Kingdom of God Q & A

Q & A – The Kingdom of God in a Nutshell

T-Shirt-Jesus Repllied the Kingdom of God Is Among YouAn inquisitive high school freshman from our youth group emailed me the following question today:

Q:What do you think the Bible means by the Kingdom of God?”

This is such a central theme of the NT and yet it is so dynamic and varied in its uses and references that one does not blame someone for being confused by exactly what it means.  Is it a place called the Kingdom of Heaven?  Is it a political reality?  Is it a community ethic for the eschaton?  Is it a present reality or future hope?  or both?

How do you capture the essence of the Kingdom of God in a nutshell?  How would you answer this student’s question?

Here’s my quick response:

Put simply, the Kingdom of God is “the sphere of God’s effective reign” (Dallas Willard) — that is, it is actively present where ever and whenever God’s healing, restoring, saving, justice-bringing REIGN is having it’s way.  Quite literally, it’s the “dome” over which God is King. It’s not a place we go to when we die, but the reality God is bringing already and will someday bring in full to earth. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  The Kingdom comes when ever and where ever God’s will is done.

Does that capture the essence?  Agree or disagree?  What would you add?

Dr. Jeremy Berg is the founding and Lead Pastor of MainStreet Covenant Church in Minnetonka Beach, MN, where he has served since 2010. He an Adjunct Professor of Theology at North Central University (Minneapolis) and Professor of Bible & Theology at Solid Rock Discipleship School. Jeremy earned a doctorate in New Testament Context under Dr. Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary. He and his wife, Kjerstin, have three kids, Peter, Isaak and Abigail.

5 comments on “Q & A – The Kingdom of God in a Nutshell

  1. Why not just give him the verse(s) that tells us exactly what the Kingdom of God is.

    Romans 14:17…the Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom
    …the things mentioned are fruits of the
    Spirit—Galatians 5:22 & 23
    Luke 17:20-21…the Kingdom of God is within you…

    I think the previous answer needs to make a distinction between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God.

  2. Justin –

    The phrase “Kingdom of God” appears 70 times in the New Testament while “Kingdom Of Heaven” appears only 33 times, all of them in Matthew’s Gospel. Since it appears that Matthew was writing primarily to a Jewish audience, most scholars have concluded that Matthew was trying to avoid using the word “God” since it’s forbidden for Jews to write or speak the word.

    By comparing the gospel accounts we see that in some places where Matthew used “Heaven” other gospel writers used “God” in describing the same event. Matt. 11:11 vs. Luke 7:28 is one example among several.

    All things considered, it seems likely that for all practical purposes the two terms are synonymous, and that the effort to force a distinction between them is misguided.

  3. Wonderful subject.

    Regarding the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of heaven,” I’ve found the following quote to be helpful in understanding some of these thoughts…

    “Nowhere is Matthew’s distinctive homiletical thrust more apparent than in his use of the phrase, “kingdom of heaven,” which occurs thirty-three times in his Gospel, and never again in the New Testament. The usual explanation for this anomaly is that Matthew employed a circumlocution, “reflecting pious Jewish avoidance of the divine name.” But this is manifestly not so. On at least five occasions Matthew does have “kingdom of God,” and he uses the divine name, “God,” no less than fifty times! Besides, the rabbis themselves did not avoid altogether using “kingdom of God.” A better explanation is that “kingdom of heaven” is a double entendre. On one hand, the phrase expressed Jewish aspirations for the rule (“kingdom”) of God. On the other hand, the phrase calls attention to the character of the kingdom. It is of heaven, not of earth.” (Inspired Preaching, 34-35)

    If you would like the references that the authors quote, I can provide them.

    I had a class using this book in seminary and when I first read that… I was…. surprised?

    Great topic though!

  4. Thanks Luke. Good quote. So, in that understanding (i.e., the quote above), is there a distinction between the ‘Kingdom of God’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’? Thoughts? I still think both phrases speak to the same reality. Peace.

  5. Luke Geraty

    Jeremy,

    They are the same thing, though the point Matthew is making is that the nature of the Kingdom of God IS heavenly (not to the exclusion of being a present reality, ala George Eldon Ladd).

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