The Kingdom and the kingdoms
The precise definition of the kingdom of God continues to allude interpreters. Is it the church? Is it a state of mind? A spirit-led mode of living? Is it an earthly kingdom that comes at the end of history? All of the above? Support for each theory can be readily found.
Fortunately for us, Paul’s engagement with the kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 may be of more help in understanding the kingdom than is usually acknowledged.
Then comes the end, when the Son hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For the Son must reign until God has put all the Christ’s enemies under the Christ’s feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.
According to Paul, the kingdom of God is not any of the above answers at its root; rather, the kingdom is the process by which every ruler, authority, and power is destroyed at the behest of Christ. In other words, the kingdom is the deconstruction of the international political arrangement as it exists on earth and as it is reinforced in heaven. It is the dissolution of every authority (whether spiritual or human) such that only the dominion of Christ remains.
In accord with Jesus then, the coming of the kingdom for Paul is the establishment of God’s will on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). But to be more exact, the kingdom is the establishment of God’s will on earth by means of destructive judgement against the world’s political order. It is a process of political nullification.
The kingdom and the son
Paul’s view of the kingdom and the son’s place in it is therefore drawn heavily from Jewish scripture, particularly Psalms 2 and 110. For the psalmist, as for Paul, the kingdom constitutes God’s wrathful response to rebellious nations and kings by which he installs his son as king and gives him ownership of the nations as an inheritance (2:1-8, 110:1). This divine kingdom is established over the nations through a process of destructive political judgement. The nations are “broken with an iron rod” and the kings must submit to the son in trembling or perish (2:9-11, 110:2-7). In this the son is the agent of God’s judgement of the geopolitical landscape.
Within this political-theological narrative lies the primary significance of Christ’s sonship for Paul: Christ inherits what God possesses—sovereignty over creation—as a son inherits his father’s estate. Christ’s status as son springs forth not from a divine nature but from his status as God’s appointed king (Matthew 16:16, Luke 1:32, John 1:49). Just as Caesar was popularly thought to be divi filius (son of god) and thus vice-regent of the gods, the early Christians believed God had bestowed upon his obedient-to-death son ius gladii (the right of the sword): the authority to bring all powers on earth into subjection at the threat of destruction (cf. Philippians 2:6-11). For Christians the son’s parousia would be the climactic moment of this punitive wrath against Caesar’s hegemony (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
In light of this political-historical conceptualization of the kingdom, we might reconstruct early Christian eschatological expectations like so.
- Christ is exalted to the right hand of God: From heaven the Son prepares to judge the nations while making war on their demonic benefactors.
- Christ comes in power from heaven: Babylon, the ruler of the nations, is judged and put to the sword (Revelation 18-19).
- Christ’s church inherits the authority over the nations once maintained by pagan Rome. The obedient church is given the ius gladii that had belonged to the emperor. In conjunction with this public earthly vindication of the church, the faithful dead are raised to heaven in order to rule (Revelation 20:1-6).
- Christ and the faithful continue to make judgement upon the earth from heaven through the authority of the politically exalted churches for a symbolic millennium.
- The son’s kingdom eventually overcomes Satan and death. All the dead are raised bodily and judged. At this point judgement and kingdom are no longer necessary: Christ therefore submits to God, the kingdom is disbanded, and God becomes “all in all.”
Why a kingdom?
The kingdom then is God’s political answer to a particular political problem: “Why do the kings and rulers plot against the Lord and his anointed?” (Psalm 2:1-3, cf. Acts 4:23-31, Revelation 11:15-18). The reign of God’s son is the Biblical solution not for sin in general, as many believe, but for the pagan corruption of the nations and their oppression of God’s people. In other words, the kingdom is a theological rebuttal to the troubling pagan propaganda exemplified in Horace: “Jupiter, father and protector of the human race… may you have Caesar as vice-regent of your kingdom” (Odes 1.12.49-52). If, as the pagans say, the gods gave Alexander and Caesar authority over the nations as a filial inheritance (Revelation 13), then the true God must one day hand over those same nations to his true son. The reign of pagans must one day be replaced by the reign of a good king (Revelation 11:15, Daniel 7).
