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THEME OF THE BIBLE - THE KINGDOM OF GOD
by Tom L. Ballinger
The theme of the Bible, without question, is the Kingdom of God. This is said in the full acknowledgment of the fact that Jesus Christ is the Chief Person of the Book. It is true that all Scripture points to the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of the references are very subtle, and others are very obvious. He is the principal Person, the leading Character, if you please. He is the LORD (Yahweh) of the Old Testament and the Lord Jesus Christ of the New. Despite these facts, the main theme of the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, is the Kingdom of God.
Any book that makes sense that transmits an idea must have a principal idea, a vision, a premise, a story-line, or plot. For those, like so many church-going, pew-sitting Christians, who don’t have a clue—they think the Bible is a confusing Book. And they must have a preacher to tell them what is relevant and what they should believe. The problem, if not of laziness, is that they, themselves, have failed to find the central theme of the Bible—the Kingdom of God.
The actual term, the “Kingdom of God,” is not found in the Old Testament, but that doesn’t mean the truth concerning it is absent. The fact is that a thousand and one prophetic declarations are found in the Old Testament which are, later, summed-up in the New Testament under the designation: the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven (these two terms are synonymous).
The New Testament opens and begins with the announcement that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” These terms are indicative that they have been a previously, well-known doctrine. The simple announcement, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” is made without explaining its meaning to the Jewish audience to whom this announcement was made. This fact clearly presupposes that the subject matter contained in the expression—the Kingdom of God, needed no defining, or explaining. So, it can safely be said that in the opening pages of the New Testament, it is taken for granted that the Kingdom was something well-known by the Jewish audience and was already the object of their faith and hope.
The meaning which the Lord Jesus attached to the phrase, the Kingdom of God, can only have the meaning given to it in the Old Testament. If another concept were intended by the “Kingdom of God,” some explanation would have been necessary at the beginning of the ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth in order to avoid any misunderstanding. The facts are that John and Jesus made the announcement of the Kingdom on the presumption that their audience knew what the Kingdom was. The people reacted by coming to John and Jesus for baptism, signifying they were to be identified as being submissive to the new order of things which were at hand. They would not have done this without understanding what the Kingdom meant.
The announcement about the “Kingdom of God” was not a new concept. However, the added ingredient, “at hand,” was new. The “at hand” phrase has caused a great deal of difficulty to Bible students because two-thousand years later, the Kingdom still has not come. “At hand” simply means to draw near, to approach, or soon to come-to-pass. John the Baptist and Jesus Christ clearly stated, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Since the Kingdom has not yet become a reality, were they wrong? No! The solution is simple. The Kingdom, when announced, was indeed “at hand.” It was the next PROPHETIC EVENT TO TAKE PLACE. But, God surprised the saints, the world, and the devil by suspending all prophecy and ushering in a secret dispensation—the Mystery. That cancelled-out the “at hand” position of the Kingdom.
When I think of an event in the Bible as being “at hand,” that means to me that the event mentioned, is the next scheduled prophetic event which is to take place. What would change the “at hand” position would be if God had a hidden purpose which He chose to insert into time.
Parenthetically, I believe with every fiber of my being that the “Blessed Hope” of Titus 2:13 is “at hand!” It is the next prophetic event to take place in God’s design of the ages.
The prophets had already set forth a period of time when this earth and all of the nations upon it would be governed by God; “O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for Thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah” (Psalm 67:4). “The Kingdom of God” was an ancient body of truth set forth under this very descriptive term. God spoke about the coming Kingdom of God “by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). All of the prophets foretold and wrote about the time when the Heavens would rule over mankind. The Kingdom of God plays a major role as the Bible’s theme, but far too many Christians fail to “give it the time of day.”
The wise man finds out as many of the facts as possible about a matter, and he listens to the evidence and weighs it in the balances before passing judgment. The wise man is not hasty in making his decision on an important matter.
He isn’t quick to decide. He should consider the evidence set forth in this study. There are twenty headings, as well as, nine sub-headings listed which are of paramount importance to understanding the scope of the Kingdom of God:
1. The disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ were encouraged to give the Kingdom of God first place in their lives: “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
2. It was the Kingdom of God that Christ proclaimed when He began His public ministry: “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14).
3. Its proclamation was the work God had commissioned Him to do: “And he said unto them, I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent” (Luke 4:43).
4. It was the Kingdom of God that He proclaimed and demonstrated in every city: “And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him” (Luke 8:1).
5. It was the message the twelve were sent to herald: “And he sent them to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2).
6. The seventy were also sent forth to preach the Kingdom of God: “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come” (Luke 10:1). “And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:9).
7. Christ’s disciples were taught to pray for it to come: “And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth” (Luke 11:2).
8. The Kingdom was the hope and ultimate destination of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of the prophets: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the Kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out” (Luke 13:28).
