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THE KINGDOM OF GOD

THE first theme which claims attention is that of the Kingdom of God.

Although the expression 'Kingdom of God' is not found in the Old Testament, the idea is there, rooted in the concept of Yahweh as 'King'.11   Cf. G. Gloege, Reich Gottes und Kirche im Neuen Testament, 6ff.; the article on basileus in Kittel's Theologisches Worterbuch, i, 562ff.; H. M. Hughes, The Kingdom of Heaven, 13ff.; E. F. Scott, The Kingdom of God, 11ff. The locus classicus is Ex. xv. 18: 'The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.' This idea appears also in the prophetical literature: in Isaiah's vision of 'the King, the Lord of hosts' (vi. 5), and his proclamation: 'The Lord is our King' (xxxiii. 22); in Jeremiah's question: 'Is not the Lord in Zion? is not her King in her?' (viii. 19); and in the message of the Second Isaiah: 'I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King' (xliii. 15).22   Cf, also Isa, xli. 21, xliv. 6; Psa. v. 2, lxxxiv. 3, lxxxix. 18. For a discussion of the 'Coronation Psalms' (xlvii., xciii., xcv.c) see Mowinckel Psalmenstudien, ii.; N. H. Snaith, Studies in the Psalter, 88ff. The term 'Kingdom' in relation to God, is found in later passages: in Psa, xxii. 28: 'For the kingdom is the Lord's'; Psa. xlv. 6: 'A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom'; Psa. ciii, 19: 'His kingdom ruleth over all'; Psa. cxlv. 13: 'Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom' (cf. Dan. iv. 3); and in I Chron. xxix. II: 'Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all'. In Dan. ii. 44 it is prophesied that 'the God of heaven' shall 'set up a kingdom, which 19 shall never be destroyed', and in Dan. vii. 27 it is said that 'the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.' 'His kingdom,' it is declared, 'is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him'.

The idea of the Kingdom is not limited to the passages in which the term actually appears; it is present in all the forecasts of a new order in which God's rule should be supreme. No doubt bitter experiences of the monarchy fostered these hopes, but their core is always belief in God as King. It lay in the nature of things that the idea should become eschatological, and it is not surprising that sometimes it is that of a restored and triumphant nation and sometimes that of a supernatural order established either directly by God Himself or mediately through the person of His Messiah. More significant are the spiritual forecasts early and late as in Hos. xiv. and Zeph. iii. 20, and especially those which are universalistic in their range (cf. Isa. xlix. 6, Mic, iv. 1-5, Isa. ii. 2-4). In the medley of dreams and hopes present in the Apocalyptic Literature Babylonian and Persian influences supplement religious beliefs derived from the Old Testament. Sometimes the picture of the Age to Come follows that of a temporary Messianic Kingdom, and there is a marked tendency to calculate times and seasons and to depict in lurid colours a succession of events which include Messianic Woes, the Coming of the Son of Man, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Last Judgment, and the Final Restoration of all things.

For our special purpose it is not necessary to describe the hope of the Kingdom in greater detail; the more important question is the attitude of Jesus to this expectation. Of its centrality in His teaching there can be no 20 doubt; it dominates His thought both in relation to His person and with regard to His mission and work.

According to Mark, Jesus began His mission with the announcement: 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the good news' (i. 15). What is this 'kingdom', and how did He conceive it?

The difficulty of translating basileia is well known. At present there is a strong tendency, illustrated in the discussions of K. L. Schmidt, G. Gloege, and others, to render it by 'kingly rule' or 'reign' rather than by 'kingdom' or 'realm'.11   'Die wesentliche Bedeutung nicht Reich, sondern Herrschaft ist', K. L. Schmidt, Theologisches Worterbuch, i, 582, Theology, May, 1927; G. Gloege, op. cit., 49-58; R. N, Flew, The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology 8-40. This tendency is well justified. The idea of a community underlies the sayings of Jesus,22   In this lie the roots of the conception of the Church. for the Basileia is not simply a spiritual experience, or a summum bonum reached by man's efforts; but the communal idea is secondary and derivative, since the 'kingly rule' necessarily implies and demands the association of those among whom it is exercised. It is a misinterpretation of the teaching of Jesus to speak of the Kingdom, with Ritschl, as 'the organisation of humanity through action inspired by love',33   Justification and Reconciliation (Eng. Tr.), 12. Cf. R. N. Flew, who instances Herrmann's definition: 'the universal moral community, the aspect under which humanity is included in God's purpose for Himself', Expository Times, xlvi, 214. although, naturally, such a state of affairs would follow from the presence of the Kingdom.

