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Theology > Jesus > Life and Teaching > The Kingdom > Misunderstanding by the Nation  


In Jewish writings is the declaration that God rules over the affairs of men: God is the King, and the realm of His rule is the universe. He rules with a rule that cannot be set aside or be hindered. His rule is absolute.

With the establishment of the monarchy, the idea of kingdom came to be associated with the nation of Israel and with its greatest king, King David. To him and his descendants a dynasty and a rule had been promised. Therefore, it was natural for the nation to equate God’s rule with David’s rule over the Jewish people, the people to whom God had also given the law and the prophets (see: Announcement of the Kingdom).

Fervently the nation expected the long awaited Messiah to show Himself, and when He did they would experience national deliverance and receive an exalted position among the nations. The Jews expected a visible and historical kingdom, reclaiming for the nation the glory of the Davidic Kingdom. The point is that for the Jewish people the future kingdom was always understood in terms of the nation of Israel—the kingdom was the nation. The understanding of the kingdom was ethnic and limited; it was solely nationalistic.

Into this environment John appeared with his message announcing a kingdom, and in order for the people to be ready for the kingdom they must repent of their sin and be baptized giving testimony to their repentance. This message was contrary to the expectation of the nation, especially the expectation of the learned religious leaders. In one sense, therefore, the nation was ready for a message regarding a kingdom; but in another sense, the kingdom that was announced was not the kingdom they anticipated. With the arrival of the kingdom of their expectations the present age would be terminated and the long awaited golden age would begin.

While many were baptize and eagerly awaited the kingdom, many were skeptical and opposed to the voice of one crying in the wilderness. And the appearance of Christ, the supposed Messiah, complicated the issue. His preaching and His announcements were not what they expected from one who claimed to be the Messiah. The more they heard from Him the more they realized that He would not fulfill their materialistic and nationalistic expectations.

Several statements by Christ compounded the problem, especially for the leaders of the nation:

Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you (Matt. 21:31);

This is a hard saying for the leaders who felt that they would be the first to enter the Messianic kingdom when it arrived bringing peace and prosperity to the nation.

For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he (Lu. 7:28);

For the Pharisees and lawyers who had not accepted the baptism of John, this talk of John and his place, and the place of others who followed him, in the kingdom was unacceptable.

But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you (Matt. 12:28; Lu. 11:20 has “by the finger of God”);

Mighty works done by Christ were attributed to His collusion with Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons; in contrast Jesus relates His kingdom work to the Spirit or finger of God.

The kingdom of God does not come with observation . . . the kingdom of God is within you (Lu. 17:21);

This was the response of Jesus to the Pharisees who asked Him when the kingdom of God would come; He affirmed that the kingdom does not come with outward visibility but is an inward reality; for them this was beyond understanding.

The emphasis on repentance provided additional consternation for the leaders of the nation; John the Baptist called the nation to repentance, and Jesus called the nation to repentance. But the religious rulers could not even begin to visualize their need for personal repentance, nor could they entertain the thought that personal and national repentance was associated with the appearance of the Messiah and with his subjugation of their enemies and the establishment of an ethnic and religious nation based on the Law. Repentance had nothing to do with their expectations. Their misunderstanding was great at many levels.

Return to: The Kingdom; Next Article: Mystery of the Kingdom

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