Two thousand years ago, Jesus, the founder of Christianity, spent three-and-a-half years inviting people to enter the Kingdom of God. What exactly did he mean by ‘the Kingdom of God’?
Those four simple words raise many questions. Here are a few:
- Who will be King?
- Where is the Kingdom to be?
- What will it be like?
- When will it come?
- Who will be there?
This booklet will answer these important questions. It will also show that the coming of the Kingdom is guaranteed.
The dream kingdom
In fairy tales, kingdoms are ruled by foolish kings or wicked queens who have total power and expect absolute loyalty. In real life, no human has limitless power, and all rulers have to cope with rebellious subjects. Some rulers do try to rule for the benefit of their subjects, but too many are corrupt, selfish and obsessed with power.
We all wish we could wave a magic wand and create a dream world, something like this:
- A home of their own for everyone;
- Every nation would have plenty to eat;
- Wars would no longer maim and destroy;
- People would receive free, prompt and efficient health care;
- We would look after the environment and stop poisoning the planet;
- No one would exploit the poor;
- Everybody, rich or poor, would receive proper justice; (and so on).
Is our dream possible?
Most of us will have heard of Martin Luther King Jr. He was an American Baptist minister and an activist in the civil rights movement from 1954 until 1968. He is best remembered for his charismatic ‘I have a dream’ speech. He spoke of a time when people ‘will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character’. However, he accepted that his dream was not possible without the intervention of God. He went on to quote from the prophet Isaiah in the Bible:
“I have a dream that one day ‘every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together’.” (based on Isaiah 40:4,5)
Even though his speech is well remembered, it is sad that fifty years after Dr. King was assassinated the world is just as bad as it was, if not worse. His dream was not realised.
However, 2,500 years earlier than Martin Luther King Jr, another very important man had a dream. This was Nebuchadnezzar, the supreme ruler of the Babylonian empire. If you want to find out more about him, go to the British Museum where there are lots of fascinating exhibits from his period.
Nebuchadnezzar is known for his military might, the splendour of his capital Babylon, and his importance in Jewish history. You can read about him in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament of the Bible. The Old Testament often tells us about things that are going to happen in the future – these are called prophecies. Nebuchadnezzar had a prophecy in a dream.
In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream he saw a huge, gleaming, terrifying statue of a man. The head was made of gold, the chest and arms of silver, the waist and hips of bronze, the legs of iron, and the feet a mixture of iron and clay. But this was not all. The king saw a stone break loose from a mountain and fly through the air towards the image. It struck the iron and clay feet of the statue and shattered them. The stone ground the whole image to powder. The iron, clay, bronze, silver and gold crumbled away and became like dust. The wind blew the rubble away until not a trace was left. But the stone itself grew bigger and bigger until it filled the whole earth!
Nebuchadnezzar woke up from this nightmare puzzled and worried. He knew it had to mean something about the future, but who could interpret the meaning? None of the Babylonian wise men in his court could help. However, a Jewish captive called Daniel served Nebuchadnezzar in his court. Daniel and his three young friends had been carried off as prisoners to Babylon, hundreds of miles from their home in Jerusalem. In spite of their changed circumstances, they continued faithfully to serve Israel’s God. Now they prayed very earnestly for God’s help, for the king had decreed that if no one could interpret the dream, all his advisers, including Daniel, would be executed! Next day, with God’s help, Daniel was able to interpret the dream. It turned out to be a history timeline, in the form of a statue. It stretched thousands of years into the future. You can see the interpretation in the picture opposite.
Daniel interprets the King’s dream …
- Daniel said the golden head represented the Babylonian empire – a great boost to Nebuchadnezzar’s ego! His mighty empire dominated the inhabited world.
- The silver chest and arms represented the Medo-Persian Empire. Around 539 BC, the Medo-Persians, led by Cyrus, conquered Babylon.
- The bronze waist and hips represented the Greek empire. Alexander the Great subdued the Medo-Persian Empire and founded the Greek Empire, around 330 BC.
