4. The Kingdom of God

Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God. In fact, He mentions the Kingdom over 100 times in the four Gospels. The Kingdom of God is the theme of a great many of His parables. In fact, the Gospel is called “the Gospel of the Kingdom” several times. Yet today, the gospel that is preached concerns only Jesus’ substitutionary death for our sins—rarely about His Kingdom. As a result, many evangelicals don’t even know what the Kingdom of God is.

Some assume that the Kingdom of God will not manifest itself until Christ’s second coming. This is understandable, since some passages are clearly a reference to the culmination of Kingdom when Christ reigns here on earth. However, Jesus likewise taught plainly that the Kingdom of God was ushered in at the time of His public ministry, with statements such as, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Some also assume that for the present at least, the Kingdom of God is simply a spiritual kingdom. In actuality, it is a real kingdom—here on earth, yes, even now. Let me explain.

What makes up a kingdom? All kingdoms have four elements: a king, a domain, laws, and citizenry. Well, so does the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the king. The domain is heaven and earth. The laws are the commands of Christ. The citizenry are those who “subject” themselves to the king. Now it is apparent that the Kingdom of God certainly differs from earthly kingdoms quite a bit. First of all, our king currently reigns from His throne in heaven. Most kings preside over their kingdoms among their subjects. However, Jesus made it clear that the domain is both heaven and earth (Matthew 6:10 and 28:18). This is just another example of the reason for the incarnation, so that the king would walk among His subjects. The second coming will usher in a period of the king reigning with His subjects here on earth. Therein lies why some presume that the Kingdom of God does not actually begin until His second coming. However, He reigns now, even if He resides in heaven.

So then we come to the laws. Jesus came with many teachings. Many think they are optional. However, I already discussed that to remain on the Vine we must abide in Christ; that is, obeying the King’s commands. I likewise discussed that building on the rock means obeying His commands. Let me provide a third illustration also from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus taught:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’“  (Matthew 7:21-23)

Here Jesus explains how we enter the Kingdom, specifically referencing the culmination of the Kingdom as I mentioned earlier. The term used here is the “kingdom of heaven.” Careful study shows us that the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of heaven are synonymous, with preference given by certain gospel writers to one term versus the other. This is apparent by reading parallel passages in various gospel accounts and seeing the same exact story given with variant use of the two terms (compare Matthew 13 to Mark 4, for example).

It is clear that this passage refers to judgment (note the reference to “that day”), and is clearly discussing salvation. However, my point here is exclusively the treatment of the subject of the Kingdom laws. Jesus makes it obvious that selection on judgment day is based not simply on believing, but doing the will of His Father. Jesus also does not regard signs and wonders as pertinent to salvation, but rather He chastises those who merely call Him Lord, as “you who practice lawlessness.” Clear from this passage is the fact that there are indeed LAWS; for if rejection is for practicing lawlessness, then there are certainly laws given.

So what are these laws? Pauline writings (specifically Romans and Galatians) make it clear that one can not be saved through following the Law of Moses: circumcision, adherence to days, months, seasons and years, specific diet, and so on. The council in Jerusalem further clarifies that the only burdens from the Jewish teachings that apply to the Gentiles were abstaining from fornication, abstaining from things sacrificed to idols, and not eating blood and strangled animals (Acts 15:28-29). No regard is given to the Mosaic Law here. So we can confidently conclude that it is not the Law of Moses that Jesus is referring to (see also Hebrews 8:7-13)

However, Jesus did say that unless our righteousness surpasses that of the religious leaders of His day, we would not enter the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). But Jesus then clearly teaches what He means. He goes through precepts from the Mosaic Law, one item at a time, and explains what His expectations are by stating, “You have heard it said [in the Law], but I say…” If you read His teaching, you will see that He raises the bar big time! He does not take away the Law, but expands on it and clarifies His expectations. It is following this dissertation that Jesus shares what “lawlessness” is, explaining that those who hear “these words of mine” and act upon them build on the rock and those who neglect them build on sand, resulting is certain destruction. But that begs the question: what about the rest of the Old Testament teachings that Jesus does not explicitly address in His teachings?

Jesus says that He did not come to abolish the Law, but rather fulfill it. He then says that not the least letter will be taken away until it is “accomplished.” This meaning the fulfillment of the messianic prophesies and His work on earth (see Luke 18:31, John 19:28-30, John 17:4, and Matthew 26:56).

