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JUST WHAT IS GOD’S KINGDOM?

 

The word “kingdom” usually brings to mind the idea of a territory (a domain) that is under the rule of a “king.”  We tend to call up images of royal courts with some sort of hierarchy below the king, and of course an army that is outfitted with some form of weaponry that will maintain the sovereignty of the king and order within his realm.

 

The concept of a kingdom was well known to Israel, and eventually Israel itself wanted to be a kingdom and have a king like the nations that surrounded them.  Up to that time they had been governed by judges who would deliver them from the attacks from these other nations.  The prophet Samuel was the last of those judges, and we read an enlightening statement from Yahweh upon the occasion of elders’ request for Samuel to make a king for them.  In 1 Sam. 8:7 He tells Samuel,

“Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.”

They already were a kingdom, but not one like the other nations.  Yahweh was their King, and His rule was mediated to the people through the judges until the time of, and through, the prophet Samuel.  Their desire for a human king and a physical kingdom was a rejection of God as being their Sovereign.

 

So from the time of their first king, Saul, we read in the books of Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles and the Prophets about Israel’s history as a kingdom.  During and following the periods of their exiles, they looked and hoped for God to raise up another king, like David, who would throw off the yokes of their oppressors and set up a kingdom in the land of Israel that would rule the world.  This hope was placed in their expectation that God would raise up a Messiah (Anointed One) that would deliver them.  In Dan. 2, we read an apocalyptic dream that king Nebuchadnezzar had, which was interpreted by Daniel, that prophetically described the coming kingdom which had been seen as “a stone cut out without hands [which] struck the statue” in the king’s dream (vs. 34).  In vs. 35 we see that “the stone… became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”  Then, in vs. 44, Daniel explains that “in the days of these kings [represented by the multi-metal statue] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom [pictured as the stone, in the dream] which shall not be destroyed… but shall stand for the eons.”  I suggest that it was this kingdom which John the baptizer proclaimed as having “approached [to be] now near at hand and is close enough to touch (= has arrived and is now accessible)!” (Mat. 3:2).  Then, in Mat. 4:17, Jesus made a similar proclamation,

You folks be progressively changing your thinking (change your frame of mind, mode of thought, perceptions and understanding and turn your focus to [Yahweh]), because the sovereign reign and activity of exercising the sovereignty of the heavens (or: kingdom from the sky and the atmosphere) has drawn near and now continues being at hand and is close enough to touch (= has arrived and is now accessible).”

 

However, because Jesus did not fit the popular, political or religious image of the expected Messiah, the Judean leadership rejected Him as being the Messiah, and Jesus was crucified.  This seemed to confirm their decision: how could the promised Messiah be crucified?  Of course His resurrection showed that they had been wrong, but then He went away and did not stay to set up a physical kingdom in Jerusalem.  So had He been wrong to proclaim that the kingdom was at hand, close enough to touch, and accessible to His people?  Many Christians, even today, make the same mistake made by the Jewish leadership in the 1st century: they are expecting Jesus to come and set up a physical kingdom in Jerusalem – sometime in the future.  But how are we instructed about God’s kingdom?  What does it look like and what are its characteristics?  Is it a literal civil government?  Does, or will, it take the form of physical rule within human societies?  Or is the term “kingdom,” which is better rendered, “reign” or “sovereign influence and activity,” better understood as a metaphor for the reality of God’s relationship with people?   

 

Paul gave an astounding description of God’s kingdom, in Rom. 14:17,

for you see, God's kingdom (or: the reign-and-dominion which is God; the expression, influence and activity of God’s sovereignty) is not (or: does not exist being) solid food and drink, but rather, eschatological deliverance into fair and equitable dealing which brings justice and right relationship in the Way pointed out (being turned in the right direction; rightwisedness; also = covenant inclusion and participation), peace (and: harmony; = shalom) and joy (or: happiness; rejoicing) within set-apart Breath-effect (or: in union with and amidst a dedicated spirit and a sacred attitude; or: in [the] Holy Spirit).”

 

Why did Paul use the term "God's kingdom" in this context?  He had been talking about making a brother sad because of food (vs. 15), and said if they were doing this,

“[they] are no longer continuing to walk about (= living [their] life) in accord with (or: down from and on the level of) Love (or: you are not yet habitually walking [their path] in participation with transcendent unity of unambiguous, uniting acceptance toward others).”

 

Now vs. 16 speaks about their "good thing (or: the excellence and virtue which pertain to [them])" being slandered because of this behavior.  Then we have vs. 17 which again speaks of behavior, which Paul categorizes as "God's kingdom."  Verse 18 continues the subject of behavior -- that which is both well-pleasing to God, and approved by men.  And this is "righteous living," or, “fair and equitable dealing in just relationships which accord with the Path” that Christ “pointed out” to us (and this = "continuously slaving for and in the Christ," vs. 18), which Paul gives in the above definition of "God's kingdom."

 

Note also that a characteristic of His kingdom is "peace," which the LXX used to translate the Hebrew "shalom," which signifies also the prosperous way of life, and wholeness.  The kingdom is involved with right relationships (primarily with other people).  Finally, it is a life lived in the spirit, which results in joy and rejoicing in Yahweh.  THIS is God's kingdom.

