Kevin DeYoung: It has become commonplace in parts of the missional discussion to make a strong emphasis on the distinction between the kingdom and the church. I agree the two are not identical. Try replacing “kingdom” in the gospels with “church” or “church” with “kingdom” in the epistles and you quickly realize synonyms they are not. But like the proverbial rear view mirror, might these objects–the kingdom and the church–be closer than they appear? What are We Talking About? The kingdom is often described as God’s reign and rule. I like to particularize this definition by pointing to the first and last chapters of the Bible. Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22 give us a picture of the kingdom. Where the kingdom is present there is peace, provision, and security. Mourning and pain give way to joy and comfort. Human relationships work right, and our relationship with God is free and confident. Most importantly, in the kingdom God is all in all. Consequently, the wicked will not
John Piper: What I see in Scripture are at least three ways God rules over the nations — or we could say three stages in history in which God brings the nations into complete submission. God’s Everlasting Dominion First, there’s the absolute, all-embracing, all-pervasive rule of God’s providence over all nations at all times and in all places. Psalm 103:19: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” That’s true now, and that’s true always. Psalms 47:2: “The Lord . . . is . . . a great king over all the earth.” Proverbs 8:15: “By me kings reign.” There’s no reign of any king anywhere at any time except by God’s decree. Daniel 4:17: “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” And when God puts the kings in place, he governs what they do. Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand
Kevin DeYoung: We can’t tell the story of the Bible in all its fullness without talking about the kingdom. Not only does Jesus make the kingdom a central theme in his teaching, we also see the importance of the kingdom in Acts and in Paul. And the whole concept, of course, has its roots in the Old Testament, in God’s kingship over his people and in Israel’s own kingly office. In other words, the kingdom–predicted, coming, and already here–is essential to the storyline of Scripture. But the kingdom of God is not just one thing in the Bible. We will obscure the storyline of Scripture more than illuminate it if we fail to make distinctions in our kingdom language. Likewise, we can miss the big story of what God means to do in our world if we misunderstand how the different aspects of the kingdom fit together. In classic Reformed theology, Christ’s kingdom is distinguished in three ways. First, there
Jeremy Treat: The number-one thing Jesus talked about is the kingdom of God. It’s everywhere in the Gospels and impossible to miss. But if the theme of the kingdom is so significant, then we need to make sure we know what it means. A good starting place is to have a solid working definition. Here’s one: The kingdom is God’s reign through God’s people over God’s place. That’s the message of the kingdom in eight words. Now let’s break down each aspect to begin plumbing the depths. God’s Reign The kingdom is first and foremost a statement about God. God is king, and he is coming asking to set right what our sin made wrong. The phrase “kingdom of God” could just as easily be translated “reign of God” or “kingship of God.” The message of the kingdom is about God’s royal power directed by his self-giving love. Claiming that the kingdom of God is primarily about God may seem obvious, but many today use “kingdom”
D.A. Carson: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12) The person who has true faith in Jesus is promised that she will do greater things than Jesus’s works. But what does “greater” mean? Shall Christians perform more sensational acts? It’s difficult to imagine miracles more sensational than those of Jesus; “greater” surely doesn’t mean that. Might “greater” mean “more numerous” or “more widely dispersed”? In that sense, Christians have indeed done “greater” things than Jesus did. We have preached all around the world, seen millions of men and women converted, dispensed aid, education, and food to still more millions. The “greater” works may therefore be the gathering of converts into the church through the witness of the disciples (cf. John 17:20; 20:29), and the overflow of kindness that stems from transformed lives. Jesus says
Sam Storms: Although the Book of Acts may now have ended; the kingdom of God has not! How fitting that Paul’s final days of ministry would be filled with proclamations of the “kingdom of God” and “the Lord Jesus Christ” (see Acts 28:17-30). But what did he mean by this? Jesus claimed that the fulfillment of the Old Testament hope with its attendant blessings was present in his person and ministry. The unexpected element was that fulfillment was taking place without the final consummation. The prophetic hope of the coming Messianic kingdom of God as promised to Israel is being fulfilled in the person and ministry of Jesus, but not consummated. Our Lord came with the message that before the kingdom would come in its eschatological consummation it has come in his own person and work in spirit and power. The kingdom, therefore, is both the present spiritual reign of God and the future realm over which he will rule
