WHAT IS “THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM”? Mention the word “Gospel,” and most Christians will tell you that it is about Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, so that when we die, we can go to heaven. Many people are surprised when I tell them that there’s more to the “Gospel” than this. Much of the “Gospel of the Kingdom” is actually found in the Old Testament Scriptures, a part of the Bible that many Christians do not study or thinks that it applies to their life. As a result, most Christians do not have a comprehensive view of what the Gospel message really fully entails or the relationship of the cross to the KINGDOM‘s previous teachings.
The fact is that the KINGDOM message was first uttered to Abraham (Galatians 3:8-9; Genesis 12:3), and God began building with him, and it culminated with the life and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. The cross opened the way to the KINGDOM that God had been building from Abraham until Jesus, and beginning with Jesus and His disciples, the invitation of God to become a citizen of His KINGDOM has been going forth from person to person.
WE NEED TO CHANGE OUR PARADIGM!
The problem with the traditional Christian message is that we have divided the Bible in two separate parts, ignoring for the most part the first 60% of the Bible (the “Old Testament”) and solely focusing on the second 40% (the “New Testament”). That’s like ignoring the first 60% of a film, and focusing solely on what happens in the last 40%. There’s no way we can fully understand the film, if we ignore 60% of it. And likewise, our paradigm (our overall “picture”) we use to understand the Bible is flawed. It’s like trying to figure out a puzzle when you’ve only got 40% of the cover picture. We need the full picture – not just part of it!
And because the full picture is not being taught within most churches, we believe that all of the Bible has to do with RELIGION, but it doesn’t. Instead, it is about God, from Genesis 1:1, working to establish His KINGDOM down here on earth. God’s ultimate goal is not taking humanity into heaven, but to bring Himself and His Kingdom down here on earth. Just read the last two chapters of Revelation to check this out.
I mean just think, Jesus did not go through being whipped, beaten, spit on, tortured with a crown of thorns, and then crucified, dying the worst death possibly known to humanity, so He could establish a world RELIGION. NO! Instead, Jesus came to the earth to teach us about the KINGDOM (Luke 4:43), and then He went through this gruesome death to open the way, so all people, both Jews and non-Jews alike, could come and be part of His KINGDOM, NOT PART OF A RELIGION.
Our message, our lives, and all that we do to communicate the message of Jesus should be KINGDOM-ORIENTED AND FOCUSED, but most of the time, that’s not the case. For example, in all the years growing up, I NEVER heard the term KINGDOM, unless we were talking about missions, and then, very rarely. As disciples today, We need to learn how to be KINGDOM people – NOT religious people.
TRANSFORMING A KINGDOM INTO A RELIGION?
Theologians and researchers say that the phrases used by Jesus, “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” are not used anywhere in the Old Testament. Jews say that the phrase “kingdom of heaven” was first coined by the Pharisees during the Intertestamental period. However, their meaning for this phrase is much more RELIGIOUS in orientation, and it is used to mean, to live one’s life in submission to the teachings of the Torah. And by Torah, they mean the following:
- THE WRITTEN TORAH (the first five books of our Bible);
- THE ORAL TORAH (called the Mishnah);
- THE CUSTOMS THAT DEVELOPED SINCE THE TIME OF EZRA AND NEHEMIAH.
In addition to these, the word Torah would have also included a whole range of interpretations, forms of interpretation and levels of interpretation. And by adding their own teachings, practices, and interpretations, they were transforming the KINGDOM of God from what it was in the Old Testament to what they wanted it to be, A RELIGION.
GOING BACK TO KINGDOM?
Although Jesus did use these phrases “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God,” I do not believe He used them to mean the same thing. I believe that He wanted to take people back to the Scriptures, back to a KINGDOM understanding of things, rather than a RELIGIOUS understanding of things, being taught by the Scribes and Pharisees of His day.
THE ERROR OF BOTH JEWS AND CHRISTIANS
You see, just like the sages, Pharisees, and later rabbis, who were adding their own teachings and practices to the Bible to transform it into a RELIGION, so we find Christianity doing the exact same thing in late 2nd century and onward, including in the church today, Christians have also approached and understood God’s KINGDOM as a RELIGION. They both have done the same thing, and both perspectives are wrong. Why? Because it is clearly evident in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament that God does not want His Kingdom viewed as a RELIGION, but as a KINGDOM.
