Kingdom of God

John the Baptist’s Kingdom Message

There is no doubt that John’s chief function was to announce the arrival of the Coming One of OT expectation. Yet by his own admission he did not know Jesus as such until Jesus’ baptism (Jn. 1:33). Hence, for some time prior to his pointing to Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn. 1:29), John preached less specifically of the imminent arrival of Israel’s Messiah. He testified that when he baptized Jesus, He saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Him in the form of a dove. He already knew that he was not worthy to loosen Messiah’s sandal strap (Mk. 1:7),1 because the Coming One was mightier than he was (Mk. 1:7). By the time of Jesus’ baptism, John understood that Jesus was the mighty one he was preparing Israel for (Matt. 3:13-15). He knew Jesus was the Christ (Jn. 3:28), but it appears that it was not until after baptizing Jesus that he understood that Jesus was in fact the Son of God (Matt. 3:16-17; Jn. 1:34).2

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John the Baptist Preaches the Kingdom

Detail from Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (d. 1682)

After Matthew has completed his narration of Jesus’ birth, ending at His family’s relocation in Nazareth, he plunges straight in to John the Baptist’s preaching of the Kingdom. Both the Gospels and Josephus1 accord John the Baptist a place of honor as a highly respected (at least among the general populace) and powerful influence in Judea and Galilee in the twenties A. D. From Luke 3:7, 15, 21, Matthew 3:5, and Mark 1:5 it is clear that he drew a lot of attention and that his impact was marked. He even had a band of followers (Lk. 7:19; Jn. 3:25), and some of these men continued to be identified as his disciples for years. The Apostle Paul encountered some as far afield as Ephesus in Acts 19:1-7. John’s job was not to grant certain initiates private access to Messiah’s identity. Rather, John introduced Jesus with a loud bang!

John the Baptist’s preaching is chock full of OT references. Walter Kaiser notes over fifty allusions or quotations of the OT, mainly from Isaiah, Malachi, and Jeremiah.2 John is a new prophet of God who has appeared on the scene after more than four centuries of silence, but he is an OT prophet in character and substance. His ministry is announced, Elijah-like, suddenly by Matthew:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:1-2)

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The Cost of the Kingdom

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his famous Canterbury Tales in the 14th century. One of the stories in this narrative is the Knight’s Tale. As a group of pilgrims is on its way to Canterbury, the knight tells his tale about two rival knights, Arcite and Palamon, both vying for the hand in marriage of a fair maiden, Emily. The knights face each other in a public tournament for her hand. Both seem to want victory, but…

But then come the prayers which reveal their true desires. Emily prays that she will marry the one who truly loves her. Palamon prays that he will marry her. Arcite prays for victory in the tournament.

All three prayers are answered when Arcite wins the tournament, but then he falls off his horse and dies, so Palamon, who truly loves Emily, gets to marry her.

This story shows what happens when true desires are exposed, which is what we see in Matthew 13.

In Matthew 13:44-46 we see two short parables about the Kingdom.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Jesus tells two short stories of men who found something of great value, and whose desire for that object was greater than any other they had. From this we learn…

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King & Kingdom in Genesis

This was written as an excursus for a chapter in the book The Words of the Covenant.

I am well aware of the view held by many respected scholars who believe that “the Kingdom of God” is the main theme of the Bible.1 But it must be admitted that it has not been an overarching theme of Genesis, and therefore of the first several thousand years of history. Though it may be rightly intimated from the image of God of Genesis 1:26-27, and the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28f., that man was to rule over the world for His Maker,2 the idea of a kingdom of God had not yet taken clear shape in the biblical text, especially from the time of the Fall.3

What we see, rather, is the story of fallen humanity moving away from their Creator and His program, and a providential counter-movement through Noah to Abram finalizing at some future point in a coming potentate from Judah. Hence, the kingdom theme emerges very gradually from the Hebrew narrative. Surely a more prominent theme has been the figure of the coming “Deliverer King”4 who is promised at the beginning and the end of the Book (Gen. 3:15; 49:8-10).

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What is the Central Theme of the Bible?

Review: “He Will Reign Forever” by Michael Vlach (Part 4)

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This is the final installment of my review of this book. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

As he moves through the Book of Acts, the author addresses the main kingdom passages only. An author must be selective with his material, so the relatively brief look at Acts is no mark against the book. In fact, due to his ability to sum things up quickly and accurately, Vlach can pinpoint the salient passages and continue into the Pauline corpus.

That said, he manages to dwell on the really crucial texts in Acts. He says, for instance, “Acts 3:19-26 is a strategic passage for the kingdom program” (421), and he has spent 7 pages getting to that conclusion. He not only exegetes Acts 3:19-21, he demonstrates Peter’s compliance with expectations raised by the Old Testament. He then mentions how Acts 3:25 cites Genesis 12:3 and 22:18 to prove that Israel — representatives of which the Apostle is speaking to — is still the same national entity as was envisaged in the Abrahamic covenant (420-421).

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