In my message on “The Theme of the Bible,” I proclaimed my belief that the kingdom of God is the overall theme of Scripture. In that message, I admitted that there is no one passage that I could point to that would prove that I am right. There is no statement in the Bible that declares its theme, so there is no way for anyone to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what the theme is. Yet if this truly is the theme, then we would expect that this topic would come up again and again, that it would be the subject of many passages of Scripture, and that one would be able to find it discussed over and over again in its pages. In this message, I will attempt to show, by focusing on the New Testament, that this is indeed the case, and that God’s kingdom is a theme repeated a multitude of times in the latter part of God’s Word.

Now the phrase, “the kingdom of God,” is the New Testament name for the future time period when God will take control of the world’s governments, and thus will rule and reign over the earth. This phrase is one found only in the New Testament, but that does not mean that the kingdom is not found as a subject of the Old Testament. “The kingdom of God” is the New Testament summary of a thousand-and-one truths taught in the Old Testament. For example, Genesis 3:15 is the first promise made by God regarding the kingdom of God. By focusing on the New Testament, however, we will remove the element of controversy that could come from claiming that an Old Testament passage is talking about that coming Kingdom when the passage does not use the phrase, “The kingdom of God.” That is not to say that I am not fully convinced that this topic is as prevalent in the Old Testament as it is in the New, but because this message is being written to offer as much as I can of proof, I think it best to stick with the places where the term is actually used in the New Testament, and so eliminate the argument that it is “only my opinion” that the Kingdom of God is what a passage is talking about.

Now that said, let us go on to make a survey of the New Testament use of the phrase, “the kingdom of God,” making note of the passages where the kingdom of God is said to be the subject, the expectation, or the meaning behind the teachings we find there. By doing this, we will come to see by many examples the prominence of the Kingdom of God as a theme in the New Testament.

First of all, in Matthew 3:1-2, the first occurrence of the word “kingdom” in the New Testament, we learn that it was the theme of John the Baptist’s preaching.

1. In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2. and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Now I am well aware that the title John actually used here was “the kingdom of heaven,” not “the kingdom of God.” I believe that these two titles are identical, and that there is no real difference between them. I realize that this is contrary to the beliefs and teachings of some prominent scholars, but I will attempt to show in a future message that this belief is entirely in line with the Biblical use of these two phrases. I do not believe that there is any real difference between the two, and I will be assuming that there is no difference throughout the remainder of this message.

Now the kingdom of God was just as much the theme of Christ’s early preaching as it was of John’s. We see this in Matthew 4:17, where the phrase “kingdom of heaven” is used again, as well as in Mark 1:14-15, where the phrase used is the “kingdom of God.”

14. Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15. and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

In the so-called “sermon on the mount,” it is the kingdom of God that both the poor in spirit and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are to inherit, as we see in Matthew 5:3 and 10.

3. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

10. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

In Matthew 6:10, in the so-called “Lord’s prayer,” which was actually the prayer the disciples were to pray, they were to ask for the kingdom to come.

10. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

When the disciples prayed this, they knew very well what they were praying for, unlike most who pray this prayer today! This prayer is repeated from memory by many in the “Christian” world, but few know what it is that they are repeatedly asking for. But the disciples knew exactly what they were requesting, for they had a Teacher greater than all human teachers to give them the truth about it. And in Matthew 6:33, that Teacher told these same disciples that they were to seek first the kingdom of God.

33. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

The one who does the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of God, according to Matthew 7:21.

21. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

Preaching the kingdom of God was the reason the Lord Jesus had been sent (apostello) according to Luke 4:43.

43. but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.”

The Lord’s later ministry and teaching had to do with the kingdom of God just as His early ministry did, as we can see in Luke 8:1.

1. Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him,

On top of this, the Lord sent out the twelve to preach the kingdom of God, as we read in Luke 9:1-2.

1. Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.                                                                                        2. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

The mission that the Lord gave the seventy was also to proclaim the nearness of the kingdom of God, as we read in Luke 10:8-9.

8 “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 9. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets will be in the kingdom of God according to Luke 13:28.

28. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.

The kingdom was also bestowed upon the disciples, who were given a special place in it according to Luke 22:29-30.

29. And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Joseph of Arimathea, the righteous member of the Sanhedrin who put the body of the Lord Jesus in his own tomb, was waiting for the kingdom of God, according to Luke 23:50-51.

50. Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man. 51. He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God.

We have seen that the kingdom was the subject of all these proclamations and the expectation of all these people. Now, let us examine the parables as well, for we will find that the kingdom of God is the theme of the parables that Christ told just as much as it was the theme of the proclamations that He and the disciples made to the people.

In Matthew 13:19, we learn that the kingdom of God (or, in this case, the word of the kingdom) is the subject of the parable of the sower.

19. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

In Matthew 13:24, we learn that the kingdom of God (or, as it is usually called in Matthew, the kingdom of heaven) is the subject of the parable of the wheat and the tares.

24. Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;

In Matthew 13:31, we find that the kingdom of God is the subject of the parable of the mustard seed.

31. Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,

In Matthew 13:33, the kingdom of God is the subject of the parable of the leaven.

33. Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

In Matthew 13:44, we see that the kingdom of God is the subject of the parable of the hidden treasure.

44. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

In Matthew 13:45, the kingdom is the subject of the parable of the pearl of great price.

45. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,

In Matthew 13:47, the kingdom of God is the subject of the parable of the dragnet.

47. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind,

In Matthew 21:43, the kingdom of God is the subject of the parable of the wicked vinedressers.

43. Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

In Matthew 22:2, the kingdom of God is the subject of the parable of the wedding feast.

2. The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son,

In Matthew 25:1, the kingdom of God is the subject of the parable of the wise and foolish virgins.

1. Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

And, in Mark 4:26, the kingdom of God is the subject of the parable of the growing seed.

26. And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,

I have ignored the “parallel” passages that contain the same parable in different books, and I have still produced a very impressive list of parables whose subjects are the kingdom of God. In fact, in weight of such a long list of evidence, we could say that the theme of the parables is the kingdom of God.

So we have established that the kingdom of God was the theme of John the Baptist’s ministry, that it was the theme of Christ’s ministry, and that it was the theme of the parables. But, we might say, this all has reference to the gospels. As dispensationalists, we look at that period as being different from the period coming after. What about the Acts period, and the post Acts period? Did the kingdom of God continue to be an important subject then? Let us continue on through the New Testament and see the place the kingdom of God had in the Acts period and beyond.

Right away in the book of Acts, we see that the kingdom continued to be an important subject. First of all, in Acts 1:3, the kingdom of God was the Lord’s subject as He taught His disciples for forty days after the resurrection.

3. to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

Clearly, this is what He most wanted them to know before He left them to continue His ministry with the power of the Holy Spirit. Most might be surprised at this, thinking that His teaching should have revolved around the gospel and what He had accomplished on the cross. Certainly this might have been part of His teaching, but from the clear language of the text, we know that what He taught can be summed up by the phrase, “pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Even these important truths must have been pertaining to that great subject!

In Acts 8:12, we learn that the kingdom of God was the subject of Philip the evangelist’s ministry in Samaria.

22. But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

But what of Paul? Though the other apostles may have taught the kingdom, that wasn’t Paul’s ministry, was it? We learn from Acts 14:22 that the kingdom of God was the hope Paul set before those who believed in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.

22. strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

Moreover, in Acts 19:8, we learn that the kingdom of God was the subject that Paul spoke on for three months in the synagogue in Ephesus.

8. And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.

If there can be any doubt of this, Paul confirmed that this was the subject of his preaching among them when he met with the elders of the ekklesia of Ephesus in Miletus in Acts 20:25.