 

But there is more.  Paul gives another definition of God's kingdom in 1 Cor. 4:18-21ff.  Once again, the context is the behavior of some within the church at Corinth.  "Some are puffed up..." (vs. 18).  This condition is also indicated in their "speech" (vs. 19).  But God's kingdom is more than speech,

For God's reign (or: the kingdom and sovereignty which is God; the sovereign influence or activity from God) [is; lies] not within an idea (a thought; a word; a message; a verbal expression), but rather within ability, in union with capability, or in the midst of power” (vs. 20).

This would indicate action, or behavior.  Paul refers to his own potential behavior among them, in vs. 21,

What do you folks want (presently desire; normally intend; by habit purpose)?  Should I come to you people within [the realm of] a rod (staff; = with corrective measures), or within love, and in a spirit of gentle friendliness and tender kindness (or: meekness)?

The next chapter of 1 Cor. continues on about the "behavior" of some within the church.  But keep in mind that Paul has been speaking of the context of God’s kingdom (vs. 17).  So we can conclude that God's kingdom can be the able use of correction (the power of the rod), or love and a spirit of gentle friendliness and tender kindness.

 

So, thus far, have we encountered anything about civil government or about a king sitting upon a literal throne?  No, we see in these passages allusions to the reign of God as it is being experienced in the called-out, covenant communities and in the life of Paul.  These quotes from Romans and 1 Corinthians color-in a picture of God’s kingdom as being the Way that was pointed out by Jesus, in His teachings, and then by the Holy Spirit, in the lives of the 1st century congregations as they are being “led by the Spirit” (Rom. 8:14) – all of which continues turning them in the right direction (toward Christ) and keeps them in right relationships with everyone.

 

Paul refers to God's kingdom again in 1 Cor. 15:50.  He had just been speaking there about the resurrection of dead ones (vs. 42) and contrasting the spiritual to the natural, or soulish (vs. 46), and noting how the first Adam is out of the earth and made of dust, while "the Second Human (Person; Man; [other MSS add: {is} the Lord]) [is made] out of heaven (or: [is] from [the] atmosphere and sky; [p46 reads: {is} spiritual])." (vs. 47).  Verse 49 speaks of how we bear the image of the dusty one, and of how we can bear the image of the Heavenly One.  So this is the context: contrasts of the natural and earthy to the spiritual and heavenly.  Now vs. 50 reads,

Now I am saying this, brothers (= fellow members and believers), that flesh and blood (= humans in their estranged condition; = people of dust who have not been resurrected) have no power and continue unable to inherit or receive and participate in an allotted portion of God's reign (kingdom or sovereign action) – neither is corruption and decay (the perishable) continuing on to inherit (participate in the allotment of) the Incorruption (Imperishability).”

Note that last contrast: corruption (in the same category as the natural, or earthy) and incorruption (another quality of the spiritual, the heavenly, or, God's kingdom).  So God's kingdom does not appear to pertain to the earthy or to flesh and blood (natural man).  But this does not mean that His reign is not here, on earth.  It simply pertains to the realm of spirit, the realm of the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

 

Again, we see no reference to governmental organization or physical thrones here.

 

When Jesus was before Pilate, He did not say, "My kingdom is not going to be established now, but will be later, when I return."  No, He said,

My kingdom (My sovereignty; the realm and activity of My reign and activity; My reign as king) is NOT (does not exist being) from out of this System (world of organized government, culture, economics or religion; or: universe) as its source or origin.  If My kingdom (or: reign, realm and sovereignty) were from out of this System (or: world of government, culture, religion and economy; secular society), as a source or origin, My subordinates (deputies; officers; those under My orders) would have been progressively contending, struggling and fighting, to the end that I could (or: would) not be given over to the Jews (= religious authorities).  But now (= as a matter of fact, or, as it is) My kingdom and reign is NOT (does not exist being) from that source (from within this place; thence or hence).” (John 18:36)

 

In John 3:3, Jesus said that one must be born from above to even perceive God's kingdom.  And then in vs. 5 He said,

Certainly that is so.  I am now saying (laying it out; = pointing out) to you, unless anyone (or: someone) may be born forth from out of water and spirit (or: – as well as Breath-effect and attitude –) he continues being unable (he remains having no power) to enter into God’s realm (or: reign; kingdom; sovereign activity and influence).”

It would seem from this that God's kingdom is made up of only those who have had such a birth.

Then, in Mat. 19:14, we find Jesus using children as an example for the qualities (e.g., simple trust, as my friend John Gavazzoni has pointed out) of those who make up the kingdom, and of those to whom it belongs:

Stop preventing them and allow the young children to come toward Me, for you see, the reign and kingdom of the heavens (or: = the sovereignty of this atmosphere) belongs to and is comprised of such folks as these.”

What a startling revelation to His listeners this must have been!

