The Everlasting Kingdom of God
Jesus tells us to pray to our heavenly Father "Your kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). He also tells us to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (verse 33).
What is the Kingdom of God that it should be our highest priority in life? Is it simply a new or different administrative system directed by faithful servants of God? Or does it exceed our previous concepts of what a kingdom is?
The apostle Paul went right to the heart of the matter by explaining that "flesh and blood"—physical human beings—"cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 15:50). The Kingdom of God is the family of immortal beings-God and all His children. Those whom God adds to His family will inherit and oversee "all things" that God has created (Revelation 21:7).
Speaking of this destiny of man, the author of Hebrews wrote: "For in that He [God the Father] put all in subjection under him [man], He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him" (Hebrews 2:8). Revelation 21-22 describes the time when "all things" will be under those who enter the Kingdom of God.
How, then, does a human being enter the Kingdom? Paul explains: "This perishable body must be clothed with the imperishable, and what is mortal with immortality. And when this perishable body has been clothed with the imperishable and our mortality has been clothed with immortality, then the saying of scripture will come true: 'Death is swallowed up; victory is won!'" (1 Corinthians 15:53-54, Revised English Bible). The Kingdom of God is something humans can enter only by receiving the gift of eternal life as children of God.
Notice something essential for receiving the gift of eternal life: "At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, 'Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven'" (Matthew 18:1-4).
A necessary conversion—a transformation of our way of thinking—is needed. This transformation is possible only through the kind of humility that produces genuine repentance, which, after acknowledgment through the ceremony of baptism, can be completed through the gift of God's Spirit working in our lives (Acts 2:38).
As mankind's Savior, Jesus of Nazareth paved the way for us to inherit the Kingdom of God by opening the door to eternal life through the forgiveness of sin. That required that His first coming be devoted to teaching and explaining repentance and to allowing Himself to be crucified for the sins of humanity. That is why Mark wrote: "After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'" (Mark 1:14-15, NIV).
At His first coming Jesus trained disciples who would, after His crucifixion and resurrection, help establish His Church. He came the first time to lay the foundation for the establishing of the Kingdom of God.
At His second coming the firstfruits of God's spiritual harvest (James 1:18; John 4:35-36) will receive eternal life and enter the Kingdom. These spiritual firstfruits will then reign with Christ until the last phase of God's judgment, when the final separation of the righteous from the wicked is complete.
Revelation 21-22 describe at that point a new and dramatically different heaven and earth. It is also at that point that all the children of God-all who inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of God-begin to experience the fullness of their salvation. What will it be like?
The community of God's children
John writes: "Now I saw a new [transformed] heaven and a new [transformed] earth, for the first heaven and the first earth [in their former state] had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:1-2).
This description of God's immortal children is that of a family community grown large enough to inhabit a city "fifteen hundred miles" square and equally as high (verse 16, NRSV). This community is described as a bride, "the Lamb's wife" (verse 9), who will be subject in everything to Christ as her husband (Ephesians 5:24).
This wonderful city will be the home of God's family. He "will dwell with them, and they shall be His people" (Revelation 21:3). The peace, harmony and contentment in the family community of the saved will be so great that "there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (verse 4). All who previously chose to reject the way of life that produces love, peace and cooperation will have already perished "in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (verse 8).
God describes the nature of the city of New Jerusalem. It is depicted as having been built of the finest and most valuable materials. It is exquisitely adorned like a bride wearing the finest of jewelry. It reflects the very "glory of God" (verses 9-11, 18-21).
This family community is organized under "the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel" with its "twelve foundations" having on them "the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (verses 12, 14).
Clearly, this is the end result of what God began with Abraham, the father of the family that became ancient Israel. And that was only a forerunner of the eternal family, the family "of all those who believe" (Romans 4:11). The "light" illuminating New Jerusalem comes from God (Revelation 21:24). Nothing that "defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie" will ever be allowed to enter it.
A summary of the story of man
When God created Adam and Eve, the first humans, He placed them in a garden with the tree of life. The fruit of that tree represented the way of life God wanted them to accept and follow. But near the tree of life was another tree, a tree whose fruit represented a mixture of good and evil. God commanded them to avoid the second tree. He would have preferred to spare them from reaping the fruits of a way of life that is a mixture of good and evil.
But Eve's curiosity overwhelmed her. She yielded to the deceptive influence of "that serpent of old," then persuaded Adam to join her in tasting the fruit of evil. All of mankind has followed them in that choice. The end result is the nearly unimaginable human tragedy depicted in the book of Revelation.
But God was in no way defeated by this turn of events. He planned and intends to complete the redemption and salvation of all who will repent. The body of repentant people will be so great when all is said and done that it will become the incredible city of New Jerusalem described in chapter 21.
In Revelation 22 we see the community of the saved in a setting similar to that of Adam and Eve. In New Jerusalem is a river "flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life" (verses 1-2, NIV).
The biblical story of man begins in a garden with his rejection of the tree of life. It closes with God's immortal family dwelling together before His throne while enjoying the fruits of the tree of life. It is the kind of fruit-the product of righteous relationships-that will make eternal life worth living.
John writes: "The angel said to me, 'These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place'" (verse 6, NIV).
Our world is confused and deceived. But it won't forever remain that way. Jesus Christ gave us the book of Revelation to inspire confidence, hope and a clear purpose in life in all who will believe and serve the living God.
Jesus Himself personally utters Revelation's closing message: "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last ... I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star" (verses 12-13, 16).
John ends with these words: "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all" (verses 20-21).
This wonderful future can be yours. You, too, can become one of God's immortal sons, a member of His eternal family in the Kingdom of God. You must, however, experience true repentance, receive God's Spirit and learn how to "keep the commandments of God" by refusing to be entangled in the ways of this present evil world (Acts 2:38; Revelation 12:17; 2 Peter 2:20-21).
To learn more about how you can accomplish this, be sure to request your free copies of The Ten Commandments, What Is Your Destiny? and The Road To Eternal Life. For a broader look at biblical prophecy be sure to request Are We Living in the Time of the End? and You Can Understand Bible Prophecy.
|©1997-2007 United Church of God -
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
All correspondence and questions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send inquiries regarding the operation of this Web site to email@example.com