The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God

Study at Home Series

Explore how the theme of the kingdom of God holds the entire Old Testament together.

For other Study at Home Series, click here

For the Group Leader

Instructor: Multiple Instructors

Welcome to our small group study! Thirdmill produces teaching materials with the primary goal of helping church leaders around the globe study and teach the Bible more deeply. This 10-week small group study has been adapted from the second lesson of our series Kingdom, Covenants & Canon of the Old Testament. It considers the most pervasive theme in the entire Old Testament: the kingdom of God. Our goal is for you to gain a proper understanding of the Bible’s theology of the kingdom of God so that you can apply these truths in your life today.

This study is intended to take about 50-60 minutes each session, but you're welcome to adapt it to your own circumstances by making each section as long or short as is beneficial for your group. This study can be done individually, but it is designed to be done in a virtual group setting as a typical weekly adult Bible study or Sunday school. You can watch the videos together through a third-party virtual networking platform (like Zoom or Skype), or you can watch the videos before meeting together online to discuss. Some groups might even gather together via a group phone call. Each video is around 15 minutes long to allow ample discussion on each section. We've also added approximate times for each section in case you have a time limit you'd like to follow. Feel free to use as many or as few of the questions provided. We hope these lessons serve as a way to grow together. On a final note, if you would like to download the lesson guide or the manuscript of the full lesson, you can find those resources on the series page for Kingdom, Covenants and Canon of the Old Testament.

Session 1

The Broad and Narrow Kingdom

CONNECT (10 minutes)

“When the kingdom comes …” is a phrase that Christians often use. Most of us know that somehow it must be an important idea. But what exactly does it mean? In this session, we’ll explore two interrelated ways the Scriptures refer to God’s reign or kingdom. We must keep both of these outlooks in mind as we study the kingdom of God in the Old Testament.

REFLECTION

If someone were to ask you, “What is the kingdom of God?” would you know how to answer? Would you be able to explain how important the kingdom is in biblical faith? And what does the Bible say about it? Broadly speaking, God’s kingdom is his universal and unchanging reign over all of creation. But more narrowly, it is his incomplete and developing reign on earth.

GUIDING QUESTION

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “kingdom of God”?

WATCH (15 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. Read Psalm 93:1-2. How long has the Lord reigned as King? How much longer will he reign?
  2. In a broad sense, what does it mean when we say that God’s rule is complete and unchanging?
  3. In a narrow sense, how is God’s kingdom or rule incomplete and developing in history?
  4. What did Jesus mean in Matthew 6:9-10 when he taught us to pray for the coming of the kingdom?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. God always has been and always will be the supreme Sovereign so that all of creation always has been and always will be his kingdom. How does this fact encourage us as we face troubles and disappointments in our lives?
  2. Discuss this statement from our lesson: “The Son of God longed for the day when God’s universal and unchanging kingship would be fully manifested on earth. On that day, God’s glory will fill the earth and every creature will obey his commands as perfectly on earth as they do in heaven. This vision of history undergirds every teaching in the Old and New Testaments.” Read Matthew 6:33. How crucial should this future vision of God’s kingdom be in your life?

CHALLENGE

Take some time to answer the following question: How does knowing that God is bringing his kingdom to earth help you set the priorities and choices of your daily life?

Finish with a time of prayer.

Session 2

The Place of God’s Kingdom in Primeval History

CONNECT (10 minutes)

In our last session, we saw how the Old and New Testaments both view God’s kingdom in a broad sense as complete and unchanging and in a narrow sense as incomplete and developing. This session looks into where God’s developing kingdom began. If you want to know how long a trip has been, you have to start measuring from where you started. This is certainly true when it comes to the development of God’s kingdom on earth. To understand how far God’s kingdom has come, we need to go back to where it started. Only then will we see how far Christ has already brought us and how far he will bring us one day.

REFLECTION

Think about this question. “Where does God want his kingdom to be? In heaven or on earth? The answer isn’t as simple as it may seem at first. We all know that heaven is the glorious royal court of God. All believers want to go there when we die. So, why did Jesus teach us to pray for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven?” The answer of Scripture is clear. God determined for the earth to be the place of his kingdom.

GUIDING QUESTION

What does the creation story tell us about God’s kingdom on earth?

