Perhaps the most commonly misunderstood aspect of the church is its identity as the kingdom
of God. Many today are familiar with the word "church" as used in denominationalism, but have
a poor conception of the church of the Lord, the church of the New Testament order.
For others, the church concerns premillennialism. They teach that the church is a temporary body, brought into existence only until such a time as God will establish the "kingdom" when He comes again. Our lesson now is to see the church as the eternal kingdom spoken of in the Old Testament, the message of the kingdom proclaimed in the Lord's ministry, and the church, the kingdom, in existence in the time of the apostles.
In interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, God's servant, Daniel, referred to Nebuchadnezzar's own kingdom (vv. 37-38), a third kingdom having world-wide rule (v. 40), and a fourth kingdom strong as iron, breaking and crushing all in its path (v. 40).
In our text, Daniel made these points: (a) the God of heaven would set up a kingdom, (b) it would be in the days of these last-mentioned kings, and (c) it would be a permanent kingdom.
The Babylonian empire of Nebuchadnezzar was followed by the empires of Medo-Persia, Greece, and then Rome, the final one. All the events of the king's dream, including the establishment of the church, came to pass during the Roman rule. The church, the kingdom of God, was scattered throughout the world doing God's work, and has continued till this day.
Here is the kingdom in the days of preparation. Both John and Jesus began their ministries with the preaching of, "...the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). The Lord spoke continually of the coming kingdom, and prefaced many parables with the statement, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto..." Concerning the kingdom, in Mark 9:1, He stated that it would come with power, and in the lifetime of some of those hearers. Jesus moved with compassion as He saw the scattered multitudes, noting that they were as sheep without a shepherd, that the laborers were too few in comparison with the harvest, and asking His disciples to pray for more workers. Entering into the villages and cities, the Lord was able to render them aid in healing their diseases and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. He was teaching the "good news" which would come to full realization in the establishment of the church, the kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19; Acts 2:47).
To these saints, members of the church, the body of Christ (Col. 1:18), Paul mentions his prayers for them, and his desire for their spiritual growth and development, and makes mention of their translation from the power of darkness, into the kingdom of Christ. Let us note our text in three parts:
Daniel had prophesied that God's kingdom would be set up in the days of the Roman rulers, and also that this kingdom would be a permanent one, outlasting all earthly empires. Jesus, in His personal ministry, preached concerning the kingdom. He used the words "church" and "kingdom" interchangeably (Matt. 16:18-19). Those in the church were said to be in the kingdom (Col. 1:13). How privileged are we to be in the church, the kingdom of God!