The Kingdom of God

This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 16th February 2019. The CCM School of Theology was set up to serve local churches in Manchester and beyond.

Topic: The Kingdom of God

In this session, we look at the doctrine of the Kingdom of God.

Speaker: Liam Thatcher

Liam is one of the leaders of Christ Church London and is a regular speaker and writer about theology, including on his blog – Leaven on Earth.

LISTEN

NOTES

 

The Kingdom of God

How does Jesus’ life, death and resurrection continue the grand theme of Scripture? And how
should we understand the central theme of his ministry: The Kingdom of God?

What is a gospel? Where did they come from?

The Story of The Kingdom

Eden

  • God reigns
  • Mankind made in God’s ‘image’ (Gen
    1:26-27) e.g. Shalmanesar and Assur.
  • God told man to rule/exercise dominion
    (rãdâ) over the creatures of the earth
    (Gen 1:26), fill the earth and subdue
    (kãbas) it (Gen 1:28), working/serving
    (‘ãbad) and tending/keeping (sãmar) this
    world (2:15)
  • “You will not surely die… you will be like
    God” (Gen 3:4-5)

 The Coming Kingdom

  • God promises a Kingdom from David’s
    line (2 Sam 7:12-14)
  • The Gospel of the OT (Isa 52:7-8)
  • Mighty God / Prince of Peace (Isa 9:7)
  • Death brings reconciliation?! (Isa 53:5)
  • An indestructible Kingdom. (Daniel 2:44)

Jesus

  • ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at
    hand’ (Matthew 3:2)
  • The Kingdom featured frequently in
    Jesus’ teaching:
    – Matthew: God x5. Heaven = 32x
    – Mark: 14x
    – Luke 32x
    – John: 2x

The Pharisees

‘The Pharisees’ kingdom-plan, in line with plenty of earlier Jewish aims and ideals, was to intensify observance of the Jewish law, the Torah. That, they believed would create the conditions for God to act, as he had promised, to judge the pagans who were oppressing Israel, and to liberate his people.’ (N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone)

The Zealots

They believed that the kingdom of God needed to be advanced by a demonstration of power. If people were serious about the Kingdom, they would be willing to fight and die for it! See Judas Maccabaeus and the revolution of Dec 25th 164 BC.

The Essenes

Believing that others had lost sight of the truth and convinced of their special status, they enacted the exile God’s people were experiencing by separating themselves and living as an exiled people ‘demonstrating by [their] wilderness
existence the fact that the promises of restoration and redemption are yet to be fulfilled.’ Their task was to stay separate in prayer and purity.’ (N.T. Wright, NTPG)

What is the Kingdom?

‘The sovereign and saving rule of YHWH’ (Tom Wright)
‘The king-dominion of God’ (D.A. Carson)

The First Coming and the Cross of Christ brings into this world the Kindom (now and not yet). The second coming of Christ will bring into being the New Creation and the Kingdom come in full.

‘As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of
heaven has come near.” Heal those who are ill, raise
the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out
demons. Freely you have received; freely
give.’ (Matthew 10:7-8)

The Parables: Stories of the Kingdom

The are Communicative:-

  • The parables are not simply entertaining stories (or preaching illustrations!) but tools of communication, so their
    themes are likely to correspond to the overall themes of Jesus’ teaching
  • ‘The parables represent the interpretation which our Lord offered of His own ministry’ (C. H. Dodd)
  • ‘They made sense only within the whole context of Jesus’ career. They echoed, reflected, interpreted and indeed
    defended the main thrusts of Jesus’ work, and themselves set up other echoes in turn’ (N.T. Wright)
  • The story which can be evoked by the phrase ‘kingdom of god’ may well be present even though the phrase itself
    is absent’ (Wright)

They are Cultural:-

  • Written to people at a particular point in time, with references that would make sense to them in their world.
  • ‘What seems to the western mind to be bad farming is simply customary usage in Palestinian conditions’ (J.
    Jeremias)

They are Confrontational:-

  • ‘When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.
    And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds’ (Matt 21:45-46)
  • ‘For the most part, though not exclusively, they are weapons of controversy. Every one of them calls for an answer
    on the spot … All of the parables that deal with the gospel itself are a defence of the good news. The actual
    proclamation of the good news to sinners took a different form, in the offer of forgiveness, in Jesus’ inviting the
    guilty to taste his hospitality, and in his calling them to follow him. It was not to sinners that he addressed the
    gospel parables, but to his critics, to those who rejected him because he gathered the despised around him’ (J.
    Jeremias)

