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To what extent did the Kingdom come through the ministry of Jesus?
When Jesus was preaching in the synagogue, He was proclaiming a new age of God and what He was about to bring and show the world. The Jews of the time were patiently waiting for God's promised Messiah and were expecting someone to come and liberate them from Roman rule - but what Jesus brought was something they really did not expect. In this essay I shall go over what Jesus meant by His reading of Isaiah, how the Jews interpreted that and what they expected, and show how the Kingdom of God actually did come through the ministry that Jesus started. When Jesus got up and read from Isaiah He 'proclaimed the fulfilment of God's plan and promise in Himself, since He is the figure described in the passage' 1 which confused and amazed the Jews listening as all they saw the son of Joseph stood in front of them. Their anticipation of the Messiah was different to what Jesus was actually about to bring in His conduct and leadership in the Messianic ministry that was soon to begin, in that He deliberately left out the line in Isaiah's prophecy that says: 'and with it, the day of God's anger against their enemies' (Isa. 61: 2 NLT); because He was here to announce the new age of God's grace and favour, which may have disheartened any Jews who were expecting a military-like Messiah to destroy the Romans. Jesus was here to bring the Good News in love, kindness and patience. But then He carried on to mention Elijah and how he helped foreigners in the land over the natives, which is what really angered the Jews then as Jesus was hinting at God's plan to allow Gentiles to become a part of His people now - that Jews were not just the chosen people anymore. This was one of the main factors in the way that Jesus conducted His ministry in proclaiming the Good News about the imminent Kingdom of God to all the sinners and Gentiles. Jesus was telling all about the Age of Grace that God is bringing to all the world now and this caused conflict with the Jewish religious leaders as Jesus preaching all about God's love and acceptance to Gentiles and Jews alike was not
Luke 4: 21 - Nelson Study Bible
what the Jewish people really wanted to hear. So the ministry of Jesus was largely affected by this factor which led to the confusion of whether He was the Messiah, here to bring about the Kingdom of God, or not. The Jewish community that believed in what the Torah - or the Old Testament as we call it now - said had in mind what to expect from God's chosen Messiah as a king. From the Old Testament, the Jews probably would have pictured a king much like they were; complete authority and power, a national figurehead and a person with high status. Though this was a fair assumption considering that John the Baptist was proclaiming in the desert that 'the Kingdom of Heaven is near' and also that the Messiah was soon to arrive; 'and if He was King of the world the Lord was also, in a very special way, the ruler of the nation'2. The Jews had an image of human royalty in mind when they thought of the coming Messiah and His Kingdom, probably much like David's rule since the Messiah was going to be a descendant from David's Royal Line. The Jewish people were also expecting a better age to start, that would be one of good times which would bring about peace and prosperity to Israel. In the days of Amos, this was the general expectation of what was to come - a purely earthly and historical blessing on Israel. They were expectant of a day of success and a day when 'the glory of David's kingdom would be restored and Israel would achieve complete victory over her foes'3. Amos actually says that this is a false view and that The Day of the Lord is darkness, judgement and wrath (Amos 5: 18-20)4. The view that the coming kingdom is strictly "worldly" is something that is not shared by the Prophets. The Prophets saw the world in it is present state being full of evil in both history and nature and they looked to God coming to make all things free from evil, and redemption for God's people and the earth. 'Only the age to come will witness the destruction of Satan'5 which would suggest that the Kingdom of God has not fully come until the end of time when Christ sets up the new heaven and the new earth after the devil's final judgement.6 It is easy to see how the Jews could have misinterpreted the coming Messiah and Kingdom of God as one that would come with the full wrath of God and power to rescue them from the Roman rule as all they had to compare a king and his kingdom
The Lion Handbook to the Bible, pp. 563 Jesus and the Kingdom, pp. 52 4 Jesus and the Kingdom, pp. 51-53 5 Jesus and the Kingdom, pp. 115 6 Revelation 20 - 21:4
to would be that of an earthly reign - namely, King David's, and kings of the earth always rules with power and royalty and were national figureheads that all would know and fear, from the kingdom's they establish. Another expectation of the Jewish community would be that of thinking the Messiah would bring forth 'a proclamation of the advent of the Kingdom of God in terms of the Final Jubilee'7 in regards to their understanding of Isaiah 61: 1-2. 'Our Saviour, by applying this text to Himself, (Luke 4: 18, 19) … Plainly declares the typical design of that institution.'8 By reading Isaiah 61: 2, Jesus brought imagery to mind of the Jubilee year that Leviticus 25 talks of. The proclamation of 'the year of the Lord's favour' (Isa. 61: 2, NRSV) suggested that God was going to bring all of His people back to Him and that God would probably be wrapping up things in the world, saving His chosen people from Roman rule. The Jewish people were right in some respects as 'the year of the Lord's favour' was indeed coming with the Kingdom of God through what Jesus was starting, but at the same time they had completely mixed up their Messianic expectations which is why they tried to throw Jesus off a cliff when He preached of God's reconciliation to all people - meaning Gentiles too.9 When Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God through His message of Salvation, He proved it is arrival and His anointing as the Messiah through the miracles He performed as stated in Isaiah, and echoed in Luke 7: 22-23, when Jesus gives an answer to John's disciples about His identity. Jesus lists off the six signs of the Messiah that reveal that the Kingdom has come; the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the Good News.10 In doing this and actually fulfilling these miracles, Jesus is living in line with what the Prophets actually said about the Messiah. What the people saw was 'Jesus' way of living … and what they heard was His proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom of God that was already at work within Him'11
