Many Christians want to avoid millennial wrangles, and in an important sense, they are quite right. It makes little sense to fight with one another about when the divine peace will come. But other Christians want to avoid debate on the subject because they believe it to be trivial or unimportant. “After all, is not the ‘millennium’ found only in one chapter of the book of Revelation, a notoriously difficult chapter in a notoriously difficult book? Shouldn’t we just walk away from it?” If we were limited to the word millennium, this might have some weight. But what happens when we consider the word kingdom?
“From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’. . . And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (Matt. 4:17, 23; cf. 9:35).
A central duty of the Christian church is that of preaching the kingdom. And the kingdom of God is simply an immense subject-as great as the love of God, which is to say, as great as the gospel. A central theme in scriptural references to the kingdom would be a theme that we would call eschatological. This means our gospel preaching must contain that eschatological element if it is to be biblical. But how often do modern Christian evangelists preach the kingdom?
We have a kingdom gospel-“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” (Matt. 24:14). We find kingdom repentance-“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ (Matt. 3:2). The New Testament contains kingdom teaching-“to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Not surprisingly, there is also kingdom preaching-“But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12; 20:25; 28:31). And there is kingdom apologetics-“And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).
So what is this kingdom? The kingdom of God is nothing less than the rule and realm of the Lord Jesus Christ, manifested in history according to His will and pleasure. Is He not the king? Is this not how we pray? “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). We are not taught to pray, “Your kingdom go.” We are not taught to pray that God’s will would be done in heaven when we get there. We pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it already is in heaven.
God’s good pleasure is that His kingdom start small and gradually grow to fill the earth. “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches’” (Matt. 13:31-32).
When the kingdom has grown to its appointed size, the Lord will come. “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
But doesn’t the Bible say that the way of salvation is narrow? How can the kingdom of God fill the earth then? As attractive as all this may sound, doesn’t the Bible contain any contrary verses? It does contain passages which look contrary-at first glance. This would include passages like, “Narrow is the way . . .” But we need to learn the ways of the kingdom.”And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 8:11). Consider Luke 13:22-30. The narrow gate was for the remnant of the Jews of the first century, and then immediately after, in that passage, the Gentiles would stream in. In another place, Jesus teaches the Jews, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:43). When Jesus said that the way was narrow, and that only few would find it, He was not giving us a truth for all time. This was true of the Judaism of the first century. Only a remnant was saved, but then the Gentiles poured in.
This great kingdom is not an earthly kingdom established by carnal rule. It is not another kingdom; as a kingdom it is different in kind. “. . . now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).
And we must always remember the demeanor and character of its citizens. “Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
And of course, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28).