So why was it necessary for God to give a kingdom to his son and in effect to his son’s earthly body, the church? For the Biblical authors the kingdom of God not only provided a solution to the problem of rebellious rulers, authorities, and powers, it also provided the means by which the nations of the earth could be healed. Through the kingdom, that is, through the continual victory of Christ’s judgements on the earth, people everywhere would learn God’s ways: justice, mercy, and truth (Isaiah 60, Revelation 21:24, Matthew 8:11). God’s people would finally be an effective priestly kingdom, living safely in the land as they mediated between God and the nations until the final defeat of death (Luke 1:71, Revelation 5:9-10). In the end then, the kingdom was to be an extension of God’s favor beyond the scope of Israel, outside the bounds of his people.
23 thoughts on “The kingdom as divine judgement”
The Kingdom of YHWH / of heaven
It is very unfortunate that one of the most important messages delivered to First Century Israel by the prophet Yahshua (aka Jesus) is seldom presented correctly or even understood. That message by Yahshua was all about “the Kingdom of God/of heaven.” In the KJV of the Bible, we find the words “Kingdom of God, or Kingdom of heaven” used some 70 times for the phrase “Kingdom of God” and some 33 times for “the Kingdom of heaven. Not only was this message by the prophet important, it was the real primary mission that the Prophet Yahshua was sent to deliver to the First Century Israelites, (Matt. 4:16-17, 23). We believe that one of the reasons Yahshua’s message not clearly understood is because many people tend to believe that the words translators decided to use when they translated the original Hebrew or Greek Bible words into English are always correct. Often however, important word definitions in Hebrew or Greek are completely lost because of careless, poor, or even deceptive English replacement words used to translate the original languages into a language like English. English over the last two thousand years now provides many word choices that the much older more ancient and simpler languages like Biblical Hebrew did not have available and did not use.
One of the most deceptive English words still used today in many English Bibles is the word “God.” This English word is often used to substitute for the Hebrew word “alueim.” Alueim is a plural noun that has the meaning of “powers or mighty-ones” like the English word “deer” the word alueim can be singular or plural. The word alueim is sometimes used with a singular verb in Hebrew. The problem is that this Hebrew word can refer to Prophets, Priests, Kings, and others that hold a position of authority. Those with authority can all be described as an “alueim” in Hebrew (including the Almighty, when context determines meaning). Therefore, just because an English Bible uses the word “God” it is not always referring to the Almighty Sovereign Creator Power, the Ever-living Essence named YHWH.
The second most deceptive word used in English Bibles, is the word “LORD.” This is an English derivative word coming from French, denoting a superior position, or one with authority. “Lord” has much the same meaning as the Hebrew word alueim. The word “LORD” is also a substitute word, but used to replace the Hebrew name of the Almighty, which is YHWH (YaHWeH). Yahweh means “He-Exists, He-Is, or Ever-Living” the “Life-Force Essence” of all that exists. Our Sovereign (heavenly Father) is the original-originator of everything in the Universe that has existed, or will ever exist, and of all life. That is some statement isn’t it?
The same thing has happened with the name “Jesus.” This name was transliterated from Hebrew/Aramaic-into Greek, then into Latin, and lastly into English, adulterating the Hebrew name “Yahshua.” The Hebrew name of the prophet re-named “Jesus” is YaH-ShAh (Yahshua) this Hebrew name means YaH-rescues, or YaH-Saves. Yahshua’s name actually announces his earthly message, that YHWH is the Savior (not Jesus “Yahshua”). To understand this is very important, but the meaning is completely lost in English Bible translations using the substitute name Jesus to replace the name Yah-shua. Other English words have similar deceptive names that hide the true Hebrew meanings. In this article we will use the proper word YHWH for the Almighty, and Yahshua for the name of the Prophet falsely named “Jesus.”
