|Observing the Text!|
Jesus Was Kingdom Centered
Kingdom of God theology is rooted in the First (Old) Testament the Bible. The prophets declared the kingdom as a day in which men and women would live together in peace, where social problems would be solved, and evil would pass away (Isa. 2.4; 1.6).
In the Second (New) Testament and central to the ministry of Jesus was the concept of the kingdom of God. The authors of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) filled their books with teaching about the kingdom and actions of the kingdom. They often summarized the material as the beginning of Mark illustrates. “Now after John had been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom of God. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is near! Repent, and keep believing in the gospel!” (Mark 1.14-15). Mark’s brief summary demonstrates the idea of the words (teachings) and works (actions) of Jesus.In the New Testament and central to the ministry of Jesus was the concept of the kingdom of God. Click To Tweet
Matthew summarized in a similar fashion. He succinctly shows the ministry of Jesus in Matthew 4.23 and Matthew 9.35 as it centered on the kingdom. Jesus also summarized the message of the kingdom when he gave instructions to his twelve disciples (Matt. 10.5-15). The gospel of the kingdom is the only gospel that he instructed his disciples to preach. When Luke recorded the sending of the seventy disciples (Luke 10.1-12), Jesus used similar language.
The term kingdom was frequently on the lips of Jesus and the idea of the kingdom was central to the proclamation of Jesus. His words were designed to demonstrate for us how to enter the kingdom (Matt. 5.20; 7.21). His works authenticated that the kingdom was present in his ministry (Matt. 12.28). His parables informed us about the mysteries of the kingdom (Matt. 13.11). His prayers modeled for his disciples the desire of his heart, which was that the kingdom would come to earth (Matt. 6.10). His death, resurrection, and ascension made us the instruments of the kingdom (Acts 1.8). His Second Coming promises the consummation of the kingdom for his children (Matt. 25.31, 34).
|Behind The Scenes!|
What Others Think about the Kingdom
In history, the kingdom of God has been interpreted many ways. Here are a few examples:
- C. H. Dodd held that the kingdom of God was realized fully in the ministry of Jesus. The kingdom of God is an earthly place where there is righteousness, peace, and joy. These are the benefits for those who live yielded lives to the rule of the Spirit. The kingdom as a present reality is based on such passages as Matthew 12.28; Romans 14.17; and Isa. 2.4.
- A second way the kingdom is viewed is that it is a place of future blessing, which occurs at the Second Coming, for the people of God (1 Cor. 15.50; Matt. 8.11; 2 Pet. 1.11; Matt. 25.34). The followers of Jesus enter the kingdom when he returns. The coming kingdom would bring about an end to the old order of humanity and begin a new existence in a heavenly order. Thus, the kingdom is altogether future and supernatural. Its basic proponent was Albert Schweitzer.
- Adolph Von Harnack suggested another theory. For him, the kingdom was reduced to a subjective realm. It is an inner spiritual redemptive blessing (Rom. 14.17). The kingdom is expressed by the new birth (John 3.3) and is an inward power which enters into the human spirit and takes hold of it.
- Another view of the kingdom of God was created by St. Augustine. He believed that the kingdom and the church were the same things. This view is still common as suggested by our current language. We talk about bringing people into the kingdom, which is a synonym for the church. He believed that as the church grew, so the kingdom grew. As the church takes the gospel into the world, the kingdom is extended.
- Still other views emphasize: that the kingdom of God should be likened to the governments and nations of the world (Rev. 11.15); that the kingdom is a realm into which one must enter now (Matt. 21.31); the kingdom is a realm into which one must enter tomorrow (Matt. 8.11); the kingdom is at the same time a gift of God given in the future (Luke 12.32), and a gift which must be received in the present (Mark 10.15).
- Finally, a disturbing view of the kingdom was created by the Latter Rain movement. This belief system can be described by a Kingdom Now mindset or Dominion Theology. This theological belief about the kingdom is dangerous in the mind of the writer and should be avoided.
|Interpreting the Text!|
What is the Kingdom?
Realm: Kingdom is normally understood as a realm over which a king rules. A modern day example of this idea was the United Kingdom, which was made up of many nations: Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, etc. People live in the kingdom (a place) and are subjects of the King or Queen who exercises his or her authority over his or her subjects.
