Problem of the Kingdom of God

A Systems Analysis Solution

Harold R. Booher, Ph.D.

Copyright 2013 - Harold R. Booher

Chapter 3: Applying Basic Kingdom Facts to Views

A systems analysis on the kingdom of God began by demonstrating the Kingdom of God is the theme of the Bible and applying the dispensational approach as a central study principle. The analysis then progressed by examining the literature on the kingdom of God to identify a wide variety of views expressed by twenty-one different authors on the subject. From these twenty-one views, seven general views were found to represent the family of views. These seven views on interpreting the kingdom were selected as worthy of further consideration. 

Discussed in Chapter 2, these seven views are listed in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 Seven Views of the Kingdom of God

1. Eternal state; i.e. heaven or some immortal state of being

2. Christ, the person 

3. Organized Christian Church

4. Spiritual “within you.” 

5. Future, Millennium

6. Future, Pre- Millennium

7. Dual Kingdoms, Current and Future

We are now ready to evaluate the reasonableness of the various categories for interpreting the kingdom.  For credence to be assigned to any particular view, it needs to show consistency throughout scripture.  We will therefore, now take a broad look at scripture regarding the kingdom as it moves from the Old Testament prophets to the New Testament introduction by Jesus. This transition provides us with certain historical-grammatical facts that need to be considered as fundamental to any view regarding the kingdom of God.

Systems Analysis Steps 5 and 6.

The systems analysis steps conducted in this chapter are Steps 5 and 6. This chapter identifies and describes those most critical, discrete facts that pertain to the kingdom of God.  It then compares kingdom facts to kingdom views through a matrix analysis. From this analysis we are able to eliminate any views that do not meet all or most of the kingdom facts.

Ten Facts about the Kingdom of God

a. Meaning of kingdom. The Greek word basileia is translated kingdom in the New Testament.  The English word which best fits the meaning of basileia is“government.”1 The closest thing to a human government that conveyed the meaning of basiieia in the early church and at the time of the King James Version was a kingdom.  Pentecost shows the full meaning of kingdom includes three interrelated ideas:

    1. the right (or authority) to rule,
    2. a realm of rule – it must be exercised over subjects; and
    3. the reality of rule -- actual exercise of royal authority.2 

Any concept of a kingdom of God that does not include all three elements of a kingdom is suspect since it would not be an actual kingdom.  For example the concept of Jesus personally being the kingdom ignores the subjects needed as part of a realm. Another example is the concept where the kingdom of God is active on earth today.  In that case it is difficult to argue that God is exercising royal authority on earth when people are constrained only by human governments that arguably are not all representing God.3

b. Old Testament people expected an earthly kingdom If there is anything Old Testament and New Testament scholars – liberal or conservative- might agree upon, it is that the Israelites (from the time of David until the appearance of Jesus) expected a kingdom on earth.  While some Christians contend Israel erred in such a belief and missed the scriptures on the “suffering servant” and because of their rejection of Jesus were not entitled to the kingdom, no historian denies Israel’s expectation of the kingdom and that Jesus proclaimed to them its coming.4   John Bright then speaks for all when he concludes “As long as Israel retained any sense of calling as the people of God, or any faith in the integrity and power of that God who is the Lord of history, so long would there live the lively expectation of his coming Kingdom.”5 This was based on their understanding of Old Testament scripture.  Robert Saucy notes: “The concept of the kingdom looms large on the pages of Scripture.  Its features are the dominant content of Old Testament prophecy…. The establishment of the kingdom of God on earth is, in fact, the ultimate goal of biblical history.”6

c. The kingdom on earth expectation carried over into New Testament.  The gospel writers described everything from the genealogy of Jesus birth -- to the angels and wise men -- to John the Baptist as supporting the literal fulfillment of the Davidic covenant promise. This promise was that the Davidic covenant would be accomplished through a messianic king of Israel who would bring in the kingdom of God.7   John Bright notes the importance of Jesus as the Messiah meeting the expectations of the law and the prophets. “For in affirming that Jesus is the Messiah, the New Testament affirmed that all that the Old Testament faith had longed for and pointed to has been given in him: he is the fulfillment of all that the law community had tried to do, and all that prophet hope had envisioned.”8   