 

But we find Paul and Barnabas giving further insights into this “birth” in Acts 14:22b,

It continues binding and necessary for us to enter into the reign of God (or: God's kingdom; the sovereign activities which are God) through the midst of many pressures, squeezings, tribulations, afflictions and oppressions.”

And then, in 1 Thes. 2:12, Paul admonishes his listeners,

to be continuously walking about worthily of the God (= living your lives in a manner equal in value with regard to the God) [Who is] continuously calling (or: repeatedly inviting) you people into (or: unto) His own royal activity (or: reign; kingdom; sovereign influence) and glory (or: manifestation which calls forth praise; or: reputation; or: opinion and imagination; or: = manifest presence).”

 

We saw above that God's kingdom is something that is inherited (I Cor. 15:50).  In 1 Cor. 6:9-10 we note that unjust ones, idolaters, thieves, etc. will not inherit the kingdom.  In Matt. 25:34 we see that the "sheep" – those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, were hospitable to strangers, clothed the naked, took care of the sick, visited the prisoners – inherit the kingdom.  Once again we find the theme of behavior related to the kingdom.

 

Paul gives further light on just what this inheritance is, in Eph. 1:13b-14,

“… within and in union with Whom also, upon trusting and believing, you people are stamped (or: were sealed; marked for acceptance, or with a signet ring; = personally authorized) by the set-apart Breath-effect of The PROMISE (or: with the holy attitude of assurance; in the sacred essence from the promise; or: for the Holy Spirit which is the Promise) Which is continuously a pledge and guarantee of our INHERITANCE (or: Who remains being an earnest deposit, a security and the first installment of our portion which was acquired by lot) – [leading] unto a release into freedom (liberation from slavery or imprisonment) from that which was made to surround [us/you] (or: of the encircling acquisition; or: which is that which has been constructed as a perimeter around [us]), [being immersed] into the praise and approval from (or: which is) His glory (or: from His manifestation which calls forth admiration and which yields a good opinion; which pertains to His imagination; of a reputation which is Him)!

Gal. 3:14 also speaks of the Promise,

to the end that the Good Word (the Blessing; the Word of wellness and goodness) pertaining to Abraham (belonging to and possessed by Abraham; whose intermediary source is Abraham) could within Jesus Christ suddenly birth Itself (or: may from Itself, within Christ Jesus, at once come into being [and be dispersed]) into the multitudes (the nations; the ethnic groups; the Gentiles), so that we [note: "we" = the new "one" mankind?] could receive the Spirit's PROMISE through the Faithfulness [of Christ].”

Verses 17-18, in Gal. 3, relate "the inheritance" to the Promise in which, “God has Himself graced [it] (has for Himself, in favor, freely granted [it]), so that it now stands as a favor of grace, to (or: for; in) Abraham through a Promise (or: because of a promise)," and thus, by extension, is also given to Abraham’s seed.  So we are finding the metaphor of “inheritance,” which, as noted above, is related to “the kingdom,” now connected to “The Promise,” which comes to us as a “gift.”  When in Gal. 4:30 Paul instructs us to, “Cast out (or: At once expel) the servant girl (the slave-girl; the maid) and her son,” he is referring to the Sinai covenant (Gal. 4:24-25) and the literal expectations from that covenant, including what it produces.  In contrast to the old covenant and the Law from Sinai, Paul informs us, in Gal. 4:28, that, “we, brothers (= fellow believers; = my family), corresponding to (in the sphere of) Isaac, are (continuously exist being) children of Promise (or: ones-born of [the] Promise).”  From the association of the words, “inheritance” and “promise” to “kingdom (reign, etc.),” we can deduct that the “children of Promise” are also “children of the kingdom” (cf Mat. 13:38).  Or, we can also conclude that His kingdom is His people (as Israel was, until Israel wanted a flesh kingdom, in the days of Samuel).

 

Now Eph. 5:5 speaks of those who are "not now holding enjoyment of an inheritance (does not currently continue having use of an allotted gift from someone who has died) within the Christ's and God's reign or sphere of sovereign activity (or: in union with the kingdom of the Anointed One [= the Messiah], as well as of God; or: centered in the royal influence from the Christ, and from God; [p46: within the reign of God])" – once again associating the concept of "inheritance" with that of "kingdom."

 

From observing how the inheritance is connected to the Promise, we now turn to Acts 1:3-4 where Jesus was, “continuously saying things concerning God's reign and sovereign activities (or: and progressively laying out thoughts about the kingdom and realm of God, as well as the ruling influence, which is God),” then proceeds to tell them to, “not to be presently separated (or: caused to depart) from Jerusalem, but rather, to continue remaining with regard to, and waiting around for, the Father's promise (or: the Promise, the source of which is the Father; or, as a genitive of apposition: the promise which is the Father)!”  Is God our inheritance?  It was for the tribe of Levi:

“For this cause hath Levi neither portion nor inheritance, with his brethren – Yahweh is his inheritance, as Yahweh thy God spoke unto him.” (Deut. 10:9, Rotherham; see also Deut. 18:1-2)

Now let's tie these thoughts together, since Levi was the tribe from which came the priests.  John instructs the called-out communities, in Rev. 1:6a, that God,

made (formed; created; produces) us [other MSS: in, for, with us; of us] [to be] a kingdom (or: sovereign reign; [other MSS: constructed of us a kingdom which brings sovereign influence]): priests in (or: by; for; with) His God and Father...”

