The offer of forgiveness Jesus declares as present is one of the great hoped for blessings of the new era Jer. At the center of all of this activity was Jesus. That Jesus could interpret Torah and even explain its scope, so that religious practice could change pointed to the arrival of a new era Matthew ; Mark Now it is true that not all the texts I have cited mention the Kingdom, but most do. The others are describing the delivering and teaching activity of the one through whom the promise comes. In Judaism, the Kingdom was about the age to come or the messianic era.
Remember that in the Hebrew Scriptures the term Kingdom of God does not appear, though it is a topic of many other related themes. Here the refusal to come to the celebration when it is announced does not lead to the postponing of the banquet, but to the inviting of others to fill it. These texts show that at the heart of the Kingdom is the mediating of promised blessing and deliverance, an exercise of divine power and authority through a given Chosen, Anointed one, who also acts with unique authority. In the talk about the presence of the Kingdom, however, it is two texts that stand out the most in the discussion.
They are Matt. It is in these texts that two key elements of the kingdom surface, one already made obvious by our survey, the other focusing on a key element that makes deliverance possible. In Luke , Jesus declares that one need not go on a search for signs to find the Kingdom. This reinforces a point he has already raised in his teaching in the rebuke about being able to read the weather but not the signs of the times Luke par.
It also parallels the warning about the sign of his preaching being the only sign this wicked generation must respond to Luke par. The Kingdom does not come, in this phase, with such heavenly portents.
This reading sounds like the romantic notions of nineteenth century scholars on the Kingdom. Such heart potential for them does not exist without a powerful work of God and the effect of his transforming presence. Rather, the point is that the Kingdom, in a sense, is right in front of their face in Jesus.
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Such a reading highlights how Jesus is placed at the hub of Kingdom activity and fits with all the themes pointing in this direction just noted above. The second text is a famous passage where Jesus is defending himself against the charge that he casts out demons by the power of Beelzebul. He replies.
The key here is the aorist form of the verb fqavnw. It appears in the gospels only in this passage.
In 1 Thess. It is not synonymous to the earlier declaration that the Kingdom of God has drawn near, using h[ggiken. Contextually a real exercise of divine power is being defended as visibly present. The image is reinforced immediately in both contexts by the parable of a man overcoming a strong man and plundering his possessions. Jesus is describing what is taking place, not what has approached. In other words, the Jewish claim that Jesus does miracles by Satanic authority could not be more incorrect. This saying is significant for a series of reasons. First, it shows that the Kingdom is about divine deliverance through Jesus in the releasing of authority and power that overcomes the presence and influence of Satan.
Jesus is able to exercise such authority now. A second point is also important. The miracles themselves are not the point, but what they portray is. Such power had to be exercised and established if deliverance were to take place. So here lies the third point. The Kingdom manifests itself as part of a cosmic battle, expressed in dualistic terms, in which God through Jesus is defeating Satan, who himself is doing all he can to keep humanity opposed to God.
With the coming of Jesus and the Kingdom inaugurated, eschatology has entered into the present. Future hope dawns as present reality, but with much more reality to come. The importance of this text can be highlighted by making an observation about its form as a miracle story-pronouncement account. The miracles are not the point, but serve as evidence for and an illustration of a far more comprehensive deliverance that one day will extend across the entire creation.
That hope had made an appearance through Jesus in the exercise of divine power that served as a kind of cosmic email and invitation to share in what God was doing through this chosen one. So the Kingdom teaching of Jesus involved declarations about both his present ministry and the future tied to it. A Kingdom long viewed as strictly future and greatly anticipated was being pulled into the present and made initially available in an exercise of redemptive power that showed that the struggle was not merely with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers.
Though it would come in comprehensive power one day, it was invading now in Jesus.
