Vol. 8, No. 4
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In the Model Prayer, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). From this one learns that the kingdom that was the subject of many Old Testament prophecies had not come yet. There was a popular belief in the first century that the kingdom of prophecy was about to come, but that kingdom of divine origin, about which Daniel, Isaiah, Joel and Micah prophesied, had not been established yet when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray.
However, both the forerunner of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ preached in their respective ministries that the kingdom of prophecy was near or about to be established (Matthew 3:1-2; 4:17). Further, Jesus taught that this kingdom would be established "with power" within the lifetimes of those in his generation to whom he was speaking. "And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power" (Mark 9:1 emphasis added). Unless one would be so audacious as to contradict Jesus Christ and so disrespectful of Holy Scripture to assert otherwise, the kingdom of Old Testament prophecies was established in the first century.
The establishment of the kingdom in the first century is exactly what one should expect when Old Testament prophecies and secular history are compared. Almost universally, Bible students acknowledge that Daniel 2:31-45 teaches that the spiritual kingdom was to be established during the time of the Roman Empire, the fourth expansive earthly kingdom in the Bible world from the time of and including the kingdom of Babylon. However, because people today are no more interested in the type of kingdom Jesus Christ came to establish than were the first century Jews, contemporary people hijack the fulfillment of Old Testament kingdom prophecies from the time of the first century Roman world to some other time and place, or to a yet future time.
The kingdom of Old Testament prophecies suffers an identity crisis with people who refuse to allow the veracity of God who, through the prophets Daniel, Isaiah, Joel and Micah, taught that the spiritual kingdom was to be established in the first century. For instance, Isaiah, Joel and Micah taught that the kingdom was to be established in the "last days" in "Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:2-3; Joel 2:28-32; Micah 4:1-2), but many contemporaries would have us to believe that God-ordained religion today hales from cities other than Jerusalem (e.g., in Italy, Germany, England, Switzerland, Holland, America, etc.). The apostle Peter confirmed exactly when the kingdom of Old Testament prophecy was established as he quoted the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16-21) and applied it to the events of Acts 2. "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days..." (Acts 2:16-17 emphasis added).
Old Testament prophecy foretold the establishment of the spiritual kingdom in the first century. By divine inspiration, the apostle Peter confirmed the establishment of the kingdom of Old Testament prophecy occurred in the first century. Whereas Jesus Christ prophesied that the kingdom would be established with power in his generation (the first century), the kingdom of which Jesus spoke was established with the power of the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the apostles in Jerusalem in about A.D. 33 (Acts 1:4-8; 2:1-4, 16-17).
Confusion about the type of kingdom Jesus came to establish results in the identify crisis respecting that kingdom. First, the kingdom Jesus came to establish is not a physical kingdom! The Jews very much desired a physical kingdom comparable to the kingdom over which King Solomon had ruled, some 60,000 square miles from the border of Egypt to the Euphrates River. The Jews despised the Roman yoke and desired a Messiah-King to establish a physical kingdom to overthrow Roman dominion over them. Once during the ministry of Jesus, many Jews desired to take Jesus by force to make him their king (John 6:15). Ironically later, the Jews accused Jesus to Pilate of attempting to establish a physical kingdom in opposition to Roman rule (Matthew 27:11-13; John 19:12), hoping that such an accusation would prompt the Governor to execute Jesus. However, the Jews knew better, and they would have rallied behind Jesus had he attempted to establish a physical kingdom in opposition to the Romans.
Governor Pilate clearly understood that Jesus Christ came to establish a spiritual kingdom that was no threat to the Roman Empire. Otherwise, he could not have proposed releasing Jesus without violating his allegiance to the Emperor. Pilate declared repeatedly that he and King Herod found "no fault at all" in Jesus (Luke 23:4, 14; John 18:38; 19:4, 6). "Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him" (Luke 23:14-15). Jesus himself plainly stated that his kingdom was spiritual and not physical. "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36 emphasis added).
Second, Jesus used the terms kingdom and church interchangeably to refer to the same divine organization (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus promised to build his "church" and gave "the keys of the kingdom" to the apostle Peter. The apostle Peter used the "keys of the kingdom" to open the doors of the "church" (Acts 2:47). Hence, by the words of Jesus and the action of the inspired apostle Peter, the church and the kingdom are different terms for the same divine institution.
Third, the apostles used the terms church and kingdom interchangeably to refer to the spiritual body of believers or Christians in the first century. The apostle Paul wrote to the first century church at Colosse and referred to the membership of those Christians and himself in the kingdom (Colossians 1:13). Paul and the Colossian Christians were already members of the kingdom in the first century. This is comparable to identifying the church as the body as well (Colossians 1:18); the terms kingdom, church and body are merely different expressions referring to the same divine institution. In addition, the apostle John considered himself and the Christians of the seven churches of Asia in the first century as members already of the kingdom (Revelation 1:9).
The kingdom of Old Testament prophecy was established in the first century; it is not some more recent or even yet future entity. The kingdom of Old Testament prophecy is not physical, but spiritual. Jesus Christ is King now and will cease reigning as King over his kingdom when he returns at the last day, at which time he will present the kingdom to the Heavenly Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). The kingdom is known in Scripture by such references as "the church" (Acts 2:47), "the church of God" (1 Corinthians 1:2), "the churches of Christ" (Romans 16:16), "the body" (Colossians 1:18), "the house of God" (1 Timothy 3:15), etc. The part of the Model Prayer that says, "Thy kingdom come," is no longer applicable today, because the kingdom of which Jesus spoke has already come.