The Kingdom of God is a key and central theme of the New Testament. All dedicated students of Scripture understand this to be so. Some see the kingdom as being entirely future and equate it entirely with the Old Covenant nation of Israel. Others see it entirely present and equate it as being identical with the Church. So what is the relation of the Kingdom, Israel, and the Church?
A Few Notes…
- The Election, Kingdom, and promises belonged to Israel (Rom 9:3) – “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt 15:24)
- The Kingdom was first offered to Israel – “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 10:5-7).
- The natural born Israelites rejected Christ and the Kingdom of God, preferring instead a kingdom of man (John 6:15, 66; John 18:36) – “But last of all he [God] sent unto them his son [Christ], saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen [Israelites] saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance [the kingdom]. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” (Matt 21:37-39).
- Christ prophesied that after his death, non-Jews (Israelites by birth) would be engrafted (contrary to natural reason) into the people of God (see Rom 11) – “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matt 21:43)
- Christ gave Kingdom authority to His followers to be held by the Church – “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven“ (Matt 16-18-19)
What is this ‘key’ that opens the door to the Kingdom? George Ladd writes:
Jesus condemned the Scribes because they had ” taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” The key of knowledge which should open the door of the Kingdom of God had been entrusted to the leaders of the Jewish people. This key was the correct understanding and interpretation of the Old Testament which should have led the Jews to recognize in our Lord’s person and ministry the presence of the Kingdom of God and the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. Paul expressed the same truth when he said that God had entrusted to Israel the oracles of God (Rom. 3: 2). However, the scribes had taken away the key of knowledge; they so interpreted the Scriptures that they pointed away from Christ rather than to Him as the One who had come to fulfill the prophets. Thus they refused to enter into the realm of Kingdom blessings which Jesus brought, and they hindered those who wanted to enter.
- In a mystery hidden during previous ages, the gentiles were to become a part of the one people of God(1 Cor 12:13) – “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph 3:5-6).
To Be Continued…
In the next post I will continue to place bullets regarding what the New Testament says about the Kingdom, Israel, and the Church.