The New Covenant Kingdom of God was first inaugurated in the world at Christ’s first coming in AD 26-30. It is also described as the Kingdom of heaven, the Kingdom of God and the KINGDOM of Christ. It involved the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It was first announced in AD 26 by John the Baptist in the wilderness of Judea when he said: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2).
Likewise, when Jesus began His ministry at that same time He began preaching that “the Kingdom of God” was at hand (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:14-15). Though Matthew is the only Gospel to record the phrase “Kingdom of heaven,” the term is interchangeable with the “Kingdom of God” (cf. Matt. 13:31; Mark 4:30). The KINGDOM He preached was not a political entity, but involved the coming culmination of the final phase of redemption and is closely tied to the gospel message (Mark 1:14-15). In fact, His message of salvation is often called “the gospel of the KINGDOM” (e.g., Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). His KINGDOM was not an external political kingdom coming with visible glory (Luke 17:20-21); nor would it involve armies to defend and promote it (John 18:36). It was a KINGDOM of truth (John 18:37) and righteousness (Rom. 14:17) that would continue to grow over time (Matt. 13:30-33) (cf. Isa. 9:7; Ezek. 47).
The New Covenant KINGDOM was just beginning to develop when Christ taught about it to the Jews before His death on the Cross in AD 30 (Matt. 12:28). It was not yet FULLY “REUNITED” and CONSUMMATED until Christ’s second coming Parousia ending in AD 70 (Eph. 1:10).
The Kingdom will continue growing and spreading throughout the SEEN realm on earth (as saved souls are added to the church), but it will never reach perfection here on earth (seen realm). Perfection is only found in heaven (unseen realm). The earth is where the visible church has its activity. The Cross and the Parousia were two world-changing events, which forever and irreversibly affected both the seen and unseen realms.
Earthly realm aspect:
The earthly Kingdom’s realm existence is in the church. This earthly realm aspect is much like Isaiah was prophesying about in Isaiah 65:20-25, 66:18-24. This also corresponds to the earthly life in the Kingdom as spoken of in Ezekiel 47 where the river of life will grow and bring life wherever it goes, but that there will always be the evil and darkness around us (swamps and marshland) (Ezek. 47:11).
The visible realm of this one Eternal Kingdom is made up of the believers in Christ in the church. Their sins are all forgiven. They are justified in the eyes of God. Unrighteousness continually ruled among the Old Covenant Hebrew kingdom people in the old heavens and earth world order, but now righteousness dwells among the New Covenant people. The Old Covenant system required continual sacrifices for the people in order to temporarily atone/cover their sins. The New Covenant people of God have been forgiven forever through Christ’s “once at the end of the ages” sacrifice, and no further sacrifices are needed – ever.
This aspect of the Kingdom is speaking about us as true members of Christ’s body in the church –> we have free unhindered entrance into the earthly aspects of the Kingdom city, God dwells with us, we are blessed with His Holy Spirit living with and guiding us, and we have the guarantee of the inheritance of eternal life in the heavenly city once we leave this earthly life. No “unsaved” person can truly enter the body of Christ in the earthly church, nor have these rights or access to the Tree of eternal Life in the heavenly city upon physical death (they must first be born again (John 3:5)). (Outside of the gates of the earthly church body are the “dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolater, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”)
Heavenly realm aspect:
The New Jerusalem is in the heavenly unseen realm where God dwells. The Tree of Life is in this heavenly city. Jesus brought this heavenly city down with Him when He returned at His Parousia. At His Parousia He raised the dead righteous souls in the unseen realm out of Hades/Sheol, changed the living righteous into the unseen realm, and gave them all new immortal heavenly individual bodies, and they inherited their eternal life and entrance through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem with access to the Tree of Life.
It is in the heavenly afterlife aspect of the New Jerusalem where the Tree of Life is. And like Jesus prayed in His model prayer, the Kingdom has both earthly and heavenly aspects: “May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It is NOT an either/or situation, but rather a both/and situation.
And this dual aspect to the New Jerusalem and Kingdom is even more clearly seen when we consider the audience relevance of Rev 21 – 22 to those first century saints. Recall that the “overcomers” (Rev. 3:12, 21, 21:7) and faithful saints (Rev. 22:14) have the right to enter into the city. Those “overcomers” were already Christians long before they overcame the trials of the great tribulation. And it was their faithfulness unto death which made them overcomers and enabled them to enter into the Heavenly City. They did not enter into it until after they died. Therefore, entry into the gates of the New Jerusalem is not talking about becoming Christians. It is instead talking about faithful Christians dying and leaving this earthly life and then entering into the heavenly Jerusalem (the heavenly unseen realm of the Kingdom).
New Heavens and Earth “Seen and Unseen” realm to NC Kingdom:
- A key thing to remember is that the “new heavens and earth Eternal kingdom” is a new arrangement of the universe, both in the unseen realm of heaven and in the seen realm on earth. The invisible realities of His Kingdom emanates in the unseen realm from heaven, and manifests itself on earth through the visible Church. The New Heavens and Earth is a new government (Kingdom) and new world order of things both in the SEEN and UNSEEN realms, based on the redemptive work of Christ. The old arrangement of the world, which was based on the sacrificial system (instituted since the fall in the garden where the Lord Himself slayed the first animal to cloth Adam and Eve), passed away, and Christ’s new world order (kosmos) or administration (oikonomia) was established.
This creation of “a new heaven and a new earth” is not the creation of a new planet with a new sun, moon and stars, as many materialistic sects would have us believe. What John sees in Revelation chapters 21 and 2 is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies which described the New Testament order as a new heaven and a new earth. The expression denotes a change in the spiritual and heavenly order of things (cosmological change). The old cosmological heaven and earth since the time of Adam was instituted by God in the garden through animal sacrifice (Gen. 3:21) (typological of the true sacrifice who was to come – Christ), and was codified and ratified into an Old Covenant through Israel at Mount Sinai (Deut. 5:1-22; Isa. 51:15-16). Isaiah’s chapter 65 and 66 new heaven and earth was preceded by his portrayal of ancient Jerusalem’s destruction and followed by the creation of a new and different Jerusalem (Isa. 65:15-66:24).
Observe the essentials of the change in the cosmological spiritual order. The Old Testament order of worship (Deut.6:1-25) consisted of service to God, Elohim (v.4), by fleshly Israel (v.3; cf.5:1-5), through the Law of Moses (vs.1-2; cf. 5:1-5); the temple service being performed at first in the tabernacle and finally in Jerusalem (Deut.12:1-4). This order of service prevailed for 1,500 years under Israel’s the Old Covenant until Jesus by His death on the cross changed things cosmologically by fulfilling the requirements of the Law.
Under the new cosmological order service is directed to God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, (Matt.28:19-20; Acts 2) by spiritual (True) Israel (Rom.9:6-11; Gal.3:26-29; 6:15-16; 1 Pet.2:1-10), under the law of Christ (John 1:17; 1 Cor.9:21; Gal.6:2). The temple service is performed in the visible part of the one eternal New Covenant Kingdom on earth by all true believers who are now priests in the church of Christ (Rev. 1:6, 5:10, 21:2-4, 22; 1 Cor.3:16; Eph.2:19-22; Heb.8:1-6; 1 Pet.2:5). The spiritual service performed by Christians under the law of Christ is so new and different that it is a new creation à a “new heaven and a new earth” (complete cosmological change in the relationship between the seen earthly and unseen heavenly realms of the ONE Eternal Kingdom).
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 9 Rev. Chapter 21”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 10 Rev. Chapter 22”]