Entering the Kingdom: The Nature of the Kingdom

Last post, I introduced this series meant to clear up much confusion concerning the kingdom of God. In case you think this is just some kind of exercise for seminary students or theologians only, consider this:

  1. Your understanding of the kingdom affects every moment of your life.
  2. A proper understanding of the kingdom builds your family the way God designed it to be.
  3. A correct understanding of the kingdom determines whether you will enter it or not.
  4. A correct understanding of the kingdom governs how you evangelize.
  5. A correct understanding of the kingdom establishes how angry you become when someone else challenges your thinking on the matter.
  6. A correct understanding of the kingdom will demonstrate how much you love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  7. Ultimately, understanding the kingdom explains to you the relationship between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is by far the most important factor in any consideration of the Bible.

I also want to make a few initial comments as well. What I write here is the result of months of exegesis and work. I have been teaching, in one way or another, on this subject in our church (Berean Bible Church of Kalispell, Montana) over the last few months and it has produced in us such a clarity of mind on so many other topics for us, that I would consider myself unfaithful if I did not attempt to make the teaching of the Word of God in this area available to more people. I also understand that what I will write here will also challenge the consideration of some concerning their view of the kingdom. Although I am not attempting to sling mud, I am attempting to correct patently incorrect teachings on this subject, as well as other subjects that accompany these things. It is necessary to expose error. Error is defined by any teaching that is not taught in the Bible. This does not mean, however, that we hate those teaching it. I cannot harbor hatred in my heart on account of false teaching. However, to boldly, solidly, confront the error is the duty of every pastor, and saint (Jude 3; cf Romans 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 10:5). And especially, on a topic of this magnitude, we cannot afford to be wrong: both for the glory of God, and the good of God’s people.

When we ask, “What is the kingdom of God?” we also are asking questions like, “Where did it come from? Whose is it? Of what does it consist? Is it open to everyone?” These are questions that arise as a result of simply asking, “What is the kingdom of God?” I will tackle this one question, and as a result, deal with the others as well over the next few posts.

What is the Kingdom of God?

 

The kingdom of God is that kingdom which the Father gave to the Son. It is that simple. It involves the lordship of Jesus Christ, the submission of His subjects, the glory of the Father, and the proclamation of the gospel. The kingdom of God is just that-“of God.” This means that,

“[The kingdom of God] may employ an essential relationship. Thus ἡ βασιλεία θεοῦ is the kingdom which has as its distinguishing attribute its relationship to God.” (H.E. Dana, Julius R. Mantey, A Manuel Grammar of the Greek New Testament, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1927, p.74).

That is to say, the kingdom is defined by God. The nature of God defines this kingdom. A kingdom is pretty simple to understand. It is a locale, condition, or act of ruling. The quality, standards, and kind of ruling are all defined by the nature of God. God Himself rules (Psalm 103:19). However, we must define this further as it relates to Jesus Christ. For now, just understand that as we take the truth of the kingdom of God back to its most basic character it is that kingdom, a condition of ruling authority, which is defined by God. All that God is is expressed in that kingdom. And, the character of rulership is also defined by God. Further, those who enter in is defined by God.

That does not answer all the questions, but it gets us headed in the proper direction.

Above, I said that the kingdom of God is that kingdom which the Father gave to the Son. However, that is a step removed from the very foundation of the kingdom. The kingdom of God, ultimately, is the rule of God, the Father. This rulership is defined by God Himself, the three Persons existing in one God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever. Who God is defines the kingdom. In fact, I believe it to be evident that the kingdom of God itself was the condition of the godhead before creation. It was the rulership of the Father over the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

The Headship of the Father Over The Son

 

Paul makes a very interesting statement in 1 Corinthians 11:3. He wrote, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (see also 1 Corinthians 8:3). Apart from the obvious teaching on the man and the woman, notice the end of the verse. “God is the head of Christ.” Paul wrote earlier in chapter 3 verse 23 that Christ belongs to God in the same way, somehow, that believers belong to Christ. John tells us that Christ understood the Father as His Father and God (John 20:17). The relationship we begin seeing is that of headship of the Father over the Son, and assumedly, the Holy Spirit as well. If God is the head of Christ, then God (the Father) has authority over Christ. Otherwise, what Paul wrote concerning the headship of men over women, and a husband over a wife, does not make sense. By the way, the very authority and character of authority of God over Christ is what should define the character of the headship of a man over a woman and a husband over a wife. The relationship of the Father and the Son is that of Head and submitted One. This is a profound truth. We ultimately see this in Paul’s teaching later in the same letter:

1 Corinthians 15:28

28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

In the end, all things will revert back to the beginning, or rather, before the beginning. The kingdom of God will continue to be that kingdom over which the Father rules, and Christ, the Spirit, and the saints willingly, lovingly, submit so that God (the Father) may be all in all.

Although it is hard to understand, we must attempt to comprehend the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father is the head of the Son, as noted from Paul’s teaching. But, what does that look like? How do we understand this? We are limited in our understanding, but we do see glimpses, and sometimes a brilliance, of this relationship in Christ’s own teaching, and example. Let’s review a couple to start.

Whenever I consider these things, I am always drawn to John 14:31. In this verse, Jesus tells us what His relationship with the Father is like. He said,

John 14:31

31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.

A few things to note here. First, Christ was concerned to some degree that the world might understand the love that Christ has for the Father. We often think about God’s love for the world (John 3:16). However, when have we given much time to the love of the Son to the Father? Here, Jesus said that He loved the Father and that motivated Him to obedience. So that the world might know of His love for His Father was a motivation for the cross. Next, since He loved the Father, He obeyed Him. Not only that, but He obeyed Him exactly. This assumes that the Father gave a command to the Son. What was the command? Well, it certainly included what Jesus endured on the cross. It was the command to die. Further, it was the command to be punished by the Father (Matthew 27:45-46; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:10). The Father commanded the Son to die, as well as to come to earth, be given a body, to minister the way He did, and a million other things that our Lord did when He came to His own (John 1:11; 21:25) and His own people rejected Him.

Jesus tells us that all that He did was as a result of love for the Father. The Father had commanded Him, at some point in the past, and the Son submitted. This was no demeaning submission of a lesser god to a greater god. This was not dictatorship. This was, as we cannot comprehend but is our example, the submission of love. The submission of love. Jesus loved the Father. That did not break the real condition of authority of the Father. Love of Christ for the Father established the authority of the Father. The Father had commanded the Son to come to earth, proclaim the kingdom, be rejected, taste death for many, and be raised from the dead in order to inherit the kingdom, and return it back to the Father. Jesus obeyed because He loves the Father. This is the way it should be between fathers and sons for us as well.

Notice also Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He wrote to them concerning these things. He wrote,

Philippians 2:8

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus Christ was obedient. To whom? Well, who else is there? He was obedient to the One who commanded Him to die, even on a cross. The Father instructed the Son to do all that He did when He was conceived, born, lived, and died. All of this, really, was simply the obedience of the Son to the Father.

The question at this point is, “Why?” Why even do any of this? Was this whole scheme a reaction from the fall of man? Was it established before creation? Why did this even happen?

We will cover that question next time. It is a stunning display of the kingdom of God.