This smooth transition of expectations from the Old to the New Testament Israel would explain why the announcement of the kingdom by John, Jesus, and the disciples was made without explanation.  Given that every Jew at the time of Jesus possessed the vocabulary of the kingdom of God,9 Saucy concludes, “It is inconceivable that Jesus, knowing the understanding of his hearers, would not have immediately sought to correct their thinking if he in fact had another concept of the kingdom in mind.”10   Repentance was also understood as a condition for entering into the kingdom.  Both John and Jesus made a call for repentance in relation to the kingdom.  These two factors, considered with such facts as the proclamation of the kingdom was limited to Israel, and Jesus’ conflict over the temple and his prediction of its destruction show a literal kingdom was not only understood by the Israelites, but encouraged by both John and Jesus.11

d. Jesus elaborated on characteristics of the kingdom in his parables.  Jesus specifically revealed “secrets” of the kingdom of God to the disciples that he purposely did not reveal to others (Matthew 13:10-17). The Greek word musterion translated “mystery” is a misleading transliteration, better translated “secret” since musterion means that which was hidden and now revealed rather than that which is mysterious and unknowable.12 

e. Jesus said the kingdom was at hand. “The time is fulfilled; and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). This statement by Jesus, like the next fact (f.), is used most frequently by proponents of view 4 (Church is kingdom “within you”) Lloyd-Jones, for example, supports this view for Christians who might interpret Jesus as meaning  “It [the kingdom of God] is at hand in me, because I have come from heaven, because I am the Son of God, because I am the one who has come from the glory and have taken on me human nature.”13 Saucy extends “at hand” to spiritual salvation likened to that of the church: “Most interpreters have understood him [Jesus] to mean by the kingdom of God, which he announced as ‘at hand’ something akin to the realm of spiritual salvation presently enjoyed in the church.”14

f. Jesus said the kingdom is within you. When the Pharisees demanded Jesus tell them when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them “The kingdom of God does not comes with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”  (Luke 17:20-21)  This statement of Jesus is often used to make the kingdom equated to something “spiritual,” so that all Christians who accept the gospel of Christ are participating now in a form of the kingdom.  For those who accept this belief it means a “spiritual” kingdom in which God rules over the hearts of men.  The Lord’s Prayer can be thought of as asking God to help the believer to make the idealized kingdom of God possible here on earth through Christian love to others.  Dispensationalists who believe the church is the spiritual kingdom now also use this fact to support their view.

g. The expectations and Jesus elaborations have not occurred. The Jewish expectations of paragraphs b and, c., and the elaborations by Jesus of paragraph d. were not realized during the early church and have not been manifested in the current era. Although Bright believes the Church is the new spiritual Israel, he notes that it was “bitterly clear” to the early church that the:

Kingdom had not come and its victory had not been won nor, from a human point of view, was there any way to produce that victory. …The New Testament church had to live all its life in the grip of imperial Rome. And Rome was not in the least subject to the Kingdom of God. …The church simply had no way to defeat the power of Rome and procure the promised victory.  She could obey the Great Commission: she could preach, could witness, could make disciples for the Kingdom.  She could even attest her faith in the Kingdom unto the death.  But she could not product it.  [In fact,] there is in all the New Testament no brave talk of winning the world for Christ and of ushering in his Kingdom—not so much as a syllable!15

This fact is totally contrary to views that support paragraph e (kingdom at hand) and more than any other fact encourages church views toward a “spiritual” rather than a material kingdom, but this historical fact also makes it much more difficult after nearly 2000 years to explain how Jesus’ death and resurrection actually defeated Satan. How has the Christian church been victorious over evil in a spiritual kingdom of God?