9. The Kingdom of God was the hope of Joseph of Arimathaea who arranged for the entombment of the Lord Jesus Christ: “And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counseller; and he was a good man, and a just: (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 23:50-51).
10. The Kingdom of God was the subject of the following parables as spoken by the Lord Jesus: the sower (Matt. 13:19), the tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:24), the mustard seed (Matt.13: 31), the leaven (Matt. 13:33), the hidden treasure (Matt. 13:44), the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:45-46), the net cast into the sea (Matt. 13:47), the laborers in the vineyard (Matt.20:1), the marriage of the king’s son (Matt. 22:2), the wise and foolish virgins (Matt: 25:1), the seed growing secretly (Mark 4:26).
11. The Kingdom of God was the subject of Jesus Christ’s teachings for forty days between His resurrection and ascension: “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
12. It was the theme of some of His most important dissertations which He made while upon the earth:
13. The Kingdom of God was the theme of the Apostle Paul’s ministry from the beginning to the end—Acts 9 through 2 Timothy, including the Prison Epistles.
14. It was the hope of believers under Paul’s Acts ministry: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
15. The Kingdom was the subject of Paul’s reasoning out of the Scriptures in the synagogue in Ephesus: “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the Kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).
16. Paul’s three years, spent in Ephesus, is summed up as proclaiming the Kingdom of God: “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the Kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:25-27). Declaring “all [the whole] counsel of God” is intimately linked to the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God; having done so made it possible for him to be pure from the blood of all men.
17. The Kingdom of God was Paul’s message throughout the day-long meeting with the chief Jews of Rome: “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the Kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23).
18. It was at the close of that day that Paul was inspired to make the momentous pronouncement: “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it” (Acts 28:28). Thereby, officially ending the Acts (or Pentecostal) Dispensation.
19. Nevertheless, the Kingdom of God continued to be part of Paul’s message for the two whole years he dwelt in his own hired house after Acts 28:28: “And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:30-31).
20. Even after the Apostle Paul received the revelation of the Mystery (Eph. 3:1-6, Col. 1:25-27) and made it known, Kingdom truth was not set aside; only another application of it was made known. The Kingdom of God is part of Present Truth as evidenced by references to it in the Prison Epistles.
a. Ephesians 5:5: “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.” Here, are enumerated sins which will bar the practitioners of them from the Kingdom of God. This is one Kingdom, not two.
b. Colossians 1:12-13: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of his dear Son:” This is another name for the Kingdom of God.
c. Colossians 4:11: “And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision. These only are my fellowworkers unto the Kingdom of God, which have been a comfort unto me.” Here, in the context, Paul mentioned several men of the circumcision who were his fellow-workers, laboring in the ministry for the Kingdom of God. If Kingdom truth was left behind at Acts 28, then, Paul and his fellow-laborers were laboring in vain. I don’t believe Paul was confused at all.
d. Timothy 4:1: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his Appearing and his Kingdom.” Here, Paul in no uncertain terms, tells Timothy that the Dispensation of Grace will end with Christ’s appearing (i.e. epiphany) and His Kingdom becoming manifest in the earth.
e. Timothy 4:18: “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly Kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” According to the Apostle Paul, himself, his hope after Acts 28 was the Heavenly Kingdom. He had the assurance from the Lord Jesus Christ that he would be preserved (or saved) from every evil work thrown at him. This would result in Paul’s realization of his hope—the “Heavenly Kingdom” of Christ.
The Kingdom of God (i.e., Christ) is such an integral part of the Bible it is astounding that most teachers and students of the Word have so little knowledge of the Kingdom of God. No matter how many bits and pieces of the Word a person has digested, if he knows very little about the Kingdom of God, he has no real knowledge of the Bible. In order to make sense, these bits and pieces must sooner, or later, be related to a central theme. If they are related to Christ, this is still not the end. If the glories of Christ Jesus are considered, we will always come to the Kingdom of God of which He will be the Divine King.
Those who are not instructed in the Kingdom of God will never understand the parables, for this is what most of the parables are about. Those who fail to declare the truth about it are not declaring the whole counsel of God. They will accept such unscriptural things, such as: God offered the Kingdom to Israel, or Israel rejected the offer of the Kingdom.
In view of the important place that the Kingdom of God has in the Bible, one would think that this term would be on their lips, or the tips of their pens, or the click of their word processors of all whose lives have been shaped by the Bible. To those teachers who claim to be expounding the Word of God, while leaving out the central theme of the Book, I would have to say, along with our Lord Jesus Christ, that the Kingdom has suffered violence (Matt. 11:12). The phrase concerning the Kingdom of God has suffered great violence at the hands of men all throughout the Christian era. It has been incorrectly defined, erroneously interpreted, and hopelessly confused.
In closing, it should be said in an encouraging way that we all should get into God’s Book and find the real truth concerning the coming Kingdom of God and all of the concurrent events encapsulated with its manifestation.
Tom L. Ballinger