What Is A Kingdom?
To understand what Jesus meant by the phrase, “the kingdom of God,” we must first understand what a kingdom is. When we in the Western world hear the word, we may think of kings and queens ruling in empires like England. A regent over a kingdom is someone who has authority in that kingdom.That kingdom is a place where they actively rule and reign.
So, what did it mean when Jesus said that God has a kingdom, and that it has come near?
What Is The Kingdom Of God?
The kingdom of God, as Jesus spoke about it, was not limited to a physical city, country, or land mass – even to the borders of ancient Israel. Rather, the kingdom of God was the dynamic reign of God over heaven and earth; all things visible and invisible. For the ancient Jews, the idea of the “kingdom of God” was an accepted theological reality. Taught by prophets like Isaiah, the people of Israel believed that God is the one true King and Creator of the world. As King, he rules the cosmos (Ps. 24:8-10), and will one day express that rule fully on earth through his selected regent – an anointed one (Is. 61:1).
On that day, God’s people, Israel, will be delivered from their oppressors and brought home from their long exile. The world will be set to rights, brought under God’s shalom (peace) again as it had been in the beginning. God’s anointed, appointed King will rule the people of the world with justice, mercy, and love. This was the day for which they hoped, prayed, and persevered.
Jesus Inaugurates The Kingdom
Jesus, a simple carpenter’s son and a Jew, is born in 1st century Palestine. One day, as a young man, he steps forward in a synagogue to read the Old Testament. He chooses a revered text that speaks of the anointed King to come. It is from the revered prophet Isaiah, chapter 61.
Here is the account:
“He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:17-20).
Jesus was declaring himself to be the anointed King for whom they had been waiting! He would proclaim, in word and deed, that God’s kingdom was truly among them. He would demonstrate that kingdom in signs, wonders, and the transformation of every life he touched. Then, by death on a cross, he would offer himself as a sacrificial lamb, the “suffering servant,” for the sins of humanity (Is. 53). By his resurrection from the dead (Luke 24:1-6), God would verify that Jesus was indeed the true King of the world. Jesus was inaugurating the rule and reign of God on the earth, and God’s purposes for the world from creation would begin to be realized.