Meaning and Significance of
the Phrase "Kingdom of God" - Robert I. Bradshaw
"jagbir singh" <email@example.com>
Date: Sat Dec 4, 2004 5:17 am
Subject: The Meaning and Significance of the
Phrase "Kingdom of God" - Robert I. Bradshaw
> Dear Jimmy,
> There will be no end to your questions because they
are based on
> your religious upbringing and conditioning. (You must
> remember that all Christian denominations and sects
> their roots from the Catholic Church.) Just five
centuries ago you
> would have sworn that the Earth is flat at a time when
> mystics had advance knowledge about the infinite
> centuries earlier. While Christians were seeking the
> God far, far away the mystics were exploring it within
The Meaning and Significance of the Phrase "Kingdom
of God" in the Teaching of Jesus as Represented by the
by Robert I. Bradshaw
From that time on Jesus began to preach. "Repent for the
God is near." Matt. 4:17.
It is clear from the Synoptic Gospels that 'the Kingdom
formed the central theme of Jesus' preaching from the
very outset of
his ministry. Although Matthew's Gospel only uses the
'Kingdom of God' four times (12:28; 19:24; 21:21, 31,
43). it is
generally held that the phrase 'Kingdom of Heaven' used
Gospel is typical of the Jewish practice of
substituting another word for the divine name. The two
therefore completely interchangeable (cf. Matt. 19:23
with v. 24;
Jesus did not invent the phrase, but built upon existing
Testament teaching (cf. Psalm 145:11, 13; 103:19; Isa.
4:3; Zech. 14:9)(2) and Jewish Apocalyptic writings that
same pattern of thought. The regular synagogue prayer of
Christian times (the Kaddish), for example, reads: "May
He let His
Kingdom rule... speedily and soon."(3)
J. Ramsey Michaels comments:
In many different ways Jesus affirmed traditional Jewish
expectation. yet he gives them at the same time what
would call a aturn of the screw', a new twist that
hearers and in some respect calls their behaviour and
It is now generally agreed that the Greek word Basileia
primarily to the abstract concept of God's rule or
reign, but was
also (but less commonly) used to refer to the realm over
rule was exercised.(5) That being said, what did Jesus
mean by the
term Kingdom of God? The simplest answer is that he used
summarise his entire mission, in all its aspects,(6) but
statement requires further development lest the
of the term be lost.
For Jesus the Gospel was the nearness of the Kingdom of
1:14-15).(7) This passage (and others that emphasise the
the Kingdom. e.g. Mark 9:1; Matt 12:28=Luke 11:20) were
C.H. Dodd as evidence that Jesus taught that the Kingdom
of God was
present in his own ministry and "a matter of present
Closer examination of the texts illustrates the danger
interpreting the evidence according to ones preconceived
Study of Mark 1:15 has shown that the Greek texts (and
underlying them) are ambiguous in their meaning, which
has led many
to conclude (rightly in my view) that Jesus intended his
understand that the Kingdom of God [henceforth
abbreviated to "the
Kingdom"] had both a present(10) and a future
aspect.(11) By way of
contrast Cranfield argues that the reference is not
spatial - the Kingdom has come near in the person of
C.H. Dodd felt free to alter the translation of Mark 9:1
inserting "...the adverb already' and interpret 'see'
recognise in retrospect."(13) He wrote: "The bystanders
promised... that they shall come to see that the Kingdom
of God has
already come, at some point before they became aware of
correct translation and an examination of the context
however, that for Mark (as for Matthew [16:28] and Luke
term "coming of the Kingdom in power" referred first of
all to the
transfiguration (which follows the statement in all
Synoptics (Matt. 17:1-l3; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:18-36).
pointed forward to the glory to come following the
2 Peter 1:16-18).(15) If it were to refer to the
Parousia then it
would have to be conceded that Jesus was mistaken in his
that some of the disciples would still be alive when it
(which is exactly what T.W. Manson seeks to prove).(17)
Jesus' exorcisms mean that "the sovereign power of God
has come into
effective operation."(18) Matthew (4:23; 10:7; cf.