This is an echo of Ex. 19:6, speaking to Israel,

            “As for you, you shall become Mine: a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

            (Concordant Version)

In both of these last two verses it is A PEOPLE (God's people) that is called "a kingdom."  And since they are "[His]," they are His kingdom.  After proofreading this article, my son Joshua commented,

“All of the above evidence of God being our inheritance and we being His reminds me of the family relationship dynamic (i.e. – The father and mother belonging to the children and the children belonging to them and each individual member belonging to one another; all enjoying the benefits [a multi-directional “inheritance”] that comes from being actively in right wised relations with each other [actions and activities with each other directly related to the reality of being actions and activities of His “kingdom”…the purest and most beautiful, observable form of the evidence of His active sovereign influence])!”

 

Now let's consider some of the things to which Jesus compared the kingdom:

Mat. 13:24, “The reign and sovereignty activities of the heavens (or: kingdom of the atmospheres) is likened and compared to a person (human) sowing (scattering) fine, ideal seed within his field.”

Notice that the previous parable spoke of sowing "the word of the kingdom" (vs. 19) and that this is interpreted, in the good soil, as "hearing” and “comprehending” the Word (the Logos)" (vs. 23).

Mat. 13:31, “The reign and sovereignty of the heavens (or: kingdom of the sky and atmosphere) exists being (or: is) like seed of a mustard plant – which, upon taking, a man (a person) sowed within his field.”

Now above, the field was compared to comprehending the Word of the kingdom – the heart or mind (understanding) is that which receives the seed of the Word, thus the man in vs. 31 would be planting the mustard seed into himself, or into others like him.

[please note: this same parable is given in Mark 4:30-32, but here it is called "the kingdom of God."  Some would try to differentiate between these two synonymous phrases.  Note also Mark 4:26 where "the kingdom of God" is compared to sowing seed and then harvesting the crop (vs. 29).]

 

If we consider this parable in Mat. 13:31 as speaking of growth from a small Seed to a large plant that can house agents of the heavens (birds of the air – including doves), then the parable speaks of life and growth: something organic.  There is no thought of conquest or rule in this picture of the kingdom.  Then in Mat. 13:33,

The reign (kingdom; sovereignty) of the heavens and atmospheres exists being (is) like leaven (or: yeast) which a woman, upon getting (taking; receiving) [it], hides within (= mixes in) three large measures (1.5 pecks, or 12 quarts, per measure) of wheat flour, or meal, until [the] whole [batch] is leavened to thus be fermented, risen [and teeming with life]!

Again we see growth and expansion.  Starting from something small (bread only takes a little leaven) and putting it into something that would otherwise remain flat, and not "rise," we see that the entire mass of dough (could we say the whole world) expands into the finished product, ready to serve as food or offering.

Mat. 13:44, “The reign (or: kingdom; sovereignty) of the heavens and atmospheres exists being (or: is) like a treasure – having been hidden (or: being concealed) within the midst of a field – which, upon finding, a person hid (concealed) [again] and then, from the joy he has, he proceeds leaving [it] and one after another sells as many things as he is then possessing and is proceeding in purchasing that field” [note vs. 38: in that parable the field is ‘the world; the aggregate of humanity; the universe’]

Here we have a figure of Christ purchasing the whole field (a figure of the whole world) to get the treasure (humanity) that He found in the field.  If this interpretation be true, then the kingdom is compared to the plan of redemption.  God considers us His treasure.

 

In vs. 45 we have the figure of a traveling merchant "selling as much as he had" to buy a valued pearl.  This is a parallel to vs. 44.

 

Next, let's consider the parable of the dragnet and the catch of fish, in Mat. 13:47-50.  The dragnet is a figure of God’s sovereign action upon the “sea of mankind,” which brings into His control “every species [of marine life]” (vs. 47) which included “ideal ones… [and] decayed and rotten ones” (vs. 48).  Once again, regardless of how you interpret the figures in the metaphor, you see the kingdom compared to a process – a sequence of events.  As my son, Joshua observed, the events are “actions that yield great worth, substance, increase and value.”  Yet, in this case, Jesus used this parable to prophesy God’s sovereign actions upon Jerusalem and the Jewish leadership in His day: the destruction of Jerusalem.  It turned out to be an event that brought an end to the Jewish temple cultus.  At the same time, in this parable, there is no comparison to the “rule of a king, a governor, or a magistrate,” or to “civil government,” but rather to the daily life of fishermen.  Are the folks that are fishing a figure of God, or of His servants (His disciples and followers, or, historically, the Romans)?  The collecting of everyone into the net, and then separating them, reminds us of how the sheep and the kids are separated the Mat. 25:32-46 (where Jesus compares Christ’s separating the species of His herd to that of a shepherd, i.e., an example of the way of an ordinary life and periodic activities).  In both cases the "unacceptable" ones go into fire: decisions are made.  In 13:49, Jesus told them the time frame to which this parable spoke: “the destined conclusion of the (or: this) age,” which happened in AD 70.  In this picture, the fire does not annihilate them, for vs. 50 says,

and then will continue casting them into the furnace (oven; kiln) of The Fire [= God's dealings]: the weeping (crying and lamentation) and the grinding of teeth' will continue being in that situation or place.”

