What Is the Kingdom of God? Understanding Its Meaning

What Is the Kingdom of God? Understanding Its Meaning

The Kingdom of God is mentioned through the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. In fact, the phrase "Kingdom of God" is used over 70 times in the New Testament - with the Gospel of Matthew over 30 times. As a Christian, it's essential to understand the meaning behind this phrase which is often confusing for many Christians and non-Christians. If someone asked you what the kingdom of God meant, would you know how to answer them? 

"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." ~ Romans 14:17

Let's look at the original Greek and Hebrew meaning of the phrase, the different phrases used throughout the Bible, what it means to seek first the Kingdom of God and how to live and pray with the Kingdom of God in mind.

Origin & Meaning of The Kingdom of God

From the coming of Jesus Christ to begin the kingdom, through the whole story of redemptive history and the Church, we see a clear picture of the Gospel. According to Easton's Bible Dictionary,  This "kingdom of God" is mentioned in the Scriptures in several different ways throughout the Old and New Testaments: Matthew 6:33, Mark 1:14-15, and Luke 4:43 all refer to the "kingdom of Christ."

Even though the exact wording differs between Christ, God, and heaven, all Scriptures embody the same concept with different aspects. Here are three things that the Kingdom of God means:

1. The rule of Jesus Christ on earth and in heaven
2. The blessing and advantages that flow from living under Christ's rule
3. The subjects of this kingdom, or the Church

Just how important was the understanding of the Kingdom of God? John the Baptist used it often as he called for "repent, for the kingdom of God is near" (Matthew 3:2). Jesus Christ himself not only said, "the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe" (Matthew 4:17), but he also used it when teaching his disciples how to pray "your kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10), in the Beatitudes "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3 and 10). At the Last Supper, "I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God" (Mark 14:25). 

Why Does Matthew Use "Kingdom of Heaven" Instead of "Kingdom of God"?

Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, we see Matthew using the phrase "kingdom of heaven" when referring to the announcement of the rule of Jesus Christ and the good news of His reign. He does this out of sensitivity to the Jews who avoid mentioning the sacred name of God. The doctrine is the same, and there is no different view or meaning of the kingdom of God versus heaven; Matthew is simply using an indirect phrase that respects the reader.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." ~ Matthew 7:21

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." ~ Matthew 5:3

"Matthew talks about the breakthrough of the kingdom and the arrival of Jesus in His incarnation. He announces the coming of the kingdom at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, and at the end of the book Matthew speaks about the final consummation of the coming of that kingdom in the Olivet Discourse. So from the first page of Matthew to the last page, we see the unifying theme of the coming of the kingdom of God in the appearance of the king Himself, who is the Messiah of Israel and the fulfillment of the kingdom given to Judah." (Excerpted from "The Witness of Matthew" by Ligonier Ministries (used by permission).

Christianity.com contributing writer Chris Swanson puts it this way: "There is no genuine distinction between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God. The two expressions are basically two unique approaches to show the same thing: a system of government or a kingdom that is ruled and controlled by God. The authority to rule was given to Jesus Christ by the Father, who is now situated at the right hand of the Father. At an assigned future time, at the hour of Christ’s subsequent returning, Christ will then, carry this rule from Heaven to earth. As such, Christ will reign with the authority and power of God and of heaven."

What Does It Mean to "Seek First the Kingdom of God"?

kingdom of god, sunset on water

A verse every Christian should commit to memory is Matthew 6:33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). This is praying for a day when God will bring heaven to earth and bring His rule on this planet. God still has a plan for planet Earth. He will rule and reign here, and as believers, we will rule and reign with Him. So that is in the future.

When we pray and seek the Kingdom of God, we are also praying for the rule and reign of the kingdom of God in our lives. This is when Jesus is in charge. On one occasion, Jesus said, "For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21), where He was speaking of himself. When you are under His lordship, and when He is in control of your life, that is the kingdom of God. It is not rules and regulations but "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). 

Taken from “First Things First” by Harvest Ministries (used by permission).

Praying "The Kingdom Come"

 "This, then, is how you should pray: "'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. "
Matthew 6:9-13

In what is commonly referred to as the "Lord's Prayer," we are taught to pray not only for God's will to take control of our lives but also that the saving Gospel would spread throughout the earth. We have become a part of God's kingdom when we accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and repent. We are then called to be witnesses of Jesus, to tell others about Him and that we would remain surrendered to His will for our lives. 

Praying for God's Kingdom should be our focus as Christians - for a fruitful life and for Jesus to be made known across the earth. 

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” ~ John 3:3

What Does it Mean that the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand?

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." ~ Matthew 3:2

The Kingdom of Heaven drew near to us when God himself came to earth as a man. This is what is meant by John when he said, “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He implied that the kingdom of heaven is now available today in the Person of the King.

The Jewish religious leaders were looking for an actual physical kingdom, not a spiritual one. So, one could say that the kingdom of heaven is a reality now in the present.

Today, Jesus Christ lives and reigns in the hearts of all believers, yet the Kingdom of Heaven will not be completely acknowledged until all evil on the planet is judged and eliminated.

Christ first came to earth to live and fulfill the role of a suffering servant. One day, he will return as ruler and judge to govern over all the earth.

The individuals who come to Christ as Savior and recognize him as their Lord are converted into the realm, the kingdom of the Son. They have a place with Jesus now. Christians have a closer connection with Jesus than that of a subject of an earthly king.

(excerpt by Christianity.com contributing writer, Chris Swanson - What Does it Mean that the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand?)