Luke (4:40-43; 8:1-3;9:1-2, 11; 10:9) both link the
the Kingdom with the defeat of demons and the cure of
The contrast is made by Jesus between God's Kingdom and
Satan (Luke 11:18-20, cf. 4:40-43). In many of his
taught his disciples that the Kingdom of God would
coexist in the
world with the kingdom of Satan for a time. In the
parable of the
Weeds (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-44) he explains "how the
Kingdom can be
present in the world without wiping yet not wiping out
opposition.(21) The parable of the Dragnet (Matt.
speaks of a time of coexistence followed by a separation
Kingdom is fully established at the end of the age.(22)
Matthew 12:28 (=Luke 11:20) also teaches us that the
established by the power of the Holy Spirit, in whom
(23) Although it is done in the power of the Spirit, the
establishing the Kingdom is the Father's (Matt. 6:10;
(24) T.W. Manson has shown that Jesus revealed God as
Father to his
disciples.(25) In the same way the teaching concerning
of the Kingdom was also done in the context of private
of the disciples (Matt. 13:43; 25:43; Luke 12:32;
Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29) illustrates
kingdom grows on its own, apart from any visible
assistance, as the Father causes it to grow,(27) "emphasising
initiative in the establishment of His rule."(28)
The Early Church was clear in their assertion that Jesus
Messiah, the Anointed One (cf. Matt .4:16-17; Mark
3:21-22), who was Ruler and king (Matt. 2:2; cf. 21:5).
did not publicly claim that title. preferring instead
designation 'Son of Man'. Marshall suggests that just as
this ambiguous term (which could mean "Son of God" [cf.
or simply 'I') as a veiled manifestation of himself, so
in the same
way he used the term 'Kingdom of God' to refer to "an
rule that will be revealed openly in the future, but at
hidden and partly secret."(29) This is supported by an
of Jesus' parabolic teaching, such as the Parable of the
Seed (Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19) and the Yeast (Matt.
13:20-21). Blomberg points out that the Parables,
with radical demands, and not all were willing to
followed him in discipleship, but others were actually
further from his Kingdom."(30) (Mark 4:10-12; cf. Matt.
The Kingdom also has a future aspect, which Weiss and
have over emphasised(31) at the expense of those
Jesus taught a present Kingdom (see above).(32) Luke
particularly relevant to our discussion at this point,
for it not
only gives a rare glimpse into events in the
i.e. the feast (vv. 29-30). This concept would have been
one to his hearers (Isa. 25:6f; 64:3; 65:13f; Ezek.
(33) but Jesus gives ' turn of the screw' that would
have shocked a
Jewish audience: there would be many surprises as to the
membership of the Kingdom - even the Gentiles would be
(cf. Isa. 45:6; 49:12).(34) The same theme recurs in
were Jesus does not correct his table companions
"Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the
Kingdom of God"
(v.15), as 'feast' is "a common Jewish metaphor meaning
eschatological salvation."(35) The Pharisees were deeply
the way in which Jesus welcomed such people as Gentiles,
Collectors and 'sinners' and ate with them (Matt.
9:9-13; Mark 2:15-
17; Luke 5:27-32). To which Jesus replied with the
parables of the
Lost Sheep, the Lost Silver and the Lost Son (Luke 15).
the "keynote is the joy in heaven over a son who repents
over a son who comes home."(36)
The question as to membership of the Kingdom leads to
asked question "Is the Church the Kingdom of God?" R.T.
points out that this question is "meaningless... roughly
on a par
with... 'Is Mrs. Thatcher patriotism?'"(37) because as
already seen, the Kingdom refers primarily to God's
rule. Nowhere in
the New Testament is the church identified with the
Kingdom of God.
