Jesus’ many pronouncements, on the Kingdom of God, recorded in all the Gospels (related as the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew) are a principal theme throughout the New Testament. In his time the term ‘Kingdom of God’ was commonplace amongst the Jews, and had a historical framework of the Jewish hope for the coming of a new Messiah. It also tied in with the restoration of Israel to the Davidic Kingdom and God’s prior interventions in history.
At the beginning of his Galilean Ministry, Jesus came proclaiming the good news of God, and saying ‘The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ (Mark 1:15). Jesus taught about the Kingdom in many of his parables, and proclaiming the Kingdom in his caring for the poor, the outcasts, his healing and forgiveness, and repeatedly called upon people to enter into the Kingdom by following him. Even our Lord’s Prayer includes ‘…thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…’ (Matthew 6:10).
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees ‘when was the Kingdom of God coming,’ and he answered, ‘The Kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For in fact, the Kingdom of God is among you.’ (Luke 17: 20). To would-be followers of Jesus, he was explicit about that responsibility: ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God’ (Luke 9:62).
Jesus, accompanied by his twelve disciples, carried on his Galilean ministry for a period of some three years, teaching Jews as well as Gentiles that the Kingdom of God was near, to repent and believe, and to prepare and be ready for the coming of this Kingdom. His day-to-day ministry of meeting people was a collaborative approach of contemplative listening, addressing the needs of those in distress and torment, and that truth, justice and righteousness, along with caring, compassion and mercy underpinned all his teachings. Jesus attracted people from all walks of life and had a large following.
Upon his eventual arrival in Jerusalem, where his reputation and influence of his followers had preceded him, he was arrested by the authorities and shortly thereafter, crucified. Through Jesus’ proclamation that the Kingdom of God is near, his subsequent teachings and good works, his suffering, being put to death and raised again from the dead, provided widespread hope and spiritual understanding. His resurrection was a new beginning for believers, and the early Christians believed a new age had begun. That belief amongst Christians remains alive today and continues to provide us with spiritual guidance and strength to manfully continue life’s journey, fighting the good fight in Christ.
The promise of the Holy Spirit is: ‘The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid’ (John 14:26-27).
The Kingdom that has dawned with Jesus, but is still to come in its final consummation, permeates the whole of the New Testament. Paul tells the Corinthian church, “But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). And Peter, being well aware of questions on time lines surrounding the Lord’s coming again, responds: “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day” (2 Peter 3:8).