Yet this definition does not fully comprehend the constituency of the kingdom. The kingdom of God as preached by Jesus is a vision of a radical transformation of human beings and human institutions social, political, economic and religious to a form that expresses the character and nature of God. The kingdom of God takes place through a group of persons whose hearts and relationships are in subordination to the reign of God.
Jesus described the kingdom of God in words and actions for all to hear and see.
His weapons were humor, healing and hope. He brought attention to the kingdom of God through radical public actions, through peaceful but powerful demonstrations. What made Jesus so unique was his conviction that the reign of God had already started happening.
Kingdom of God (Christianity) - Wikipedia
The things that many prophets and righteous people had long desired to see and hear were now present before the eyes and ears of all. Or at least it is so near at hand that signs of its activity are clearly visible. Theologians debate over whether the reign of God exists in the present or in the future. If the reign of God is understood as a vision that Jesus articulated for the people of his time, then we can begin to understand how it is both present and future, because that is how a vision operates.
When people embrace a vision, they begin to live it out.
To be a witness of the kingdom also means that the church has to be alert to recognising the presence of the kingdom outside its own boundaries, like a radar antenna picking up signals of another presence. The church can do this by appreciating the work of God in human cultures, in the values people live by, in the religions they practise: In a word, by a faith-filled reading of the signs of the times. This requires a formation in discernment for all Christians, not just church leaders.
The relationship between church and kingdom has always been a delicate one. Sometimes, the two terms are used in the New Testament in a way that could leave people to identify the two. But the church and the kingdom are not the same thing. The kingdom of God is greater than the boundaries of the church, and goes beyond the limits of all the world religions.
The Spirit of God is not confined within any human movement or organisation or institution. Yet, the church does have a special relationship to the kingdom. This is what it has been called to be and to do. During its year history, it has for the most part carried out its mission effectively, as it still does today. Bu there have been other times, including our own, when it has failed to be the kind of effective instrument that Jesus intended it to be.
That is true not just of church leadership, but of the whole Christian community. Jesus spoke of the kingdom: Following him, the church has to remain free for the kingdom, free of all power and attachment to political ideologies. It must accept the provisional nature of its position and its institutions, be truly at the service of humanity, avoid all forms of self-glorification and triumphalism, and be like Christ, at the service of the poor. He will provide them with the food and the water they need. He will discipline them. He will separate sheep from goats. He will be their shepherd.
It is shepherd language to talk about his coming kingdom. And then at the end of that he says — after declaring about 25 times that he will come and reign — then he says: I will send my servant David to do so see Ezekiel So again, you are seeing the coming of God himself in the coming of the promised Davidic King. And so, we can trace out more of the drama of the Old Testament when Jerusalem falls and the nation of Judah follows the fate of the nation of Israel off into exile, and there is no Davidic king in Jerusalem.
It just seems so bleak for the covenant people of God. Where are the promises of God? The temple is destroyed. There is no Davidic King. They know who it should be. The genealogical records are maintained, but there is not one on the throne. Then, the people of God return after the end of the exile and the Medo-Persians. God allowed them back under Cyrus and Darius, under Artaxerxes and so forth, and the city is rebuilt, the temple is rebuilt. The temple first, then the city, the city under Nehemiah. But still there is no Davidic King. And then you begin with the genealogy, a genealogy slightly artificially constructed into three fourteens where the central fourteens are the years of the Davidic monarchy, the Davidic line, the Davidic dynasty.
And now, what you have is the coming of Jesus who is legally in line to take up that claim. When John the Baptist and Jesus begin to preach, they use the same words: John the Baptist seems to mean it in the sense that the kingdom is impending. It is just around the corner. Jesus is maybe saying the same thing, but he may also have another overtone in his utterance.
It is near you. It is come, and it is near you.