But why is this important? What does it matter how we view the KINGDOM? Because what we don’t stop to realize is that a KINGDOM is controlled by the KING (God), but a RELIGION is controlled by people. And this is why people want a RELIGION, so that they can maintain control over their lives and what they choose to do.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD – A POLITICAL ENTITY?
In I Chronicles 28:5, David is speaking and telling the people who God has chosen to be the next King:
And of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons,) He has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD over Israel. [Emphasis Mine]
In this verse, the phrase translated as “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD,” is in Hebrew malkhuth Y’HWAH. The context for this is POLITICAL, since David is explaining that God has chosen Solomon, his son, to be the next king over the nation of Israel. But by the first century, the covenant name of God was no longer being used, and synonyms were being used in its place, one of which was “heaven” and another one “God.” So “the KINGDOM OF THE LORD” (Heb. malkhut Y’HWAH) became “the KINGDOM of heaven” (Heb. malkhut hashamayim) or “the KINGDOM of God.” (Y’HWAH is what is written in the Hebrew text of the Bible, and is translated as “The LORD” in our English Bibles.)
This is important because there’s a law when it comes to proper biblical interpretation, called “The Law of First Mention.” This law states that wherever a word, concept or phrase FIRST appears in Scripture, this establishes the basic, foundational meaning of the word, concept or phrase. Later biblical passages may build on and further develop this meaning, but they cannot contradict or override it.
Consequently, the basic, foundational meaning of “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD“, “The KINGDOM of heaven” or “the KINGDOM of God” as used in the Scriptures and by Jesus must be understood within the context of a political KINGDOM. This is true, not only of this specific phrase, but it is also true in reference to God’s KINGDOM in general.
GOD’S KINGDOM – A HOLY NATION MADE UP OF JEW AND NON-JEW
From the very beginning, God’s KINGDOM has been made up of both JEWS and NON-JEWS. When Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, a “mixed multitude” of people went with them.
And a mixed multitude went up also with them;… (Exodus 12:38)
This “mixed multitude” was comprised of people from different non-Jewish nations who had joined themselves to Israel, and this mixed group of Jews and non-Jews were called “Israel” by God. “Israel” is the name God has given to His KINGDOM, which is comprised of those people He has redeemed from the Jewish people AND from those people God has saved from the other nations of the world. And what was it that God has told this nation of Jew and non-Jews?
Now therefore, if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant. then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: And you shall be unto Me a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND A HOLY NATION. (Exodus 19:5-6; Emphasis Mine)
Moses was to speak these words to “the children of Israel,” but who were the “children of Israel” at Sinai? They were a mixed nation, comprised of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob AND the “mixed multitude” that had come out with them. Therefore, it should be obvious, then, that God’s Law (Torah) was not given just to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai, as Christians have erroneously taught and continue to teach, but to a nation of people made up of both Jews and non-Jews together.
THE FIRST GENERAL REFERENCE TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
In fact, before getting to Mt. Sinai, the first general reference to God’s KINGDOM in the Bible is in the song of Moses. In the first three verses, Moses proclaims:
I will sing unto Y’HWAH, for He has triumphed gloriously: the horse and the rider has He thrown into the sea.
Y’HWAH is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare Him a habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Y’HWAH is a man of war: Y’HWAH is His name.
Pharaoh’s chariots and his host He cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. (Exodus 15:1-5)
Y’HWAH is the covenant name of God there in the Hebrew text that’s usually translated as “the LORD.” The context here is clearly God’s triumph over the military might of the Egyptian army. At the time, Egypt had the strongest military might in the world. Moses then continues on for another twelve verses praising Y’HWAH God, for His victory over the Egyptians. He culminates his song with the first reference to the Kingship of God in the Bible:
Y’HWAH yimloch l’olam v’ed (“Y’HWAH reigns forever and ever”).
The context here is clearly a military victory of God’s KINGDOM over another political power, the kingdom of Egypt. Nor is this the only place where we see God’s KINGDOM triumphant over the military might of another nation. We see God’s victories over and over again, not only under Moses but Joshua as well.
JUDGES – A DARK TIME IN ISRAEL’S PAST
In the book of Judges, we see a dark time in Israel’s distant past. Why? They turned their back on God and His KINGDOM. The Bible says that “they did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). They ignored the kingship of God, so He allowed them to be conquered time and time again, and it wasn’t until they cried out to Him, that He would raise up a “savior,” “a deliverer,” or “a judge” to rescue them from their oppression and to rule over them. But as soon as that judge died, the cycle would then repeat.
