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. 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.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. 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.” 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.
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?
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 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.
 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.
 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.
 Peter T. O’Brien, Word Biblical Commentary: Colossians, Philemon (Waco, Tex: Word Books, 1982), 252–53.
 Roger E. Olson, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity (Downers Grove, Ill. : Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press ; Apollos, 2002), 334.
 Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Third edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 367.
 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.
I want to encourage you with something today. Something maybe you have forgotten. Its this: Jesus still changes lives, heals the sick, and sets the oppressed free; just as He did in the pages of Scripture. It could be physical healing or it could be the victory over a destructive habit—no situation in our lives is too far out of reach for the power of God in Christ Jesus to reach us. The timing and method is with God—but I know that He still does them through His Holy Spirit.
This past week in our church there was a woman physically healed from severe pain in her legs. She walked down with a cane praying for physical healing. She walked back without the cane. The following week a man got up to share how Jesus had set him free in his life from various things that he had been carrying for so long. The common thread in all of this? Jesus is still at work changing lives. But I am not sure many of us still believe this.
In fact, it seems there are two kinds of people in the Church: There are those that follow Jesus actively and there are those that like Jesus passively.
There are those that follow Jesus actively and there are those that like Jesus passively.
The first group lives with a confidence that Jesus is still at work both within as well as through their own lives to others. They are those who are seeking to love and serve others, share the message of Jesus, helping others to repent and join the church, those who are boldly praying for the sick, casting out demonic spirits, and more. They are a people of action.
The second group lives with a theoretical knowledge that Jesus was who he said he was. They ascribe the right doctrinal beliefs. They seek to do good, be kind, tip their waiter well, tolerate and love all people, smile on walking paths, mind their own business, and then wait to die to go to heaven. They are a people of passivity.
You may find yourself in one of these groups. I pray it is the former. Maybe you’re thinking, “But I go to church! Why wouldn’t I be at church if I wasn’t passionate?” I get it. But does that equate to being the passionate disciple of Jesus that He is looking for? My dad always told me growing up that “Going into a church building doesn’t make you a Jesus follower anymore than walking into a garage makes you a car.” He would tell me this to remind me that to be a Jesus follower is what matters most.
The reality is that Jesus wants all of you so that he can transform all of you. He wants more than your Sunday attendance or confessions when you messed up. He wants all of you so that you can experience His full love, and truth, as well as enlist you in His Kingdom work. We do not have the option of being one foot in and one foot out. Jesus taught the opposite in fact. Jesus says in Revelation 3:15-16 the following blunt truth.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
The Holy Spirit is looking for women and men of God set on fire for Jesus, not lukewarm. Joyful, passionate, excited about the potential that Jesus offers for themselves and others who are lost because they are needed—What Jesus began; He continues today. In fact we can take this deeper. Not only does his work continue today but his Kingdom still reigns as well.
The Kingdom Jesus Began… Still Reigns. In You.
Luke writes in his Gospel that there were those who did not realize Jesus still lived and reigned. Here is a sample from Luke 24:36-39, 44-49 NIV
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”….44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Early in the chapter before the above, we have two men walking on a road and the resurrected Jesus appears to them in their sad and mourning state as they thought Jesus was gone, hope was dead. He appears to the disciples and speaks very clear instructions to them in what we read this morning. They too were startled unsure that Jesus was really alive—even though He told them this would happen. In both cases He helps them come back to life as effective witnesses for His truth. Essentially what he is doing is reminding them that “Everything I told all of you. Everything that was spoken about me in the Word. Everything I did while among you: healing, providing, loving, releasing, and more—all of it is still for today.”
Luke then writes a sequel to all of this called “Acts” which has been called the Acts of the Apostles but is more appropriately named the Acts of the Holy Spirit. It is the story of what happens next after Jesus resurrected and ascended to the Father. Essentially, it is our story. There was no expiration date on the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Luke says in Acts in 1:1-3:
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
Do you see how Luke writes, “…what Jesus began to do and to teach…” Luke is affirming that even though he ascended, Jesus began “something.” Something best defined as the reign of God’s Kingdom here in our time and space. Jesus could have discussed anything with them. But he chose to speak of the Kingdom of God.
This Kingdom is the reign of God that pushes back the evil and darkness. Beginning first in the hearts of humans who respond in faith, and then permeating their thoughts, words, actions, and manner of life. This is where we get the understanding of the “victorious life.” That even through difficulty, tribulation, and even death—we still reign with Jesus. This victorious life is Kingdom living.
In our desire to be understanding and empathetic we will often cater to the more difficult and broken parts of our stories in a desire to be real and authentic to be relatable. We could call this “Messy Spirituality.” While sometimes needed, we must remember that Kingdom living is not tied to the acceptance of what is wrong in us; but rather the embrace of what Jesus desires for us.
This means we are to pursue a holy life. Free of sin. Free of addictions, secret sin, perversions of the flesh, and everything else that damages our relationship with the Lord. We can be set free. His Kingdom still CAN reign in our thoughts and actions.
Kingdom living is not tied to the acceptance of what is wrong in us; but rather the embrace of what Jesus desires for us.
The desire of God is that His Kingdom would reign in our lives victoriously. We are to be those “New Creations” that the world sees and is attracted to. 2 Corinthians 5:17 brings this to light:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
We are to be new creations because of Jesus. We are not to resemble the world but rather be those who are called out of it. We are the New Creations who are still living in the “Acts of the Holy Spirit…” We are those who bring this same Kingdom in thought, word, and action—resembling the life of Jesus—to those whom God places in our path.
Two things will happen as you read that statement above. You will either feel emboldened by it, encouraged, and recharged and passionate to commune with the Spirit and receive instruction. Or you will feel a large disconnect followed by feelings of unworthiness, defeat, and shame because you are not living your full potential of divine purpose in Christ. I beg you to remember that there is hope. Our God is an amazing God of mercy and promise! He knows and always knew that we would need help to continue the work of Jesus and expand His Kingdom today!
So lets think this through together: What Jesus began… he continues today in our time and space. The Kingdom Jesus brought… still reigns today in our time and space. But there is one more peace to this that Luke shows us in Acts 1:4-5:
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
What Jesus Promised… Is Still Here. For You.
What Jesus Promised… is still for you. This is the missing part. But what in fact did he promise? He said, “You will be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” I can imagine the disciples hearing the commands of Jesus to GO and do this and do that. The fear and anxiety of doing it alone without Him must have been unimaginable.
But Jesus promised them. It was an ancient promise. It was fulfilled at Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out. And when the masses thought they were all drunk and crazy because they heard them praying in tongues, Peter got up and boldly said something that was to forever alter the church moving forward to present day. Look at Acts 2:38-39:
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
For as many… The promise still holds true today. For you. Jesus promised help. Help has come. You do not have to do any of this alone. Continuing the work of Jesus isn’t easy. Submitting to the Lordship of Jesus and His Kingdom in our lives isn’t easy. The Holy Spirit of God is our greatest friend and ally in learning how to overcome and walk in wisdom.
