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importance this world is after all for Jesus' promise. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, blessedness and torment follow immediately after death, but not upon earth. There is no contradiction here for Jesus with the hope in the kingdom of God, because for Him nothing depends upon the place, but everything upon the condition of men. .
Expressed in simple terms, what Jesus promises in the kingdom of God is everlasting life, man's entrance into unbroken community with God. In common with His Jewish contemporaries, He pictures this everlasting life to Himself upon an earthly stage and with earthly features, but it is in the centre of the picture that He places that which is everlasting -nearness to God, such as is not known here upon earth.
And the door that leads to life eternal is the judgment of God that appoints unto every man everlasting bliss or everlasting torment. The later theology, which postponed blessedness to the next world, to heaven, understood Jesus after all better than our modern archæologists, who in their interest for earth forget heaven. When He said the kingdom of God is at hand, He wished to place all those that heard Him in the presence of God and of eternity, in comparison with which this earth and world are of very little worth.
2. The Jews of Jesus' time entirely postponed the coming of the kingdom of God to the future. No trace of that kingdom could be perceived as long as the Roman ruled in the land. It had not, of course, been so at all times. When the Asmonean high priests and kings set up their empire and conquered many of the neighbouring tribes, then the Messianic Age appeared to them and to many of their followers to have begun already. The King and Son of God was there already, the promise which Jahwe had given His people seemed to be about to be fulfilled. In the Messianic Psalms, ii. and cx., the beginning of the kingdom of God and of its king are already celebrated. But all this was nothing but beautiful dreams. We do well to remember this when we come to examine the question, Does the kingdom of God exist for Jesus in the present or in the future ? Does He promise it, or does He bring it with Him?
The Gospels themselves, if asked for an answer, appear to be in doubt. By the side of passages which speak of it as still future, there are others which declare that it is just being established upon earth.
The former passages are the most numerous, and are to be found from the beginning to the end of Jesus' ministry. His disciples are to hand on this same message with which He began : “ The kingdom of God is at hand ”; they are not to change it and say the kingdom has come with Jesus. In the Lord's Prayer they are to pray “ Thy kingdom come,” not, “ “may it be fully established,” for it is not here at all as yet. So Jesus ever speaks of entrance into the kingdom as of a future event. The Beatitudes are all promises, one just as much as the other, “ for theirs is the kingdom of God,” as much as “ for they shall see God.” On the last journey to Jerusalem the sons of Zebedee beg for the seats of honour in the future kingdom, and Jesus acquiesces in the form of their request. And even at the Last Supper He looks
towards the future when He says that He will not drink of the fruit of the vine with His disciples until the kingdom of God shall come.
The chief passage, too, which would seem to prove the present nature of the kingdom, points likewise to the future, if rightly understood (Luke xvii. 20 : The kingdom of God is already among you”). In the first place, it is quite certain that the right translation is “among you” and not “in you,” for Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, so the evangelist expressly tells us. And next, we must notice the connection of the phrase with its context. It is immediately succeeded by the great eschatological speech of the sudden coming of the Son of Man, who shall appear all at once like the lightning. But first shall come days of tribulation and longing all in vain. The whole speech therefore presupposes that the kingdom of God is yet to come. And it is preceded by these words : “ The kingdom of God shall not come in a way that attracts attention, nor will people say, “Look, here it is !' or there it is!'
Now the only possible antithesis to these future tenses is : the kingdom will be amongst you so suddenly that you will have no time at all. for apocalyptic calculations and disputes. For like a flash of lightning so is the kingdom of God. This celebrated passage proves, therefore, just this: that Jesus, in contrast to all apocalyptic calculations, prophesies the coming of the kingdom of God as a sudden surprise.
Finally, the force of the argument derived from a consideration of all these passages is confirmed by certain indirect conclusions. To enter into the king
dom of God and to inherit eternal life is so entirely one and the same thing for Jesus, that either expression is used indifferently. The opposite of the kingdom of God is hell with the everlasting fire. In the kingdom of God the patriarchs and the souls of the saved shall meet together. The resurrection of the dead will therefore coincide with the advent of the kingdom. The vision of God is a future reward. The judgment and the kingdom of God are to come together. The latter cannot be said to be present as long as the separation of men into good and bad is still impending. Finally, the coming of the kingdom is brought about by the return of Messiah.
Now if we add to these considerations the fact that the early Christians all expected the kingdom of God in the future, we may look upon it as one of the facts which we know with the greatest certainty that in the message of Jesus the term kingdom of God has an eschatological connotation, that it stands for the new world that is to come.
There are, however, it is true, passages which point in another direction, and these need to be examined as well. The question is whether they can be explained, starting as we have done from eschatological premises.
In His casting out of the devils Jesus saw the beginning of the kingdom of God. “ If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” His victories over the devils seem to Him to be so many blows struck against the empire of Satan, leading on to its downfall. God's Spirit works through Jesus and lays the
foundation for the transformation of the world. When the Baptist asks Him, “ Art thou He that should come?" he receives the answer: “ The blind
” receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up.” Once more it is the miracles by which one recognizes the dawn of the New Time. Even though much has still to be awaited—hence the warning, “ Blessed is he that shall not be offended in Me”—yet for the believer a visible pledge of the final accomplishment is ready to hand.
This point we may look upon as established beyond all doubt. Jesus regarded—we must admit it
His momentary miracles as the first signs of the coming kingdom of God. We may perhaps call that the enthusiasm of Jesus.
Another saying seems to point in the same direction. We have to piece it together from Matthew and Luke. Its meaning is somewhat mysterious :
The law and the prophets until John.
But no sooner do we realize that Jesus uttered this in triumphant exultation than the words come to be full of life for us.' The kingdom is no longer a far-off divine event as in the ages when the law and the prophets prepared the way for it.
It is even now being established upon earth, and that with violence, while men take possession of it. So speaks one who beholds with joy how the promise passes into accomplishment. Therefore, too, Jesus can say that His disciples stand in the midst of the king