This question is derived from noticing the different characteristics used to describe the kingdom throughout the Bible. In some cases, the references are clearly physical and of the earth, while others are clearly spiritual and of the heavenly realm.
Part of the reason for these differences is due to the changing nature of the kingdom. Or more accurately put, the process of development that the kingdom goes through over time changes.
For details on Christ’s kingdom-building process, Read more.
If we limit our discussion in this article to the kingdom Christ establishes on earth after his return, we’ll see that these two distinct characteristics still remain. Therefore, we’ll need to dig deeper into these characteristics if we’re to get the answer we’re looking for.
First, however, it’s necessary to note some presuppositions relevant to the discussion. Then we can begin a review of scripture.
- Christ’s earthly kingdom, his 1000-year reign on earth, has some physical and spiritual characteristics that are unique to it.
- The scope and purpose for Christ’s earthly kingdom is broader than traditionally taught. (1 Corinthians 15:22-26; Romans 11:13-24; Jeremiah 31:31-34)
- The kingdom of God, brought down from heaven and merged with Christ’s completed kingdom, is strictly spiritual in nature. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26, 50; Revelation 20:14-15; 21:1-8)
It’s also important for this discussion to clearly distinguish between the verbs inherit and dwell. I’ll use the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as a source.
inherit (verb) – to receive from an ancestor as a right or title descendible by law at the ancestor’s death.
dwell (verb) – to live as a resident
So the important distinction that needs to be made here is that an inheritance carries with it a legal right to, or ownership of, the object being inherited. For the subject of our discussion, that object is Christ’s kingdom on earth. Conversely, the idea of dwelling in Christ’s kingdom carries no sense of ownership or legal right of possession. Let’s see if scripture communicates either of these ideas for at least two groups; God’s people Israel, and God’s faithful saints.
Israel’s Expectations for the Kingdom
Though scripture clearly teaches otherwise, Israel(1), and the Jews especially, focused primarily on the kingdom and the salvation that accompanied it as a collective, national matter(2). Restoration of their national prominence was fundamental to their thinking.
Let’s begin by looking at a few examples of what scripture reveals about Israel’s future.
1 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
2 and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Let’s make some observations about what’s being described here:
- If the Lord is to teach them his ways and the law is to go forth from Zion, it requires then that Christ, the Lord of Lords, has returned and established Jerusalem and Zion as the focal point from which he will rule over the nations.
- We are told that this occurs sometime in the latter days.
- Also, those of the nations will be drawn to the mountain of the Lord so that they might walk in his paths.
Consistent with the expectations of the Jews of Jesus’ day, modern-day Jews also look to the time when Israel is established as the highest of mountains (nations) and Jerusalem is lifted up above the hills (cities). This represents the restoration of the prominence they’ve always sought.
Notice also that the nations of the world share in this access to the Lord and his ways. Clearly if this speaks of the time after Christ has set up and established his kingdom, headquartered in Jerusalem, it also means that the nations have already received the wrath of God, and only a remnant of those nations remain. The implication is that they too will come to fear the Lord and seek his ways.
This is certainly the case for Israel as Hosea indicates.
Hosea 3:5 (NKJV) – Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.
Here we can see that David, their king before the time of Christ, has been resurrected and will continue to be a prince among his people. Not only will those dwelling in Israel and Jerusalem see the glory of the Lord, they will see the glorious work he has completed in his resurrected saints and all those who’ve received the rewards of the new covenant. More on that in a minute.
Let’s get some idea of the extent of the Lord’s goodness intended for Israel at that time.
22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.
25 I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. 26 And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. 27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. 30 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.
Here we can begin to see some of the characteristics of what it will be like for them to dwell in Christ’s earthly kingdom:
- Safety and security in the land
- Prosperity and abundance from the earth
- They will not live in fear, nor will they suffer hunger
- God will remove the reproach they’ve received from the nations
- They will be his sheep, and he will their God
- They’ve been redeemed as flesh and blood humans to enjoy the goodness of the Lord
One question that arises is – what is Christ’s goal for them as a people? To answer that question we can look to Paul’s description of the work Jesus Christ is doing now and in the kingdom of his 1000-year reign.
1 Corinthians 15:24-26
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Paul outlines that one of Christ’s underlying goals is to bring every rule and authority into subjection. This includes scattered Israel, the disobedient nations, and even the Jews who’ve rejected their Messiah. At one point Paul refers to them as enemies of the gospel. Let’s see what he meant.
28 As regards the gospel, they (Israel) are enemies for your sake (Gentiles). But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you (Gentiles) were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.
Paul’s bold statement is that God intends, through Christ, to repay Israel’s disobedience with mercy, just as he’s repaid those whom he’s called into Christ with mercy by forgiving their sin. This is fitting since the Son of God died for the sins of the world, not just for the sins of those in the church. Paul goes on to add another bold statement onto these as recorded in verse 32: For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
There’s much in store for Israel in Christ’s earthly kingdom. Discover more.
