For those who follow the blog, they know I am a first year seminarian at Northern Theological Seminary. For those who are disciples of Dr. Scot McKnight, they know that he teaches at Northern Theological Seminary. I am lucky enough to be taking a class with Dr. McKnight entitled Jesus and the Gospels. Every week we write short essays on what we have read. Depending on the topic (and my grade on the essay!) I will be posting my work here on the blog! So if you are a fan of Restoring Pangea, and a fan of Dr. Scot McKnight–this is a series just for you!
God’s kingdom is embodied in people from every tribe and tongue embracing the reign of God on earth so that the world might know the one true God. The Hebrew bible portrays YHWH as a king who rules over a fallen and compromised world and will one day usher in universal shalom upon the final return of the Messiah (Hagner 69). During Christ’s ministry here on earth, he not only proclaimed the kingdom of God in word, but also tangibly demonstrated the kingdom of God through his deeds (Hagner 70). Furthermore, God’s kingdom exists not only to redeem Israel, but to redeem all nations through Christ Jesus (Hagner 79).
God’s reign is both imminent and immediate. Hagner refers to this phenomenon as an “overlap of the ages (Hagner 75).” The kingdom of God is to be both “now and not yet.” Only upon Christ’s return will an apocalyptic consummation occur. Christ himself exhorts the disciples to pray for the future consummation of the kingdom (Matt. 6:10) and also apocalyptically prophesies about future events including his own return (Matt. 24-25; Mark 8:38; 13; 14:62; Luke 17:24; 21) (Hagner 75). Christ’s promise to return alludes to his final work as the Messiah, bringing to fruition God’s perfect reign here on earth.
Christ preached that the kingdom of God would vindicate the poor, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted (Matt. 5:1-12). This positive hope would be realized in an eschatological banquet that would occur via the final consummation (Matt. 22:2-10; Luke 14:16-24). Seemingly, Christ’s words (most obvious during the last super tradition), allude to the kingdom of God as something that will occur in the future (Luke 22:18) (Dunn, 427-428, 466). However, God’s kingdom is not only a future hope, but is a manifest reality depicted in Christ’s alignment with the maligned. Perhaps this is best demonstrated by Luke’s depiction of Christ quoting the prophet Isaiah in an effort to bring clarity to his work concerning the widow and the foreigner (Dunn, 439). Moreover, Christ explicitly connects his deeds of healing the afflicted and service to the poor as being part of the reason that God sent him (Luke 7:11) (Dunn, 449).
While there is much dispute as to whether or not Christ desired for the Gentiles to be included among God’s chosen, it is possible to demonstrate from the gospel traditions that Christ welcomed Gentiles into the kingdom (Dunn, 537-538). While there is little evidence that Christ would have sought out Gentiles explicitly, it can be said that he welcomed Gentile faith (Matt 8:5-13; John 4) and “took for granted the likelihood that Gentiles would be included in God’s kingdom” upon the final judgment (Dunn, 538-539). Stanley Hauerwas, in his reflection on the Great Commission, eloquently states,
The God of Israel is the God of all nations. The disciples are now equipped to be sent to the nations, baptizing them into the death and resurrection of Jesus to make them citizens of his death-defying kingdom. Israel is not to be left behind, but rather its mission is now continued in a new reality called the church (Hauerwas 249).