“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13)
In one sense (as above), the church and the kingdom are used as synonyms. Consider: (a) Christians, in the first century, were in the kingdom (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9). (b) The church and the kingdom are entered the same way in the New Testament. The church is entered by baptism (1 Corinthians 12:13 cf. Ephesians 1:22-23; Acts 2:47). The kingdom is entered by baptism (John 3:5). (c) Jesus seems to equate the church with the kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19). (d) The kingdom was to come with power, in the lifetime of some who heard Jesus speak (Mark 9:1). Power was to come while the apostles tarried in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49). Power was to be received with the coming of the Holy spirit (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 2:4). The church was established on that day (Acts 2:40-47). The gospel did not come in word only, but also in power, and in much assurance (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). The kingdom existed in the first century (Colossians 1:13). (e) One like the son of Man was to receive a kingdom after he came with clouds to the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus ascended with clouds (Acts 1:9-11). He is now exalted to the right hand of God (Acts 2:33). “God has made this Jesus… both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). (f) The coming Christ was to be a King – Priest (Psalm 110:1-4; Zechariah 6:12-13). Jesus is now High Priest (Hebrews 3:1; 8:1). He is a priest, after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:5-6; 6:19-20; 7:20-21). Melchizedek was a King – Priest (Hebrews 7:1).
The Kingdom is used in different senses in the Bible: (a) In one sense, the Kingdom may refer to God’s authority or rule over all (Psalm 103:19; Matthew 13:47-50; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16). (b) In another sense, the Kingdom may refer to God’s people. I believe that God, in this sense, has always had a kingdom. Israel was His kingdom (Exodus 19:6; Luke 21:43). (c) In another sense, the kingdom, today, is the church (see previous paragraph). The seed of this kingdom is the word of God (Luke 8:11 cf. Matthew 13:18-19). (d) Finally, the kingdom, at times, refers to heaven (Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 4:18; 2 Peter 1:10-11).
Here are a few things to keep in mind about the kingdom. First, “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” are used interchangeably (Luke 7:28 cf. Matthew 11:11; Mark 1:14-15 cf. Matthew 4:12-17; Luke 18:15-17 cf. Matthew 19:13-15). Second, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ are used interchangeably (Mark 9:1 cf. Matthew 16:28; Ephesians 5:5). One day, Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-26). Third, there is a sense in which the kingdom came in 70 A.D. (Luke 21:31-32 cf. Matthew 22:7). Drew Leonard suggests, “A.D. 70 was a declaration, an exhibition, a display, a vindication of what had been in effect since Acts 2!” (Leonard, A.D. 70 – Taking a Look at Hyper-Preterism, p. 149). The fact that the kingdom came in some sense in 70 A.D. does not mean that the kingdom was not present from Pentecost, in c. 30 or 33 A.D.
Now to the issue of this article: Why is the church referred to as the kingdom? (1) It has reference to authority. A kingdom implies a king. The church is not referred to as an anarchy. The church is not referred to as a democracy. The church is not referred to as a representative republic. The church is not referred to as an oligarchy. The church is a kingdom. Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). He has asked, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Do we allow Him to truly reign?
(2) It has to do with territory and subjects. Consider these passages: (a) “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘see here!’ or ‘see there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Burt Groves comments, “No marching army would conquer Rome, and no earthly monarch would sit on a throne… In the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Men voluntarily submit to His rule” (Groves, The Gospel According to Luke Commentary, p. 182). (b) Jesus was asked by Pilate if he was King of the Jews. Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). Jesus is King. However, His kingdom is very different from the kingdoms of this world. His kingdom was no physical threat to Rome. It is a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom. It is the rule of Christ in the hearts, souls, and minds of men. It has no geo-political boundaries. Discipleship is available to all men, regardless of nationality (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). Are we allowing Him to truly rule within us?
(3) It has to do with citizenship. The Bible speaks of the book of life (Exodus 32:32; Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19). Some think that this is an analogy from the ancient city rolls. Foy Wallace Jr. has written, “This book of life is an allusion to a registry for worthy citizens, but names of deceased citizens are erased” (Wallace, The Book of Revelation, p. 98). This seems to fit. We are told, “There shall by no means enter it… but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:7). “Our citizenship is in heaven…” (Philippians 3:20).
“When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder, When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there” (Song: When the Roll is Called up Yonder by James M. Black).