We read in John’s gospel of Jesus telling the Jews, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me that you might have life” (John 5:39-40). When Jesus says “the Scriptures,” He is specifically referencing what we today refer to as the Old Testament. He makes it clear that eternal life is through Him, not the Old Testament teachings. Jesus further elaborates during the Upper Room discourse with His disciples on the night He was betrayed, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10). Here Jesus makes it clear that He submitted to His Father and obeyed all His commandments, abiding in His love. Jesus, in this passage says He fulfilled the Law by obeying all of His Father’s commands (in turn fulfilling all the prophesy); now in the same way as Jesus obeyed His Father’s commands, we are to obey Jesus’ commands. The baton has been passed to us. For Jesus’ teachings are precisely what the Father commanded Him to say, and even Moses directed all to listen to Him (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19, John 7:16-17, and John 12:44-50)

Another clear example from Jesus concerning our requirement to observe His commands is the Great Commission passage in Matthew’s gospel. Jesus says to His disciples:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Here Jesus commands His disciples to make more disciples, teaching them to observe all that He commanded them. This clear instruction is obviously meant to carry forth through the ages, as each successive generation of disciples is explicitly commanded to both observe this command and teach the next generation to observe ALL His commands. Jesus did not leave us guessing what the new “law” is: it is His commands! Therefore our faith must be derived from the red letters (see also John 14:21, 23-24, Hebrews 8:7-13, ).

So that leaves us with the final aspect of the Kingdom: citizenry. Again, Jesus does not leave us guessing. He speaks quite a bit on the matter. In fact, we have already discussed several pertinent teachings.   [coming next]

 

– Marc Carrier


5 thoughts on “4. The Kingdom of God

  1. I agree with most of the article, but some Things are not exactly true according to Scriptures.. When you write that Jesus said, you have heard it said, he doesn´t Refer to the Torah, but to the Oral Talmud. Because in most instances he counters the above by saying, but it is written, which do Refer to Torah. Jesus always said to follow his commandments, but at the same time always said he only said and did what he saw and have heard from his Father. So the commandments you are talking about are not his but his Father´s commandments. He didn´t have the NT none of them did, so their reference were always the Torah, the Whole of it, the OT.. Yes, he is and will be the King in the Millenium, but at the end it will go back to his Father, dont forget that..
    We are talking about Jesus, born in the tribe of Judah, ergo a jew and his apostles being the same would obviously have known Torah, but the people were being deceived by their leaders to follow manmade rules, which is Talmud and this Jesus rebuked them for constantly, not for obeying his Father´s Torah which is everlasting. What he finished was the prophecies about his first coming and thereby fullfilling what he was appointed to and ushering in The Kingdom and thereby providing humanity the salvation we so needed. The mystery was thereby revealed! But to say that Torah was done away with is simply wrong! The referral to the gentiles and the commandments, was said like that, because those were the obvious one´s to expound on while as it is said further, they will be going to the synagoge every saturday during Sabbath where there will learn the rest. There is only One Divine Law for all, both jew and gentile and it will be so until the heavens and earth pass away, it says so also in the NT, and so far as i can see, the heavens and the earth are still here 🙂
    Jesus does have everything given to him as King, but nowhere does he say, that it is his Laws we are following, but always gives glory to his Father, Our Creator YHWH! He is his fathers right hand, and the hand doesnt do its´s own will, but the will of the one WHO the hand belongs to.. The Father and the Son are One, not separate, they are One in everything and we must be One with them. The NT is a confirmation of the Love our Heavenly Father has for us and the proof of the Things prophecied of, but none of the Things in NT stands alone. Every one of the apostles and Jesus always Referred to The OT when preaching and teaching the people. The NT is therfore important and holds deeper explanations on the OT, but it never says anything about Torah being done away with or not to follow it anymore, that is simply untrue if you know anything about the hebrew culture and the way they speak and how they live and have lived. Paul who where a devout pharisee, understood that it was the law of sin that was nailed to the cross and not Torah, which you wrongly call a law. Torah Means instructions in how to live a righteouss life! But what he did realize was that the oral law was manmade and should not be followed, because it put a hard yoke on people. But the Torah he would never have called a burden or a yoke or claim were done away with, it would simply have been impossible, because they didn´t have any other book to learn from!

