Kingdom of God

A. Kingdom of God

1. Definition – The Kingdom of God is the radical manifestation and comprehensive effectuation of God’s saving reign at the culmination of redemptive history. Thus it has revelatory, redemptive, and eschatological dimensions.
2. Old Testament on Kingdom

Goldsworthy: “We first see the Kingdom of God in the Garden of Eden. Here Adam and Eve live in willing obedience to the word of God and to God’s rule. In this setting, the Kingdom is destroyed by the sin of man – and the rest of the Bible is about the restoration of a people to be the willing subjects of the perfect rule of God” [47].

Abraham: God promises the patriarchs, that their descendants (God’s people) will possess the promised land (God’s place) and be the people of God, underneath his authority (God’s rule).

Sinai: God ruled over his people as a sovereign, setting his throne and the manifestation of his glory in their midst. They were bound to pay him continual homage, and form a “kingdom of priests” (Ex 19:6).

Monarchy: “The political, economic and religious achievement of the kingdom of David and Solomon fulfills in a very tangible way the promises to Abraham.”

Prophets: “Solomon’s kingdom fails, even though it reveals the nature of that kingdom. In the face of the judgment upon Israel’s sin, the prophets restate the promise of the Kingdom as something that will be fulfilled in the future.”

3. Voices

Ladd: Matt 12:29  How can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his goods – embodies “the essential theology of the Kingdom of God. Instead of waiting until the end of the age to reveal his kingly power and destroy satanic evil, Jesus declares that Go0d has acted in his kingly power to curb the power of Satan. In other words, God’s Kingdom in Jesus’ teaching has a twofold manifestation: at the end of the age to destroy Satan, and in Jesus’ mission to bind Satan” (63-64).

Goppelt: I: 71: “The very heart of God’s reign is summed up in the relationship between God and people becoming whole.”

Ridderbos: 20-21: “The coming of the kingdom is first of all the display of the divine glory, the re-assertion and maintenance of God’s rights on earth in their full sense.”

4. Definition
The domain of God’s salvific dominion at the climax of redemptive history,

a. Effected by the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, which overthrew all principalities and powers, triumphing over them,
b. Manifested in the preaching and parables of this domain
c. Calling for willing subjects of this domain
d. Consummated at the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds.

B. Dimensions to the Kingdom

1. Future Aspect

a. Reign of God and Judgment of God in the future

i. The day of judgment: Luke 10:12; Matt 10:15;
ii. Coming of the Son of man: Luke 17:22-37; Matt 24:27;
iii. The day of the kingdom of God: Mark 14:25: Lord’s Supper

b. Reign of God near at hand

i. Summaries of Christ’s preaching (Mark 1:15; Matt 4:17 etc.)
ii. “Nigh, even at the doors” (Mark 13:29)
iii. “Some standing here”: Mark 9:1; cf. Mark 13:30ff.)
iv. Rejected calculations (Luke 17:20ff; Mark 13:32 //)

c. Emphasis on waiting

i. Bridegroom delayed (Matt 24:48 //; Matt 25:5)
ii. Exhortations (Matt 24:43-44 //)

2. Present Aspect

a. Gospel Preaching
Ridderbos: “The preaching of the gospel is no less a proof than the miracles that the kingdom of heaven has come” (71).

i. Claim
ii. Promise
iii. Demand

b. Signs of Salvation

i. Exorcisms (Luke 11:20 //)
ii. Healings (Matt 11:4-5 //; cf. Luke 29:18; 35:5)

c. Christ’s Person
Ridderbos: “There can be no doubt that we are confronted here with the messianic, Christological character of the kingdom of heaven and that the entire fulfillment which Jesus proclaims as a present reality is based on the fact that he himself, Jesus, is the Christ” (82).

i. Preacher: Isa 61:1; Luke 4:21; cf. Isa. 52: 7
ii. Son of Man

d. Discipleship

The Violent take it by force (Matt 11:12ff)
The publicans and sinners enter it (Matt. 21:31)

3. Revelatory Aspect

a. The mystery of the kingdom: Mark 4:1-34

b. Kingdom comes through way of mustard seed (Matt 13:31-33)
Goppelt I: 67: “…[I]t cannot be accelerated by activism, nor through the achievement principle of the Pharisees, nor the rigors of the Essenes, nor the revolutionary demonstrations of the Zealots. It can only be discovered, like the treasure in the field or the pearl of great price. And whoever makes that discovery does not give just something for it, like the others, but everything, voluntarily and with joy.”

