I was reading the gospel of Matthew and noticed that Jesus frequently
told the disciples about the kingdom of heaven (i.e., the kingdom
of God). Jesus would often say something like: "The kingdom
of heaven is like . . ."
So, I began to compile Jesus' teachings concerning the kingdom
which I would like to share with you in a series of articles. This
series will not be week-to week, but I hope to occasionally write
an article on the kingdom of heaven.
The word "kingdom" means the domain of the king denoting
rule, dominion, and sovereignty. It can denote a king's territory.
And, it can denote specific divisions of a king's territory (cf.
1 Ki. 4:21).
The first thing that we notice about Jesus' teachings (during His
earthly ministry) is that He taught about the kingdom in a limited
sense. Our knowledge of the kingdom is increased through apostolic
teaching, but Jesus' teachings do not consider the kingdom from
the broader perspective which we understand today.
For example, from apostolic teaching we understand that Jesus is
God (Jn. 1:1). We also understand that Jesus is Creator (Col. 1:16)
and Sustainor (Heb. 1:3) of all that has been created. We understand
that Jesus is ruler over the kings of the earth being King of kings
and Lord of lords (Rev. 1:5; 19:16). But Jesus did not personally
teach that He was God (though He intimated it), that He was the
Creator, and that He was the Sustainor of the creation.
Much of the time, Jesus' teachings are from the perspective of
a kingdom that was at hand (Matt. 4:17). And upon one occasion,
Jesus taught the people saying: "Assuredly, I say to you that
there are some standing here who will not taste death till they
see the kingdom of God present with power" (Mk. 9:1). And on
another occasion Jesus said: "Assuredly, I say to you, this
generation will by no means pass away till all these things are
fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34). So from this perspective from which
Jesus taught about the kingdom, it would be present upon the earth
before some people hearing Jesus' teachings would die.
Later Paul teaches us that Christians living upon the earth are
in the kingdom saying: "He has delivered us from the power
of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His
love" (Col. 1:13).
Sometimes, Jesus' teachings also considered the kingdom from the
perspective that the Jews were in the kingdom. Jesus told the Jews
a parable about some wicked vinedressers. The landowner sent three
servants to the vinedressers to get the fruit from the vineyard.
The vinedressers beat one servant, killed one servant, and stoned
the other servant. Then the landowner sent more servants and the
vinedressers did the same thing. Finally the landowner sent his
own son whom they killed.
In this parable, the landowner is God, the servants are the prophets,
and the son is Jesus. Then Jesus tells the Jews: "Therefore
I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given
to a nation bearing the fruits of it" (Matt. 21:43). And on
another occasion, Jesus spoke concerning the Jews saying: "But
the sons of the kingdom will be cast into outer darkness. There
will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:12).
As we begin this series together, we need to realize that Jesus'
teachings about the future kingdom of heaven concern the people
of God. When Jesus teaches about the kingdom, He is teaching us
about the way we should live today. Next time we will overview Jesus'
teachings in the sermon on the mount concerning the people who would
enter the kingdom of heaven.