Defining “Kingdom of God”: A Paper (Part 3 of 3)

coffee cupJesus’ deeds were also a sign post declaring that the kingdom of God had come among men. The book of Isaiah mentions that when the Day of the Lord comes there would be salvation for all people: the deaf would hear, the blind see, the lame leap like deer, the dumb shout for joy, and those imprisoned would be set free  (Is 29:17-19; 35:5-6; 42:6-7; 49:8-9) [Derek Morphew, Breakthrough: Discovering the Kingdom, 38-39]. Luke 7:22 and Matthew 11:5 give testimony that all of these signs were accomplished through the ministry of Jesus Christ: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor” (Mt 11:5, New International Version).

In addition, Isaiah 43 declares that when “the LORD, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King” comes He will “remember your sins no more” (Is 43:15, 25 New International Version). The Gospel texts show that Jesus of Nazareth, unlike any of the previous prophets of Israel, publically forgave the sins of the people without referring to the Temple sacrifices (Mt 9:5-6; Mk 2:5-10; Lk 5:20-24; 7:48; Jn 8:11). In effect, Jesus was simultaneously declaring Himself God while demonstrating the fact that the Day of the Lord or the Kingdom of God had come among men forever.

If the above is true, then it leaves the modern reader in a conundrum for it would seem that Jesus taught two contradictory ideas: one, that the active rule and reign of God, known as the Day of the Lord, has come among men as foretold by the prophets; and two, that the looked for Day had not yet come, but was coming. Did Jesus really teach both of these ideas? Or did we misinterpret the meaning of the phrase “kingdom of God”?

Luckily the disciples had the same conundrum because they asked Jesus to explain himself and his parables about the Kingdom of God in Matthew 13:10-12 (also Mk 4:10-12 and Lk 8:9-11):

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”  (New American Standard)

While this passage may seem to skirt around the question at hand, in reality it does give us a clue to what Jesus is talking about in his parables. The term “mystery” in the Bible does not simply refer to something unknown or mysterious, but to “something which has been kept secret through times eternal but is now disclosed” [Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 52].  In other words, Jesus was telling his disciples that the Kingdom of God was coming into the world in a way unforeseen by the prophets of old.

Instead of only being a one-time earth-shattering event, the Kingdom of God is like a newly planted field of wheat among which the enemy scatters weeds among the good seed. When the farmer learned about the weeds, he told his servants to leave the field alone – allowing the wheat and weeds to grow together until the time of harvest when they shall be separated. As Jesus himself explained, the field is this world into which the Kingdom of God has come. However, instead of destroying the rule of evil in one major event, the Lord Almighty chose to allow evil (the weeds) to grow along side His chosen people (the wheat) until the Second Coming of Christ (Mt 13:24-30, 36-43) [George Eldon Ladd, The Presence of the Future, 231-232].

This is the mystery of the Gospel: that Jesus came to destroy evil, sin and death, while proclaiming that the rule and reign of God (i.e. the Kingdom of God) has come, is coming; is near, and yet is delayed [Morphew, Breakthrough, 57-68].  Once understood, this simple, but profound, understanding of the Kingdom of God will change the way in which the Gospel, nay the entire Bible, is read. Jesus Christ’s central message was one of end-time proportions, forcing His followers to live in the tension of the here and not yet.

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Bibliography

Atlantic Baptist University, “Psalms of Solomon 17,” Atlantic Baptist University, http://www.abu.nb.ca/courses/NewTestament/Hebrews/PrimReadPsSol.htm (accessed December 11, 2009).

König, Adrio. The Eclipse of Christ in Eschatology: Towards a Christ-Centered Approach. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1989.

Ladd, George Eldon. The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies in the Kingdom of God. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1959.

———-. The Presence of the Future. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1974.

———-. A Theology of the New Testament. rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1993.

Love, Rick. Muslims, Magic, and the Kingdom of God: Church Planting Among Folk Muslims. Pasadena, Calf: William Carey Library, 2000.

Morphew, Derek. Breakthrough: Discovering the Kingdom. 1991. Reprint, Cape Town, South Africa: Vineyard International Publishing, 2006.

Schweitzer, Albert. The Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity, Trans. L.A. Garrard, Ed. Ulrich Neuenschwander. New York: The Seabury Press, 1968.

Williams, Don. Start Here: Kingdom Essentials for Christians. 2006. Ventura, California: Regal.

Wright, Nicholas Thomas (N.T.). Surprised by Hope. New York: HarperCollins, 2008.

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