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(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

The kingdom of God is in the midst of you. Or is it?

The coming of the kingdom of God in the Synoptic Gospels is, in my view, entirely a cataclysmic future public event. This event would not happen very soon, from Jesus’ point of view, but some of his followers would certainly live to witness it. It is closely linked, in Jesus’ apocalyptic story-telling, with the coming of the Son of Man. I am not trying to push any particular theological position here. I am recommending a historical judgment: this language, in this context, under these conditions, could only have pointed to decisive political events within a realistic historical timeframe, in a foreseeable future.

But what about Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Luke 17:21: “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you”? Doesn’t this mean that Jesus thought that the kingdom was both present and future, both now and not yet?

The exegetical difficulties presented by this verse are considerable. Does entos humōn mean “within you” or “in your midst” or perhaps “within your reach”? How does it contrast with meta paratērēseōs (“with observation”) in the preceding verse? Is the verb estin a proper present or a futuristic present like erchetai (“is coming”) in verse 20?

I suggest, however, that the key to understanding what Jesus is saying here lies in the relation between this response to the Pharisees and what, according to Luke’s telling of the story, Jesus then goes on to say to the disciples:

The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. (Lk. 17:22–24)

A time of tribulation is coming when the disciples will desire to see the time of the Son of Man. But before they will see “one of the days of the Son of Man”, he “must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation”; and divine judgment will come upon this unsuspecting generation, just as catastrophic judgment came upon humanity “in the days of Noah” or on Sodom “in the days of Lot”. Only then will the Son of Man be revealed (Lk. 17:25-30).

It seems to me that whatever Jesus means by his words to the Pharisees in response to their question about the coming of the kingdom of God, it must anticipate in some way this warning to the disciples that the Son of Man will not be vindicated until this period of tribulation has worked itself out.

I wonder, therefore, whether we should not understand the statement as a word of condemnation against the Pharisees. The kingdom of God is not something that the Pharisees will watch with detachment when it comes—as they have been watching (paratēreō) Jesus in the hope of catching him out (Lk. 6:7; 14:1; 20:20). The kingdom of God has to do with them. They will be on the receiving end, so to speak. The Pharisees represent the wrong-headed generation of Jews which will suffer a disaster comparable to the flood or the destruction of Sodom.

This is close to Bultmann’s argument: “when the kingdom comes, no-one will ask and search for it any more, but it will be there on a sudden in the midst of the foolish ones who will still want to calculate its arrival” (R. Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, 121-22). Nolland also thinks that the reference is to a “sudden arrival of the kingdom of God”, though he does not make the historical connection. He sees no objection to taking estin futuristically, and treats entos humōn ‘idiomatically as conveying the idea of the kingdom of God being “right there” ’. The interpretation is not without its problems, but it does best justice to Luke’s “evident concern” to link the words to the Pharisees with the words to the disciples (J. Nolland, Luke 9:21-18:34, 853-54).

Having said all this, I do think it’s important to recognize that things that happen in the ministry of Jesus and of his followers constitute important pointers to what is to come. The exorcisms and healings are tangible, life-giving signs of the transformation that is to come; the embrace of lepers and tax collectors and other undesirables is a sign of a reconciliation to come; and so. To that extent, in that particular sense, the “now and not yet” formula remains viable. But the event itself is firmly in the future.

Comments

Thanks Andrew. The “suddeness”of the arrival of the Kingdom is apparrent, when read in light of the Lot and Noah references ( while “eating/drinking” then…BOOM). I can see how Jesus could have made the connection vis-a-vis his sparring with the Pharisees

But the exegetical cobwebs are daunting indeed. And ones’ hermeneutical goggle of choice pretty much dicatates what you come away with, especially with confounding passages such as these. I remember chatting about Mark 9:1 ( “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power…”) with a reformed “big-dog”. Without blinking, he systematized and teleported that reference to the goings on in the upper room in Acts !

Yes, exactly.

I was reading Matthew today and I’m curious how you interpret 11:11-15. What is this violence and what is the time period? “From John til now” seems like a very short period of time, but then Jesus goes on to talk about the prophets, all in the context of the kingdom.

