In the middle of Paul’s great discussion about the resurrection from the dead in I Corinthians 15, he also reached the topic of the kingdom of Christ. He had pointed out that the gospel he preached was centered in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and demonstrated the evidence of the resurrection by telling of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection. He pointed out the futility of denying the resurrection of all people because if we doubt the concept of resurrection we also deny that Jesus was raised and if Jesus isn’t raised from the dead our faith is vain and the preaching of the gospel is useless. It was also true he said that if there is no resurrection then those who had fallen asleep in Jesus had perished. He said, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
At that point in verses 20-28 of I Corinthians 15 he launches into the discussion of the final resurrection from the dead. He notes that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead and is the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed in death. For he must put everything under his feet. Now when it says that everything has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”
Notice the plan as laid out on the kingdom. Christ was raised from the dead and ascended back to the Father where he began to reign over his kingdom. He will reign until all his enemies have been put under his feet. He is to destroy all dominion, authority and power. The final enemy to be destroyed is death. When he has conquered these enemies he will come again to claim his own in this world as they are raised from the dead. There will still be Christians alive at the time and they will be changed in a moment and go through the same transition as those who died and are raised from the dead (Verses 51-52). When the resurrection of the dead takes place at his coming, he will conclude his reign as king and deliver the kingdom over to God the Father so that the ultimate goal is for God the Father to have Jesus Christ subject to him along with everything else in all of creation. The Father will then be all in all.
This obviously doesn’t fit the notion that the kingdom will be established at the time of Jesus second coming and that he will then reign as king in Jerusalem for a thousand years. Instead it makes it abundantly clear that he is king now and that all who allow him to reign as king in their life are part of that kingdom today. But this world and the present situation is not the final plan. The kingdom won’t cease to exist when the Lord comes again. But it will change entirely. Then the king won’t be Jesus Christ any longer. He will deliver the rule, the dominion and the authority all over to the Father.
When the Bible speaks of the kingdom in it’s final state in heaven God is the king reigning and Jesus has been made subject to him. It is about that final state of the kingdom that Paul is speaking in verse fifty of this chapter when he said, “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” He goes on to describe the change that happens when Jesus comes and we are raised or changed. It will happen in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. “For the last trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (Verses 53-54)
This is the same aspect of the kingdom referred to by Peter in 2 Peter 1: 10-11 when Peter said if we confirm our calling and election we will never stumble “and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is the same point about the final state of the kingdom mentioned by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:1 “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the sea, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.”
The final state of the kingdom is still the same kingdom that we enter by means of new birth (John 3:3-5), the same kingdom where the greatest is like a child (Matthew 18:1-4) and the same kingdom that we are receiving that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28-29). But there is a massive change in the final state. Instead of it being as it now is with Christ as king and conquering all his enemies and the powers that fight against him, at that time the victory will have been won and the kingdom delivered over to the Father. The kingdom will then be synonymous with heaven described in Revelation 21-22.
What a day, glorious day that will be when we have the abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of God. But the way into the final state of the kingdom is to be part of the present kingdom and seeking his kingdom and righteousness before everything else now (Matthew 6:33). If you want to be there, you must make him king now.