Jesus and the Kingdom of God

AncientJesusPicHere’s a fascinating article by Mercer University professor David Gushee on Jesus and the Kingdom of God.  It’s not an easy read.  Please don’t try it before having coffee in the morning.  But if you are up to it, I would love to hear your feedback. 

Here’s the way Gushee describes the Kingdom:

The Bible proclaims that God is the sovereign king — of creation, of Israel, of the world. But his kingship has been rejected by sinful humanity, bringing dire consequences not just in individual life but in every sector of human experience. The Old Testament promises that God will one day act to reclaim his kingship and renew the world.

Jesus came proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand. The kingdom was central to his entire ministry — affecting not just his preaching, but everything he did. For Jesus, the kingdom is the reclaiming of God’s world in its entirety. The kingdom happens when God’s will is done “on Earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus came to embody God’s reign and to create a community that would make as its mission the continued embodiment of God’s reign until Christ returns.

To read the entire article from the Associated Baptist Press, click HERE.

To comment, just click on the word “comment” below.

Thanks,

Jim

11 thoughts on “Jesus and the Kingdom of God

  1. In seminary I learned that Jesus refers to the Kingdom some 120 times in the Gospels, more than anything else he talks about. Obviously, it was important to him. How important has it been to us in the church? Why have we tended to focus more on things like individual salvation and the afterlife than helping Jesus bring heaven to earth?

  2. I found this article to be most interesting. Your comment about focusing more on individual salvation and the afterlife started my thinking that individual salvation is just the beginning. Without salvation, we are just do-gooders–our efforts might help people, but will not further the kingdom. I have always believed that the message of salvation is empty unless we demonstrate love and kindness to others. Salvation and Kingdom go hand in hand. So when I read Professor Gushee’s comments:
    “And people ‘get saved’ not just for their own sake, but mainly so they can get to work on their part of God’s kingdom project.” I shouted “amen!”

    I think we have focused on salvation and heaven as a means to touch folks’ hearts. Get ’em in, get ’em saved, get ’em baptized. But we stopped too soon. One of our esteemed Appointment with God writers for 2009-2010 wrote about worship and mission, and I think it is analgous to salvation and Kingdom work: “Worship void of mission is reduced to self-indulgence; mission without worship degenerates into some type of self-propagation. Worship ends with mission; mission begins with worship.”

    Thanks for sharing this article. It helped me put the kingdom into focus.

  3. Jim:
    It continues to amaze me that the more we progress, the more we reclaim the old. In a college class I was assigned a paper on the Kingdom of God in the Preaching of Jesus, based on Joachim Jeremias book. He said that the central message of Jesus’ preaching was the kingdom of God.
    The paper was horrible, but the book continues to impact my thinking and my theology. Gushee is on target!

  4. Those are good questions, Jim. They are the kinds of questions that one who has grown disenchanted with “organized religion” might ask. In fact they resemble some of the questions I have asked over the years.

  5. Pastor and other contributors,

    I read the article and other’s comments and beleive that one large problem in getting people to focus on the Kingdom of Heaven is that so many have different views on what it is and when it is.

    Some people think that it is heaven(place not feeling…but some do think it is a heavenly feeling). Some think it can be a “now” experience. Others think that it will be a place that will become after all things have been fulfilled (rapture , tribulation).

    Some people think that this earth and this time could never coexist with the Kingdom of God and believe that this is not their home so then do not invest in it to , but secure their salvation and crowns for another place.

    I could go on and on about all the different views that I have heard so far on my journey through many denominations, groups of people, scholarly books and fiction (ex. Shack) and in talking to many different individuals. With every mention of the Kingdom of God in the Bible, I have heard those passages to be interpreted in so many ways and views.

    It is difficult I think to use words and interpretaions of men, but I believe the way God wanted me to understand it is by Him putting it in my heart and then showing me ways of giving it out.

  6. Back in the 70’s I discovered a gem of a book that helped me begin to see things with kingdom perspective. In The Community of the King, Howard Snyder shows how the church is part of God’s plan to reconcile all things to Himself, “things in heaven and things on earth.” Each of has a part in God’s plan.