You would be crazy NOT to embrace this gift and allow it (Him) to saturate you… right? Or think of it this way. If I gave you 1 dollar but promised you I could give you 20, what would you say? If I gave you a toy car but promised you there was a real car in the parking lot for you, what would you say? In both cases, you would receive with joy the 20 dollars and the new car. This is the same reality many are living in their pursuit of Jesus. We are settling for a drop when we were promised rushing rivers. Jesus makes this clear in John 7:37-39.
37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” c39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
A River Awaits
This river is for you; the local church; the church in this nation—we are to be a river of God’s justice and goodness flowing to all who are in need of the message of the Gospel. So ask yourself: What am I scared of? What holds me back from being filled with God’s Spirit again and again? What frightens me about the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Why am I playing it safe keeping one foot in and one foot out?
I promise you this. Jumping head first into the things of God brings about a joyful transformation that nothing on this planet could touch. And you know what else? So much is on the line. I think about marriages. How will they survive if both are not receiving the transformation from the Holy Spirit? I think about women and men. How will we battle the onslaught of the enemy in this world with lust, power, identity issues, insecurities, anxieties, greed, and more—unless we are filled and overflowing with God’s Spirit? I think about our children. How will they be raised up in the ways of Jesus if us parents are not being led by the Spirit through daily time in the Word and prayer? It wont happen. We must be intentional and saturate ourselves with the Spirit of God.
Connect the dots with me. If what Jesus began still continues today… if His Kingdom he began still reigns today… and if the Promise of the Holy Spirit is the One He gave his disciples (us) to achieve those first two… wouldn’t it make sense for the Enemy to get every single one of us to be weary, lukewarm, cynical, stuck, passionless, and defeated? He is winning if that’s the case in your life. But John tells us in 1 John 4:4 that, “He who is within you is greater than He who is within the world.”
Rise Up Woman/ Man of God. Your Helper Is Here.
So I encourage you today. Rise up man of God. Rise up woman of God. You are called and anointed by God to overcome with the Holy Spirit within you. The sin which plagues your thoughts—can be overcome. The shameful acts committed in darkness—can be destroyed. The toxic decisions and habits made again and again—can be overcome. How? By submitting, repenting, and asking Jesus to baptize you in His Holy Spirit. You dedicate more time to prayer and the Scriptures and daily asking to be Filled for that day’s work—and watch and see what the Holy Spirit will do. Nothing has changed. Jesus is still in the business of setting people free.
Last week I got a message. A woman I know well was an atheist for many years. But a long time ago she heard the Gospel of Jesus preached by myself, Michelle, and others. Years later she found herself experiencing demonic oppression and satanic attacks. She remembered the name of Jesus! She began to cry out “Jesus!” She spoke with me days later telling me she was experiencing peace and things were better. She brought books and items that were not of God to be destroyed here to the church to get rid of them. These messages didn’t shock me one bit. You know why? Because what Jesus began; he still continues today.
So which are you?
Do you follow Jesus actively?
Or do you like Jesus passively?
Jesus is ready to set you on fire with His Holy Spirit. But are you?
Reflections on the “Kingdom of God” in Scholarship
Interwoven within the Quest for the Historical Jesus has been a continued endeavor to understand how Jesus understood the Kingdom. Delbert Burkett provides an excellent summary from key theologians and scholars. Albert Schweitzer (1906) following Johannes Weiss (1892) emphasized the apocalyptic and eschatological view of Jesus and the Kingdom. It was a Kingdom that would be established by intervening drastically in human history. It was cosmic as well as cataclysmic in how it would impact the entire social order of the world. It was C.H. Dodd (1935) though who chose to go in another direction rescuing the Kingdom from the almost exclusive future aspect writing that in the present Jesus could be seen inaugurating the Kingdom. In commenting on our above passage of Mark 1:15 Dodd translated it as, “The Kingdom of God has arrived.” Interestingly, Burkett states, “According to this ‘realized eschatology,’ Jesus did not expect a future, apocalyptic Kingdom, though the early church attributed this view to him.”
Following C.H. Dodd and his landmark work “The Parables of the Kingdom” the consensus among many scholars was a twofold understanding of Jesus and his view of the Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, given our study above, most agreed that the texts point to a both realized and future reality where fulfilment of the Kingdom would take place. In essence this means that Jesus expected God to establish the Kingdom in the future but saw it already beginning through his work. As Burkett rightly states, “the Kingdom was an eschatological concept, but somehow it was already anticipated in Jesus.”
Moving on from Dodd into more modern streams of thought on the Kingdom we find E.P. Sanders who also believed in the apocalyptic establishment by God resulting in a Kingdom in the here and now. He posited that not only did Jesus believe this was coming but a reflection of this can also be seen in John the Baptist and early church. In fact, the baptism of Jesus by John is so significant that one could say the early church received their apocalyptic expectation from Jesus, who received it from the John the Baptist according to Burkett. Two other scholars who have made a significant impact on the study of Jesus and the Kingdom would be Scot McKnight and N.T. Wright. Both find themselves in a proportioned understanding of the Kingdom emphasizing a both present and future Kingdom begun by Jesus with his apocalyptical and ethical teachings as well as miracles.
In “A New Vision for Israel” McKnight argues, among many things, that Jesus functioned in the mode of a national prophet calling the nation of Israel to repentance. He helps to bring to the surface the political reception of Jesus’ message and how he navigated the various expectations of Israel longing for political freedom. McKnight highlights this tension on multiple occasions and helps the reader see and feel what it must have been like when hearing the Kingdom spoken about. In the only (to our knowledge) prayer Jesus ever taught his disciples he explains
that in the earliest traditions about Jesus, the Kingdom of God was future yet—in an immanent sense…. Jesus shaped his prayer around the Kingdom motif and expressed his essential view of the Kingdom: ‘though presently operative, its fullness is yet to come.’
In commenting on this same prayer found in Matthew 6 McKnight interacts with John P. Meier where he explained that this “Kingdom focused” prayer reveals
that when Jesus prays that God’s Kingdom come, he is simply expressing in a more abstract phrase the eschatological hope of the latter part of the OT and the pseudepigrapha that God would come on the last day to save and restore his people, Israel.
McKnight sees that this eschatological hope was not coming out of thin air but rather the societal and political environment. Jesus could discern that society was about to come to a cataclysmic end where (like the hope of the Essenes) God would intervene with his Kingdom breaking in against the work of the enemy furthering what was already taking place in his own ministry. McKnight sees this tumultuous environment and the “coming destruction of Jerusalem as a harbinger of the imminent Kingdom of God.” He then asks, “how can we combine these clear indications of a future Kingdom with Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom as a present, operative reality?”
As is seen throughout the Gospels, Jesus expected that those who would follow him, his teachings, as well as adopt his own viewpoints, would begin to radically experience the Kingdom of God in their midst. Some of the key scriptures which point to this present Kingdom which was at work among them were Luke 4:33; 9:1; 9:11; Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14. As can be seen in these texts those who were positively engaging the content of the Kingdom message were (it seems according to Jesus) being drawn deeper into the present Kingdom reality, though only a taste. The full meal or banquet was yet to come. But that taste alone was enough to demonstrate to his followers that this was the arrival of something special and new. Something perhaps written about, hoped for, and urgently needed during their season of time.
