I have recently been renewed in my experience of following Jesus. With it has come a deeper clarity and appreciation for the Kingdom of God. With it has come a renewed longing for the personal presence of God, and what this means in terms of His Kingdom. So let’s look briefly at this Kingdom.
In the Old Testament, Jewish understanding of the ‘Kingdom’ or ‘Malkuth’ as it was termed, was a very powerful one. The OT people understood it in terms of ‘God’s rule and reign; His empire’. They would apply it to His rule over them specifically as a nation, and indeed generally over the nations, and the affairs of mankind, and how it would ultimately come at the end of time.
Whilst not having enough space here to cite all examples, one such Scripture is where King David says in 1 Chronicles 29: 11 – 13:
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendour,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honour come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
To add to that there are numerous extra biblical quotations, all referring to a similar Judaistic understanding / viewpoint of God’s Kingdom. Nothing of course is wrong with that. This is thoroughly Biblical: God is indeed the exalted King over creation, over mankind, over the affairs of the nations, and indeed His people, and that presently, and this will be ultimately realised at the end of the age.
However, something wonderful happened at the advent of Jesus Christ. He took men from a Judaistic viewpoint of the Kingdom to a Christocentric view of the Kingdom. He came with a message of ‘Basilea’ (the Greek term the Gospel writers used) – ‘proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom’ or that ‘the Kingdom of God was at hand…’ He came with this dynamic fact: The Kingdom was personally present in the Man, Christ Jesus.
This Kingdom was not just present in His message or even His mission, though certainly that was the case! Nor was it even just a promise for a future time, to finally consummate history at the end of the age. He came proclaiming a new understanding of the Kingdom of God. Without doing away with the OT understanding, He came with a more powerful fulfilment: The Kingdom was in-fact present in His very person, and to remain by the outpoured Spirit.
Jesus said in Luke 17: 21:
…‘nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
He also said in Matthew 12: 28:
But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
And further promising its remaining presence in John 14: 16 – 20:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.
So if you like, God wants us to go from a ‘Malkuth’ understanding to a ‘Basilea’ understanding. (And for all you Biblical language experts, I know a change in language means nothing, nor does the fundamental meaning of the words differ, though there are some who could argue that point further.) Rather, it is our viewpoint of the Kingdom that God wants us to re-examine.
2000 years ago, in Jesus Christ, the Kingly rule of God had come. In fact, the King was present, and was promising His rule, His reign and His presence to those who were ‘poor in spirit’. All this not just as a future hope, but a present reality. Though His voluntary death and suffering was a stumbling block to many, it did not deny the fact, but actually proved it all the more, for those humble enough to receive it. The reality was that His sacrifice had opened up the Kingdom to all, and because of this, today we still can say, ‘the Kingdom has come.’
This Kingdom, as George Ladd puts it, was a present gift, given from ‘the seeking God…’ It had ‘broken into history…’, rather than appear at the end of history, as was formerly thought. It came through His Son to mankind. Thus Jesus called it a treasure to be sought now, here, as well as a future promise. It was so glorious and so present, that men were called to ‘forsake everything…’ for it.
2000 years ago, God set something in motion: God’s Kingdom had indeed broken into ‘our’ world! Coming with this Kingdom would be forgiveness, freedom from the rule the enemy, righteousness, healing, love, victory and hope, the Gift of the Holy Spirit, authority, including much, much more! All the promises of God had come in Christ, and been made possible through His death and resurrection. The Kingdom had drawn near, and would remain still very present. Now by the Spirit, Jesus is still exercising His dynamic rule and victory. He has set something in motion, and His Spirit carries on in like manner. Like a ‘small seed… growing into something large…’ or like ‘yeast’, the Kingdom is still moving, acting, growing, advancing among His people, and in this fallen world!
Of course, we must always remember that God’s Kingdom is coming in a definite and final way, when all the world will acknowledge that He indeed is King over all things. But let us not miss out on something equally as true and glorious; a glorious reality that is pivotal to the reason that Jesus came; to bring to men His present ‘basilea’, His glorious Kingdom, personally, on our part and on His! If this be so, then how transformed we and everything we come into contact with would be!
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