    Snyder, Howard A., The Community of the King, (IVP, 1977). – Revised Edition (InterVarsity Press, 2004). Howard serves as Distinguished Professor, Chair of Wesley Studies, at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

  7. At first I couldn’t get past the line where Gushee wrote, “This means that kingdom theology is social and this-worldly rather than privatized and otherworldly.”

    This sentence bothers me, not because it is untrue, but because it seems not to tell ALL the truth. It seems that the Kingdom is, and should be, both ‘social and this-worldly’ as well as ‘privatized and otherworldly’. We spend time in church, bible studies, mission work, and other community services and activities. But we also spend each day growing in our own faith in silent prayer, in quiet time reading the Bible, and even in reading/writing books, blogs, and sermons.

    We are brought to salvation individually in our hearts (although often with the help of others), but we are made disciples of Christ so that we may “go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

    Then as I re-read I saw more clearly the line shortly after that I really liked: “And people ‘get saved’ not just for their own sake, but mainly so they can get to work on their part of God’s kingdom project.”

    I really like that line from the article, except I’m not sure the word ‘mainly’ really matters as much as the article intends it to.

    I think they go hand in hand. If you, individually, are truly saved, you cannot help but want to save others. And if all individuals of the world were completely, honestly, and fervently seeking to be as God intended us to be, we would have God’s will on Earth as it is in Heaven. On the other hand, if you seek to find your part in ‘God’s kingdom project’, inevitably I think you’d have to individually believe and be saved. Emphases on either end, seems only to lead to more emphases on both.

    Definitely got me thinking, thanks for the article!

  8. This fits in with a concern I have had for some time now, that we preach heaven as a destination requiring a ticket, not a relationship with God that begins in the here and now, extending through eternity. We are not saved to get a ticket to a vacation resort and spa. We are rescued from our self-centeredness to be enabled to live as Christ lived, with love and grace that embrace an entire world. It is in joining in that life with Christ Jesus that we have fellowship with God, a fellowship that will then last throughout eternity. thanks for highlighting the article.

  9. No cup of coffee before I began to read, but I was very intrigued with that point of view, as I have been at the changes I’m beginning to see at FBC as we work to bring “His will on earth as it is in heaven” in Richmond, as well as in the rest of the world. That’s especially meaningful to me, since I can only manage myself & what I give others to react to, rather than working directly on the larger construct! I’d like to think that my life and being have made a difference to some others along the way; I always enjoy (as most of us do, I believe) finding affirmation that I’m on a good path! Thanks for helping us find our way at FBC.

  10. Jim,
    You asked the following question in your response:

    “Why have we tended to focus more on things like individual salvation and the afterlife than helping Jesus bring heaven to earth?”

    This question is so compelling in it’s simplicity. It appears that there is a need to debate the “rightness” and “wrongness” and the Theology of Gushee rather than grappling with this simple question. I imagine that if we each answered this question with complete honesty, the answer would be “because it is easier.”

  11. Dear Jim & Others:

    The Kingdom of Heaven is born on Earth through its people. Which is to say that the Kingdom of Heaven is born within ourselves as we let God into our lives and choose the gift of salvation.

    Salvation is admittance to the Kingdom of Heaven. Or as I am thinking and not writing, salvation is the gift of a free ticket into the Kingdom of Heaven, where we all want to go. (and now writing).

    Once you are admitted, then “on earth as it is in heaven” should it not mean attuning ourselves to the God and bringing forth from us the Kingdom of Heaven?

    Shine Forth, Shine Forth – Shine Forth the Kingdom of Heaven from us.

    I guess for me church is just believers being together and worshipping. Rather simple I know. Jesus said where two or more gather so gather I. I feel almost as if the presence of believers together kind of bring on the Kingdom of Heaven with the light shining through.

    Once you are admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven, as the author said so well, then we need to be about the Kingdom’s business. I feel that we all have unique “jobs” to fulfill, whether it is to go on an international mission or smile at the person who is thinking “if I don’t get someone reaching out to me I will crumble.” God is miraculous, both in the big and small. No task in the Kingdom is too big or too small and if we are about the Kingdom’s business then that task will be intimately suited to us for just us to do.

    God is immanent.

    Just pondering.

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