During this Christmas season, it’s good to take a look at what the true meaning of the birth of Christ was. It was not only God being born on earth, although it certainly was that. The birth of Jesus, in fact, was the restoration of the divine Kingdom on earth, with the King of Kings renewing the line of King David and King Solomon. This is important to know, since there are a lot of people in the world today who think that Jesus will only establish His kingdom at His Second Coming. In fact, it was established 2,000 years ago at His first coming. Of course, it is an imperfect kingdom here on earth, since it is run by sinful men and women. The earthly kingdom is still holy, however, since it was started by Christ. One day, the imperfect kingdom here on earth, germinating like a seed in the soil, and the perfect heavenly kingdom, will unite into one.
The Establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth in the Old Testament
In 1 Samuel 8, following the period of Samuel and the Judges of Israel, the Jews demand an earthly king. The Lord told Samuel in 1 Samuel 12 to appoint Saul as the very first King of Israel. Samuel then warns the people of Israel to obey God’s commandments, or they and their new King will fall. King Saul proved to be a disobedient and a weak King, and grew very jealous of a young warrior named David, who became famous for slaying the Philistine giant Goliath. King Saul wanted to kill young David, but God protected him. In fact, God Himself said that David was a man after His own heart, in Acts 13:22. David eventually replaced Saul as king, and then his son King Solomon took over.
After the reigns of King Saul, King David, and King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel split into two separate kingdoms around 930 BC, with Judah in the south (2 tribes) and Israel in the north (10 tribes). There was never a united Old Testament Jewish kingdom again. The ten tribes in the north were taken captive by the Assyrians in 722 BC, and intermarried with the Gentiles, thus becoming the Samaritans. The two tribes in the southern kingdom of Judah were taken later captive by the Babylonians and King Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC, but returned to Jerusalem 70 years later, after the Persians had defeated the Babylonians. One of these southern captives was called Daniel.
The Prophecy of Daniel
From the book of Daniel we know that the Messiah himself would come one day and restore God’s Kingdom on earth:
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever. (Daniel 2:44)
For those unfamiliar with the book of Daniel: the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had had a dream that he could not explain. He commanded his magicians and sorcerers to not only interpret his dream, but additionally, to tell him what his dream was! These enchanters of his told the King that no one could possibly know what his dream was, unless he told them. This infuriated Nebuchaddnezzar, because he figured that if they really were magicians, then they could read his mind and know his dream. Since they could not, he ordered their execution.
But then God revealed not only the dream of the king to his Jewish servant Daniel, but the meaning of it as well. Daniel told the king that he had dreamed of a statue having a gold head, a breast and arms of silver, a bronze belly and thighs, iron legs, and feet of clay and iron. Then a stone not made with human hands smashed the statue, pulverizing it. The pieces of the statue were blown away in the wind, never to be seen or heard from again. But the stone that struck the statue became as big as a mountain, and filled the whole earth. After telling the King what his dream was, Daniel then proceeded to interpret it.
The gold head represented King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, Babylon. Then another kingdom would rise up following his demise and replace Babylon, which turned out to be Persia (the breast and arms of silver). Following the demise of Persia, another Kingdom would arise, that of Greece (the bronze belly and thighs). And finally, a fourth Kingdom, the Roman Empire, would emerge (the iron feet) to rule the world. The stone which struck the statue would be the future Messiah, the “son of man,” and He would destroy these Kingdoms and set up his own royal worldwide Kingdom to replace them. This stone, of course, refers to Jesus Christ, the cornerstone rejected by the builders. In Daniel 9:24, the archangel Gabriel even reveals the timeline for the Messiah to do this, using the term “70 weeks of years,” or 7 x 70 years: 490 years. Since Daniel lived around 500 BC, this meant that the countdown to the days of the Messiah had almost begun. The Jews living at the time of Jesus, around 500 years later, including the evil King Herod, knew this timeline prophecy very well, which is why everyone was looking for the Messiah to appear at the time of Christ.