4. Kingdom and Church

a. Ridderbos:  “The basileia is the great divine work of salvation in its fulfillment and consummation in Christ; the ekklesia is the people elected and called by God and sharing in the bless of the basileia.” The kingdom “… represents the all-embracing perspective, it denotes the consummation of all history, brings both grace and judgment, has cosmic dimensions, fills time and eternity. The ekklesia in all this is the people who in this great drama have been placed on the side of God in Christ by virtue of the divine election and covenant. They have been given the divine promise, have been brought to manifestation and gathered together by the preaching of the gospel, and will inherit the redemption of the kingdom now and in the great future” (354-355).

b. Various angles – Its relationship can be viewed from various angles: “It is a community of those who await the salvation of the basileia. Insofar as the basileia is already a present reality, the ekklesia is also the place where the gifts and powers of the basileia are granted and received. It is, further, the gathering of those who, as the instruments of the basileia, are called upon to make profession of Jesus as the Christ, to obey his commandments, to perform the missionary task of the preaching of the gospel throughout the world. In every respect the church is surrounded and impelled by the revelation, the progress, the future, of the kingdom of God without, however, itself being the basileia, and without ever being identified with it” (355-356).

C. Teachings Connected with the Kingdom

1. Repentance

a. Demand

Goppelt: “‘Repentance is a collective term used by the evangelists primarily to summarize what Jesus wanted people to do. … What he himself was seeking for in people he summarized in two new terms, namely, ‘to follow in discipleship’ and ‘to believe.’ The traditional term ‘repentance’ covers, however, all these things – faith and discipleship, becoming poor and total obedience, if one understands ‘repentance’ in the sense of Old Testament prophecy or the missionary kerygma of the community (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30)” (I 77). Goppelt wonders if repentance (turning back) is appropriate. The prophets perhaps could call Israel back to God and the covenant, but was this appropriate for “the coming kingdom (which) requires a forward, rather than a backward orientation! Yet, with the kingdom comes not a new God, but precisely he God of Israel! According to Matthew 11:3-6, he was coming to realize his promise. Therefore, turning to the reign of God was both the return to the God of Israel – the prodigal son comes homes – and the return of creatures to their Creator” (77-78).

Note how Jesus’ understanding of the law was more rigorous than most understood it then (Mat. 5:17).

b. Gift

i) Emphasis on showing mercy, which was a requirement of the law; c.f. Matt 9:13; 12:7; cf. Hos 6:6

ii) Forgiveness for publicans and sinners; cf. Luke 18:13; 19:7; 15:7, 10. Goppelt: “Jesus involved himself with sinners as the one who he was through his entire speech and activity. He was present with them as the one through whose speech and activity God’s eschatological reign expressed itself and became effective” (I 130).

iii) Healing, forgiveness, and faith: this triad was present in many miracles

iv) The Offer of salvation to the righteous (Luke 15:32)

2. Discipleship

a. No faction

“Surprisingly enough, Jesus made absolutely no attempt during his ministry to follow suit by establishing … a hairesis or sect. The only sociologically recognizable group that emerged was a small circle of followers … Like John, his ministry was directed from beginning to end at all Israel. He summoned everyone to repentance, he invited everyone to the coming salvation of God … [T]he repentance that he demanded for the reign of God was realized in discipleship or in the faith that had sprung from his personal involvement with individuals” (Goppelt, 208).

b. A Following

“No rabbi ever gained his pupils through the command: ‘Follow me!’ as Jesus did. This approach was comparable only to the call to service of the OT prophets. Such a call did not lead to the establishment of a school, but rather to a fundamentally new form of fellowship … In the call itself, there full weight of the demand for repentance imposed by the reign of God in itsl dawning was summarized. The call established the priority of its claim over all other bonds, e.g., those to vocation, family, and even to oneself,” … The call is, nevertheless, not to be construed solely as an absolute demand; it was first and foremost an absolute demonstration of grace” (Goppelt 209). See also the beatitudes, which show that there is “no share in the kingdom of God that was not communicated through some connection to the person of Jesus” (209).

3. Prayer

a. Jesus prayed frequently, in his ministry, in his passion and on the cross
b. He taught prayer, answered prayer, drew prayer, and affirmed prayer
c. Prayer and the relationship between Jesus and the Father
d. Prayer and Respect and Reverence for the Name of God
e. Prayer and bowing before the sovereignty and purpose or will of God
f. Prayer for the coming of the kingdom
g. Prayer and relationship through forgiveness and dependency
h. Prayer and defense from God and deliverance by God
i. Praise as affirmation of the kingdom, power, and glory belonging to God

D. Conclusion

The kingdom of God rightly understood as a domain of grace, brought in with Christ’s first coming and continuing and finally finishing in his second coming, is a concept that encompasses the whole teaching of Christ and the synoptic gospels, especially as it pertains to the eschatological dimension of this teaching, the centrality of God, the centrality of Christ, the call, character and behavior of disciples, the importance of prayer, and especially the passion and death, resurrection and triumph of Christ.