Biblical Views On The Doctrine Of The Kingdom Of God
Because the nature of the kingdom consists of a few aspects, I will present a biblical view of the nature of the kingdom of God. I will explain the nature of the kingdom proposed by Ladd (1981) and other authors since there is a bewildering diversity of explanations on what the kingdom of God is. The kingdom was manifested in the Old Testament and I will write on this matter specifically concerning Israel. The current state of the kingdom is here now, within us, and I will share some more detail on this matter along with the future state of the kingdom. These subjects bring implications forward for ministry and in this essay, I will explain my understanding of the kingdom and its implications it has on the ministry today.
The nature of the Kingdom
Although there is a bewildering diversity of explanations when it comes to describing what the kingdom of God is and when and how it shall come there is a basic solution to this complex problem. Firstly, one should know what the meaning of ‘kingdom’ is. In our modern age the word ‘kingdom’ lost its value of the meaning of its ancient Biblical truth. A Kingdom is only known as a realm where a king exercise his authority which is not a famous role in our modern society and democratic interest. Kingdoms is an unusual place and rule for us today. Another example that is easy to determine is the Kingdom of Great Britain. Here it is only citizens following the country’s rules and regulations where these citizens live under the Queen’s rule. Not only does these examples lead us astray, but even the English dictionary makes a mistake by stating that it is “The Spiritual realm having God as its head”. This meaning cannot do justice to the more intensive biblical meaning as a present spiritual reality (Ladd 1981:13-23).
When it is referred to as God’s kingdom, it refers to His reign, His rule, His sovereignty and not the realm in which it is exercised as to the basic modern meaning as seen in Ezra 8:1, 2 Chronicles 12:1 or Daniel 8:23. God’s kingdom refers to scriptures like Psalm 103:19, Psalm 145:11 and Daniel 2:37 where its meaning is clear to see that the kingdom of God is God’s reign and not the realm or a people. But reign without a realm is meaningless and thus the Kingdom of God is also the realm in which God’s reign may be experienced. Sometimes it is spoken as the realm into which we enter as present and sometimes as future. Because this problem holds three fold factors such as 1) some passages refers to the kingdom as God’s reign, 2) some passages refer to as the realm into which we can now enter to receive His blessings, 3) still other passages refer to a future realm which will come when Christ returns, we can say that the Kingdom is here now even though the Kingdom of God can mean three different things in different verses (Ladd 1981:13-23).
Kingdom manifested in the Old Testament concerning Israel
In the Old testament “the Kingdom of God” is not directly used but when reading Deuteronomy 33:5 and Isaiah 43:15, Israel was call in a special way to live under the rule of God by acknowledging His kingship, His reign and obeying His commandments. Israel was called to be a nation who will truly serve Him even if they were a theocratic nation which was first without human kings and then with kings. But even in these situations Israel acknowledge God’s ultimate kingship and reign (Williams 1992:289-295).
Exodus 19:5-6 (NIV): “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” tells us that although Israel was under God’s sovereignty but would only become his kingdom if the people were to keep His commandments and obeyed His voice. Israel’s heart was hard, and their will was stubborn thus making God’s rule, His kingship one of great concern (Williams 1992:289-295).
In conclusion, the Old Testament was a time for preparation and hope on the kingdom which had not yet come in the time concerning Israel, nor could the kingdom come until a radical change happened in the human hearts (Williams 1992:289-295).
Current state of the kingdom
When we read Mark 2:1-12 Jesus said that our sins are forgiven for the Son of man has power on earth to forgive our sins. Through this scripture, Jesus, the Messiah has already come down to earth and it is evident in the gospels that His kingdom is present here and now. We can take many scriptural examples in the gospels where the kingdom has shown the wonderful works done by Jesus according to the prophecy where the kingdom was already being manifested. The blind can see, the lame can walk, the deaf can hear, lepers are being cleansed and dead people raise to life and the gospel was being proclaimed to the poor (Matthew 11:2, Luke 7:18).
Not only then, but even now the breaking trough of the kingdom is seen. We are also the elect and beloved and can be endowed with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16) and be invested with full divine authority (Matthew 21:27). He came not to destroy but to fulfil (Matthew 5:17), to announce the kingdom (Mark 1:38), to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), to serve and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
All that is announced in the gospel concerning the kingdom is therefor that in Him its present and future aspects are alike (Ridderbos 1996:649).
Future state of the kingdom
Just as the kingdom has a current state it also has a future state. It can be seen as both an inward and an outward growth of the kingdom. When speaking about inwards it can be seen as to what happens in the life of a person wo has already entered the kingdom and continues to grow spiritually and on the outward growth it can be seen as the overall growth of the kingdom within the world (Williams 1992: 289-295).
As explained by Williams (1992:289-295), the future kingdom is also an invisible spiritual essence of the church as well as a hidden profound internal reality which is only known to God where we cannot point it out to say ‘Here it is, or “There it is” because the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20-21 NIV).
Implications for ministry
There is a connection between the kingdom and the church, but they do have their differences. The kingdom is God’s redeeming activity in Christ in this world and the church is the assembly of those who belong to God. Christ is the centre of these two groups where the church is the smaller group and the kingdom the bigger group. Although the kingdom in not confined within the frontiers of the church, the church is only seen as the organ of the kingdom. The power of Satan still exist in the world and in church today but a visible and all-conquering reign of peace and salvation will bring the outwardly and the inwardly to full fruition to the new heaven and the new earth as a saving power against evil through Christ and his church (Ridderbos 1996:649).
