Oct 6 2013 – The Church And The Kingdom


Sometimes we try to make a distinction between the church and the kingdom. We say that the church is the ecclesia, the called out body of God’s people; that is what church means. Ecclesia is a neutral word– you determine by context whether the called out body or assembly is a religious gathering, or perhaps, a civil gathering, such as the one in Acts 19:41. “And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.” Kingdom refers to the rule or reign of God in the hearts of men and women; it is spiritual in nature and intent. “Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Sometimes, though, kingdom refers to earthly kingdoms; in this case, kingdom still embodies the rule of a king, but the usage is secular rather than spiritual. “Then Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established” (1 Kings 2:12).

Is it helpful to understand that church means one thing and kingdom means another? Yes. Any honest attempt to better understand Bible teaching is helpful. We do need to be careful about making some kind of artificial distinction the Bible does not make. We could say that God has always had a kingdom. That is, He has always had people who yielded to His reign, His authority. The Israelites were to become “a kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6). Has He always had a church? In terms of the Messianic church or kingdom that prophets spoke of, no. Many passages anticipate the coming kingdom (Isaiah 2; Joel 2; Daniel 2). If these passages anticipate a kingdom to come, would that not mean that the thing of which they spoke, the kingdom, had not yet come? Yes! What about the congregation, or church, or assembly in the wilderness (Acts 7:38)? Did Israel constitute the church or kingdom of which the prophets spoke? No! Were the Israelites, God’s chosen, called-out special people? Yes! Taking one term or phrase and then constructing an entire, exclusive body of teaching can be dangerous. Systematizing the teaching of the Bible can result in teaching that is incomplete or inaccurate.

When Jesus said, “I will build my church,” He was speaking of the same thing the prophets of old spoke of. In the same context Jesus said: “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Clearly, Jesus meant that the church and kingdom were one and the same. By the giving of His life on the cross, Jesus built His church–the called-out spiritual body of people who would respect His authority. By the giving of His life on the cross, Jesus established His kingdom–the Messianic kingdom–people who would respect the will of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Fine-line distinctions where there are none do not help.  –  Randy Harshbarger