What is the Kingdom of God really? Where will it be established? When will it come? How can we prepare for the Kingdom of God and enter into it?
What is the Kingdom of God in the Bible?
In short, the Kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus’ teaching and the fundamental message of the Church founded by Him through His disciples.
As Mark explains in his Gospel account, “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”
The gospel of the Kingdom of God
Matthew and Luke likewise record that Jesus’ message was the “gospel,” or “glad tidings,” of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:23; Luke 8:1). Even though Matthew referred to it as “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 5:3, 10, 19-20) and Paul once called it “the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5), the predominant name in Scripture is “the kingdom of God.”
Jesus consistently taught this same message of hope—“gospel” means good news—of the Kingdom throughout His ministry. His parables—stories with spiritual lessons—often dealt with this Kingdom, which God the Father and His Son had prepared prior to the existence of man at “the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 25:34).
After training His 12 disciples, Jesus sent them out “to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2). After His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus appeared before His disciples and continued “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
Later, Paul likewise described his ministry as preaching “the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; Acts 19:8; Acts 20:25; Acts 28:31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:24) and referred to his fellow ministers as “workers for the kingdom of God” (Colossians 4:11).
Is the Kingdom of God a literal or a figurative kingdom?
What is the real meaning of the Kingdom of God? Is it a literal or a figurative kingdom? While it is generally understood that the message Jesus preached was that of the Kingdom of God, the question as to whether this Kingdom is literal or figurative is more complicated.
Since Jesus came preaching that the Kingdom was “at hand” (Mark 1:15), some think it is literally here on earth via the Church or figuratively in our hearts. Others, recognizing that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50), say it is not yet here.
“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). The Kingdom of God will thus replace the governments of this earth.Acknowledging the difficulty in understanding His message regarding the Kingdom of God, Jesus termed it a “mystery.”
Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them’” (Mark 4:11-12).
So what did the disciples understand? What did Jesus and the prophets foretell? The Bible answers the question, What is the Kingdom of God?
- The Kingdom of God is a literal kingdom. God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a dream of an image of a man with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and feet partly of iron and partly of clay. God revealed the meaning of the dream through Daniel, showing that there would be four world-ruling empires (Daniel 2:31-43). History has shown these to be the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greco-Macedonian and Roman empires.
Concluding this explanation, Daniel wrote: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (verse 44). The Kingdom of God will thus replace the governments of this earth.
- The Kingdom of God will be established on earth when Jesus returns. The time that the Kingdom is established will be after Christ’s return to earth. Revelation 11:15 states: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’”
Jesus told His disciples that when the Kingdom is established, they will “sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28, also compare Luke 22:30).
- We prepare for the Kingdom by living according to the rules of the Kingdom now. Explaining how one might enter the Kingdom of God, Jesus told Nicodemus that one must be “born again” (John 3:1-8). This process begins with baptism, which signifies the death of the former sinful man and the beginning of a new life dedicated to Christ (Romans 6:1-4). It culminates in a change from mortal flesh and blood to immortal spirit at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Once we embark on this process, we are symbolically “conveyed” into the Kingdom (Colossians 1:13), and our “citizenship” is now described as being in heaven (Philippians 3:20). At the completion of the process of being born again, we will be changed into immortal beings and become kings and priests serving in God’s Kingdom on earth (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10). For a more in-depth explanation, see our article “What Does It Mean to Be Born Again?”
God’s Kingdom on earth
Old Testament prophets, while under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote about the Kingdom of God being established on earth (2 Peter 1:20-21).
The prophet Zechariah noted that Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives, a mountain ridge adjacent to and east of Jerusalem’s Old City. “Behold the day of LORD is coming. … And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zechariah 14:1, 4).
The prophet also explained that Christ’s return will not be welcomed. Instead, Jesus will have to fight against a coalition of armies from multiple nations around the world (verse 3).
Why will people fight against mankind’s Savior, the being who only wishes the best for every human? Because Satan, through His demons, will deceive the nations into fighting against Jesus when He returns (Revelation 16:13-14).
Because of this deception, armies from the nations will assemble at a place called Armageddon, a Hebrew word meaning “Mountain of Megiddo” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Revelation 16:16). Megiddo, located to the north of Jerusalem, will be the staging area for the armies before they move south to Jerusalem, where they will be defeated by Christ (Revelation 19:11, 19-21).
Having conquered those who resisted Him, Jesus will then establish Jerusalem as His capital city, from which He will rule the world for 1,000 years (Zechariah 14:9; Matthew 5:35; Revelation 20:4).
Prophesying this event, God said, “‘Behold the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth’” (Jeremiah 23:5).
What is the Kingdom of God like?
The Kingdom of God will be the utopian realization of all that humans long for. An insightful overview of Christ’s rule in the coming Kingdom of God is found in Isaiah 2:2-4:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
“Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
“He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
This prophecy—also repeated in Micah 4:1-3—describes a time when God’s laws will be the standard of conduct for all peoples. People will want to learn God’s ways because they will see the many benefits of doing so.
The world will be at peace; human sicknesses and ailments will be healed (Isaiah 35:5-6); and the ground will become abundantly productive (Isaiah 35:1-2; Amos 9:13).
More importantly, Christ’s rule on earth will offer all humans the opportunity to receive God’s Spirit and have a relationship with Him leading to eternal life (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Worship of God during this 1,000-year period will include the same basic practices God expects of people today. God states that the seventh day of the week, Saturday, will be the weekly day of worship.
Speaking of this time, God says, “And it shall come to pass … from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me” (Isaiah 66:23).
God’s annual holy days, the ones given to ancient Israel and the ones observed by Jesus and His apostles, will also be observed. As Zechariah notes, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16).
For additional information on what the Kingdom of God will be like during the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth, see the article: “1,000 Years—the Millennium.”
How to enter the Kingdom of God
In the Kingdom parables of the Bible (ones that often begin, “The kingdom of heaven is like …”), Jesus explained what the Kingdom will be like and what we must do to enter the Kingdom.
Some of the lessons include understanding the universal rule of God’s coming Kingdom (Matthew 13:33) and the importance of valuing one’s invitation to be in that Kingdom (verses 44-46).
Believing and following Jesus’ instructions about how to live is our pathway to eternal life (John 3:15-16; 14:15; Matthew 19:17). Understanding this point is vitally important in terms of entering the Kingdom of God because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
Even though Jesus will establish the Kingdom of God on earth and rule over physical human beings, only those who have been changed into spirit will be able to actually inherit His Kingdom.
Now that you know what the Kingdom of God is, you need to understand how to follow Jesus’ command to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Your task is to learn what God’s laws are and then to begin living in accordance with the rules of His Kingdom.
Be sure to read “‘The Kingdom of God Is Within You’—What Did Christ Mean?” and “Seek First the Kingdom of God.”