Jesus and the Kingdom of God Part 4

“Kingdom” After Jesus

One of the most important Scriptures in the book of Acts is found in 1:3 where Luke tells us that the resurrected Jesus spent a great deal of time sharing about the Kingdom of God while among them for forty days. However, to what degree and frequency we do not know. Assuming this text from Luke to be reliable we can note that Luke thought it important enough to include this important detail highlighting the launching point of the Church. The church now was to live in the reality of the Kingdom and its kerygma coming from the risen Jesus. Luke continues this emphasis all the way up until the end of Acts. In 28:23, 31, the Apostle Paul is seen testifying and proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the lord Jesus Christ with all boldness. With this inclusion tying the beginning of Acts with the end, Kingdom is an obvious central theme of the early church.[1] Although in the book of Acts Luke does not present us with any of the usual paradoxes of the Kingdom seen in the Gospels, he does include the dialog of Jesus and the disciples about the timing of the Kingdom. Something which again can cause confusion with Mark 1:15 if not careful in our exegesis of the Kingdom motif and its multilayered truth. 

Moving from Acts and into the Pauline corpus and letters of Hebrews, James, 2 Peter we see sparse mentioning’s of the Kingdom. In Paul’s letters we see the Kingdom being referenced in terms of future entrance as well as its power.[2]Paul in his work is seeking to prepare followers for it while also encouraging them to walk in the new life of the Spirit which serves as a promise of the future fulfillment. One scripture of Paul which deserves attention is Colossians 4:11 where Paul states, “And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my co-workers for the Kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.” The significance of this verse is found in Paul’s conception of labor and the Kingdom. Using the preposition εἰς preceding the phrase “τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ” reveals how Paul saw his labor. Peter T. Obrien explains that according to Paul, most of the time “Kingdom” is used, it denotes the future reality he is preparing the churches for while also encouraging them to live the Kingdom life in preparation. However, in this text there is a shift that needs acknowledged.[3] The significance of this in conjunction with Luke’s presentation of Paul at the end of his volume on the church reveals that Paul saw the Kingdom in a multidimensional manner of here but not yet similar to Jesus. 

Hebrews contains three references to the Kingdom while James and 2 Peter each have one. Hebrews, in its usual sermonic tone, refers to either the Kingdom or Jesus crowned with glory as a symbol of the ultimate victory. The author of Hebrews in 1:8; 2:9; and 12:28 does not offer much on the Kingdom but enough to reflect the early church’s belief that the Kingdom represented the ultimate eschatological victory of God that surely was coming shortly. James continues in the thought process of Jesus in an almost identical fashion. James 2:5 reads, “Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the Kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?” James is picking up on the truth that the Kingdom was yet to come but also that the Kingdom belonged to the unsuspected (or inauspicious as McKnight wrote above) individuals of lower status. This strikes a similar tone to our above study of Mark 10:14-15. Rounding out the canonical texts referring to the Kingdom in the New Testament after Jesus is the much-disputed letter of 2 Peter. In this letter in 1:11 the author communicates exclusively on the future of the Kingdom and the preparation of moral character which needs to take place for entrance way into the Kingdom.  

While John does not use the βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ phrase itself it is worth noting that within Revelation we have around 12 allusions to the Kingdom in varied ways. All of these are geared toward the future and cosmic end of the Kingdom with special focus on the victory of the it. Of interest for our present study as it pertains to Second Temple Judaism is Revelation 19:16. It reads, “He has a name inscribed, ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s.’” Above we examined parts of Enoch and Daniel 7. We also researched the Qumran scrolls and especially 1Qm 12:8. All of these contained this same language in reference to the coming Messiah as well as “king of kings” terminology found in Rev. 19:16. Moving past the writing of Revelation and its connections to the Kingdom, the church continued down this path as observed by the Apostolic Father Clement (in letters 1 and 2), Ignatius, the Didache, Polycarp, and more. Even within the Apocryphal writings of the NT we see Thomas including 15 references to the Kingdom.