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  2. According to Deuteronomy 22:13-21, a marriage shall be considered valid only if the bride is proven to be a virgin. If, after the wedding, she is found out not to be a virgin, then the Mosaic Law demands that she be stoned to death. Is this part of the Mosaic Law that you say is still valid and binding upon Christians, because “the heavens and the earth are still here”?

    Look, I understand that you are passionate about the Torah of Moses, but the Old Covenant has served its purpose by pointing to Christ. In Christ it has all been fulfilled, and now the Law of Christ is the foundation of the Kingdom of God. The Mosaic Law was simply a stepping stone out of pagan sacrificial religion leading and pointing to Christ. Yes, the Law of Moses remains until heaven and earth pass away OR until its precepts are FULFILLED. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant, and now He has raised the bar, big time. In the Old Covenant violence was permitted and sometimes even commanded. Under Christ we love our enemies and return evil with good, renouncing violence and following Christ’s example of self-sacrificing love even unto death. Under the Old Covenant acquiring possessions and storing up treasures on earth was permitted and was even viewed as God’s blessing upon the righteous. In the New Covenant Jesus forbids this and commands us to rather store up treasures in HEAVEN by giving to the poor and needy. In the Old Covenant a provision was given for making oaths, but in the New Covenant Jesus forbids oath-taking and commands us to simply let our yes be yes and our no be no. In the Old Covenant there were numerous provisions for divorce, but in the New Covenant divorce is strictly forbidden aside from the lone exception of sexual infidelity. In the Old Covenant there were strict rules regarding impurity and lengthy rituals for how to avoid and remove contamination. In the New Covenant the tables are turned and it is the Kingdom that is contagious and darkness flees from the Light! Jesus did not fear contamination, because He knew He carried a greater glory, which He then imparted to His disciples. As representatives of the Kingdom of Heaven instead of fearing and avoiding lepers and sinners they fellowshipped with them, healing the lepers and provoking sinners to sincere repentance!

    Jesus was the One that Moses pointed Israel to as the prophet who would appear and speak the very words of God. Torah has not been abolished, but it has been fulfilled by Jesus and perfectly refined and redefined according to the words and commands that came from His mouth. Yes there are a few specific principles we are commanded to live by, as Jesus taught, these being the LAWS of the Kingdom of God, if you will. However, once we submit to this simple foundation of loving obedience the New Covenant takes root in our hearts as we are drawn into a loving personal relationship to Jesus that is truly an extraordinary supernatural adventure! The Law and the Prophets were until John the Baptist, and now the Kingdom of God is being preached to all nations. Not to turn all nations back towards Judaism, but to turn all hearts back to their Father in Heaven.

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  3. The scripture does not say:

    “the Law of Moses remains until heaven and earth pass away OR until its precepts are FULFILLED”

    The scripture says:
    “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. [Mat 5:18 NKJV]

    There is no “or” conjunction connecting “till heaven and earth pass away” and “till all be fulfilled” in either the Greek or word-for-word translations in English. Heaven and earth passing away is shown here as being part of “all being fulfilled”, not an alternative to it.

    Along with grammar and sentence structure of the actual scripture, simple logic and understanding the meaning of the word “all” show that inserting an “or” conjunctive between these two phrases is not consistent with the technical or intended meaning, and would have been obscure and difficult to understand because we wouldn’t know which one truly would signal when these things will pass from the law. If it is an “or” situation, why is one phrase, “all is fulfilled” given preference over another phrase, “heaven and earth pass away”, or for that matter, why mention heaven and earth passing away at all here if that’s not what Jesus really means?

    The real issue and point of discussion is what Jesus specifically meant when he refers to “law” in this passage. There are clearly many instructions in the (written) Torah a.k.a. the Pentateuch, that are not kept literally in the present day by Christians or even the most conservative Torah observant Jews, i.e. Haredi Judaism. These include the sacrificial system, laws related to public health, and most of the instructions regarding punishment for transgressions of the law such as theft and murder which are now handled by secular government judicial systems, even in Israel. It is also true that some aspects of the Torah regarding crime and punishment are neither enforced by secular authorities or by Jews or Christians anywhere in this present age, as far as I know, and seem terrible to even consider, such as stoning an adulterer to death.

    I do not have an answer to how to reconcile the fact that these portions of the law exist with the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18 and similar passages, although in other passages, by “law” Jesus sometimes specifically referred to and enumerated (some of) the Ten Commandments and perhaps herein lies a clue. However admitting one does not have all the answers is more honest than attempting to tweak scripture to fit our already present and incorrect beliefs.

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