Tim Keller: The power of Christ’s kingly rule is now present among gathered Christians (Luke 17:20-21), liberating people from false masters and enslaving idols. Among the disciples, the kingdom is a new human order in which power, money, recognition, and success are properly reordered in light of the registry of the kingdom. It is not that these things no longer matter but that they become transposed by the unleashing of Christ’s new creation – by service, generosity, and humility (Luke 6:17-29). Jesus’ kingship is not like human kingships, for it wins influence through suffering service, not coercive power. We enter it not through strength but through the weakness of repentance and the new birth (John 3) and becoming like a child (Matt 18:3-4). Christ’s liberating rule is not fully here. All his disciples are to pray for it to come, according to Matthew 6:10, and at the end of time we will receive it in completion (Matt 25:34). But finally
Some helpful insight from Kevin DeYoung: We need to be careful about our language. I think I know what people mean when they talk about redeeming the culture or partnering with God in His redemption of the world, but we should really pick another word. Redemption has already been accomplished on the cross. We are not co-redeemers of anything. We are called to serve, bear witness, proclaim, love, do good to everyone, and adorn the gospel with good deeds, but we are not partners in God’s work of redemption. Similarly, there is no language in Scripture about Christians building the kingdom. The New Testament, in talking about the kingdom, uses words like enter, seek, announce, see, receive, look, come into, and inherit. Do a word search and see for yourself. We are given the kingdom and brought into the kingdom. We testify about it, pray for it to come, and by faith, it belongs to us. But in the New Testament,
Phillip Bethancourt: The kingdom of God is, in essence, God’s redemptive reign. Yet it can be easy to overlook this prominent theme in the life of Jesus, and tempting to assume rather than investigate the importance of the kingdom for Jesus. When we miss the significance of the kingdom to Jesus, however, we can miss the significance of the kingdom for biblical theology and ethics. So how important was the kingdom of God to Jesus? What was his relationship to the in-breaking of the eschatological kingdom? Let’s examine ten ways Jesus related to the kingdom. 1. Jesus inaugurates the kingdom. With the coming of Christ, the kingdom begins not in the coronation of a mighty king but in the birth of a crying baby. Yet as Jesus’ ministry begins in Mark, he announces, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). What Israel had long awaited, Christ had now inaugurated.
Tim Brister: Paul Tripp is exactly right. The “insane busyness of Western culture” is incapable of producing faithfulness to the mission of the church. Ultimately, this is a heart issue. It is a kingdom issue. What do we value? What do we prioritize? What matters most? We cannot see gospel advance when the kingdom of God is an optional accessory to our busy lives. Jesus instructed us to “seek first the kingdom of God.” Our passion, priority, and pursuit in life ought to be governed and guarded by this command, but so often my kingdom and agenda feels so right, so comfortable, so me. And that’s precisely the problem. A life filled with me, not Jesus. My comforts, not His commission. My preferences, not His purposes. My way, not His word.
“Here was an amazing claim. John had announced an imminent visitation of God which would mean the fulfillment of the eschatological hope and the coming of the messianic age. Jesus proclaimed that this promise was actually being fulfilled. This is no apocalyptic Kingdom but a present salvation. Jesus did not promise his hearers a better future or assure that they would soon enter the Kingdom. Rather he boldly announced that the Kingdom (Herrschaft) of God had come to them. The presence of the Kingdom was ‘a happening, an event, the gracious action of God’ (Bornkamm). The promise was fulfilled in the action of Jesus: in his proclamation of good news to the poor, release to captives, restoring sight to the blind, freeing those who were oppressed. This was no new theology or new idea or new promise; it was a new event in history. ‘The wretched hear the good news, the prison doors are open, the oppressed breathe the air
Timmy Brister: “To possess such a kingdom God had to (1) prepare a body for the Son to be hypostatically united to (Heb. 10:5) (2) anoint Him with the Holy Spirit without measure (John 3:34) in order to furnish Him with the requisite endowments for being a godly king (Isa. 11:3) (3) publicly declare that Christ is King (Matt. 3:17; 17:5) (4) give Him a sceptre of righteousness, put a sword in His mouth, and enable Him (as a Prophet-King) to reveal the will of God to mankind (5) honor Christ with ambassadors and servants (Eph.4:11-12; 2 Cor. 5:20) (6) grant to Christ the souls of men, not just Jews but Gentiles also (Ps. 2:8; John 17:6) (7) give Him power to regulate the church according to divine law (Matt. 5; Col. 2:14) (8) provide Him with power to judge and condemn His enemies (John 5:27) (9) empower Christ to pardon sins (Matt. 9:6). These privileges are given to the
