Understanding the Kingdom of God that Christ and His disciples preached is critical to understanding where we are, where we are going, and the nature of reality itself. It is also crucial to understanding our assignments from God.
Jesus spoke constantly about “the Kingdom.” The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are mentioned 100 times just in the New Testament, in addition to the references and prophecies about it in the Old Testament. Clearly this is an important concept.
In the Gospel of Matthew, for example, Jesus speaks 3 times about His death and resurrection, but 30 times about the Kingdom of God. Other Gospels have a similar emphasis on the Kingdom.
And yet, we rarely hear about it in sermons or talk about it in church. This must stop. Jesus preached about it constantly and ordered his disciples to do the same — and therefore we must focus on this topic as well.
In Mark 1:14–15, we read that 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.”
In Acts 1, we see that when Jesus is raised from the dead, he speaks about “things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
Christ also ordered his disciples to do the same, giving them clear instructions to share the Good News of the Kingdom with others as they ministered. Luke 9:2: He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
We must begin by defining the Kingdom. In the Lord’s Prayer, outlined in Matthew 6:10, Jesus teaches us how to pray and reveals something critical about the Kingdom: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
It seems, then, that God’s kingdom is marked by God’s will being done without resistance or opposition. In heaven, this happens by default. On Earth, most people do not follow God or willingly submit to His will — yet.
Thus, there are actually two kingdoms existing in parallel on the Earth right now. In one, Christ is King and His will is done gladly by His redeemed subjects. In the other — the doomed Kingdom of Darkness — Satan reigns over the hearts of his witting and unwitting followers. There is no neutral ground.
Matthew 13 contains the most significant and detailed insight into the Kingdom, including an extensive collection of parables offered by Christ shedding light on its nature. We shall start by examining one of Jesus’ key parables in this chapter.
Matthew 13:24-30 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[c] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants[d] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’
Just a few verses after offering the parable, Jesus explains It clearly to his disciples so that they know what each element represents.
Matthew 13:36-43 “Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
There are several key points to note here. First, we see that those in the Kingdom of God are currently living and working alongside those following Satan, the so-called “god of this world.” However, we also see that there will be a great sorting on Judgment Day, and only those redeemed by Christ will escape the fiery furnace.
Lest Christians (God’s adopted children, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven) get cocky, it’s important to note that we were all once in the Kingdom of Darkness. In fact, it is only because of Christ and His atoning sacrifice and God’s grace that any person can be brought into God’s Kingdom.
Colossians 1:13: He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.
The separation of the good and bad will come, and it is a key part of the parables in Matthew 13. Jesus offers another one, similar in some ways to the parable of the wheat and the tares, just a few verses down from it.
The Parable of the Net 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
In other words, God’s “fish” and Satan’s “fish” are all swimming together. But on Judgement Day, the angels will come and sort them.
Another parable shedding light on the Kingdom offers fascinating insight into the historical movement of the Kingdom. It all started small, but is in the process of becoming massive and powerful beyond measure. Jesus explains:
Matthew 13:31-32 31 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
We see, then, the kingdom of heaven starts small and then eventually grows to dominate. When a poor, humble carpenter named Jesus from a backwater town in ancient Israel chose 12 regular men such as fishermen and a tax collector to start his ministry, those were very small beginnings—as small as a metaphorical mustard seed.
And yet, look at the growth of the Kingdom around the world. Despite constant persecution and attacks by Satan, God’s Kingdom is now spread out across the globe and constantly expanding. Even in the most hostile lands — North Korea, Cuba, and China — the Gospel is spreading and the Kingdom is growing. This confirms the incredible power of the Gospel, and the fact that it is of divine origin.
Another interesting element found in Matthew 13 is Jesus’ parables on who will be part of the Kingdom in the beginning of the chapter.
Matthew 13:1-9: That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears,[a] let him hear.”
After the parable, and before explaining it to His disciples, the Bible sheds light on why He is speaking in parables to begin with. The purpose: That not everyone would understand what He was saying, as foretold by Isaiah in the Old Testament.
Following that brief detour, Jesus goes on to explain precisely what was meant with that first parable about the seeds and what happened to them.
Matthew 13:18-23: “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.[b] 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
In other words, some will hear the Gospel and believe and join the Kingdom, others will reject it. Note that it is God, in His sovereignty, who makes the seeds grow.
Other verses in the Bible outside of Matthew 13 also speak on this topic of who is or will be in the Kingdom of God. It is clear, for example, that habitual sinners, unredeemed by grace through faith, are doomed.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Basically, through our own power, none of us can inherit the Kingdom of God. But God…. As verses 11 and 12 explain, God’s Kingdom is and will be filled with those who have been saved by Christ from the very sins described previously.
1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Back in Matthew again, God gives more insight into who is welcome in the Kingdom. In Matthew 5:3, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those who are “poor in spirit” are those who understand that they are worthless sinners without God. See Luke 18:9-14 for more.
Those who suffer for Christ are also rewarded with Kingdom citizenship and even crowns. Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
One of the most haunting passages on this subject should stand as a stark warning to everyone. There are plenty of people who are deceived into believing they are redeemed, and yet they know not Christ. Matthew 7 contains this warning directly from Christ, and it should cause every believer to examine their hearts.
Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Are you doing the will of the Father? What does that look like? Works do not save you, of course, but faith without works is dead, as James explains. Works are evidence of faith, and Christ expects us to obey Him.
Finally, Jesus makes clear that only those who are “born again” will be able to see the Kingdom. John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
A few other parables offered by Christ also shed a lot of light on the Kingdom and its significance.
Matthew 13:44-46 The Parable of the Hidden Treasure: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. The Parable of the Pearl of Great Value: 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
We must understand the incredible value of being part of the Kingdom. It is literally worthy of giving up EVERYTHING else, and then some. There is nothing more valuable in this world, period.
Some fascinating prophecies about the Kingdom are found in the Old Testament as well. And these are critical to understanding not just the Kingdom, but God’s plan being worked out in history. Daniel, one of the most important prophetic books, contains a crucial clue.
Daniel 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.
Think about the significance of that passage. God’s Kingdom is literally going to crush everything in its path. The options are submit or be destroyed—and that applies to nations, kings, and individuals. Christ is King over everything, and He is coming back to rule.
Zechariah 14:9: And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.
In Matthew 24:14, Jesus tells people that the whole world will hear about it. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
What do we do? Get busy using what our Lord has given us for His glory. A fascinating parable in Luke sheds insight into what Christ our King expects us to be doing while He is away.
Luke 19:11-27: As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants,[a] he gave them ten minas,[b] and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant![c] Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”
If you are not using the gifts, material resources, and talents that God has given you for the sake of your King, let these verses be a reminder. And if you are one of the subjects who is a rebel and refuses to submit willingly to the King of King’s authority, beware, because He is coming back, and there will be extreme consequences.
Unlike ancient Israel, which was instructed to take Canaan by force, citizens of God’s expanding Kingdom are not supposed to use violence or fighting. Instead, it is the power of the Gospel that will be triumphant. Christ makes this clear in His conversation with Pilate.
John 18:36: Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Finally, there is even more good news! God promises that if we seek the Kingdom, He will take care of us and provide all the necessities of life — food, drink, clothes, and so on.
Matthew 6:33: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Brothers and sisters, the Good News of the Kingdom is excellent news indeed. Christ is already victorious, and like a mustard seed grows into a powerful tree, the Kingdom of God will not be stopped. Praise God!