Giving this taste of the Kingdom was the supreme mindset of Jesus according to McKnight. “This is the career mission of Jesus: to usher others into the Kingdom through the proclamation of its arrival, through participation in meals, and through his mighty deeds.” This path Jesus is walking is best likened to the true path of a king. Though we call Jesus King of Kings, and it is exclaimed about him (again finding its own correlations in pseudepigraphal texts) we need to properly understand the role of the Kingdom motif considering Jesus as King. “Kingdom” implies a king ruling which would make sense with the instances where Jesus is observed leading, judging, and ruling his Kingdom people.McKnight rightly states that it is in Matthew 23:8-12 we see this come into light indirectly with the warning of Jesus to his disciples that they are not to be called Rabbi while also not to call anyone on earth Father. Jesus goes even further by saying they should not be called instructors as well. In fact, such is the role reversal of the Kingdom, they are to be servants of all which results in exaltation. McKnight does a fantastic job opening the “kingly” dimensions of Jesus and how he viewed the Kingdom at work through him. He was the King, his followers were the members of the Kingdom, and the mission was to expand the Kingdom by going into the highways and byways finding those who were ready to receive the benefits of a new King. Benefits stemming from a new and eschatological Kingdom which was anticipated in the decades and centuries previous.
The highlight of McKnight’s contribution to the discussion on the Kingdom of God is that he so brilliantly illustrates the nature of the Kingly rule in Jesus while he lived as well as how the meaning of his own death is interwoven. He helps the reader locate with simplicity the objective of Jesus as King: announce the news, the King is here, expand the Kingdom, its beginning now, and the best is yet to come. Before we turn to N.T. Wright and his writings which shed light on how Jesus viewed the narrative of the Kingdom it is fitting to allow McKnight himself to give a robust summary of how Jesus of Nazareth viewed the eschatological Kingdom.
Jesus clearly taught that a grand display of the Kingdom of God and the coming of the Son of Man [Daniel 7] would take place within one generation. His followers would be persecuted and chased but delivered; those who followed him would not die before they saw the climatic event; and everything predicted about Jerusalem’s destruction and God wrapping up his plan for Israel would take place before the current generation died out. Jesus believed in an imminent display of the Kingdom of God, and he used the metaphor of the coming of the Son of Man [Daniel 7] to refer to this Kingdom event…. He also encouraged his followers to pray with a yearning desire for the immediate fulfillment of the coming Kingdom.
N.T. Wright has contributed extensively on how Jesus perceived the Kingdom at work in his ministry. In his seminal work “Jesus and the Victory of God” Wright leads the reader up a deep and winding path to a vista of the Kingdom that is far reaching, back into Israel’s narrative. Wright holds a belief (among other scholars) that Jesus’ focus was to retell the story of Israel both explicitly and implicitly through his prophetic work. Keeping this in mind, that Jesus is retelling the story of Israel, it should be no surprise according to Wright that Jesus would place himself in the prophetic position of primary Kingdom announcer as well as placing himself at the center of the “redrawn narrative” of Israel. Jesus viewed his role, according to Wright, as the one spearheading Israel’s renewal and salvation. In effect, Israel’s true god was becoming king and Jesus claimed to be his true prophet. In a similar tone E.P. Sanders synthesizes the conception of thought Jesus had regarding his role.
He [Jesus] regarded his relationship with God as especially intimate. As Geza Vermes pointed out, other charismatic prophets besides Jesus felt that they had a very intimate relationship with God, and we should not overemphasize Jesus’ view of himself in this regard. There may have been numerous people who felt as close to God as Jesus did. But we may be certain about him: he thought that he had been especially commissioned to speak for God, and this conviction was based on a feeling of personal intimacy with the deity.
Building upon this idea that Jesus saw himself as a pioneer it is evident that Jesus’ miracles and deeds, we part of an inward impetus to bring an all-encompassing redemption to the children of Israel. This narrative understanding Wright brings to us on Jesus and the Kingdom expands our understanding to see that Jesus viewed the work of the Kingdom on a cosmic scale, as stated already. Divorcing this Kingdom context from the story of Israel’s redemptive hope is a total disservice to the entire Kingdom motif and those who find hope within it.
The understanding of who comprises the members of the Kingdom according to Jesus is clear: they are Israel.They are the chosen people of God. They are the true Israel who are in the process of being redeemed at last by God over against those who are seeking to oppress, kill, and destroy them. The support for this is found in texts such as Matthew 5:3-10; Luke 6:20-23; Matthew 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:10 and more. With the above in mind, a simple rereading of the gospel texts will highlight this Kingdom/ Israel relationship in the ministry of Jesus. With the followers of Jesus realizing their place as the “new Israel” following the true King and messiah would elicit emotions of deep relief because their time of exile was coming to an end. Wright contends that during this time if you were to ask the contemporaries of Jesus where they were at in the timeline of God’s redemptive history of Israel, they would have answered like Ezra and Nehemiah: “we are in exile.” It is within this exile that Jesus thinks to pronounce the arrived and forthcoming Kingdom of God. However, the program this Kingdom offered was not a revitalization of land and violent overthrow of overlords. Jesus was heralding a Kingdom that sought to
subsume it [Israel] within a different fulfillment of the Kingdom, which would embrace the whole creation – from which, of course, he drew continually in the narratives and imagery of his teaching and announcement.
In Jesus’ purview was the entirety of Israel’s situation. He understood her past, present, and a solution for the future. Thus far with Wright we see that his narrative approach to the restoration of Israel through the divine work of Jesus gives us a window into how Jesus perhaps saw his work and mission. He was spearheading this restorative movement while speaking into the lives of the “new Israel” who were struggling in exile. There may not have been a better situation for the prophetic actions and teachings of Jesus to resonate and gain a large following.
Wright argues that the solution Jesus offers for Israel through his ministry is twofold. The first level of course was the acceptance and embrace of this Kingdom he proclaimed. There was to be allegiance and devotion given to it which would bring redemption and salvation. But probing deeper past the announcement and invitation of Jesus, the very actions and teachings were in of themselves radical solutions to be followed. He was offering a Kingdom ethic which would lead them out of the tumultuous times they were living in while simultaneously preparing them for the inbreaking Kingdom that was perhaps only a generation away.
There are many other texts we could analyze for Wright. Everything up to this point opens our view extensively as did McKnight’s. While McKnight opens the door for us to see the King, Wright leads us through the door to a room containing within it the story from beginning to end. Wright and McKnight situate Jesus in his Jewish context highlighting how his teachings and work further the narrative of the Kingdom from the Old Testament all the way through.