The Gospel Coalition Confessional Statement Article 10: “We believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. Good works constitute indispensable evidence of saving grace. Living as salt in a world that is decaying and light in a world that is dark, believers should neither withdraw into seclusion from the world, nor become indistinguishable from it: rather, we are to do good to the city, for all the glory and honor of the nations is to be offered up to the living God. Recognizing whose created order this is, and because we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all, especially to those who
Ray Ortlund: “My passion isn’t to build up my church. My passion is for God’s Kingdom.” Ever heard someone say that? I have. It sounds noble, but it’s unbiblical and wrong. It can even be destructive. Suppose I said, “My passion isn’t to build up my marriage. My passion is for Marriage. I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again. I’ll work for that. I’ll pray for that. I’ll sacrifice for that. But don’t expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani. I’m aiming at something grander.” If I said that, would you think, “Wow, Ray is so committed”? Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind? If you care about the Kingdom, good. Now be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church. Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, throw yourself into the life
. Thanks for this Rick: George Ladd, in The Gospel of the Kingdom, points to five differences between the Kingdom of God and the church: The church is not the kingdom The kingdom creates the church The church witnesses to the kingdom The church is the instrument of the kingdom The church is the custodian of the kingdom . In A Theology of the New Testament, Ladd writes: The Kingdom is primarily the dynamic reign or kingly rule of God, and derivatively, the sphere in which the rule is experienced. In biblical idiom, the Kingdom is not identified with its subjects. They are the people of God’s rule who enter it, live under it, and are governed by it. The church is the community of the Kingdom but never the Kingdom itself. Jesus’ disciples belong to the Kingdom as the Kingdom belongs to them; but they are not the Kingdom. The Kingdom is the rule of God; the church is a society
From Robert Sagers: Pastor-theologian Tim Keller on the relationship between the church and the kingdom: What is the relationship of the church to the kingdom? On the one hand, the church is a “pilot plant” of the kingdom of God. It is not simply a collection of individuals who are forgiven. It is a “royal nation” (1 Peter 2:9), in other words, a counterculture. The church is to be a new society in which the world can see what family dynamics, business practices, race relations, and all of life can be under the kingship of Jesus Christ. God is out to heal all the effects of sin: psychological, social, and physical. On the other hand, the church is to be an agent of the kingdom. It is not only to model the healing of God’s rule but it is to spread it. “You are . . . a royal priesthood, a holy nation . . . that you may declare the praises of
By Ed Stetzer: Americans are obsessed with big things. If something is big, it must be better. It has strength. It has legitimacy. Yet, that’s an American value, not a biblical one. Jesus confused a lot of people when He showed up and announced that the kingdom of God had come near. Then, he confused even more people when he described it as small. Small Is Incarnational The kingdom of God broke into the world with the birth of Jesus Christ. The Son of God came into the world in an unexpected way, showing up in the form of a baby. In the smallest of packages, the full authority of heaven resided. It happened in the middle of nowhere. The Roman Empire was vast, and the city of Rome was an exquisite crown jewel. Israel was a little province in the middle of nowhere on the eastern side of the Mediterranean, and the little town called Bethlehem was virtually unnoticed by
“The beauty and brilliance of the kingdom of God can’t be grasped practically without grasping it spiritually. You can’t do one without seeing the other — and seeing it requires being set free by God. In order for us to really experience the kingdom, to taste and see the glory of kingdom life, the king has to burst open the prison of our hearts and minds, and give us new eyes to see and new ears to hear.” Jared Wilson, Your Jesus Is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Saviour.
Excellence, again, from Kevin DeYoung: When you look at the Gospels and examine the verbs associated with the kingdom, you discover something surprising. Much of our language about the kingdom is a bit off. We often speak of “building the kingdom,” “ushering in the kingdom,” “establishing the kingdom,” or “helping the kingdom grow.” But is this really the way the New Testament talks about the kingdom? George Eldon Ladd, the man who put kingdom back on the map for evangelicals, didn’t think so. The Kingdom can draw near to men (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; etc.); it can come (Matt. 6:10; Luke 17:20; etc.), arrive (Matt. 12:28), appear (Luke 19:11), be active (Matt. 11:12). God can give the Kingdom to men (Matt. 21:43; Luke 12:32), but men do not give the Kingdom to one another. Further, God can take the Kingdom away from men (Matt. 21:43), but men do not take it away from one another, although they can prevent others from entering it.