The Two Senses of the Kingdom

Continuing on in the study of the kingdom, there arises an important distinction to make. That is, the Bible seems to talk about the kingdom is two different ways. The tension is that God is the Creator and King over all. It’s all his. And yet, somehow, the Bible seems to talk about the kingdom as in process, in development. These are the two senses of the kingdom, briefly outlined below.

The Kingdom of God in the Broad Sense

  • The broad sense: God reigns over the world. He created it and he rules over it.
  • God is in control of all creation – always has been, always will be
  • Psalm 93:1-2 – “The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty… and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; you are from eternity.”
  • Whole world is and always will be his kingdom
  • Abraham Kuyper – “There is not a square inch on the whole plane of human existence over which Christ, who is Lord over all, does not proclaim, ‘This is mine!’”

The Kingdom of God in the Narrower, Developing Sense

  • In contrast to the broad sense of the kingdom is the narrower sense
  • That is (and this is the frequent sense of the term in Scripture), the kingdom is something that is in process, that is still developing
  • The narrower sense: God’s kingdom is developing in history, moving toward a climax
  • So we can rightly say, “your kingdom come”
  • Consider the image of God’s heavenly kingdom painted in Daniel 7:9-10 – “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.”
  • God’s glory in heaven is beyond our imagination
  • When we pray, “your kingdom come,” we are asking God to make earth look like heaven
  • That is, the transformation of earth to mirror heaven – that God’s presence would fill the earth as it does heaven – we are asking for, literally, heaven on earth
  • From Eden to the New Jerusalem
    • Genesis 1-2 paint a picture of what God’s kingdom could look like on earth – a Garden fit for a king
    • Revelation 21 discusses earth’s final reality – “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (21:3).
  • In the meantime, God is extending his kingdom from the Garden to the whole of the earth
  • And in this time, our job is to labor toward that end – bringing the kingdom of God to bear on the earth

Jesus is both king now and yet, his kingdom is not here completely yet. This tension creates the two senses of the kingdom. Robert Seiple, helpfully, captures God’s purpose, our mission  and the two senses of the kingdom this way:  “Planet earth needs to be reclaimed for the King.”

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