The promise of Daniel 2:44 that “in the days of these kings” God would set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed was fulfilled when Jesus established the church. The church is God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is the church.
When Jesus asked His disciples who men said that He was, they gave a response. He then asked, “But who say ye that I am?” The answer Peter gave is familiar to all: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Peter’s answer was correct and Jesus blessed him, saying, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:17-19). There are so many thoughts in this passage that deserve attention. Jesus, not Peter, is the rock upon which Jesus purposed to build His church. The Father revealed this truth to Peter, along with the other apostles, through the wonders and signs God wrought through Him (Jn. 20:30-31). The “gates of Hades” would not prevail against it (the church). This was not saying that hell could never overcome the church (which is true), but rather that although Jesus would die and His Spirit would go to Hades (Acts 2:29-32), that would not prevent Him from building His church. He would not remain in Hades, He would overcome death by His resurrection and would, after His death, build His church just as He had promised. All these thoughts are important, but the particular thought we wish to emphasize are these words: “I will build my church … I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” It was not accidental that Jesus mentioned the church and kingdom in the same breath as though He spoke of the same subject. His words were chosen and intentional. He spoke of the church and the kingdom as the same — because they are.
After the church’s beginning when New Testament writers wrote letters to churches, uniformly they identified the church as the kingdom of God and the members of that church as citizens in that kingdom. Consider in Paul’s Ephesian letter that as he reminded the brethren that while before their conversion they had been strangers and sojourners they were so no more. “So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners but ye are fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). This letter was written “to the saints at Ephesus” (Eph. 1:1). “Saint” was a common word used to describe Christians (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2). These saints were “of the household of God” or “the house (family) of God” which Paul told Timothy was the “church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). These Ephesians were also “fellow-citizens,” a necessary implication that they were part of a kingdom. One is not a citizen of a body, a flock, or a vineyard. One is a citizen of a nation, in this instance a kingdom. The Ephesians were in the kingdom.
Paul also wrote the Colossian church (Col. 1:1f) and reminded them that the Father had “delivered them out of the power of darkness and translated them into the kingdom of the Son of his love” (Col. 1:13). God had made these Colossians “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints” (Col. 1:14). He was also the One in “whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins” (Col. 1:14). These brethren had been made partakers of the inheritance, to have redemption and forgiveness. These statements indicated the saints had — right then — redemption and forgiveness, and they had also been translated into the kingdom. The brethren at Colossae were as much in the kingdom as they had obtained redemption and forgiveness.
Paul wrote the Thessalonian church (1 Thess. 1:1) and urged them “to the end that ye should walk worthily of God who calleth (hath called, KJV) you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12). The call of God that these Thessalonians had answered put them into His church, and at the same time had also put them into His kingdom.
John wrote the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 1:4), reminding them that God had “made us to be a kingdom …” assuring them that he was “their brother and partakers with you in the tribulation and kingdom …” (Rev. 1:6, 9). John was in the kingdom and the seven Asian churches were as well.
The Hebrew writer said to those to whom he wrote that they had come “to mount Zion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:22-23). They were “receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken …” (Heb. 12:28). These brethren came to the church; they received a kingdom.
Need more be said? The church is the kingdom, and the kingdom is the church. The church and the kingdom have the same head, Jesus Christ. They are subject to the same law, the law of Christ. They are composed of the same subjects, Christians. They are entered the same way, through a new birth (John 3:3, 5). The church and the kingdom are the same.
We are in an unshakable kingdom, looking for the heavenly kingdom. We enter the kingdom now by a new birth. We will be privileged to enter the heavenly kingdom by adding to our faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (2 Pet. 1:5-7, 10-11). The kingdom promised by Jesus is His church. His heavenly kingdom is heaven, where His faithful ones inherit eternal life (Matt. 25:34, 46).