5 Questions About The Kingdom


2906018712_386fd8e288 I read a several books while I was visiting family for Christmas.  One book was a particularly good read but it had a catch.

The author put a lot of stock in his understanding of Luke 17:21 “The kingdom of God is in you.” Theologians have discussed the meaning of this passage at length. The debate is over whether Jesus is saying “inside of you” or “in the midst of you” (both appropriate rendering of the Greek word entos according to the context).  Since Jesus is responding to a question posed by Pharisees (by implication unbelievers)  it is my understanding that he would be stating “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

5 Questions about the Kingdom?

This only seems to be a big deal when you start listening to the way people are beginning to use “kingdom of God” speak.  The term “kingdom of God” has come to mean so many things to so many people that it is almost mind numbing.  I am sure that someone has done the world a great service of defining the different usages of the word “kingdom” and how different camps are using it.  I have yet to stumble across it.

To be sure, I doubt the author meant anything more than the rule and reign of Christ.  I just question the hermeneutic.  However doubtless to say, there are others who carry the same hermeneutic who have begun to talk about the kingdom in purely philanthropic ways.

The question the book raised in my mind are many.

  • Is the kingdom now, or yet to come, or both?
  • Does God love the poor more than the wealthy? (do the poor need the gospel more?)
  • Is the unity of the kingdom centered on the work of the kingdom or the king?
  • Is the Kingdom about what the king wants or the what the citizens need or is it the same thing?
  • What distinguishes the “work of the kingdom” from others who under take purely philanthropic endeavors like Bill Gates and Oprah? In a nut shell, “What makes mission Christian?” Apparently a current issue of debate (See IJFM Issue 25.2)

As always I would love to hear your comments and get my hands on some resources as I work towards understanding a solid definition of the kingdom.

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8 thoughts on “5 Questions About The Kingdom

  1. With the understanding that the Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God, I would answer your questions this way:

    1. the Kingdom is both current and future. I would say that it is not yet complete as He is expanding His kingdom. One day all things will be reconciled back to Him restoring all things to original Creation– bringing glory and pleasure to Him.

    2. There is noone who needs the Gospel “more” . Since we are all depraved, sinful and without hope, all have equal need for the Gospel. Practically, in my experience, many times it is the poor who have been more deprived of the news and who may many times be ready for the good news as they are less likely to be as self sufficient (not a rule but an observation). In observing the life of Christ, we see that He did minister to both the poor and the rich.

    3. The unity of the Kingdom is centered on the King therefore we desire to exand His Kingdom so that He will receive even more glory, 2 Cor. 4:15. The work of the Kingdom is the ever increasing worship of the King.

    4. Same thing. Since we were created to bring Him pleasure, that is what fulfills us.

    5. The “mission” has been clearly defined according to Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:18-20. The mission is to disciple all nations, to lead more people of every tribe, tongue, nation, people group to worship the King of the Kingdom. Only those things that discribe the activities of achieving this mission can be considered “missional”. Obviously, the word “mission” is not owned by the followers of Jesus but we have been given the task of fulfilling His Mission which he began before time began, 2 Cor. 5. The word “missional” is the adjective form of the word “mission” and describes those activities that are specifically and intetionaly striving to fulfill the mission.

    I would strongly recommend you read Ken Hemphill’s book, Empowering Kingdom Growth. I have a copy of it that you are welcome to.

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  2. Great comments Eric! I just got a copy of EKG last week. I’ll be reading it this week.

    I was reading Tolstoy and a few articles (like the one’s I linked too) on the kingdom and it appears that presently some have taken those ideas and advocate the kingdom of God as a here and now meeting the needs of the poor as “the” task of the kingdom and thus the reason Christ came (kind of puts salvation on the back burner). Some say its all semantics, but it does have people scrambling to define “mission” in a Christian context. Similar to the break between emergent and emerging. There is an obvious difference. While there are similarities; there is also a need to further define the movement. I think we will see that out of people Roberts (and others who are on the forefront) in the coming days.

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  3. In my own mind, I have distinquished “missional” from “incarnational”. “Missional” describes the activities of making Him and His good news of redemption known to all peoples. “Incarnational” describes the attributes or characteristics of those following Christ and allowing Him to live through us. I think living incarnatinoally causes us to care for the poor, the needy, and those who are hurting. Just my 5 cents worth. This is the reason I really enjoyed the book Preach and Heal. It does a good job of linking the two together. You cannot love Jesus and people yet at the same time be able to ignore those suffering from the ravages of sin both spiritually and physically.

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  4. # Is the kingdom now, or yet to come, or both?

    Both.

    # Does God love the poor more than the wealthy? (do the poor need the gospel more?)

    Yes I think he does, they are the oppressed and beaten down. His creation should not suffer that. The poor don’t need the gospel more, the wealthy need it just as much – so that the oppression stops

    # Is the unity of the kingdom centered on the work of the kingdom or the king?

    The King, I think Jesus’ activity and parables/riddles about his own identity make that clear.

    # Is the Kingdom about what the king wants or the what the citizens need or is it the same thing?

    Perhaps the same thing, maybe?

    What distinguishes the “work of the kingdom” from others who under take purely philanthropic endeavors like Bill Gates and Oprah? In a nut shell, “What makes mission Christian?” Apparently a current issue of debate

    Let the debate continue, but the answer to #3 certainly bears weight here.

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  5. John O thanks for weighing in!
    … I am interested in reading about a theology that states God loves the poor more than the wealthy… Do you have any resources I could read or scripture references I should recheck.

    I have always understood God to have come for the lowliest of low, but only in the sense that no one is beyond the grasp of God’s grace.

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  6. Re Luke 17:21 – I think it can be applied both ways, although I cannot look it up right this second. First, from the context you gave, “in the midst” would fit that situation, but for the saved, the indwelling Spirit would also make “inside” also.

    1. Both, the Kingdom is now, in the Church, and it is future. However, the “now” is IMO an individual thing, with each Christian seeing more and more of it as they mature even if it is through a glass darkly.

    2. No, both need it just as much, but the way the world works, the poor have less chances to “lose” stuff by taking up the Cross. Also, the task of making money leads away from God since the love of money is the root of all evil.

    3. Both, but I find the question somewhat irrelevant since in a king/kingdom (emperor/empire) system, the king IS the kingdom. So, when Christians are working for the Kingdom they should be fulfilling the will of the King. Which is one reason I consider Christian discernment not only for seeing right from wrong (in His will vs. out of His will), but for seeing between fundamental and trivial issues.

    4. Related to #3, He determines for His Kingdom. He provides all His citizens need, but many of the citizens may have trouble with defining needs and wants, which relates back to #1.

    5. Oh this one is fun. As long as the end goal is to go into the world and make disciples for Christ, then at the first cut I’d consider it Christian. The social aspects are adjuncts to that since it is hard to get people who are sick, dying and starving to listen. Speaking abstractly, I could try to draw some lines about how much social before evangelism, but I see them as a seamless whole.

    One issue I notice, where people “draw the line” depends on their eschatology. While I could consider people with different views fully my Christian brothers (without getting into big details involving heterodox/heretical views), I also know that how they view the end (and the Kingdom) will color their priorities.

    One thing I notice that can go wrong with an over focusing on “pure” evangelism is that it can lead to telling people to go and be warm and fed which James speaks against. Brother Chris made a good point about how those that over focus on social gospel are trying to fulfill some need in themselves.

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  7. Thanks for weighing in Kamatu!
    The hardest implication in translating Luke 17:21 as “in you” is that Jesus is speaking to Pharisees.

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  8. Pingback: Take Two: Matthew 8, Proverbs 1 « Chris Aiken

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