ISRAEL WANTED ANOTHER KING
Ultimately, Israel did not want to be “God’s own special people,” ruled over exclusively by Him anymore, but they wanted to be like the other nations around them. They wanted to have a human king, a human government, as opposed to the government of God. And when Samuel complained about their rejection of him as “judge,” God responded,
Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you: for they have not rejected you, but THEY HAVE REJECTED ME, that I should not reign over them.
(I Samuel 8:7; Emphasis Mine)
And this was the beginning of Israel’s downfall in the Hebrew Scriptures (“Old Testament”). After Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, assumes the throne, four generations later, Israel splits into two Kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom of Israel (also called Ephraim) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Both KINGDOMS fell into idolatry and gross sins before Y’HWAH. The prophet Hosea was sent to warn the Northern Kingdom to warn them of God’s punishment, if they did not change. God gives the names of Hosea’s children as an illustration of His coming judgment against them:
- Jezreel – “I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel” (Hosea 1:4).
- Lo-ruhamah – “for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away” (Hosea 1:6).
- Lo-ammi – “for you are not My people, and I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:9).
Ultimately, as God promised through Hosea, Amos, and others, after their 19 rebellious kings, God’s gives the the Northern Kingdom of Israel “a bill of divorcement” (Jeremiah 3:8), and it is taken captive by Assyria in 722 B.C., and they are removed from the land and dispersed throughout the Assyrian empire. In addition, in Amos 9, God promised them that He would “sift” them “among all nations” (Amos 9:9), and the prophet Hosea also told them that they would be “swallowed up among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure” (Hosea 8:8).
Then in 586 B.C., after 20 kings, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was taken captive by the kingdom of Babylon. The city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and many of its people were taken into captivity into Babylon. Although God divorced the Northern Kingdom, He did not do so to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. And it is while they are in Babylon, that those who came from the Southern Kingdom were first called “Jews,” a shortened form of “Judeans.”
THE PROMISE OF A NEW COVENANT
The promise of the New Covenant (translated as “New Testament”) was made with these two kingdoms of Israel. This is easily seen in Jeremiah 31:31-34, the prophecy concerning the New Covenant:
Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL and with THE HOUSE OF JUDAH. (Jeremiah 31:31)
Notice to whom God is making this covenant: It is with “the House of Israel” and “the House of Judah.” These are the two kingdoms of Israel. This covenant is NOT made with the world, as I’ve heard Christians erroneously teach. To even teach this is to completely ignore Scripture. God then goes on:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the LORD.
God says there will be a difference between the covenant of Sinai and this new covenant that He’s about to make. The difference though is primarily one of location, rather than in content.
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days, says the LORD, I will put My Law (Heb. Torah) in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people.
The New Covenant, unlike the Sinai covenant, will not be written on tablets of stone [i.e., be an outside motivator], but it will be written on our inward parts and heart [i.e., it will be an inner motivator]. In essence, the new covenant will make God’s Law (Torah) a “want-to,” instead of a “have to.”
As we read the New Testament, we see that there’s been some additions made to the covenant, but it did not do away with the covenant. Why? Because a covenant CANNOT be destroyed, done away with, annulled, suspended, or not kept. For God to completely to do away with the Old Covenant, and to begin “A NEW PROGRAM” as Christians teach would make God a sinner, nor different than any human being on this planet. In which case, the human race would be damned to Hell with no chance of redemption.
But it’s important that we note that the New Covenant is not being made with the world, but with the same two kingdoms we have seen since the Kingdom of Israel split: the Northern Kingdom of Israel/Ephraim AND the Southern Kingdom of Judah. And it is with these same two kingdoms that God is promising to bring back into fellowship with Him and with one another. But some may say, “But didn’t God divorce the Northern Kingdom?” Yes, He did, but 135 years AFTER He divorced the Northern Kingdom, He promised through the writings of Ezekiel to reach back into the earth IN THE LAST DAYS and to bring the descendants of the Northern Kingdom back to Himself.
In another passage of Ezekiel, we see more of God’s prophesy about this future restoration:
Say unto them, Thus says the LORD God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim [the Northern Kingdom], and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah [the Southern Kingdom], and make them one stick [one kingdom], and they shall be one in Mine hand. (Ezekiel 37:19)
The prophecies all add up to God bringing the two kingdoms back together again, and making them one nation again under one King, Messiah. This reunited Kingdom will be a utopian kingdom: there will be universal peace, prosperity, blessings, long life and no sickness, no diseases, no hunger, no starvation, etc. All the things that plague our world today will no longer exist in this KINGDOM. The “Good News” [or Gospel] that Jesus and His early disciples proclaimed was that the time had come for this process of reuniting these two KINGDOMS had arrived!