- The iron legs represented the Roman Empire. Rome took over the Greek Empire. This empire was the strongest of all the kingdoms, and lasted the longest. It was eventually divided into two parts, east and west, represented by the two legs of the image.
- There have been many attempts to conquer the world (e.g., by Napoleon), but none have lasted. Today we have a mixture of strong nations (IRON) and weak nations (CLAY) which do not hold together.
Unlike Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is actually happening today!
The dream was a prophecy. God was giving Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, and Bible readers an outline of world history before it happened. We can look back through the centuries and see the amazing accuracy of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Four world empires came and went, just as Daniel said. What is exciting is that the dream is still being fulfilled today. The last stage, when the stone destroys the image and fills the world, continues right into our future.
We all recognise that today’s world is collapsing. People perish every day through disease, war or famine. Our planet is being destroyed by pollution and climate change. We greedily squander the scarce resources of the planet. We know this situation cannot go on – and it won’t.
Here is Daniel’s interpretation of the end of the dream:
“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” (Daniel 2:44).
That tells us that the present state of the world is going to come to an end. God has a plan. He has a rescue mission to save the earth. Today’s world is divided into rival nations, some working together, but others trying to dominate the rest through terrorism or war. The stone that grew to fill the world represents the Kingdom of God; the one Jesus preached about. God’s Kingdom is going to replace the present world rulers. The concept of United Nations is going to be realised as everybody works towards the same goal under the same leader.
A single leader
One world ruler is a great concept
Throughout history there have been megalomaniacs intent on dominating the world. We only have to think of Adolf Hitler to see the misery and suffering of his failed plan. Basically, the task of ruling the world is beyond any mortal man or woman. So, who could possibly be a worthy and capable leader? Or, if we put it another way – who is the stone in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?
A leader chosen by God
The Bible itself reveals who the stone is. Jesus in his teaching often quoted from the Old Testament, applying its prophecies to himself. This is what he said about the stone:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone … and the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matthew 21:42-44)
Here, Jesus refers to the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, when the stone smashed the image on its feet and ground it to powder.
Jesus, the Son of God, was born to be a King. All the prophecies about his birth and life, some dating back hundreds of years, came true. Scholars calculate there are over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus. These prophecies are so detailed that the mathematical probability of Jesus fulfilling just a handful of them, let alone all of them, is staggeringly improbable, if not impossible. And yet they have come true. Here are just a few examples:
A virgin would give birth:
Prophecy: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
Fulfilment: “And the angel answered her [Mary] ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35).
Jesus would be born in Bethlehem:
Prophecy: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel …” (Micah 5:2).
Fulfilment: “… assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he [Herod] inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet …’” (Matthew 2:4-6).
Jesus would be despised and rejected:
Prophecy: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
Fulfilment: “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:28,29).
Jesus on the cross would be scorned:
Prophecy: “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (Psalm 22:8).
Fulfilment: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him” (Matthew 27:42,43).
All these prophecies were fulfilled to the letter. This means we can have great confidence that the following prophecies which have not yet been fulfilled, eventually will be:
Jesus, the Messiah, will have a throne that is everlasting:
Prophecy: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13,14).
This has already been fulfilled: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31,32).
This has yet to be fulfilled: “And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32,33).
Why will Jesus make a good leader?
People are really desperate for a leader they can trust. We have all seen the optimism and excitement when a new leader is elected. Think of Washington DC, crammed with flag-waving US citizens when a new President is sworn in. Sadly, after the initial enthusiasm when a new leader takes office, reality sets in, and people are disappointed all over again. We know what is needed – a strong, fair leader with the power and the wisdom to carry out all he promised, but so often weakness, corruption or immorality spoils the outcome.
The Bible says that one day the world will have such a leader. God promised this to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to Moses and David, and to Mary the mother of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the future King of God’s Kingdom on earth.
Jesus was a powerful teacher and a charismatic leader. What set him apart is that while he experienced temptation to do wrong, as we all do, he never gave in to it. His personal life was completely blameless. He did not just tell people what God wants us to do – he lived it out. He loved everyone, grown-ups, children, even his bitter enemies, and he went to a cruel death on a cross to save us all from our sins against God.
