We are looking at the Kingdom of God – the main subject in the teaching of Jesus, especially in the parables. Last week we looked at how Jesus came to inaugurate the Kingdom. This week I will share 6 main categories of what the Kingdom is, and talk more about the first one. The goal in each of these weeks is to cite a LOT of Scripture and show that this is the heart of what Jesus taught about the Kingdom.
The Kingdom is God’s presence and rule in human hearts. The Kingdom begins with the in-breaking presence of God; the King has come and this changes our relationships with God, ourselves, and others. The Kingdom also demands a response; we are empowered to change and live out God’s will and our calling as God’s children. We will examine six characteristics of the Kingdom of God, based on the life and teaching of Jesus. These six characteristics can be grouped into three categories:
A New Reality – The King Is with Us
- The Kingdom is first about the King. The King has come and inaugurated the new Kingdom reality.
- The Kingdom is where God’s will reigns (righteousness).
The Community of the Kingdom
- The Kingdom is a community of faith, defined around relationship with the Father.
- In the Kingdom, people give generously out of God’s abundant love.
The Mission of the King
- The community of the Kingdom joins the mission of the King.
- The Kingdom includes God’s good judgment over injustice and selfishness.
The Kingdom is first about the King. The King has come and inaugurated the new Kingdom reality.
Jesus is the King of the Kingdom. Jesus is God, and the Father is present in Him. The angel told Mary that her child would reign over Israel, and His Kingdom would never end (Lk.1:33). Nathaniel, one of Jesus’ first disciples, declared that Jesus was the King of Israel (Jn.1:49). James and John (and their mother) knew that Jesus was the King, and asked to sit on His right and left hand (Mt.20:21; Mk.10:37). The thief on the cross asked to be remembered when Jesus came into His Kingdom (Lk.23:42). Jesus knew that the Father has given Him a Kingdom (Lk.22:29-30; cf Mk.11:10), and testified before Pilate that He was a King (Mt.27:11; Mk.15:2; Lk.23:3; Jn.18:33), but that His Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36f). The sign on the cross declared to the world that Jesus is the King of the Jews (Mt.27:37; Mk.15:26; Lk.23:38: Jn.19:19-20).
The King has come. NT Wright, looking at the story of the Rich Young Man (Mt.19:16-30; Mk.10:17-31; Lk.18:18-30), notes that Jesus intentionally left out the commandments about God (i.e. “no other gods before me”), and replaced them with a call to Himself. For Jesus, to follow YHWH was to follow Jesus. Jesus could make the demand to follow Him as the top priority – because He is the King. Jesus redefined what the Kingdom meant; the Kingdom was present where Jesus was. Jesus is the King of Israel who represents God’s rule to the world. Jesus is fulfilling the role given to humans, and Israel, to rule the world on God’s behalf (cf. Gen 1:26).
The ministry of Jesus was done with the authority of the King, and it also brought about the Kingdom. When Jesus began His public ministry, He proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mt.4:17; Mk.1:15).
The Gospel writers could summarize Jesus’ ministry by saying that He went around teaching, healing, and casting out demons (Mt.4:23; 9:35; Lk.8:1). The miracles and casting out demons can be seen as the Creator breaking into history in a new way. Jesus understood that He was sent to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom (Lk.4:43). One of the main ways He taught was in parables. The parables explained the Kingdom, and also demanded response; the disciples knew they didn’t understand, and asked Jesus, and gained deeper knowledge; the crowd didn’t understand and went away – thus missing the Kingdom (Mt.13:10-11; Mk.4:10-11; Lk.8:9-10). People would be judged by the King on how they responded to the Kingdom and its message (Mt.7:21-23; 25:34).
Jesus is the Messiah – the Son of God and the Son of David (Mt.16:16; Mk.8:29; Lk.9:20. He was recognized and proclaimed to be the Messiah and King (Lk.1:33 (angel); Mt.21:5; Lk.19:38 (crowd)), but He also would not be forced to be king on their terms (Jn.6:15; cf. Mt.16:20; Mk.8:30; Lk.9:21). His Kingdom was not as the crowd understood it – His Kingdom included suffering (Mt.27:29; Mk.15:18; cf.Lk.23:37). Jesus is the Son of Man and the Servant. He would suffer, but the Kingdom would still come with power (Mt.16:28; Mk.9:1; Lk.9:27).
