THE CHURCH BEING THE KINGDOM OF GOD
We come now to Matthew 16:18-19. These were words spoken by the Lord Jesus to Peter after he received the revelation from the Father that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. He said that Peter was a stone and that He would build the church upon Himself as the rock. The gates of Hades can never prevail against this church. Then He told Peter that He would give him the keys—not of the church—but of the kingdom! This implies that the church in verse 18 is certainly the kingdom in verse 19, and that the kingdom in verse 19 is surely the church in verse 18. The Lord Jesus promised to give Peter the keys of the kingdom of the heavens. On the day of Pentecost the Lord Jesus gave Peter the key which opened the door for the Jewish people to come in; at the house of Cornelius He gave him the key which opened the door for the Gentiles to come in. After the Lord gave Peter these two keys of the kingdom, the churches were established. First, the church at Jerusalem was established, and later the church among the Gentiles was established. Because Peter used the keys of the kingdom to establish the churches, it indicates that the churches are the kingdom.
The church is the ekklesia, the assembly. This means that the church is the gathering together of the called people of God. The church is also the house of God, His dwelling place. It is also the Body of Christ, meaning that the church is the living expression of Christ. The church is also the Bride of Christ, meaning that the church is His love and satisfaction. In addition to all these aspects, the church is also the kingdom. This means that the church is the reigning of God through Christ. The church is the ruling of Christ as a King. No requirements are higher than those of the kingdom. The requirements for the church to be the assembly or the house of God or the Body of Christ or the Bride of Christ are not as high as the requirements to be the kingdom of God. No requirements are higher than those mentioned in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. The requirements of the kingdom are high because the church is the reigning of Christ, the ruling of Christ, as a King. If we all will realize that the church is the kingdom, we will have a great change in our living.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
IN FIRST CORINTHIANS
Let us go on to 1 Corinthians 4:17-20. Here we have another proof that the church is the kingdom. Paul says that in every place and in every church he teaches the same thing. Verse 17 appears to be related entirely to the church. However, in verse 20 Paul mentions the kingdom of God. If we read verses 17 and 20 in the context and put all the aspects together, we will see that the real church life is the kingdom. The kingdom is not something in word but in power and impact. The church is the kingdom, and the kingdom is the reality of the church life.
From chapter four we proceed to 6:9-11. These verses tell us that the evil, immoral persons who are not under the ruling of the Lord Jesus as the King will have no part in the kingdom. Verse 11 says that although we were such persons in the past, we have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God. Pay attention to the three "buts" in this verse: we were such, but we were washed, but we were sanctified, but we were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. Now we are in the Spirit. As the context makes clear, since we are in the Spirit we may surely participate in the kingdom. We are in the kingdom and, in a sense, we are the kingdom.
We need to forget about the traditional teachings and come back to the beginning, back to the pure Word. If we call on the name of the Lord Jesus and pray-read all these verses, we will see exactly the same thing. We will see that the kingdom today is simply the real church life.
(The Kingdom, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)