The HOPE of the Gospel is a wonderful one – to live for ever in the Kingdom of God. This promise is real and physical and is described in the Bible. God’s purpose is clear, “All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Numbers 14:21).
This is not a ‘spiritual experience’ or ‘rapture’ which only a few people will experience. The kingdom will be worldwide, and will be experienced by everyone, whether immortal or mortal (we will look at the difference).
This article looks at what the Bible teaches about the kingdom; its conditions, the people in it, what will be happening, and how it will end. To make it easier to follow, we have included references at the end of each paragraph rather than within the text. This means that you can check the details for yourself, and get a fuller view of what the Bible says.
The Start of the Kingdom
When Jesus returns, he will judge those people, alive and dead, who have heard the Gospel, and so have had an opportunity to respond to it and be baptised. If we have heard the Gospel and made a choice either to accept or reject it, then we will be judged. If not, then we will simply cease to exist when we die.
Jesus will give eternal life to those who are accepted, and these immortal people will share his kingdom, and have specific jobs to do. We know from Ezekiel and Zechariah that Jesus will return at a time of great trouble and war in the world: so at the start of his kingdom, much work will be needed to restore peace and prosperity to Israel and the rest of the world.
Ezekiel 38–39; Zechariah 12–14; Matthew 25:31–46; John 5:25–29; Romans 2:12.
Jesus will be the king of the whole earth, reigning from Jerusalem, and all people will eventually accept his authority. No resistance to his rule will be allowed, he will rule righteously on God’s behalf, and the people of the world will come to Jerusalem to learn the laws of God.
This righteous king will govern the world with real justice for everyone, protecting the poor and needy and not allowing anyone to oppress their fellow men and women. The result will be a world where there is no violence or crime, where people live in peace together, and boys and girls can play safely in the streets. Those who build houses will be able to live in them peacefully, and those who plant crops will enjoy their fruits.
Having one righteous king over the world, there will be real peace – nations will no longer go to war, and will no longer learn about warfare or build weapons. Jesus will be the one king, and he will judge between nations where necessary.
Psalm 72, 46:9; Isaiah 2:1–5, 11:1–5, 16:, 26:9–10, 60:18, 66:14–16; Jeremiah 3:17; Micah 4; Zechariah 8:5, 14:9–18; 2 Thessalonians 1:6–8.
The Physical World
The earth in the kingdom of God will be a wonderful place, where the curses put on it when Adam and Eve sinned will be removed. At the time of Jesus’ return there will be great earthquakes, changing the landscape of the Middle East in particular, and raising Jerusalem up above the surrounding area. Then we are told that fresh, ‘living’ water will flow from Jerusalem, and even the Dead Sea, will again have living creatures and plants in and around it.
The dry and desert places will be watered so that the whole earth will be very fruitful, producing food and removing hunger. There will be corn even on the tops of mountains. There will be such plenty the ploughman will overtake the reaper. Even the nature of animals will be changed, so that creatures which normally would kill each other for food (such as the lion and ox) will live peacefully together, and meat–eaters will become vegetarian. Animals that once would harm humans, such as snakes, will no longer do so, such that little children can even play with them.
Psalm 72; Isaiah 11:6–8, 35, 41:17–20, 43:19, 55, 60:19; Ezekiel 47:6–10; Amos 9:13–14.
The People in the Kingdom
There will be three sorts of people in the kingdom, each with a specific status and with certain responsibilities. These are the immortal ‘saints’, mortal Israel and mortal Gentiles.
Those who in this life have faith in God, are baptised and try to please Him, will be rewarded with eternal life in the kingdom. If we try to glorify God in our lives now, we have the opportunity to glorify Him for ever.
‘Saints’ is a name used of believers in the New Testament, and simply means ‘set apart’ or ‘holy’, so we also use it of believers who in the kingdom will be immortal. These immortal saints will most importantly worship and praise God – a more perfect demonstration of what they did in their mortal lives.
