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Many passages appear to suggest that Christ's Kingdom arrived in the first century. Is this true, or are we to look forward to this kingdom?

"Kingdom of Heaven"

  • Matthew 3:2: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
  • Matthew 4:17: "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'"

"Kingdom of God"

  • Matthew 12:28: "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."
  • Mark 1:15: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
  • Luke 11:20: "But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."
  • Luke 17:20-21: "[Behold], the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
  • Luke 10:9: "Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’"
  • Acts 28:31: "Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance."
  • Daniel 2:44: "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" (cf. Dan. 7:27).

Simply "Kingdom"

  • Matthew 24:14: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
  • Colossians 1:13: "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,"
  • Psalm 103:19: "The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all."

The list of verses that suggest the kingdom has arrived seem quite numerous, including, but not limited to the following: Matthew 4:17, 6:33, 13:11, 16:19, 19:14, 25:34, Mark 1:15, Luke 12:32, John 3:3, 3:5, 18:36, Acts 28:23, Romans 14:17, etc. (There are many others.)

How should we view this matter, particularly in terms of Luke 11:20 (and perhaps Matt. 3:2)? Is the kingdom a future event, or has it "come upon us" now?

NOTE I have reordered the passages according to "Kingdom of Heaven", "Kingdom of God", and the more generic "Kingdom" for a bit more clarity.

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  • Which of the Kingdom(s) are you asking about? [Mark 1:15 on earth, Psalm 103:19 in Heaven] Sep 7, 2021 at 19:38
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    @חִידָה Thanks for your question. From what I can see, there seems to be only one being described in Lk. 11:20, Matt. 3:2, and others. Perhaps that is incorrect?
    – Xeno
    Sep 7, 2021 at 19:43
  • Are you asking if the NT verses listed describe the future Kingdom of "Jerusalem" from Isaiah 65:17-18? .... Instead of Psalm 103:19 which refers to the Kingdom in Heaven established prior to Genesis. Sep 7, 2021 at 20:12
  • @חִידָה Well, no חִידָה, I'm merely asking about "kingdom" in the verses I've cited. As I searched for "kingdom" these and nearly 50 other verses appeared. As I related to Dave below, I did not cherry pick these; they were merely the first ones on the list. But you may notice that I've now separated them into 3 categories: K of Heaven, K. of God, and merely K if that helps.
    – Xeno
    Sep 7, 2021 at 20:23
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    @Ray I suppose I could have left off several of the verses that appeared as a result of my search. I often think of the "Kingdom" as yet future, but these all seem to point to it as having occurred in the days of Christ.
    – Xeno
    Sep 7, 2021 at 21:19

3 Answers 3

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The OP has compiled a convincing series of Bible references showing that the "Kingdom of heaven/God" began in the time of Jesus. I fully agree as that is the message of Bible data quite consistently.

However, there is a distinction to be made between:

  • The present kingdom of God/heaven, whose citizens are Christians, among all the kingdoms of the world
  • The future kingdom of heaven/God (the continuation of the present kingdom of God/heaven) when it will be the sole/only kingdom of God/heaven; that is all other worldly kings will have been removed.

Rev 11:15 - “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.”

Interestingly, the OT prophecy of the great image appears to say this, ie, that the kingdom of God would be established during the time of these earthly kingdoms before it finally swept them away:

Dan 2:44 - In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will shatter all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself stand forever.

Note Benson's comments:

Daniel 2:44-45. And in the days of these kings — That is, kingdoms, or during the succession of these four monarchies; and it must be during the time of the last of them, because they are reckoned four in succession, and consequently this must be the fifth kingdom. Shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom — This can only be understood with propriety, as the ancients understood it, of the kingdom of Christ. Accordingly, his kingdom was set up during the days of the last of these kingdoms, that is, the Roman.

So, let me say quite emphatically, the answer to the OP's question is a very definite "Yes" the kingdom of God arrived 2000 years ago and all people are called to be its citizens and celebrate the Lord Messiah as its eternal and supreme king! This kingdom will be eternal and vanquish all others to become the only kingdom.

