The relationship between the Church and the Kingdom of God is often misunderstood. Christians often speak as if the Kingdom of God was just another name for the church. In fact they are quite different from each other; and the Kingdom of God is much more important. The main thing that Jesus came to do was to establish the Kingdom of God. This is clear from the basic message that he proclaimed:
The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news. Mark 1:15
The gospels tell us that Jesus was constantly teaching about the Kingdom of God. The good news that he proclaimed was the gospel of the Kingdom or the Government of God. The twelve disciples were also sent out to proclaim the same gospel of the Kingdom (Luke 9:1,2). In contrast, the gospels only mention the word church twice.
The Kingdom of God is a much wider concept than the Church. The Kingdom includes every area of life that is under rule and authority of God. If God rules a home it is part of the Kingdom. Where a business is run on biblical principles, it is also part of the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God includes every human activity that is done according to his will.
God intends his Kingdom to expand into every area of life. This expansion takes place in two different ways. Individual people must be born into the Kingdom. Jesus said,
Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. John 3:5
As people are born again through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, they become citizens of the Kingdom. God will deliver them from sickness and the power of the devil. Being born again is the only way that a person can enter the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom also expands as Christians bring the different aspects of their lives under the will of God. As a Christian applies the principles of God’s word to those activities where he has authority, they become part of the Kingdom of God. The Government of God expands as Christians extend the rule of God into the areas of life where they have authority.
Authority is an essential aspect of any Kingdom. Within the kingdom of God there are five main spheres of authority (more on these later).
- Christian person
The Government of God becomes a reality when every sphere of authority, is ruled according to the Word of God. This happens when those with authority are Christians, and are submitted to the authority of God. He has delegated authority to various individuals and groups in society. When a sphere of delegated authority is ruled according to his will, it becomes part of the kingdom of God. Where authority is exercised contrary to his will, that sphere of authority is outside the kingdom.
At the same time the interaction between the various spheres of authority must also be governed by the Word of God. It is wrong for one group to take over the authority that belongs to another. For example when the civil government becomes the provider, it is taking authority and responsibility that God has assigned to the family. Each delegated authority must only carry out the functions that God has assigned to it.
Everything outside the kingdom of God is part of the kingdom of darkness. It is ruled and controlled by Satan. His kingdom is characterised by disunity and conflict. These are the consequences of human sin. Satan is a liar and destroyer, so it will be full of hatred, bitterness, and destruction of human life. The only way to escape is through faith in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13).
Naturally there will be warfare between the two kingdoms. God’s purpose is to extend his Kingdom throughout the entire world. Satan is trying to expand his kingdom. His task has been made easier as Christians have withdrawn from many spheres of authority. The idea has developed that politics and business are improper activities for Christians. These two very important areas of authority have been handed over to the devil. Even where Christians are involved in politics or business, there has been no serious attempt to apply biblical principles to these activities. This has severely weakened the government of God.
Instead of seeking to establish the Kingdom of God, Christians have concentrated on building the church. The church has become a place of retreat from the world. It may have supported Christians in their daily lives, but to the world it appears weak and irrelevant. Rather than being a place of retreat, the church should be a recruiting station and training ground for the kingdom of God.
It must recruit members for the kingdom by proclaiming the gospel. At the same time it must send Christians out into the world to establish the Kingdom of God. Christians should move into every area of authority, and take up responsibility. The Church should teach these Christians to exercise that authority in accordance with the Word of God.
Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God incessantly (Mark 1:14,15, Luke 4:23, John 3:3). He only mentioned the church twice. Jesus preached the Good News of the Kingdom. The modern church tends to preach the gospel of the personal salvation or the gospel of the church. The Gospel of the Kingdom is rarely heard. The gospel of the Government of God is never heard.
The Church is just one sphere of authority within the kingdom of God. For too long it has been seen as the only one. The Church must never be an end in itself. It must always be working to establish the kingdom of God. When Jesus comes back he does not just want to find a holy Church. He is coming back for a victorious Church, a Church that has established the kingdom of God as a reality in the world.
The reason is that most Christians think the Kingdom of God and the church are identical. The Kingdom of God is just used as another name for the church. This is not correct. The Kingdom is a much broader concept than the church. Therefore the Gospel of the Kingdom is much broader than the gospel of personal salvation. If we are to obey Jesus and proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, we must recover a vision of the Kingdom of God.