Early Church’s Kingdom of God: Hail King Jesus

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The kingdom of God, the restoration of God’s eternal and sovereign lordship over earth as it is in heaven, was understood by some of the early Christians to encompass the present and future dimensions, and both the physical and spiritual aspects. Their understanding has being echoed throughout the church history.

The future dimension of spiritual and physical aspect is of Christians commanded to live a life of holiness, love and peace in order to inherit the Kingdom of God (Iren. Frag. 42; Pol. Phil. 5.3; Barn. 21.1) while on the other hand, the present dimension, also of spiritual and physical aspect, is of Christians being the people who are redeemed, the prince of evil has no authority over them nor cannot he thrust them out of the kingdom of Christ (Barn. 4.13) and “where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace.”(Iren. Aga. Her. 3. 24.1)

Some of post Apostolic fathers also followed a similar understanding of the Kingdom of God. Clement of Alexandra contended that Christians are called to the kingdom of God with a calling that require them to live a life worthy of the kingdom, loving God and their neighbour. He wrote, “[b]ut love is not proved by a kiss, but by kindly feeling. But there are those, that do nothing but make the churches resound with a kiss, not having love itself within.” (Clem. Al. Paed. 3.11)

In a similar manner John Calvin, during reformation, echoed the same theme when he explained that when the Church is sincere with the word of God, “there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence, since his promise cannot fail, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”(Calvin Ins. 4.1.9) N. T. Wright established this point even better: “If we believe it and pray, as he taught us, for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven, there is no way we can rest content with major injustice in the world.”(Wright 2009: 97)

Wright rightly captured the long echoed traditional understanding of the kingdom of God,

The kingdom comes through the ministry of Jesus and the preaching of the gospel in all the world. It is both the reign and the realm of God for, although in the present age the locus of the kingdom in the world is diffuse, it is defined by the presence of Jesus at the right hand of the Father. It is both present and future until its consummation at Jesus’ return. It is also at least one possible theme by which biblical theology can be integrated. It is the focus of both creation and redemption: God’s plan of redemption is to bring in a new creation. The entire biblical story, despite its great diversity of forms and foci, is consistent in its emphasis on the reign of God over his people in the environment he creates for them. (Wright 2004, 218)

There is both futuristic and present dimension, the physical and spiritual aspect of God’s kingdom.  Christians, it’s citizens, are called to live now, caring for the poor, widows and orphanage, feeding the hungry, makers of peace as they love and bless those who prosecute them but at the same time proclaim the lordship of Christ and the hope of the future when God’s reign on earth as in heaven is restored. For Christians both now and future, physical and spiritual counts because Christ reigns over all.

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Calvin, John (1949), Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge. London: J. Clarke.

Wright, N. T. (2004). Matthew  Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

_________________ (2009) ‘Building for the Kingdom: Our Work is Not in Vain’, in Ralph Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (eds.), Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader 4th edn.; Pasadena: William Carey Library.

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6 thoughts on “Early Church’s Kingdom of God: Hail King Jesus

  1. A book I highly recommend is David Bercot’s “The Kingdom that Turned the World Upside Down.” Bercot is well-reasoned and fleshes out Scripture with a keen understanding of early Church (per-Constantine) writings. I tend to cringe at Bercot’s virulent attack on Reformers, but he makes very incisive points.

  2. Very well said. I specially love your last paragraph:
    “Christians, it’s citizens, are called to live now, caring for the poor, widows and orphanage, feeding the hungry, makers of peace…” Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. As an update of personal knowledge of God, clearly promised in the irrevocable terms and seal of the “new covenant” (Jer. 31: 31-34; Matt. 26: 26-29), “the Kingdom of God” (an altruistic term used by Jesus about himself) has long come @ “the kind of death he suffered”, viz.: Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical with multiplier-effects, as recorded in the Scriptures but suppressed by Christian theology (Ibid. 27: 50-56).

  4. Right on, my friend! The kingdom of God is the central message of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, and the topic about which Jesus spoke more than any other. Love the NT Wright quote.

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