Satan, in his unfallen state, at a time in eternity past, was placed
over the province upon which man presently resides -- over the earth. And
a great host of ruling angels were placed in subordinate positions of power
and authority with him.
The day came though when Satan became dissatisfied with his appointed position and rebelled against God's supreme power and authority. He sought to "exalt" his throne above all the other God-appointed provincial rulers (angels ruling over other provinces [worlds similar to the earth] elsewhere in the universe) and "be like the most High" (Isa. 14:13, 14).
Because of this act, rather than exalting his throne, Satan became disqualified to rule even the province over which he had been placed. And this necessitated his subsequent removal, with another being appointed to take his place.
But God didn't immediately act in this respect. Rather, God allowed Satan to continue holding his position, for a time.
(A principle of Biblical government necessitates that an incumbent ruler continue to hold his appointed position until his replacement is not only on the scene but ready to ascend the throne and hold the sceptre [something seen in the account of Saul and David in the Books of I, II Samuel].)
When John the Baptist, Jesus, and His disciples appeared to Israel with
the message, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand"
(cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7), there could be no mistake concerning
exactly what was meant. There was no kingdom connected with the heavens
and the earth outside of the one which God had established in the beginning,
the one over which a disqualified provincial angel ruled.
The expression, "the kingdom of the heavens," could only be a reference to the kingdom ruled by Satan and his angels from a heavenly sphere, a kingdom to one day be ruled by Christ and His co-heirs from the same heavenly sphere. And the various things about this kingdom are things which the Jewish people should have been fully aware of, for the structure of the kingdom as it exists throughout Man's Day and will exist at a future time is a clearly revealed subject of Old Testament revelation.
This subject was introduced by Moses in Genesis. Moses spoke of that day when the seed of Abraham would exercise power and authority over the earth from two spheres -- heavenly and earthly (Gen. 22:17, 18); and this power and authority, according to Moses, would be realized in that future day when God's Son exercises the Melchizedek priesthood (Gen. 14:18-22; cf. Psa. 110:1-4; Heb. 5-7). And, as previously shown, the form in which this kingdom exists throughout Man's Day (and will exist in that coming day when Christ and His co-heirs take the kingdom) is revealed in Daniel, chapter ten (vv. 13-21).
At Christ's first coming, through the ministry of John, Himself, and the twelve, "the kingdom of the heavens" was proffered to Israel. Through the ministry of John, Jesus, and the twelve, the nation of Israel was offered the sceptre held by Satan and his angels.
Had Israel accepted the offer, Christ would have taken the kingdom; and Israel, with the nation's Messiah, would have held the sceptre. But Israel refused the offer, and the nation climaxed this refusal by crucifying the central person making the offer -- Messiah Himself.
Then, the Book of Acts details a reoffer of the kingdom of the heavens to Israel -- beginning on the day of Pentecost (2:1ff) and terminating some thirty-two years later with Paul in Rome (28:28). Israel though again refused, and during this period God began His work of calling out the one new man "in Christ" to one day occupy the heavenly positions in the kingdom which Israel had spurned. And once Israel's refusal in the reoffer of the kingdom reached a terminal point in God's eyes, he set the nation aside and, with respect to the kingdom of the heavens, turned His attention toward the new entity, the new creation "in Christ."
This is how the gospels lead into Acts and how Acts leads into the epistles, with Acts forming a bridge between the gospels and the epistles. As stated at the beginning, the gospels record the original offer of this kingdom to Israel, the Book of Acts records the reoffer of this kingdom to Israel (as well as recording the bringing into existence of the Church), and the epistles record the subsequent (the present) offer being extended to Christians.
There can be no such thing as properly understanding the gospels, Acts,
or the epistles apart from "the kingdom" being seen as central.
Christ's death on Calvary, effecting man's redemption, has to do with the
kingdom. Christ Himself, while enduring the sufferings surrounding Calvary,
looked beyond these sufferings to the glory which lay out ahead (Heb. 12:1,
2; cf. Luke 24:26). The coming kingdom, the Messianic Era, the time
during which Christ and His co-heirs will exercise power and authority over
the earth for 1,000 years, was that upon which Christ focused His attention
while paying the price for man's redemption. And it is this same kingdom
upon which He has instructed redeemed man -- in the midst of trials, testings,
and sufferings -- to focus his attention as well (I Peter 2:21; cf.
Man's redemption is inseparably connected with the coming kingdom of Christ. And though man's redemption is eternal in duration and connected with a continuing regality in the eternal ages beyond the Messianic era, this is not where Scripture places the emphasis. The central focus in Scripture pertaining to man's present redemption and future rule centers on the 1,000-year Messianic Era.
(Regality exercised by Man beyond the Messianic Era will extend out into the heavens beyond the new earth [Rev. 22:1-5]. This is a realm extending far beyond the present kingdom of the heavens ruled by Satan and his angels, out where Satan sought to extend his rule at a time in eternity past.
Scripture though centers around man, the present earth, and the present kingdom. Scripture centers around man occupying the present kingdom of the heavens ruled by Satan and his angels, with Christ and His co-heirs taking 1,000 years to bring order out of disorder [I Cor. 15:22-28].
The eternal ages lying beyond are mentioned in Scripture only to an extent which will allow man to understand where God is going to carry matters once order has been restored in the government of one ruined province in His universe.)