This Greek word, which sounds like bah-sil-lay-uh. Occurs in the GNT (Greek New Testament) 162 times! It is clearly important!
It simply means kingdom. It is most often associated with the kingdom of God, or synonymously, the kingdom of heaven.
It is the same word Jesus uses in the model prayer, or Lord’s prayer, that he gives for the disciples (and us) to pray. “…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
There is a fascinating narrative to be found as that word is traced throughout its New Testament usage. It first appears in the book of Matthew from the lips of John the Baptizer. He says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)
It is then used repeatedly by Jesus in his preaching and teaching, particularly during his Sermon on the Mount discourse. He also uses it to describe the commission he gives to the disciples and in the book of Acts, Luke tells us that the apostles obeyed Jesus’ sending and they proclaimed the good news of the kingdom.
Much of this “kingdom language” is about heaven. It is about who will and who will not enter in. The kingdom message proclaimed is anticipated in the monarchies of the Old Testament, realized in the kingship of Christ, and Christians are then made ambassadors for his kingdom until his triumphant return.
Today we have many kingdoms, we have national kingdoms, political kingdoms, theological kingdoms, and individual kingdoms. The difference is that the kingdom of God from Scripture is not about socio-economics. The kingdom of God is not restricted to a geographic zone or people group. Jesus makes this point clear when he says to Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world.
The kingdom of heaven is open, but it is hard to get into (Luke 18:25). In fact, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 gives a list of those who will not take part in God’s heavenly kingdom,
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Though admittance is restricted to those who obey God (Matt 7:21), it is not complex. Jesus even stated that a child may enter (Luke 18:16). The kingdom of heaven is made for citizens of heaven; and no one will be made a citizen of heaven who defies their king by disobeying his laws, by mocking his word, or by hating his people. Citizens of earth who ignore the realities of God’s kingdom will spend eternity in terror and unrelenting judgement because they thought the kingdom of heaven was nothing more than a myth, or preferred 100 years of pleasure to an eternity of joy.
The fact is, not one single person deserves to be a part of God’s heavenly kingdom. Humankind deserves judgment. We have worked hard for our place in hell and apart from the grace of God, we would all get exactly what we deserve.
And yet, Jesus died the death we deserved to offer us a seat at his heavenly table in his eternal kingdom filled with joy and delight. We have but to listen to what John the Baptist spoke, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Repent, trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, and live in obedience and fellowship with God and with his people.
Christians are indeed part of a kingdom that is not of this world. I pray that we will remember this fact and give up our quest for power and live our lives in pursuit of the kingdom of God.