 

Now I also suggest that this means that the net "drags" everyone into the kingdom, where this judgment takes place, i.e., for the appropriate dealing for each one, or, for each group.  This can involve weeping (sorrow about losses, etc.; cf 1 Cor. 3:10-17) and grinding of teeth (regret, or anger), but those experiencing His dealings are alive and are being processed by them.  And again, remember that Jesus said that He would make [us] “fishers of humans” (Mat. 4:19).  So the kingdom, in this parable, is the work of God, through His agents upon humans – whether in their hearts, their spirits, their souls or their bodies – or, upon institutions (e.g., the temple cultus).  The specific, immediate focus of this parable involved the Romans being His agents to bring the end of the old covenant.  In these examples of God’s kingdom, God constantly makes decisions about humanity, but His actions take place in the realm of ordinary living, here on earth, and not necessarily at a future or remote “judgment seat.”  Speaking of which, God’s seat of judgment during the times of the Israel’s early history was within the heart of the tabernacle/temple.  God spoke to Moses from out of the tabernacle (Lev. 1:1; Nu. 1:1).  We see Moses going into the tabernacle, from time to time, to discuss with God various issues concerning Israel (e.g., Nu. 7:89).  In that type, God’s throne was “the mercy seat” (Ex. 25:22).  Later, God’s home among Israel became a temple, and now we have come to see that WE are God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21).  The situation that exists now is,

let the peace (or: joining; [= shalom]) of the Christ (belonging to and originating in the [Messiah]; the harmony which is the Anointing [other MSS: God]) continuously umpire (act as a judge in the games) within your hearts (= in union with the core of your being)” (Col. 3:15a).

 

In Mat. 18:3 we see that one must be "turned around," and become "like little children" in order to enter into the kingdom.  Then, in vs. 4 we read these are folks having the characteristics of the kingdom:

Therefore, whoever will be progressively bringing himself low in attitude, situation and condition, so as to be humble, insignificant and unimportant in his own eyes, like this young child – this person is the greatest (= most important) with the heaven's reign (or: the kingdom emanating from the atmospheres).”

This virtually turns the human concept of “kingdom” on its head.

And in 18:23-35 the kingdom of the heavens becomes an issue of mercy and forgiveness, in the parable of the "unmerciful servant."  This sounds like "the Way pointed out" – i.e., like the Way of mercy, and forgiveness.  It is the “eschatological deliverance into fair and equitable dealing which brings justice and right relationship in the Way pointed out (being turned in the right direction; rightwisedness; also = covenant inclusion and participation)” of Rom. 14:17, above – which is the life of the kingdom, and this speaks to our behavior and to our relationships with one another.  The kingdom can also mean correction or judgment, where it is needed, as we see in this parable (Mat. 18:32-35).  But note vs. 21, where Peter asks Jesus a question that prompts this parable.  It is a question about how we should live.  Peter asks, "How often shall I forgive my brother?"  In the kingdom life it is 70X7, or, it is a Way of Life that offers continual forgiveness to others.

 

Now let us turn again to Paul, and see what he said in Col. 1:13-14,

13.  He who drags us out of danger (or: rescued us) forth from out of the midst of the authority of the Darkness (from Darkness's jurisdiction and right; from existing out of gloomy shadows and obscure dimness; = the privilege of ignorance), and changes [our] position (or: transported [us], thus, giving [us] a change of standing, and transferred [us]) into the midst of the kingdom and reign of the Son of His love

(or: into the midst of the sovereign influence of the Son Who has the characteristics and qualities of His accepting love; into union with the sovereign activities of the Son Whose origin is His love; or: into the sphere of the reign of the Son of the Love which is Him; into the center of the kingdom of the Son, which is His love),

14.  in Whom (or: in union with [which Son]) we continuously have and hold the release into freedom from slavery or imprisonment (the liberation from our predicament) [which results in] the sending away of the failures (or: the dismissal of the errors pertaining to falling short and straying to the side of the target; the flowing away of the sins; the divorce from mistakes).

Some have suggested that “the kingdom and reign of the Son of His love (etc.)” is speaking of a different kingdom than the one of which Jesus spoke, and which the Jews had anticipated, but there is no evidence for this conclusion.  It is simply the kingdom that belongs to the One to whom the Father said, "This is My Beloved Son," (Mat. 17:5), which equals, here, “the Son of His love.”  There is only one kingdom of God, and we now exist in this kingdom.  In God’s economy (which is another term for His kingdom/reign, or His household) there no longer exists Jews and Gentiles, for,

You see, He Himself is our Peace (or: continuously exists being our joining and harmony [= Shalom]) – the One making (forming; constructing; creating; producing) The Both [to be] one, and within His flesh…. to the end that He may frame (create; found and settle from a state of wildness and disorder) The Two [i.e., Jew and Gentile] into One New [p46 & others: common] Humanity centered within the midst of, and in union with, Himself, continuously making (progressively creating) Peace and Harmony (a joining; = shalom)” (Eph. 2:14-15).

