Sea of Galilee from the Mount of BeatitudesAt daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:42-44)

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:1-2)

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. (Luke 16:16)

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is among you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

After his suffering, he showed himself to these men 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. (Acts 1:3)

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. (Acts 19:8-9)

They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. (Acts 28:23)

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 28:30-31)

“The kingdom of God”, also called “the kingdom of Heaven”, is a subject of misunderstanding (an sometimes argument) in a number of modern circles.  From even a brief survey of the Christian Scriptures, one can see that it is an important comcept.  What is it?  Where did it come from?  Why should we care?  I’m hoping to examine these questions over time, beginning with this article.

Kingdom of Heaven vs. Kingdom of God

First off, there is sometimes misunderstanding of the “Kingdom of Heaven” as being longhand for “Heaven” or the “afterlife in Heaven”.  In reality, the “kingdom of Heaven” is synonymous with the “kingdom of God”. 

Because of the desire to avoid breaking the third commandment, misuing the Lord’s name, His name (written YHWH) was rarely spoken.  In fact, nowhere in the gospels do we ever have it recorded as Jesus using the name of God.  Instead, the terms Adonai (”my Lord”), Hashem (”the Name”), or Shamayim (”Heaven”) were given as euphamistic terms for God.

One of the most obvious examples of ‘heaven’ used as euphamism for God is in the Parable of the Lost Son, in Luke 15:21:

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”

Here, scholars note, the son is also demonstrating true repentence in the story in the reverence shown to God, by his usage of ‘heaven’ rather than even Adonai (which many religious Jews would only use on the Temple Mount).

Additionally, Matthew – whose gospel was primarily aimed at religious Jews – is the only gospel writer who uses the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven”, which the other synoptic gospel writers in parallel passages quote as “Kingdom of God” (see Mark 1:15 and Matthew 4:17 for an example).

What Was the Message?

I recently asked a long-time Christian, who is serious about studying the Word, “What is the message that Jesus taught about, particularly early in his ministry?”  His answer was, “I suspect he stuck fairly close to the gospel message”. 

My response (and ONLY because I’d been thinking about this a lot, otherwise I’d have been in his shoes) was “what do you mean?  Which parts of the gospel message?”  He then went quickly through all the main points of the gospel message, but stopped about midway through, when he got to the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice.  “Wait a minute.  How could he preach about all of these things when he hadn’t died yet or been resurrected?  I need to think and look more into this.”

That had been exactly what my reaction was the first time I thought about this question.

As you read through the gospel accounts, including the verses above, you will find that the message that Jesus is always teaching, that he instructs his disciples to teach, and that his Apostle to the Gentiles teaches is about the Kingdom of God.  In fact, our last glimpse of Paul in the third-person account of Acts is this:

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 28:30-31)

As you read the Acts account of Paul and his teaching, he has two specific, but intertwined messages – one is the Kingdom of God and the other is the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

In all, the God’s kingdom is mentioned (as either the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven, or just ‘the kingdom’) 102 times in the four Gospels and another 28 times in the remainder of the New Testament.  You might just think it’s something important we should know about, huh?  If we Christians claim to follow Jesus, should we not, like Paul, also be ready to speak both about the person we claim to follow (Jesus) AND the message that he taught?  Or, are you like I have been for many years, assuming that the both of these were one and the same?

So, what is the good news of the Kingdom of God?

Stay tuned for part II…




Comments

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 15th, 2007 at 7:14 am and is filed under Hebrew Context, Lessons, Religion/Philosophy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Comments so far

  1. thirdstring65 on February 15, 2007 1:29 pm

    Chris – thanks for all the work you’ve done (and are doing)in putting together the Velvet Elvis material; I appreciate it!

    Mike

  2. iggy on February 17, 2007 2:11 am

    It has interested me for a long time that some see the “Kingdom” as only a future event..yet miss that in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus tells us to pray “Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven”… Meaning that the King will rule all… I was recently told that Jesus will only be “King” at His return… and wondered at that… so is He not King now? I thought all authority was given to Him…

    I see that though the Kingdom is in the future, Jesus states it is like yeast in bread… ever expanding… and I think even more so in the present we will see it expand…

    Blessings,
    iggy

  3. Fishing The Abyss on March 27, 2007 10:22 am

    [...] In Part I, we examined the terms ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘Kingdom of God’, with the determination that they are, indeed, synonymous. We also noted that the gospel of Jesus the Messiah and the Kingdom of God were two distinct, but intertwined messages taught with equal fervor by his disciples. [...]

  4. David on May 26, 2011 4:31 pm

    i was blessed by the insight written herein and remember that in a vision many years ago, in respond to me asking the lord what should i preach, the Lord told me to preach what Jesus preached. so i have been searching the scriptures since then gathering information on Jesus’s message to share with my congregation, thanks for the help

  5. benjaminTribe777 on November 13, 2011 10:31 am

    Thanks for your commitment to the word and to the Kingdom. I think often times we overlook the fact that the kingdom is a real physical kingdom. Although the kingdom is not fully established yet, it will be when Messiah returns. Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom but we don’t have too much recorded about what the kingdom is. This is because He assumes the audience knows what it is. Much of the kingdom was already explained by the Prophets. We have been given an amazing inheritance.

  6. Pastor basil udodiri anyanwu on June 28, 2012 1:25 am

    The kingdom of God is the power of God. Mat 6:10 says may ur kingdom come may ur wil be done on earth as it is in heaven.1st corinthians 4:20.say for the kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of powers.

Name (required)

Email (required)

Website

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Share your wisdom