THE KINGDOM OF GOD
God has a Kingdom and a Throne, has always had, and always will have; a Kingdom from everlasting to everlasting, universal in extent and unlimited in power. He has never yet abdicated his rule and authority, and He never will. This is the simple, fundamental, all-underlying truth concerning the Kingdom of God which the Bible reveals. God is the sole Potentate, the Lord and Possessor of heaven and earth, the King, all glorious, eternal, immortal, invisible, dwelling in light which no man can approach unto, whom no man has seen nor can see. Of Him, by Him, and unto Him are all things, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). His throne is established of old, from everlasting (Psalm 93:2). He that sits on that throne is absolute Monarch and Autocrat. Whatsoever He pleases He does, in heaven, in earth, and in all the sea (Psalms 135:6). He is limited only by Himself, by His own attributes and perfections: His love, His holiness, righteousness, justice, goodness, wisdom. He alone has absolute Power. “Power belongs to God.” All other power is derived from Him. And all things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, His they are, and He upholds them with His hand.
Under this universal and supreme sway our earth with all its inhabitants is of course included. But this one part of God’s domain is for the time in rebellion. God’s will is not done here as it is in heaven. Man has sinned, and by his sin death has entered into the world. Satan, the prime mover of earth’s sin, a spirit of power and great might, himself a rebel, who betrayed his trust and has misused his power, holds this whole world in his bosom (1 John 5:19), and is the prince of this world (John 14:30), and its god (2 Corinthians 4:4). With his angels and rulers, authorities and powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12), Satan has a rebellious kingdom within the domain of God (Matthew 12:26). And to establish an unauthorized government within the limits of an established government constitutes the crime of high treason. Howbeit God has suffered it thus far, for reasons worthy of His infinite wisdom. Nor has He as yet stripped Satan of the power and authority which he has so criminally abused. Satan could show the Lord Jesus Christ all the kingdoms of the earth in a moment of time, and say in accordance with facts, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to” (Luke 4:5,6). And the Lord’s refusal of the offer, left, and leaves until yet, these kingdoms and this authority in Satan’s hands (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 6:11, 12; 1 John 5:19).
There are, however, a few points to be noted. That Satan holds this power as God’s unfaithful vassal, not of himself, he already betrays in the speech to the Lord Jesus, above quoted. “all their authority … has been given to me” And who delivered it to him? From whom did he get it? By whose sufferance has he held it this long? The answer is simply that he derived it from the sovereign God, whose Kingdom rules over all.
We note further that Satan appears in the muster of God’s servants (the “sons of God”) and gives account of himself to Jehovah. (Job 1 and 2) And the same scripture shows also that Satan is limited in his operations, and must ask God’s permission for any special thing he desires to do. (See also Luke 22:31). And that his continuance in power is short is also plainly set forth in the word of God. The Lord Jesus had seen him as lightning fallen from heaven. (Luke 10:18) John in his Patmos vision sees him cast out of even his present province (the “heavenly places,” “the air”) unto the earth, where he has great wrath, for he knows that “his time is short.” (Revelation 12:9-12). After this he is chained and imprisoned in the pit of the abyss for a thousand years, deprived of his liberty to pursue his wonted occupation; then released for a brief space, and then cast into the lake of fire, whence he emerges no more. (Revelation 20).
Even now, while as yet he exercises fearful sway within his limits, and does his pleasure against God and God’s people, God would have us know that though Satan rules, God over-rules; and that with all his malice and terrific power, God will but use him as a vessel unto dishonor, an instrument of unrighteousness, and ultimately (yes, and all along) will get Him glory from this rebel, as once He did of defiant Pharaoh, and the proud Assyrian. For after all the wrath and vicious design of Satan and his instruments has been accomplished, it will be seen to have resulted only in the good of those who love God, and the successful issue of God’s deep-laid plans (Acts 4:27, 28).
Furthermore, although Satan is immediate ruler, God is supreme Sovereign over the earth also, and has never relinquished this right and title; nor does He refrain from interfering in the earth’s affairs when He sees it good. So then, although Satan may truly say that he controls the world’s kingdoms, and gives their authority to whom he will, he is after all but handling or mishandling the power that belongs to God: “for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1). And though Satan gives rule to whom he will, yet the hand of God overrules marvelously; and it is in the last analysis God that puts down one and raises up another (Psalm 75:7). In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s visions we learn that God maps out the destiny of nations (Acts 17:26) and that “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men, and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:32, 34-36). For “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” (Psalm 24:1). And once in a while He astonishes Satan and his hordes, and the kings and mighty men of the earth, just when they think they have succeeded in their purpose. He shatters their plans, and overthrows their works, and gives them a small foretaste of what some day He shall do to a finish, thoroughly. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).
So God has a kingdom, and He is the Sovereign King. In this universal, all-embracing sense, the kingdom of God has always been, is now, and shall be, world without end. But under this fundamental conception, there are certain particular features, especially as they relate to the world in which we live. These form a great theme—in fact, taken as a whole the chief theme and burden of scripture. With these particular aspects of the kingdom of God we shall deal in the chapters following.