The authority of any king is limited to the borders of his kingdom. Applying this axiom to Christ’s kingdom creates a tension between faith and sight. The Bible declares that the earth, including everything and everyone in it, belongs to the Lord (Ps. 24:1), yet the world is hostile to God’s reign, determined to break away from God and His sovereign rule (Ps. 2:3). Notwithstanding the rebellion, God declares that He will establish His anointed King on the holy hill of Zion (v. 6). Faith in the mediatorial rule of Christ, who subdues, rules, and defends us by restraining and conquering all His and our enemies (Westminster Shorter Catechism 26), is a comfort to the citizens of His kingdom. Yet, Scripture anticipates an expression of Christ’s kingship beyond the spiritual rule of His church, of which He is the sovereign Head (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18).
So often, the Bible describes the rule of Christ in geographical terms. His dominion is from sea to sea—indeed, to the ends of the earth (Ps. 72:8). Zechariah 14:9 anticipates that day when the Lord will be King over all the earth. Daniel points to that time when all the kingdoms of the world will be smashed to pieces and replaced with a kingdom that will never be destroyed (Dan. 2:44). It is best to see this geographical inclusiveness as fulfilled in that eternal state when God creates a new heaven and new earth that replaces the old creation, cursed by sin, with a new Eden-like world marked by perfect righteousness (Isa. 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1). Perhaps the most significant feature of this future kingdom is the presence of the King in the midst of the citizens (Zech. 2:5, 10–11). Although the church today is in a hostile environment, it has the blessed hope that all the kingdoms of this world will fail and that the kingdom of God will prevail. Now, the church is in conflict; then, the church will be triumphant and will occupy a real place of peace and righteousness in the presence of the King.
Instructive to this kingdom theology is the attention given to the promised land throughout the Old Testament. Much of Old Testament theology concerns Israel’s conquest, inheritance, expulsion, and repossession of this land. The initial promise of a land was an integral component of God’s covenant with Abraham. God promised Abraham a land with geographic coordinates spanning from the Euphrates River to the river of Egypt (Gen. 12:7; 15:18–17:8). Although the Lord guaranteed to Abraham that his seed would possess the land forever, Abraham, at best, possessed it in little more than a symbolic way as he owned only a cave (Gen. 13:17; 23). Abraham knew that there was more to the land promise than dirt, as his principal concern was for a better heavenly country (Heb. 11:16). In one sense, Abraham’s experience mirrors the church’s: his “now” possession of the land did not equate to the “not yet” reality to come. This theology of the land serves as an object lesson of God’s kingdom.
First, the land was promised. Although the promise was sure, there was a geographical component to the promise that was unrealized not only by Abraham but also by his descendants. For more than four hundred years, Abraham’s offspring were subjects in a foreign land with no prospect of inheriting the ancient promise. But God renewed the promise (Ex. 6:8; 13:5, 11), and the nation took the first steps to its inheritance. Like their father Abraham, they trusted the promise without seeing the fulfillment, since the generation that left Egypt never crossed the Jordan. It is the same for the church now. By faith, we know that the meek will inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5) and the spiritual seed of Abraham will inherent the world (Rom. 4:13). This is beyond our “now” experience, but it is the promise of God. One thing is certain: Christ has prepared a place for His people (John 14:2; Heb. 6:19–20).