25. “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.

Let us continue on with this passage, for Paul states in the next two verses,

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

Paul declares himself to be innocent of the blood of all men. This was because he had not failed to declare unto them the whole counsel of God. How was it that he could say this? What had he taught them that could be summed up as “the whole counsel of God”? In verse 25 he declares it in these words: that he had “gone preaching the kingdom of God” among them. This topic summed up the “whole counsel of God,” and by proclaiming the things related to this, Paul faithfully dispensed his ministry, so that he could declare that he was innocent of the blood of any man. No one in Ephesus could say that he did not know the truth because Paul did not tell him. Paul had told them the truth, and the truth related to the kingdom of God!

Now we come to the pivotal chapter of Acts 28. Here, we read in Acts 28:23 that the Jewish leaders appointed Paul a day. This was, in fact, a very great honor, for these were very important men. The Jewish leaders in Rome were, we might say, the leaders of the Jews outside the land in the dispersion. They could be considered the most important of the Jewish leaders, and their decisions would count with people more than that even of other leaders outside of Rome. So for these men to come to hear Paul, with the no-doubt busy schedules they had, and to set aside an entire day for him, was an honor indeed. It would be rather like the mayor of the city or the governor setting aside a day to come and hear you speak and learn what you had to say. This was a very important day for Paul and the spread of the gospel, and we can imagine that he was prepared to explain to these important leaders the things that were most important and crucial about his ministry and the truth. So we read in Acts 28:23 of this meeting, and what it was that Paul taught these men on this very important day.

23. So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.

Now I do not want to make too big a deal out of the order here, but notice that the kingdom of God is mentioned first. We cannot imagine from the way that this sentence is constructed that the things concerning Jesus Christ were his main topic, and the kingdom of God was only a minor side issue that he covered briefly. The kingdom of God is spelled out as large as the things concerning Jesus Christ, and we cannot deny that these things were presented to these leaders as topics of equal importance, or at least as things that tied so closely together that they must be presented in this way. So we can say that what Paul testified to the Jewish leaders in Rome was the kingdom of God, as well as persuading them concerning Jesus Christ.

Now we pass the important Acts 28:28 dividing line. Does the kingdom cease to be an important subject for Paul at that point? Does he move on then to something else? We can answer this question “most certainly not,” for the kingdom of God is the subject of Paul’s teaching for two whole years that he dwelt in Rome after this point, as we read in Acts 28:30-31.

30. Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, 31. preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

So the kingdom of God was the subject of the apostle’s preaching all throughout the book of Acts. Moreover, it was the subject of Paul’s epistles during Acts as well, as we will now see. First of all, we read of it in I Corinthians 6:9-10.

9. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10. nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

So Paul warned the Corinthians that these sorts of people have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. As I have stated before, we should not get the idea of “inheritance” mixed up with living in the kingdom. To have an inheritance is to have a place or enjoy a portion. I, for example, have no place and enjoy no portion in the United States government. I am a citizen of that government, true, and I live under it, but I have no place in it, other than that afforded to all citizens of voting and upholding that government. So these are the sorts of people, Paul is teaching, who will have no portion in God’s government. Yet can it be doubted from this that the hope that Paul held out to the Corinthians was the kingdom of God? I do not believe that there can be any doubt of this, when we honestly consider the passage. And this is confirmed again in I Corinthians 15:50, where inheriting the kingdom is again set forth to the Corinthians as something they are looking forward to.

50. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.

So the kingdom was the expectation of the Corinthians. And, secondly, it was set forth to the Galatians in the same way, as we read in Galatians 5:21, at the end of a long list of sins:

21. envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

So the Galatians too were expecting to inherit the kingdom of God. Then, in I Thessalonians 2:12, Paul speaks of the kingdom.