They are Cryptic:-

  • Matt 13:1-17, 34-35; Mark 4:11-12 – are these deliberately cryptic in order to confuse people?
    Compare Matt 13:14-15; Isa 6:9-10
  • ‘The parables not only conceal but also reveal and often they reveal that which was previously concealed’
    (Craig Blomberg)

 Look for one main point

‘Often a parable will only have one basic truth in mind. We must not try to read more into a parable than we ought […] we must never try to make a parable stand on all four legs! Not every detail of a parable has to have a meaning.’ (R.T. Kendall)

Look at the wider setting

Why did Jesus tell the parable? How did his hearers interpret it? What is around it? Other parables? Miracles?

Look at its place in Jesus’ ministry

How does it fit with the other main themes of Jesus’ ministry? In particular the Kingdom?

Look at the use of OT imagery

The parables may contain allegorical elements, but their meaning is most often derived
from the OT. How were these symbols used previously? Does the story sound familiar?

What do these parables teach us about the Kingdom?

Matthew 13:31-32
Hint: Consider Ezekiel 31:1-14 and Daniel 4:10-23 and think about how Jesus may be adapting the imagery to make his point
Matthew 13:33
Hint: Most leaven imagery is negative (Matt 16:6; 1 Cor 5:6; Gal 5:9). How should we understand Jesus’ positive use?
Matthew 13:44
Hint: What were people’s expectations about the Kingdom and how would this parable challenge them?

Signs of the Kingdom

What do the signs tell us about the King and the Kingdom?

  • Does the episode give clues? Observe people’s responses, or author’s comments.
  • Look at the wider setting. What is around it? Parables? Teachings? Other miracles? When, where and to whom did Jesus do the miracle?
  • Look at Jesus’ wider ministry. Does the miracle shed any light on another theme in Jesus’ teaching?
  • Look at the use of OT imagery. Does the miracle include any references to OT themes and prophetic promises?

Raising the Dead
John 11:17-27, 38-44; Hosea 6:2

Nature Miracles
Mark 4:35-41; Psalm 107:23-32; Amos 4:13

Food Miracles
John 2:1-11; Isaiah 25:6-8

Physical Healings
Luke 8:43-48; Lev 15:19-28

Casting out Spirits
Luke 11:14-26; Isaiah 61:1ff

Pick one of the following exercises for your personal study:

How do you find the idea that the gospel writers were selective and creative in the way they told the Jesus story? Does the idea concern you? Or does it help you better appreciate them? (1,000 words)

Choose one of the synoptic gospels and read it through, bearing in mind what we have learnt about the agenda and focus of each writer. Are there things you notice, that you would not have seen before? (1,000 words)

Read Isaiah 5:1-7 and Mark 12:1-12. Bearing in mind the events surrounding Mark 12, the main themes of Jesus’ ministry, and the OT background, what do you think Jesus was trying to communicate in the parable of the Wicked Tenants? (1,000 words)

Recommended Resources

Kenneth Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Great material on Jesus’ cultural context

Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Great material on the trustworthiness of the gospels

Richard Burridge, Four Gospels, One Jesus. Good material on each of the gospel writers’ purpose

Carson, D.A. and Moo, Douglas, An Introduction to the New Testament. A great reference book for the whole NT

Köstenberger, Andreas and Taylor, Justin, The Final Days of Jesus. A chronological study of Jesus’ last days

Leithart, Peter The Four Good material on each of the gospel writers’ purpose

NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God,  Jesus and the Victory of God, The Resurrection of the Son of God. Three volumes on the historical context of the NT. Very academic. Jesus and the Victory of God is the most helpful for understanding the synoptics and the kingdom.

NT Wright, Simply Jesus, When God Became King. More popular level books on Jesus and his life, teaching and ministry

Top Three Commentaries

Matthew –  Morris, Leon (Pillar), France, R.T. (NICNT), Carson, D.A. (EBC)  

Mark – Lane, William (NICNT) Bock,  English, Donald (BST), Wright, N.T. (For Everyone) Green.

Luke – Darrell (NIVAC / IVPNTC), Morris, Leon (TNTC), Joel (NICNT)

 

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