confusion around the term “kingdom of God” today? Why didn’t Jesus just define what he meant?
Let’s remember that the term is Jewish in nature as John and Jesus were Jewish and spoke to a Jewish audience. If that is the case then that begs the question, “What did Jews think about the phrase?” Is this term mentioned in the Old Testament?
The exact phrase is not actually mentioned in the Old Testament but the concept is certainly there. So let’s examine some of these Old Testament scriptures to see what the Jews were actually expecting to happen in their future. I would not say this is an exhaustive list but I think this will give us a clue as to what the Jews were expecting for their future:
1. 2Sa 7:16: It is stated that David’s kingdom will last forever
2. 1Ch 17:14: It is stated that David’s kingdom will last forever
3. Ps 45:6: God’s throne will last forever and justice will be His scepter
4. Ps 145:11: God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His saints will extol his glory to all the earth
5. Is 9:7: There will be no end to the government of the Lord and he will rule on David’s throne
6. Is 32:1-8: A kingdom of righteousness will be established, the land will flourish and infirmities of people will be removed
7. Jr 23:5: The Branch will be the king and reign wisely, and bring Judah and Israel together to live safely
8. Jr 33:15: The Branch will be called the Lord of Righteousness, be a descendent of David, and will cause Jerusalem to live in
9. Dn 2:44: God will set up an earthly kingdom and it will never be destroyed
10. Dn 4:3: God’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom
11. Dn 7:18: The saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever
12. Dn 7:22: The Ancient of Days came and gave the kingdom to the saints of the Most High
13. Dn 7:27: The kingdom is given to the saints of the Most High; the kingdom of the Most High will last forever and all of the rulers will worship and obey him.
14. Ho 14:4-9: The land of Israel will be prosperous.
15. Jl 3:17-21: A fountain of water will flow from the temple and water the land; the desert will blossom; Jerusalem will be inhabited forever; the Lord will pardon Israel’s sins.
16. Am 9:11-15: The land of Israel will be prosperous; the people of Israel will never be uprooted.
17. Mi 4:7: The Lord will rule in Mt. Zion forever
18. Zp 3:15: The Lord will be Israel’s king, gather his people together so they will never again fear any harm; his people will receive glory and praise from all of the people of the earth
19. Zc 3:8: The Lord will remove sin from the land in a single day
20. Zc 6:13: The Branch will build the temple of the Lord and will be both ruler and priest from his throne.
21. Zc 14: The Lord will fight for Israel; living water will flow from Jerusalem; the Lord will be king over all the earth; the land will be prosperous and the waters will teem with fish; Jerusalem will forever be secure.
Therefore, if we take all of these scriptures together, it would seem that what has been promised to Israel is a kingdom provided by God and ruled by God who would also be a descendant of David and will rule on David’s throne. This reign will occur on the earth, be everlasting, and produce a time of peace, prosperity, and health to its people. Therefore, this, or some form of it, is what the people of John's and Jesus' day were thinking when the term "kingdom of God" was used. Therefore, Jesus did not define it because the concept was already known by the audience to whom he spoke.
Now, it is true that not all Jewish teachers/leaders were united in how all of this was going to come to pass. Actually, they were looking for a Messiah that would accomplish this. Hence, this Messiah would be the Branch, a descendant of David. However, there are other scriptures that talk of a suffering Messiah which seemed incongruent to many rabbis so they even contemplated that there may be even two Messiahs. It also appeared that the Messiah had both God-like characteristics as well as man-like characteristics. This also led them to think of the possibility of two different Messiahs.
However, although not everyone was in agreement on the exact 'how' the "kingdom of God" would come to pass, the idea of "the kingdom of God" was not in question. That is not the case today. Why is that? We will discuss this further next time.
What is the Kingdom of God? – Part 2
What Does Scripture Say?
Fall Jewish Holidays - Part 3: Sukkot