It was shown in our last article that the kingdom promised by the prophets would come in the “days of these (Roman) kings” (Dan. 2:44), it was declared both by John the Baptist and Jesus during their personal ministries to be “at hand” (Mt. 3:2; Mk. 1:15), it was promised by Jesus to come during the lifetime of some of His apostles (Mk. 9:1), and finally, John the beloved disciple said he was in that kingdom (Rev. 1:9). Since there is irrefutable evidence the kingdom existed in the first century, that means the kingdom still exists because Daniel promised that the coming kingdom would never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44; 7:14). God’s word is true and Jesus said His words would never pass away (Jn. 17:17; Mt. 24:35). The kingdom of God exists today.
Likely someone would say, “Well, if the kingdom exists today, where is it?” The answer is simple: the kingdom is the church Jesus built. That church is still here and thus God’s kingdom is still here.
There is a large segment of religious folk who disagree with this conclusion. They have been taught that the church is a temporary substitution for the kingdom. The theory teaches that Jesus came to establish His kingdom but that His nation rejected both Him and that kingdom, and so Jesus set up the church temporarily until a later time in which Jesus would come back to the earth and set up the kingdom He came to set up when He was here the first time. The theory is fraught with much error, not the least of which is that it makes Jesus a liar and His word suspect. Jesus told His disciples that some of them living would see the “kingdom come with power” (Mk. 9:1), and if it did not come, then Jesus told a lie for all the disciples are dead and if the kingdom is not here, Jesus’ word has failed. Furthermore, what confidence could we have that Jesus will set up a kingdom at some future time? He promised that some then living would see the kingdom and if that did not come to pass, can we have any real assurance in a promise that He will set up the kingdom at some later time? It is true the nation of Israel did reject Jesus as their king but God knew that was what they would do. He caused the prophet Isaiah to record that 700 years before Christ would be born, “He was despised and rejected of men” but that he would die. Even though God knew all this 700 years before He sent His Son, still He sent Him to do His marvelous redemptive work.
The church was not a substitution for the kingdom nor was it a change of God’s plans. The church was exactly what God had planned for the purpose for Jesus’ coming was to “save his people from their sins” and the church is those people saved from their sin by His blood. On the day of Pentecost “God added to the church daily those that were being saved” (Acts 2:47), and the Ephesians were reminded that Christ is “the Savior of the body (the church)” (Eph. 5:23). When Jesus prayed His beautiful prayer recorded in John 17, He said, “I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do” (Jn. 17:4). How could Christ have accomplished the work the Father gave Him to do if the Father sent Him to set up a physical kingdom and He didn’t do that, rather that He set up a substitution in its place?
The eternal purpose God had for His Son earth was “to give his life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). Before Jesus’ birth an angel commanded Joseph to take Mary as his wife and to know that the child she had conceived was that of the Holy Spirit. Then that angel charged Joseph “thou shalt call his name Jesus, for it is he that shall save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). The signification of the name “Jesus” (savior) was a declaration of the purpose God had for sending Him to this earth. The scriptures make it perfectly clear that the death of Jesus was planned from before the world’s foundation: “He was foreknown indeed before the foundation of the world but was manifested at the end of times for your sakes” (1 Pet. 1:20). When John the Baptist introduced Jesus to the nation, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Just as the work of Jesus was foreknown before the world’s foundation, so God purposed those who would reap the benefits of the sacrifice of His Son. That church also was purposed before the foundation of the world. Paul wrote, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus …” (Eph. 3:10-11). The earliest promise God gave of His Son was the promise God gave the serpent after he had led Adam and Eve to sin. God told the serpent (the devil), “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. He shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). A heel wound may hurt but is not a fatal one. Yes, Jesus did die, but He was also raised from the dead the third day. But while Satan was unable to inflict an eternal, fatal wound to Christ, Christ inflicted a fatal wound to the serpent “and he shalt bruise thy head.” Jesus came to die, that was part of God’s plan, but God intended to raise Him up from the dead. It was necessary that Jesus come in the flesh that He might die, that His death would be the sacrifice for sins of fallen men. It was also necessary that Jesus die that He might be raised from the dead, taking away the power of death from the devil. “Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also in like manner partook of the same that through death, he might bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). By His death Jesus provided the remedy for the death which sin brings (Rom. 6:23). And, by His resurrection Jesus took away from Satan the power to make death a permanent thing. He became the firstfruits of them that sleep giving mankind the happy assurance that we, too, can share in His resurrection. Peter said on Pentecost that Jesus had been delivered up by “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). In short, God’s foreknowledge willed that His Son die. And just as God planned that His Son should be a perfect sacrifice for sin, God purposed those who would be the happy recipients of that sacrifice, the church.
Abraham was told that “in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” While there were hints of what that blessing would be, Peter left no doubt about that blessing. In his second recorded sermon in the temple, Peter concluded his sermon with these words: “Ye are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Servant, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:25-26). The church was as much in God’s eternal purpose as was the death and resurrection of His Son from the dead.