George Eldon Ladd states:
The Kingdom is the rule of God, and the realm of his
Church is the people of the Kingdom. who have received
witness it, and who will inherit.(38)
There is a danger, however, of taking Perrin's concept
of the Kingdom
(39) too far, as I.H. Marshall points out. Like other
scholars Perrin derives his "understanding of the
Kingdom of God
from a limited number of texts which he believed to be
sayings of Jesus,(40) and so his definition of the
the powerful action of God that can be expressed in a
whole range of
situations"(41) is proved inadequate when the rest of
is examined. Marshall concludes that "the Church as the
God is the object of his rule and is therefore His
Kingdom, or at
least an expression of it, imperfect and sinful though
Luke 17:20-21 is the only saying of Jesus that might be
evidence to attempt to prove that he saw the Kingdom as
internal(43) (cf. Rom. 14:17). The Pharisees were
looking for signs
that could be observed, but Jesus replied that the
Kingdom was among
them - that is - it was present in His person and
In contrast to the ideas current in his day, Jesus'
that "From the time of John the Baptist until now, the
Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men
lay hold of
it (Matt. 11:12; cf. Luke 16:16). These verses have
given rise to a
great range of interpretations. F.F. Bruce sees them as
a rebuke to
those of like mind to the Zealots, who sought to bring
Kingdom of God by force.(45) More likely is the view of
who argues that:
From the beginning of Jesus' ministry the Kingdom had
forcefully advancing (the point also made in Luke
16:16). But it has
not swept all opposition away as John expected.(46) What
the Baptist and the Pharisees were expecting was the
total establishment of the Kingdom. Instead, Jesus
those in the Kingdom can expect opposition and
The idea of the 'scum of the earth' (prostitutes and
entering the Kingdom (Matt. 21:28-32) while the
religious leaders remained outside is yet another
example of Jesus
correcting mistaken notions.(48) His point is obvious,
to God verbally yet failing to do the will of God
excludes one from
the Kingdom (cf. Matt. 7:21). "The gracious, redemptive
God demands a response of radical obedience."(49)
The parables of the Hidden Treasure (Matt. 13:44) and
(13:45- 46) teach that the Kingdom is of great worth. In
a man, having found the treasure, hid it again until he
the field, because treasure belonged to the owner of the
not to the finder.(50) In the latter:
Jesus is not interested in religious efforts or in
one can 'buy' the Kingdom; on the contrary. he is saying
person whose whole life has been bound up with the
'pearls' will, on
comprehending the true value of the Kingdom as Jesus
gladly exchange all else to follow him.(51)
The parable of the Sower shows that productivity within
depends on the kind of response made by each individual
who heard of
it. In ancient Israel a tenfold harvest was a good
yield, and the
average about seven and a half. The hundredfold harvest
was the result of two things - a correct attitude of
heart and on
part of the disciple and a miracle.(52) This correct
further described in Luke 18. It is not
that of the Pharisee (vv.9-12, 14), but humility like
Collector (v.13). It is having the attitude of a child
cf. Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16),(53) which implies
dependence upon the good pleasure of God, having no
righteousness of one's own.(54)
For the Gospel writers the phrase "entering the Kingdom
of God" is
interchangeable with 'being saved' as can be seen from
(cf. Matt. 19:24-25; Mark 10:23, 26), where Jesus
describes how hard
it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God and the
reply "who then can be saved?" In the next few verses
the Kingdom is
linked with 'eternal life' (Luke 18:30; cf. Matt. 25:29;
(55) This is further strengthened in Luke 21:28-30. for
28 'redemption' is drawing near, but is v.30 it is the
God that is drawing near. Clearly the Gospels are
salvation and redemption of believers with the coming of
The term 'Kingdom of God' is a multi-ordinate term which
every aspect of Jesus' ministry, even the cross, which
in some way
(that the Gospels do not make clear) is essential to the
the Kingdom.(57) In His teaching Jesus built on and
current ideas about the Kingdom within Judaism and
showed that it
has both a present and a future aspect. Now it suffers
resisted and requires total commitment to enter it; yet
is not the work of man, but of the Father. The Kingdom
is the rule
of God, but it also includes people, and these people
are not a new
Israel ruled by the Twelve Disciples (Matt. 19:28; Luke
but are different from the old in composition in that it
universal rather than restricted to one nation.
The Meaning and Significance of the Phrase "Kingdom
of God" in the Teaching of Jesus as Represented by the
(1) George Eldon Ladd, "Kingdom of God," G.W. Bromiley,
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE),
revised, Vol. 3.
