The Bible says that we should put it first in our lives (Matt. 6:33) and that we should be preaching it to others (Luke 9:2).  We pray for God’s kingdom to come on a regular basis, but if someone were to ask us: “Please, explain to me exactly what the Kingdom of God is”, would we know what to say?

 I think that when many people use the expression “Kingdom of God”, they forget what the word “kingdom” means.  Certainly, is not a state of the heart of some kind of “good vibe”.  The definition of the actual word Kingdom is “a country or area ruled by a king or queen” (Macmillan Dictionary).  Thus, when we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are asking for Him to rule, not only in our hearts and minds, but also over a determined territory: “on earth as in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

 We are encouraged by Jesus to “seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7).  However, in order to be able to seek regarding what the Kingdom of God is, we perhaps need to set aside pre-conceived ideas and search with open minds, which could lead to questioning things we have been taught all our lives by people we know and trust.  Therefore, let this journey of investigation be a prayerful one. Take some time now to ask for God’s guidance as you seek to understand more about this topic which is one of the most important in the Bible.

 To understand the Kingdom of God we must first look into the Old Testament; the deep and extremely relevant prophesies in the book of Daniel speak directly about the topic.  I urge you to take some time now to read the second chapter of the book of Daniel, which describes how the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had had a very strange dream and was trying to find someone to interpret it for him.  Finally, a young Hebrew man called Daniel was able to give him the interpretation that God had revealed to him.

“But after your kingdom comes to an end, another kingdom, inferior to yours, will rise to take your place. After that kingdom has fallen, yet a third kingdom, represented by bronze, will rise to rule the world. Following that kingdom, there will be a fourth one, as strong as iron. That kingdom will smash and crush all previous empires, just as iron smashes and crushes everything it strikes. The feet and toes you saw were a combination of iron and baked clay, showing that this kingdom will be divided. Like iron mixed with clay, it will have some of the strength of iron. But while some parts of it will be as strong as iron, other parts will be as weak as clay. This mixture of iron and clay also shows that these kingdoms will try to strengthen themselves by forming alliances with each other through intermarriage. But they will not hold together, just as iron and clay do not mix.

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 “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever. That is the meaning of the rock cut from the mountain, though not by human hands, that crushed to pieces the statue of iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. The great God was showing the king what will happen in the future. The dream is true, and its meaning is certain.”(Daniel 2:39-45)

As we can see, in verses 44 – 45 of this chapter, we have a very real promise for the future which has not been fulfilled yet: “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever.”  Surely it would be impossible to argue that this text is speaking about a “kingdom in people’s hearts”.

This gives us hope.  If we are to take these words from the book of Daniel seriously, we should know that God will intervene and “will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness”. All other governments will be replaced by His “kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered” (Daniel 2:44)

Every kingdom must have a king or queen; what about the Kingdom of God? The Bible shows that there is only one who is qualified for this task; the same one who took all of humanity’s sins on his shoulders and carried out incredible miracles.  We read in Isaiah 9:7:

“Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever”.

 Also, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary, these were his words:

 “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. 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 1:31-33)

 Regarding the coming of God’s Kingdom, Jesus’ disciples were keen to know the time when it would arrive and asked him: “when will this be? And what will happen in order to show that the time has come for it to take place?” Jesus replied: “Be on guard, don’t be deceived.  Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, ‘I am he!’ and ‘The time has come!’ But don’t follow them.  Don’t be afraid when you hear of wars and revolutions; such things must happen first, but they do not mean that the end is near” (Luke 21:7-9)

 We know that throughout the history of Christianity there have been extremist groups and sects that have convinced many to drop everything, leave their jobs, sell their houses and cash in their savings because “the end is nigh!”  This kind of manipulation encourages people to serve God out of fear, not love.  Later, the victims of these sects are left to rebuild their lives as best they can, often in very adverse circumstances.

 However, Jesus did not want us to remain ignorant about his return and the coming of the Kingdom. In fact, in Luke 21, Matthew 24 and Mark 13 we can read extensively about this topic.  In chapter twenty-four of the gospel of Matthew, we read about the signs of the “end of the age”. After speaking about wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes, famine, hatred and persecution against Christians, Jesus warns us that: “then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matt. 24: 21-22)

 Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

 Some churches teach that true believers will be swept up into heaven in the rapture before the “great tribulation” even begins, but a careful study of the Scriptures shows that this is not actually what Jesus said.  Why would he say that “for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” if they had already left the earth?

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 we read:

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

 I think that many Christians believe that this is where the narrative ends, that we are gathered up with Jesus into heaven and that’s it.  But this still leaves a lot of questions unanswered, questions that the Bible sheds light on.

 For example, what happens to the earth after the rapture? What about all those who never had the chance to hear about Jesus?  There has been a lot of speculation and a good number of Hollywood movies that have attempted to answer these very real and relevant questions, but in fact the Bible does answer them all. Let’s see.

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 What about all the people who never had a chance to hear about Jesus?

 The answer can be found in Revelation 20 verse 12:

I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done”.

 Will the earth be destroyed?

Some Christian groups tend to ignore the fate of this planet.  They offer people a ticket to heaven via Jesus, but never mention what will happen to God’s creation after the tribulation.

