There seems to be quite a lot of confusion and misunderstanding with regard to God’s eternal kingdom. It is rather obvious that one large contributing factor is a lack of real study of God’s book. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 22 that the reason the Sadducees did not understand the nature of the resurrection was a lack of knowledge of the scripture and God’s power. Peter said in 2 Pet.3 that some had trouble understanding Paul’s writing with reference to the removal of the old heaven and earth and the coming of the new heaven and earth because they were unlearned. In fact, Peter said in verse 5 that some were even willingly ignorant. When one willfully neglects to study God’s word, he obviously will not arrive at real truth.
In Daniel 2:44 Daniel, in interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, said, "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever."
In Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel states, "I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven and came to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s vision do not indicate two different eternal kingdoms, but refer to the same one in which are all nations and people. Isaiah also refers to it in Isaiah 2:1-2, "The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it." Then in Luke 1:31-33 the angel told Mary, "And behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever: and of this kingdom there shall be no end." All these prophecies refer to that one eternal kingdom.
Probably one of the reasons there are such differing ideas regarding the kingdom and the time of its establishment is a failure to think Spiritually. In 1 Corinthians 2:13-14, Paul said, "which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
The Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah because they looked for a physical king and a physical kingdom. The Sadducees in Matthew 22 erred in understanding the resurrection because they thought only in physical terms. Physical thinking caused Jesus’ disciples to draw a wrong conclusion regarding His statement to beware of the leaven of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Nicodemus had trouble with Jesus’ statement that one must be born again to enter the kingdom. Nicodemus thought only in terms of a physical re-entry into his mother’s womb and physically being born, but Jesus indicated that it was a spiritual rebirth. Please note that the writer is not saying that there was no physical obedience involved. Jesus said born of water and spirit. First Peter 3:21 says, "The like figure whereunto baptism doth also save us. Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God." While the change of spiritual relationship is the important thing, a refusal to be obedient means that one’s spirit is rebellious, and Jesus said this rebirth is a MUST to enter the kingdom.
As long as man thinks only in physical terms he cannot grasp the nature of the eternal kingdom, and therefore will draw many wrong conclusions regarding the fulfillment of the prophecies regarding that kingdom. It has caused many either to ignore or try to explain away many very clear and unavoidable time statements. If Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual one, then one’s first thought should be spiritual. Some make physical applications to everything until forced to look to the spiritual. It really should be the other way around. If one finds apparent conflict in his understanding, it is probably because he is failing to see the spiritual and needs to spend some more time studying.
Jesus told Pilate in John 18:36-37, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." Pilate asked, "Art thou a king then?" Jesus replied, "Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness of the truth." It is quite obvious that Jesus was indicating that his kingdom was spiritual and not physical.
In Luke 17:20-21, when asked when the kingdom would come, Jesus replied that, "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:50 that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
With a proper concept of the nature of the kingdom, the time is not nearly so complicated and difficult. All the objections to accepting the very clear time statements are made on the basis of certain happenings which have not physically happened. There were some physical things that were predicted to happen, which did happen, but if one views everything in a physical manner, then he will windup in the same dilemma as Nicodemus.
Notice Hebrews 12:18-29. The writer compares the coming of the Law system, old covenant, and Israelite kingdom at Mt. Sinai, with the coming of the new covenant system, and the heavenly city (spiritual) at Mt. Sion. Verse 28 says, "Therefore we receiving (in the process of receiving) a kingdom which cannot be moved let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear." Verse 27 says that those things which can be shaken will be removed, and that which cannot be shaken (the spiritual kingdom) will remain. Since the writer is comparing the law system and all that is involved, the temple and priesthood, etc., to the new system with the spiritual temple, priesthood, etc., would it be illogical to expect a physical observation of the removal of the physical, and spiritually by faith perceive the eternal system remaining? One can see that the temple was destroyed and the priesthood removed in A.D.70. If one really believes God, he can be assured that Christ came in his eternal kingdom. Otherwise God has left his people without a house. (See 2 Corinthians 5:1-8). There are many things to be accepted by faith. One cannot physically see the forgiveness of sin, but upon physical obedience he can be assured by faith that God has forgiven.
Now look at the time statements. In Daniel 2:44, Daniel said, "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom…" As he interprets Neuchadnezzar’s dream, he says that Nebuchadnezzar was the first of four kingdoms. It was in the days of the kings of the fourth kingdom that the eternal kingdom, which would take in all other kingdoms, was to be set up. Most agree that this was in the days of the Roman empire.
Now notice what Isaiah wrote. "It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it." (Isaiah 2:2). Wha
t last days? In verse 1 he said it was the word that Isaiah saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In Isaiah 65:17-18 God reveals, "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former (heavens and earth) shall not be remembered, nor come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for behold I create Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy." Remember Hebrews 12:18-29 where the system that came into being at Mt. Sinai (Judah and Jerusalem) was about to be replaced by the new Spiritual System, the heavenly Jerusalem? So it would be in the last days of the old that the new was to be established.
Now, to be a little more specific, look to the New Testament writers. Jesus said in Matthew 16:28, "Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." Some may say that was on the day of Pentecost; however Jesus did not come in his kingdom at Pentecost. Peter told them in his sermon in Acts chapter 2 that was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy concerning God’s pouring out of His spirit prior to that great and notable day. It is also the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to guide them in all truth and also give them power to be witness to Him.
Then Jesus said in Matthew 25:31-34, "When the son of man shall come in his glory, and all the Holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the king say unto them on the right hand, come ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." When did Jesus say that he would come in his glory with his angels? Look at Matthew 24:29-34. Jesus said, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in Heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the door. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Jesus gave two clues. It was to be immediately after the tribulation and before that generation ceased. The tribulation is that which occurred with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70. Note Matthew 24:15-21 and Luke 21:20-32. Jesus said that before some of them died, and following the tribulation that He was coming in his kingdom with his angels, he would divide the good from the bad of all nations, and the good or faithful would inherit the eternal kingdom, having life eternal.
In the Revelation, John sees things which must shortly come, the time of which was at hand. In chapter 11 verse 15 he says, "and the seventh angel sounded: and there were great voices in heaven saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever."
Christ came in His eternal, Spiritual kingdom "in the days of these kings", "in the last days" of the Judah and Jerusalem system of things, "immediately after the tribulation of those days", (referring to the besiegement and destruction of Jerusalem), "before that generation ceased," and before "some which stand here taste death." Those who truly believe Him have eternal life and if they continue to believe Him, they will never die. (John 11:25-26).