King Of Kings … Lord Of Lords … Eternal Reign … Yours Is The Kingdom, O Lord … You Are Exalted Over All … From Everlasting To Everlasting … The Kingdom Of God Is Near … Christ The King … His Kingdom Will Never End … Seek Ye First The Kingdom Of God
How can we begin to understand the Kingdom of God?
Is it beyond comprehension …
the eternal reign of God …
what does that mean?
In his book Desert in the City, Carlo Carretto states:
“Blessed are the merciful,”
“Blessed are the peacemakers,”
Not to mention the downright:
“Blessed are the persecuted.”
What a strange Kingdom!
Who can understand it?
What is clear of this Kingdom is that it begins from my conversion, it does not
wait for my death to get me going.
It is a Kingdom today.
I must act today.
I know that it is a Kingdom that will have no end, that will bestride the
frontier of death itself, that it will grow immeasurably bigger outside time,
that is “eschatological” as we like to say among ourselves, but is already
among us and should commit us all to its consequences.1
In Carretto’s musings we observe some of the tensions that are faced in the exploration of the theme of the Kingdom of God. “Who can understand it?” ponders Carretto. Growing in the knowledge of God’s Word leads to a greater understanding of the Kingdom of God.
Old and New Testament Truths
The biblical basis for theme of the Kingdom of God is evident within the Scriptures. Both the Old and the New Testaments provide rich documentation of the theme of the Kingdom of God. While it is true that Jesus ushers in a new emphasis and understanding of the Kingdom of God, much is to be gained through investigation of the Old Testament texts as well as the New Testament.
Many scriptures in the Old Testament point to God’s eternal reign; David’s words recorded in Chronicles provide an example of the glory ascribed to God’s rule.
Honor is given to God through King David’s prayer recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13:
David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, O Lord,
God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O Lord, is the Kingdom;
You are exalted as head over all
Wealth and honor come from you;
You are ruler over all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
Although King David ruled as one of Israel’s great human kings, he rightly ascribed the honor and glory due the Lord, King of Israel. God established the Davidic line of kings, initially through human kings and ultimately through Jesus Christ, King of Kings.
As a reference point for beginning to understand the kingdom of God, obvious attention needs to be given to the ruler, God. God’s nature as well as the Kingdom is characterized by love, holiness, justice, righteousness, and all other characteristics ascribed to God. The Kingdom of God is the realm where God can be trusted to reign with the utmost authenticity and integrity in a relationship of love, holiness, and justice for those who are part of the Kingdom.
These attributes are evidenced not only in God the Father but also in the full Triune God. The biblical grounding is based in the Triune God of Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and Holy Spirit. As Redeemer, Jesus Christ, exemplifies the same attributes as God, the Father. Characteristic of God’s Kingdom are the teachings of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus possesses the same attributes as God, the Father. The Scriptures point to this. Hebrews 1:3 declares,
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”
Jesus himself indicated his oneness and unity with God the Father (John 17). Throughout his ministry, Jesus taught, preached, and exhibited acts of the Kingdom of God, or, as he often called God’s kingdom, the Kingdom of the Heavens.
The Holy Spirit is also an integral part of the Kingdom of God. When Jesus announced his earthly mission, he read from Isaiah and proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him (Luke 4:16-21). As Jesus shared with his disciples that he would be leaving them to ascend to the Father, he promised the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-30). Scriptures give evidence of the Spirit’s coming as the early church is empowered. The books of Acts, Romans, the Epistles, and Revelation continue to proclaim the Spirit’s involvement within the establishment of the Church, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and the lives of the early believers. The Trinity permeates the building of all aspects of Kingdom community through the reign of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Becoming an Apprentice of Jesus
Practice of the faith also assists in the understanding of God’s Kingdom. Within his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard makes frequent mention of the Kingdom of God. He speaks of the necessity of becoming apprentices of Jesus as the process of discipleship. Willard recommends a curriculum for Christ-likeness leading to maturity in the Christian faith. For Willard, clearly thought out and decisive apprenticeship to Jesus is the bridge between initial faith in him and the life of obedience and fulfillment in his kingdom.2
Soma, the model for spiritual formation, explores the Scriptures and puts into action the use of the spiritual disciplines to grow deeper in the knowledge and practice of Christ-likeness.
1Carlo Carretto, Desert in the City, trans. Barbara Wall (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1982), 46.