Daniel promised the arrival of God’s kingdom during the Roman Empire (Daniel 2). Jesus promised that the kingdom would arrive while some disciples were yet alive (Mark 9:1). No one claims an earthly kingdom of God began in the first century. Everyone knows that Jesus’ church was established at that time. Thus, the question is inescapable: Is the church the promised kingdom?
Early in His labors, “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’ ” (Mark 1:14,15). Jesus, saying that the kingdom was just around the corner, interconnected four elements: 1) the kingdom, 2) the gospel, 3) repentance and 4) faith. In the same manner, Jesus’ church is likewise involved with the gospel, repentance and faith (2 Corinthians 1:1; 7:9; 10:14-15). There is no difference.
The gospel is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Thus, the gospel of the kingdom could not become an historical reality until after Jesus’ resurrection. In Matthew 16, Jesus indicated the same regarding the church. He said Hades would not stop Him from building the church. In other words, He would die, go to Hades, come out victorious, and then build His church. Thus, the kingdom and the church were equally predicted to commence following Jesus’ resurrection.
These are just two examples. When one studies all that the New Testament says about the kingdom and the church, it is very difficult to differentiate between them–what is affirmed of one is affirmed of the other. There simply is no escaping the reality that the church of Jesus Christ is the kingdom of heaven of which Daniel and Jesus prophesied. God’s kingdom is here now.