The idea of Jesus establishing His kingdom comes from Jesus Himself, but was Jesus’ kingdom established when He walked on earth in the first century? The question of “When?” regarding Jesus’ kingdom is debated. Some even say that Jesus came to establish His kingdom but he failed. What will Scripture tell us?

How Scripture answers "When did Jesus establish His kingdom?"

Jesus established His kingdom in the first century1,3,5,7,8,11,13. It was an explicit purpose for His mission on earth, and it is what He preached about2,4. Peter confirms Jesus’ kingdom beginning on the day of Pentecost10, not many days after Jesus Himself testified to it being “near”2 and in their lifetime3. These “latter days”1 continue until what is next – “the end” – when Jesus returns the kingdom to His Father9 and all the saints are together in the heavenly kingdom6.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
In his second year, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a  dream that bothered him but nobody could interpret for him.  Until he called on Daniel. His dream (vss 32-35) was of a large image, “The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

The interpretation [from God] was that each component represented kingdoms that would follow his own, until in the latter days there would be a kingdom that stood forever.

Scripture-block application to this question

Based on the interpretation that God gave to Daniel, the “latter days” would consist of a kingdom with three distinct qualities:

  1. Set up by the “God of heaven” (2:44),
  2. Represented by a “stone cut from a mountain” (2:45) that itself “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (2:35),
  3. Lasting forever, bringing other kingdoms to an end (2:44).

While Daniel doesn’t tell us exactly when this happens, we can track it based on historical facts. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream included his own (the head of gold) followed by three more (the last being a “divided kingdom”) before the final, everlasting kingdom from God. History records these kingdoms following Babylon: Medo-Persia (the silver), Greece (the bronze), Rome (the iron and eventually mixed, iron/clay). This would be put God’s eternal kingdom (stone) during/succeeding the Roman kingdom.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Jesus began preaching for everyone to repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here.

Jesus is beginning His public ministry, taking over from John the Baptist who had the exact same message (

Matthew 3:2
).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus testified that the kingdom [of heaven] was near.

Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

I [Jesus] tell you a truth that some standing here now will not die before they see the Son of Man glorified in His kingdom.

Near the end of Jesus’ public ministry and six days before (17:1) the transfiguration of Jesus that was witnessed by Peter, James, and John. Jesus is preparing them for His coming death and kingdom. He had instructed them to pray to God that His “kingdom might come on earth, as it is in heaven” at the beginning of His ministry (Mt 6:10). Now He’s just told them that beginning with Peter, they would wield authority for the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” (vs 18).

There are parallel accounts in Mark 8:31-9:1 and Luke 9:22-27.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus told His disciples that at least some of them would witness His kingdom coming in their lifetime.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Some might conclude from Matthew’s account alone that Jesus was saying that it was Him, personally/physically, that would be returning in their lifetimes. However, Mark (8:31-9:1) and Luke’s (9:22-27) accounts each emphasize it is Jesus’ kingdom that they would witness coming and further contextualize it around His pending death.

And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.

In the morning he left and went to a desolate place.  But the people came to him, attempting to have him stay, by he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

Jesus has just begun His public ministry and is in Capernaum at Simon’s house healing his mother-in-law and others.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus was sent to preach the news of the kingdom [of God].

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
As a result, let’s be grateful for joining a kingdom that cannot be moved and offer acceptable worship to God  – with reverence and awe – for He is a consuming fire.

In a letter dedicated to reminding the faithful to “hold fast” and remember the “better” things in Christ, the writer is making a final plea in a series of “Therefore’s”. In his grand conclusion and “victory chapter”, he argues their endurance is for the spiritual Promised Land – a city that is not made with hands (vs 26). This text beginning in vs 22 correlates with the throne scene and the 144,000 in Revelation 14 as well as the prophet Haggai’s temple/kingdom prophecy in Haggai 2.

Scripture-block application to this question

The kingdom had been “received” by first-century Christians.

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
God will rescue me from every sin and bring me safely into the kingdom of heaven. To God be the glory forever and ever, amen.

The closing comments of Paul’s second letter to the young evangelist Timothy.

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul, who has written many times to Christians about he/they already being in the kingdom while alive, eludes to his own death and his final delivery into the [heavenly] kingdom.

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

But if it’s by the Holy Spirit that I [Jesus] case out demons, then God’s kingdom has come upon you.

Jesus is in the midst of his public ministry.  He is teaching harder sayings and the division between those that accept him and those that don’t is becoming starker.
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus makes an “if/then” statement. Since it was true that He was casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit (the “if”), it’s also true that the kingdom [of God] had come upon them (the “then”).

But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.
The fact is, there are some here today who will not die before seeing the kingdom of God.

Near the end of Jesus’ public ministry and roughly eight days before (vs 28) the transfiguration before Peter, James, and John.  Jesus has been trying to prepare them for His death through several different teaching moments (including at the transfiguration).

Parallel accounts are in Matthew and Mark where the ending, or what some will see before dying, is stated as, “until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Matthew 16:28) and, “until they see the kingdom of God” (Mark 8:27).

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus says there some standing with him right then that would see the kindom of God.

But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

But in this order: first [was] Christ’s resurrection, then the resurrection of those that belong to Him when He comes [again].  Finally, the end when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed every rule, authority and power.  Because of this, He must reign until He has put all of His enemies under His feet.