Because he tasted to the full the things we have to endure, he can empathise when we are suffering. He knows all about the human condition. This is what the apostle wrote:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
In fact, Jesus was unique. He was the son of Mary, but the Bible says because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit power of God, he is God’s Son, and His perfect representative. This does not mean that he was actually God – the Bible is very clear that he was a man, as Paul writes:
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
God gave Jesus power to work miracles of healing. Even when he felt exhausted, Jesus never ignored the needs of others. He would always stop to heal, feed or encourage them. And he taught people about the coming Kingdom of God. People listened to him because he spoke with authority and conviction. He commanded respect and admiration, because he lived what he preached, and set us an example of how God wants us to behave.
Jesus is referred to as the ‘mediator’ between God and men. He knew the mind of God. He saw things as God sees them, so that he was able to say:
“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
At the same time, he knows what it is like to be a human being, so that he can be the channel through which sinners like us can draw near to a holy God. Jesus said:
“No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
In the end he gave himself up to die as a sacrifice so that we can escape from the grip of sin and death.
“Greater love has no one than this”, he said, “that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We all deserve to die, but Jesus did not, because he never sinned. The verse goes on: “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Jesus was raised to an immortal life after three days in the tomb, and that has opened up for us the door to eternal life:
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Who would not want a leader who gave up the most precious thing he had, his life, for the sake of his people?
The answers to our questions:
Who will be King?
Jesus, the Son of God.
What will it be like?
It will be the best Kingdom the world has ever known. Better still, it will never fail! As we saw previously, Daniel said:
“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.” (Daniel 2:44)
Will God’s Kingdom fulfil our dreams?
People need somewhere to call ‘home’: God has promised exactly this – the language is poetic, but it paints a wonderful picture of peace and prosperity:
“… they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid …” (Micah 4:4).
In God’s Kingdom everyone will have their own home where they can live in safety and peace.
People need enough to eat: Although most of us in the Western world have plenty of food, we are painfully aware that in other countries parents wonder if they and their children will have anything to eat tomorrow. We see tragic pictures of people starving, and barren fields, and wonder how things can ever change. The efforts of the charities and the United Nations to provide support have not produced permanent change. But God has promised that in His Kingdom there will be food for everyone. Deserts will turn into fertile fields, and crops will flourish in even the most unlikely places:
“There will be an abundance of grain in the earth, on the top of the mountains; its fruit shall wave like Lebanon; and those of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.” (Psalm 72:16, NKJV)
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.” (Isaiah 35:1,2)
The world needs justice: In many countries today the judges are corrupt, and it seems as though there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. In God’s Kingdom we are promised that everyone will be treated fairly. Wicked people will not go unpunished, and judgments will be fair. Here are some prophecies of the Kingdom of God:
“He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.” (Isaiah 11:3,4)
“For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.” (Psalm 72:12-14)
An end to war! History shows war does not solve anything. It creates more problems.
In God’s Kingdom there will be no need for nations to resort to war, because Jesus and his followers will teach people to love each other. And he himself will arbitrate between powerful nations. Here is Isaiah again:
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
You may possibly recognise those words – they are written on the wall opposite the United Nations headquarters in New York (shown below). Many politicians, including Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, Anwar Sadat, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin have referred to them in their speeches. In God’s Kingdom, this Bible prophecy will come true.
People will have long and healthy lives: Today we depend on the NHS or private health insurance for medical treatment, because we never know when our health will fail. Some of us work with charities that fund medical research, or help people struggling with disability or disease. We may be struggling ourselves, or have relatives and friends battling ill health. It is amazing what the medical profession can do, but we and they are painfully aware that many diseases cannot be permanently cured. Prosthetic limbs allow mobility, but they are nothing like having your own limbs back. Wearing a hearing aid is not the same as your youthful sensitive hearing, and the computer-operated speech generator used by the late Stephen Hawking is impressive, but not like using your own voice to talk and sing. In the Kingdom of God, there will be no disability signs. They will simply not be needed:
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” (Isaiah 35:5,6)
In this quotation we see that the lame do not limp or shuffle along with a Zimmer frame. They leap! And the dumb do not struggle to make themselves understood. They can sing for joy!