Let me know if this makes any sense.

Thanks Andrew.

That the coming kingdom of God preached by Jesus in the gospels would be invisible (i.e., spiritual or heavenly and not visible, of the flesh, or earthly) is clearly evidenced in the Luke 17:20-21 exchange. The “now” is the kingdom in Him; the “not yet” is the kingdom to come in his followers deemed worthy. His fundamental point to the Pharisees was, “If you don’t recognize it in me, how will you recognize it when it comes in others?”

The kingdom cannot be recognized by its opponents. They are blind to it. However, for its adherents, the very opposition they receive is a sign of its presence in them.

Mike, I really don’t see what you’re getting at with this distinction between a visible and an invisible kingdom. What are you trying to say here? I directly addressed the popular dichotomy between a spiritual and a physical kingdom in this post, but you have not taken that into account.

How does this comment relate to what I wrote about Luke 17:20-21 in the post? Are you agreeing with me or disagreeing? And how on earth do you establish this distinction between the kingdom come in Jesus and the kingdom to come in his disciples?

Mike, I really don’t see what you’re getting at with this distinction between a visible and an invisible kingdom. What are you trying to say here?

Andrew, I thought I was quite straightforward. I don’t see the passage as the exegetical conundrum that you do. I will paraphrase: Jesus was telling the Pharisees, “You guys are asking me when the kingdom of God is coming and you don’t recognize it when it’s right in front of your eyes.” The kingdom of God comes to be obeyed, not observed.

I directly addressed the popular dichotomy between a spiritual and a physical kingdom in this post, but you have not taken that into account.

I have read that post, Andrew, but I don’t see how “ditching the physical/spiritual distinction” is helpful…or even biblical, for that matter. The question is whether Jesus comes visibly (physically) or invisibly (spiritually). Either way, it should have “real world impact.”

How does this comment relate to what I wrote about Luke 17:20-21 in the post?

I thought you were making the passage more complicated than it needed to be, so I offered a simpler explanation.

Are you agreeing with me or disagreeing?

I agree with many things you say and I like the way you bring a fresh perspective to the reading of the Scriptures. However, your writing about the coming of the kingdom of God seems fuzzy to me and so I’m trying to sharpen either my understanding or your expression, or both.

And how on earth do you establish this distinction between the kingdom come in Jesus and the kingdom to come in his disciples?

This doesn’t seem obvious to you? Are we not to be like Him? Is not the whole purpose of the kingdom of God for us to imitate Him and reflect His glory? As He obeyed the Father so we should obey Him (John 20:21).

P.S. For clarity’s sake let me add that I believe the coming of the kingdom of God occurred exactly when Jesus said it would - that is, within the generation of His contempories. This would make it what we today call the late first century C.E. I believe that His coming was spiritual (i.e. invisible) but that it had, and continues to have, “real world impact” as you call it.

The essential theme of my belief is that God is faithful - He kept His promises.

When the diciples asked Jesus in Acts chapter one “Lord is now the time you will restore your kingdom?” He did not say “haven’t you been paying attention? The kingdom is set up in the hearts of believers!” he instead said “no man knoweth the day or the hour”. I think the <a href=”http://bibliocentric.com/” title=”Biblical Worldview”>Biblical Worldview</a> is clear, the kingdomis a literal yet future event.

Josh

Josh,

Acts 1:7 (like 1 Thess 5:1) is an admonition to avoid the sort of detached observation of which the Luke 17 Pharisees were guilty. Spectating the political landscape and seeking the kingdom of God were, and still are, mutually exclusive occupations.

Nothing in this admonition could possibly be at odds with the timeframe for the coming of the kingdom given by Jesus and consistently affirmed by all the New Testament writers. If you don’t think the first-century disciples of Jesus expected the coming of the kingdom in that century then you’ve been reading too little of the New Testament and too many books about the New Testament.

