There are many divergent views on the kingdom. Some believe it is a spiritual kingdom, not a literal, physical kingdom to be established on earth. Others believe that the kingdom will be ushered in when the church successfully converts the world to Christianity. What do the Scriptures teach? To understand this subject we must view it dispensationally, being careful to “rightly divide the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).
In order to help us understand the subject of the kingdom from a dispensational viewpoint, the following chart is provided:
Promised to Israel
The first promises of the kingdom were made to Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. He was promised that his seed or descendants would one day become a great nation (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:15-19). He was also promised a land for a possession (Gen. 13:14-17). The boundaries of that land are described in Genesis 15:18-21, but neither Abraham nor the nation which sprang from his loins, Israel, has ever completely possessed that land. The fulfillment of this promise awaits the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Years later, more specific promises concerning the kingdom were made to King David. He was promised a house and a throne that would be established forever (II Sam. 7:13,16). These verses, in one sense, speak of David’s son, Solomon, whose kingdom was probably the greatest ever seen on earth (I Kings 4:20-34), but ultimately the seed of David, whose throne would be established forever, refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, “the son of David” (Matt. 1:1).
Prophesied In the Old Testament
There are numerous prophecies throughout the Old Testament Scriptures which confirm the coming King and Kingdom which Israel had been promised. There are prophetic Psalms which speak of the kingdom (Psalm 2, 24, 72), and throughout the prophetical books, the kingdom is described in great detail (cf. Isa. 11, 35, 65; Jer. 23, 30, 33; Ezek. 37; Dan. 2 and 7; Amos 9; Micah 4; Zech. 14; and many others). Consider, for example, Jeremiah 23:5-6,
“… I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; …”
Proclaimed as “At Hand”
The angel Gabriel’s pronouncement to the virgin Mary of the birth of the Lord Jesus was cause for rejoicing (Luke 1:28), as she was told concerning Him, …
“… the Lord God will give 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)
As Jesus began His public ministry, He began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (draws near)” (Matt. 4:17). The King was in their midst. The question is how would they respond?
As Jesus taught, His message was directed to Israel and specifically concerned their coming kingdom. He taught them, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3) and, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). He taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Keep in mind that these teachings were not directed to the church of today, but to the people of Israel.
Presented to Israel
The book of Acts records God’s presentation of the kingdom to Israel through the ministry of the twelve apostles. The chief spokesman was Peter, to whom Christ gave “the keys to the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19). Peter told the people of Israel that if they would repent of the sin of crucifying the Lord Jesus Christ, God would fulfill the words of His prophets and “send Jesus Christ” back to earth to establish His kingdom (Acts 3:12-21).
Israel, as directed by their religious leaders, demonstrated their rejection of this kingdom offer by stoning Stephen to death (Acts 7:51-60).
The apostle Paul, through the remainder of the book of Acts, preached to the Jews of the dispersion, proving to them, from the Old Testament Scriptures, that Jesus was their Messiah and Lord, but they rejected Him (Acts 13:46; 28:23-24).
Because of Israel’s rejection of Christ, God has postponed His prophesied kingdom program for them, and has revealed His unprophesied program for the church, the body of Christ. Today God is not building His kingdom, but He is building up His body (Eph. 4:11-16). The kingdom program will remain suspended until the church is complete and caught up into glory (I Thess. 4:13-18; Col. 3:4).
Prelude to Kingdom
Following the rapture of the church, God will set in motion the events which must occur as a prelude to the coming kingdom. These events include the revelation of the “man of sin” (Antichrist), the making of the covenant which begins the seventieth week of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 9:27), the great tribulation period (Matt. 24:15-22), the pouring out of God’s wrath on the earth, and the second coming of Christ to the earth. These will be terrible times of sorrow and suffering, especially for the people of Israel. The Hebrew epistles of the New Testament (i.e. Hebrews through the Revelation), will have special meaning to the Jewish people who will experience these events.
Provided on Earth
When the Lord Jesus Christ comes back to earth, He will judge and make war. He will judge the Antichrist and the false prophet. He will bind Satan. Then He will rule and reign on the earth for a thousand years, and Israel will reign with Him (Rev. 20:1-6). The Lord will rule in righteousness, and Israel will experience the peace, safety, and rest promised to them throughout the Scriptures.
Period of the Kingdom
The kingdom, in its initial phase, will last for a thousand years, which is where we get the term, “millennial kingdom.” This fact, though not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, is mentioned six times in Revelation 20:1-7.
“… and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:4)
When God promised the kingdom to David through Nathan the prophet, He promised him it would last forever.