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Humanity could experience that victory over Satan, both now and in the age to come. How would one know that Messiah had come and thus that this Kingdom promise was arriving? Luke answers the question. So the new era would be marked by a dispensing of the Spirit, a dispersal of enablement and a mark of incorporation into the redeemed community of God. The Kingdom is ultimately future, but its formation began with the powerful preaching and work of Jesus drawing citizens to the new rule he was in the process of establishing. The remaining issues I shall cover more quickly as the basic foundation is now laid to address them.
We would also suggest that the mediation of the Spirit through Jesus is evidence of the presence of this rule, as the giving of the Spirit is a key, messianic work. This idea is not explicit in the gospel material, but it will show up in Acts and the epistles. More discussed is the issue of realm. First, several texts indicate that Israel or activity associated with Israel are an element in Kingdom teaching.
I already have noted the choosing of the Twelve Matt. Acts has the disciples ask if Jesus would now be restoring the Kingdom to Israel. Jesus, though he does not directly answer the question of when, does not reject the premise of the question. One final text is associated with the celebratory banquet imagery. When Jesus refuses the wine at the last supper and notes that he will not partake of the Passover again until he does so in the context of fulfillment in the Kingdom Luke , he suggests a day when the celebration will commemorate the completion of promise with a celebration rooted in Old Testament expression.
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Whatever additional elements there are to the Kingdom realm, and there are additional elements as we shall see, they do not preclude an element involving the old Israelite expression of hope. Other texts suggest the language of gathering to a specific place. My only point here is that this is standard Jewish imagery. It suggests that the surprising inclusion of Gentiles is in view, but not the entire exclusion of Israel. After all, the disciples represented a remnant of the nation. Another key set of texts are Matthew and Luke Many treat these as parallels and point to the Matthean conflict imagery of men seeking to take the Kingdom by violence as key to both texts.
The image is of a realm introduced into the world and as an object of contention and discussion within it. Another unusual use is in Luke Here the thief on the cross asks to be remembered when Jesus comes into his Kingdom. The request, understood in normal Jewish terms, looks to the future. For he tells the thief that this very day he will be with Jesus in paradise.
Though the reply does not use the term Kingdom, the idea of paradise is a part of that hope in Judaism. There is a sense where Jesus reveals a current, cosmic claim and dimension to the Kingdom where it comes to the issue of death. Finally stand the host of texts looking to the judgment of the end, where the Son of Man carries out the eschatological assessment of humanity. I highlight one dimension of one text, the Matthean version of the Wheat and Darnel Matt. Thus, the Kingdom in terms of realm operates at several levels at once, depending on the context.
The realm in terms of its comprehensive presence looks to the future and the comprehensive establishment of peace and fellowship, after a purging judgment. This realm appears to includes hopes of old from Israel, and yet it also looks to far more, a comprehensive exercise of authority over the whole of creation, including the blessing of many from outside of Israel. However, there is also a sense in which we can talk about a realm in the present. It is the place where he is Head. It is a basis for taking the gospel into the world.
It justifies the preaching of the gospel of the authoritative Jesus to every tribe and nation. In my own view, it establishes an accountability for every person before the one true God and his chosen One, so that there is only one way to God. Responding to him brings one into this new realm, though in other contexts one can speak of entering or inheriting this Kingdom later, when it is ultimately fully realized.
The exceptional text with the thief on the cross shows that ultimately what is at stake is eternal presence and fellowship with God in unending and renewed life. But the Kingdom is bigger than the church. Its presence now is but a precursor to a more substantial presence in the future.
Jesus will redeem and judge what is being claimed now, when the authority of the Son of Man will judge humanity and bless those who sit with him at the table. Then the Kingdom will fully show itself with traits the Scripture of Israel had long promised along with features of rule Jesus himself revealed. In other worlds, Kingdom texts treat Israel, the church, the world and the cosmos as a whole, depending on which passage we are considering.
- Eternal Truth;
- The Kingdom of God (in Mark).
- What does the Bible say about the Kingdom of God?.
- What history really tells us about the birth of Jesus.
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