Expectations of Christ’s Faithful Ones for the Kingdom
The reconciliation with God that comes to those called into Christ Jesus has with it many blessings and rewards. Greatest among these expectations is the inheritance promised those who are the first to trust in Christ.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
- Our inheritance leads to the praise of his glory
- The Holy Spirit is the guarantor of our inheritance, our salvation
- Our hope is in the glorious inheritance with the saints (vs 18)
Peter further describes this inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5) as:
- Kept in heaven for you
And when might we expect to receive that which is kept in heaven for us?
1 Peter 1:13 – . . . at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Moreover, how is it that we came to this position? Is it not through the work of Christ Jesus who is the mediator of a new covenant?
15 Therefore he (Christ) is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.
The example God made in his son is the power he has over and through death. This was necessary to fulfill God’s righteous judgment. We saw early from Romans 11 that ultimately God repays disobedience with mercy. What Paul doesn’t detail there is that God’s mercy in this case comes through death – the death of his son. In baptism, we can have a part in Christ’s death, which satisfies the payment for sin (Romans 6:3-4, 20-23), so that we can have the expectation of having a part in his eternal life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Understanding Romans 6 and 7 is vital for those who are called, chosen, and faithful to our Lord. In it, Paul outlines the fundamental purpose and will of God for all those who come to him through Yeshua, the Christ. From this understanding we can reshape the faulty presuppositions we’ve been led to, only to arrive at a more unfiltered gospel, clearer, broader in scope and purpose, and more glorious than we could hope for.
As servants of God, if indeed we are, is it not our duty to understand his will and purpose for his saints and for the world? How else can we focus on Christ’s kingdom to come and our role in it unless we first understand fully the work that God is doing?
The following notes are taken from my book . . .
The Rapture Question – An Unfiltered View
The fulfillment of our hope is at the return of our Lord and Savior, Yeshua. It’s at his return that the saints are united with him and receive the inheritance of the kingdom he prepared for them. This group of saints includes any faithful in Israel’s past or present. Together with the called, chosen and faithful Gentiles, these comprise the body and bride of Christ. Being transformed into the glory of their Lord, they will rule with him in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm. They are the priestly rulers and leaders well suited to judge angels and lead dispersed Israel and the world into obedience to Christ.
For those who stumbled in Israel, they will just be entering their covenant in Christ; the Lord is their Righteousness. During his reign they will learn to trust in the Lord as they fulfill their role as a model nation and an example of God’s faithfulness. During their time under Christ’s rule and King David’s leadership, they will grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, through faith, in much the same way that believers in Christ have since his work began. And the result of that faithfulness leads to the same conclusion for them at the end of the age – eternal life.
The Mystery of God reveals much that’s in store for Israel in Christ’s earthly kingdom. Discover more.
What remains of the nations of the world will likewise come under the rulership of Christ. They too have a part in the restoration of Israel to their homeland. They too can be the recipients of God’s grace and mercy. Recall that the underlying purpose of Christ is to bring all the world into subjection under his rule and authority. To do that he must allow a world turned upside-down to reap what it has sown; death. Yet God has shown his power over this enemy also. Christ has committed his very own life to bring all of God’s children into obedience to him. Clearly, some will choose not to surrender to God’s purpose and love in Christ. Theirs will be the second death; a permanent death from which there is no hope of resurrection or return.
Clearly Jesus Christ is building his kingdom to be delivered to the Father, not through the sword but through his words of life. He is building his kingdom through people. He gives both his words of life and the Holy Spirit to those who respond to his call. This enables them to grow in the character and likeness of the God in whose image they were first created. As the king, Christ establishes the scope of his work along with the scope of work intended for those called to rule with him (Luke 4:18-19):
- To proclaim good news to the poor
- To proclaim liberty to those captive to sin and death
- To give sight to those blinded by deception
- To set at liberty those who are oppressed
As High Priest he must first establish a priesthood of faithful and committed leaders. These firstfruits to the resurrection are being built into a habitation, a temple of God, a new creation. They, together with Christ at his return, will ultimately lead all the nations of the world into a relationship with the Father in a place where he will set his name. Immediately after Christ’s return that place is Jerusalem in the nation of Israel on this small blue globe called Earth.
There is much more to learn about each of these topics and links have been provided to related articles. Those tagged with Read more lead you to related channel questions and their basic answers. Those tagged Discover more are part of a more in-depth study program. Any tagged with Learn more address methods, processes, and resources which can aid your approach to learning. All are free resources to assist you in gaining a more unfiltered view of God’s word.
1) When I refer to Israel, like the authors of Scripture, I’m referring to the descendants of Jacob (renamed Israel). This does not fit the description of the modern nation of Israel which consists of people from many assorted nationionalitites. Also, the modern Jews (Judah) represent only one of the twelve original tribes of Israel. In the near future, God will call to himself, for a specific purpose, descendants from all twelve tribes as part of his kingdom-building process (Romans 9:4-5; 11; Revelation 7:4-8).
2) The Lion of Judah, Rabbi Kirt A. Schneider (pg 145)