WATCH (15 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. In what condition was the earth when it was first made? Why wasn’t God satisfied with its initial condition?
  2. In what condition was the earth when God rested on the first Sabbath? How does God’s Sabbath rest demonstrate that God was pleased with what he had done with the earth?
  3. How was the Garden of Eden different from the rest of the world? How do Genesis 1:28-30 and Genesis 2:15 demonstrate that the Garden of Eden served as the starting point for what God had planned for the rest of earth in the future?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. Genesis 1:1–2:3 honors Israel’s God as the true royal and divine architect and builder who prepared the earth to become his magnificent kingdom one day. What does this mean for our future as believers in Christ?
  2. Read the description of the new creation at Christ’s return in Revelation 22:1-5. How does this passage show that, at Christ’s return, God’s kingdom on earth will resemble the Garden of Eden but be even more magnificent? What does this description mean to you personally?

CHALLENGE

Write down four ways you have seen Christians neglect God’s kingdom purpose for creating the earth by overemphasizing the wonder of heaven.

Finish with a time of prayer.

Session 3

The People of God’s Kingdom in Primeval History

CONNECT (10 minutes)

Many people today are confused about who God is and what he has done. But they are often just as confused about who people are and what they are supposed do with their lives. Sadly, this is true even of faithful Christians. In our last session, we considered the place of God’s kingdom established in Primeval History. In this session, we’ll look into the identity and service that God first established for human beings.

REFLECTION

If you haven’t asked these questions yourself, you probably know someone who has: “Who am I?” “What am I?” “Why do I exist?” The answers we receive from the world mislead and confuse us by calling on us either to think too highly or too lowly of ourselves. The opening chapters of the Bible concentrate a lot on human beings. They establish foundational truths about people upon which every other facet of biblical faith builds. In short, these chapters reveal that we are images of God called to be the instruments by which God’s kingdom will spread to the ends of the earth.

GUIDING QUESTION

What do you think your role in God’s kingdom is?

WATCH (15 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. God put humanity in his sacred Garden “to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15, NIV). Compare this expression with the description of priests and Levites as those who “take care of … the Tent of Meeting … by doing the work of the tabernacle” (Numbers 3:8, NIV). How does this comparison help us see that the service of Adam and Eve in the Garden was priestly service of worship?
  2. In the ancient world, pharaohs, kings and emperors were often called “images” of their gods because they represented their false gods by carrying out their gods’ will on earth. But the true God of Israel didn’t call only kings and rulers his images. Read Genesis 1:26. What does this tell you about the honor God bestowed on every human being?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. Are you ever tempted to divide the activities of your life between secular and sacred tasks? How does recognizing the priestly, worshipful character of every activity help us live out passages like Colossians 3:23?
  2. Genesis 1:27-28 reveals that God’s purpose for human beings was for them to spread the kingdom of God by filling the earth with his images and making the earth the kind of place God wants it to be. What does this description of God’s purpose for human beings say about your own purpose?
  3. In what ways are you extending God’s kingdom throughout the world today?

CHALLENGE

Take some time to answer the following question: How do the daily activities of your life count as the service of a priest and a vice-regent who is fully devoted to spreading God’s kingdom throughout the world?

Finish with a time of prayer.

Session 4

The Progress of God’s Kingdom in Primeval History

CONNECT (10 minutes)

Most Christians know the basic storyline of Genesis 1-11: creation, the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, the generations that followed them and the story of the great Flood in Noah’s day. There are many lessons to be learned from these events. In earlier sessions, we concentrated on the place of God’s kingdom and the people of God’s kingdom associated with these events. But in this session, we’ll look at how these chapters trace the progress of God’s kingdom during this period of time. The biblical account of the progress of God’s kingdom during the Primeval History is not simply a record of what happened long ago. It depicts the early stages of God’s purposes in ways that explain realities that God’s people have faced throughout the ages.

REFLECTION

If God had wanted to, he could have turned the entire world into his kingdom in a split second. Still, in his unsearchable wisdom, God determined that he would receive glory by extending his kingdom through wondrous displays of his mercy and judgment. In many respects, the first eleven chapters of Genesis were given to Israel to explain how God set the stage for what he would continue to do through the people of Israel and through Christ in the New Testament age. In fact, the history of earth’s earliest years reveals the basic structures and processes that God followed throughout the Scriptures. If you want to know how the rest of the Bible portrays the kingdom of God on earth, it’s crucial to grasp what these chapters of Genesis explain about the early progress of God’s kingdom.

