What is The Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God - Calvary Presbyterian Church


Pastor Rich Knight

Central Congregational Church, UCC

Sept. 10, 2023


We’re going to be studying the Gospels this month and next. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the four accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. We’ll talk about the unique perspective of each gospel. But I want to start this week and next by talking about two common themes within the four gospels. Today’s theme won’t be hard to spot.


Mark 1:14-15

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Luke 17:20-21

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

Acts 1:1-3

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach  until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.  After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.



Let’s jump right in.

When Jesus began his public ministry, he started with these words: “The Kingdom of God has come near.” (Mark 1:14-15)

Early in Matthew’s gospel he writes,“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”   (Matt. 4:17)

In Luke 17 Jesus is asked about the Kingdom of God coming to earth, and he says, “The Kingdom of God is among you.”

Other translations say, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Acts 1 tells us that following his resurrection Jesus reviewed his teachings with his disciples, especially covering his favorite topic, “He spoke to them about the Kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)


The phrases, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are synonymous.

Mark, Luke, and John use Kingdom of God.

Matthew’s gospel uses, Kingdom of Heaven.

You’ll learn why when we study Matthew’s gospel.

Those two phrases – the Kingdom of God/Heaven – are found 112 times in the gospels!

John the Baptist said, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord! The Kingdom of God is at hand!”

Jesus’ first recorded words in Mark’s gospel are: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near.”

Matthew 4 & 9 sum up Jesus’ basic message this way: Jesus went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.  (Matt. 4:23, 9:35)

In Luke 4 – Jesus speaks of the centrality of the Kingdom –  “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also . . . for I was sent for this purpose.”


Jesus refers to the Kingdom in some of his most well-known teachings:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”     (Matthew 5:3)

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)

“Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”  (Matt. 6:10) 

“But ye seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  (Matt. 6:33)

Jesus told Pilate, “My Kingdom is not of this world.”  (John 18:36)

Think about how many of his teachings and parables were introduced with these words, “The Kingdom of God is like . . .  a farmer who went out to sow a field.”   (Matt. 13:37)    OR,

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed – smaller than most others seeds, but it grows into a large tree.  (Matthew 13:31–32)

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Matthew 13:44–46

It’s clear that in the Gospels, the core and the breath of Jesus’ teachings can be summed up with the phrase, “The Kingdom of God.” “For this is why I came,” said Jesus. “To teach the Kingdom of God.” 

“So, Pastor Rich, if this is so important, why have you waited 7 years to tell us about it?”

That’s a very good question, and I do not have a complete answer at this time. Part of the reason probably has to do with this fact: Jesus never told us exactly what he meant by the Kingdom of God! He never defined the phrase! (Not to complain, but that would have been helpful.) This seems to be one of those things that Jesus wants us to ponder, to wrestle with, to figure it out – not simply on our own – but together as we study the scriptures as a community of faith.

Well, since Jesus never defines the Kingdom of God, I’m certainly not going to try!

I surely can’t come up with the right words to define it, but I will share the best definitions I ever heard.

The Kingdom of God occurs when God’s Love is in Charge!

The Kingdom of God occurs when God’s Love Reigns!

The Kingdom of God happens when we live as if God were our King, our Ultimate Leader.

The Kingdom of God happens when we live lives that honor God, just as ancient people were to honor their king.

The Kingdom of God happens when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Kingdom of God happens when love wins!



The late Archbishop of South Africa Desmond Tutu was a staunch opponent of the racist system of apartheid in his homeland. For his efforts he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. Tutu was once asked why he became an Anglican priest. In South Africa most blacks are Baptist and Methodist, and most whites are Anglican. Desmond Tutu responded to this question by telling this story.

When Desmond was a young boy, whenever a black person met a white person on the street, the black person was expected to step off the street and into the gutter to allow the white person to pass by. Well, one day Desmond was walking with his mother when a tall white man came walking down the street towards them. Before Desmond & Mrs. Tutu could step off the street, the tall white man stepped off the street and into the gutter. And as Desmond and his mother passed by, the gentleman tipped his hat at Mrs. Tutu.

Desmond asked his mother, “Why did that white man do that?”  She replied, “Because he’s an Anglican priest. He’s a man of God. That’s why he did it.”

Desmond said the decided then and there that he wanted to be an Anglican priest, and more importantly, a Man of God.”

When that Anglican priest stepped off that sidewalk and tipped his hat, the Kingdom of God drew near.


Illustration. Praying at Workcamp.

I used to take kids on summer mission trips where there were youth groups present from all denominations. And when we first gather there would be a focus on, “The Catholics have the largest group here. Our group is the 2nd largest. There’s also a lot of Methodists here. Presbyterians. Assemblies of God – what are they Pastor Rich?” “You’ll see.”

They would mix us up when putting together the work crews. And this made our prayer times truly an experience. We would circle up for prayer at the start of the workday, at lunchtime, and at the close of the week. Well, the Pentecostal kids would start saying, “Thank You, Jesus” as soon as we circled up and bowed our heads. The Baptist kids prayed with great authority. “Father God we thank you for this day.” And the Catholic kids were trying to figure out how to cross themselves while we’re all holding hands. And our UCC kids were saying to themselves, “What in the world is going on?”

Do you know what was going on? The Kingdom of God!

When people come together, put their differences aside, and live for God – the Kingdom of God is in the midst of them.

When the poor are lifted up – the kingdom of God has drawn near.

When broken lives are mended and put on the path of wholeness – the kingdom of God has drawn near.

When people are accepted just as they are – the kingdom of God has drawn near.

When a church has genuine, supportive, close-knit relationships and yet new folks are sincerely invited and warmly welcomed into the fellowship, – the kingdom of God has drawn near.

As we study the gospels this Fall, keep in mind this theme. In every teaching, every parable, Christ wants to teach us how to live lives that honor God, the King of the Universe. Jesus wants to teach us how to live lives where God’s Love is reigning in our lives; where God’s love is in charge. 

Think about it.