The Kingdom of God
What does the Kingdom of God mean?
During His earthly ministry, Jesus sent out disciples two by two by preach and heal. They preached “the gospel” and “the kingdom of God”, and I’ve always wondered about the content of their sermons, considering that Christianity and its good news didn’t and couldn’t yet exist as such.
I assume that they preached a) “we’re healing in the name of Jesus, who is the Messiah, and the Son of God: come and see Him, or at least watch this space!” and b) “this is the way you should live, according to Jesus, who is the Messiah…. etc”.
In other words, preaching the Kingdom of God may have meant that they proclaimed the amazingness of Jesus, and they taught His ethics, as found in the Sermon on the Mount and a few other places, mainly in St Luke. (Dare I say that there’s very little in the way of ethics in St Mark or St John, who both seem to be largely writing about Who Jesus is?)
Of course we can look at the Sermon on the Mount, and say that it shows what the Kingdom of God is like. We are called to try to create (with divine help) something approximating to this Kingdom of God here and now. There has been limited success in the last two thousand years.
But I like to think the Kingdom of God is something else as well, one of the most fundamental elements of Judeo-Christian theology. That God is King, king in the sense of benevolent (genuinely benevolent) dictator and absolute ruler. The Kingship of God, perhaps.
(Unfortunately, the word “king” is not gender-neutral, and “God is Monarch” doesn’t sound so good. “God Reigns” perhaps means the same thing.)
As Christians, we believe (I believe) that all the universe, seen and unseen, is God’s Kingdom: made, ruled and loved by Him. We believe that God deserves the absolute obedience and adoration of all His creatures. We believe that He has ultimate authority, not only over other humans, aliens and gods; but over time and fate and history itself.
For this reason, and only this reason, history will have a happy ending.
The “kingdom of God”, to me, among other things means the happy ending. The time or space or place where wrongs are righted, victims healed, sins repented, and goodness vindicated. Whether or not this necessarily requires hell is not for this post.
So that love and joy have the last and eternal word, not just for the living, but for the currently-dead as well.
I believe in the Kingdom of God.
It can also mean that “God is in charge”. As the hymn says, “God is working His purpose out, as year succeeds to year.”
But of course to look at the modern and past world and say, or sing, “God is in charge, and He is good”, is an act of faith, and quite a challenging one.
(Past readers of this blog will know about my obsession with how and whether God acts in history/current affairs.)
I think we make it harder for ourselves sometimes by talking, and especially singing, about this too lightly and easily, as if it were obvious. There are many songs about the greatness and rule of God which are frankly difficult to sing. The problem goes back to the Psalms, but it’s a modern one as well.
“Oh thank You oh thank You /That all through history you were faithful/ Thank You oh thank You/ That You are just the same when it comes to me. When it comes to me.”
“And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?/ And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?”
Or how about the hymn: “The Lord is King! Who then shall dare/Resist His will, distrust His care…?”
An atheist walking in and hearing that might think we were all rather delusional.
It is a challenge to sing hymns like that. It is a challenge sometimes to believe, hope and work for the Kingdom of God.
But that is what I believe. Somehow, ultimately, God is King; and somewhen, ultimately, we will see it plain.
Love from the PPI Blogger