Ask Steve: Psalms and the Kingdom of God






Question: Steve, I am currently reading through the book of Psalms, and noticed the theme of the kingdom of God. What exactly is the book of Psalms and what does it teach about the kingdom of God? 

Answer: The book of Psalms is a collection of prayers, petitions, and other writings offered to God. The book is composed of over 7 authors, including King David, the sons of Korah, Moses, Asaph, and Heman. These books describe the theme of living life in the real world, where two dimensions operate simultaneously: the horizontal dimension (relationship to people) and the vertical dimension (relationship to God). However, the horizontal dimension finds its strength when the vertical dimension is firmly established, which is why the book of Psalms places much emphasis on recognizing and submitting to the rule of God over the world and one’s life. Therefore, the kingdom of God is a recurring theme in the book of Psalms. It is a subject of great importance because it has a direct impact on everything: God’s people, unbelievers, and the course of the present and future history. This essay will demonstrate what the book of Psalms teaches about the kingdom of God in all its aspects.

The kingdom of God must first be understood as God’s sovereign lordship over all creation. This includes people (Israel, Gentiles, saved, unsaved) and the created order (animals, nature, etc). Psalms such as 89, 95, and 104 describe the fact that creation is truly God’s. Yahweh is the sole creator and sustainer of all life as we know it. Psalm 50:12 reads, “For the world is Mine, and all it contains.” 24:1 also reads, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” The One who has founded the earth and established every aspect of its existence and order is perfectly fit to be Lord and Master over all His creation, which shows that the kingdom truly belongs to Yahweh alone. God has a heavenly throne from where He rules and sustains the universe. Psalm 103:19 reads, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” Psalm 47 also declares Yahweh’s kingship over the earth: “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a skillful psalm. God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne…For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted.” Because God’s kingdom affects and lays claim over all the earth, God also has the right to judge in how He sees fit. The psalmists understand this fact, which is why they can proclaim, “Rise up, O Judge of the earth, render recompense to the proud…” (94:2) and, “…He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness…” (96:13).

The kingdom of God is also understood as God’s sovereign rule in the hearts of His redeemed subjects. In other words, the kingdom of God grows and its influence expands on earth when sinners come into a saving relationship with the Lord. Without eternal salvation, there is no entrance into the kingdom of God, whether in spirit or in the eschatological kingdom that is to come when Jesus returns to rule on the throne of David. That is why sinners need to be born again of the Spirit (John 3:5) for entrance into God’s kingdom. Though the Spirit did not indwell sinners in the Old Testament like He does currently with people in the church age, God nevertheless called and elected Israelites so that they may find salvation and entrance into God’s kingdom. They underwent a regenerate experience that made them fit to enter into God’s kingdom, which led to the right spiritual condition that was able to submit to God’s sovereign rule in their lives.

Although the kingdom of God is first described as God’s sovereign reign over the entire created order, only those who have been regenerated in their spirit can faithfully respond to God’s calling for praise and obedience, which is why the Psalms commands obedience specifically from believers of Yahweh. This does not absolve unbelievers of their responsibility to respond to God in faith and obedience, since everyone and everything in the world is called to offer praise and allegiance to God, but the Psalms can only be understood and applied by those who have been are God’s children by repentant faith. That is why the Psalms’ depiction of the kingdom of God has an inescapable component of God’s rule in the hearts of His obedient subjects.

Multiple passages teach about the kingdom of God in God’s election of Israel and the rule of God over their lives which was indicative of their eternal security in the Lord. 135:4 describes Israel as God’s chosen possession, in which He rules over their lives in “righteousness and justice” (89:14, 97:2). God rules over the earth, but it is the people of Israel who are near to Him (148:14) who hear His voice and respond in the appropriate way, thus making the instructions in Psalms applicable to their lives. The sons of Jacob are His chosen ones (105:6), as Psalm 105:8-11 recounts the Lord’s eternal and binding covenant with Israel’s forefather Abraham.

Finally, the kingdom of God refers to the Lord’s physical reign on earth, which the Psalms (and other books of the Bible) looks forward in time to when God will descend from heaven and rule on the earth in Jerusalem. This ruler is the God-Man Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Son of David who will return to earth and rule for 1,000 years from Zion(Revelation 20:1-10). There are numerous references to the reality of God’s inevitable and direct rule over the world, which includes believers and unbelievers. Psalm 110 is one of the most prominent examples, in which the opening verse depicts Father God speaking to the divine Messiah and affirms the Messiah’s right to rule over the earth. Even in passages such as Psalm 72, which describes the reign of Solomon, anticipates the Messiah’s reign on earth, which will also be the culmination of the David Covenant (2 Samuel 7). Psalm 2:7-9 also anticipates the coming of God’s Son and Messiah to rule over the world. The earthly reign of God the Son will prove to the culmination of everything the kingdom of God stands for in the book of Psalms, which is God’s right of authority over all creation and His rule in the hearts of His subjects.

In conclusion, the kingdom of God is a fascinating subject that is explored in marvelous detail in the book of Psalms. The book of Psalms shows that the kingdom of God fleshes itself out in multiple ways, but it culminates in the future coming of God’s literal kingdom and rule over the earth. God’s kingdom forever becomes a part of a person’s life when He believes in Christ as Lord and Savior, which is essentially saying that the kingdom benefits will only be applied to believers eternally, whereas unbelievers will only experience its benefits temporarily should they choose to reject it, whether now or in the future reign of Christ. This is why the book of Psalms calls all people, whether believer or unbeliever, to recognize the sovereignty and goodness of God and to respond to it while there is still time.