We know that to date, scientists have not been able to locate another planet in the whole of the known universe that is able to sustain life in the same way as ours.  No one who loves nature or has studied its complexity and beauty could fathom why the same God who created such marvels would consider blowing it all to pieces or allowing humans to do so.

In fact, nowhere in the Bible[1] does it state that this planet will be destroyed.  For example, we can read in Psalm 104:5 “You have set the earth firmly on its foundations and it will never be moved” and in Ecclesiastes 1:4 it states that: “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.” 

In Psalm 37:10-11, we read:In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” These are not merely nice sounding, pretty words.  This is truth!  We see that God is promising that “the wicked will be no more”; meaning no more corruption and injustice.  Then we read that the “meek will inherit the land”.  These words are of course echoed by Jesus in his most famous sermon: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.(Matthew 5:5). 

Another question: Why are the meek on the earth and not in heaven?  Are some people in heaven and some on earth?

As always, the Bible has the answers.  However, what I am about to write is not taught by the majority of churches and theologians, whose teachings are still heavily influenced by Catholic doctrine and dogma.  In my opinion, the Reformation did not go nearly far enough; a lot was achieved but sadly most people are now unwilling to analyze or question the teachings of Luther and Calvin and others, meaning that freedom of thought and expression within churches continues to be severely restricted.

The Bible says that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults and giving instruction for right living” (2 Timothy 3:16). With the help of the Holy Spirit we can investigate these questions without fear, praying that God will illuminate our understanding and help us identify any false teachings we have been persuaded to believe.

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  • Who will be on earth and who will be in heaven?

If we read Revelation 5:9-10 we find this statement to Jesus, the Lamb of God:

“… You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals.                                                      For you were killed, and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation and race.  You have made them a Kingdom of priests to serve our God and they shall rule on earth.

 In Revelation 20:4 we read about: “the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.(Revelation 20:4). 

2 Timothy 2:12 says: if we endure, we will also reign with him.

In 1 Corinthians 6:2 Paul asks the believers: “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?  And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?”                                           

Faithful Christians who have “fought the good fight… finished the race” and “kept the faith[2] will have the immense privilege and responsibility of reigning with Christ over earth and judging the world.

But who will they be judging and ruling over?  You can’t have a Kingdom without subjects.  In fact, the Bible mentions two groups of people. The first is formed by this group of “kings and priests” that are to “rule over earth”, the second one can be found in Revelation 7:9-10, 13-14:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

            … “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”. 

Let us read Revelation 21:1-5 carefully: 

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What strikes me in this passage is the fact that the holy city comes down from heaven.  After much reflection, prayer and meditation on the Scriptures I have come to the conclusion that in the end, we will all be together on earth; those who are reigning with Christ and those who are living under their rule.  We know that, initially, the faithful believers will be “will be caught up … in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) in Jesus’ second coming.  It is possible that these faithful Christians are caught up in the rapture to be crowned and to participate in the celebrations of the Weddings of the Lamb (Rev.19:6-9) before descending from heaven in the new Jerusalem.

There is another very key text that supports this explanation: we read in Revelation 20:7-9: “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.  And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.”

How could Satan and his followers surround “the camp of the saints and the beloved city” if they were not on earth?

In order to understand these events in context it’s absolutely necessary to read the whole of Chapter 20 of Revelation.  Take some time to do it now and then perhaps read this section again; surely it will make a lot more sense afterwards.

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  • “A new heaven and a new earth”:

Regarding life on earth after the Rapture and Armageddon, we read in Isaiah 65:17 that:

“For behold, I create new heavens
    and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
    or come into mind.”

In 2 Peter 3:13 we find the same idea, echoed: “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells”. 

If we continue reading in Isaiah 65:21-25 we find a beautiful description of what life will be like on the “new earth”:

 “They shall build houses and inhabit them;
    they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
    they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
    and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain
    or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
    and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
    and dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
    in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Another very moving passage in the book of Isaiah that refers to life during God’s Kingdom reads: “No one who lives in our land will ever again complain of being ill, and all sins will be forgiven”. (Isaiah 33:24) 

And Revelation 21:4 confirms:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

I would like to finish this study by leaving you with this passage from 1 Corinthians 15:23-28:

“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each one will be raised in proper order: Christ, first of all; then, at the time of his coming, those who belong to him.  Then the end will come; Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers, and will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father.   For Christ must rule until God defeats all enemies and puts them under his feet.   The last enemy to be defeated will be death.”

This is our hope.  This is the Kingdom of God. As we can see “Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers”, just as we read in Daniel 2:44. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness and it will stand forever.

 

[1] There is some controversy regarding a verse in the second book of Peter, chapter three verse ten.  Some older, less exact translations such as the King James version read: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.However, extensive study on the original Greek shows that the more correct rendering is: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (ESV).  If you aren’t convinced and would like to look into this yourself I would really recommend you do so.  I have not studied Biblical Greek but spent some time investigating this verse carefully with the help of a Greek scholar and it was thus that I became convinced in my mind that “the earth and the words that are done on it will be exposed” is the correct translation here.

[2]  2 Timothy 4:7

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