|Observing the Text!|
The Kingdom Of God in The New Testament
When you open the pages of the Second Testament you may be struck by the apparent war in which Jesus is immediately engaged. John the Baptist proclaimed that there was one coming in which the age of the Spirit would come. The words of Jesus in Mark clearly denote that the kingdom had arrived with Jesus in a new form, kinda like a version upgrade to a program on your computer. The words and works of Jesus form a unity in which the kingdom of God is spoken about and demonstrated. In Jesus, we have the presence of the future. Jesus has brought the rule of God from the future into the present. We now live in the presence of the future. This expression was often used by the late Dr. George Eldon Ladd to express the kingdom reality. He often said that the church lives between the times; she lives between the inauguration and the consummation of the kingdom.
This “now-but-not-yet” concept is seen throughout the New Testament. Matthew illustrates it at 12.28 when he writes, “Since I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15.24, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and every power.” John writes in 1 John 3.2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him.” What Jesus did was as important as what he said. Twentieth-and twenty-first-century Christians are often more preoccupied with what he said, too often forgetting that what he did carries the same message and weight. He taught as much by doing as by saying.Jesus taught as much by doing as by saying. Click To Tweet
|Interpreting the Text!|
What Did Jesus Do in His Ministry?
It is fair to ask the question: What did Jesus do in his ministry? Mark’s Gospel makes it clear that the mission of Jesus was to destroy the activity of Satan in the world. He gave his hearers an optical illustration of the kingdom in his ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons. Jesus and Satan were in a cosmic conflict that was being played out in the battle for ownership and rule in the lives of men and women. In like manner, other battles were afoot: hunger (John 6), natural catastrophes (Mark 4.35-41), sickness (Luke 7.21), and death (Luke 7.11-17).
Matthew’s Gospel (Matt. 12.22-31) clearly demonstrates that the war between Jesus and Satan is not a civil war within a kingdom. Rather, it is a battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. The strong man, Satan, is bound (deo: to bind—a metaphorical term indicating the curbing of power) so the strong man’s house (Satan’s kingdom) may be plundered. The power is curbed, but not rendered completely powerless, Matt. 16.23; Mark 8.33. (Ladd. A Theology of the New Testament. 1974. 66).
How Others Explain the Kingdom
In his book The Real Satan, Dr. James Kallas says, “A war is going on! Cosmic war! Jesus is the divine invader sent by God to shatter the strengths of Satan. In that light, the whole ministry of Jesus unrolls. Jesus has one purpose-to defeat Satan. He takes seriously the strength of the enemy” (Kallas. 1975, 60). Jesus won the war, but there are battles still left to be fought. Jesus gave his disciples the mission of continuing to bring the rule of God into the world in their lives and proclamation (Luke 10.8-9). In their preaching and miracles, Jesus saw Satan’s defeat (Luke 10.18). The last words of Jesus to his disciples when he left this sphere (Acts 1.1-8) demonstrate that he would empower his disciples to continue in the cleanup of the war.
An illustration from Oscar Cullmann’s book Christ and Time will help us understand this concept of cleanup. He shares a story from World War II’s D-day and V-day. D-day was June 6, 1944, a day that the result of the war was decided. However, the war did not officially conclude until May 7-8, 1945, on V-day (Cullmann. 1964. 84). Between these two dates, almost a year, there were still battles being fought and allied lives being lost. In fact, more lives were lost during this period than in any other period during the war. Even though the battles went on, the war had been decided. So it was with Jesus. The earth was his. In his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, God had overthrown Satan. God planted his flag in the form of a cross and Jesus said, “It is finished.” The war is over, but the aftermath still continues and will continue until the return of Jesus.
To understand the kingdom of God, its present and future aspects, is to understand the theme from which the ministry of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament flow. We live in the presence of the future, the “now-but-not-yet.” When we view any passage of Scripture in the New Testament, we must put on our kingdom of God glasses and ask questions of that passage with that set of presuppositions. The kingdom of God was in the Old Testament. It can be clearly demonstrated that the kingdom is seen in events like the Exodus and Israel’s captivity in Babylon. God acted in kingly power to deliver and judge his children. The kingdom came into history once-and-for-all in the person of Jesus, demonstrated by his words and works.
Two Ways to View the Kingdom in The New Testament
There are at least two ways in which the material of the New Testament concerning the kingdom can be viewed: the Satanward view and the Godward view.
Satanward View: The Satanward view takes seriously the idea that Jesus came into the world to wage war against Satan. The tendency of the Western Christian is to accept the supernatural events which happened in Scripture in one of three ways:
- The events happened then, but they do not happen today.
- The events happened then and they still happen today.
- The events never happened as they are reported, therefore, they cannot happen today.
When the New Testament material is observed from the perspective that the ministry of Jesus was indeed aimed at Satan in a cosmic war fought on earth, it is called the Satanward view. This term was coined by Dr. James Kallas and is meant to demonstrate that Christians should take Satan seriously as God’s enemy.
Godward View: The second manner in which the material of the New Testament can be seen is called by Dr. Kallas as the Godward view. In this view the mission of Jesus was to bring us salvation and return us to fellowship with God.
Which View should we believe? Both the Godward and Satanward views are legitimate. According to Dr. Kallas, the following approximate percentages are found:
- The contents of the Synoptics and Paul is eighty percent Satanward and twenty percent Godward.
- The contents of John, Hebrews, Revelation are eighty percent Godward and twenty percent Satanward.
Both interpretations are true. It is a fact that Biblical truth can never be discerned by choosing one truth over another. Both truths must be held in tension. “When the two are separated,” states Dr. Kallas, “it is not that one has half a truth, but that one has no truth, but distortion.”
To accurately understand the kingdom of God, we must be committed to the Satanward view of Scripture as well as the Godward view. Within the Satanward view, the church is seen as the army of God which continues the cleanup mission until the return of the King. In the Godward view, the church is seen as the functioning body of the King left on earth to minister redemption to those outside and care to those inside the body....Biblical truth can never be discerned by choosing one truth over another. Click To Tweet
|Living into the Text!|
It is always important to apply 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.
- In what two areas of your community of faith life and your personal life, does the “now-but-not-yet” concept help you sort out how life as a community and an individual believer works?
- What pattern of warfare does the enemy use in your community of faith and in you?
- On a scale of one to ten: how does the Satanward view strike you? Why?
- How does the Godward view strike you differently or the same? Why?
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.