where Jesus Himself taught on the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).  Upon completing the course, the eleven understood that the kingdom would be restored to Israel.  This is the context from which the question arose.  If the kingdom had already returned or been established, even in some sense, then surely the Lord would have denounced the question.  Instead, Jesus verifies it in answering that the timing of the kingdom’s return was not for the apostles to know.  In other words, the kingdom will be restored to Israel at some point according to the Father’s timetable.

Peter Solomon's PorticoThe kingdom surely did not arrive with Pentecost in Acts 2 given that it was still something expected by Peter in Acts 3:17-21.  He preached to his fellow Jews that Jesus had fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Messiah’s suffering (vv. 17-18).  Peter then implores the men of Israel to change their minds regarding Jesus so that they may experience the anticipated times of refreshing (vv. 19-20).  This time will commence with the Second Coming of Christ Jesus (v. 20).  Only then will the restoration of all the things spoken of by the prophets come to pass (v. 21).  This would certainly include the promises made by God concerning the return of the Jews to the Promised Land and the blessings to be experienced therein (e.g. Is. 11:11; Ezek. 36:24; Amos 9:13-15), with Jesus as their King reigning from Jerusalem (e.g. Is. 24:23; Zech. 14:17).  The coming of the kingdom, then, remained contingent upon the nation of Israel trusting in Jesus as the Messiah.

The Jewish elders and the Pharisees arrested the deacon Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin, or the ruling council of Israel (Acts 6:12).  Stephen then witnessed to the high priest and the rest of Israel’s leaders, referring to them as brothers and fathers (Acts 7:1-53).  Upon completion of his speech, Stephen gazed into heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55).  What is so interesting about this is that the description of Jesus being at the right hand of God elsewhere in Scripture pictures Him sitting.  Stephen even made it a point to proclaim the vision to his audience (Acts 7:56).  Perhaps Jesus was standing to welcome Stephen home as the first Christian martyr (Acts 7:57-60).  It is also entirely possible that as Stephen witnessed to the rulers of Israel, Jesus tentatively stood up in anticipation of them being moved by the deacon’s words.  For if Israel had believed on Jesus as a result of the speech, the Messiah would have returned.

TWO COMING KINGDOMS

Paul’s discourse on the resurrection of the dead provides us with an important kingdom distinction in 1 Corinthians 15:23-25:

But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.  For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

The Messiah must reign over His kingdom until He has defeated all of His enemies.  Once this is accomplished, Jesus will hand over the kingdom to the Father.  This precisely describes the transitional nature of the Millennium.  Unbelievers will continue on for the duration and stage one final rebellion before being permanently defeated (Rev. 20:7-9).  The Son’s kingdom is the Millennium and the Father’s Kingdom is the Eternal State.  Each has His own kingdom and they should not be confused or conflated.

On the millennial implications of the passage, D. Edmond Hiebert wrote:

. . . it is not only possible but probable that Paul understood this final triumph to take place during the millennial reign of Christ. To sum up the principal evidence, Paul’s use of epeita (‘after that’) and eita (‘then’) in 1 Corinthians 15:23-24, the syntax of 15:24-25, and the parallel use of Psalms 8 and 110 in 1 Corinthians 15 and Hebrews 1 and 2 all point to the understanding that when Paul mentioned a kingdom and reign in 15:24-25, he referred to the reign of Christ on this earth following His return and prior to the eternal state, a time that Revelation 20:4-6 calls ‘the thousand years.[1]

A FUTURE EARTHLY KINGDOM

The apostle John finally witnessed the coming of the kingdom as recorded in Revelation.  One of the most critical kingdom verses is 5:10:

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Those who have been ransomed by the blood of Jesus (Rev. 5:9) have become positional members of the kingdom.  Regarding when their actual reign begins, the future tense is used.  The reign itself is specifically said to be on earth.  In no way did John see a current kingdom reign that was limited to a heavenly realm.  The saints will receive authority to rule over the nations from Jesus, just as He received authority from the Father.  Not only will Jesus rule with a rod of iron (e.g. Rev. 12:5; 19:15), but so too will the saints (Rev. 2:26-27).  Critics of Premillennialism commonly argue that Revelation 20:1-6 never teaches that the saints will rule on earth.  However, the clarity of Revelation 5:10 absolutely quashes this line of attack.  Rest assured, when the saints are raised at the beginning of the Millennium as priests of God and Christ, they will rule with Him for a thousand years (Rev. 20:6), on this very world.  A future terrestrial rule of saints under the Messiah is just the definition of the Kingdom of God that Daniel prophesied (cf. Dan. 7:27).

Following the Millennium, heaven and earth will be replaced with a new heaven and a new earth.  The New Jerusalem will descend, resulting in man and God sharing the same home (Rev. 21:1-2).  This is a return to the intimate relationship people had with their Creator in Eden.  There will no longer be death, crying or pain, for the world where those things happened will have passed away (Rev. 21:4).  From His throne, God will proclaim that He is making all things new, followed with the declaration it is done! (Rev. 21:6).  Creation itself will be fully redeemed (cf. Rom. 8:19-22).  This is the final and perfect form of the kingdom, one that will last for eternity.

[1] D. Edmond Hiebert, “Evidence from 1 Corinthians 15,” in A Case for Premillennialism: A New Consensus, eds. Donald K. Campbell and Jeffrey L. Townsend (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), 234.

 

Leave a Reply