GUIDING QUESTION

Why do you think God didn’t make the entire world into his perfect kingdom from the beginning?

WATCH (15 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. Why is it appropriate to think of the sin of Adam and Eve as “cosmic treason” that impacted all of history, rather than simply as their personal rebellion against God?
  2. Read Genesis 4:1-16 (the story of Cain and Abel) and 6:5-7. How was the violent nature of humanity contrary to God’s kingdom purposes for his images?
  3. How did God reveal his long-term strategy for building his kingdom through his redeemed images in Genesis 3:15 and Romans 16:20?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. How do you see the impact today of the curses that God placed on Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:16-17?
  2. Name ways in which unjustified violence has continued to be evident throughout human history.
  3. God showed great patience toward the sinful human race in his words after the great Flood in Genesis 8:21-9:1. What does God’s patience toward humanity teach us about God’s plan for his images to carry on in their kingdom service in spite of their failures? When have you seen God extend this kind of patience toward you in your personal life?

CHALLENGE

Write down five ways that the progress of God’s kingdom in Primeval History still impacts the world today.

Finish with a time of prayer.

Session 5

The Place of God’s Kingdom in Israel’s History

CONNECT (10 minutes)

It’s difficult to read much of the Bible and not notice that the land God promised to Israel is a prominent theme in both the Old and the New Testaments. In previous sessions, we saw how God ordained the Garden of Eden as the place of God’s kingdom on earth during the Primeval History. In this session, we’ll consider how — like the Garden of Eden — the land that God promised to Israel wasn’t an end in itself. Rather, God gave Israel the Promised Land as the place from which his kingdom would extend throughout the entire world.

REFLECTION

It’s quite common for Christians to go to extremes when it comes to considering the Promised Land. Some followers of Christ believe that the land God promised to Israel is only significant for us today in that we must ensure that the nation of Israel possesses it. Other Christians believe that the land of Israel simply calls on us to focus on heaven as the place where we will enjoy the kingdom of God. But Scripture teaches that God chose the Promised Land as the starting point from which his kingdom would spread throughout the earth. For this reason, what God did with the land of Israel is central in the lives of everyone who follows Christ and seeks to serve the kingdom of God today.

GUIDING QUESTION

What does God’s promise of a land to Israel mean for Christians today?

WATCH (15 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. God called Abram (later named Abraham) to go to the Promised Land in Genesis 12:1-3. What did God promise to do for Abram and the rest of the world if Abram served him in that special place?
  2. What connections do you see between God’s promises to Abraham and the original commission that God gave to humanity in the beginning (Genesis 1:28) and after the Flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 9:1)?
  3. How do the rivers that designate the Promised Land in Genesis 15:18 associate the Promised Land with the land of Eden in Genesis 2:10-14?
  4. Genesis 12:3 says that, in Abraham, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” and Romans 4:13 says that Abraham and his offspring “would be heir of the world.” These verses both indicate that God’s design was to expand his kingdom beyond Israel’s Promised Land. What parallels do you see between these verses and Jesus’ Great Commission to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. How does the Bible’s association of the Promised Land with Eden help you understand why so many events in the Bible took place in the Promised Land?
  2. God designated the Promised Land as the starting point from which Israel would expand his kingdom to the ends of the earth. What does it look like for Christians to expand the impact of what God did in the Promised Land to the entire world?

CHALLENGE

Take some time to answer the following question: How has what God did in the Promised Land during the time of the ancient Israelites impacted the world far beyond the borders of the Promised Land?

Finish with a time of prayer.

Session 6

The People of God’s Kingdom in Israel’s History

CONNECT (10 minutes)

In our last session, we considered how God gave the Promised Land to the nation of Israel as the place from which his people would spread his kingdom to the ends of the earth. But who were these people? As the world fell under the ruin of sin, God chose Abraham’s descendants, the people of Israel, as his treasured possession, a holy nation of royal and priestly images of God. It was Israel’s privilege to serve God first in the Promised Land and from there to spread the blessings of God’s kingdom to all nations on earth. God’s call to Israel set the course for service that Jesus and his followers now fulfill.

