The Kingdom of God
“And Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them’” (Matt. 11:4–5).
- Matthew 11:1-6
Two thousand years ago, the people of God anxiously looked forward to the coming of the kingdom of God. They looked forward to the day when they would again have a king reigning from the throne of David. This King would rule not only the nation state of Israel but also the whole world (Dan. 7:13–14).
The ancient Israelites were correct to expect the kingdom to have political might for that is the kingdom promised throughout the Old Testament. However, they wrongly expected the kingdom to be primarily a political one. They overemphasized the military aspect of the kingdom at the expense of the spiritual aspect, namely, their need for a final atonement.
The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus has brought the kingdom of God. However, it is also clear that it has been done in a way that we might not have expected. In the gospels, as we read the parables concerning the kingdom, we find that the kingdom does not come all at once. Rather, it starts small and grows over time (Matt. 13:31–32). It begins quietly before engulfing the entire world.
Many of the people in Jesus’ own day could not accept this. They could not understand that the kingdom of God would not come in force all at once. They did not understand that the promised Day of the Lord would not be just a single day but instead be extended to cover many years. Even John the Baptist, who heralded the King, did not completely understand this. He had to send messengers to ask Jesus if He was indeed the fulfillment of prophecy (Matt. 11:1–3). In response, Jesus gives a description of His ministry (vv. 4–6). This description parallels Isaiah 35, which speaks of the glory of the restoration of Israel. Jesus reveals here that He is the One who will restore the kingdom of Israel by bringing in the kingdom of God.
This restoration does not take place all at once, however. First, the sins of the people must be atoned once-for-all. Jesus must first fulfill the Old Testament law and render His people completely clean, first ritually and then morally. This extended restoration puts us into the period of the already and the not yet. Jesus has come, and He has already done the work necessary to bring the kingdom. Still, the kingdom is not yet here in all its fullness.
Some promises of the new covenant have already been fulfilled (the reign of Christ on David’s throne and His atonement), and some are not yet realized (the complete removal of sin). Praise God for those things already accomplished and be encouraged to hope for that Day when the things that are not yet will also be accomplished.
Passages for Further Study
- Jer. 31:31–34
- Ezek. 28:25–26
- Luke 17:20–21
- 1 Cor. 15:25
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