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Thursday, May 28, 2009

What Is God’s Kingdom?

WHAT was the theme of Jesus’ preaching? According to Jesus himself, it was God’s Kingdom. (Luke 4:43) When people listened to him speak, they surely heard many references to that Kingdom. Were they puzzled or mystified? Did they ask him what this Kingdom was? No. The Gospels record no such questions. So was God’s Kingdom a familiar concept to those people?

The fact is, the ancient Scriptures that the Jews revered as holy described that Kingdom, revealing in vivid and concrete terms what it is and what it will accomplish. Today, we can learn even more about the Kingdom in much the same way—by going to the Bible. Let us consider seven truths that the Bible teaches us about the Kingdom. The first three were readily available to the Jews of Jesus’ day and earlier. The next three were revealed by Christ or by his apostles during the first century.
The last one has become apparent in our own time.

1. God’s Kingdom is a real government, one that will last forever. The Bible’s first prophecy revealed that God would send a rescuer to faithful mankind. Called the “seed,” this One would undo the terrible ills that were set in motion by the rebellion of Adam, Eve, and Satan. (Genesis 3:15) Much later, faithful King David was told something thrilling about this “seed,” or Messiah. He would rule over a Kingdom. This government would differ from all others. It would endure forever.—2 Samuel 7:12-14.

2. God’s Kingdom will put an end to all human governments. The prophet Daniel was given a vision in which he saw a succession of world powers, stretching down through history into our own time. Notice the thrilling climax to that vision: “In the days of those [final human] kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” So all the kingdoms, or governments, of this world—with their wars, oppression, and corruption—will be destroyed forever. As Daniel’s prophecy shows, God’s Kingdom will soon rule over the whole earth. (Daniel 2:44, 45) A concrete reality, it will remain the only government in existence.

3. God’s Kingdom will end wars, sickness, famine, even death itself. Thrilling Bible prophecies reveal what God’s Kingdom will do here on the earth. That government will accomplish what no human agencies have ever done or could ever do. Imagine—all weapons of war destroyed forever! “He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.” (Psalm 46:9) No more doctors, hospitals, or disease of any kind. “No resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24) No more famines, food shortages, malnutrition, or starvation. “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth.” (Psalm 72:16) No more funerals, wakes, cemeteries, morgues, or the misery that accompanies them. Death, our relentless enemy, will be vanquished at last. God “will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.”—Isaiah 25:8.

4. God’s Kingdom has a Ruler chosen by God. The Messiah is not self-appointed, nor is he selected by imperfect humans. He is personally chosen by Jehovah God. The very titles Messiah and Christ suggest as much. Both words mean “Anointed One.” So this King is anointed, or designated for his special office, by Jehovah. God says of him: “Look! My servant, on whom I keep fast hold! My chosen one, whom my soul has approved! I have put my spirit in him. Justice to the nations is what he will bring forth.” (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:17, 18) Who knows better than our Creator what kind of Ruler we need?

5. The Ruler of God’s Kingdom has demonstrated his worthiness before all mankind. Jesus of Nazareth proved to be the foretold Messiah. He was born in the family line God had specified. (Genesis 22:18; 1 Chronicles 17:11; Matthew 1:1) When on earth, he fulfilled scores of prophecies about the Messiah that were recorded centuries earlier. He was also identified from heaven as the Messiah. How so? Well, God spoke from heaven, identifying him as His own Son; angels pointed Jesus out as the foretold Messiah; and Jesus performed miracles—often in front of hundreds or even thousands of eyewitnesses—that clearly drew on the power of God. Jesus showed over and over again what kind of Ruler he would be. He had not only the power to help people but the desire as well. (Matthew 8:1-3) He was unselfish, compassionate, courageous, and humble. The record of his life on earth is there in the Bible for all to read.

6. God’s Kingdom has 144,000 corulers with the Christ. Jesus said that others, including his apostles, would rule in heaven with him. He called this group the “little flock.” (Luke 12:32) Later, the apostle John was told that this little flock would total 144,000 in number. They would have a thrilling work assignment in heaven, ruling as kings and serving as priests along with Christ.—Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1, 3.