Reign-Rule: Another way to view the idea of kingdom is found in its dictionary definition: “The reign or rule a king has over his subjects.” This definition is closer to the primary meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words than the concept of a realm. In Hebrew, the word for kingdom is malkût (mal-coot). The Greek word is basileia (bah-see-lay-a).
|Behind The Scenes!|
The Kingdom in the Old Testament
Dr. James Kallas suggests in his book Jesus and the Power of Satan that Jesus never explained the kingdom because the people to whom he was speaking knew what it meant or thought they knew what it meant (Kallas. 1968. 119). The First (Old) Testament presents the kingdom in the context of Jewish messianic expectation and eschatology. They believed that God would deliver them, which was their hope for the future. Israel reached its apex during the rule of King David and King Solomon. From that point forward Israel began to descend. At the death of Solomon, the kingdom divided into two kingdoms, the Northern and Southern kingdoms, each with their own kings and governments. This division set in place a longing among the Jews for God to restore to them their past blessings. There were two ways which the kingdom began to be understood. The first is called the Davidic Concept and the Second the Apocalyptic Concept of the kingdom of God....Jesus never explained the kingdom because people...knew what it meant or thought they knew what it meant.... Click To Tweet
The Davidic Concept of the Kingdom
Israel’s hope was that God would send a king like David. Her focus was militaristic and geographic. She wanted a nationalistic kingdom to return. The prophets of the First Testament began using a phrase “the day of the Lord,” which was a two-sided belief system including restoration and judgment. Israel believed that the “day of the Lord” was a time when Israel would be fully restored as pointed out in such passages in the Story of God as Amos 9.14; Isa. 11; Zech. 8.4-8.
The nations would be judged (Amos 1). The message of Amos came to pass when the Northern kingdom virtually ceased to exist after the Assyrian invasion. When the Southern kingdom went into exile, the hope remained and glittered again during the Restoration Period when Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, became king. This hope is reflected in Psalm 126. The Davidic hope for a military and political power emerged again during the time of Zerubbabel. Judah hoped that the descendant of David was the one to return them to the glory of David’s rule. Haggai and Zechariah mirrored the expectation which surrounded Zerubbabel. But when his kingship failed, hope began to wane. Once again during the Maccabean revolt these old nationalistic aspirations had a revival. However, the rise of a Davidic king, an anointed one to bring them to political power with military might, did not occur. When you turn to the pages of the Second (New) Testament, there is a remnant of those who still believed that God would restore a nationalistic kingdom to Israel (John 6.15; Acts 1.6).The kingdom of God was thought to be a kingdom of this world which would be peopled by the Jews. There was nothing spiritual or future about it. The kingdom was a dream of Jewish nationalism (Kallas. 1968. 119-121).
The Apocalyptic Concept of the Kingdom
The second view which arose during the life of Judaism centered around the Intertestamental Period (404 B.C.– 6 B.C.). During this period there arose a new kind of writing within Judaism called Apocalyptic Literature and the term kingdom of God came into popular usage. Hope did not diminish; it only assumed a new language with a modified meaning. The prophets hoped for a nationalistic kingdom, while the hope of the Apocalyptic writers was for a heavenly kingdom which would end this present evil age. A new world would break into the present world and bring the rule of God. This view developed a belief that Satan dominated this present evil age; it was under his rule. When Antiochus Epiphanes unleashed his persecution on Israel (175-164 B.C.), this view began to flourish. This horrific deluge of evil could only be the result of a cosmic conflict. Evil was winning. Good was losing. The demonic and sickness were in control. It was here that the Jews’ consciousness of evil spirits began to develop. The books of the Intertestamental Period give us a window to view the beliefs of the people in a specific period of time. In Enoch 54.3-6 Satan is pictured as the ruler of a kingdom of evil with many followers, i.e., the demons. The book of Jubilee 23.29 suggests a golden age-to-come in which God himself would usher in his kingdom reversing the evils of Satan. Good would triumph, healing would occur, the demonic would be defeated.
|Living into the Text!|
It is always important to live into what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.
- What gospel do you hear preached every Sunday?
- How would you summarize the ministry of the kingdom in your life?
- In what ways have the words and works of Jesus affected your life?
- How do the concepts of realm and reign-rule affect the way you have traditionally understood the kingdom of God?
- How does the idea of Jewish nationalism fit into the current belief system which sees the need for Israel as the centerpiece of God working out the end times?
The articles below come from various Bible Dictionaries and other sources. The posting of these brief articles are to introduce some readers to the vast amount of information that is provided to enhance your reading of the text of the Bible with a hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the text and will lead the reader to an improved praxis in his or her community of faith and personal life. You might read the articles offline in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try Revell Bible Dictionary. Revell Bible Dictionary is no longer in print but is available from Amazon. One of these should suit your personal needs.
- Galilee: Lexham Bible Dictionary | Easton’s Bible Dictionary
- Latter Rain Movement
- Maccabean Revolt
- Synoptic Gospels