The saints will also have jobs of rulership and priesthood to do; they are called to be kings and priests to God. Jesus promised that his saints would rule with him, that this was an inheritance he would be pleased to share with them. He also said that this requires preparation, and it may lead to suffering in this life. The saints’ role will include judging and ruling the mortal population, and fighting with Christ to destroy the wicked.
We are told that a temple will be built in Jerusalem under Christ’s direction. This will be the centre for worship.
As part of this, the saints will be responsible for teaching the mortal population how to live by the laws of God. Teaching and preaching the Gospel was a job of the priests in the Old Testament too.
Psalm 2:7–9, 47:2–4; Isaiah 2:3; Jeremiah 3:15; Ezekiel 44:15–24; Daniel 7:22 & 27; Malachi 2:7; Luke 19:12–17; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26–27, 5:10, 14:6 & 12, 20:4–6.
The Mortal Population
Those people who survive the fighting and upheavals at the return of Jesus and who are privileged to live in the kingdom as mortals, will see God’s purpose and promises fulfilled.
As we have seen, the world they live in will be ideal. They will live for very long periods, hundreds of years, and there will be no infant mortality. Someone who dies at a hundred years old will be called a ‘child’. There will be no disabilities or disease – the blind, dumb, lame and sick will be healed.
All people everywhere will praise God. The mortal population will come to Jerusalem to worship God and pray, celebrating God’s salvation. They will serve Jesus and bring gifts to him. They will bring sacrifices to the Temple (to be offered by the priestly saints) and will learn God’s truth, putting right any wrong beliefs they might have had. This will be done in a spirit of love, as they see the righteous and good rule of Jesus.
Psalm 2, 68:29, 72; Isaiah 2:2–4, 19:21–25, 29:18–24, 56:6–8, 60:6–12, 61:4–5; Micah 4:3–5; Zechariah 6:12–15, 8:20–22, 14:16–19; Malachi 1:11.
Whilst mortal Israel will have the same general conditions as the other mortals, they do occupy a special place in God’s plan, and in the kingdom to come. The regathering of Jews from all over the world to Israel has already begun, and will be completed in the kingdom, fulfilling another of God’s promises.
They will realise their great error in rejecting Jesus, will mourn and repent, and God will forgive and accept them. He will make a new covenant with them for ever, putting His laws into their hearts. Israel will be recognised throughout the world as God’s special people, the nation of salvation.
God will give them the land of Israel as their inheritance and they will be united, living together in peace and holiness. They will rebuild, replant and restore the land to its true beauty and prosperity, and will enjoy the fruits of their labours.
Israel will also worship at Jerusalem. The priestly tribe of the Levites will be purified and their role re–established, helping in priestly duties in the Temple.
The Jews will be respected by all nations, enjoying God’s special favour.
Deuteronomy 28:12–13; Isaiah 27:12–13, 59:20–21, 65:21–23; Jeremiah 3:17–19; Ezekiel 37:23–28, 39:25–29, 44:9–14, 45:21–23, 48:29–35; Amos 9:14–15; Zechariah 8:23, 12:10–14; Malachi 3:1–4.
Beyond This Time
The conditions of the kingdom will be wonderful. They would be perfect, except for the mortal population who still sin and die. For this reason, when Christ has ruled for 1000 years, this kingdom age will be changed for something even greater.
At this point, there will be a second resurrection and judgement – this time for those mortals who have lived and died in the kingdom age. Those accepted will be made immortal (and join the saints), but those rejected will die for ever.
When there is no more sin, there is no more death, and the world will be populated by sinless immortal saints. At this point God will finally live with humankind, and the saints will see Him face to face.
God will remove all pain, suffering and even death, and will wipe away all tears from the eyes of His people. Jesus will hand power to God directly. There is no more need of a temple, as God is there with the saints. Nothing and no one impure will ever enter it. This is the final completion of God’s purpose, and it will last for ever.
1 Corinthians 15:24–28; Revelation 20:11–22:5.
The hope of the Gospel is truly breathtaking: God offers every one of us the opportunity to live in His kingdom, simply by belief and baptism. It is proof of God’s love to us, that He gave Jesus as a sacrifice to make this possible.