A gracEmail subscriber from Hawaii asks what the Bible means when it speaks of the kingdom of God.
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The Hebrew and Greek words translated “kingdom” in the Bible both essentially mean “reign,” “rule” or “dominion.” In the most fundamental sense, God’s kingdom exists throughout all time and encompasses the entire universe. The psalmist declares: “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens and his sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).
About 1,000 B.C., God associates his own divine reign in a special way with the dynastic kingdom of David, whom God took from among the flocks to govern Israel and Judah in God’s name (2 Sam. 7:8-16; Psalm 45:3-7). David understands, however, that God’s reign is larger than his own kingdom, that he reigns at God’s pleasure, and that God holds him accountable for how he exercises kingship. As David’s descendant, Jesus is heir to the Old Testament’s kingly and messianic promises involving the house of David (Psalm 2; Psalm 110:1, 4; Dan. 7:14ff).
Three hundred years after David, the writing prophets envision a future when God’s kingdom will transcend nationalistic bounds and peace and justice will fill the earth (Isa.11:6-9; Micah 4:1-4; even later, Dan. 7:13-14). The Old Testament closes with this hope dangling before us. Four hundred years later, the New Testament opens with a voice in the wilderness, announcing that the long-awaited kingdom is “at hand.” No one then could have imagined that it would arrive in two phases, with an interminable interruption in between.