As was done above, it is only fitting to allow Wright to give us a wonderful summation of Jesus’ Kingdom mission before continuing. On the topic of “what is the solution?” Wright states
But, if this is one obvious answer, the other one is ‘Jesus himself.’ He claimed that the Kingdom had arrived where he was, and with his activity. He was not announcing it as though he were merely a fly on the wall. His own work – his Kingdom announcement, his prophetic praxis, his celebrations, his warning, his symbolic activity – all of these were part of the movement through which Israel would be renewed, evil would be defeated, and YHWH would return to Zion at last.
While the focus was primarily upon McKnight and Wright, we must be fair and acknowledge the plethora of texts that are available for further study. It is safe to say that when combining these two scholars among others we see a robust image of Jesus and the Kingdom. One where (1) Jesus viewed himself as a pioneering King who was (2) spearheading an apocalyptic and eschatological movement that was (3) breaking into the present space and time while maintaining an ever-present trajectory to future fulfillment. We see that this narrative of a King, his subjects, and the expansion of the Kingdom was not original in the least. This was (4) the next step in the story of Israel. Jesus was refining a people as (5) the new Israel who would leave exile and live in the fulness of God’s Kingdom beginning in the work and teachings of Jesus—who saw himself as (6) Israel’s god YHWH bringing salvation, forgiving sins, and enacting the Kingdom agenda.
Having researched common streams of thought on the Kingdom in literature predating Jesus as well as gaining a grasp of what Jesus himself thought about his role and the content of the Kingdom we must now look to what was left in his wake. How did the early church, disciples, and Church Fathers view this Kingdom Jesus spoke so much about? More on this in Part 4.
 Delbert Royce Burkett, An Introduction to the New Testament and the Origins of Christianity (Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 246.
 Scot McKnight, Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2014), 77.
 Scot McKnight, Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory (Waco, Tex: Baylor University Press, 2005), 82–86.
 McKnight, A New Vision for Israel, 137. Following p.137 on p.138 McKnight treats the next logical thought regarding his summary: “Was Jesus Mistaken?” This is a question which I personally have encountered in the doubting of believers as well as atheists who point to this as a reason to dismiss the claims of Jesus as well as Christianity as a whole. McKnight wonderfully answers this valid question by saying, “the evidence above clearly reveals a vision for the future with a limited horizon: Jesus prophesied that God would wrap things up within one generation. However, instead of saying that Jesus was mistaken, that he was either a false prophet or a misguided fanatic, we ought to admit that his knowledge of the future was limited in the same way that the Hebrew prophet’s visions were limited to the events of their respective generations. Further, Jesus’ knowledge of the future was expressed in metaphorical and poetic images of collapse, judgment, and deliverance. Within this limitation, Jesus prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem as the climatic event in Israel’s history that would end the privilege of Israel in God’s plan.”
 Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 1996, 199.
 E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, 1. ed (London: Lane [u.a.], 1993), 239.
 In pp. 204-205 Wright summarizes how the desire and work of Jesus in retelling Israel’s story intersects almost perfectly with the general desire and deep longing of Israel itself which focused on the return of Yahweh to redeem Israel. Following these five simple paragraph summaries he concludes, “If then, someone were to speak to Jesus’ contemporaries of YHWH’s becoming king, we may safely assume that they would have in mind, in some form or other, this two-sided story concerning the double reality of exile. Israel would ‘really’ return from exile; YHWH would finally return to Zion…. It cannot be stressed too strongly that the ‘kingdom of god’, as a theme within second-Temple Judaism, connoted first and foremost this complete story-line.” He later reminds the reader that once we grasp this, it is not hard to see how the symbols and praxis associated with the Temple, Torah, Land and Jewish identity sustained and reinforced the narrative of hope.” (Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 206.)
Scot McKnight provides an ideal on-ramp to capture the meaning of God’s Kingly rule and phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ as Jesus understood it. In his work “A New Vision for Israel” he states,
Jewish social and political circumstances permitted the religious hope of Israel to have its own delightful and despairing history. At the same time, this hope shaped the social and political identity of the nation and exercised a profound influence on the teachings of Jesus. His teachings on the present operation of the kingdom were shaped fundamentally by his vision of the future kingdom.
McKnight argues that any attempt to study the Kingdom of God through Jesus’ thinking and teaching must be kept within this context. Failing to do so would result in an erroneous belief that what Jesus is teaching is somehow new or uncommon. This would be inaccurate given the study above of Second Temple literature. In the past and for some in the present the action of believing that the apocalyptic teachings of Jesus were independent of contemporary ideas. Over time though, as literature began to be made available and scholarship on the topic multiplied, this perception began to shift. As Albert Schweitzer makes clear,
After the studies of Hilgenfeld and Dillmann had made known the Jewish apocalyptic in its fundamental characteristics, and the Jewish Pseudepigrapha were no longer looked on as ‘forgeries’, but as representative documents of the last stage of Jewish thought, the necessity of taking account of them in interpreting the thought of Jesus became more and more emphatic.
It is with this understanding in mind both from McKnight and Schweitzer that any hope of discovering what Jesus means by “Kingdom” must remain connected to his own sitz im leben. For study we will highlight key Scriptures where Jesus uses “Kingdom of God” in diverse ways. These texts will focus on Jesus seeing the Kingdom as present, ethical, and future. With the book of Mark being the earliest extant Gospel we will take our Scriptural examples from here. While it would be advantageous to go through the parables relating to the Kingdom of God, we will focus only on the direct statements of the Kingdom which connect most to surrounding outside literature we have already examined.
Mark 1:15 and the Kingdom Present
At the beginning of his ministry, the Gospel of Mark tells us in 1:15 that he exclaimed, “πεπλήρωται ὁ καιρὸς καὶ ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ· μετανοεῖτε καὶ πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ.” For Jesus the Kingdom of God in this sentence is one of present impact. From this text it is surmisable that this wasn’t something that was coming next week or next year. It was now. Along with the present arrival is a spatial connection in his usage of “ἤγγικεν.” In otherwards, it is near in this present space and time. The addition of “πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ” adds a devotional concept he is expecting his listeners to grab ahold of. To trust and to believe that this present Kingdom is discernable—the one that has been spoken of well before his arrival.
Joel Marcus in his Anchor commentary would agree with the above and views Jesus’ usage of the Kingdom of God here as having an immediate impact. He states
Kairos can mean either ‘decisive moment’ (cf. 12:2, 13:33) or ‘span of time’ (cf. 10:30; 11:13). Because of the combination with plēroun, ‘to fulfill,’ which implies linearity, the meaning ‘span of time’ is to be preferred in the present instance.”
He goes on to say that this understanding of God’s rule and reign being inaugurated at this present time lends to this being a both dynamic and apocalyptic pronouncement of Jesus concerning the Kingdom. Which, as we recall, was a strand of thinking found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and certain Pseudepigraphal texts.
