What is the Kingdom of God?

Written by Simon Holley
Monday, 13 August 2007

Seventy times the New Testament mentions that “someone preached about the Kingdom of God”.  John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul, Philip all preached the good news of the Kingdom. But no where does the bible say what the Kingdom of God was. Even Jesus didn't  define it. It’s not even recorded that anyone asked Jesus or John – “what do you mean by the kingdom of God”.

What can we learn from this? It’s surely that the concept must have been so familiar to the people of the day that it needed no explanation.

It’s become a tradition at King’s Arms that over the summer we had a picnic on the lawn and towards the end out comes the piñata. If you’re not familiar with it, a piñata is a paper mache shape – traditionally a donkey - hung up by a string. Children come along with a stick and beat the living daylights out of it. Why do the kids go so crazy? Because they know this donkey is stuffed full of sweets. When it finally bursts open there are kids flying everywhere trying to get at these sweets.

To the people of Israel this phrase “the kingdom of God” was like that piñata. It was packed full of meaning for them and had been for generations. They were eagerly waiting for this day when God’s kingdom would finally arrive.

Having said that if you were to look in the Hebrew Scriptures that were available in their day you would expect to see a lot about the KOG. In fact there’s not much at all.

Why is this? What’s interesting is that the translation of the bible that Jesus would have used was written in Aramaic not in Hebrew – Hebrew was like old English to them. And of all the books of the Scriptures, the book of Isaiah was the most important to them. If you look in the Aramaic version of the book of Isaiah, suddenly you see the phrase kingdom of God all over the place. The Aramaic translators didn’t like just using the name of God so instead of writing ‘God is revealed’ they would write ‘the kingdom of God is revealed’. Everyone from Scribe down to schoolboy would know the Aramaic scriptures – many would memorise them – entire books off by heart. So they would have been very familiar with this term the kingdom of God.

In English the word Kingdom usually means a place – like the kingdom of Morocco.  But in Hebrew and Aramaic, the word used for kingdom is primarily a word that describes a reign rather than a region or place.

Scholars define the KOG as “the rule of God over his people”. When Jesus spoke of the kingdom he was speaking about God ruling over people’s lives -

Given that as our definition – looking at the book of Isaiah there are 17 passages in the book of Isaiah that speak about the KOG. For the sake of time let’s just take the 7 most frequent themes mentioned in these passages about the Kingdom.

1. Deliverance or salvation (mentioned in all 17 passages)
These people were oppressed by the Romans. Only got to look at any war torn country today to see how they were feeling. KOG means freedom

Isa 61:1  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,

2. Righteousness and justice (mentioned in 16 of the 17 passages)
These people wanted justice. They were tired of corrupt governments

Isa 32:1  Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice. Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

3. Peace (mentioned 14 times)
These people wanted peace. War was a way of life for them and they were sick and tired of it. KOG means peace
Is 9:(6)  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  

4. Joy (12 times)
These people needed joy. Life was hard and miserable mostly. KOG came they were promised joy.
Is 9  (3)  You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

5. God’s presence as spirit (or light) (9 times)
These people wanted God. They didn’t want to see God from a distance – they wanted to see him, to know him. KOG comes, God comes
Isa 60:1  Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. Isa 60:2  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. Isa 60:3  And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

6. Healing (7 times)

These people needed healing, physically, emotionally, spiritually – they were messed up. KOG comes – it comes with healing

Isa 35:5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like the deer and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

7. Comfort (6 times)
These people needed comfort -
Isa 51:3  For the LORD comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Suddenly the light switches on doesn’t it. When John the Baptist and then Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was here it was like piñata loaded with all this great stuff. Bursting out. Falling everywhere. These people went crazy with excitement and because the Kingdom of God meant deliverance, freedom, healing, comfort, joy, peace. That’s the kingdom of God. That’s what it looks like.
I guess the question for us is this. Are we expecting it? Have you received the kingdom of God. Have you said – Jesus give me your kingdom. Or have you settled for second best?
When Jesus said ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’ he was meaning that these aspects of the kingdom were available right now. When we are told to pray ‘your kingdom come’ it’s these things that we should be expecting and looking for. In places where we don’t see God’s kingdom reigning over people’s lives it should fuel our prayers to begin to expect it. Our mission is to see this Kingdom established – in Bedford, in the UK, to the ends of the earth. Are you on board?

Taken from a sermon given in September 2006 - you can download it here

It's also worth a listen to Simon's preach on 'What Jesus Said About the Kingdom'... you can download it here

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