The King has come, and so the Kingdom has come (Mt.4:17; Mk.1:15). Jesus clearly claimed that the Kingdom had come, and pointed to the casting out of demons by the power of the Spirit as proof (Mt.12:28; Lk.11:20). The teaching of Jesus and His apostles was a sign of something new – the Kingdom of God (Lk.16:16). When Jesus was directly asked when the Kingdom would come, He answered that the Kingdom is in your midst. The Gospels make the point that the future of the prophets has become a present reality in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is highlighted when the Gospel writers quote Scripture as being fulfilled, shown especially at the Triumphal Entry, where Jesus is hailed as King: Isaiah 62:11, Zechariah 9:9, Psalm 118:25-26, and Zephaniah 3:15 are cited by the various Evangelists.
The King will also return, and so the Kingdom is yet to come fully. Jesus taught His followers that He would return on the clouds and bring His full Kingdom (Lk.21:31; cf.Mt.24:33; Mk.13:29). The disciples understood that His Kingdom had a future element (Mt.20:21; Mk.10:37; see also Mt.24:5; Mk13:4; Lk.21:7). His coming, and the future Kingdom, will include judgment for sin (Mt.13:41) and for those who refuse to repent (Mk.9:47; cf.Mt.18:9). The coming Kingdom will include justice and joy – Jesus told His followers He would not drink the cup of the Passover feast until the day it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (Lk.22:16; cf.Mt.26:29; Mk.15:43; Lk.22:18). Jesus is King. The King has come and brought the Kingdom – a new reality and relationship with God. The King will come again and bring in the fulfillment of His Kingdom.
The Kingdom is first about the King. Jesus is the King! He has come and brought in a new reality that we can experience – the reign of God in our hearts. We have a new relationship with God, and we get a foretaste of new creation – even now. For Israel this meant giving up their way of defeating Rome and making the choice to truly follow the way of the Lord. This is what the disciples did. Even for us, we have to make the choice to not follow the way of national “success” or even cultural religion. We have a new reality – the King has come! Following Him out of devotion gives us a new love and changes our character as He grows true virtue inside our hearts. We can experience new life through our Risen King.
 This helps explain why Jesus would allow people to worship Him (e.g. Mt.14:33; 28:9, 11; cf. Mt.2:11).
 NT Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress 1996) 302.
 The early Christians were Jewish, and carried the hopes of the Kingdom. They based their understanding of the Kingdom, though, on Jesus. This changed the focus off of Jewish national restoration – and onto YHWH’s global rule through Christ. Jesus – not Caesar, is Lord (Kyrios) (NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 442, 460).
 The Greek word engiken has drawn much debate among scholars, specifically about the time frame of the Kingdom: has it already come, or yet to come? The grammar is of some help – the verb is in the perfect, indicative, active tense (third person singular). The Kingdom “has” drawn near (or been brought close). This means the drawing near has taken place (through the coming and public ministry of Jesus), but does not mean that the Kingdom has fully arrived.
 Even in this first proclamation there is much to unpack: Repent (a turning from something to something or someone) for the Kingdom of God (“Kingdom” evoked many images and expectations, rooted in their culture – which was not a democracy) is at hand. Also, Jesus proclaimed these words in Galilee (not Judea or Jerusalem or Samaria or even Rome), which reveals part of how He understood His mission and its fulfillment: Galilee was known to many as “Galilee of the Gentiles”; Galilee was not the home of the official religious establishment or the Temple. This points to the Kingdom coming through the lowly, overlooked, and outcasts, and working outside of (even critiquing, see Mt.23) the national (religious and political) leadership of Jerusalem.
 In Lk.22:29-30 and Mk.11:10 Jesus tells the disciples that He gives them a Kingdom and they will judge the 12 tribes. This shows that Jesus has authority to give the Kingdom (also see Mt.16:19). The judgment of Christ’s followers will follow His good will and judgment.
 Also see Mt.7:24-27, the wise and foolish builders.
 These words happen right after Jesus predicts His death, and right before the transfiguration. The power of the Kingdom, as the disciples would discover, is stronger even then death. They are to take up their cross, follow Jesus, and go to the ends of the earth (Mt.16:24; 28:16-20).
 This verse (Lk.16:16) says that the law and prophets were proclaimed until John the Baptist. This helps explain Lk.7:28 (par. Mt.11:11-12) that the least in the Kingdom is greater than John.
 Or “within you”. Wright does not favor this interpretation (Jesus, 666; he prefers “within your reach”). The Greek is entos, which is an adverb of location (cf.Mt.23:26, the inside of the cup) (see Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, translated by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) 269). In any case, Jesus answered the question about time – the Kingdom has arrived.
 The coming of the Kingdom does not mean the end of the world, but the full reign of God on earth (or a new earth). “The ‘kingdom of [God]’ has nothing to do with the world itself coming to an end”. NT Wright, New Testament, 285.