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 24; B. Klappert, "King,
Colin Brown, Gen. Ed., New International Dictionary of
Theology, Vol. 2. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971),
(2) Wendell Willis, "The Discovery of the Eschatological
Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer," Wendell Willis,
Kingdom of God in 20th Century Interpretation. (Peabody,
Massachusetts: Hendricksen, 1967), 5. Schweitzer and
that Jesus drew on Jewish Apocalyptic; R.H. Hiers,
Reactions to the Eschatological Interpretations: Rudolf
C.H. Dodd," in Willis, 31. Dodd rejected this view in
favour of a
(3) R.T. France, "The Church and the Kingdom of God,"
ed. Biblical Interpretation and the Church. (Nashville:
Nelson, 1964), 34; Klappert, 377.
(4) J. Ramsey Michaels, "The Kingdom of God And The
Jesus," in Willis, 216.
(5) Ladd, 24; I. Howard Marshall, I.H. Jesus The Saviour.
Grove, Illinois, IVP, 1990), 215; Norman Perrin, The
Kingdom of God
in the Teaching of Jesus. (London: SCM Press Ltd.,
(6) France, 34; Robert O'Toole, "The Kingdom of God in
in Willis, 153.
(7) William L. Lane, "Mark," New International
Commentary on the New
Testament. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 63-64;
(8) C.H. Dodd, Parables of the Kingdom. (London: SCM
(9) Critics have suggested that Dodd's Jesus resembles
more nearly a
Cambridge Platonist than a first century Jew. See Hiers,
(10) Dodd, 28-35.
(11) W.G. Kummel, Promise And Fulfillment. (London: SCM
1961), 19-24; Robert A. Guelich, "Mark 1 - 8:26," Word
Commentary. (Waco: Word Books, 1989), 44.
(12) C.E.B. Cranfield, "Mark," Cambridge Greek Testament
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959), 67.
(13) Hiers, 21.
(14) Dodd, 37.
(15) Lane, 313-314.
(16) D.A. Carson, "Matthew," F.E. Gaebelein, gen. ed.,
Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 8. (Grand Rapids:
(17) T.W. Manson, The Teaching of Jesus. (London: SCM
(18) Dodd, 29-31; Hiers, 19.
(19) Carson, 121.
(20) Ladd, 27.
(21) Carson, 317.
(22) R.T. France, "Matthew," Tyndale New Testament
(Leicester: IVP, 1985), 230.
(23) Marshall, Saviour, 225.
(24) Marshall, Saviour, 225; O'Toole, 148.
(25) Manson, 85-115; Marshall, Saviour, 224.
(26) Marshall, Saviour, 224.
(27) Guelich, 245.
(28) Lane, 120.
(29) Marshall, Saviour, 228.
(30) Craig Blomberg, "Parable," ISBE, Vol. 3, 657.
(31) E.J. Epp, "Mediating Approaches to the Kingdom:
Kummel and George Eldon Ladd," in Willis, 36.
(32) Ladd, 24.
(33) I. Howard Marshall, "The Gospel Of Luke," The New
Greek Testament Commentary. (Exeter: Paternoster Press,
(34) Marshall, Luke, 568; Leon Morris, "Luke," Tyndale
Comentaries. (Leicester: IVP, 1989 Reprint), 248.
(35) O'Toole, 158.
(36) Ladd, 27.
(37) France, 31.
(38) Ladd, 28.
(39) Norman Perrin, Jesus and the Language of the
SCM Press Ltd., 1976), 29-34.
(40) Marshall, Saviour, 217.
(41) Marshall, Saviour, 216.
(42) Marshall, Saviour, 230.
(43) Marshall, Luke, 655; Morris, 284.
(44) Morris, 284.
(45) F.F. Bruce, The Hard Savings of Jesus. (Downers
Illinois: IVP, 1983), 117.
(46) Carson, 267.
(47) Carson, 267-268
(48) Carson, 250.
(49) Ron Farmer, The Kingdom Of God in the Gospel of
(50) Carson, 328.
(51) Carson, 329.
(52) Larry Hurtado, "Mark," New International Biblical
the New Testament. (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendricksen,
(53) O'Toole, 160.
54 Hurtado, 162-163.
(55) O'Toole, 155-156.
(56) O'Toole, 156.
(57) Ladd, 28.
(58) Marshall, Saviour, 229.