Mike,

Thanks for your response but i have to respectfully disagree. The context of the first seven verses of Acts Ch. 1 is Jesus talking to his diciples about the kingdom for not one, not two but forty days! At the end of that disertation the Diciples ask a very good question; “Jesus when is this kingdom going to come to fruition?” and Jesus tells them that no man knoweth the hour. Your point about the apostles looking for the kingdom in the very century is spot on and in light of the abundance of new testiment evidance to substantiate that claim I wouldn’t argue that point, nor would i want to! The apostles were waiting for the return of the messiah (Acts 1:11). Thus in the pauline epistles we have Paul telling the various churches to be on the look out for the return (1 Thess. 4:16). Furthermore the idea that the kingdom was fufilled by first century events is abstract to say the least, Jesus was not reigning on the throne of David, the nations were not coming to zion for healing, satan was not bound, the list goes on. The point is the clear teaching of scripture about all the things that would mark the kingdom certainly did not take place in the first century, ergo we still await the return of the king to inagurate his kingdom.

Now i say all that to say this. Im not one for losing firends or picking fights over eschatalogical issues, (only soteriological ones right?). I hope this is simply food for thought.

Your brother in Christ

[email protected] Bibliocentric.com

Josh,

Thanks for your gracious spirit, and for your food for thought.

Allow me to reciprocate:

Jesus was not reigning on the throne of David, the nations were not coming to zion for healing, satan was not bound, the list goes on.

The throne of David is precisely what Jesus was occupying in New Testament days. Thus the apostolic reference to Amos in Acts 15 which spoke of the restored Davidic dynasty.

The nations were indeed streaming to Zion. Thus Heb 12 is the writer’s affirmation that he and his contemporaries believed they were living in fulfillment of Is 2 (Mic 4). And though 1 Cor 12-14 does not explicitly reference Zion, the similarity of imagery and purpose of gathering is undeniable.

Satan indeed was bound for a time. Thus Paul in 1 Cor 5 equates being put outside the church as being put back into his power.

The NT church was spiritual Israel (Gal 6:16). At His coming, Jesus surrendered this kingdom of Israel (1 Cor 15:24) that He might receive the kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus went from being King of Israel to being King of the Universe.

Should you reject this perspective, consider that we can remain united in our belief that Jesus is Lord and worthy of all devotion. May we all become more like Him in thought, word, and deed.

Mike,

I’m just not seeing it my firend. 1 Cor. 5 is in the context of church dicipline and talks about turning one over to the power of Satan, it has nothing to do with a “periodic limitation of authoirity”. Furthermore it is a bit of a stetch to say that Acts 15 is an anouncement of the reestablishment of the throne of David, rather, if you look at the context James quotes that verse to prove that gentiles were actually in God’s plan of Salvation. In addition, one more aspect of the kingdom to tak into consideration is that Israel was suppossed to be at peace during this time as per Isaiah 2:4. If your saying that the kingdom was reestablished in the first century, but then Jerusalem was leveled in 70 AD, that was a short reign indeed! The kingdom was suppossed to last for a thousand years was it not? Furthermore Revelation 20:2 taks about satan being bound for a thousand years aswell, we are not saying that he didn;t get out untill the middle ages are we (a bit tongue and cheek I know but i laughed when i wrote it lol)?!

We must not allegorize or spiritualize these things, this would do the word of God a great diservice! The only way to interpret scripture is the literal/historical approach. Genesis one means six days, Isaih 2 means ational corporate peace, Revelation 20:2 means literally bound for a thousand years, and Amos9:11,and 12 means the true throne of David in literal Jerusalem (not in our hearts). Of course I realize we may be at an impass, and I realize we may both be entirly mistaken. To quote Paul Washer “Maybe the post-milenialists got it right after all” (I rather doubt it though).

Your friend

Josh

The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.

Peace be to you.

Andrew,

But what about Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Luke 17:21: “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you”? Doesn’t this mean that Jesus thought that the kingdom was both present and future, both now and not yet?”

