Understanding the kingdom of God and its characteristics is fundamental to understanding much of God’s revealed word. How and what one understands the kingdom of God to be will impact their understanding of such monumental events as Jesus coming to earth, His promised return and the final judgment!

First published in 1896, Leo Tolstoy puts forth his take on what the kingdom of God is all about in his book “The Kingdom of God is within You”. There are countless other books and Internet opinions about the kingdom of God. Many, if not most of these, shape the kingdom of God into an image that fits their preconceived notion or worldview (a la Leo) or is molded to fit a doctrine – something we have called presuppositional Scripture weighting.

Fortunately, there are many very plain statements about the kingdom of God in Scripture.

The Kingdom of God is Within You, Leo Tolstoy

how Scripture answers "What is the nature of the kingdom of God?"

With an extensive list of applicable passages, we can understand the kingdom of God to be:

  1. Ruled by a sovereign God3,11,16,18, who for a time has given authority to reign over to His Son, Jesus Christ12,15,17, to rule from David’s throne5 (Acts 2:32-36).
  2. It’s referred to not only as the kingdom of God1,6,7,8,9,14 but also the kingdom of heaven4 and the kingdom of His beloved Son10 (as in when Jesus refers to it as “My kingdom”2).
  3. It is a spiritual (not physical) kingdom1,2,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,17, and in this way fulfills the prophets’ preaching about Zion and a new city/”heavenly Jerusalem18.
  4. It is made up of citizens that have been born again6 – namely those that have believed and been baptized7 having come to hear and accept the gospel message8,9,10,13 and are “enrolled in heaven18. Priests serving God11 (1 Peter 2:9-10).
  5. It came and is here now1,4,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,16,17,18, as was promised by God to be established in the “latter days”3 and remains forever3,5,18, above and over kingdoms of men3,11 and the kingdom of Satan10,12.
the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, Look, here it is! or There! for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.

The Pharisees ask when the kingdom of God would come and he [Jesus] answered that it isn’t coming with signs that could be seen.  As a result, nobody could say, “Look, here it is.”  It was all around them.
Jesus is answering a question from the Pharisees, but Luke follows with another, related exchange between Jesus and His disciples.  He tells them that there will come a day when they long it to be like when the Jesus was with them but it won’t be so.  He says this won’t happen between the time He is “rejected by this generation” (vs 25) and “when the Son of Man is revealed” (vs 30).
How does it inform?

The kingdom of God is “here” but still “coming.” Jesus says it would come without any recognizable signs (physical characteristics). He proves this by saying it is already in their midst (hence, they didn’t know it). Jesus, Himself was the kingdom of God or at least represented a major characteristic of it.

Does it apply? Yes

2

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.

Jesus said His kingdom wasn’t of/about this world.  If it were, His followers would be physically fighting against those trying to kill Him.  But, as it is, His kingdom isn’t of/about this world.
Jesus is standing trial before Pilot in the early morning hours before His crucifixion. Pilot asks Him twice if He is a King.  Jesus never directly answers.
How does it inform?

Jesus, notably referring to it as “My kingdom” and reiterating that it is a spiritual kingdom.

Does it apply? Yes

3

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.

How does it inform?

God will establish a kingdom that will stand forever, never being destroyed or overtaken by another kingdom – in fact, it will “break in pieces” all other kingdoms.

!! study note: context is extra important here !!

Does it apply? Yes

4

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Jesus went all over Galilee teaching in their synagogues about the gospel of the kingdom while healing them of all kinds of disease and affliction.

Jesus’ public ministry begins.

How does it inform?

The essence of Jesus’ public ministry was (a) repent, and (b) the kingdom of heaven is here.

Does it apply? Yes

5
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.
He will be great and called Son of the Most High. God will give him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever.  His kingdom will never end.

The angel Gabriel (vs 26) is speaking to Mary about the child she will conceive and bear, calling his name Jesus (vs 31).

How does it inform?

Jesus the Son will be given the throne of David by God the Father. Jesus’ reign over this kingdom (“the house of Jacob”) will last forever.

Does it apply? Yes

6
Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus answered with a truth: unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.  Nicodemus didn’t understand and asked how someone that is old be born again as he can’t enter back into his mother’s womb?  Jesus answered expounding on the same truth: unless one is born of water and the Spirit [born again] he cannot enter [see] the kingdom of God.

Jesus is approached at night (in secret) by Nicodemus, a Pharisee and “ruler of the Jews” (vs 1).

How does it inform?

Jesus qualifies entrance into the kingdom of God for only those that are born again “of water and the Spirit” while alluding to the spiritual nature of the kingdom.

Does it apply? Yes

7
But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
Philip preached the good news about the kingdom of God and Jesus, and as they believed they were baptized, both men and women.