Yahshua’s message of “the Kingdom of YHWH/of heaven”
The meaning and understanding of the message “the Kingdom of YHWH” (according to the synoptic Gospels) must be very important since it is used 76 times in the KJV. The words “Kingdom of heaven” is used some 32 times both mean about the same thing. Yet, many Christians or Bible students do not really have a clear understanding as to what the “Kingdom of YHWH/ of heaven” really is or what it means, even though it was Yahshua’s main message throughout his entire ministry on earth, beginning at (Matt. 4:17) and the reason for why he was sent to Israel, (Luke 4:43). Why then is this message so difficult for Christians to understand?
Some examples where the expression of Kingdom of YHWH, and Kingdom of heaven are used:
Matt. 5:17.Yahshua said -You must repent, because the “Kingdom of heaven was at hand.”
Matt. 6:33. “But seek ye first the Kingdom of YHWH, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Matt.7:21. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Master, Master, shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Matt. 12:29. “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of YHWH, then the Kingdom of YHWH is come unto you.”
Matt. 19:24. “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of YHWH.”
Mar. 1:15. “And saying, the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of YHWH is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
These are just a few of the many examples, but there is a point here that can be seen running through the verses; it is, that the “Kingdom of YHWH/of heaven” often requires an action on the part of the hearer. We are told to repent “because the Kingdom of heaven was at hand.” (Matt. 10:7). We are told to seek the kingdom of YHWH, “seek ye first the Kingdom of YHWH.” We are told that the Kingdom of heaven comes to the one, “that doeth the will of my Father” which is in heaven. ”We are not told to wait for the “Kingdom of YHWH” to come to earth, because it was already near, (Luke 10:9). And, it had come upon you” (Luke 11:20); also, it does not come with observation, (Luke17:20); that it is “within us” (you),” (Luke 17:21). We are not told that Yahshua was going to be the King of the “Kingdom of YHWH” for us on earth in the future, because the Kingdom that Yahshua was talking about had already come at the time he was speaking!
Recently I heard a man make reference to “the ‘Gospel’ of the Kingdom;” he said, “that it is often used among charismatics.” He then added, “Amazingly however, no one seemed to know what the ‘Gospel’ of the Kingdom meant.” A few made an attempt to explain it, but nothing really stood out to him that seemed practical or believable, and more importantly, was it really Biblically-based? Only in the last year, through the help of a friend, this man said he thought that he found out what Jesus and his apostles meant by “the Gospel of the Kingdom” or was it “the Gospel of Christ” that they were talking about? (Which he though, properly translated meant “the Gospel of the King”). But I said look at the subject that Yahshua was talking about, wasn’t it supposed to be the “Kingdom of YHWH” not “the Gospel of the King”? Wasn’t Yahshua teaching about the “Kingdom of YHWH/of heaven?” Did Yahshua ever say, “The Gospel of the King” or the “Kingdom of Christ”? No, he did not say that anywhere, so this meaning cannot be correct. Yahshua was talking about the “Kingdom of YHWH/of heaven.” Did the Gospel writers make a mistake? I don’t think so.
The Kingdom of YHWH/of heaven
The use of the word “Kingdom” is commonly understood in English Bibles to be a realm or a physical authority of The Almighty Sovereign Power Creator of the universe on earth. Some think it means a future physical coming realm or a rule on earth by Yahshua. This however, is very unfortunate, since it misses the true Greek/Aramaic meaning as used in ancient Biblical culture and Israelite tribal customs. Remember, Yahshua is speaking to descendants of the Israelites, not to people living in our age and he is not speaking for a time over 2,000 years in the future after Yahshua was executed. We believe it is through mistranslations, poor understanding, and bad English word selections that are replacing the ancient vernacular of the Hebrew-Greek language and idioms, where many translations go off of track from the correct understanding of what was understood by the ancients.
George M. Lamza, in his book “The Kingdom on Earth” has this interesting paragraph. “The Aramaic word malkotha, [translated in Greek as basileia] kingdom, also means counsel; the term “malko” king, means a tribal counselor. Thus God’s kingdom also means God’s counsel. Where injustice and suffering are dominate, people pray for a better rule, and where earthly rulers and kings fail to do justice and remedy the conditions, they pray for God’s rule and His kingdom (His counsel) to prevail.”
