The kingdom of God is specifically associated with the gospel at least seven times in the New Testament. We see the expression “the good news of the kingdom,” with only slight variations, in Matthew 4:23; 9:35; and 24:14; in Luke 4:43; 8:1; and 16:16; and in Acts 8:12. This frequency points to the importance of connecting the gospel — or the message of victory — with God’s kingdom. But to understand this, we must first understand what Jesus and his followers meant when they spoke of the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is God’s rule over God’s people in God’s place. We see that right at the start of the Bible in Genesis 1 and 2 where God’s people, Adam and Eve, are in a relationship with God, God is the ruler, and they are in God’s place in the Garden of Eden. Then, through sin, that’s messed up, but God reconstitutes his kingdom, first through Abraham and then Abraham’s descendants, and then finally through Moses after the exodus with the nation of Israel.
This is God’s rule over God’s people Israel and ultimately in God’s place, the land of Canaan. But then we see that trajectory fulfilled even more fully with the coming of Christ, and we see that God rules through Christ as his king, his appointed king. And God’s people consist of Jews and Gentiles, people from all nations and all tribes and languages, but God’s place is the New Jerusalem, our heavenly home.
Scripture refers to the kingdom of God in two primary ways. On the one side, it often speaks of God’s kingdom in terms of God’s unwavering sovereignty or his unchanging rule over all of creation. It also refers to his unfolding kingdom and the way God has revealed his kingship throughout human history.
Passages like 1 Chronicles 29:11 and 1 Timothy 6:15 speak of the entire creation as God’s kingdom because God always has ruled and always will rule over all that he has made. We need to keep in mind that the Scriptures speak of God’s sovereignty as taking place on two levels: both in heaven and on earth.
In regard to heaven, Scripture speaks of God’s kingship in places like 1 Kings 8:27. In this verse, Solomon made it clear that “the heavens, even the highest heaven,” is a created place that “cannot contain [God].” But God still condescends and reveals himself before his creatures there.
Passages like Isaiah 6:1; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Job 1:6; Psalm 82:1; and Daniel 7:9- 10; as well as New Testament passages like Luke 22:30; and Revelation 4–6 indicate that heaven is God’s palace above the visible world where all kinds of activities take place. As God is enthroned in heaven, he receives reports, hears prayers, deliberates, makes plans, and issues royal decrees. He directs spiritual creatures to do his bidding on earth.
On occasion, he even gives specially chosen human beings access to his palace through visions, and commissions them to his service. In his heavenly court he declares guilt and innocence, and sentences spiritual creatures, individual human beings, and nations according to his justice and mercy. But God’s heavenly actions don’t just direct his kingdom in heaven.
He is also sovereign in the lower realms of his creation — on the earth. Although the Scriptures speak of the kingdom of God as God’s unwavering sovereignty in both heaven and earth, when Jesus and New Testament authors referred to the kingdom of God on earth, they had in mind what we’ve called God’s unfolding kingdom. And it’s in this earthly realm that we can see how God reveals his kingdom throughout human history.