God will not now make a separation between the nations, so as to set up a separate kingdom in Palestine that is different from the one of which Paul speaks, here, in Col. 1:13.

 

Jesus set the scene for a pivotal verse (Lu. 17:21b, below) when in Lu. 17:20b-21a, he informed the Jews (in this case, the Pharisees) that,

The reign (or: kingdom; royal rule; sovereign activities and influences) of God is not proceeding in coming with a careful keeping watch from the side

(or: by means of or accompanied by attentive or intensive observing; [note: this word was used of watching the symptoms of an illness, as well as about making observations of the sky]).

Neither will folks continue saying, 'Look here!' or, 'There!'

In other words, it is not going to be a literal, physical kingdom or reign!

 

So let us consider this astounding (for the Jews, and us), pivotal declaration for this discussion, Lu. 17:21b,

You see – now consider this, and understand – God's reign (kingdom; royal rule; sovereign influence and activity) continually exists inside you folks (or: is on the inside of you people; or: = within your community).”

The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures reads the pivotal word which I have rendered "inside/within" as "inside" in the interlinear section (while the NWT of its side bar reads "among").  The Friberg, Friberg and Miller Analytical Lexicon of the Gr. NT gives the first meaning of this word, entoV, (used in this verse) as "an adverb of place: within; inside."  Liddell and Scott give the same as the root meaning, in their lexicon.  The objection to this concept, of the kingdom of God "existing inside/within you," is that in Lu. 17:21 Jesus was answering the Pharisees, so the question becomes, How could the “kingdom” be “inside” them?  Now consider that those Pharisees were at that time like worthless fish in the parable of the dragnet in Mat. 13:47ff, above, where the “worthless fish” were “inside the net” – or “inside the kingdom” in this picture.  Then remember, in Mat. 23:27, that the Pharisees were also like whited tombs that were full of dead men’s bones – i.e., they made their beds in hades, in the dark abode of the dead (which corresponds to these whited tombs), yet God was with them there, as with the psalmist in Ps. 139:8.  There is nowhere where God and His kingdom are not present, and thus God, in His kingdom, was still there within them, judging them and would eventually bring correction to them (and this is the purpose of judgment and correction: to transform them into “good fish” – as He did with the Pharisee Saul, who was transformed by Jesus to become Paul).  And in this time of purification (cf Mal. 3:2-3) His fire would have to remove the dross within them; or switching metaphors, it would burn off their interior land (as in Heb. 6:8) to remove all the thorns and briers, to make their piece of ground good soil, ready to receive His Word and bear the fruit of the Spirit.  "The people that walked in darkness [the Pharisees, in this case] have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.... they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest..." (Isa. 9:2-3).  That is a picture of their final end: joy.  The kingdom comes and invades the darkness – every man in his own group, in his own time (1 Cor. 15:23).  Or, as the psalmist proclaimed, "Yahweh will enlighten my darkness" (Ps. 18:28).  Then we see that John recorded,

And the life was continuing being, and began progressively existing as, the Light of mankind (or: Furthermore, the Light progressively came to be the life known as "humanity," and was for human beings; or: Then the life was existing being the light from the humans).  And the Light is constantly shining in the dim and shadowed places, and keeps on progressively giving light within the gloomy darkness where there is no light (or: within the midst of the obscurity of The Darkness where there is no light of The Day; or: = in the ignorant condition or system)…” (Jn. 1:4b-5a).

It may happen slowly, with some, and not even happen during this life, but we are instructed that This Light was, and continues being,

the True and Genuine Light which (or: Who) is continuously (repeatedly; progressively) enlightening (giving light to) every person (or: human) continuously (repeatedly; progressively; constantly; one after another) coming into the world (or: the ordered system of culture, religion, economics and government; or: the universe)

(or: It was the real Light, progressively coming into the world {organized system}, which is progressively enlightening {or: shedding light on} every human)” (Jn. 1:9).

There is no place where His light does not shine.  So to conclude our consideration of Lu. 17:21, we see that God’s kingdom continually exists inside of people, and as Paul revealed in Acts 17:28, all people exist inside of God.

 

The message has already gone forth (the agent has blown the trumpet – Rev. 1:10; 4:1; 8:2, etc.), and,

"The reign of the ordered System (of the world of religion, culture, government and economy; or: of the realm of the religious and secular) suddenly came to belong to our Lord [= Yahweh or Christ] and to the anointed of Him

(or: The kingdom of the arranged system at once became our Lord’s and His Christ’s; The rule as king which pertains to the world, was birthed to be the possession of [Yahweh], as well as of His Anointed),

and so He will continue reigning (ruling as King) on into the ages (or: indefinite time periods) of the ages [other MSS add: So it is (Amen)]." (Rev. 11:15).

