Jesus—His Life and Message: The Kingdom of God (Part 2)
July 14, 2015
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: The Kingdom of God (Part 2)
(You can read about the intent for and overview of this series in this introductory article.)
As noted in part one, Jesus’ miracles were an indicator that the kingdom of God had come and was present, at least in part, during His ministry. Jesus also conveyed the meaning of the kingdom of God through His actions and teaching.
When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was “the one” or if they should look for another, Jesus responded by saying:
Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.1
Jesus was defeating Satan through His healings, and He was also revealing information about the kingdom through His teaching—preaching the good news to the poor. He told numerous parables illustrating what the kingdom of heaven is like or can be compared to: The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed; a man who sowed good seed in his field; leaven; treasure hidden in a field; a net that was thrown into the sea; a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.2
His dining with the outcasts of Judaism—the tax collectors and sinners—touching the unclean, forgiving sins, and healing on the Sabbath all gave a deeper understanding of the Father's grace, love, care, and mercy, and the nature of His kingdom.
His teaching the disciples to pray Our Father in heaven3 brought them into a new relationship with God, making them part of His family.
Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.4
He taught those who followed Him to base their actions and ethics on the character of their Father and King, to align their lives and actions with His as they live in His kingdom.
Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.5
Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on … Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them … Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin … will he not much more clothe you? … Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.6
Entering the kingdom of God means entering a new relationship with God. It is through making a decision for the kingdom that one becomes part of it. We see the need for such a commitment through the Gospels’ call to repentance: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel;7 the call to follow Jesus: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men;8 the call to deny oneself and take up the cross: whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.9 All of these are strong calls to commitment.
The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair possessed a new attitude of love and gratitude toward God because her sins had been forgiven.10 Forgiveness of sin changes the heart, and a changed heart brings the blessings of the kingdom.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.11
Because God has been gracious and merciful, believers are compelled to forgive others.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches that the kingdom is present, as well as about the new relationship with God that one enters into when making the commitment to repent and follow. He also speaks of the change that God’s forgiveness creates in one’s heart. This presence of the kingdom, while effecting change in the lives of those who enter it, is not the fullness of the kingdom. The kingdom broke into the world by means of Jesus’ ministry, His defeat of Satan, and thus we have a partial experience of its blessings while we look forward to the full blessings that will come at its final fulfillment.
The Gospel of John doesn’t focus on Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God like the Synoptic Gospels do, but it does give some key information, as it expresses that new birth is required to enter the kingdom.
Here we see that entering the kingdom is through new birth. In the Synoptic Gospels, entrance to the Kingdom is attained through faith in Jesus’ teachings and entering into a relationship with the Father. All of these concepts express salvation, which comes through Jesus.
The present aspect of the kingdom is that we become members of God’s family, we enter the basileia, we accept the reign of God in our lives. He becomes our Father, and we enter into a personal relationship with Him through Jesus. He becomes our king to whom we pledge our love, loyalty, and allegiance. When God reigns in our lives, our attitude of trust and faith reflects what is expressed in the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray: your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.16 For those who put their trust in God and who enter a relationship with Him through the sacrifice of His Son, the kingdom of God becomes a present reality.17
When someone enters the kingdom, the center of their life shifts. They become regenerated, born of the Spirit. They yield to God’s reign and put their trust in Him. As is seen in Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere, one is to live a higher ethic: forgive others, love one’s enemies, and more.
While Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom had some similarities to what was generally taught in Judaism, His teachings went beyond traditional Judaism as He redefined its meaning. He taught that the kingdom of God was connected with His personal destiny as the Son of man. He demonstrated through His life and death and resurrection that the kingdom of God wasn’t an ambiguous future hope; through Jesus’ coming, it had become imminent and demanded an immediate response.
On top of that, He taught that entrance to the kingdom was not limited to the Jewish people, but that anyone could enter. The focus wasn’t on physical Israel, but rather on all those who would become God's people through their renewed hearts and new birth. Jesus made it clear that entrance into God’s kingdom wasn’t limited to Israel when He spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, telling her that the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.18 Likewise, when He cast out a demon from the daughter of a Syrophoenician Gentile woman.19 When speaking to the chief priests and the Pharisees, He said: I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.20
Those who first believed in and followed Jesus were the first to enter the kingdom of God; and they, like the leaven hidden in three measures of flour, began to leaven the whole lump.21 The growth of the kingdom will continue until the Son of Man returns to repay each person according to what he has done.22 Those who are of the kingdom and those who aren’t live side by side within the world, like the parable of the wheat and the weeds/tares.23 It’s only at the time of harvest that they are uprooted and sorted, with the weeds being cast into the fire. The fishnet draws in both the good and bad fish, which are then sorted.24 The intermixture of good and evil in this age can be overcome only at the end of time, when the kingdom comes to its fullness in all its beauty and perfection.25
The completion of the kingdom comes when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom on Earth.
By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.26 The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.27
(Continued in part three)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 Luke 7:22.
2 Matthew 13:31, 24, 33, 44, 47; 22:2.
3 Matthew 6:9.
4 Matthew 12:50.
5 Luke 6:35–36.
6 Matthew 6:25–33.
7 Mark 1:15.
8 Matthew 4:19.
9 Matthew 10:38.
11 Matthew 5:8.
12 Matthew 6:12.
13 Luke 6:36.
14 John 3:3.
15 John 3:5.
16 Matthew 6:10.
17 Williams, Renewal Theology, 291.
18 John 4:23.
19 Mark 7:26–30.
20 Matthew 21:43.
22 Matthew 16:27; 25:31–34.
23 Matthew 13:24–30.
24 Matthew 13:47–50.
25 Williams, Renewal Theology, 295.
26 Revelation 5:9–10.
27 Revelation 11:15.