Douglas Adams was right. 42 might be the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but it makes no sense if you don’t know the question.
After decades of following Jesus, I was shocked to realize I didn’t understand Jesus in the way he understood himself and his mission. His identity was son of man. His work was kingdom of God. Son of man, doing kingdom of God stuff? Have you any idea what he meant?
I think the most important question in life is who Jesus was and what he was doing. That’s why I’m devoting my life to this question:
What difference would it make to understand Jesus in the terms he used to describe himself (his identity and mission)?
According to Jesus, seeking the kingdom is top priority (Matthew 6:33). It’s why we launched this blog. Does it inspire you?
The “Aha” moment came from reading the Jewish literature from the Second Temple period, and realizing that the kingdom of God was the whole story. That realization led to reading Scripture in a new way:
- a kingdom perspective
- the kingdom theme
- Genesis as the story of God as sovereign and people as kingdom representatives
- Genesis 1–11 is the kingdom story
- Abraham’s life is a kingdom story (most popular post)
- Genesis 1–25 as the kingdom theme
- Jacob’s life as kingdom themes
- the kingdom as the core narrative of the Old Testament
With that background, we turned to the New Testament, looking at Matthew’s main message and asking, what is seeking the kingdom? In Matthew 1–5, Jesus fulfills Torah. In the Sermon on the Mount we have instruction from the king. The whole of Matthew 1–10 is a kingdom story.
Based on this insight, we asked what practical application the kingdom has for us in the twenty-first century: what is the kingdom? How does it relates to crucial themes like prophetic engagement, personal evangelism, personal victory, political activism, spiritual warfare, the millennium, social justice, Israel, the church, and salvation.
At its heart, the kingdom of God consists of two things: God and people. It starts with reconciliation. It ends with joyful community. In what God has done through Christ, restored creation has already begun. We are regenerated ambassadorial images of our king:
2 Corinthians 5:17 – 20 (Kingdom New Testament)
17 Thus, if anyone is in the Messiah, there is a new creation! Old things have gone, and look—everything has become new!
18 It all comes from God. He reconciled us to himself through the Messiah, and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 This is how it came about: God was reconciling the world to himself in the Messiah, not counting their transgressions against them, and entrusting us with the message of reconciliation. 20 So we are ambassadors, speaking on behalf of the Messiah, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore people on the Messiah’s behalf to be reconciled to God.
What better story could we live in?
What others are saying
David P. Gushee and Glen H. Stassen, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context 2nd ed (Eerdmans, 2016), 1, 5:
The embodied drama of the contested reign of God lies at the heart of the biblical record. …
The kingdom of God is a Jewish idea, through and through, rooted in the embodied drama of Israel and God’s relationship with Israel. … This suggests that if we really want to understand what Jesus himself was saying when he used kingdom language, we need to study the Hebrew Bible … for passages and themes the might help us understand.
N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 53
It is because he inaugurated the kingdom that we can live the kingdom. … If we are to follow Jesus Christ we need to know more about the Jesus Christ we are following. …
What Jesus was to Israel, the church must now be for the world. Everything we discover about what Jesus did and said within the Judaism of his day must be thought through in terms of what it would look like for the church to do and be this for the world. If we are to shape our world, and perhaps even to implement the redemption of our world, this is how it is to be done.
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