LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The 1963 and 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statements on the kingdom of God are identical. Upon a cursory glance, the Biblical passages which are listed along with the statement reveal much detail about the kingdom of God.
The greatest concentration of references is from the Gospels. The references from the remainder of the New Testament are less numerous, many dealing with the consummation of the kingdom.
The Old Testament references are sparse because the phrase "kingdom of God" does not occur there as such. The greatest concentration occurs in the Gospels because the kingdom of God was the favorite theme of Jesus, occurring more than 100 times in his teachings.
The BF&M statement is a succinct summary of the major Biblical teachings on God's kingdom. Let's examine it line by line along with some of the texts which are applicable to each.
"The kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe..."
As Creator, God is absolute ruler over his universe (Genesis 1:1). Many Old Testament passages speak of this sovereignty in terms of God's being King (Psalm 47:2; 103:19). The New Testament likewise often refers to the dominion of God as Creator (cp. Acts 17:22-31).
"...and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King."
In the Bible, God's "kingdom" does not refer so much to a place as it does to a rule -- God's dominion over the lives of individuals. It is not a worldly kingdom (John 18:36). Hence, for Matthew the terms "kingdom of Heaven" and "kingdom of God" are synonymous.
The rule of God in people's lives was a favorite theme of Jesus' teaching (Luke 4:43; 8:1; 12:31). He taught that it is near -- as near as the individual's response to his message (Matthew 3:2; 12:28). He emphasized how it was "within" the hearts of individuals and the community of disciples who embraced God's rule over their lives (Luke 17:20-21).
The kingdom was Jesus' favorite subject for his parables; and through them, he taught its many aspects (cp. Matt 13:1-52). Later New Testament writers emphasized that the kingdom consists of believers who accept the rule of God in their lives through the atoning work of Christ (Romans 5:17; Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9).
"Particularly the kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ."
The connection between the kingdom and salvation is already present in the teachings of Jesus (John 3:3). It is found throughout the New Testament, though often not in explicit "kingdom language." Believers constitute a special kind of kingdom subject. They are a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9; Rev 1:6; 5:10).
"Christians ought to pray and to labor that the kingdom may come and God's will be done on earth."
This statement obviously alludes to the Lord's Prayer (Matt 6:10). One must be careful not to misinterpret it. We do not bring the kingdom by our own effort. God's sovereignty is eternal, and he brings his kingdom to us as he draws near us in mercy and love through our response to Christ (Mark 1:14-15). On the other hand, a life of committed Christian service is the sure sign that one belongs to the kingdom's "flock" (Matt 25:31-46).
"The full consummation of the kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age."
The kingdom of God is eternal. It manifests itself at present in the lives of believers. It will be fully consummated in the future.
The future dimension of the kingdom is already implicit in the Old Testament promises of an eternal reign of the Messianic King (Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6). Jesus also spoke of that future time when he would sit at a table in the Father's kingdom with all his disciples (Matt 26:29).
At the end of time, all God's enemies will be vanquished, and the reign of the Lord Christ and God the Father will be "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Acts 1:6-7; Rev 11:15). This future kingdom will be an abiding city for all believers -- a new heaven and a new earth, where all the sorrows and imperfections of this life have disappeared (Rom 8:18-21; Hebrews 11:10, 16; Rev 21-22).
Polhill is the J. B. Harrison Professor of New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
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Full text of Article 9: The Kingdom
The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God's will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Matthew 3:2; 4:8-10,23; 12:25-28; 13:1-52; 25:31-46; 26:29; Mark 1:14-15; 9:1; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 9:2; 12:31-32; 17:20-21; 23:42; John 3:3; 18:36; Acts 1:6-7; 17:22-31; Romans 5:17; 8:19; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 11:10,16; 12:28; 1 Peter 2:4-10; 4:13; Revelation 1:6,9; 5:10; 11:15; 21-22.
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