Thoughts on the Kingdom of God

January/February 1999
Good News

God’s reign
“The kingdom of God is basically the rule of God. It is God’s reign, the divine sovereignty in action. God’s reign, however, is manifested in several realms, and the gospels speak of entering into the kingdom of God both today and tomorrow. God’s reign manifests itself both in the future and in the present and thereby creates both a future realm and a present realm in which man may experience the blessings of his reign.”
–George E. Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom

Already and not yet
“Paul makes much of the fact that Christ is seated ‘at his [the Father’s] right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come’ (Ephesians 1:20, 21). Christ is now in a place of absolute authority over all other authorities; he is ‘the only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (1 Timothy 6:15). Yet – and this is the tension all Christians feel – evil has not been eradicated in this world.

“For a time, until the day of the Lord is completed at the second coming, we must live under two kingdoms: the kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of God. Oscar Cullmann, in Christ and Time, compares our situation to that of the Allies in World War II after D-Day. The decisive battle of the war was fought and won by the Allies on D-Day, June 6, 1944. But the war continued and was not over until V-E Day, May 8, 1945 – eleven months later! More American lives were lost between D-Day and V-E Day than at any other time during the war. So it is with Jesus; our D-day is Easter Sunday, and our V-E Day is the second coming. Between the two, the war wages on.

“There are many battles in our war, and – like the Allies in World War II – we will win most of them. The kingdom of God comes intermittently, according to the Father’s will. Our job is to know the will of the Father and cooperate with his work here on earth. He has a strategy, though we may not always (if ever) discern it. Our part is to pray, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Then trust and obey. If we die trusting him, then our death contributes to fulfilling his purposes.

“The kingdom is both future and present, it has been fulfilled in Christ’s first coming and will be consummated in his second coming.”
–John Wimber, Kingdom Come

Growing power
“Our religion must renew itself by contact with Paul’s kingdom of heaven religion …. Steeled by it, our religion becomes independent of welcome from the spirit of the age, or of seeing outward success …. Our belief in the kingdom of God must remain primitive Christian, in the sense that we expect its realization not from deliberate organized measures, but from a growing power of the Spirit of God.”
–Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of St. Paul

Keep praying
“Jesus’ first followers didn’t think, for a moment, that the kingdom meant simply some new religious advice – an improved spirituality, a better code of morals, or a freshly crafted theology. They held to a stronger, more dangerous claim. They believed that in the unique life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the whole cosmos had turned the corner from darkness to light. The kingdom was indeed here, though it differed radically from what they bad imagined.

“Of course they faced the question: If the kingdom is here, why is there still injustice? Why is there still hunger? Why is there still guilt? Why is there still evil? They didn’t dodge this question. They didn’t escape into saying: Oh, we didn’t mean that; we’re talking about a new individual spiritual experience, leading to our sharing God’s kingdom in heaven, not on earth. No. They went on praying and living the Lord’s Prayer. And they would tell us to do the same.”
-N.T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer

Satan’s doom
“If we see the work of Jesus as the defeat of Satan and the destruction of Satan’s grip on this world, then suddenly the life, work, death, resurrection of Jesus assumes an impressive unity. He begins the fight with Satan in the exorcisms and healings, attacks Satan where he is strongest … in the realm of death by bringing them back to life … and then himself shatters death as the ultimate weapon of Satan, thus completely destroying the power of Satan. The life of Jesus thus seen is a cohesive, closely knit ascending battle which reaches its climax in the resurrection.”
–James Kallas, The Significance of the Synoptic Gospels

Victorious conclusion
“[Jesus’] miracles are ‘mighty works’ … of the kingdom of God, which in them advertise its presence; they are a taste of ‘the powers of the age to come’ (Hebrews 6:5). In them the grip of the Adversary – who has enthralled men in bonds of disease, madness, death, and sin – begins to be loosened …. The kingdom of God, then, is a power already released in the world. True, its beginnings are tiny, and it might seem incredible that the humble ministry of this obscure Galilean could be the dawning of a new age of God. Yet it is! What has begun here will surely go on to its conclusion; nothing can stop it. And the conclusion is victory.”
–John Bright, The Kingdom of God

Demonstrating power
“Jesus did not promise the forgiveness of sins; he bestowed it. He did not simply assure men of the future fellowship of the kingdom; he invited men into fellowship with himself as the bearer of the kingdom. He did not merely promise them vindication in the day of judgment; he bestowed upon them a present righteousness. He not only taught an eschatological deliverance from physical evil; he went about demonstrating the redeeming power of the kingdom, delivering men from sickness and even death.”
–George E. Ladd, The Presence of the Future

Glorious contradictions
“The mystery of the kingdom is the key to understanding the New Testament and the Christian life. It is the only perspective from which one can understand why healing occurs sometimes but not at other times. It is the basis of the experience of the Christian in this world. We are simultaneously ‘new creatures’ in Christ, with new natures, and those who have to struggle with the ‘old man’ and its continual reasserting of its influence in our lives. We are glorious contradictions, at the same time victorious in Christ and beset with weaknesses. This is also true of the church. The church is militant and frail. There is the continual struggle between the city of God and the city of man. Yet at every point the powers of the age to come are overcoming the powers of this present age. The new man in us is taking over the old man. The church militant will rise above the church divided. Jerusalem will defeat Babylon.”
–Derek J. Morphew, Breakthrough: Discovering the Kingdom

Status quo rupture
“The appearing of the kingdom of God in Jesus ruptures the status quo, just as new wine bursts old wineskins. Illusions of stability and authority – both the authority of Roman rule (Mark 12: 13-17) and the authority of the Jewish religious establishment (Mark 11:27-12: 12) – are stripped away. History cannot be seen as a dosed system of immanent causes and effects; God’s abrupt intervention fractures apparent historical continuities, and human life is laid bare before God. The cries of the demons are the sure sign of a cataclysmic disturbance in the cosmic order: ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?’ (1:24). The answer is yes: in the coming of Jesus, God has mounted a decisive campaign against the powers of evil that oppress humanity. But the campaign is waged in a mysterious way that no one could have expected, culminating in the cross.”
–Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament

Upside down
“These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also …. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.”
–Acts 17:6-7

Miraculous normalcy
“Are there miracles in the kingdom? No. Only normal events such as people being saved and obeying God who then are involved in other normal events such as healings, deliverances, control of weather, angelic protection, leading and revelation via words of knowledge and wisdom, salvation, loving the unlovable, ‘important’ people serving ‘unimportant’ people, forgiving the guilty, refusing to worry or be bitter or to take revenge or to seek worldly prestige and honor. Such things are only miracles to those whose definition of normalcy is tied to the earth.

“In God’s reality, the universe cannot be split up as Western worldviews do. Nor can the spiritual aspect be disposed of. Jesus came to earth in part to show us how to behave in relation to the universe as God understands it. The concept of miracle as we ordinarily understand it is not helpful to us as we strive to see and relate to things as Jesus taught us. May we learn to judge normalcy by Jesus’ standards.”
–Charles Kraft, quoted in Christianity with Power

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