That the same is meant by “kingdom of God,” “kingdom of heaven,” “his kingdom,” and the “kingdom of his dear Son,” as a general rule, there can be little doubt, whether the same is meant in every instance or not. That which is called “his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28) is called “the kingdom of God” (Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27). The same kingdom mentioned in the phrase, “the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” is also mentioned in the phrase “the kingdom of God,” for these are two reports of the same speech. The two expressions are simply two designations of the same kingdom. The same, precisely, that is called “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23) is called “the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).In Matthew the record is: “That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of God.” The “kingdom of heaven” is at hand, as recorded (Matthew 3:2), is undoubted the same as “the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14), for these are two records of the same thing. The same kingdom is meant (Matthew 13:11) in the words, “Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” that is meant (Mark 4:11) in “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” “He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11), and “He that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28), are simply two records of the same thing, and the same kingdom is meant in both records.
In the following language the phrases “my church” and “the kingdom of heaven” are two designations for the same. That which is called “my church” is called “kingdom of heaven.” “I say also to you,that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (See Matthew 16:18-19). When we think and speak of what the Lord calls “my church,” we should keep in mind that He calls the same thing, in the same connection, “the kingdom of heaven,” and that He calls the same “my kingdom” (John 18:36). Paul’s “general assembly and the church of the firstborn,” to which he said “we are come”(Hebrews 12:23), is the same as his “kingdom that cannot be moved”(verse 28 of the same chapter). It is the same as His “one body”(Ephesians 4:4; I Corinthians 12:13). All who enter the “one body” at all are immersed into it, or all who enter the kingdom at all, which is the same as entering the “one body,” enter it by being born of water and of the Spirit. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see [or enjoy] the kingdom of God.” (See John 3:3.) “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (See John 3:5.) The same community is styled “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15). “In Christ” is in the body, church, or kingdom. To know what the church is, the body of Christ, the house of God, the temple of God, the building of God, is to know what the kingdom of God is. This view will assist much in ascertaining what the kingdom of God is, and several other things to be investigated in this article.
When we are thinking of the Lord’s community as a body, we think of the head and the individual members, the life and support of the body. When we think of the same community as a house, or family, we immediately think of the head of the family, the members, the discipline and ruling of a family, the care and oversight of a family, the support and dependence of a family, the accession by birth or adoption, whichever figure may be used, and the losses by death, or those who have abandoned the family. When we think of the same community as a temple, or building, we think of the proprietor, foundation, the lively stones built together in it, and the builders. When we think of it as a kingdom, we think of a king, constitution, laws, territory, subjects. When we think of it literally, as the church, congregation or community founded by Christ, the only divinely founded religious community on earth, we think of God, who authorized it; of the prophets, who predicted its founding, with many of its stupendous and momentous surroundings—the Lord Messiah, who founded it; the great truth on which it is built; the authorized apostles and evangelists who first preached the Gospel, called people together, under their new head, in the new community, or the church, making “one new man.” It has Christ for its head; the Gospel—the power of God—to turn the world to God; the teaching of Christ and His apostles for its edification and instruction.Christ is its supreme authority for everything. His authority is set forth in His own teaching and that of His divinely authorized and inspired apostles.
The church, community of living God, is composed of members, and has a head, Gospel, teaching or territory. Bishops or overseers, and deacons, in their work, are limited to the congregation in their own vicinity, having no jurisdiction in other congregations. The church of the living God, the body of Christ, or kingdom of God, embraces all the local congregations, with the members, in all the world—all who are truly the people of God. As a whole, it is not an organized body, and has no method of acting in conventional form, in making decrees, laws or decisions. Its head has made, signed, sealed and delivered to it His laws and decrees, and demands of the church, or kingdom, implicit obedience. It is not the business of the church to make laws or decrees, but implicitly to obey and submit to the laws and decrees made by the head of the church.
This community, church or kingdom, of which Christ is the head or King, and all that pertains to it, was embraced in “the eternal purpose of God,” but had no existence, in the form of a community, church or kingdom, only in the purpose of God, for ages. The same that was embodied in the eternal purpose—“a secret,” “hid in God”—was subsequently embodied in the promise to Abraham. It was still a secret, a mystery, in the promise of a blessing for all families of the earth, without any revelation explaining what that blessing was. That promise embraced the Messiah, the Gospel, the church, and all the attendant blessings for the human race. Still, the church, or kingdom, did not exist in fact, and the blessings were spoken of as “good things to come,” and not good things already come. The same precisely, embodied first in the purpose, and then in the promise of God, subsequently filled a large space in prophecy, but still as “good things to come.” Peter has the following comment touching the prophets: “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come to you: searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us, they did minister these things, which are now reported to you by them who have preached the gospel to you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; into which things the angels desire to look.” (See I Peter 1:10-12.) The kingdom of God is found, first, in the eternal purpose of God, then in the promise of God to Abraham, then in the prophecy, and then in the preaching of John the Immerser. In the preaching of John it is in different form, and a new item comes into the preaching. It is now “the kingdom of God is at hand,” “the kingdom of God approaches.”
Taken from New Testament Christianity, Vol. I (1923), pages 198-204.