“No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old …” (Isaiah 65:20)
People will live in harmony with the natural world: It is a strange thing that we now know more about the wonders of the natural world than ever before, and yet we seem incapable of looking after it. Huge tracts of forest are destroyed, species become extinct, the oceans are polluted with plastic, we keep animals in ‘factories’ not fields, and we poison the land with chemicals. It is something to be ashamed of. And yet in the Kingdom of God everyone will have plenty to eat without the need for factory farming and chemicals. Animals will be treated with respect, and their predatory instincts calmed:
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox … They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9)
So that is a resounding yes: God’s Kingdom does offer all we could hope for.
When is it going to happen?
The answer is, very soon! We have seen how Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was an accurate timeline of world history. We are living in the last period – the world of mixed iron and clay, down in the feet of the image, where nations squabble for dominion. Jesus himself told us what the world will be like when he comes back again:
“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man [Jesus] coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:25-27)
That is exactly the kind of world we see around us today. There are many more prophecies in the Bible which show when Jesus will return. But that is another topic!
Where will the Kingdom be?
The Kingdom will be here, on the earth! That is why Jesus is coming back – to set up the Kingdom. We are told that “… the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
Where will the capital city be?
It has to be Jerusalem! The prophet Jeremiah wrote 600 years before Jesus was born and yet, with God’s help, he was able to write about a time that is still in our future.
“At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the LORD, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the LORD in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart.” (Jeremiah 3:17).
Why do we need the Kingdom of God?
It is obvious that the present world order is coming to an end. The fact that people feel the need to set up nuclear bunkers or fantasise about moving to another planet shows that even the very rich feel unsafe and vulnerable. We live in a world where death is inevitable, because men and women are flawed and sinful. God has offered us a way out, and a glorious hope of living in His Kingdom – a world free from worry and disappointment, a perfect realm of peace, security and joy.
Why is it called ‘The Kingdom of God’?
As we have seen, God plans that his son, Jesus Christ, will be the king reigning over the whole world. He will turn the world into the beautiful place God always intended it to be. This is how it was in the beginning:
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
This transformation, from the selfish rule of man to the perfect rule of Jesus Christ, will not be easy. The present rulers, through pride and ignorance, will resist the change. But Jesus will have God’s power behind him:
“He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.” (Isaiah 42:4)
Who will be there?
Not everyone. God is not looking for ‘rent a crowd’ people to help Jesus run His Kingdom. He wants genuine, faithful and obedient men and women. He has been calling people to serve him, voluntarily, for the last six thousand years. When Jesus comes, the faithful will be granted immortal life; even those who have died “in Christ” will be raised to life again:
“Jesus said to her ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live …’” (John 11:25)
And because Jesus has power over death, these people will live forever.
What is “the Millennium”?
“Millennium” means “a thousand years”. It will take this time for Jesus and his immortal helpers to bring justice and right living to the whole world, filling it with God’s glory. The book of Revelation says that at the end of this time there will be a second resurrection of people who have died during the Millennium, and those who were faithful will be made immortal, like the ones who were raised at the beginning of the Kingdom. At this point, all who are alive will be immortal, death will come to an end and Jesus will hand over the Kingdom to God.
“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)
How can I be in the Kingdom?
During his life on earth Jesus and his disciples met many people who asked exactly this question. To gain such an amazing reward, they thought the conditions of entry would be extremely difficult.
Jesus reassured them:
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32).
To be part of this amazing promise is surprisingly straightforward:
First, it is important to find out as much as you can about God and his plan. Before you make a commitment, you need to do your research. God has made this easy because it is all in His handbook, the Bible.
Then, once you believe in Jesus and the Kingdom, you need to be baptised (totally immersed in water to symbolise the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus). When Jesus instructed his apostles to preach the gospel (the good news) throughout the world, he declared:
“Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
Belief is very important, and baptism follows belief.
When you come to believe in God’s promises, your whole life will be changed. You will no longer be worried about the future. You will know that you can depend upon God, and that His Kingdom will come.