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It is close, for he himself is there. Then, whether you are talking about the Sermon on the Mount or the parables of Jesus and so many of his miracles, the kingdom theme is never far away. Who inherits the kingdom? Well, the Beatitudes address that question Matthew 5: We are to pursue the kingdom of God and his righteousness, knowing that all other things will be added to us Matthew 6: And the miracles of healing and of raising the dead and of transformation, all of these things are announcements that the kingdom is near Matthew 4: It is manifesting itself. At the same time, there is patently misunderstanding on the part of the disciples as to how the kingdom will manifest itself.
One of the most striking passages of this regard, of course, is Matthew And on this occasion the two brothers, James and John, approach Jesus with their mother. And what they are really asking for is a leg up when the kingdom dawns — when he, Jesus, enters into his kingdom, that is, into what they take to be the full plentitude of a restored Israel with powerful dominion over the nations and great displays of righteousness and integrity and authority.
They want to be senior administrators above the other disciples in that kingdom. Can they go there? They think that they can no matter what. Well, there is a sense, of course, in which you will drink from my cup. After all, one of them would become the first apostolic martyr, and the other would end his life in exile. So, in that sense, he will suffer, too. But it is up to my heavenly Father to grant these things see Matthew And they are indignant because those two got their dibs in first, not because they are indignant that what they did was wrong.
It shall not be so among you. It is the sort of passages like this that we have sometimes spoken of servant leadership. Jesus is the servant King, which does not mean that he is less authoritative. It means that he rules in such a way as to seek the good of those over whom he reigns.
He is adamantly committed to seeking the good of those over whom he reigns, which follows also as to the way servant leadership should be exerted in the church. It is not for self-promotion. It is not to gain power. It is not to become highly respected and wonderfully known or the like. Rather, it is to seek the good of those over whom the Lord has placed you.
Christ Reigns over All: Biblical Survey of God’s Kingdom
So, Jesus uniquely goes to the cross to serve as a ransom. But there is a sense in which we take up our cross and follow him, not least leaders who are committed to the kind of service that is seeking the good of those over whom the Lord has placed us. And then, in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and the parallels scattered throughout Luke, we learn from the parables of the kingdom that the kingdom, again, is not coming with a big bang — not yet.
Rather, parable after parable after parable tells us how the kingdom comes in subtle ways. The sower goes forth to sow the seed, and some seed is wasted. It is squeezed to death by thorns. It is picked up by birds. But it also produces some fruit: The parable of the tares and the wheat we have already seen. And so, Jesus spends quite a lot of time trying to adjust their anticipation of what the kingdom will be like.
Then, in Matthew 27 Jesus reigns from the cross. But the fact of the matter is: He is the King of the Jews. He is just a scumbag. But Matthew realizes there is a deeper irony upon the irony. He really is the King of the Jews, and he is reigning from the cross. That is why for the first three centuries of the Christian church, the Christians often spoke with self-conscious irony: Our King reigns from the cross.
And that is tied to many other passages, of course, like John He lays it down. He sovereignly lays down his life as the King who cares for his sheep in this way. And then, after the resurrection from the dead, that is when Jesus says, in Matthew So Jesus is reigning over the entire universe, over absolutely everything. And yet it is a contested reign. It is still a contested reign at this juncture, and he must reign, as 1 Corinthians The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Jesus reigns over everything, but there is a subset of that sovereign reign under which there is light.
There is one sense in which you are either in the kingdom or you are not, not only in a passage like John 3: And so, although Jesus is reigning, what we anticipate in the New Testament increasingly is his return as King where he comes to reign in a way that is uncontested. And the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ, and he will reign forever.
- the reign of God.
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So, the theme runs from creation all the way through to the new heaven and the new earth, and God will be seen as all in all — not a constitutional monarch, but the reigning King who reigns from the cross, reigns in resurrection glory, reigns even now in his mediatorial role, and reigns ultimately in the new heaven and the new earth. Christians divide somewhat on how they understand the reign of the millennium, but all the ultimate hope for all Christians is the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness where God will be all in all, and all will see him as King.
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