The Nature of the Kingdom
Both St. John the Forerunner and the Lord Jesus called Israel to repentance because the Kingdom of God was at hand and its arrival was imminent (Matt 3:2, 4:17). Israel had lived in increasingly agitated expectation of the arrival of God’s Kingdom since their return from the Babylonian exile. The prophets had all proclaimed that after the exile the Day of Yahweh1 , the Day of the Lord, would come. In that day, God would finally destroy and neutralize all of Israel’s foes, exalt Israel to a place of power and prominence in the earth, and make Zion the world’s capital. The Messiah would rule the world from a glorious Jerusalem, a city made beautiful and invincible, and all the nations would flood into the Temple, bringing gifts and finally acknowledging Israel’s God as the true God and Lord of the earth. Currently the kingdom, the power, and the glory belonged to the pagan nations and their kings. Soon, in the Day of the Lord, the kingdom and its power would belong to Yahweh alone.
When John proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand, all believed that the power of the brutal Roman empire would soon collapse, and be replaced by the Kingdom of God, administered in military might by His Messiah. The pax Romana would be replaced by a messianic pax Hebraica. The kingdom, in their understanding, was definitely of this world.
Our Lord therefore had much to teach, and much to correct. In his many parables He took care to emphasize that the coming kingdom would not immediately overthrow the political or military status quo, but that the evil tares and good wheat would grow together in this age, and that the final destruction of evil from the earth would await the last day of judgment (Matt 13:30, 40–42). The kingdom would not arrive in this age as a eucatastrophe,2 nor would blessing come to all Jews alike because they were the biological sons of Abraham. It would come only to those whose hearts were good and ready to receive it, just as seed only bears fruit when received by good earth (Matt 13:23). The kingdom was not coming with outward signs to be observed but was even then in their midst through the presence of Christ and his miracles (Luke 17:20–21). Rome’s hegemony would be left undisturbed, for the kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
The kingdom came through the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus. Israel set their hearts upon a glorified nation; the kingdom when it came consisted of a glorified Messiah, a king in whom Israel could find transfiguration and glory. Through his glorification, Christ entered and embodied the Kingdom, with all the immortal powers which would one day flood the earth in the age to come. In Christ, that new age had already come. In Him was the new aeon, the earth’s paliggenesia, its regeneration and rebirth. With Christ’s glorification the Day of the Lord had come, and Israel could enter it. The kingdom came as seed sown in this age. For the time being, it was small and seemingly insignificant; soon it would become a mighty tree, so that the birds of heaven would find shelter in its branches (Ezek 17:22–24; Mark 4:30–32).
The name "Yahweh" is used by some to represent the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (meaning four letters) יהוה) Yod Heh Vav Heh). It was considered blasphemous to utter the name of God; therefore, it was only written and never spoken, resulting in the loss of the original pronunciation. It is more common in English-language bibles to represent the Tetragrammaton with the term "LORD" (capitalized). ↩
The term is Tolkien’s. “…a eucatastrophe is a massive turn in fortune from a seemingly unconquerable situation to an unforeseen victory, usually brought by grace rather than heroic effort.” https://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Eucatastrophe (opens in a new tab) ↩