Regressive awareness (2)

This post follows from the previous one, in which I began sharing commentary on a post on the Logos Academic Blog.  Here, a commenter named Daniel speaks matter-of-factly.  I disagree with him sharply but appreciate his tone.

Daniel:  The reason that the kingdom is rarely referenced after the Synoptics, especially in Paul’s epistles, is because it has been placed on hold until after the Tribulation.  The Church is not now, nor will it ever be, the Kingdom of God.  The phrase “kingdom is heaven” was used exclusively by Matthew to refer to the physical, literal kingdom of the Messiah.

The Acts 1:6 question is essential because the apostles expected Jesus to rule physically in Jerusalem as the Hebrew prophets had foretold. They realized that Jesus had offered his kingdom to Israel but was rejected as their Messiah (as shown in the Synoptics); thus, he cursed that generation and removed the kingdom from them.

After his rejection, Jesus said that he would build his church/congregation, not his kingdom. Paul’s epistles teach that we are the Church, the Body of Christ, not the Kingdom or in the Kingdom.  It is not “already”; it is still future.

That’s why the Synoptics are so heavy and the rest of the NT is so light on the topic.

Me:  That is a rather absolutist position to take.  I read it as a conversation-stopper, and that may be how you intended it.  In this post, you have almost set up an either-or proposition along with the tribulation theory. However, there are additional options, and one of those is that the Kingdom was and is primarily unseen—and as such, neither is it summed up in a Jerusalem throne in any era or in the church per se.  This is the option to which I am partial.

 

Daniel:  Yes, I understand that there are many other options that people prefer to take.  However, the article gave three reasons why the kingdom didn’t show up much in the early Church writings, and the writer asked how we see the data.  When the context of Scripture is put together, my conclusions are different.

I do maintain an absolute position that the promises God gave to people in the past he intends to fulfill literally, not in an unseen way.  I read the Bible in its plain, natural sense, which leads me to conclude that the kingdom is yet future and that the apostles knew that (although they certainly didn’t know how far into the future it would be), so they focused on the Church, which Jesus is building in this age, rather than the Kingdom which he will establish later.

 

Me again (edited):  Daniel, thank you for this reply.  Somewhat like you, I believe there are future aspects to the kingdom. . . . “Plain and natural” seems attractive, but it does not express a very helpful paradigm — at least not for me. . . .  We all must admit a large degree of interpretation as readers, no matter what our paradigm for reading.  I interpret, and you interpret.  We just choose different starting points, perhaps.

The scriptures of course contain much figurative text, poetic text, and other types. . . .   You and I might have a different grasp of the nature of scripture.  I try to take one book by itself, later perhaps comparing it to others by the same inspired author or within the same historical context.  I believe context is to be considered on an individual-document level (e.g., Matthew’s context is not that of John or Paul’s letter to the Philippians).

Where this comes into play with “Kingdom” is probably clear. I would assert that GMatthew’s “Kingdom” is first to be viewed separately from Paul’s mentions in 1Cor or Romans.  We may find commonality — especially with such a dramatically pervasive word-concept — but we will do better not to mash them all together as a first impulse, I would say.

I would add that only in a limited sense did Jesus “offer His kingdom to Israel,” as Daniel asserted above.  It’s not as though Jesus had been ascending to a human throne and then selected a successor from among the Jews of the day, just before His death. 

Further, I believe his objection to the identification of the Kingdom with the church is reasonably well founded, but the starkness of his delineation between the two is overstated.  The two are certainly not the same, yet the word “church,” as it is most purely thought of in our age, could be said to refer to a temporary part of (or an aspect of) the Kingdom.  I am not sure how anyone reads the New Covenant documents and comes out with an entirely-future view of Kingdom.  

Next, thoughts from another interlocutor—this one about the supposed message of theology and theologians in this arena.

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