Primarily, the Basileia is the Rule of God exercised among men and accepted by them.

If we examine the sixty44   Excluding parallel versions of the same saying. sayings and parables in which 21 Jesus speaks of the Basileia, we shall find that in less than a sixth of them is the thought of a community prominent or distinctive. Significantly enough five of the exceptions are sayings which, on other grounds, are widely believed to be spurious or corrupted in the course of transmission. Three of these sayings appear in the interpretation of the parable of the Tares (Mt. xiii. 38, 41, 43); a fourth is the saying: 'Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven' (Mt. v, 19); the fifth is the difficult passage: 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven' (Mt. xvi. 19).11   Cf. B. H. Streeter, The Four Gospels, 258. Other sayings where the communal idea may be primary are: Mk. ix. 47; Lk. vii. 28, xvi. 16; Mt. vii. 21. In the overwhelming majority the thought is that of the Reign or Rule of God. Even in passages which speak of 'entering into' or 'sitting down' in the Basileia the thought is that of a fellowship in which God's Will is supreme.22   Cf. Mk. x, 23-5; Lk. xiii. 28f., xxii. 30. If this is so, discussions as to whether the Kingdom is present or future are barren; it is obviously both. In several sayings the idea is definitely eschatological; it is that of the consummated Rule of God.33   Cf. Mk. xiv. 25; Lk. xi. 2, xiii. 28f., xxii. 16, 18, 30. No saying, however, in which the Basileia is expressly mentioned, is apocalyptic.

The contrary opinion is due to various causes. Secondary passages, like Mt. xvi. 28,44   Mk. ix, 1, on which Mt. xvi. 28 is based, reads: 'till they see the kingdom of God come with power'. which speaks of 'the Son of man coming in his kingdom', and sayings of doubtful authenticity, like Mt. xiii. 41, which describes the sending forth of the angels by the Son of Man to gather sinners out of His Kingdom to be cast into the furnace of fire, still 22 continue to haunt the mind. Or, it is assumed that the ideas found in the Apocalyptic Literature and the preaching of the Baptist, somewhat modified and spiritualized, are the ideas of Jesus. Or again, genuine sayings about the coming of the Son of Man are connected in thought with other sayings concerning the Basileia. Not one of these assumptions is justified. Mt. xvi. 28 and xiii. 41 obscure rather than reveal the thought of Jesus. The phantasies of Apocalyptic have no place in His sayings. 'Jesus', says Bultmann, 'rejects the whole content of apocalyptic speculation, as he rejects also the calculation of time and the watching for signs'.11   Jesus and the Word, 39. In His teaching there is nothing corresponding to a passage like 4 Ezra v. 4-9 which speaks of the sun shining by night, trees dripping blood, fire bursting forth, women bearing monsters, and the like.22   Op. cit., 39f. As for the sayings concerning the Son of Man, it is a fact too little noticed that Jesus never refers to the Kingdom when He mentions the Parousia, and never associates either its emergence or its consummation with His Coming. His teaching has certainly an eschatological element in it, but it is not an apocalyptic concept.

One important feature His teaching does share with Apocalyptic: from first to last the Basileia is supernatural; man does not strive for it or bring it into being. Our modern idea of labouring for the coming of the Kingdom is a noble conception, fully baptized into Christ and expressive of His spirit; but it is not His teaching regarding the Basileia. He does indeed ask men to pray for its coming (Lk. xi. 2), and it is likened to a merchant seeking goodly pearls (Mt. xiii. 45f.), but always the coming is sheer miracle (cf. Mk. iv. 26-9). It is God's gift (Lk. xii, 32), and man's unexpected discovery, as when one suddenly lights upon treasure hid in a field (Mt. xiii. 44). 23 It does not come 'with observation' (Lk. xvii. 20), but is present already in the Messianic work and ministry of Jesus. 'If I by the finger of God cast out devils', He says, 'then is the kingdom of God come upon you' (Lk. xi. 20). Its fulfilment awaits the good pleasure of God (cf. Lk. xi. 2).

From what has been said it is plain that, while Jesus borrowed from the past, He remoulded the idea of the Kingdom and gave it a distinctive character.11   Cf. C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, 34-80. This is a fact which obviously cannot be ignored in thinking of His suffering and death. Jesus lived and died contemplating and speaking of the Rule of God among men. This ideal, and nothing less, is the constant assumption of His teaching and action.

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