Yes. The Kingdom came with Jesus but it was consummated in AD 70. This was the transition period of the Covenants, the Kingdom, the ending of “age” and the establishment of the “age to come”, etc etc. This was Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. This 40 years was the time Ishmeal (fleshly Israel) and Issac (spiritual Israel) lived together ending with Ishmael being “cast out” (AD 70) so Issac could recieve the inhertance ( Gal. 4:21:-31). “The exegetical difficulties presented by this verse are considerable”, not really. It’s pretty clear to many, one merely has to have willing ears to listen. Try Max King’s book The Spirit of Prophecy, which containes a really good chapter on the Kingdom of God.

Rich,

If you will read Matt 24 carefully you will see that Jesus described the destruction of Jerusalem not as the coming of the kingdom itself but as a sign that the coming of the kingdom was quite near. In fact, it was the apostasy that would be concurrent with and subsequent to Jerusalem’s demise that would be the final preparatory sign of the coming kingdom. This was affirmed prophetically by Paul in 2 Thess 2:2 and confirmed as having arrived by John in 1 John 2:18.

For some reason, many who rightly believe that the kingdom came in the first century wrongly tie it immediately and completely to the destruction of Jerusalem. That doesn’t do justice to Jesus’ more nuanced timetable.

Mike,

Daniel foretold the time when God would establish the eternal Kingdom.

Dan. 2:44-45
44 And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

“In the days of those kings” is a direct reference to the forth kingdom, which was the Rome Empire.

That narrows it down a bit.

Mark 9:1, “And He said to them, ‘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” (see also Matt. 16:27-28, Lk. 9:26-27).

That puts it in the generation of those in the first century.

Narrows it down futher.

Matthew 24:30
and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Matthew is clear Christ’s coming was to be in that generation (24:34), in the destruction of Jerusalem (24:1-3); the judgment – surely you see the judgment in Matthew 24.

Paul in 2 Tim. 4:1 states,

“I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom

Paul makes the concrete connection between:

1) the coming of the kingdom
2) the judgment
3) Christ’s appearing (coming).

This is further confirmed in Revelation 2:25-28 when the promise of the saints reigning with Christ was predicated upon their overcoming and remaining faithful until Christ came. They would then be given power over the nations which fulfills Daniel’s prophecy of the saint’s possessing the Kingdom at Christ second coming. See Daniel 7:21-22 & 27.

In addition Rev. 11:15-18 states:
15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God,17 saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

Here we are told the coming of Christ was his coming in His Kingdom & Judgment. Of course this agrees with Paul’s statement in 2 Tim. 4:1 as we would expect.

Again, the Kingdom came in Jesus (30’s). Its consummation was established in AD 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem. This was the time of transition (Gal. 4:21-31).

Rich,

There is much you say here with which I can agree. However, the parts on which we disagree are not likely to be resolved here.

I would only leave you with what I hope would elicit your “amen,” which is that Jesus is Lord and the more we obey Him, the better.

Mike,

amen! :)

Jesus deciples asked him about his coming…. Jesus gave them physical signs to watch out for of ” his presence” why give physical signs if everyone will see him?

We are witnessing these signs today, they are like a fingerprint that distinguishes the time period we have seen since the last 100 yrs or so. Jesus did not take up his Kingship when he returned to heaven …for he sat down ….waiting till his enemies be made a footstool. When he was to take up the Kingship the first thing that was done, Satan was to be ousted to earth from heaven ….woe to the earth ….for he is like a roaring lion waiting to devour someone. We can see Satan is at work now! We know Jesus is King! We see the signs he gave! He has returned as King, turned his attention to the earth to see out these last days, to destroy the wicked and establish Peace and security to the earth. His return is witnessed by signs. He said be careful dont believe those who say here is the Christ or there is the Christ, why? because he gave his life as a ransom for us, a price he paid which can never be taken back. He said ” seek first the Kingdom” and “preach the good news of the Kingdom” The kingdom is Gods righteous government by which he will sanctify his name and vindicate his sovereignty. It is established now in the heavens with Jesus as King. It will destroy all earthly goverments and establish peace. The last days are here, time is running out, the generation witnessing the signs will by no means pass away till ALL these things ocurr and that means Armageddon …. Gods war. There will be survivors though through that time! Ones who will live through the events of the end of this system.

food for thought! if Adam had not sinned he would still have been alive today would he not! Gen2v17 Thats what God intended for all humans….to have life! not death on EARTH Gen1v28 . He intended humans to live for ever on EARTH where he made them. Ps 37v9,11,29. Mat 6v6 The actions of the first human pair could not in any way influence his intentions, God was and is the Master planner. What a plan! to ransom back the world by means of his son, so that all could gain what Adam lost. Life everlasting on earth! and yes some have been invited to live in heaven, they are a “little flock”. See Rev.