“And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” (II Sam. 7:16)
Prince of the Kingdom
Though it was described as the house, throne, and kingdom of David, yet the One who will be the Prince and Ruler of this kingdom is none other than David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel of Matthew, which presents Jesus as the King, begins this way,
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” (Matt. 1:1)
When the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Lord Jesus to Mary he said,
“He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give 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)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the future King that was prophesied throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. He is “Messiah the Prince” mentioned in Daniel 9:25. He is the “Prince of Peace” prophesied in Isaiah 9:6. He is “the Son” who was “begotten” of God and set as God’s King on His “holy hill of Zion” as described in Psalm 2:6-8. Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews took “by lawless hands, crucified, and put to death” (Acts 2:23), was raised from the dead by God to one day sit on the throne of David (Acts 2:30). He is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
Province of the Kingdom
The millennial kingdom, though called “the kingdom of heaven,” is to be established upon the earth. The expression “the kingdom of heaven” is literally “the kingdom of (or from) the heavens.” It is the time when God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). This kingdom, over which the Lord Jesus Christ will rule and reign, will be worldwide. It is pictured in Daniel 2:35 as “a great mountain” that will “fill the whole earth.” In Daniel 7:27 it is described as “the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven.” Zechariah states that “His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zech. 9:9-10). The center of Christ’s kingdom will not be in Washington D.C., nor will it be in London or Moscow, but it will be in Jerusalem (Isa. 24:23), the one city where the Lord chose to put His name (I Kings 11:36).
People of the Kingdom
The millennial kingdom is the hope of God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel. The prophet Ezekiel was given this message for Israel concerning their kingdom.
“Then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, … and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one King shall be king over them all. … David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall have one Shepherd …” (Ezek. 37:21-24)
Just as God promised them when He brought them up out of the land of Egypt, Israel will be “a kingdom of priests” (Exo. 19:6). They will be raised up and restored as a nation (Ezek. 37:1-14), and they will rule and reign on the earth with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 5:10; 20:4-6).
We must be careful to distinguish this prophesied earthly hope of Israel and the nations from God’s heavenly purpose for His church, the body of Christ (Col. 3:1-4; Eph. 1:3). These are two distinct programs. To join them together only results in confusion.
Power of the Kingdom
The millennial kingdom will be established in great power. The Lamb that was slain and currently sits on the right hand of God, will one day take power (Rev. 5:5-7,12; 11:17) and will establish His reign on earth. It is the Lamb that will set in motion the judgments described in the Revelation (Rev. 6:1). These judgments will culminate in the second coming of Christ back to earth.
“… and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matt. 24:30)
When He returns, the battle of Armageddon will be fought and the armies of Satan will be defeated (Rev. 19:17-21). The beast and false prophet will be judged (Rev. 19:20) and Satan will be bound in the pit of the abyss for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).
Even after the kingdom is established, Jesus Christ will reign in power and will “rule them with a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9; Rev. 19:15). The reason for this is that throughout the thousand years, not everyone will willingly worship the Lord (Zech. 14:16-19). Further evidence of this is seen in the fact that at the end of the thousand years, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will gather together an army from among the nations to battle against God and His people once more (Rev. 20:7-9). Though Satan is bound for this thousand years, man’s sin nature is still evident.
Peace of the Kingdom
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end ….” (Isa. 9:6-7)
Though Christ must rule with a rod of iron during the kingdom, it will still be a time of peace. He Himself is called the Prince of Peace and it is said that “of His government and peace there will be no end.” The Lord will make a covenant of peace with His people Israel (Ezek. 37:26) and it will not be removed (Isa. 54:10).
The prophet Micah saw a vision of this future kingdom of peace.
“He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; 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.” (Micah 4:1-3)
The prophet Jeremiah also speaks of the peace and rest Israel, as well as the whole earth, will enjoy.
“… Jacob will return, have rest and be quiet, and no one shall make him afraid.” (Jer. 30:10)
Provisions of the Kingdom
During the millennial kingdom, the earth will experience perfect government. The Righteous Judge, described in Isaiah 11, will rule with absolute authority.
“With righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.” (Isa. 11:4-5).
The earth itself will be changed during this time. Animal nature will change.
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, … and a little child shall lead them. … The lion shall eat straw like the ox. … They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain.” (Isa. 11:6-9)
Even physical nature will change.
“… and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. … The waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and the streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water.” (Isa. 35:1,6-7)
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” (Isa. 35:5-6)
Purpose of the Kingdom
Ultimately, the purpose of the kingdom goes beyond just the fulfillment of promises made to Israel. The purpose of the kingdom is to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ and to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory.
“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” (Isa. 2:11)
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Hab. 2:14)