Jesus and the Kingdom of God, pp. 87 Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Old Testament, Isaiah 61:1 9 Luke 4: 25-30 10 Isaiah 29:18, 35:5; 35:6, 61:1; 29:18, 35:5; 11:2; 11:2, 42:1-5; 61:1-2, respectively. 11 Unexpected Messiah or How the Bible can be misleading, pp.64
Jesus was representing what God had originally intended, meant and would soon make it back to be, with the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God upon Christ's coming again at the end of the age. '"Kingdom of God" is a symbol with deep roots in the Jewish consciousness … indeed by the time of Jesus it had come to represent … a final, eschatological act of God'12 But before the End can come, first the Kingdom of God must be established and set in motion through the ministry that Jesus started and of which the Disciples and Apostles continued, as demonstrated in Acts. The extent to which the Kingdom of God came through Jesus' ministry was quite selfevident from the miracles He performed throughout His time on Earth but in hindsight, by looking at the Gospel accounts it seems obvious that what Jesus brought of the Kingdom was only the beginning of greater things to come, an insight of the future - as can be seen by the Acts of the Apostles after Jesus' ascension. At one point Jesus makes a bold claim in Luke 9, that some of those with Him then would not die until they had seen the Kingdom of God arrive in great power, which came to pass when He later took Peter, James and John up a mountain where they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus into His full glory as the Son of God, showing the disciples with Him a small glimpse of the Kingdom of God glorified in Christ.13 Again, as Jesus was out in the towns, He explained to the people that the Kingdom of God had arrived when He cast out a demon from a man by saying 'if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you' (Luke 11:20 NLT) which is referencing back to what Isaiah had said in his prophecy which lists the signs of the coming Messiah14. The Pharisees asked Jesus at one point 'when will the Kingdom of God come?' (Luke 17:20 NLT) and He answered them saying that you cannot point to it with visible signs because the Kingdom of God is among15 the believers. So although Jesus did bring about the start of His ministry and the Kingdom of God with miracles, signs and wonders, that does not make the Kingdom of God any more "arrived" than it was before.
The Kingdom of God, pp.99 Luke 9:28-36 14 Isaiah 11:4 15 Some translations say 'within you'; Gk. ἐντός - preposition with genitive case within, in the midst of, among.
So to what extent did the Kingdom of God come through the ministry of Jesus? It would seem to me that the Kingdom of God came in slowly but surely through Jesus' teachings about it in parables and discussions with His disciples, but also it was displayed through His transfiguration to the 'inner circle', 16 and to all the crowds and other disciples by His miracles of public healing. But even with all of this, the Kingdom of God has not arrived until the people listen and accept what Jesus is saying by turning back to God for Salvation, so then the Kingdom of God is 'among them'. Jesus did kick-start the Kingdom on Earth via His ministry, but did not complete it because He left the job of continuing the spread of the Kingdom in the hands of His disciples, and for future generations, to continue with until His return to establish the Kingdom of God forever.
The 'Inner Circle' being Jesus' closest disciples: Peter, James and John; who saw and heard things the others did not.
Alexander, D. and Alexander, P., (eds.), Lion Handbook to the Bible, The, Third Edition, (Lion Hudson Plc; 1st edn, 1973, 2nd edn. 1983, 3rd edn. Hbk. 1999, Pbk. 2002) Bruce F. F., New Testament History, Historical Foundation of the New Testament Story, (London, Marshall, Morgan and Scott; 1977) Chilton, B., The Kingdom of God, (Great Britain, The Chaucer Press Ltd; 1984) Clarke, A., Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Old Testament, (Parsons Technology, Inc., Electronic Edition STEP Files; 1999) Constance, N. E., Explorer's Bible Study: Luke and Acts, Workbook, (Findex.Com, Electronic Edition STEP Files; 1999) Delitzsch, F. and Keil, C. F., Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament Vol. 7: Isaiah, (Findex.Com, Electronic Edition STEP Files; 2000) Forster, R., The Kingdom of Jesus, (United Kingdom, Authentic Lifestyle; 2001) Grollenberg, L., Unexpected Messiah or How the Bible Can Be Misleading, (Baarn, Uitgeverij; 1987) Henry, M., Commentary on the New Testament, (Findex.Com, Electronic Edition STEP Files; 2000) Holy Bible, New Living Translation (Tyndale Charitable Trust, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 1996) Ladd, G. E., Jesus and the Kingdom of God, (London, S.P.C.K.; 1964) New Revised Standard Version, New Testament (The Division of Education and Ministry, National Council of the Churches of Christ, 1990) Radmacher, E. D. (ed.), Nelson Study Bible, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers; 1997)
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