The persecution of Christians by the non-believing Jews has begun and as a result the gospel news is spreading beyond Jerusalem into Samaria (vss 4-5).

How does it inform?

After Jesus, the disciples continue to preach the gospel message which is about the kingdom of God and Jesus.

Does it apply? Yes

8
When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
After appointing a day, they came to his quarters in greater numbers. He preached all day, giving witness to the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them about Jesus using the Law of Moses and the Prophets.

Paul has finally arrived at Rome (as a prisoner).  He has greeted the brethren (fellow Christians) and is calling for an audience with his Jewish brethren (vs 17) to share more about the “hope of Israel” (vs 20). Some believed and others didn’t, but Paul ended up staying two years “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (vs 31)

How does it inform?

Paul is sharing what he witnessed – the coming of Jesus the Messiah which is the same as the kingdom of God.

Does it apply? Yes

9

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome and a section dealing with disagreements on matters of opinion with those “weak in faith” (vs 1).  He illustrates with things that can be eaten (vs 2) and days that might be celebrated (vs 5).  His point, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

How does it inform?

The kingdom of God concerns spiritual things, not carnal things. By making this distinction, Paul is also acknowledging the present state of the kingdom of God (“you are in the kingdom of God so you should be focused on righteousness, peace and joy”)

Does it apply? Yes

10

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).

How does it inform?

Those in Christ have been transferred from a kingdom of darkness (Satan/sin) into Christ’s kingdom (the kingdom of God).

Does it apply? Yes

11
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
John addressing the seven churches in Asia: Grace and peace from Him who is and was and is to come, and from the seven spirits before His thorn, and from Jesus the true witness, firstborn of the dead and ruler of kings on earth.  To Him who loves and freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.  To Him be glory and dominion forever. Amen.

John’s opening address to his audience.

How does it inform?

John confirms that he (and all brethren) are already part of a kingdom – serving as priests to God – thanks to Jesus and His blood.

Does it apply? Yes

12
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 order: the coming of Christ, then those that belong to Him.  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 what will happen because He was resurrected and confirm the raising “at his coming those who belong to Christ” (vs 23).
How does it inform?

Jesus currently reigns over the kingdom of God. In “the end,” when all of His enemies are subdued, He will turn the kingdom back to His Father.

Does it apply? Yes

13

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.

Jesus went all over Galilee teaching in their synagogues about the gospel of the kingdom while healing them of all kinds of disease and affliction.

Jesus’ public ministry begins.

How does it inform?

Jesus’ ministry was about the “gospel of the kingdom.”

Does it apply? Yes

14
Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you.
When received by someone in a town, eat what they provide.  Heal the sick and tell them that the kingdom of God has come near.

Jesus is sending out the seventy-two after having sent the apostles out to “proclaim the kingdom of God” (9:60).  Jesus’ instruction also notes those that may “not receive you” – they are rejecting the kingdom of God (vss 10-11).

How does it inform?

Along with the apostles, Jesus sends more out to preach that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Does it apply? Yes

15

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

The Father has handed everything over to the Son.  Nobody knows the Son except the Father, and nobody knows the Father except the Son and those the Son chooses to reveal to the Father.

Jesus has sent out the seventy-two to preach “the kingdom of heaven” with power to heal and they have returned rejoicing that “even the demons are subject to us in your name” (vs 17).

How does it inform?

Jesus acknowledges that all things (e.g. kingdom, authority, etc.) have been handed over to Him from the Father.

Does it apply? Yes

16
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”.
How does it inform?

The kingdom was considered “received” by the Hebrew writer and the Christians of that day.

Does it apply? Yes

17
You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
You [Apostles] have stayed with me in my trials, and as my Father assigned to me, I now assign to you a kingdom, where you will eat and drink at my table and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

It is Jesus’ final week and they are in the upper room. The apostles are arguing about who will be greatest in the kingdom and Jesus addresses their argument by showing how He himself served, and they must as well.

How does it inform?

Jesus is effectively transferring the kingdom into the Apostles’ hands as “the time for His departure is at hand” and highlighting for them (again) the spiritual nature of the kingdom.

Does it apply? Yes

18
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Therefore, you have come to Mt Zion, the city of God, the spiritual Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in fine clothing with all the assembly of the firstborn who have their names written in the Book of Life, together with God who judges all and the spirits of believers now perfected, and Jesus the mediator of the new law and the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than Abel’s blood.

The Hebrews writer’s grand conclusion and “victory chapter” in defense of all things “better” that the Christian enjoys.  Ultimately, he argues their endurance is for the spiritual Promised Land – a city that is not made with hands (vs 26) – and they should be “grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (vs 28). This text 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.

How does it inform?

The kingdom is the heavenly Zion and spiritual Jerusalem the prophets spoke of often. (These verses correlate with the throne scene and the 144,000 in Revelation 14.)

Does it apply? Yes

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