Jesus is giving not only an invitation but a cosmic declaration to all who would hear, to come and experience that which is immanent. That God’s reign and Kingdom is discernable in the present through his ministry. It is with this urgency of the Kingdom that Jesus is compelled to go from village to village. It is an imminence, once again, that is not necessarily new in its origin. In T. Mos. 10:1 it reads, “his [God’s] Kingdom shall appear throughout his creation…” In the Kaddish Prayer we have another similarity that deserves notice. “May he establish his Kingdom in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the whole house of Israel, speedily and at a near time.” In speaking of this same immanence, Dale C. Allison brings us to a deeper place of clarity. Allison qualifies six of scholar Marcus Borg’s assessments of the Kingdom. In doing so he supports those who see the Kingdom as an eschatological pronouncement from Jesus and its present inbreaking in Mark 1:15. He states
If the Kingdom is indeed (6) an “ideal state,” that is, the eschatological state when God’s will is done on earth as in heaven, this would explain why (5) the Kingdom is also a political metaphor (when the ideal comes Rome will be gone), why (4) it is something one can be in or out of (some will enter, others will not enter), why (3) it is associated with God’s kingship (God will then be universally recognized as king), why (2) it is linked with the divine presence (in the end God will be, as Rom. 15:28 puts it, all in all), and, finally, why (1) it is bound up with God’s power (the ideal only comes because of God’s might and only after a great struggle against evil).
From our first example of Jesus’ usage of Kingdom of God we can say with confidence that Jesus thought in the same apocalypticism that is in line with much of what we discovered from the Second Temple literature. Allison helps us see this from a multi-layered approach while Marcus shows that Jesus saw this as a present multi-dimensional reality for all who would place their trust in his message. He is pronouncing an invitation to a Kingdom with present implications seeking the trust of those who would listen.
Mark 10:14-15 and the Ethical Kingdom
Making the shift from Mark 1:15 to 10:14-15 and our journey of seeing “the Kingdom of God” through the eyes of Jesus is enough to cause us to scratch our head. How is it that in Mark 1:15 we see a “present tense” Kingdom but are now confronted with a Kingdom that is (appears to be) yet to come? In our second example the specific part of the text which we will engage reads, “ὃς ἂν μὴ δέξηται τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ ὡς παιδίον, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθῃ εἰς αὐτήν.”
The obvious question we should bring to this text when read in conjunction with 1:15 is, “How is it the arrival of a Kingdom with present implications and yet it needs entered into as communicated in the negative with: οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθῃ εἰς αὐτήν.” Was not Jesus communicating that it was here? It had arrived. While interpretations differ, the text appears to give the connotation that this is a future Kingdom that is yet to come and those who welcome children—an ethical component of the present/future Kingdom—will reserve the right to enter it. The timing of the Kingdom according to Jesus is hotly debated. While timing is important for understanding the eschatology of Jesus, maybe it is a focus we are imposing hermeneutically more than the text is seeking to reveal. N.T. Wright suggests that the texts which are often thought of referring to the timing of the end of the world are more rooted in a deeper Jewish meaning. 
He argues that this then suggests that the crucial question is not so much that of the Kingdom’s timing but rather its content. Though the present text is not in reference to an apocalyptic ending of the world (though embedded within οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθῃ εἰς αὐτήν” one could argue it is indirectly present), it nonetheless highlights what Wright is saying. What is important for our quest in understanding how Jesus understood the Kingdom is the welcoming of a child to himself. This is a marker of the Kingdom that is at work in the life of Jesus throughout his ministry. This ethical component of the Kingdom culture is in lock step with what was hoped for. More on the ethics of the Kingdom will be explored later in this paper. But for our present study of Mark 10:14-15 it is important to recognize how this present statement of a child being welcomed to himself is connected to the larger narrative. Scot McKnight writes
Kingdom evokes for may the grand and glorious, but Jesus sabotaged such an idea with an emphatic focus on the inauspicious nature of the present Kingdom of God. The Kingdom had inauspicious beginnings—like a mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32), it was comprised of inauspicious people—like children (10:14-15) and tax collectors (Luke 19:1-10), it was led by an inauspicious person—Jesus (Luke 17:20-21), and yet this inauspiciousness would someday turn into a grand a glorious display (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).
Mark’s inclusion of Jesus’ indignation and frustration at the disciple’s halting of children coming to him (of whom the likes of the inauspicious Kingdom is found according to McKnight) is unique to his gospel alone. In doing so he highlights with passion what Jesus viewed the Kingdom as being all about: a divine and subversive welcoming of that and those rejected by the ways of human governance and society. William Lane beautifully articulates what this text reveals and how Jesus views the inclusion within this present/future Kingdom. He states
The disciples’ attempt to turn the children aside because they were unimportant is one more instance of a persistent tendency to think in wholly human, fallen categories which Jesus had rebuked on earlier occasions (Chs. [Mark] 8:33; 9:33-37). The Kingdom of God belongs to children, and to others like them who are of no apparent importance, because God has willed to give it to them…. The Kingdom belongs to such as these because they receive it as a gift.
This second example displays an ethical dynamic to the Kingdom that falls in line with what was hoped for before Jesus in the above research. While the challenge of timing is certainly imbedded in this these two, that is not the priority of this specific text. In the process thus far, we see that the Kingdom has present impact (Mark 1:15) with ethical and cultural implications (Mark 10:14-15). The Kingdom according to the thinking of Jesus is setting up to be a status reversal in the present with an eye towards future consummation as we will see.
Taking a step back we can see that the actions and teachings of Jesus are happening to further this two-fold effort of (1) pronouncing a present Kingdom (2) with action that displays the evidence of a new Kingdom, breaking through the social order of first century Palestine. Wright detects this happening in Jesus and asserts that he believed with his own work and message that something “dramatically new was already happening.” As Wright says, “The days of preparation were over ; Israel’s god was now acting in the way he had promised of old.” This understanding though is kept in tension since at the same time Jesus was viewing the Kingdom as something about to burst on to the scene. If his followers were not careful it would come as a thief in the night. All of this can be described as a Kingdom that is both here and not yet. This paradox was enough to give even the disciples moments of confusion. But alas, the Kingdom is not marked by confusion. It is a wonderful and beautiful paradox expanded upon even further by our last Markan text.
Mark 14:25 and the Future Kingdom
Our first two examples highlight a linear movement of the Kingdom. Our first example from Mark 1:15 showcases the starting line of Jesus and all who would follow him. That the message and proclamation was to be Kingdom focused. The element of repentance was so that those who were “afar off” or wandering down paths of hopelessness wondering if the common pseudepigraphal or Isaian texts, which surely existed in the cultural milieu of the people, would ever surface. Our second text from Mark 10:14-15 highlights the distance this Kingdom will go in challenging the status quo of current social dynamics within the 1st century location of Jesus. It is with our final text that we see somewhat of a “finish line” from Jesus.
In 14:25 Jesus states, “οὐκέτι οὐ μὴ πίω ἐκ τοῦ γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης ὅταν αὐτὸπίνω καινὸν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.” At first glance we must again grapple with the apparent confusion of timing. In an almost definitive sense Jesus is putting his cards on the table that the Kingdom is not yet here though it was in Mark 1:15. The βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ in this text with the accompanying language of banquet and drinking wine leads us to believe Jesus here is speaking not only of a future reality but more importantly a future fulfilment. In Jesus and Judaism E. P. Sanders defends this authentic statement by Jesus and askes a poignant question. He asks
Does this indicate that Jesus thought that the disciples would constitute a group which would survive his death and endure until the eschaton, or that the kingdom would arrive immediately, with no interval? Is the kingdom this-worldly or other worldly? We find here the uncertainty which generally characterizes discussion which attempts to specify the precise meaning of the saying’s material.
