As Paul concluded his first missionary journey, Luke informs us that he revisited some of the infant churches, exhorting those saints to continue in the faith. He also cautioned them that:
Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
That is a curious statement in view of the fact that these Christians had entered the kingdom of God at the point of the new birth (Jn. 3:3-5).
So what does Paul allude to when he encourages Christians to endure tribulations and enter into the kingdom of God?
Some believe Paul is suggesting that the kingdom of Christ had not yet come in the first century. It must be understood, however, that words sometimes have different meanings depending upon the context in which they are found.
Such is true with reference to the word “kingdom.” The term “kingdom” is not always equivalent to the church.
Sometimes kingdom refers to the final phase of the triumphant reign of Christ. In such cases, it refers to heaven itself.
In his final words of encouragement to Timothy, Paul wrote:
The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18).
Earlier, in a similar vein, the apostle had declared: “If we endure, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12). Compare this with Christ’s promise that if we overcome we will be able to sit down with the Lord in His throne (Rev. 3:21).
And in one of Peter’s epistles, we read:
For thus shall be richly supplied unto you the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:11).
These passages speak of a kingdom or reign that is eternal and heavenly in nature.
Moreover, they suggest a state that is yet future. They are, in fact, references to a regal assembly in heaven. But they do not negate the New Testament teaching concerning the present phase of the kingdom.
Make appropriate notes in the margin of your Bible, cross-referencing these verses. Such notations will serve you well in teaching others.