The problem of the Kingdom of Heaven (1st in a series)
What do YOU think of when you hear the word “Kingdom?”
A powerful ruler?
A domain or geographic location?
Me too. I always have thought of those things when I hear the word.
So when, as a kid, I read the gospels for the first time, I noticed immediately that Jesus uses the word “kingdom” — a LOT.
But the way He uses it doesn’t line up with the images in my head most of the time.
Here is an example.
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to Him, and He healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, He said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
That doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with castles, or crowns, or borderlines on a map.
But the idea of “power” or “rule” is definitely there. In this case, it’s the power to bind and even banish demonic spirits from having their effect on people.
That’s a significant type of power, especially compared to the limited, temporal, physical nature of power as we humans employ it. Jesus was clearly talking about something way outside of both our normal experience.
And though I typically think of the word “power” when I think of the word “kingdom,” I never conceived of anything like this.
Notice the source(s) of the power Jesus refers to… both the Holy Spirit (as the source of power by which the demonic spirits were cast out) and God the Father are mentioned.
It’s God-sized, God-type power that Jesus is referring to. THAT is power with a capital “P.”
It far surpasses any earthly notions of “kingdom” that I’d imagined before.
This is just an example of the conundrum I’ve faced all along as I’ve tried to understand the concept of “the kingdom of heaven.”
It challenges my pre-conceived notions of “kingdom.” It forces me to consider that Jesus means something far beyond what I’ve previously considered.
But the dissonance I’ve experienced doesn’t end with this one passage…
When you put a description of the “kingdom of God” like this one alongside the many other descriptions and explanations of it that are contained in scripture, it’s not just a different definition of “kingdom” that we’re facing, it’s a whole new thing.
AND I WANT TO UNDERSTAND IT… MAINLY BECAUSE JESUS IS THE ONE WHO SAID IT.
Because of that belief, I decided to do my own research.
I decided to examine every time Jesus mentions “the kingdom,” “the kingdom of heaven,” or “the kingdom of God.”
The Gospel of Matthew is where I started
Matthew records an amazing amount of Jesus’ references to the kingdom of heaven/God.
54 times Jesus clearly referred to the kingdom and as many as 12 additional times He referred to it without using the exact word “kingdom.”
I plan to dissect each of those passages, seek to understand what the main exegetical point is in each of them, and understand the heart of God regarding the Kingdom of Heaven.
I invite you to join me as I walk through Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven/God in the Gospel of Matthew.
My expectation is that as we look at the phrases in context and flesh out our understanding one passage on top of another, we’re going to learn a few things we’ve not been taught before.
We’re probably going to shift our mindsets on a few things.
And I hope we’ll be able to better align our minds and hearts with the heart of God by better understanding what He’s doing in our day.
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