Will believers one day float on a cloud, play the harp and basically be bored? This secular depiction of the “kingdom” is popular, but of course, it is utterly false. This is not the kingdom that Christ says we must seek first (cf. Mat 6:33). Teaching about the doctrine of the kingdom is important; it was the central theme of Christ’s ministry during his first coming (cf. Mat 4:17, 23; 9:35; 10:5-7). Jesus did not refer to an abstract, over-spiritualized kingdom. So important is the doctrine of the kingdom, that Jesus again taught his apostles ‘about the things of the kingdom of God’ during the 40 days before his ascension (Acts 1:3). How can the kingdom of God be understood, and to which kingdom did Jesus refer to in the Gospels?
In Luke’s second book, the apostles asked the Lord when He will restore the kingdom to Israel, thereby implying that the kingdom had not yet been restored to Israel at that time (cf. Acts 1:6). Jesus answered his apostles, saying it is ‘not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority’ (Acts 1:7; NASB). In Luke’s first book, the Pharisees asked Jesus something quite similar, namely when the kingdom of God was coming. Jesus answered the Pharisees, saying that the ‘kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luk 17:20-21; NASB; cf. HCSB, ESV). How can Luke 17:20-21 be understood?
During the 40 days between his resurrection and ascension, Jesus appeared to his apostles and spoke to them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). On the day of ascension, the apostles asked Jesus, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6; NJKV; cf. also NASB, ESV). Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). What can be deduced from this question and answer?
As part of a civil trial, and in reply to the question whether he is the King of the Jews, Jesus answered Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (Jn 18:36; NKJV). Many replacement theologians, especially a-millennialists, use this text to argue that the kingdom is entirely spiritual, and that Jesus never meant to establish a literal kingdom on the earth. This misunderstanding must be addressed.
Matthew 21:43 does not teach that God has ripped the kingdom of God from Israel and given it to the Church. Bluntly put, I am convinced that is false teaching. In fact, Matthew 21:43 teaches the exact opposite: Jesus guarantees a future blessing for Israel in the millennium (cf. Decker 2010:43). The kingdom of God will be given to a future generation of Jewish leaders and Jewish people who will bear the fruits of it. When that kingdom is restored on the earth, all who believe in Christ will participate in it, whether of Jewish or non-Jewish ethnicity.