h. The kingdom is like something that grows.  Many of Jesus’ parables likened the Kingdom of God to a growing process.  The parable of the sower (Mark 4:2-23; Matthew 13:3-23) covers the start of the kingdom by likening Jesus words and the disciples hearing and spreading the words to a sower of seed and the ground upon which it falls.  Mark 4:26-29 is a parable of the growing seed which likens the stages of the seed from start to full harvest to the kingdom stages from start to completion.16 The parables of the mustard seed (Matt. 13:31) and the weeds (Matt. 13:34) also illustrate different aspects of how the kingdom grows from something very small to very large and at some point after the world has been prepared, children of Satan are sown and grow up undetectable among the children of God until the end of the world.

i.. The many prophecies of the Bible could not be a reality, unless God takes control of the earth. Beyond Christ beginning the kingdom in Israel and its expansion to the Gentiles during the Acts period, most of the Old and New Testament prophecies regarding the kingdom on earth have not occurred.  For the kingdom to come into reality, God must intervene.17 Scripture predicts that things will continue to wax worse and worse until God has to intervene if there is to be any kingdom on earth where God’s will is to be done (cf. II Timothy 3:1-13; Matthew 24:3-14; II Thess. 1:7-10; Psalm 64:2-8; Isaiah 59:19). 

j. God’s covenants with Israel. Most of God’s covenants with Israel are unconditional and eternal.  They do not depend on Israel’s behavior. Pentecost notes: “Because the covenants God had made with Israel were unconditional, it was impossible for them to be canceled even because of disobedience.”18 God initiated four different covenants with Israel that are “unconditional and eternal covenants, made with a covenant people, and to be fulfilled because of the faithfulness of the One making the covenants to those to whom they were given. … They bind God to a course of action in relation to future events, as illustrated in Bible prophecy.”19 Pentecost identifies seven great features that are distinct and illustrative of the kingdom of God:

  1. a nation forever;
  2. a land forever;
  3. a King forever;
  4. a throne forever;
  5. a kingdom forever;
  6. a New Covenant; and
  7. abiding blessings. 20

Comparing Kingdom Views with Kingdom Facts

The next step of the systems analysis is to conduct a matrix analysis of the ten historical-grammatical facts regarding the kingdom of God versus the seven kingdom views. Table 3.2 summarizes kingdom views by Bible facts that support them.  For example, Fact a – meaning of the kingdom only supports views 5, 6, and 7; whereas Fact f -- Jesus said kingdom within you supports views 4, 5, 6, and 7. 


Table 3.2   Bible Facts Supporting Kingdom Views

Bible Facts

Kingdom Views Supported by Facts

a. Meaning of Kingdom

 Future (5 & 6); 7. Dual Forms (7)

b. Old Testament  Israelites expected earthly kingdom

 Future (5 & 6.); Dual Forms (7)

c. New Testament Israelites expected earthly kingdom

 Future (5& 6.); Dual Forms (7)

d. Kingdom parables

 Future (5 & 6.); Dual Forms (7)

e. Jesus said Kingdom near

Church (4); Future (5 & 6); Dual Forms (7)

f. Jesus said Kingdom within you

Church (4); Future (5 & 6); Dual Forms (7)

g. Kingdom promises have not occurred.

Future (5 & 6.); Dual Forms (7)

h. Kingdom like a growing process

Church (3 & 4.); Future (5 & 6); Dual Forms (7)

i. Bible prophecies require God taking control of the earth

Future (5 & 6); Dual Forms (7)

j. God’s covenants with Israel that are unconditional and eternal.

Future (5 & 6); Dual Forms (7)


1. Eternal state; i.e., heaven
2. Christ, the Person
3. Church- Organized church
4. Church-. Spiritual “within you” 
5.  Future earthly manifestation of God’s sovereignty -- Occurs in the millennium
6. Future earthly manifestation of God’s sovereignty -- Occurs before the millennium (pre-millennial)
7. Combination of 4 and 5 -- showing dual forms of the “kingdom.”


Is the Kingdom heaven?