Jesus Fulfills King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
When Jesus came on the scene, one of the first things he said was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” This is significant, because here the Messiah Himself is telling us all that the united kingdom, which was lost following the death of Solomon, around 900 years earlier, was now being restored. Only this time, it would not just be a regional kingdom in the Middle East, but rather a worldwide kingdom, which would not only reunite the twelve tribes of Israel, but would also include the Gentiles as well. The new king is not an earthly king like King David, but God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ. Notice Jesus didn’t say, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven will be restored in 2,000 years at my Second Coming.” No, His words “at hand” mean right now!
So now that we know that the prophecy of Daniel 2:44 was fulfilled by Jesus, are there any other similarities between the Old Testament Kingdom of God and the New Testament Kingdom of God? Well, yes! For instance, King David conquered the pagan Gentile city of Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 5, and set up the worldwide headquarters for the Old Testament kingdom there. Jerusalem, of course, was destroyed by pagan Rome in 70 AD. We know from Matthew 21:43 that Jesus would “take away” the Kingdom of God from the Jews. But where did he reestablish it? Well, in Matthew 16:19 we learn that Peter and the Church have the keys to the kingdom of God now. And just like King David, Jesus also conquered a pagan Gentile city, Rome, and set up his worldwide headquarters there. This is the stone in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream hitting the feet of iron and smashing it into dust, and becoming big as a mountain (Daniel 2:34).
Other New Testament Verses about the Kingdom
There are also many allusions to the Kingdom of God being on earth now in the New Testament. For example:
Matthew 5:10: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(The kingdom of heaven is theirs now, not “will be” in the future)
Matthew 11:12: From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.
(This statement indicates a kingdom on earth suffering violence, using the past tense)
Matthew 12:28: But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
(notice that this refers to the Kingdom having already come in the past tense, not in the future tense)
Mark 1:15: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.
(here Jesus is saying that the 70 weeks of years are over, and the Kingdom is here and now)
The Covenant with Abraham Fulfilled in the Church
The establishment of the worldwide kingdom of God on earth known as the Church fulfills God’s covenant promise to Abraham for his sacrificing of Isaac (a biblical type of Christ’s supreme sacrifice), concerning the people of all of the nations on earth (a Catholic, or Universal Church), in Genesis 22:16-18:
By myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.
This is confirmed for us by St. Peter in Acts 3:25:
You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God gave to your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’
And by St. Paul as well, in Galatians 3:8:
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’
A Heavenly Kingdom as Well?
But isn’t the kingdom of God in heaven? Yes it is! Wherever Jesus is, there is the kingdom. Jesus is certainly in heaven, sitting at the right hand of the Father. But Jesus is also present on earth, as well. He is present in His written Word, whenever we read it. He is also present in the tabernacle in every Catholic Church on earth, in the Word made flesh known as the Eucharist. He is present in the poor, because we have his promise that “whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40). Jesus is also present in our bodies, because our bodies are temples to the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are totally united in the Trinity, along with the Father.
The Kingdom in the “Our Father”
When we pray the “Our Father,” and say,“thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we are praying for the unification of the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom, so that the earthly kingdom becomes like the heavenly kingdom. Being composed of fallible men and women, the earthly kingdom known as the Church is certainly full of problems and sin, but thanks to Jesus, its head (Ephesians 5:23), it is still holy. Once completely united with its heavenly counterpart, whenever that happens, all of the sinfulness in the earthly Church will be eliminated.
We are Royalty
Another important thing to remember is that we Christians are the adopted sons and daughters of Jesus in His kingdom (Galatians 4:5). Since Jesus is the King of Kings in his kingdom, then that makes we adopted children his royal princes and royal princesses. The question then becomes, “Do we Christians act like royalty in the kingdom of God, or do we just-go-along-to-get-along with the world, which is in the power of the devil (1 John 5:19)?