Yahweh’s (counsel) is not going to come by observation, nor will His Kingdom be “earthly.” We must be faithful and do our part, our action, and deeds, or things will never change. If we elect wicked and unrighteous rulers, we can expect to get a wicked and unrighteous rule. Yahshua said: (Matt. 12:5), “The Kingdom of Yahweh is within you….” If the Kingdom of YHWH is within us, it is up to us as His righteous representatives here on earth, to make the Kingdom of YHWH appear. We are the brothers and sisters of Yahshua, Therefore also sons and daughters of our Father YHWH, (Matt. 12:50), and therefore we are YHWH’s representatives, we are (in fact) His Kingdom on earth.
The (Gospel) message of Yahshua was for the sons of Yahweh to repent, to turn to YHWH’s counsel, and then make righteousness on earth happen. The kingdom is not some physical place – it is an authority (a Counsel) that the Father makes available to His sons/daughters to do His will and become obedient. His authority will dwell within them when they seek it, and when they use it.
In the Hebrew Bible, the Kingdom (counsel, or authority) rested upon the anointed priesthood, upon Kings, or the prophets as YHWH’s representatives; they then directed the people by their authority. Over time, this system became corrupted and was infiltrated by Edomites. In Yahshua’s time it was in the process of changing and being renewed, a “Re-newed Covenant” was coming (but not a “New Covenant”). The re-newed Covenant would require the destruction of the complete cultic Temple worship/sacrificial payment system (the old). This happened in 70 CE as was prophesied by Yahshua in Matt. 24. With the Temple destroyed, the Priesthood was also destroyed and along with the priesthood, the complete sacrificial cultic system of worship. What was in the past as “external law” administered by Priests and kings would now become “internal law” for the obedient sons of the Father, the brothers and sisters of Yahshua (the true believers). No longer would the priesthood or a king be the counsel or sole authority for the people. The good news (gospel) message of Yahshua was: that the counsel (kingdom, of authority) was now available to all Israelite believers who would seek and ask YHWH for His counsel, expect to receive it, and then do the will of YHWH on earth.
YHWH’s authority is the only real authority there is. He is the only one worth obeying. Submitting ourselves to the “ordinances after the traditions of men” (e.g. like covering our heads by tradition) will only lead to personal bondage and suffering. Real authority is also possible by observing the life of Yahshua, and through the illumination of YHWH’s counsel; His Kingdom within us. No amount of physical effort will accomplish this, but when one of YHWH’s children is empowered by His counsel, they will also express His “Kingdom (counsel) of heaven” on Earth. That is real power and that then is real authority. The “other” will recognize it and will shy away from those that express it.
To review: The first thing Yahshua taught in his First Century message to Israel, and to us was; “Repent for the Kingdom (counsel) of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Repentance, personal accountability to the will of YHWH is the first step to fulfilling the Kingdom (counsel) of YHWH within each of us. Without this foundational “first” principle, the Kingdom (counsel) of YHWH does not exist on any other level.
Personal sovereignty, seeking YHWH’s counsel, and each individual taking responsibility for his personal instruction, sustenance, and protection on all levels, is the Kingdom of YHWH in action. As we grow into small individual sovereigns, we also begin to mature into “Son-ship.” When we become “kings” over our own mind, over our own actions, and over our own dominion, (a result shown in our daily lives) then we begin to learn sovereignty. When we exercise self-government according to the will and counsel of YHWH, we begin to enter into and experience the Kingdom counsel of YHWH, and also the Government “Kingdom” of YHWH. If we reject His will and if we refuse to be governed by the principles of YHWH’s Divine Edict, and avoid keeping the Covenant/contract (the Commandments) we will then also refuse citizenship in the Kingdom of YHWH, and the Kingdom of heaven. Until we do, we cannot become children within His heavenly household; we will just simply remain on the outside. The Kingdom “within” us is the foundational principle of all other facets of the Kingdom (counsel) of YHWH. From then and then only will each receive real authority, and we can then begin to rule YHWH’s Kingdom on earth.
If the Kingdom of YHWH is not within us, it will not be outside of us either!
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