Many Christians want to avoid millennial wrangles, and in an important sense, they are quite right. It makes little sense to fight with one another about when the divine peace will come. But other Christians want to avoid debate on the subject because they believe it to be unimportant.
“After all, is not ‘the millennium’ found only in one chapter of the book of Revelation, a notoriously difficult chapter in a notoriously difficult book? Shouldn’t we just walk away from all such fractious debates?” If we were limited to the word millennium, this might have some weight. But what happens when we consider the word kingdom?
“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matt. 4:23; cf. 9:35).
PREACHING THE KINGDOM:
The kingdom of God is simply an immense subject—as great as the love of God, which is to say, as great as the gospel. And a central theme in scriptural references to the kingdom would be what we would call eschatological. This means our gospel preaching must contain that eschatological element if it is to be biblical. But how often do modem Christian evangelists “preach the kingdom?”
We are to preach a kingdom gospel—“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). We are to declare kingdom repentance—“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at
hand!’” (Matt. 3:2)
Our teaching should be kingdom teaching—“to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
Our sermons should consist of kingdom preaching—“But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12; 20:25; 28:31).
When we reason with unbelievers, we should use kingdom apologetics—“And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).
SO WHAT IS THE KINGDOM?
The kingdom of God is nothing less than the rule and realm of the Lord Jesus Christ, manifested in history according to His will and pleasure. Is He not the king? Is this not how we pray? “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10 )?
His good pleasure is that His kingdom start small and gradually grow. “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his held, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches’” (Matt. 13:31-32).
When the kingdom has grown to its appointed size, the Lord will come. “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
In short, when you have a king, there must be a kingdom. Jesus is that king. Jesus is our king.
NARROW THE WAY?
As attractive as all this may sound, doesn’t the Bible contain any contrary verses? It does contain passages which may look contrary— at first glance. This would include passages like, “Narrow is the way . . .” But we need to learn the ways of the kingdom.
“And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11).
Consider Luke 13:22-30. The narrow gate was for the remnant of the Jews of the first century, and then the Gentiles would stream into the kingdom. Jesus was asked if only a few would be saved. His answer was “that’s right—few of you.” But after you have rejected the one who taught in your streets, a broad way will be opened for all the nations, and they will stream in to sit down with Abraham in the kingdom. “Few of you. Many Gentiles.”
In another place, Jesus teaches the Jews, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:43). The doctrine of the remnant is not a universal truth about the kingdom. It was a truth that was grounded in the first century rejection of the Messiah by the people of the Messiah. Only
a faithful remnant, prophesied by Isaiah, accepted Him. And this was a blessing for the entire world. The narrow way is the reason the way is broad.
CHARACTER OF THE KINGDOM:
This great kingdom is not an earthly kingdom established by carnal rule. It is not just another kingdom; as a kingdom it is different in kind—“now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). It is not from here, but it most certainly is for here.