7. God’s Kingdom, now ruling in heaven, is poised to establish its rule over the whole earth. This last truth is one of the most thrilling we can learn. The Bible gives ample evidence that Jesus has been granted his authority as King in heaven. He is ruling there now, in our own time, and very soon he will extend his rule to all the earth and fulfill the magnificent prophecies we have already mentioned. But how can we be sure that God’s Kingdom is ruling now? And when will it begin to rule over the earth?

- Published by the WTB&TS


What the Kingdom Means for Our Earth

JESUS’ model prayer continues with these words: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) God is deeply concerned with our earth, and with all who live and who have lived here. That is why the Kingdom comes, to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth,” to provide for the resurrection of the dead, to remove the enemy death and to make our globe a happy, peaceful home for mankind’s habitation.—Revelation 11:15, 18; 21:1, 3, 4.

2 How eagerly, then, we should pray those words, “Let your kingdom come”! This is God’s kingdom in the hands of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. By means of it the will of Jehovah, who is himself the “King of eternity,” shall indeed be carried out on this earth. Consider what that will mean for the people of all nations:


3 Looking forward to Christ’s Kingdom rule, God’s prophet describes him as the “Prince of Peace,” and adds, “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.” The same prophet assures us: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Though these last words are inscribed on the plaza wall across the street from the United Nations, it is not that strife-torn international body that fulfills the prophecy. For the U.N. has failed dismally as an organ for establishing peace and security among nations.—Isaiah 2:4, AV; 9:6, 7, NW.

4 True and lasting peace requires that there be justice for everyone, a real practice of righteousness. Only the kingdom of the “Prince of Peace” can guarantee this; it will be ‘firmly established and sustained by means of righteousness.’ Yes, that kingdom is God’s agency for providing “upon earth peace among men of goodwill.”—Isaiah 9:7; 32:17; Luke 2:14.

5 How will the Kingdom do this? It will be, outstandingly, through the ‘coming’ of God’s kingdom by his “Prince of Peace” against the warring nations of the world. Psalm 46:8, 9 invites us: “Behold the activities of Jehovah, how he has set astonishing events on the earth. He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth. The bow he breaks apart and does cut the spear in pieces; the [war] wagons he burns in the fire.” The Kingdom will outlaw all weapons of violence. Moreover, it will not permit wicked thugs and rapists to stalk the streets, for under God’s kingdom “the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:9-11.


6 Many prophecies of the Bible have reference to the captivity of Israel of old. After serving Babylon for 70 years, a faithful remnant of Israelites returned to their own land in 537 B.C.E. All those years, the land had lain in desolation, a wilderness. But now, with Jehovah’s blessing on his people, there was a remarkable transformation. Prophecy written hundreds of years in advance came to glorious fulfillment:

“The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. Without fail it will blossom, and it will really be joyful with joyousness and with glad crying out. The glory of Lebanon itself must be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and of Sharon. There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God.”—Isaiah 35:1, 2; see also Isaiah 65:18-25; Micah 4:4.

7 As history testifies, these prophecies had a marvelous fulfillment toward God’s restored people during the century following their release from Babylon. And when God’s kingdom ‘comes’ for the blessing of all of God’s children here on earth, will it do any less in restoring paradisaic conditions to our globe? The answer is a resounding No! The Kingdom will indeed see that God’s original mandate to mankind to ‘subdue the earth,’ making all of it into an Edenic paradise, will be carried out to completion.—Genesis 1:28; 2:8-14; Isaiah 45:18.


8 When God’s kingdom ‘comes,’ food shortages and inflation will disappear, for “there will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.” Our loving Father will again “cause food to go forth from the earth, and wine that makes the heart of mortal man rejoice, to make the face shine with oil, and bread that sustains the very heart of mortal man.” (Psalm 72:16; 104:14, 15) There will be no problems of food distribution among nations, no rationing, no lining up for fuel supplies. Greedy profiteers will be gone. All mankind will obey the kingly law, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” sharing with one another according to the need.—James 2:8.

9 Moreover, we can expect that the Kingdom will control natural upheavals, such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Jesus indicated how this could be done when he stilled “a great violent windstorm.” Thus, his disciples took note that “even the wind and the sea obey him.” (Mark 4:37-41) In all the earthly realm of God’s kingdom, there will be nothing that hurts, harms or brings to ruin.—Compare Isaiah 11:6-9.

