The Kingdom of God – introduction

The kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus’ preaching, according to the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

Kingdom of God and Kingdom of heaven are synonymous terms.

While Matthew, who addresses himself to the Jews, speaks for the most part of the ‘kingdom of heaven’, Mark and Luke speak of the ‘kingdom of God’, which has the same meaning as the ‘kingdom of heaven’, but was more intelligible to non-Jews.[1]

Jesus made the Kingdom of God his message. He used the phrase “the Kingdom of God” or its equivalent a hundred times.[2]

 

Yet this important theme of the Kingdom of God is seldom preached in any church.  My intention is to rectify that for our congregation.

There are 2 aspects to the kingdom of God – the here and now and the future, held in dynamic tension.

There are those who focus on the kingdom to come at the expense of the kingdom now. They are waiting for the kingdom to arrive – sitting in the waiting room, waiting for the nurse to call their name.

I want to focus on the here and now kingdom.

As we read the sayings of Jesus, “it is impossible to explain these sayings about himself in a future sense, as some have wished to do, as though he referred to himself only as the future,”[3] quotes one scholar.

Think of Luke 16:16 “The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force.  

Jesus announced the kingdom not just as a reality which … would appear in the immediate future, but as a reality which was already present, manifested in his own person and ministry.

Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

Note: “has come” not “will come”.

 

 

Although the places where Jesus speaks explicitly of the kingdom as being present are not huge, his whole preaching and ministry are marked by this dominant reality[4]

Matthew 12:28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

Luke 10:8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.

The word translated as “has come” is a Greek word eggiken which is a verb indicating a past and completed action[5]

And most telling of all is from the Beatitudes:

 

Luke 6:20 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

 

Note: not “will be” yours, but IS – present reality.

 

 

Jesus spoke many parables about the kingdom of God and we will address some of those in future weeks. They speak of finding it and seeking it, but there is nothing about it suddenly being created at some future date. You can’t look for something that is not already in existence.

 

The Kingdom of God did not come about when Jesus spoke about it. It had existed forever but he inaugurated it in his time and his place. “It is clear from what he actually said that his gospel concerned only the new accessibility of the [already existing] kingdom to humanity through himself.”[6]

 

The kingdom of God has been here as long as we humans have been here, and longer. But it has been available to us through simple confidence in Jesus, the anointed, only from the time of his public ministry.[7]

 

As we already read, in Mark 1:15 Jesus says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

And he was able to say this because both he and the Kingdom are one. “He was himself the evidence for the truth of his announcement about the availability of God’s kingdom, or governance, to ordinary human existence.”[8]

 

 

C H Dodd asks the question: in what sense then did Jesus declare that the kingdom of God was present? Our answer must begin with his own answer to John: “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”[9]

 

The existence of the kingdom of God is evidenced by the actions he performed.

 

So just where is this Kingdom of God? Show me on a map!

 

The kingdom of God is not a geographic domain with set boundaries and settled decrees, but a set of relationships in which Christ is Sovereign.[10]

 

The kingdom of God in biblical and Jewish tradition has a dynamic rather than static sense. It denotes an activity more than a territory, a power more than a place. God’s kingdom is not a piece of real estate; it is God’s activity in ruling.[11]

 

In Romans, it is said (Romans 14:17)  For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

 

The Kingdom of God is not physical as in food and drink but in behaviour and godly attributes

 

The kingdom of God is not a particular church, or a particular denomination but the church as a whole exhibits the kingdom of God, albeit incompletely.

 

Church is a core element of the strategy of the Holy Spirit for providing human witness and physical presence to the Jesus inaugurated kingdom of God in this world. It is not that kingdom complete, but it is that kingdom.[12]

 

Charles Colson tells is that “to model the kingdom of God in the world, the church must not only be a repentant community, committed to truth, but also a holy community.”[13]

 

Do you note here in Colson’s comment that he does not mention individual repentance, truthfulness or holiness?  Of course, those are important but the question is how are we doing as a church, as a community of believers.  I am not the bride of Christ, the church is; of which I am small part.

 

How is the church exhibiting that it is part of the kingdom of God?

 

Badly I would say, historically.

The knowledge that the kingdom of God is here is a call to us as the church and as individuals to reconsider how we have been approaching our life, in light of the fact that we now, in the presence of Jesus, have the option of living within the surrounding movements of God’s eternal purposes.[14]

 

Helmut Thielicke points out that we often wonder if the celebrities who advertise food and drink brands actually consume them. Then he asks the same of Christians. Are we eating what we are selling?[15] Do we walk the talk?

 

How is our behaviour changed by the fact that we are in the kingdom of God?  If Christianity was a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict us?

 

I am not talking about our Sunday behaviour. I am talking whole of life.  How do our actions reflect that we live in a different kingdom to the world?

 

Apparently 94% of Americans believe in God, 74% of them have made a commitment to Jesus Christ and 34% confess to being born again.  Statistics on the same group in regards unethical behaviour, crime, family failures, addictions, financial misdealings and other indicators do not show any difference between this group and the general population.

 

If we belong to another kingdom – the Kingdom of God, shouldn’t there be some perceivable difference.

 

I struggle with this, in me and in my observations on the church. Why aren’t we different?

 

If the indications that the kingdom of God is here are the healing of the blind, sick, blind and the raising of the dead, how come we do not see those events on a regular basis?

 

If our passports are created in the Kingdom of God and we have visas to visit the kingdom of this world, what are the customs and language of our home kingdom?

 

How do we express our residence in the Kingdom of God?  That is the subject I want to tackle over the next few weeks. 



[1] Ridderbos, H. N. Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven. In  New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 647).

[2] The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person (E Stanley Jones) 27

[3] Ridderbos, ibid

[4] Ridderbos, ibid.

[5] DallasWillard The Divine Conspiracy 36

[6] Willard 34

[7] Ibid

[8] Willard 27

[9] Quoted in Willard 37

[10] Abundant Living: 364 Daily Devotions (E. Stanley Jones) - Highlight Loc. 269-70

[11] Christopher Marshall “The Kingdom of God: doing God’s will on earth as in heaven” Reality Aug/Sept 2004 19

[12] Eugene Peterson The Pastor; a memoir 110

[13] Charles Colson Against the night: living in the dark ages 155

 

[14] Willard 23

[15] Willard 48