“The kingdom of God” points to God’s rule in the lives of humans. At times, the expression “the kingdom of God” applies to heaven itself (Galatians 5:21). It also is true that prophets of the Old Testament era foretold the coming of the kingdom, and New Testament writers speak of it as being in existence long before any of us came into the world.
Daniel foretold that in the days of “the fourth kingdom” (which the textual and historical contexts show to be the Roman Empire) “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed . . . and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:40,44).
Daniel also prophesied of one like the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven, coming to the Ancient of Days. That is a picture of the Messiah coming to God the Father. Daniel then describes what was to happen: “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13,14).
According to Daniel’s message, the Messiah was to receive a kingdom. When? When He goes to the Father in heaven. Jesus told a parable about a nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return (Luke 19:12). This is another depiction of the Christ going to heaven, where He would receive a kingdom before returning. Note again the order: first receive the kingdom, then return afterwards (not vice versa).
In Daniel 2:44, the language indicates that the God of heaven would set up a kingdom which would never be destroyed. In Daniel 7:13,14, the idea is that the Messiah will set up an indestructible, everlasting kingdom. Would that be two distinct kingdoms, or only one? Only one – the kingdom of God and the Christ’s kingdom are one and the same.
Let us proceed to the book of Mark. Jesus was “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand . . .’” (Mark 1:14,15). The time element: (1) it was during the days of the Roman Empire, (2) the time was fulfilled (the days and activities about which Old Testament prophets spoke and for which the Jews had waited century after century), and (3) the kingdom of God was at hand. Was Jesus correct about the timing? Of course, He was!
How many kingdoms was Jesus foretelling? He called it “the kingdom of God.” He also called it “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 4:17), and the prophets portrayed it as being the Messiah’s kingdom. So, how many kingdoms should the Jews have been anticipating? Three, two, or one? Only one.
Jesus later told a group of people, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power” (Mark 9:1). Per our Lord’s declaration, there were at least some humans who heard Him speaking that day who still would be alive when God’s kingdom was present. Did the prediction of Jesus come to pass? His words never fail! So, yes, it is a certainty that God’s kingdom was established before that generation of people passed away.
God’s kingdom was to be a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly, political one. Jesus taught that in order to enter that kingdom, one must go through a birth, being “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). On the day of His crucifixion, the Christ proclaimed that His kingdom “is not of this world. . .” (John 18:36).
The kingdom would come with power (Mark 9:1). Jesus said His disciples would receive power “from on high” (Luke 24:49), they would receive that power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), and they would receive it just a few days after the time He was speaking to them (Acts 1:4,5). In Acts 2:1-4, we read of the apostles receiving power from the Spirit, and on that day, known as the Jewish Day of Pentecost, the kingdom was established. It is the Lord’s church.
First-century Christians proclaimed the Christ as King (Acts 17:6). One modern-day religious group affirms that Jesus “began ruling in 1914” [www.jw.org], while others are convinced that He will not reign as King until He comes again. Neither of these notions is supported by the Scriptures. First- century Christians already were in the spiritual kingdom of Jesus. The Bible says so (Colossians 1:13).
— Roger D. Campbell