A Few Thoughts on the Kingdom of God


In its simplest expression “The Kingdom of God” refers to the rule and reign of God consistent with His eschatological and redemptive intent to restore the Cosmos, thus destroying all competitive Kingdoms.

It should be seen as distinct from the general idea of God’s sovereignty though it includes the idea of God’s general sovereignty. The distinctness is found in the fact that this rule and reign of God is in direct connection to His triumphing over all other competing Kingdoms in the globalizing of His Redemption.

The essence of Jesus’ teaching ministry focuses on the theme of the kingdom of God. That this is so is seen in Mark’s Gospel in reference to how the Lord Christ characterized His ministry.

Mark 1:14 “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The phrase “Kingdom of God” is found in sixty-one separate sayings in the Synoptic Gospels. Were we to count phraseology that is synonymous with the “Kingdom of God” our count of “Kingdom of God” language would increase to 85 references. Obviously this theme is of major import.

Indeed so important has this concept been that more than a few scholars have labeled it as the theme of the Bible. In other words they will read all of Scriptures with the “Kingdom of God” as the organizing theme by which Scripture is held together and rightly interpreted.

Illustration — Beethoven’s fifth symphony with it’s four note motif. Heard in every movement of the symphony save the 2nd. Not possible to understand Beethoven’s fifth apart from hearing how everything connects to that motif.

The Lord Christ never didactically defines the “Kingdom of God.” He will repeatedly use metaphor and similes to say what it is like. What is going on with the phraseology is that the Lord Christ is taking an already well known concept and is filling it with meaning.

So, our Lord did not invent the phrase, but built upon existing Old Testament teaching. A few examples,

Psalm 145:11 – 13 — 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
    and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your[b] mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Psalm 103:19 —  The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

Isa. 45:23 — “Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.
23 By myself I have sworn;
    from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
    a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
    every tongue shall swear allegiance.’

Dan. 4:How great are his signs,
    how mighty his wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and his dominion endures from generation to generation.

Zech. 14:9 — And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

This is far far from exhaustive. The point is that when the Lord Christ came saying “The Kingdom of God is at hand” the people listening would not have said … “What’s a ‘Kingdom of God.’

The importance of the idea is seen by the its usage at Key junctures

When John the Baptist comes preaching —   “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” ( Matt 3:2 );

Likewise, as we mentioned at the outset, the Lord Christ says much the same — Mk. 1:14-15 / Mt. 4:17 / Lk. 4:42-43

“The time has come… The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”

When Jesus teaches His disciples to pray He teaches them to ask — “thy kingdom come” ( Matt 6:10 )

In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Christ in describing his people says of those poor in Spirit, of those persecuted for righteousness sake that “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” a Jewish circumlocution for “Kingdom of God” — Mt. 5:3, 10.

Just before the Cross our Lord Christ can say during the Lord’s Supper,

“I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day whenI drink it anew in the kingdom of God”

It is used repeatedly in the parables of Jesus as we find it here.

Debate concerning “Kingdom of Heaven” & “Kingdom of God.”

When Dispensationalism came upon the scene, for years they tried to argue that there was a difference between the “Kingdom of Heaven,” and the “Kingdom of God.” In order to satisfy the demands of their system which require that the Jews get their own Kingdom the Dispensationalists said that the “Kingdom of God was here now in Spiritual form, but “the Kingdom of Heaven” is going to come after once the Millennium begins in our future. This future Kingdom would be physical and would include Christ having a throne in Jerusalem to rule from. However, they have had to retool this thinking since it has become clear that “Kingdom of Heaven” is used interchangeably with “Kingdom of God.”

The account of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 includes Jesus’ words saying, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23).  In the very next verse, Jesus exchanged the term “Kingdom of God” for “Kingdom of Heaven”, and said this, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Matthew’s Gospel uses “Kingdom of Heaven” as opposed to “Kingdom of God” because it was written to a Jewish audience. Such an audience avoided using the word “God” out of a sense of such usage being inappropriate. In desiring to protect the name of God from all possible violation they used circumlocutions.

Now having laid this much out and having noted that the Kingdom of God in its essence is the rule and reign of God consistent with His eschatological and redemptive intent to restore the Cosmos we would note that the idea of the “Kingdom of God” remains a hotly debated subject in the Church in terms of how it should be exactly understood.

Some want to contend that the Kingdom of God is a political entity. Some want to contend that the Kingdom of God is only a Spiritual reality with its manifestation primarily identified with the Church. Some want to contend that God’s Kingdom is only a Future prospect. Some want to contend that the Kingdom of God is not future but is already present. While others will just say that Jesus was mistaken and wrong in His idea of a Kingdom of God.

We will spend our time this evening considering these various understandings.

As we consider the text this morning we see two points emphasized

I.) In the Parable of the Growing Seed what is Emphasized is God’s Intent and Ability To Grow His Kingdom apart from our Meddling

As we come to this we must keep in mind that this is a parable. A parable is different from an allegory. In a allegory there is a great deal of busyness where we seek to identify all the varied characters with their corresponding meaning.

An allegory is what the prophet Nathan gave to King David when rebuking him for the Bathsheba affair. Nathan, comes to David and tells him about a rich man with many flocks who takes a poor man’s only lamb to serve to his guests. Of course in Nathan’s allegory Bathsheba is the ‘lamb,” Uriah, her husband, represented the poor family with that one lamb. David was the rich villain who owned scads of sheep but  decided to steal the one loved lamb of the poor man in order to satisfy his desire. Allegory.