While much has been written on the proposed aims and intentions of Jesus surrounding the last supper and how he viewed his death, this paper is unable to give this question the attention it merits. This question though highlights the frame of questions which get us closer to assessing how Jesus saw the Kingdom. Suffice to say that Jesus was both proclaiming and experiencing something himself which he knew was at work within him and through him regardless how he saw his own future as the messiah. It was a Kingdom that was taking root while he ministered with an eye to the future fulfillment as even the prophets before him proclaimed.
From our final text we can see that Jesus viewed an impending restoration of all things and a bringing to order of that which is disordered. When Jesus says οὐκέτι οὐ μὴ πίω ἐκ τοῦ γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης ὅταν αὐτὸ πίνω καινὸν, he was not speaking of any ordinary banquet. As Normin Perrin so wonderfully explains this text with its present and future implications he writes
The imagery of the Messianic Banquet teaches that it [the Kingdom] will mean a perfect participation in the ultimate blessings of God; and the imagery of the New Temple which is a regular apocalyptic symbol for the final blessed state, describes the community of the redeemed as enjoying a perfect sacral relationship with God.
As should be clear by now, Jesus cannot be pigeonholed into one viewpoint on the Kingdom from his era. There are present and future aspects. There are ethical inferences that affect this life and the life to come. These three examples (among many others) highlight a robust mindset on the Kingdom that Jesus communicated from. The logical outflow of these sayings of Jesus (whether they be attested or accepted) is to bring together a cohesive theological understanding of what Jesus means when he uses the phrase “Kingdom of God.” While the debate on timing, spatial components, and ethical dimensions will continue, it is imperative we not “miss the forest for the trees.”
We ought to ask, “So what that the Kingdom is here?” “So, what that the Kingdom has differing social dynamics?” “So, what that this Kingdom will one day be fulfilled fully?” While such questions may resemble a toddler asking this phrase to everything they are told, it is important for us to ask them, nonetheless. Persistently asking such questions will enable us to integrate a fresh Kingdom approach steeped in its natural context of Second Temple Judaism.
Before moving on to understanding this Kingdom mission in the wake of Jesus’ ascension and resurrection in Church history we must capture a glimpse of where scholarship has been on this same endeavor. More on this in Part 3.
 Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2005), 222.
 The ethical components of Jesus’ understanding on the Kingdom of God will be more fully explored in the concluding area of this paper.
 For an in depth look at the Kingdom parables see Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, Second edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018). As well as Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
 In analyzing these three Markan Scriptures it is most appropriate that we do so in the original language.
 This perfect active indicative 3rd person singular verb denotes a movement in space has in effect taken place. Something has moved into the present time. BDAG lists the meanings of this word to include a reference point, a drawing near, a coming near, an approaching of humans and transcendent beings. This would of course imply also to the Kingdom of God. Whether or not this applies to the seen or unseen is debatable. For the present context the usage of ἤγγικεν signals a spatial approach with the teachings and message of the Gospel. (Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and William Arndt, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).
 Joel Marcus, Mark 1 – 8: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, First Yale University Press impression, The Anchor Bible, volume 27 (New Haven, Conn. London: Yale University Press, 2010), 172.
 Dale C. Allison, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 122.
 N. T. Wright, Christian Origins and the Question of God: Jesus and the Victory of God, 1st North American ed (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 222–23.
 This is especially true in the book of Acts in 1:1-7 where the disciples are continuing to confuse the Kingdom’s present implications with the national restoration of Israel as opposed to the more apocalyptic and eschatological Kingdom which was breaking in.
 It should be noted that because of space there cannot be an adequate exploration of each Scripture which highlights the ethical transformations of the Kingdom. However, in later parts of this project the implications for Christian ethics, church leadership, and ecclesiastical mission will be addressed further.
 E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism, 1st Fortress Press ed (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 148.
 Norman Perrin, Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom: Symbol and Metaphor in New Testament Interpretation (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 188.
On May 2nd, 2011, the news broke. Osama Bin Laden had been killed for his role in the September 11th, 2001, attacks on U.S. soil. The reception of this news for many was marked with euphoria, joy, and deep seated—decade long—emotions of revenge. The masses gathered in front of the White House in celebration with liturgy of song and chant. The singing of “God Bless the U.S.A” as well as the repetitious and synchronized yelling of “Rot in Hell.” Many interviewed in the streets were speechless in their attempts to communicate their relief. In watching these interviews, it was easy to see a disturbing and shocking trend woven throughout their thinking: God’s approval.
In the following months details began to come forward from the “situation room” where the president and other cabinet members watched the operation play out. We were told that if the mission were successful and Bin Laden was captured dead or alive a code word would be given, “Geronimo.” What was said through satellite communications to the President that night was, “For God and Country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” There it was again.
Following that night over ten years ago now I had many conversations with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ about the subtle tension I and others were feeling. It was a disturbing tension I could not remove myself from: rejoicing over the death of another while simultaneously invoking the name of God and His approval. It just didn’t feel right though I did understand it’s origin. I battled in my own flesh the emotions of satisfaction that this man received what my flesh felt he deserved. However, deep-seated within me is an ethic of love and non-violence formed by the teachings of Jesus which challenged those emotions.
Nonetheless, I struggled to see how invoking God’s blessing over this action differentiated us from those who also perpetrated these attacks in the name of their own god. But it was one comment from an individual that stands above everything I had seen on T.V. After graciously putting up with my long discourse regarding what I felt to be so un-Christlike and un-befitting for Jesus followers in celebrating the death of Bin Laden, a friend said to me, “I felt like what happened was just. It was a win for the Kingdom of God.”
Really? A win for the Kingdom? I could not believe that someone I had trusted and admired as a mature student of the Scriptures would say something like this. I was determined to seek out a fresh understanding of the Kingdom of God in response to his statement. Since that moment to the present, I have come to realize this may be the most important area to grapple with for the modern church. Judging from that one conversation to many others I have had as a leader in the Church I have also realized it might be one of the most diluted and misunderstood aspects of Jesus’ message. If the Church has any hope at all in displaying the awe-inspiring wonder, beauty, and creativity of the Gospel—we must go backwards before we can go forwards. We must do the hard work of recovering the width and depth of what the Kingdom of God meant to Jesus as well as those who came before him.
When looking at the New Testament it is beyond clear that the central fulcrum on which his entire message swings is this very topic. The Kingdom is, as Bruce Chilton says, “…the center of Jesus’ message both as a fact and as a mystery.” If this is true, which I believe it is, then how this message is understood and conveyed is of the utmost importance in our desire to bring profound hope and truth to an unbelieving world. These noble aspirations unfortunately will never come to fruition if this Kingdom message is not embraced in its right context. Failure to do so can and is already resulting in a crisis of identity for the Church and her mission.