The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand [“has arrived”]; repent, and believe the GOSPEL. (Mark 1:15, Emphasis Mine)
Then beginning in the book of Acts, we see a dual message being proclaimed: the gospel of the Kingdom AND Jesus Christ. For example,
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST, they were baptized, both men and women. (Acts 8:12)
I was shocked the first time I noted this dual message. We see it again at the end of the book of Acts, in regard to the ministry of Paul:
And Paul lived two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in to him, preaching THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and teaching those things which concern THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, with all confidence, no man forbidding him. (Acts 28:30-31)
According to this, Paul PREACHED THE KINGDOM OF GOD and TAUGHT JESUS CHRIST. In the Christian church, we PREACH CHRIST and more or less ignore the concept of the Kingdom. Am I the only one who recognizes something very wrong with this picture, or does anyone else?
BUT WHAT ABOUT US GENTILES (or NON-JEWS)?
Just as a “mixed multitude” was part of the people of Israel in the Exodus, and we see other non-Jews join the Jewish people – Rahab, Ruth, Doeg – and others, so in the New Testament, non-Jews are also invited to become a part of God’s people and His Kingdom. Just as God called Abraham, while he was an uncircumcised gentile [non-Jew], and entered into covenant with him, still being uncircumcised, so Abraham becomes the father of all uncircumcised gentiles who believe. And likewise, just as Abraham was then circumcised, he also became the father of all those who are circumcised as well. So then, Abraham then becomes the father of us all. the circumcised and the uncircumcised.
The KINGDOM preached by Jesus, His disciples, and even Paul is the RESTORED AND REUNITED KINGDOM OF MESSIAH prophesied and promised throughout the writings of the Old Testament. If we do not study the Old Testament, then Christians do not understand the KINGDOM that is being talked about in the writings of the New Testament. These are NOT Two Separate Kingdoms; they are the SAME KINGDOM. It is a KINGDOM comprised of three central groups:
- JEWS [those from the Southern Kingdom],
- RETURNING ISRAELITES [from the Northern Kingdom], and
- GENTILES [those of us from the nations of the world].
These three groups are the ones who make up God’s KINGDOM. This RESTORED, REUNITED KINGDOM could also be called REDEEMED ISRAEL. Just as Israel during the Exodus, and much of its history, was comprised of both Jews and non-Jews, so is REDEEMED ISRAEL. So what Christians call “the Church Age” is actually God continuing to reach out into the nations and returning to Himself those He has called from these three groups. God has not changed His program. He is still working on establishing His KINGDOM here on earth. Again, the cross made this restoration possible, as I will soon explain.
PAUL’S SYNONYMS FOR THE KINGDOM
Because Paul was ministering out in the Roman empire, and not in the land of Israel, he did not want people to think that their relationship to Messiah (Christ) in God’s KINGDOM was to be like their relationship to Caesar in the Roman Empire. One could be a Roman citizen without having to be in a personal relationship with Caesar; however, to be a citizen in God’s KINGDOM, an intimate relationship with the KING was absolutely required. Consequently, to not confuse the issue, Paul used other words that were meant to be synonyms for this RESTORED, REUNITED KINGDOM OF MESSIAH (CHRIST).
In addition, these synonyms were necessary to avoid the monotony of saying “redeemed Israel” and “unredeemed Israel,” “redeemed Israel,” “unredeemed Israel.”
EKKLESIA (the word we translate as “church”). Originally, in the Greek and Roman culture, the word Ekklesia was a POLITICAL TERM, NOT A RELIGIOUS ONE. It was an alternative name for the Roman Senate, as well as groups of full citizens who would meet for a particular reason. We would call meetings like this, “a town meeting.” Christianity took this POLITICAL term and turned it into a RELIGIOUS one.
THE BODY OF MESSIAH. The word “Messiah” is predominantly used in the Old Testament in reference to the KING of Israel, an obvious POLITICAL use, but it is first used of Aaron, the High Priest, an obvious RELIGIOUS usage. So it is both, RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL, but Christianity tends to focus more on the RELIGIOUS meaning than the POLITICAL one. So obviously, if you are part of “THE BODY OF MESSIAH [CHRIST],” then you are part of His KINGDOM.
