Archive for September, 2010

My Good friend and fellow partner in the Gospel, Nielsen Unger, has written as stimulating post on the kingdom, marriage, and the Trinity. I advice all to give it a good read!


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“Matthew’s Gospel asserts repeatedly that the world belongs not to Rome at Jupiter’s behest, but to God. God’s sovereign purposes are being asserted over Rome’s.” –Warren Carter [1]

What does it mean when Kingdom Language is employed in the biblical texts? We gloss over passages such as “the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15), but this language should raise at least to fundamental questions: 1. What is the Kingdom of God? 2. What is the Gospel?

1. What is the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God is a concept deeply rooted in the Old Testament. We see God’s sovereignty displayed over all creation in the creation narrative (Genesis 1-2, and probably the Noahic flood should be included), his power of the evil Pharaoh in the Exodus, his covenant with Israel, and the Davidic kingdom, to list a brief few.

When we come to the New Testament we once again have a Pagan god ruling over Yahweh’s portion. We have a Caesar sitting over the kingdom of David. The Romans and their customs have been put upon Yahweh’s people. So when John comes on the scene preaching the Kingdom of God, we should not think primarily in the spiritual sense, but literally. Yahweh’s reign is at hand, and the rulers should fear and the Israelites should repent of their apostasy.

Ladd says this about the Kingdom of God, “If the Kingdom is the rule of God, then every aspect of the Kingdom must be derived from the the character and action of God. The presence of the Kingdom is to be understood from the nature of God’s present activity; and the future of the Kingdom is the redemptive manifestation of His kingly rule at the end of the age.”[2]

So, it would be safe to say, that the kingdom of God is God’s universal reign over every aspect of His creation. We also see that all of the OT kingdom concepts find their fulfillment in Messiah Jesus’ reign and with the reign of His holy church.

2. What is the Gospel?

This question requires some clarity to help us see past the modern perception. We think that the Gospel is to repent and believe in the person and work of Jesus. The problem is that the Gospel is not that. Euangelion, the word that gospel (or good news) finds it root in, is actually a term used to proclaim a victory or accomplishment (this used often in the Greek and Roman world, after they have conquered a city, etc.). So, when we hear the term gospel we should probably think more about the good news of an important victory, rather than personal conversion. Moreover, the Euangelion (good news of victory or accomplishment) would be proclaimed the keryx: “A keryx may be a town crier, an auctioneer, a herald, or anyone who lifts up his voice and claims public attention to some definite thing he has to announce [3].” This was very common in the secular world, so we must understand the meaning of gospel/good news/Euangelion in this light.

That still leaves the question though,what is the Gospel (particularly the one proclaimed by the church)? Carson rightly asserts, “Thus the gospel is not, in the first instance, the call to repentance and faith; rather, the gospel is the joyous news that grounds the call to repentance and faith. This good news is that the long-awaited kingdom, the kingdom of God, is dawning [4].” So, the Gospel is the joyous news of the Kingdom, that is the reason for man’s repentance and belief in the person and work of Jesus.

Understanding this, helps us see the need of repentance, and only then can we correctly proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. Thus, that leaves us with one last question.

3. What is the content/facts/demands of our Gospel?

Finally, if we want to stand in the line of the apostles, we must proclaim all of the following to preach the kerygma (preaching of the Apostles):

The prophecies are fulfilled, and the new Age is inaugurated by the coming of Christ.
He was born of the seed of David.
He died according to the Scriptures, to deliver us out of the present evil age.
He was buried.
He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures.
He is exalted at the right hand of God, as Son of God and Lord of quick and dead.
He will come again as Judge and Saviour of men
. [5]

Works cited:

[1] Carter, Warren. The Roman Empire and the New Testament. p.93

[2] Ladd, George Eldon. New Testament Theology. p. 79

[3] Dodd, C.H. The Apostolic Preaching and it Development. Chapter 1

[4] Carson, D.A. The Biblical Gospel. p.2

[5] Dodd, C.H. The Apostolic Preaching and it Development. Chapter 1

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It will not take you long, if reading through the bible, to realize a reoccurring theme with the people of faith: the desert.

Though there are many examples in the bible and Jewish/Christian history, I want to focus briefly on only three accounts.

The Exodus Generation: In the Exodus account we have the Hebrews as wanderers walking in judgment and confusion, waiting to enter the promise land. YHWH had exercised power and authority over Egypt and brought his people of the nation, to free them and bring them into a the Promised Land. We have rebellion and groaning against God and the Lord lets them walk the desert for 40 years.

There is idol worship , rebellion, and a giving into temptation in the desert on Israel part. Yet, with YHWH we have power, cleansing, and faithfulness.

John the Baptist: John was an interesting prophet in the likeness of Elijah and many other OT prophets. He was elected and set apart in the womb by YHWH to lead the people into repentance because of the coming of the Messiah. I find interesting that John, much like the cult of the Essenes, had drifted out into the desert at the same time, both seemingly awaiting the righteous one to come in judgment on the apostasy in Israel and the domination of Rome. This has caused many scholars including myself, to wonder if John was a member of the Essenes.

It seems John primary purpose can be summed up in this way: he was forerunner for the Messiah (Mal. 3:1, Isaiah 40:3). His message was the Kingdom of God, and he was calling people into the desert to repent a be baptized. (Mark 1, Luke 3, Matt 3, John 1)

Jesus the Messiah: Jesus leaves his home and heads into the desert to find John. What we have in the Gospels is that Jesus is the figure, the king of the kingdom, that John is preaching about. He is anointed as king by the baptism of John (PS 2, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-23, Matt 3:13-17).

What is very interesting is that Jesus goes immediately into the desert for a time of temptation, where he is tempted by Satan, yet does not sin.

Some Final Thoughts

What is the correlation between the desert and the community of God? Why is this such a pivotal place in the lives of the Covenant people?

I think the desert should be seen as a place of cleansing, temptation, and judgment. With Israel you have failures that are cursed to die in the desert because of their apostasy.

With John and the Essenes you have a group that have removed themselves from the impeding judgment on Israel. It seems that for them the desert is a place of cleansing and repentance, a place where Israel can repent (maybe a reversal in some ways of the Exodus like apostasy that they have fallen into, even in the promise land).

Finally, with Jesus and his temptation in the desert, he is tempted like the Exodus generation but does fail. He is triumphant over temptation, and thus becomes the new Israel, the perfect keeper of the commands of YHWH. So, we have Jesus becoming both the Davidic king at his baptism in the desert (PS 2) and the new Israel with his 40 day temptation in the wilderness.

This is a very brief study of the desert and the people of God, but my hope is that the readers, much like myself, would have an interest in the subject and study more.

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