"In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
COMING OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM
It is common today to hear people teach that when Jesus comes back again He will establish an earthly kingdom. We are told that He will establish His earthly kingdom in the city of Jerusalem and then reign from that city for one thousand years. This teaching is accepted (with variations) by many religious people today.
Certainly, the Bible teaches about the establishment of Christ's kingdom. The Old Testament prophets in several major prophecies foretold the establishment of the kingdom of the Messiah. It will be our purpose in this study to examine the major prophecies concerning the establishment of Christ's kingdom in some detail. I would like to state at the outset, that when we examine these prophecies we will see the exact time and place of the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. There will be no speculation, no guess-work and no doubt in your mind after you read this study about when and where the kingdom of Christ was to be established. That is, if you accept what the Bible teaches. If you disagree with this article please feel free to email me and I will be glad to consider your objections.
The way we will approach this study is to let the Bible interpret itself. When one reads the New Testament he will come across statements like "This is that spoken by the prophet..." When an inspired New Testament writer quoted an Old Testament prophecy and made application of it, there can be no doubt that the Old Testament passage quoted had application exactly the way the New Testament writer applied it. When they said, "This is that spoken by the prophet," then we have an inspired interpretation and application of that prophecy, and we dare not apply it to some other event or time. In this way, the New Testament writers have shown us the exact time and place of the fulfillment of those prophecies concerning the establishment of Christ's kingdom.
In the book of Isaiah, chapter two, verses two through four we have the following:
There are several key words and phrases in this passage concerning the establishment of Christ's kingdom that we will look for in the New Testament. One of those phrases is "the last days." This phrase is used several times in reference to Christ's kingdom. It is important to see how the New Testament writers use this phrase. It is used seven times in the Bible, two times in the Old Testament and five times in the New Testament. The other place it is used in the Old Testament is in Micah 4:1 which is a parallel passage to Isaiah 2.
The phrase "the last days" is first used in the New Testament on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ in the first century (Acts 2). Here we find Peter and the other apostles waiting in the city of Jerusalem in obedience to Jesus' instructions. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in "...other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4). You will recall that the people who heard them accused them of being "full of sweet wine" (Acts 2:13). But Peter responded to this charge by saying, "Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams..." (Acts 2:14-17). There can be no doubt from what Peter said that "the last days" was referring to the day of Pentecost and what followed. Peter said, "this is that" - this is the last days. When? On Pentecost day in the First Century. It was on Pentecost day that Joel's prophecy began to be fulfilled and it was during this time that the "mountain of the LORD's house" (the kingdom of Christ) was established.
Another prophecy dealing with the establishment of the kingdom of Christ is found in Daniel 2. When you read this chapter you will see that it records a dream that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, dreamed. He saw in his dream a great image which consisted of: a head of gold; breast and arms of silver; belly and thighs of brass; and legs of iron and feet part of iron and clay. Daniel gives the interpretation of this dream beginning in verse 36.
The first significant fact that we learn from Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream is that the head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar or the Babylonian Empire. This is the key to understanding that each part of this image represented a world kingdom or nation. In order for us to know what nations the rest of the image represented we go to history. According to history, the second kingdom represented by the breast and arms of silver was the Medo-Persian Empire which conquered the nation of Babylon and ruled over the same territory. The third kingdom of brass was the empire of Alexander the great. His empire ruled over the same territory as the previous two empires. The fourth kingdom represented by the iron and the clay was the Roman Empire. This was the empire that was ruling when Jesus was upon this earth and when the apostles preached the first gospel sermon after Christ's resurrection as recorded in Acts 2.
Now, notice verse 44, "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed." What "kings"? The kings of the fourth kingdom. The kings of the Roman Empire. Therefore, God set up the kingdom of His Son during the days of the kings of the Roman Empire. If this is a legitimate conclusion, we must conclude that the kingdom of Christ was set up in our past during the days of the Roman Empire in the first century. Some will look at verse 45 where it says, "Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure", and tell us that it means that all these kingdoms will have to be set up again and be in existence when Jesus establishes His kingdom. Especially will the Roman Empire have to be established again. I'm glad they recognize that the kingdom of Christ was to be established during the time the Roman Empire was in existence. However, is it more reasonable to believe that the kingdom of Christ was established during the first Roman Empire in the first century, or that the old Roman Empire will have to be established again before the second coming of Christ? I would just point out that verse 45 is simply telling us that Christ's kingdom would spread over all the same territory that the previous kingdoms ruled. And according to Colossians 1:23 that is what took place. It is speaking of the preaching of the gospel to all those in the territory that these kingdoms controlled which was then controlled by the Roman Empire.
So, we have learned that the kingdom of Christ would be set up in the last days and the last days refers to the rule of the Roman Empire in the First Century A.D.