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    The following verses have confused me as it seems that Christ will hand over the kingdom to the father: 1 Cor. 15:24-25, 28: "[Then] comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet... 28When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all." This leaves me wondering if, in the paradise of God, a "kingdom" exists any longer at all. +1.
    – Xeno
    Sep 7, 2021 at 21:36
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    "He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet" is Hebrew idiom for Jesus reigning (now) until all other earthly kingdoms are removed. Recall that monarchies were really the only kind of government that existing in NT times and so the language is in terms of "kingdoms". However, Jesus reign as "king" will be very different from all others as it is a kingdom of grace!
    – Dottard
    Sep 7, 2021 at 21:42
  • Two Different Kingdoms? Does it help settle this question of two different kingdoms to realize there is only ONLY ONE King? Also, the fact there is only ONE CITIZENRY? There is no distinction of different people in the Kingdom, the Wall of separation having been demolished. And does the singing of Handel's Messiah give pause to realize that many Christians think the Kingdom has come? What good is a King without a Kingdom? Did not the angel in Daniel say the Kingdom would be set up in the Roman Empire Era (the time Jesus arrived)? And into which Kingdom are we transferred? Col. 1:13
    – ray grant
    Jul 25, 2023 at 22:47
  • @raygrant - I fully agree. But that is not the point of the "final" kingdom where all God's enemies will be destroyed when He comes again. There are presently many regimes where Christ is not recognized - these will all vanish one day and god will be sole ruler.
    – Dottard
    Jul 26, 2023 at 0:51
  • @raygrant - put another way, the kingdom of heaven, of which all Christians are citizens, is still in the conquering phase - when that phase is complete, the kingdom of heaven will be unopposed.
    – Dottard
    Jul 26, 2023 at 1:06
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Divine Kingdom of God It is well to stipulate that God is the Almighty King over all in--and outside--the universe! This the eternal Kingdom spoken of in the Tanakh (Old Testament; Psalm 103:19).

But then the ancient prophets foretold of a specific Kingdom on earth that was to be established by Messiah, a descendent (son) of David. (Daniel 2:44, 7:27; Isaiah 9:6,7) The rabbis of the first centuries taught this as well: the Kingdom of God would take on a new dimension under Messsiah. What that Kingdom was to be like was debated by the rabbis, and the writers of the Apocrapha books. They did teach that it would be inaugurated by a series of birth pangs (Compare Matthew 24:8).

According to the rabbis, the Messianic (Davidic) Kingdom would establish a new age. They spoke of "this Age, and the Age to come." What part the Gentiles played was also a matter of discussion. Some taught that they would exist, but as servants. Other, that the Gentiles would be destroyed except for a few "God-fearers." (Gentile proselytes). But Jerusalem was to rule over the physical earth and over all kingdoms by physical force.

Enter Jesus As pointed out by the poster of this question, Jesus claimed to be setting up a spiritual Kingdom in the hearts of men--not a political, physical one. (Matthew 12:28, Mark 1:15, Luke 17:20-21, 10:9, compare Colossians 1:13, Romans 14:17). He refused a political one (John 6:15; 18:36).

This, of course, did not set well with the rabbinical establishment, and they vehemently rejected entrance into this spiritual kingdom. So Jesus opened citizenship to all people groups (John 6:15, Matthew 21:43, Luke 13:28-30). They did not understand that the references to "David's Throne" were metaphors, or as the Apostles taught: shadows, types, symbols, copies, illustrations. (Hebrews 9:9, 23, 10:1)

We first learn of Jesus's as Prince Regent from the Magi (Matthew 2:2), and we are confirmed of Jesus's royalty in the end when Jesus stood before Pilate (John 18:37) And we know that Jesus has been coronated by His own admission (Matthew 28:18, compare Daniel 7:13-14).

Overwhelming Evidence There is overwhelming Scriptural evidence that Jesus is now King, and that He reigns over a Spiritual Kingdom now. And at an indefinite time in the future He will hand over His earthly Kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) This will coincide with the Great Resurrection when Death itself will be "defeated."

But it is at this juncture that modern theologians diverge down two separate lanes, and if they meet, they knock heads! While recognizing the Church's involvement in a present Spiritual Kingdom, some add that God's plan is to get the Church out of the way so He can establish a Physical Kingdom for the Jewish race.

Synonymous Terms Some contend that there are two different Kingdoms of Christ: the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven. And further, that the Church is the main player in the spiritual one, and the Israelis are the main participants in a physical one later on. (See Scofield Reference Bible, 1916, footnotes; for example). Here, however, is the scriptural answer:

Basilei'a (Kingdom. Gk.) The Greek words for Kingdom occur as follows (Greek/English Concordance, J.B. Smith, 1955, Mennonite Publishing House):

  • Kingdom of God--71 times (Only used in Mark thru Revelation)
  • Kingdom of Heaven--32 times (Only in Matthew)
  • Kingdom (general usage)--20 times
  • Thy Kingdom--6 times
  • His Kingdom--6 times
  • The Kingdom--5 times
  • My Kingdom--4 times
  • Misc. Gospel of (3)...Children of...Word of... Father's (3)...Dear Son's...Of Christ and of God...Heirs of...Lord's.

[Also the word, "King" appears as King of the Jews (21 x), King (God/Christ, 11x), King (of Israel, 4x).]

The usage of Kingdom in the Synoptic Gospels reveals that "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Kingdom of God" are synonymous terms. There is no different, as some contend. Because of his audience, Matthew used "Kingdom of Heaven" instead of using "God" so as not to offend the Jewish rabbis who were shy about using the word, "God" lest they mistakenly blaspheme His Name.