Paul is making a great defense for the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for the Christian’s faith.  Without Jesus being raised, their faith would be “in vain” (vs 14), they’d still be in their sins (vs 17), the dead “in Christ” would have truly perished (vs 18) and everyone else “in Christ” should be “most pitied” (vs 19).  He then shifts to highlight an order of things that begins in verse 20 and continues through 28.
Scripture-block application to this question

Paul writes about a future time when Jesus the Son delivers “the kingdom” to God the Father (e.g. “the end”).

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
We [apostles] are all witnesses to the fact that God raised Jesus up.  He has been glorifed to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured it out [on us] and it’s what you are seeing and hearing.

Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost after he witnessed Jesus ascending into heaven.  The apostles had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, able to speak in foreign tongues and having what appeared to be “tongues of fire” resting on them (vss 3-4).

Scripture-block application to this question

Peter confirms Jesus’ installation as king at the right hand of God – proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, first-century.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He has taken us from the world of darkness into the kingdom of God’s Son who redeems us from our sins.

Paul’s opening/greeting to the “brothers in Christ at Colossae” (vs 2).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul is writing to Christians in the first century who had been “transferred” (past tense) into the kingdom [of Jesus].

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
The lesson from the parable of the fig tree is as follows: just as you know that summer is near as soon as its branch becomes tender and is flush with growth, so too when you see these things you will know that the Son of Man is near, even at the gates.  Truly, I’m telling you, this generation won’t pass before all of these things take place.

This chapter, along with the next (chapter 25), constitute a discussion between Jesus and his disciples sometimes referred to as the “Olivet Discourse.” Matthew is the only gospel writer to record the second half (chapter 25), while shorter versions of the first half can be found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36.

Upon leaving the temple, Jesus comments on its destruction (vs 2).  Subsequently, they wanted to know about three things from Jesus: 1) the timing of the temple’s destruction, 2) the sign of His coming, and 3) the end of the age (vs 3). Jesus begins His answer, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they will lead many astray.” (vs 4-5)

Taking this backdrop and chapters 24 & 25 together it is clear Jesus is addressing God’s judgment on both the nation of Israel and His final judgment on all mankind. We can further contextualize this discussion by looking at other instances when God, through a prophet, would pronounce judgment on a nation. When we read Amos or Hosea regarding Israel’s judgment, Isaiah or Jeremiah regarding Judah’s judgment, or Obadiah regarding Edom’s judgment, we read about not only God’s judgment on the that nation (a near-term “day of the Lord”) but also His eventual judgment on all mankind (a longer-term final “day of the Lord”). In fact, often the prophet (e.g. God) will go back and forth between near-term judgment events and long-term judgment events.

This is the same with Jesus and how He speaks about God’s judgment in chapter 24. Remember, the disciples had asked about both the timing of the destruction of the temple and His return (vs 3). Jesus shares events (vss 15-28) that will take place in their generation (vs 34) regarding the destruction of the temple (in fact, taking place about forty years later in 70AD).  He then speaks primarily about what will happen “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (vs 29), namely His return (vss 29-44), before concluding with three parables and describing what the final “day of the Lord” will look like.

Detail of the sequencing of Jesus’ prophecy re: a near-term “day of the Lord” and the final “day of the Lord”:

  • 24:4-14 – A broad review of events during the ‘end times’ (both near-term and long-term) when “lawlessness is increased”.
  • 24:15-28 – A near-term description of events that they would experience relating to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Something that in fact, would happen about forty years later (70AD).
  • 24:29-31 – A long-term description of the events of the second coming, the final judgment.
  • vss 32-34 – The near-term timing that He relates and explains with a parable about the fig tree for how they would identify the occurrence of “these things” (vs 33) and says, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (vs 34).
  • 24:35-44 – The long-term timing, transitioned by contrasting things that will and won’t pass away (vs 34-35) and with “But…” (vs 36). This timing “no one knows” – not even Himself (vs 36).
  • 24:45-25:30 – Three parables about being ready for His coming because we don’t know when it will be:
    • 24:45-51 – The “faithful and wise servant”
    • 25:1-13 – The “ten virgins”
    • 25:14-30 – The “talents”
  • 25:31-46 – Description of how it will be on that final “day of the Lord”.
Scripture-block application to this question

It seems most likely, given its full context, that Jesus is referring to the imminent destruction of Jerusalem in these verses, therefore, it would not apply here.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

This is a difficult passage to be sure with challenges. Determining exactly what Jesus is including in “these things” and pinpointing how “this generation” is applied leave many questions regarding exactly what Jesus means here. However, a possible rational for the sequencing of Jesus’ statements that harmonizes with other scripture (not the least of which are listed in this question) is detailed in the scripture-block.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

By the authority of God and Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by the His appearing and kingdom: preach the gospel, being ready at all times whether it’s popular or not to correct, confront, and encourage, instructing with all patience.

The closing comments of Paul’s second letter to the young evangelist Timothy. He feels that his death is imminent (vss 6-8) but is hopeful to see Timothy again (vs 9).

Scripture-block application to this question

Paul couples Jesus’ appearing and His kingdom as synonymous events that happened past tense.

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