Here we have a parable. The parable doesn’t work the way a allegory does though it may have allegorical elements. What a parable is trying to do is to establish one main overarching point. And the point here in Mark 4 — a parable unlike many others inasmuch as Jesus doesn’t explain it — is that God grows the Kingdom absent of our involvement apart from sowing the word.

Taking the seed to be the Word of God, as in Mark 4:14, we can interpret the growth of the plants as the working of God’s Word to extend His reign and rule over men. By the growth of God’s Kingdom men are swept in. The fact that the crop grows without the sower’s intervention means that can God accomplish His purposes even when the sower is absent or unaware of what God is doing. The goal is the ripened grain. At the proper time, the Word will bring forth its fruit, and the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2) will be glorified.

The truth of this parable is well illustrated in the growth of the early church: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Just like a farmer cannot force a crop to grow, an evangelist cannot force spiritual life or growth on others.

2oth Century Dutch Theologian —  —Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom

[The] absolutely theocentric character of the kingdom of God in Jesus’ preaching…implies that its coming consists entirely in God’s own action and is perfectly dependent on his activity. The kingdom of God is not a state or condition, not a society created and promoted by men (the doctrine of the ‘social gospel’). It will not come through an immanent earthly evolution, nor through moral action; it is not men who prepare it for God. All such thoughts mean a hopelessly superficial interpretation of the tremendous thought of the fullness and finality of God’s coming as king to redeem and to judge.

Now, this does not mean that we as God’s Kingdom people work contrary to  God’s Kingdom expansion. We do labor has God’s workman in God’s Kingdom but we do so realizing that God Kingdom expands because of God’s initiative, action and activity.  When the Kingdom grain has ripened it will be God who gets all the glory.

The point of the Parable of the Growing Seed: “The way God establishes His Word authority in the heart of His people is mysterious and is accomplished by Divine appointment apart from human agency.”  Ours is to be faithful in what God has called to in His Kingdom remaining confident that God’s already present Kingdom will come.

Actually, this ought to encourage us. It sometimes seems that the redemptive rule and reign of God is so diminished. It seems as if there is so much working against God’s rule and reign. Yet this parable reminds us that God will reap a harvest of His Kingdom expansion and He will do so simply because that is His intent. Nothing can stand in His way. The Kings of the earth may conspire against Him but God will have His Kingdom Harvest. No weapon formed against Him can overcome Him and His intent. No conspiracy can overcome His divine conspiracy to redeem the Cosmos. The inevitable growth of God’s Kingdom is as certain and as natural as a seed giving up its fruit once planted.

So … we should not despair, be discouraged, or despondent. God is growing His victory garden and we are part of that Kingdom garden and He has made us farmer citizens in His Kingdom.

II,) In the Parable of the Mustard Seed the Emphasis is on the inevitable vast expanse of the Kingdom

This likely has a couple OT referent points.

In Ezekiel 17:22-24, God plants a tiny cedar twig on a high mountain of Israel and that twig becomes a large and fruitful tree under whose branches every kind of bird will find shelter.1  The birds there symbolize the nations that flock to Israel’s God on the glorious day of the Lord. This word-picture in both Ezekiel and Mark envisions the day when God’s sovereign and life-giving power will embrace the whole world–good news indeed!

In Daniel 4:21 the metaphor found here of “birds of the air may nest under its shade” is used to describe how the nations will find shade under a metaphorical Tree which stands for Nebuchadnezzar.  In both Daniel and here thre is more than a hint of  world wide dominion.  “The birds of the air may nest under its shade,” likely is pointing here to the fact that the Nations will come under the dominion of god’s Kingdom.

Don’t miss though the emphasis found in the idea that what becomes dominant starts out as minuscule.

It is easy to see this as the life of Christ. Christ is the Kingdom mustard seed that starts out tiny and then expands so that the Nations come it and find rest under His shade.

Application

1.) Whatever may appear to us now, we needs know that Christ’s Kingdom has the inevitability of victory.

Marxism taught and teaches,

“the victory of the proletariat [is] inevitable.

Meaning that Marxism will win out. S0me have opined that this plank of Marxism more than any other plank is what accounts for the success of Marxism’s spread.

But this was stolen from Biblical Christianity. It simply is the case instead that the victory of Christ and His Kingdom is inevitable.

The truth of this can sustain us in dark times … in persecution … in trial. Tears may last for the night but joy cometh in the morning.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

4 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts on the Kingdom of God”

  1. So Bret, the Kingdom is first and foremost a divine political order,No?

    Though the kings of the earth today for the most part still rebel, and
    despite this Christ still builds His kingdom, would you not agree that
    our hoped and prayed for transformation would be a magistrate that cooperates, along with a biblical family and church.

    Will the day that sees this cooperation be the dawn of a golden age
    some see taught in scripture?

    Today almost everyone resists this idea that though Christ continues to
    build, His best is yet to come. And that a two legged stool is nothing
    compared to having three legs of all institutions working together.

    1. Gray … The Kingdom is first and foremost a divine political order that incarnates itself, in ever increasing degrees, into those temporal political orders that submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

      Grey asked,

      Would you not agree that our hoped and prayed for transformation would be a magistrate that cooperates, along with a biblical family and church.

      Bret

      Yes, I would agree.

      Gray asked,

      Will the day that sees this cooperation be the dawn of a golden age some see taught in scripture?

      Bret

      The day is coming, because the day has come, when Christ’s Kingdom, because it is already present in principle, will come progressively to the point where the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.

      In terms of your last paragraph, I”d be satisfied with one leg being in place at this point.

      1. I certainly agree on the one leg being in place.

        Would be nice for most to simply acknowledge the third.

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