SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD
In the OT YHWH was thought of as the King of Israel (cf. 1 Sam. 8:7; Ps. 10:16; 24:7-9; 29:10; 44:4; 89:18; 95:3; Isa. 43:15; 44:6) and the Messiah as the ideal king (cf. Ps. 2:6; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-5). With the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem (6-4 b.c.) the kingdom of God broke into human history with new power and redemption (new covenant, cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:27-36). John the Baptist proclaimed the nearness of the kingdom (cf. Matt. 3:2; Mark 1:15). Jesus clearly taught that the kingdom was present in Himself and His teachings (cf. Matt. 4:17,23; 9:35; 10:7; 11:11-12; 12:28;16:19; Mark 12:34; Luke 10:9,11; 11:20; 12:31-32; 16:16; 17:21). Yet the kingdom is also future (cf. Matt. 16:28; 24:14; 26:29; Mark 9:1; Luke 21:31; 22:16,18).
In the Synoptic parallels in Mark and Luke we find the phrase, "the kingdom of God." This common topic of Jesus' teachings involved the present reign of God in human's hearts, which one day will be consummated over all the earth. This is reflected in Jesus' prayer in Matt. 6:10. Matthew, writing to Jews, preferred the phrase that did not use the name of God (Kingdom of Heaven), while Mark and Luke, writing to Gentiles, used the common designation, employing the name of deity.
This is such a key phrase in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus' first and last sermons, and most of His parables, dealt with this topic. It refers to the reign of God in human hearts now! It is surprising that John uses this phrase only twice (and never in Jesus' parables). In John's gospel "eternal life"is a key metaphor.
The tension with this phrase is caused by the two comings of Christ. The OT focused only on one coming of God's Messiah—a military, judgmental, glorious coming—but the NT shows that He came the first time as the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and the humble king of Zech. 9:9. The two Jewish ages, the age of wickedness and the new age of righteousness, overlap. Jesus currently reigns in the hearts of believers, but will one day reign over all creation. He will come like the OT predicted! Believers live in "the already" versus "the not yet" of the kingdom of God (cf. Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart's How to Read The Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 131-134).
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