10 No longer will large hospitals be needed to house the physically and mentally sick. Heart disease, cancer and other crippling illnesses will be eradicated, for the Master Physician, Jesus Christ, will apply the value of his ransom sacrifice “for the curing of the nations.” Jesus’ many miracles of healing and raising the dead, performed while he was on earth, are only a small indication of what he will accomplish by his powerful Kingdom rule. Even mankind’s inherited dying condition will be removed, for we are assured that “death will be no more.”—Revelation 21:4; 22:1, 2; Matthew 11:2-5; Mark 10:45; Romans 5:18, 19.

11 And joy of joys!—cemeteries will no longer mar the landscape, for even these will have been emptied. A “firstfruits” of the resurrection, 144,000 loyal disciples of Jesus, are to be united with him in the heavens as his associates in his kingdom. There will also be fulfilled Jesus’ marvelous promise that the rest of the dead “in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out . . . to a resurrection.” These will have the delightful opportunity to be brought to human perfection as subjects of the Kingdom here on earth.—John 5:28, 29; Revelation 14:1-5; 20:4-6, 11, 12.

12 Do you wish to be one of those who will live to see this earth cleansed of all wickedness and transformed into a paradise of pleasure? Do you wish to be here to welcome back the resurrected dead? Would you like to live forever on an earth made glorious—where no one grows weak with age or ever tires of the delights that come with each day of life? You may, if you follow God’s requirements for gaining life. Jesus put it simply, when he said in prayer to his Father: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) What a privilege it will be to live eternally in paradise, when “the earth will be filled with the knowing of the glory of Jehovah as the waters themselves cover over the sea”!—Habakkuk 2:14.


13 However, we today are deeply concerned with present needs. For many of us, making a living and providing for our families have become a real challenge. So we need not only to pray for the Father to sanctify his great name and cause his will to be done on earth through the coming of his kingdom; we need also to pray to God for our daily necessities, for “our bread for this day.” This we can do with full confidence that, if we endeavor to live according to God’s righteous principles and keep the interests of his kingdom first in our lives, God will do his part as the Great Provider. It is just as Jesus goes on to tell us: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:11, 31-33.


14 In building an intimate relationship with our Father, we need humbly to recognize our indebtedness to him, and to acknowledge our trespasses against God and our fellowmen. Appropriate it is, then, to pray to God: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”—Matthew 6:12.

15 As a marvelous kindness, completely undeserved on our part, God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world, so that he might “give his soul a ransom in exchange for many” of us humans. This provides a basis for forgiving our sins. (Matthew 20:28) How great is God’s mercy thus displayed to sinful mankind! What compelling reason we have, then, for overlooking the weaknesses of our fellowmen! We should be ready to go even farther than that: to forgive even serious sins against us. In this way we can display toward others that quality of intense love that Jesus said would be an identifying mark of true Christians.—John 13:35; Colossians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:22.


16 Finally, Jesus instructs us to pray to God: “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.” (Matthew 6:13) Let us not think that God places temptations in our path, causing us to fall. Rather, it is that wicked rebel against God, Satan, who wants to turn us away from God.

17 However, the Father equips us to “stand firm against the machinations of the Devil,” yes, to wrestle successfully with him and the wicked spirit forces that he controls. So that we may not be ‘brought into temptation,’ God provides us a complete suit of spiritual armor, which we may put on. The apostle Paul describes it at Ephesians 6:10-18. As we stand firm in using this God-given equipment, carrying on prayer, the Father will see to it that we are ‘not brought into temptation,’ but are ‘delivered from the wicked one.’—1 Peter 5:6-9.

18 May Jehovah’s illustrious name be sanctified soon through the ‘coming of his kingdom.’ May his will be done on earth by the clearing out of all badness and by making this a global paradise to his praise. As long as the present evil system lasts, may our loving heavenly Father provide us the necessities of life, help us to maintain fine relations with others and deliver us from Satan’s clutches. These are the things for which Jesus taught us to pray. His model prayer contains it all.

- Published by the WTB&TS