The first type of kingdom of God, that made synonymous with heaven, or where we go after we are dead, can be eliminated quite easily if the barest of Bible facts are applied. Both the Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Jews expected a kingdom on earth and the Messiah to usher it in. Heaven synonymous with the kingdom of God is not supported by any of the Bible facts outlined above.  Nothing in the Old or New Testament likens heaven to the kingdom of God. Matthew uses the term “kingdom of heaven” rather than the “kingdom of God” as the other gospels, but the terms are exact equivalents.21 At any rate, it is not the kingdom “in heaven,” but rather “of heaven.”  Jesus’ parables liken the kingdom to many things, but except for lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” (Matt 6:20) they are all earthly comparisons, not heavenly. In fact our Lord’s Prayer clearly distinguishes heaven from the kingdom when we say “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  One might conceive the ultimate kingdom as broadly covering both heaven and earth; but even then it is not heaven alone; and our prayer is for God’s will to be done on earth when his kingdom comes. Some people theorize two kingdoms - one on earth and one in heaven - but Jesus never speaks of kingdom(s) of God. Occam’s razor limits us to one kingdom at this stage of our investigation.

Is the Kingdom Christ?

Concise use of language alone eliminates Christ as synonymous with the kingdom of God.  This was discussed briefly in the last chapter. The king is the head of the kingdom, the king reigns over the kingdom, the kingdom could not exist long without the king, but the king is not the same thing as the kingdom. As with heaven, none of the kingdom facts supports this view of the kingdom. However, because some writers have used this argument (Christ, the person is effectively the kingdom) to explain away difficult scripture, it is considered more thoroughly here.  The central theme of Lloyd-Jones’ book The Kingdom of God is that the kingdom comes to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus, the Person was the kingdom when he was on earth. Lloyd-Jones postulates three forms of the kingdom: the person of Christ when he was here; that which is present now when people subject themselves to God and to Jesus; and the future when Jesus returns.22 We will address only the first form of the kingdom, the person of Christ when he was here.

Two of Lloyd Jones typical arguments for Jesus, the Person being the kingdom are:

1. With the king comes the kingdom. “It is in the coming of this Person that the kingdom of God has come.”23 Lloyd-Jones cites the event where Jesus reads from Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue and concludes with “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:18-21). Lloyd-Jones sees this to be the same thing as Jesus saying “The Kingdom of God has arrived; God’s favour has come. The day of release, the day of pardon, ….the day of grace has drawn near, it has arrived.”24 While it is altogether true that Jesus’ statement (along with subsequent ones in verses 23-27) in the synagogue is likely the first announcement that could imply the kingdom was being ushered in, it would be more equivalent to a country’s new leader announcing he is the leader of a new administration. No one would confuse the new leader with personally being the new administration.  However the importance of the event in the Nazareth synagogue was not the announcement of the kingdom, it was Jesus claiming to be the Messiah.  It would be more appropriate to interpret Jesus saying to those in the synagogue, “I am the Messiah. It is I of whom the prophecies of Isaiah foretold.”  This claim was considered blasphemy by the Nazareth Jews and the reason they “were filled with wrath” and immediately tried to cast him off a cliff (v. 28-29).

2. The kingdom of God is within us.  Lloyd-Jones uses the answer Jesus gave to the Pharisees about when the kingdom would come (“it is within you”) to help develop his thesis about the kingdom being Jesus. 

How do I enter the kingdom?  Oh, He says, “the kingdom of God is within you.” But how can the kingdom of God be in me; how can it be amongst us? Well it comes to this—this is His teaching—the kingdom of God is only in me when I recognize who He is. …The kingdom of God only enters into me when I realize He is the Son of God incarnate.”25

We see Lloyd-Jones’ flawed method of interpretation. He does not go to scripture to find out what the kingdom is.  He first decides on his thesis that Jesus is the kingdom and that the kingdom enters us when we believe in Him.26 Lloyd-Jones then finds some verse on the kingdom; makes up something in his own words that supports his interpretation of the verse and puts them forth as the teaching of Jesus.  This is a typical way of preaching a sermon in an attempt to reach the audience with a theme that might appear relevant on Jesus as the Son of God.  What he says is not wrong in so far as what a Christian should believe about Christ being the Son of God incarnate; but it has nothing to do with the kingdom of God. Jesus never said anything like “the kingdom of God only enters a person when they recognize who He is.”