The kingdom of God is here now but can also be experienced in the time to come and in this essay, we have seen the deeper meaning behind the kingdom of God. It was manifested in the times of Israel in the Old Testament and we have learned that it was a time of preparation and a hope. Jesus had done many wonderful works and continues to do wonderful works in the current state of the kingdom whereas the future state of the kingdom is an invisible spiritual essence of the church which is within Gods people. Because God’s kingdom is still active in this world and in the church, we can have something to hold on to even with evil being among us.
Clash of two rival kingdoms
There is a dispute that Satan has the right and title to the earth causing a clash of two rival kingdoms. The kingdom of God consisting of loyal angels and saved humans and then the kingdom of Satan which consist of demons and unregenerate humans. Due to this far reaching theological and practical concept I will share some concepts around this matter. According to the ransom theory of the Atonement Satan has a right to the souls of men but in this essay, I will dispute whether the ransom theory is true or not. Following the ransom theory is Postmillennialism and spiritual warfare in which I will share more details. There is some implication for Church life and the ongoing battle we must go into and in this essay some scriptural feedback on this matter will be revealed.
Although the ransom theory holds that Satan has the right to the souls of man it is not to say that God had to pay a ransom to Satan so that Satan has the right over humans souls, but instead Jesus was given a ransom over His own soul. The ransom that was paid was not human souls but death rather than the devil and by God offering his Son, death was destroyed (Erickson 1996:812-814).
Gregory of Nyssa’s view of the atonement was to maintain God’s justice and he reasoned that we have our own free choice and in which we find ourselves is our own doing and thus it would have been unjust to deprive Satan of his captives by some random method. Gregory acknowledges that God deceived Satan because Satan to eagerly accepted a prize he perceived to be far more valuable than the souls he kept captive and did not realize that the deity of Christ was enveloped in his human flesh. And so, Satan accepted Jesus as the ransom (Erickson 1996:812).
It might be true that Satan has the right to the souls of men due the statement of the atonement that was in essence a triumph of God, but that the power that ensnared humanity was also ensnared by God and death was rather paid the ransom than the devil. The ultimate reason for Christ’s death was the deliverance of humanity. The ransom theory is different among other theories of the atonement in opposing that the direct effects of Christ’s atoning death were neither on God nor on the humans, it was the devil toward whom Christ’s death was directed (Erickson 1996:814).
Considering that the ransom theory is true it means that the purpose of God is to win back the territory from the enemy. Postmillennialism is viewed as the kingdom that is here now and has a quality of being a very optimistic view. This optimistic view includes that before the second coming of Christ the gospel will have changed the whole world and God will have won over all hearts. It might have been easier to believe this view in the earlier days of Augustine, but it is hard to hold on to this believe in the 21st century. But, looking at Matthew 13 it gives us a hope to further hold on because of the nature of the kingdom. It says in Matthew 13 that it is like leaven, spreading gradually but surely throughout the world. This growth will be extensive by spreading throughout the whole world and it will grow intensively to a point where it becomes dominant. It will have a gradual growth without even being noticed by many. Postmillennialists can accept what appear to be a series of crisis’s since they believe in the ultimate triumph of the gospel (Erickson 1996:1216).
To bring scriptural evidence to this view we can look at Old Testament passages like Psalms 47, 72, and 100; Isaiah 45:22-25; and Hosea 2:23 where God makes it clear that all nations will come to know God. Jesus also taught that the gospel will be preached universally before his second coming on many occasions in the New Testament (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20).
Due to vague concepts regarding spiritual warfare there is a need for this to be practised aggressively if the ransom theory is correct. Many believers might see spiritual warfare as undemonizing people, or praising the devil away, turning the focus away from God and going to deep into what the enemy is doing. This is not what is meant by praising and worshipping God. Giving praise and worship to God is to give Him honour and it is meant to be self-enriching, it is not about fighting a battle against the enemy.
Surely, we must be aware of spiritual battles, but we also need to remember that Satan has already been disarmed at the cross of Jesus Christ. Although the devil does not have authority over us, we can give him the authority but because of what Jesus did on the cross we have gained authority to exercise authority over him. And even though we have gained authority he can still deceive us and therefor we need to go into battle with the truth and internalize our identity in Christ. There is no need to shout and sing louder to chase the enemy away, we only have to stand firm in the truth when a lie is being put before us. We need to live in obedience to Gods truth because this is the greatest weapon for spiritual warfare (Moriarty 1992:287-295).
Implications for church life
The final victory over Satan has already been fulfilled in the real struggles between the two parties, having Christ and his followers and on the other hand Satan and his forces. When we read John 12:31 and Matthew 28:18 it is evident that Jesus is the ruler and the authority, and all authority has already been given to us to win every battle against the enemy. I do not think it is necessary to have a mega church or even in the same breath a small church because it is not a battle that need to be won by how loud a person or a congregation can be but rather it is about individuality.
It is about an individual that should guard his heart not to be deceived by the schemes and lies of the enemy but rather living by the truth and by winning the battles of life by being obedient to God’s truth and replacing any lie with the truth of God’s word. The church should not be deceived and fall into the trap of giving Satan more attention that is needed instead of focusing on God and knowing that Jesus has already paid the price. Satan does not have any authority over us, unless we allow it.
There is an ongoing battle in the church, and we should fight until everyone has heard the truth until Christ’s return.
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