These writers as well as Christians through history have interpretated and debated the eschatology of Jesus in numerous ways. Theologian Roger Olson communicates on the mosaic that is Christian belief on this matter and concludes, “There is and always has been tremendous diversity within Christianity about Christ’s return and God’s reign in the future.”[4] This is also true of the time before the church and the ministry of Jesus. What is important to remember is that even in the presence of diverse thinking, the Church fathers by and large agreed on the presence of God’s Kingdom both in the life of the church and through her mission as well as pointing to future fulfilment at the Parousia of Jesus.[5]

Lest we forget, the church then and today is to be the embodiment of Kingdom ethics and mission reflecting the very thought and life patterns of Jesus. The work the church does is to point back to the King(dom). The message we bear is to be one of subversive hope and revolutionary love. It is wise for us to wrestle with this question so brilliantly asked by theologian Daniel Migliore who rightly challenges the current disconnect in the Christian church around the area of eschatology and ethics. He asks

Does hope in the ‘coming in glory of the crucified and risen Christ,’ in the ‘resurrection of the dead,’ and in the ‘promise of eternal life’ erode Christian commitment to work on behalf of greater justice and peace in our communities and in our world here and now?[6]

I would answer this with an emphatic, “No!” However, for far too many, the chasm between what the Church is declaring its hope to be and the hopeful work it is supposed to be doing is just too wide. The Church’s witness is crumbling. From ecclesiastical abuse to power struggles. From hypocritical anti- (fill in the blank) stances to the culture wars we fight so well. All of this and more is speaking a narrative that is anything but “Kingdom oriented.” No longer can our version of the Kingdom be molded by the whims of our personal preferences and emotive responses to a changing culture. A pseudo-kingdom of more division, national fervor, and fraction will not display the beauty of God’s true Kingdom which was hoped for, prophesied about, and inaugurated by Jesus. It is high time that the church re-envisions what the Kingdom means for today.

Kingdom Implications for Today

I hope by now it is obvious that the killing of Osama Bin Laden on that day so long ago was anything but a “win for the Kingdom.” (See Part 1 from this series) Given the research thus far on both Second Temple Judaism and Jesus’ own understanding of the Kingdom—such a statement by my friend that night sounds even more bizarre. But can I or anyone blame him? I am aware first-hand of the church hurt he went through, and I now know that I can’t fault him for that statement. His own experience of the church he was a part of demonstrated the opposite of the Kingdom itself through moral failures of leadership and an internally focused mission to the detriment of the surrounding community.

So how would he have known? The number one issue facing the church as well as pastors and those in leadership is the issue of credibility. With a new and healthy foundation, the church can reengage society with the tov[7] of God, forging a way forward that demonstrates both the salt and light Jesus desired for Israel. To do this well we must first embrace the prophetic and apocalyptic nature of what the church was meant to be. For without this, the model we seek to be molded into will lack the necessary vision and urgency needed to rightly carry out Matthew 28:18-20. A mold that can best be described as apocalyptic and ethical in nature. More on this in Part 5.


[1] Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, eds., Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 629. This is further emphasized when we see key Scriptures in the middle pointing back to the Kingdom as the central focus: Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 14:22; 17:7. 

[2] The Pauline corpus contains 14 citations to the Kingdom with additional allusions. The citations are Romans 14:17; 1 Cor. 4:20; 6:9, 10; 15:24, 50; Gal.5:21; Eph 5:5; Col. 1:13; 4:11; 1 Th. 2:12; 2 Th. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:1; 4:18. The allusions can be found in Rom. 5:17, 21; 6:12-23; 1 Cor. 4:8; 15:23-28; and 1 Tim. 1:17. 

[3] Peter T. O’Brien, Word Biblical Commentary: Colossians, Philemon (Waco, Tex: Word Books, 1982), 252–53.

[4] Roger E. Olson, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity (Downers Grove, Ill. : Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press ; Apollos, 2002), 334.

[5] Ibid, 337.

[6] Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Third edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 367.

[7] Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer, A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2020), 6–9. McKnight uses this Hebrew word to speak of the hope represented by the goodness of God. In the pages cited he does so with the desire to express what the culture of church ought to be. That in our churches there must be the tov of God permeating all aspects. If this is not so than what is left in the wake of a “tov-less” church is narcissism, abuse, power struggles, and more. Why? Because the goodness of God, the tov, has been replaced by the prideful and harmful ways of leadership which compromise’ the church’s integrity. All of this can be spoken of in the same view of the church’s mission in engaging the outside world with the substance of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom represents at its deepest point the hope or tov of God. 

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