Lloyd-Jones illustrates the difficulty some writers get themselves into by loosely interpreting scripture.  At one point or another in his book, he equates the kingdom of God not only to Jesus, but also to the “gospel of Christ,” the “mystery of the church,” “Christianity,” the “second coming,” and “salvation.”27 To him, the kingdom of God is anything Lloyd-Jones wants it to mean.  Because of this he does not add any enlightenment to what God means by any of these concepts, least of all the kingdom of God.  Lloyd-Jones discussion of the kingdom of God is an excellent example of the weakest form of interpretation in hermeneutics; that is, - preaching for current relevance – where reader interpretation plays a strong role in determining the message.28

Is the Kingdom the Organized Church?

Eliminating the church as the kingdom requires looking at two types of church; the organized Christian church on earth at the present time and a spiritual kingdom “within us” for the collective Christian church comprised of Christian individuals.  It is only the first church subcategory that can be eliminated at this point in our analysis.  Only one historical fact relating to the kingdom showed any merit in support of such a view, that being the kingdom is like a growing process. Certainly the organized Christian church has spread like a mustard seed since it first started in the first century. But with no other support there is no reason to continue to seriously consider such a view.  There are generally two Biblical views that hold the Christian church organization has replaced Israel here on earth and is therefore is the kingdom of God.  One of these is the Roman Catholic faith that believes Christianity through apostolic succession is in fact the new Israel. The other (mentioned by Pentecost at the beginning of Chapter 2) is simply the view that the New Testament and Christ totally replaced the nation Israel so that the visible organized church becomes the kingdom of God, a dominion which is both spiritual and political in the here and now.29 There are yet two other views mentioned by Pentecost, too biblically weak to give much consideration, but can be considered as organizational views of the kingdom of God.  One is that the kingdom is “a future political and social structure achieved by the efforts of humanity, a goal reached through social and economic evolution” and the other is that “the kingdom of God will be a nationalistic movement on the part of Israel that will reconstitute that nation as an independent political state”30

If however the ”law and the prophets” were forerunners leading up to a kingdom which is not in any way being fulfilled today, then the Old Testament theme has nothing to do with the current day church, social evolution, or the nation Israel.  Although the Roman Catholic faith teaches the prophecies concerning Israel in the Old Testament can be interpreted as the present day church centered in Rome, I do not think any Jewish scholar would make such a claim, and realistically, it is only with the greatest stretch of the imagination, that anyone could liken the Old Testament descriptions of a future Israel to any church or nation today.

This analysis readily eliminates three of the views of the kingdom. The remaining four will require a deeper analysis.

If we summarize what has been found thus far, we see that the first two views (heaven and Jesus) as the kingdom of God have no scriptural support at all, and the current church organization replacing the nation Israel is essentially without support as well.  These views will therefore be eliminated without further comment.  This leaves views 4, 5, 6, and 7 as still having merit.  These can be restated for this chapter as “Kingdom Interpretations” See Table 3.3

Table 3.3 Kingdom Interpretations (with Biblical Support)

I.    Spiritual kingdom now
II.   Millennial kingdom starting with Christ’s second coming
III.  Pre-advent kingdom appearing between current era and Christ’s second coming
IV. Both a spiritual kingdom now and a national, material kingdom starting with Christ’s second coming.

Interpretation IV is preferred by many dispensationalists. Two forms of the kingdom become necessary for those dispensationalists who believe the kingdom on earth is yet future, but also wish to relate the Christian believer to the kingdom.31 However, Interpretation IV depends on both interpretations I and II being true.  In other words, if either the spiritual kingdom now or the millennial kingdom interpretation should be eliminated, interpretation IV could be eliminated as well.

If both interpretations I and II are eliminated, only interpretation III, the manifest kingdom in the future (but before the millennium) would remain. The next several chapters will attempt to show neither interpretation I nor II is correct and indeed interpretation III (a pre-advent dispensation) is therefore needed to meet all the criteria for the kingdom of God.



replica breitling breitling replica watches