Jesus built his theology around the kingdom of God. But is that a central theme in the epistles? Even the most basic texts come to life through this lens.
We got stuck on when God’s kingdom comes, instead of who is king.
In the last two centuries, studies on the kingdom of God got bogged down in debate over when the kingdom comes. Is it already present now, or is it something Jesus will set up when he returns?
Wrong question: focusing on the When has obscured the Who. Continue reading “Who, not when”
After eight years on this topic, I’m attempting a simple definition:
The kingdom of God is: earth living as the community under divine governance.
At the most basic level, kingdom implies two entities in relationship: a king, and the community under his reign. In the kingdom of God, God is king, and all the people and creatures on earth live as the community under his governance.
Clear enough? Can we now reframe our message to match what Jesus proclaimed? We would focus on just two things: the community, and the king.
If the gospel is good news for the whole world, what’s it like to live the gospel? Surely it’s the best life we could possibly have?
That’s true in the long term. Life under Jesus’ kingship is indeed the best life earth could ever know. There will be no more selfishness when the poor inherit the kingdom, no more abuse of power when the meek inherit the earth.
But in the short term, it’s not quite so simple. Can we live selflessly while people take advantage of us? What happens if we live powerlessly in the face of abusive powers? Won’t we get crucified?
Some of my friends think Jesus’ kingdom vision was unrealistic, something we can never achieve until he returns and forces the world to submit.
I think they’re wrong. Two reasons:
What about when people’s experience of hope is falsehood?
Pain can crush hope. Injustice and inhuman oppression squeeze the life out of us, so we yearn for release.
Border protection is a big deal for both sides of politics in Australia. Stop the boats. Turn back the people-smugglers who put lives at risk with their leaky boats. Block the undesirables who don’t share our values. Don’t let the queue-jumpers in.
For more than a decade, we’ve heard these mantras from our rulers. Their polling assures them that the hard-line approach wins votes.
At times we’ve been shocked to see images of the off-shore detention centres. We wonder if we’re justified to lock people up for years as a deterrent. We’re concerned when they’re reduced to self-harm.
Now, don’t get scared about where this is going. I’m not suggesting we all march on Canberra to demand a change of policy. I’m not writing to Canberra. I’m writing to you, a follower of Jesus. I want you to consider how Jesus sees these issues. Surely that’s what defines how we respond.
Should Christians be activists?
Good news! Jesus is the Christ. That means he’s chosen by heaven and anointed with power to rule the earth. He is restoring heaven’s government to a world that has been terrorized by competing claims and civil war ever since humans tried to take God’s power into their own hands.
This is good news for the world because it’s how the violent hostilities are replaced by divine peace. Peace can never be achieved through force. The cross is the ultimate paradox for solving violence. The all-powerful God placed himself at the centre of the battle for power, giving himself for his people, reconciling us to himself and to one another.
This is how hostilities end. The cross is God confronting human power claims. It’s how God restores peace, by uniting us under his governance (Ephesians 2:14-17).
What does that mean for earthly kingdoms?
What does it mean to be human?
To err is human, and I’m only human. The way we spin it, it sounds like being human is a liability. Perhaps we’re still seeking our identity. Continue reading “Humans as the king’s agents”
When God is king, earth is his kingdom.
As I write, I’m looking into a green forest, with an ocean in the distance. I’m on holidays, enjoying my children and grandchildren. It feels like the kind of wild natural extravagance and intimate communal joy God always intended for his earthly realm.
Your relationship with God changes when you see God as king.
Theology might be the most difficult discipline: the subject is truly infinite. There are so many things you could say about God that it’s hard to know where to start.
Jesus said many things about God, but his Father’s kingship was at the heart of his message. His sketched stories of life under God’s kingship, the kingdom of God. He healed people to bring God’s kingship close. He gave his life to break the power of evil and restore earth to God’s reign. The heavenly sovereign raised him up from death to the throne — all authority in heaven and on earth.
With laser precision, everything Jesus said and did was focused on a singular truth: God is king. Continue reading “God is king”
Ever notice how the answers you receive in life depend on the questions you ask? On this blog, the questions we’re asking are not the typical ones you find in systematic theology. We’re asking why the kingdom of God was the centre of Jesus’ thought and practice. We’re asking what difference it would make if we made the kingdom of God the centre of our thought and practice too.
This year, I want to start addressing the “So what?” question. What difference does this perspective make? The difference is huge: the kingdom reframes everything!
God, humanity, Christ, sin and evil, atonement, the world, the church, salvation and restoration, evangelism, partnering with Holy Spirit, and the ultimate goal (end times) — everything looks different when viewed through the lens of the kingdom of God.
Worth exploring? Buckle up and hang on: this is where it gets interesting!