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Sunlight scatters the shadows on a woodland trail. One day, God’s Kingdom will arrive in its full and final perfection. Heaven will invade Earth; Heaven and Earth will be blended in a way we cannot now imagine. God’s presence will fill our Earth.
The theme of the Kingdom of God underpins the whole of the Bible story. Here’s an outline of how this theme unfolds through the Bible. In fact, this is really a summary of the whole Bible story. (The eight headings are borrowed from Vaughan Roberts’ excellent little book God’s Big Picture.)
The pattern of the Kingdom
God, the Creator and King of the Universe, lives in harmony with his people in His paradise, the Garden of Eden. God gives Adam and Eve dominion over everything on Earth (Genesis 1.26,28); they themselves are to be under His authority. As they trust Him and remain obedient to Him, they’ll experience unimaginable blessing. They’ll enjoy a wonderfully abundant and rewarding life – a life under their Creator’s richest blessing, truly the best that life could ever be. This is, in Bible language, is ‘the kingdom of God’. In Vaughan Robert’s words, “In the Garden of Eden we see the world as God designed it to be”.
The perished Kingdom
Adam and Eve reject God’s authority and decide for themselves how to live their lives. God has to banish them from His paradise and His immediate presence. They live frustrated and troubled lives outside God’s paradise.
The promised Kingdom
God calls Abraham and promises him a land. Deuteronomy 8.7 9 describes it as a bountiful paradise. God tells Abraham that he’ll become a great nation, and that his offspring will possess this land. That nation is Israel; the land is Canaan. Here, God’s people will live in His presence in His paradise.
But God goes further. He promises Abraham that he’ll father a multitude of nations. Through this man all the families of the Earth would find blessing – blessing that can only be found in God’s presence (see Psalm 16.11 and compare Revelation 7.15-17). God is looking forward to the time when His ransomed people would be drawn “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5.9, and see Revelation 7.9) across the globe, to a time when God will live within them by His Spirit (see Galatians 3.14).
The partial kingdom
God rescues His people from Egypt and gives them His law to teach them how to live. He settles them in His promised land. And He lives among them in His sanctuary – initially the Tabernacle, but finally Solomon’s grand Temple.
God’s people are living in God’s paradise in the presence of their King and under His rule and blessing. The Kingdom of God has come – but only partially. Sin and all its consequences still blight creation. Even God’s own chosen people prove inveterate rebels. The kingdom of Israel falls apart and ends in conquest and exile. Only a remnant return to rebuild a ruined land.
The prophesied Kingdom
But during this period of Israel’s decay and downfall, God astonishes His people – and us – with breathtaking visions of glory. Woven through rebuke and warning, God pledges to redeem His people. He promises that they will live in God’s paradise. A King will govern them – and that King is God Himself! God is going to establish His Kingdom.
The present Kingdom
Then the King Himself comes to Earth! Jesus, Son of God, opens His ministry with these words: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1.15). In Vaughan Roberts’ words, “God’s king had come to establish God’s Kingdom”. He teaches about God’s Kingdom and demonstrates God’s sovereign power through His miracles. His death and resurrection strikes the decisive blow against Satan and deals fully with sin and all its fallout. His victory paves the way for God’s Kingdom to come in power.
The proclaimed kingdom
On the Day of Pentecost, God begins to fill people with His Spirit. God Himself comes to live inside those who repent and believe His gospel. They’re citizens of God’s Kingdom – they live in His presence and under the blessing of His rule. God’s Kingdom has come in a revolutionary new way!
The perfected Kingdom
Jesus the King returns to Earth. All God’s enemies are banished; sin is eradicated and all its consequences dealt with finally and fully. God renews Heaven and Earth. God’s people live in His presence and under the blessings of His rule in His perfect paradise (Revelation 21.1-4, 22.1-5). God’s Kingdom has come in all its glory!
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.