REFLECTION

We often speak of the people of Israel as God’s chosen people. Why are they known as such? It was not because they were more deserving than any other people on earth. Rather, it was because God selected them by his grace and made them his special chosen people. They became a royal priesthood in service to God. God gave Israel the privilege of leading every tribe and nation on earth in furthering his kingdom throughout the earth to his endless praise. In a similar way, we often speak of Christians as God’s chosen people today. Why are we considered as God’s chosen people? It is not because we’re more deserving than others. On the contrary, it’s because, by God’s grace, all who believe in Jesus become true children of Abraham and heirs to the promises given to Abraham. We too become a royal priesthood in God’s service as we further the kingdom of God throughout the earth to the glory of God.

GUIDING QUESTION

What does it mean for us today that God chose Israel to be the special people of his kingdom?

WATCH (15 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. Read God’s words to Israel at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:4-6 and answer the following questions:
    1. How did God demonstrate his choice of Israel by showing them grace prior to arriving at Sinai?
    2. What did it mean for God to call Israel his “treasured possession among all peoples”?
  2. In Exodus 19:6, God called Israel a “kingdom of priests” (or as some translations put it, “a royal priesthood”). How does this combination of royalty and priesthood reveal Israel’s call to carry on the service of Adam and Eve as royal, priestly images of God?
  3. Explain this statement: “As the nation of Israel developed, God selected people to the special offices of priest and king in order to lead all of Israel in their priestly and royal service to God as his images.” (hint: Consider the work of Aaron and his descendants and the dynasty of David.)

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. How do God’s words to Israel in Exodus 19:4-6 apply to God’s chosen people in every age? What do these words mean to you personally?
  2. Scripture tells us that God’s people are a “kingdom of priests.” How are believers today a kingdom of priests?
  3. What are you doing to help spread God’s kingdom to the ends of the earth?

CHALLENGE

Write down four ways that God’s call to Israel as his chosen people has impacted your life as a follower of Jesus.

Finish with a time of prayer.

Session 7

The Progress of God’s Kingdom in Israel’s History

CONNECT (10 minutes)

The story of God’s kingdom in Israel is a mixture of positive accomplishments and abysmal failures. As we learned in our last session, Israel plays a central role in the Old Testament because God called for Abraham’s descendants to build and expand his kingdom on earth beyond where it had been during the Primeval History. In this session, we’ll look at three major times in the history of Israel when God’s kingdom took major strides forward: the time of God’s promises to Israel’s patriarchs, the time of Israel’s exodus from Egypt (including the conquest of the Promised Land), and the time of human kingship when Israel became a great empire. Yet, as much as God’s kingdom in Israel moved forward, Israel also fell into flagrant rebellion against God and suffered severe consequences.

REFLECTION

As we look back at the Old Testament story of God’s kingdom in Israel, we must be sure to cherish what God accomplished. Every facet of Israel’s faithful service to God was a positive step toward the goal of extending the kingdom of God throughout the world. At the same time, we must also acknowledge the failures of Israel. The sins of Israel draw our attention to the wonder of the redemption God has provided for all of us in Christ.

GUIDING QUESTION

Why did God’s kingdom in Israel continue to progress despite Israel’s failures?

WATCH (15 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What’s the relationship between God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:5-7 and the original commission God gave to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28?
  2. After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Moses celebrated the furtherance of God’s reign on earth as he reflected on Israel’s future settlement in the Promised Land. What does Moses’ song of praise in Exodus 15:17-18 reveal about God’s purposes for giving Israel the Promised Land?
  3. God ordained David’s house to lead Israel’s worship and service in all areas of life before God. What was God’s ultimate goal for establishing Israel as a growing empire under the rule of David’s house? How does Christ fulfill this hope in the house of David? (To help with your answer, read Psalm 72:1-17.)

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. In what ways are Christians called to continue humanity’s original service to God’s kingdom in a sinful world?
  2. God took Israel from a migrating tribe, to an established nation, to an empire with a king in order to spread his kingdom to the ends of the earth. Give some examples of a similar strategy for growth used in the modern world. Is this pattern of growth an effective way to bring people into God’s kingdom today? Why or why not?

CHALLENGE

Write down five things you can learn about Christ’s saving work by studying the progress of God’s kingdom in Israel’s history.

Finish with a time of prayer.

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