 

Jesus said in Mat. 28:18, "All authority (or: Every right and privilege from out of Being) is (or: was) given to Me within heaven and upon the earth (or: in sky and atmosphere, as well as on land)!"  That's when the message went forth, of which John heard in the vision in Rev. 12:10,

Then I heard a great (or: loud) voice within the atmosphere (or: sky; or: heaven) repeatedly saying, ‘At the present moment (or: Just now) the deliverance (the return to the original state and condition; the rescue; the health and wholeness; salvation), and the authority, and the kingdom (or: reign) of our God was (or: is) birthed (comes into existence; came to be), also the authority of His Anointed (or: His Christ; His anointed one), because our brothers' accuser (the accuser of our fellow believers) was cast down (and: is hurled down) – the one that was or is by habit repeatedly accusing them before (or: in the sight and presence of) our God, day and night.’

The last phrase logically indicates that the location is on earth, where there is day and night.

 

In Lu. 10 Jesus sent out seventy of his apprentices, and in vs. 9 instructed them to tell folks,

God's reigning and activity of exercising sovereignty (or: kingdom) has drawn near upon you people – close enough to touch (= has arrived and is now accessible)!

Jesus later, in vs. 17, heard their response about God’s reign coming upon those folks,

Now the seventy [other MSS: seventy-two] returned with joy, one after another saying, "O Lord, even the demons (Hellenistic concept and term: = animistic influences) are continually being subjected to us (or: set under and arranged below for us) within and in union with Your Name!

Then in vs. 19 He told them,

So look, and realize – I have given to you folks the authority to habitually step on and trample snakes (serpents) and scorpions – as well as upon all the power and ability of the enemy (or: the hostile or adversarial person) – and nothing will proceed in any circumstance causing you folks harm (or: wronging you or treating you unjustly).”

While I suggest that Jesus was speaking figuratively about snakes and scorpions, He was telling them that they had been given an experience of His reign, and that thus they had been able to deliver and heal folks.  These activities were the “stuff” and “substance” of God’s reign, and were its central purpose that would come to fruition with His death and resurrection.

 

In regard to this "kingdom" discussion, I would add that it is a real kingdom and an active reign of God, and that it has real effects upon "the kingdoms of this world."  Christ raises up, or puts down, those in governments, in accord with His plan of the ages.  I have observed that His decisions and judgments are on-going, as well as His shepherding and nurturing of His children.  He directs His program of the ages through His Spirit acting upon the hearts of humans, and through the love and mercy being expressed through His body right now, just as He did through His disciples when He sent out the 12 and the 70, as well as that which was demonstrated through the apostles, in the book of Acts.

 

Do I expect this to become more evident?  Yes.  The "increase" of His “chieftainship” (Concordant Version) or “dominion” (Rotherham), which speaks of His reign and sovereign activities in His kingdom, will continue indefinitely (Isa. 9:7), until the goal of the subjection of all has been obtained (1 Cor. 15:25).  Humanity’s imagined “free” will has nothing to do with it.  1 Cor. 15:22-28 can have both individual and corporate applications (the latter being on the scale of involving all mankind).  I suggest that the realization of Eph. 2:6,

"He jointly roused and raised (or: suddenly awakens and raises) [us] up, and caused [us] to sit (or: seats [us]; = enthroned [us]) together within the things situated upon [thus, above] the heavens,"

began with the resurrection of Jesus and was first manifested at Pentecost; it has continued ever since.  Observe, e.g., Christ’s authority for bringing healing, deliverance and the shepherding of His flock, as displayed in the lives of Peter, Paul and other NT personalities.  We participate in this enthronement here and now, but it is only displayed as cruciform lives, dispensing His life to others – not as organizational hierarchies.

 

What we observe in our own lives may not live up to the ideas or expectations that we might have built up or imagined through the influences upon our thinking from a variety of Christian traditions.  But if we believe that God is continuously sitting upon His throne (e.g. Rev. 19:4), then we should join the voice of the large crowd saying, "Praise Yahweh (Hallelujah)!  Because the LORD [= Yahweh] our God, the Almighty, reigns!" (Rev. 19:6)

 

The prayer modeled by Jesus for His disciples in Lu. 11:2 said, "Your kingdom come."  And as we have seen, the word kingdom (basileia) can also mean "reign," or "royal rule."  Was Jesus here indicating that the kingdom (or, reign, rule, sovereign influence and activities) of God was somewhere else and needed to arrive?  In one aspect, yes – it was to be the disciples’ prayer for His rule to become actualized and active within them and among the covenant communities.  In another aspect, no – God's dominion has always been here, and for Israel it was literally manifested in their deliverance from Egypt, and until their rejection of Yahweh as their king (1 Sam. 8:7).  I believe that God's judgment of Jerusalem in AD 70 was a manifestation that the rule of "the King of the Jews" was very much real.  It is my conclusion (along with scholarly studies by others) that it was at this time that Mat. 26:64 was fulfilled, for Jesus was there speaking TO the high priest, and TO those surrounding him, when He said,