Thankfully there is hope. A fresh re-understanding of the Kingdom opens the doors for both disciples and churches to reemerge as beacons of light and substantial hope in a weary and worn culture. Again, Chilton states, “But if it is true in general terms that we can know Jesus, then it must be possible to understand what he stood for…the Kingdom of God, is conveyed to us powerfully within the gospels. They invite us to share the power of that vision.” If our pursuit is to know Jesus and his central message thereby becoming faithful disciples and Churches, then our journey, as already stated, must go backward before it can go forward.
Whatdid “Kingdom” Mean Before Jesus? Was it Original to Jesus?
Often where there is a lack of clarity in any topic the result is almost always due to vague and incomplete explanations. This same truth could be applied to our endeavor in seeking to understand what Jesus, in Mark 1:15 as well as John the Baptist in Matthew 3:1, are seeking to convey when they both respectively declared this coming Kingdom. We are wise to assume that this understanding of a kingdom was widespread at the time within early Judaism thus contributing to a lack of need to spell it out in detail. However, this does not mean we are left in the dark. We are still able to comb through the Old Testament as well as literature within Second Temple Judaism to ascertain a firm understanding of what this phrase meant as well as the emotion it evoked when declared.
Beginning first from the Old Testament we see a complete absence of the phrase “Kingdom of God” however there is present a certain “kingly” rule that is often mentioned. The language is used to describe earthly kingdoms throughout Judah and Israel to “denote a territory or politically organized unit under monarchial rule (e.g., Gen. 10:10; Num. 32:33).” Related but still an offshoot of this would be found in 1 Chron. 28:5 and 2 Chron. 13:8 where the phrase “Kingdom of Yahweh” occurs. However, to be fair we need to differentiate between the relationship of the two above. The implied “Kingdom of Yahweh” was not synonymous to the “kingdom of Israel.” Dennis C. Duling rightly communicates that even though Israel adapted near eastern ideas of divine kingship for the earthly king, God and the king were not identical; the god/king of the world was also the god/king over the people of Israel, and therefore superior to any earthly ‘divine king.’ Correspondingly, there was also tension between these two kingdoms.
This tension continued through Israel’s history through the time of the prophets and well into the era of Second Temple Judaism. This becomes especially clear when we leaf through the late prophetic book of Daniel. Though it is found within the canonical Old Testament it deserves to be treated in the next portion looking into the literature of the Second Temple period due to its dating of ca. 165 B.C.E.
The book of Daniel has long been used when talking about Jesus’ conception of the Kingdom and his own eschatology because of Daniel 7 and its corresponding usage by Jesus in Matthew 24:30 and 26:64 as well as Mark 14:62. It could be said that Daniel 7 and the “Son of Man” phrasing is a favorite saying of Jesus. But what exactly do these connections mean? Up to this time in history there was a clear separation between the secular kingdoms of humans and the Kingdom of Yahweh even if the former was led by a client king. But in Daniel 7:13 where it is prophesied that “One like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven… to the Ancient One and was presented before him.” we see a major shift. Obviously, this is a serious departure from a human client king.
What is represented in Daniel 7 can be described as a continuation of development regarding the eschatology from within Judaism. In his masterful study of the Kingdom of God, G.R. Beasley-Murray rightly summarizes that this vision of Daniel “accords a prime place to the coming of Yahweh to subdue evil and to deliver his people.” This coming and arrival of “one like a human being” should be kept in its proper category as a theophany. This is God showing up on the scene in both a redemptive and punitive sense. To the faithful within Judaism the one who is coming on the “clouds of heaven” is meant to symbolize consolation to the people of God. This is the ushering in of a heavenly Kingdom led by a “human-like” individual. Murray states that this individual is representative of God and his sovereignty over the world. The desire of Daniel is to place in juxtaposition both earthly and heavenly kingdoms. In doing so he makes it clear that the origin of this Kingdom is from above. Martin J. Selman synthesizes this prophecy of Daniel and its implication for how this era of Judaism viewed the coming Kingdom as something God will give his everlasting Kingdom to Men [and Women]. Although human kingdoms arising from the earth are doomed to failure, God does not in consequence keep his Kingdom for himself and his untainted angels…. The Kingdom of God will be given to ‘the holy ones, the people of the Most High’ (Dan. 7:18, 27), and to ‘one like a son of man.’
This development within Daniel 7 represents an emerging eschatology consonant with other examples in surrounding literature. Paying attention to a small sampling out of many will help our goal of understanding the development of the Kingdom of God theme from the Old Testament through to the time of Jesus in the first century C.E.
1 Enoch and the Book of Watchers (1 En. 1-36) contain clear statements which reflect a belief that the elect people of God, including those who are resurrected will live in a final state with God whose throne is situated upon a mountain. He will be known as a King of Kings, Eternal King, and King of the Universe. The core writings from Enoch which represent this are found in 9:4; 25:7; 12:3; 25:3-5, and 27:3. Outside of the Book of Watchers other elements of similar beliefs regarding the Kingdom can be found in the “Book of Dreams,” “Animal Apocalypse,” “Apocalypse of Weeks,” and the “Book of Similitudes.” As Duling makes clear, in 1 Enoch God is called King and the Son of Man is a king/messiah. The book of Enoch along with the prophecy of Daniel represent a unique turn from the Old Testament and it’s understanding of the Kingdom.
Another example can be found in the Testament of Moses which is dated around the Maccabean period down through to the time of Jesus. In 10:1,3-4 it reads as the following
And then His Kingdom shall appear throughout all His creation, and then Satan shall be no more, and sorrow shall depart with him…. For the Heavenly One will arise from His royal throne, and he will go forth from His holy habitation with indignation and wrath on account of His sons. And the earth shall tremble; to its confines shall it be shaken; and the high mountains shall be made low and the hills shall be shaken and fall.
This text holds three elements that give us a window into the apocalyptic nature of the Kingdom and how this points to Jesus’ own understanding. First, we see the appearance or revelation of a divine Kingdom impacting all the earth. Is this not the connotation we read from Jesus’ first declaration of ministry in Mark 1:15? The usage of ἤγγικεν regarding ἡ βασιλεία τοῦθεοῦ in Mark 1:15 gives the impression that this Kingdom has either arrived or is on the precipice of arrival. Could it be that Jesus is flowing in this same stream of thought regarding the arrival of God’s Kingdom? More on this verse shortly. Second, this apocalyptic Kingdom is one that will be in direct opposition with Satan. In Luke 11:18 Jesus gives a line of demarcation between the kingdom of Satan and the Kingdom of God. Joel Green communicates that “Jesus thus positions the work of exorcism within the larger matrix of the struggle between the dominion of Satan and the dominion of God.” Lastly, the phrase “high mountains shall be made low” is significant to our knowledge of what the Kingdom was expected to usher in. The immersion of Isaiah 40 in the messaging of John the Baptist in Luke 3 along with this verse from the Testament of Moses makes clear that there are kingly expectations of equity and justice being dispersed with the coming reign of the One from Daniel 7.
