Thursday, January 18

The Kingdom of God

What does the “Kingdom of God” mean? I suspect all Christians would give a differing answer, for theories are plentiful. Some say that the kingdom of God was an entirely spiritual phenomenon. Verses such as Luke 17:21, with Jesus proclaiming that the kingdom of God is within you, indicates some kind of spiritual aspect to the kingdom. The spiritual phenomenon is almost always identified as salvation, and being born again. Another idea is that the kingdom of God is everything that belongs to God and will be answerable to him (such as people), and thus the kingdom is God (as the creator) looking over his created kingdom. Others take a more literal and concrete conception of the kingdom, and define it as the coming reign that God will over the earth (known as the “millennium”), following the tribulation that culminates in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

There is one last theory, which focuses more on the political and social circumstance of Christ’s sayings, and one that I believe is far more accurate and realistic. The Kingdom of God, for John the Baptist and Jesus Christ was imminent, social, but at the same time was concerned with a person’s inner being. Since John the Baptist’s message was that the son of God was coming, it makes most sense that when he spoke “the kingdom of God is at hand” he is telling his listeners that the son of God will usher in the kingdom of God with him. Speaking of the kingdom of God as something far in the future, or a portion of God’s creation is missing the point of the phrase. Jesus preached the kingdom of God, and it was revealed to Israel through the life of Jesus and later on the lives of his disciples.

This is by no means a thorough study of what the phrase exactly means, but one specific passage stood out to me as revealing Christ’s conception of the kingdom. It is Luke 22:24-29:

24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
28 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.
29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;

Here, the disciples are beginning to bickerover which will receive the highest honour in the new social order that Jesus was preaching. Jesus’ response was interesting, as he did not deny that he was seeking to bring about a new social order. Rather, the disciples were rebuked for misunderstanding the nature of the kingdom of God that Jesus was initiating. The kingdom of God is social, and it is visible, but it is not based on temporal power and authority (Jesus gave the example of the Gentiles and the rulers of this world lording over their subjects in their kingdoms.). Instead, it was based on servitude and altruism. Trying to overcome the disciples apparent lust for honour, prestige, and power, Jesus said that in his kingdom the greatest among them shall serve the others.

Jesus himself proved to be the ultimate example of this. The most striking example is when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples with his hair. Found in John 13:1-20, Jesus, the lord of his disciples, showed complete humility and humbleness by serving his followers in this way. Peter’s reaction again demonstrated how the disciples did not understand that Christ’s kingdom was not a typical one based on traditional authority, but on self-sacrifice. As followers of Christ, we are supposed to emanate the kingdom of God as a social entity, one based on love, forgiveness, and humility. Since over the centuries the ideals of Jesus have been separated from the ideals of “Christianity”, the challenge of achieving this is greater now than it ever has been.


Blogger truthquest said...

Your last sentence " Since over the centuries the ideals of Jesus have been seperated from the ideals of Christianity, the challenge of achieving this is greater now than it ever has been." is a very true statement. One that many do not want to admit to or investigate. It is a tremendous undertaking to sift through all the information that is available and arrive at the essence of Christianity

2:04 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

The 'true' concept of Christianity has been lost, that is, as an entity synonymous with the ideals of Jesus Christ. If one were to look at the Christian situation today, one can see that Christianity has been over shadowed by Christianity's own pursuit for power and status.

One could not conclude that, the essence of Christianity is what it 'ought' to be, through the ideals of today's Christian paradigm.

Just some thoughts.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

I def. agree with your understanding of the Kingdom of God--it is a social as well as an inner reality. Power and greatness in the Kingdom of God is unlike the power and greatness that the world espouses. The nations of the world rely on military might, machines of war, and sanctified violence in order to rule (even in our "free" democracy) but it is not so with Christ. How do you recommend that one embodies this way of the kingdom and how should we perceive the rest of Christendom that rejects such an idea?

3:54 AM  
Blogger Roopster said...

I agree that the kingdom of God should be more social that spiritual. Many times, as Christians, we forget what I consider to be the central message of Jesus - love God, love others, be compassionate, kind, merciful, etc. I once went through Matthew and pulled out a lot of these concepts - The Teachings of Jesus.

- Paul

2:06 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Thanks for the comments guys, btw roopster I love your blog.

Jay: How to 'embody' the kingdom to me would be to take the existential teachings of Jesus and live them out. Meaning the things we not only hear him teach but demonstrate in all of his actions: love, tolerance, forgiveness. Obviously there is alot more to it than that, but basically the kingdom of God is followers who imitate Christ in the society that surrounds them.

The way I have reacted to the Christendom that reject Christ's existential message is with criticism, warning, but also with respect. Most Christians are a lot older than I am, and I don't want to give anyone the impression that I think I am more "enligthened" than them or something like that.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Tim Levert said...

Thanks, Timothy. Your comments remind of some of the readings in The Early Christians: In Their Own Words (Eberhard Arnold). It seems in the early church that living the way of Christ was of the utmost importance. I wonder if the same could be said of 21st century Western Christ-followers?

Thanks for the reminder that Christ came to reveal a new Kingdom, a new way of life, and a renewal of what God intended for His creation.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Timothy -- Given your understanding of the "kingdom," or the reign of God (to use inclusive language), you would be interested to know that the old King James translation that states that the "kingdom of God is within you" is considered by many to be a mis-translation. Most current translators use "among" or "in the midst of," such that the phrase becomes "the kingdom of God is among you" or "in the midst of you." This translation points more clearly points to the kingdom being a social and not individual reality.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Really? I'll have to look into that.. It does reinforce the point that the kingdom is a social reality, thanks.

12:27 PM  

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