ONE NEW MAN. The RESTORED, REUNITED KINGDOM OF MESSIAH [CHRIST] is also referred to as the ONE NEW MAN in Ephesians 2:15. This section is really interesting to examine. In the prophets, God divorced the Northern Kingdom because of their disobedience to God’s Laws.
In verse 15, it states that Jesus abolished in His flesh “the accusation against us.” What does the prosecuting attorney use to try and prove someone guilty of a crime? The Law. So by “abolishing in His flesh the laws” that were being used to condemn the Northern Kingdom, the Southern Kingdom and us GENTILES, through His death on the cross and resurrection, He was able to provide the means by which God could once again RESTORE and REUNITE these TWO KINGDOMS into what Paul calls ONE NEW MAN.
Now when crimes have been punished, does that mean that we do away with the law in the United States? Of course not. It is just these broken violations of the law are no longer brought up. In the same way, when Jesus died on the cross, His death did not do away with God’s law, but only those broken violations of His law are no longer brought up.
IN CHRIST. This is another favorite synonym for Paul. Again, if one is “IN CHRIST,” then one is “IN THE KINGDOM,” since Christ [Messiah] is the Anointed KING of the KINGDOM.
THE RESTORED REUNITED KINGDOM – A MISSING MESSAGE IN TODAY’S CHURCH
Therefore, in our churches today, the one message I do not hear about is the RESTORED REUNITED KINGDOM prophesied and promised throughout the Old Testament. Is this missing message why we erroneously think God’s program has changed, instead of realizing He is still working on the SAME PROGRAM? For example, if we were discipling people to become KINGDOM PEOPLE, instead of people for our own religious denominations, we would focus our teaching and training by answering such questions as the following:
- What is a “KINGDOM“?
- When did God’s KINGDOM begin? What is it like? What comprises the KINGDOM? What is not in the KINGDOM?
- How does one become a KINGDOM citizen? What are the benefits to that citizenry?
- What is God’s expectation as to how we, as God’s “KINGDOM PEOPLE,” are to live?
- What is God’s Constitution, laws, statutes, and judgments? How do we apply them in our current world situation?
- When KINGDOM LAW contradicts U.S. Law, which one do we follow?
- How will the coming KINGDOM be similar and/or different than the KINGDOM of David or Solomon?
These are just a few questions to consider. Now I do need to point out that our KINGDOM does have RELIGIOUS aspects to it. For example,
- our King is God, and He is an eternal Spirit being who exists outside of time, space, and matter.
- We cannot just pick up the phone and call God, or text Him. Prayer is the way we communicate with Him.
- Our KINGDOM’S homeland is not located on this planet or, in fact, in this physical universe. However, that does not mean it is any less real. It does exist in a parallel dimension, usually referred to as the “spiritual realm.” Although unlike Patrick Swayze, in the movie Ghost, it does physically exist, you cannot put your hand through things. People who have been there, either in dreams, visions, or come back after they’ve died, have all described things they could see, hear, taste, smell, and touch or feel. It is a physical place by all measures of our senses, although better in every physical way imaginable.
ANOTHER UNIQUE FEATURE OF THE KINGDOM
Unlike American Presidents, who change every 4-8 years, God has not given up His throne. He maintains His place of Kingship in HEAVEN, while His Son, Jesus Christ, will rule and reign over His KINGDOM here on earth. And if you do not have a relationship with Jesus, you will not be allowed into God’s KINGDOM. Why would any government allow people in who have no intention of obeying the government or its laws? That would only be asking for trouble.
QUESTION: Are you in an ongoing relationship with the Lord and King, Jesus Christ? Do you have a KINGDOM on god, the Bible and life, or do you still believe all of this is simply about a RELIGION. You can begin the process of changing your perspective by simply praying from your heart something like this:
Dear Lord Jesus,
I am tired of living a RELIGION, and I want to really experience what you intended me to live, as a citizen within Your KINGDOM. Please, Lord, let this be a beginning point for me to learn to look at Your word as a KINGDOM MANUAL, rather than as a “religious book.” Open my eyes and heart to Your KINGDOM. Open my eyes and heart to what it means to live Your KINGDOM in my daily life. Guide me by Your Spirit, and teach me Your Constitution, laws, statutes and judgments. As my KING, Lord, You have complete and total control and rule over every aspect of my life. I’m not holding anything back. It is all Yours from this day forward. In Jesus’ name, Amen.