THE TEACHING OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Does the New Testament give us any more information along the lines of the Old Testament prophecies? Do we have any "this is that" or similar statements by the inspired writers of the New Testament? Certainly.
Notice Matthew 3:1-2,
The first thing we want to notice in this passage is the phrase "in those days." This phrase refers to the same time that Daniel's "in the days of those kings" in Daniel 2:44 refers to. John the Immerser lived in the first century in the days of the rule of the Roman kings that Daniel speaks of. In those days John taught "...Repent ye: For the kingdom of Heaven is at hand." That kingdom is the same kingdom that Daniel foretold. John, in the first century, said that the kingdom "is at hand." Other translations render the phrase "has drawn near." Now if it was at hand or had drawn near, it could not be far, could it? If it was near while John spoke these words in the first century, it could not be thousands of years in the future. The phrase "is at hand" could not refer to some event that would take place over 2000 years later. It had to refer to something that would take place soon -- in the days of the Roman kings in the First Century A.D.
Another verse that is necessary to our understanding the time of the coming of Christ's kingdom is Mark 9:1. "And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." Let's get the picture here: Jesus is gathered together teaching people in the first century. He told them that there were some of them standing there (i.e. living at the time Jesus is teaching) who would see the kingdom of God come with power before they died. Doesn't this tell us that the kingdom would come in the first century? Either this is what the passage is saying, or if the kingdom is to come in our future there are some of those people who heard Jesus speak who are still living and are over 2000 years old! Which one do you believe?
Another thing we notice is that Jesus says the kingdom would come "with power." We have already seen that it had been prophesied that the kingdom would be established in the city of Jerusalem. Now we find that the kingdom would come with power. If we can find out what the power is, and when it came in the city of Jerusalem, then we can find out when the kingdom came.
Read Luke 24:49. "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." The disciples were told by Jesus that they would have to "tarry" or stay in the city of Jerusalem until they were endued with power. The power was to come in the city of Jerusalem. Now look at Acts 1:8. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Here Jesus plainly teaches that the power would come when the Holy Ghost (Spirit) came upon the apostles. Jesus said in Mark 9:1 that the kingdom would come with power. He told the apostles in Luke 24:49 that the power would come in the city of Jerusalem. He told the apostles in Acts 1:8 that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Now if we can determine when the Holy Spirit came, then we can determine when the kingdom came. And it is in Acts 2:1-4 where we have record of the Holy Spirit coming on the apostles in the city of Jerusalem. Notice:
Here we have the fulfillment of the promise of the Father. The Holy Spirit came on the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus about 30 A.D. (some say 33 A.D.) in the city of Jerusalem. So we have everything the prophets said:
HOW THE KINGDOM
IS SPOKEN OF
It is interesting that the kingdom is always spoken of as being in the future until the second chapter of Acts. But it is always spoken of as being in existence after that time period.
For example, in Colossians 1:13 Paul wrote, "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son..." Notice the past tense used by Paul. "Who hath delivered" and "hath translated." The delivery and the translation took place in Paul's past. Now we have to ask the question: How could the Colossians and Paul (for he includes himself) have been translated into the kingdom of Christ in the first century (in their past) if the kingdom had not been established in the First Century?
Another example. In Hebrews 12:28 the Hebrew writer wrote, "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." How could the Hebrews be said to be receiving a kingdom in the first century if the kingdom had not yet been established?
In Revelation 1:9 John writes, "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Could John have truthfully said he was a "companion" in tribulation if he was not undergoing tribulation at the time he wrote? Could he truthfully have said he was "in the kingdom" of Jesus Christ if the kingdom had not yet been established?
Friends, the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the establishment of the kingdom have been fulfilled. The inspired writers of the New Testament tell us so. The kingdom of Christ is the church of Christ. That takes us back to that phrase in Isaiah's prophecy which we referred to earlier - "the house of the LORD." That refers to the family of God, the church. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:15, "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." According to Isaiah what is the house of the LORD? It is the kingdom. What is the house of God? It is the Lord's house and it is the church of the living God. My friends, the house of the LORD is the kingdom of Christ or the church of Christ.
The Hebrew writer writes to Christians in Hebrews 3:6 saying, "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." Christ is Son over His house. What is His house? It is the church. What is the house of the LORD? It is the kingdom.
In 1 Peter 2:5 Peter wrote, "Ye also, as lively (living) stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." My friends, the church is the spiritual house of Christ. It is the house of the LORD. Yet, the house of the LORD is the kingdom. On the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus Christ He established His kingdom. 3000 people obeyed the gospel on that day. They were added to the church (Acts 2:47). Thus, they became the first citizens of the kingdom of Christ. If you do today what those 3000 people did on that day, you too can become a citizen of the kingdom, a member of the church of Christ. (See also: The One Church and The Church that Jesus Built).