Who Are the Kingdom's Subjects and Citizens?
We have already seen a handful of prophecies about the coming King of kings. Over whom will He rule? At the time of Jesus' birth, "wise men from the east" came seeking the "King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:1-2). Pontius Pilate likewise asked Jesus if He were the "King of the Jews," and He assented (Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33, 37). But will Christ's authority be limited to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin—commonly called "Jews" today—when He returns?
The Bible shows that the coming Kingdom will encompass more than just the Jews—more than even all of Israel. As mentioned previously, the coming King will be given "the nations for [His] inheritance, and the ends of the earth for [His] possession" (Psalm 2:8). Psalm 22:27-28 likewise prophesies, "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before [Him]. For the kingdom is the LORD's, and He rules over the nations" (emphasis ours).
Even though the entire world will be ruled by Jesus Christ when He establishes the Kingdom on earth, not everyone on earth will be a citizen of that Kingdom. Everyone will be subject to the King of kings, but not everyone will have entered into that spiritual Kingdom.
Jesus revealed this truth to Nicodemus. When Nicodemus came to Him at night, Jesus told him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). Paul told the Corinthians "flesh and blood [mortal humans] cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption" (I Corinthians 15:50). While we have a physical, flesh-and-blood body, we may be heirs of the Kingdom, but we cannot enter fully into the Kingdom, nor can we see it, until we become spirit—given a glorious spirit-composed body in the resurrection. This means that, even though all of mankind will be subject to the Kingdom that Christ will rule on earth, they will not necessarily be a part of it.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that we are born "of the flesh"—through the natural process of human birth—and thus we are flesh (John 3:5-8). But it is possible to be "born of spirit," and thus able to come under the rule of the Kingdom. Thus, one is "born again"—or perhaps more correctly, "born from above"—immediately upon accepting the blood of Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit. At that point, one becomes a "new creation" (II Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) or "a new man" (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Christ gives a simple illustration to show that an individual is may be "born again" despite still being a physical human being:
Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:7-8)
Wind, composed of air, is invisible to the eye. When the wind blows, a person can see, not the wind, but its effects. He cannot see the wind moving, but the objects that it moves are readily observed. This illustrates one who is born of the Spirit—they are not composed of spirit themselves, not having been glorified, but one can see how the Spirit has worked in them to change them: They change from sinners to righteous, from mean to kind, from proud to humble, etc.
The apostle Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Corinthians that physical flesh and blood cannot inherit, or fully enter into, the Kingdom of God (I Corinthians 15:50-54). However, through the resurrection of those begotten by the Holy Spirit of God during this physical life, the mortal life then puts on immortality, and we become immortal, incorruptible, and enter fully into the very God Family—the Kingdom of God. It is only our spiritual birth that takes place when we receive God's Spirit. Our glorification—analogous to full spiritual maturity—does not take place until after we are resurrected. Just as the resurrection from the dead will not take place until Jesus Christ returns (I Corinthians 15:51-52; see Matthew 24:31; I Thessalonians 4:16-17), so inheriting the Kingdom will not happen until after He returns and judges the peoples of the earth:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25:31-34)
The Kingdom of God, then, will be ruled by Jesus Christ, and will be inherited by those who have been glorified upon being resurrected from the dead. The resurrected saints—citizens of God's Kingdom—will rule along with Jesus Christ over the remaining peoples of the earth (Daniel 7:27; II Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-28; 5:9-10; 20:4-6; 22:5).
Next: What are the Laws of the Kingdom? (6/12)