Has the Kingdom Arrived? Absolutely! And if we recognize that the one Jesus intended to establish was a Spiritual Kingdom then it can be clearly seen to be so. After the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, the Apostles never again interpreted the Kingdom as physical. (Romans 14:17)

In fact, to show how crucial this matter was: if Jesus had told the Disciples (at the Ascension) that they were to engage in a physical kingdom, all their efforts would have come to naught!!! The whole land of Judea was laid waste by the Romans in 67-70 A.D. Razed to the ground!

But the true Kingdom is spiritual, and can never be defeated! The Church is triumphant because it lives and works in an everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:27; Luke 22:29).

Future Dimension Is there a different, future dimension to Jesus's Kingdom? Is there another Age? Should the Church think that they are just a temporary institution, with a greater fulfilment of the Kingdom for others?

The answer to this depends on whether due weight is given to the concept, taught by the New Testament, that there is now no longer any difference between Jew and Gentile. (Galatians 3:28, Acts 10:34, Luke 24:47, Romans 2:11, 10:12, Colossians 3:11, 25, Ephesians 2:14-18)

If this unity is ignored, and insistence is made that the Old Testament prophecies are still future (ignoring the time context) and must be fulfilled in a literal (physical) way, instead of being "shadows" of better things to come", then a whole scenario of alleged "end time " events are imagined.

But if full weight is given to the declaration that "the wall of separation is torn down", and that the Old Testament was a "shadow" of a New Covenant spiritual reality, then the Church is on track doing the work of the Lord evangelizing and worshipping the Majestic King of Kings in the here and now!

P.S. The Answerer has written a book commenting on every instance where the word Kingdom appeared in the Greek New Testament. In it he placed each reference on a time-line chart to get a picture of the existence of the Kingdom of God chronologically. And overwhelmingly the dots centered around the ministry of Jesus in the first century, and continued on through the Church Age until the Second Coming.

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The problem some will have with this question is that you have assumed that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are the same.

Some, like myself, do not interpret this as you have. Yes, there are very many similarities, even to the point of being the same, but there is one key difference, and that difference will be reflected in the answer, and as you clearly see these two Kingdoms as the same, you will not accept this answer, nevertheless, for consideration.

The Kingdom of Heaven is an earthly kingdom. One that has a physical King on a physical (aka ‘real’) throne. And that king is the Messiah. This kingdom is for those ‘in the flesh’. And Jesus came to offer himself as the Messiah. But He was rejected by the Jewish leaders.

The Kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:21

nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

This verse causes much debate - over its interpretation - for the very reason I opened with - are the two kingdoms the same? But we know that there is one specific requirement to enter the Kingdom of God.

John 3:3

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Because the Kingdom of God is within you - it’s spiritual, unlike the kingdom of heaven which is for the flesh.

Many of Jesus’s early parables were kingdom (of Heaven) parables - and they highlighted ‘works’, doing the right ‘thing’, that is, living ‘right’ - in the flesh. Living ‘right’ here on earth. And via this, you are then ‘seen’ as righteous. Whereas in the Kingdom of God, righteousness comes by faith. (Which also results in right living!).

Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

So this is how you would answer your question: “Is the kingdom a future event, or has it now "come upon us"?"

The Kingdom of Heaven is a future event. Because the Jews rejected the King. But this will be - this will come, during the Millennium reign, Christ on earth, on the throne, in Jerusalem. (Reminder - I stated this view is a view some have).

Whereas the Kingdom of God is now. All believers are ‘in’ (part of) this kingdom. This kingdom is about authority, and that authority comes via of from Jesus. That’s why the apostle Paul described it as such in Romans 10.

So the answer to your question depends on your theology. And the one outlined here says both future (re: the Kingdom of Heaven) and present (Kingdom of God).

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  • I appreciate your response. Perhaps I should have paused to consider the millennial view as you have, but the verses I cited don't appear to be referring to a millennial kingdom. It's also hard for me to differentiate between the two (if there are two) based on what I've presented.
    – Xeno
    Sep 7, 2021 at 19:48
  • @Xeno Yes, but to answer your Q in relation to those verses requires your view of the two kingdoms being the same, so I couldn’t directly answer the Q as you wanted it because we don’t ‘see’ the same ‘thing’. So my response is for consideration, not specifically to answer your Q - although I actually did :-)
    – Dave
    Sep 7, 2021 at 19:50
  • Well, thanks for that Dave. I went through nearly 50 verses on the "kingdom" and, I assure you, I did not cherry pick them. The ones I presented were merely the first ones on the list (give or take). +1.
    – Xeno
    Sep 7, 2021 at 19:54
  • Dave has correctly pointed out the reality of the, ‘here but not fully yet’ paradigm. We already have our true king, but his reign over all will commence after his return.
    – Steve
    Sep 7, 2021 at 22:39
  • Synonymous Kingdoms The two phrases refer to the same entity. Just consider who the different Gospel writer's audiences are, and see how that determined which phrase they chose to use. The use of two different phrases in "synoptic" passages proves they are the same. ( Synoptic: Sentences that are the same in different Gospels)
    – ray grant
    Jun 26, 2023 at 22:55

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