You yourself are saying [it] (or: are [so] saying)!  Moreover, I am now saying to YOU people, from now (this present moment) on YOU folks will proceed to be seeing ‘the Son of the Man (= Adam's son; the eschatological Messiah figure; the representative human) continuously sitting at the right [hand]’ of the Power, and ‘progressively coming (or: repeatedly coming and going) upon the clouds of the atmosphere (or: sky; heaven).’" [Dan. 7:13; Ps. 110:1]

They would have first seen this through the behavior of His followers, as recorded in the book of Acts, but I suspect that they actually saw this, in AD 70, and possibly had a vision of Christ during that time of His judgment upon them, and on Jerusalem, through the Romans.  He may have appeared to them as He did to John in Rev. 1:13-16, or they may have, like Saul on the road to Damascus, seen a bright Light, and may have asked, “Who are you, Lord?”  The writings about that period of the Jewish War, by the Jewish historian, Josephus, speak of folks having seen “signs” or “portents” in the sky over Jerusalem.

 

Mat. 21:43 records Jesus telling the ranking priests and the Pharisees,

Because of this, I am now saying to you men that God's reign (or: the kingdom of God; the influence and activity of God's sovereignty) will be progressively lifted up away from you folks, and it (or: she) will proceed being given to an ethnic multitude (or: nation; people group; swarm of people) consistently producing its (or: her) fruit.”

In vs. 45 we read that the priests and Pharisees knew that the “you men” of Jesus’ pronouncement was referring to them.  In Lu. 12:32, Jesus told His followers,

Stop fearing (or: Do not continue being wary), little flock, because it delights the Father (or: because the Father thought it good, and thus, approved) to give the reign (rule; kingship; kingdom; sovereign influence and activities) to you folks.”

This corresponds to Jesus’ parable in Mat. 25, where in vs. 34b He says to the sheep,

'Come here, you folks having received words of ease and wellness from (or: spoken well of by; or: having received the blessing of; or: bearing thoughts, ideas, expressions and the Word of goodness from) My Father!  At once come into possession of the inheritance of, and enjoy the allotment of, [the period of, place of, or realm of] the reign (or: kingdom; influence and activity of sovereignty) having been prepared and made ready from a founding (a casting down [as of a foundation; or: of seed]) of a system (or: of [the] adorned arrangement; of an arranged order; of [the] world).”

 

Upon reviewing this article, John Gavazzoni remarked that it would be good to add, “Paul’s description of the nature of the true reign of God,” as he stated it in Rom. 8:2,

For the principle and law of, from and which is the spirit and attitude of 'The Life within Christ Jesus'    

(or: For you see, the Law of Life’s spirit, joined with [the] Anointing of Jesus; or: For the Spirit’s law of life within Christ Jesus; or: the Law [= Torah] from the Breath-effect, which is Life in union with [the] Anointed Jesus)

frees you away from the Law of the Sin (or: the principle of failure and the missing of the target; the code of behavior that produces error; the principle of deviation from the goal; this law from the mistake) and the Death (or: immediately set you [other MSS: me] at liberty from the law that deals with and has the character of sin and which comes from death).”

This law from sin and from death refers both to the principle of the old Adamic life and to Israel's Torah.  In the new covenant, we live by the Spirit of the Life which is within Christ Jesus, and this new existence constitutes God’s kingdom.  John Dominic Crossan made the following insightful comments,

“The Kingdom of God movement was Jesus’ program of empowerment for a peasantry becoming steadily more hard-pressed, in that first-century Jewish homeland, through insistent taxation, attendant indebtedness, and eventual land expropriation, all within increasing commercialization in the booming colonial economy of a Roman Empire…  Jesus lived, against the systemic injustice and structural evil of that situation, an alternative open to all who would accept it: a life of open healing and shared eating, of radical itinerancy and fundamental egalitarianism, of human contact without discrimination and divine contact without hierarchy.  That, he said, was how God would run the world if God, not Caesar, sat on its imperial throne.  That was how God’s will was to be done on earth – as in heaven.  But heaven was in very good shape.  It was earth that was the problem.  He died for that vision and that program.  I emphasize that, for Jesus, the Kingdom of God meant just what it said, a religious vision and a religious program but incarnated in rather than separated from the social, political and economic realities of everyday life” (Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus, HarperSanFrancisco, 1996, pp 211-12; emphasis original).

Can we envision such a reality?  The Seed of this is within us; we are called to live it out by the power of the Holy Spirit incarnated within us, and present among us.

 

In conclusion, we have considered many examples of how God’s kingdom is His active interaction with humanity and His influence upon people, both directly and through His called-out communities.  It is here now, it is accessible to us, it is within us, and it is among us through the power and ability of His Spirit.  Furthermore, we observe no human structure or hierarchy in His reign; it is organic, like a Vine with Its branches.  It is the eschatological deliverance that produced righted living (in Christ) with the peace that came through the joining of all races and cultures into one new humanity, and it exists within the joy that is centered in, and in union with, the Holy Spirit.

 

All His goodness is with you,

 

Jonathan

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