Paul,

wow, you have so much in error that compounds on itself as one progresses through what you wrote I certainly can’t even begin to address it all outside writing a book. We’ll just have to leave it at that. My only word of encourgement to you would be to run as far away from furturism and dispensationalism as you can get. You might start with the book Beyond Creation Science by Tim Martin. In the least you’ll expand your mind abit. You can always disagree, but at least you’ll get food for thought. Heck, you might also start with Andrew’s book The Coming of the Son of Man. He has much that is right in it.

Peace.

See Dan 4 concerning the kingdom. it tells when it was going to be established. Gods last installed King was overthrown in 607 bce. the beginning of the apointed times of the nations. ” the tree was cut down and banded till the rightful king would return and be installed” ,that King was Jesus Christ. Daniel says let 7 times rule over the banded tree so if we knew when 7times was then we would know when the Kingdom was established. see Rev 12v6,14 1260 days represented 3 1/2 times so 7 times was 2520 days … these are days of years so from 607 BCE 2520 years will bring you till 1914 , remember there is no year 0. Daniel tells us that the Kingdom was set up in heaven that year, evidence of the signs witnessed since proves it, Jesus gave physical signs to his deciples of his presence , the exact ones we see today,satan was ousted from heaven when Jesus was made King, we can see that is so since the turn of the 20th century. Dan 2v44 has come true ” in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom”. The Kingdom is Gods government established in the heavens where it will never be overthrown, installed to bring peace to the earth as God intended. Ps37v29.isiah 45v18.

Jesus said ” the world will see me no more” and he will come as you see me go “ Jesus went back to heaven disappeared in a CLOUD he will “return” in the same way… invisible presence “seen” by physical events.

Paul,

“Jesus said ” the world will see me no more” and he will come as you see me go “ Jesus went back to heaven disappeared in a CLOUD he will “return” in the same way… invisible presence “seen” by physical events.”

We agree 100% on this part. However, the “seen” events for me were clearly in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, just as the Prophets foretold and just as Jesus stated (Matthew 24). The “cloud” language he employed was the exact same “coming on the clouds” language employed in the OT when God said he was “coming on the clouds” when he judged other nations. ie. Babylon, Assyria, Egypt. People who take it literally merely show their complete ignorance in Hebraic thought and understanding of their literature (which is full of hyperbole, among other forms of literary communication), which is the biggest problem in the Church today. On that note, the most blatant example of that is reading Genesis’ record of “creation” in such a manner. It’s account has nothing to do with the creation of the physical world/universe. It has everything to do with the creation of covenant; Israel’s covenantal “heaven and earth” referred to throughout the Scriptures which ended in AD 70 and replaced with a new H&E. Many scholars are finally starting to see this, for example, see John Walton in The Lost World of Genesis One. However, even Walton still tried to apply it to the physical universe. If he had a proper eschatology he would probably finally make the connection, but, he stated to me he has no interest in eschatology. What a shame. He’s so close

Concerning Daniel, you are way off. The phrase “in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom” clearly limits it to within a standing Roman empire, and that ended in the 400’s, 476 I believe, a bit fuzzy in my memory. There are other Daniel passages though that narrow it down even further, such as Dan. 12:7, which puts it at AD 70, but that is beyond what can be presented here. Really, all one needs to do is listen to Jesus. He stated “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34). Part of Matthew 24’s “all” is Daniel’s prophecies (Matthew 24:15). It’s all very clear. One just needs to accept what the passages say.

Anyway, peace to you.