10. You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11. as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12. that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Paul tells us here that God had called the Thessalonians into His Own kingdom. If that is what the Holy Spirit says they were called to, can we honestly say any different? And yet this truth is flatly denied by most expositors of I Thessalonians today, who prefer to assign to the Thessalonians a different calling. Yet that this was the Thessalonians’ calling is attested to most plainly by this passage. Moreover, this is repeated again regarding the Thessalonians in II Thessalonians 1:5.

5. which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer;

So the Thessalonians were suffering for the sake of the kingdom of God. Can we deny, if they were suffering for it, that it was their hope as well? So in the books written during Acts, Paul sets forth the kingdom as the hope of the people he was writing to. And moving to the post-Acts 28:28 period, we see the same thing in his later epistles. Moving on chronologically, (though we are taking things out of order canonically,) we come to Ephesians 5:5.

5. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

I know that some have argued that these different phrases for the “kingdom” mean different things, but can one really demonstrate this from anything but wishful thinking? “My theological scheme denies it, therefore it cannot be so,” is not an answer that we can honestly accept in dealing with a passage. Where can we demonstrate that “the kingdom of Christ and God” is any different from “the kingdom of God”? “It cannot be the same because it is in Ephesians,” does not really solve the problem, unless one has already made up his mind that it should be solved. Does the kingdom of Christ not also belong to God, and vice versa? Why is this naming something different, and not just another name for the same thing? That this is some different kingdom cannot be demonstrated satisfactorily.

So if Paul was warning them, again, about losing an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God, can there be any doubt that receiving an inheritance in the kingdom of God was the hope of the Ephesians? I do not see how one can honestly deny this. And the same thing is true in Colossians, as we read in Colossians 4:11.

11. and Jesus who is called Justus. These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me.

So Paul and his fellow workers labored on behalf of the kingdom of God. I would not deny that he labored on behalf of the mystery, but does this not clearly demonstrate that he labored for the kingdom of God as well? Can we deny this in light of this clear passage?

Now in the last book he wrote, Paul was still looking forward to the kingdom, as we read in II Timothy 4:1.

1. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

So Paul looked forward here to the judgment that Jesus Christ would accomplish at His appearing, which is defined as His kingdom. Moreover, Paul demonstrates, as he faces the end of his life, that his own hope was the kingdom, in II Timothy 4:18.

18. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!

Can the heavenly kingdom be any different from the kingdom of heaven? Is it not only wishful thinking to suggest such a thing? At the end of his life, this is what Paul looked forward to. Is there any need to go on? These verses speak for themselves.

Let us consider the general epistles, though I do not think their testimony could be any stronger than that given in Paul’s letters, to a dispensationalist. Yet for those of my readers who may not be dispensationalists, and to make my study complete, let us go on. First of all, Hebrews 12:28.

28. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

Then, James 2:5.

5. Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

And, closing out the general epistles, II Peter 1:11.

11. for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Let us finish up in Revelation. We can examine verses like 1:9.

9. I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Then, Revelation 11:15.

15. 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!”

And finally, Revelation 12:10.

10. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.

So I believe my point is made. The kingdom of God is set forth as the goal from Matthew to Revelation, including in the books of Paul. It is the theme of the New Testament. It jumps at us from every page, and has a place in every book. If there is a dispensational line that cuts it off, where is it? And why can it not be demonstrated by examining the books in question? No line appears where the kingdom disappears. It is as much chronologically at the end as it was at the beginning. The kingdom of God is the theme of the New Testament.

In view of all this, can we truly preach the Word of God and not preach the kingdom? Could Paul possibly have been “free from the blood of all men” if he had not preached the kingdom? And yet many Bible expositors in the dispensationalist camp have made it their life’s work, it seems, NOT to preach the kingdom, or to have much of anything to say about it. This is not right, my brothers! We cannot allow our love of dispensationalism to keep us from facing up to this.

Now some try to use the argument, as I have said, that the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are something different. Could this negate all I have pointed out above? I will deal with this question in my next study.

Advertisements