By only looking at three examples from this era of Second Temple Judaism we can be confident of a few things. There was an already implanted understanding of a coming King who would be other worldly as seen in Daniel 7. In addition to this was a deep hope that one day the righteous will experience a new Kingdom marked by justice and equity led by a transcendent Lord of lords and God of gods, and King of kings. Enoch seeks to capture all of this when speaking of Kingly rule or the Kingdom of God as a whole. The Testament of Moses showcases what can be found in many other writings of this time. Namely, a line between the righteous and the evil as well as Satan and God. All of these common expectations, hopes, and tensions were part of the economy of religion in this era where a definitive concept of “good vs. evil” is apparent.
Another collection of writings from this era which give us a glimpse into the cultural thinking of the Kingdom of God were discovered in the caves at Qumran commonly called the “Dead Sea Scrolls.” The importance of these diverse writings cannot be overstated enough in terms of their importance for understanding Jesus in his own context. Scot McKnight explains that Jesus’ life and thinking took place within a diverse Judaism where there “options were many and orthodoxies were few.” He further argues that Jesus and his thinking must be observed while keeping in mind the many complex societal communities of his day, especially the “sectarian Essenism of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Another noted scholar who would agree is James H. Charlesworth. On the similarities between Jesus and the Essenes he writes that they possessed the following:
the same territory and race; they were devout, religious, conservative, and anti-Gentile. They struggled against common enemies…were close to some Pharisees, were animated by the belief that God was about to bring to fruition his promises and were apocalyptically and eschatologically oriented.”
Within the large collection of writings found at Qumran the language and context of the Kingdom of God is well attested. For the present study we will focus on two primary areas: The War Scroll (1QM) and the Rule of Blessings (1QSb) due to their apocalyptic and eschatological orientation. Both scrolls highlight the thinking of the Essene community as it pertains to the reign of God in their time and space as well as the ethical implications of this coming Kingdom.
In 1QM 12:8 we see God being called “King of Honor” and “King of Kings” in 14:6. Around the portion where King of Kings can be found there is also an eschatological focus on a future kingdom being within Israel which will be established by the priestly prince of the congregation. It is a kingdom where justice, peace, and a refined or renewed gathering of worshippers in a new Temple will manifest. 1QM 13:10 could easily have been the ideological atmosphere where many would be messiahs found their footing: “From of old you appointed the prince of light to assist us, and in […] and all the spirits of truth are under his dominion.” The scroll reads like an anticipatory piece of literature marking out clearly who is righteous and who is not. The focus is on the eschatological reign of God that will soon be breaking in with the fighting of the “Sons of light vs. darkness.” (1Qm 1:11) The similarities thus far ought to be evident. The lines of demarcation as well as polemical language found here can also be found in the tone of Jesus and John the Baptist.
The Rule of Blessings, though different from the War Scroll, gives a similar perspective on the eschatological Kingdom that is yet to break in. Our focus from this scroll is the “Prince of the Congregation.” In 1QSb 5:20-22 the prince will receive a special blessing from the Master which will confer upon the prince certain eschatological actions.
The prince of the congregation… and shall renew for him the covenant of the community for him to establish the Kingdom of his people forever, [to judge the poor with justice] to reproach the humble of the earth with uprightness, to walk in perfection before him on all his paths.
In this text we again see a focus on the ethical dimensions of the coming one. Both the War and Blessing Scroll illustrate something obvious: the time and era was ripe for an individual to come and dip their toes into the apocalyptic and eschatological pressure cooker which was continuing to grow by the day while Palestine was under Rome’s rule.
Part 1 in Summary
In summary we can confidently see that: (1) the Old Testament had an understanding of the Kingdom of God that was connected to earthly kingdoms and client kings. There was tension brewing within the desires of the Kingdom of Yahweh in comparison with the kingdom of man, however, these references are scarce. So where did this development arise of a Kingdom that was to break in apocalyptically or eschatologically? (2) While Daniel (especially Daniel 7) is found within the Old Testament, for our purposes we included it in the framework of Second Temple Judaism due to its late dating. Within Daniel we see an expectation of a savior who is coming to establish a Kingdom in the here and now. As stated by Murray above, the vision accords a prime place in the vision and expectation of Yahweh who will subdue evil and redeem his people. The juxtaposition Daniel creates between two kingdoms in the Old Testament continues until “One like the Son of Man” comes from above. (3) In examining the Pseudepigrapha we can observe similar imagery and language in that of Daniel.
There is a coming one, an establishment of kingly rule, and his name will be Lord of Lords, God of Gods, and/or King of Kings. (4) All of this is continued not as a progression per se but more like the deepening of a well when we come to the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls. In both the War Scroll and Blessing Scroll there is all the above with the addition of ethical components regarding this coming Kingdom. To be fair, a full exploration of the Old Testament, Pseudepigrapha, Apocrypha, and Dead Sea Scrolls would yield a multitude of ethical expectations for the coming redemption of God’s Kingdom. However, for our brief study we have chosen only a few. Now let us turn to see how these influences had an impact on Jesus’ own understanding of the coming Kingdom. But what did Jesus, as a Jewish first century rabbi think about the Kingdom? To this we will turn next.
(The above is an excerpt from a doctoral paper I wrote in late 2021)
 Moving forward in this paper, any reference to the divine Kingdom of God (except when quoted from scholarship) will be capitalized while other occasions involving earthly kingdoms and kings will not be. The same will done with “Church” when in reference to the corporate body of Christ which is to carry out the Kingdom mission of God. Both are inherent in the title of this paper which focuses on a robust and healthy theology of the Kingdom understood in its context (going backward) which is the remedy the church needs for today (to move forward).
 Bruce Chilton, Pure Kingdom: Jesus’ Vision of God, Studying the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids, Mich. : London: Eerdmans ; Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996), ix.
 Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, eds., Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 417.
 A common parallel to this would be if someone were to comment on how well they did at something in saying, “Wow! You hit it out of the park!” Most in North America would readily understand this to refer to hitting a homerun in baseball which is a tremendous positive. Thus, there would not be a need to explain in detail how one hits a home run in the game of baseball.
 John J. Collins and Daniel C. Harlow, eds., The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans, 2010), 860.
 Duling, Dennis C. “Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven: OT, Early Judaism, and Hellenistic Usage.” Ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York London Toronto [etc.]: Doubleday, 1992), 50.
 As confirmed by Scot McKnight in my first Doctorate seminar at Northern Seminary on the eschatology of Jesus.
 George Raymond Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God, reprinted (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1987), 35.
 Murray draws an interesting conclusion when analyzing the Book of Similitudes from Enoch. He states, “We are brought to the startling realization that the evidence points to the Similitudes as having been written at the same time as or during the generation after the ministry of Jesus. Does this suggest that the idea of the Son of Man as messianic representative was in the air, as it were, at that time?” He goes on to say that perhaps “we have the precipitate of two parallel movements of thought leading back to one source—namely, the vision of Daniel.” This statement by Murray furthers the mosaic of belief that was developing during and before the time of Jesus. (Murray, Kingdom of God, 68.)