We began these articles on the kingdom with no intention that so much time and space should be consumed in the study of it. The articles have stretched through many weeks, in fact several months, and still there is more, much more, which could be written regarding God’s kingdom. Likely as many articles could be written alone with comments about the character and nature of those who are citizens of that kingdom with comments about Jesus’ wondrous sermon on the mount which began, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Perhaps at some future time we’ll return to those chapters (Matthew 5-7) to write more about God’s kingdom. But, for the present, attention will be directed to other items of study.
Still, ere we conclude the series, one final article deserves to be written regarding God’s future eternal, heavenly kingdom. We have shown that the kingdom Christ proclaimed was at hand; that it would come during the lifetime of some of the apostles whom He had chosen (Mk. 9:1). God’s word being true and just as Jesus promised, His kingdom did become a reality when Isaiah’s prophecy that “in the last days the mountain (government, kingdom) of the Lord’s house, shall be exalted in the top of the mountains …” (Isa. 2:2), joined with Daniel’s prophecy that “in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44), came into being on the memorial Pentecost recorded in Acts 2.
Thus we read that the Thessalonians were in the kingdom. We read that John declared that he was a brother with those to whom he wrote, a partaker of tribulation and the kingdom (Rev. 1:9). And yet, for all this, many are the references to the kingdom in the future, even though those to whom the writer had written were “in the kingdom.” There awaits for faithful Christians an entrance into God’s kingdom. There is a sense in which the kingdom is future. We are heirs of that kingdom, although not yet partakers of it.
When Paul wrote his last epistle to Timothy, he knew that “the time of his departure was at hand” (2 Tim. 4:6). Knowing this, he looked beyond the separations and his martyrdom to something else and wrote of it, expressing his confidence that God would “deliver me from every evil work and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18). Although Paul had written the Thessalonians, Ephesians, and Colossians assuring them the kingdom God promised was a reality, he expressed at the end of his life his longing to be part of God’s heavenly kingdom. This expectation of a heavenly kingdom was not unique with Paul. Peter had been promised the keys of the kingdom and he had used them on Pentecost (Matt. 16:19; Acts 2:38). Still, Peter looked for God’s eternal kingdom. He wrote of those who would add the “seven virtues” to their faith: “If ye do these things ye shall never stumble, for thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:5-7, 10-11). Jesus as well, having promised His apostles that some of them would live to see and be part of His kingdom, spoke of the kingdom in a future, distant sense. He spoke of the world’s end and of the judgment which will then occur, and said that to those on His right hand He would say these welcomed words, “Come, ye blessed of my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). He complimented the faith of a Gentile centurion, saying, “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven: but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:11-12).
The kingdom of God is eternal. It will not cease when Christ returns but will be returned to the Father: “Then cometh the end when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and all power” (1 Cor. 15:24).
The differences between the kingdom on earth and the kingdom to come are many. Now, those who are citizens of God’s kingdom are clothed in flesh; the citizens in that heavenly kingdom will be clothed in a spiritual body because flesh and blood cannot inherit that kingdom (1 Cor. 15:50). Here one enters the kingdom through a new birth (John 3:3, 5); the eternal kingdom will be entered by those in His kingdom now adding to their faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Here, unfortunately, there are some who live ungodly, unholy lives who claim to be in His present kingdom; in the eternal kingdom the unrighteous are excluded for the unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9). Here, the kingdom is on earth, the next kingdom is in heaven. Now we are separated from many faithful brethren of the past; death will be no more in the next kingdom. Not only will all those who have died in Christ join all that are alive and faithful when Christ comes, all the faithful to God who lived in the thousands of years that passed before Christ was born will be joined to their number too. John saw that ransomed crowd and wrote of it: “After these things I saw, and behold, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of every nation and of all tribes and people and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, arrayed in white robes” (Rev. 7:9).
We close this article and series of articles with the words of the Hebrew writer: “Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11). Amen and amen.