A Kingdom perspective
The Kingdom of God, or reign of God, describes His sovereign rule over all creation as king and father: it is a rule governed by His love for creation, rather than governed merely by power. It is a rule that requires faithful obedience from those who acknowledge Him, but cannot be undermined by those who resist Him. The kingdom is present here on earth now through the coming of His Son Jesus Christ, but also points to the future – the eschaton - when the kingdom will reach perfection at the end of time.
The future kingdom is one where there will be a full and complete communion with God, with one another and with all creation; beauty; splendour; peace; fruitfulness; no tears; and no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (Isaiah 11:6; Rev 21:4). Where the love, holiness and glory of God will fill our hearts in His personal presence: there will be joy, gratitude, worship – true and total freedom.
The kingdom of God is for all people to enter. Within the kingdom of God the vulnerable, the marginalized have a particular mention to emphasise the inclusive nature of the kingdom, and are shown special favour (Harkness 1974, Chapter 3). From Christ Jesus’ early ministry He proclaimed some fundamentals of the kingdom:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." (Luke 4:18,19; Isaiah 61:1,2)
The liberation that Christ Jesus of Nazareth came to offer is the very sign of the kingdom and the hope of the people. God the Father, out of His love for all people, gave His one and only Son, Christ Jesus on the Cross, and raised Him to life by the power of the Holy Spirit so that all may be redeemed: in order that all people may be forgiven for their sins and be liberated from such bondage. Through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus it is possible for people to be reconciled to God, to have a right relationship with Him through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the liberation and salvation message of the kingdom through Christ Jesus. Human relationships are transformed in God’s kingdom, which will reach fulfilment when people are in communion with God and with one another.
The Kingdom of God is of concern for all people, including non-Christians. Everyone is on a journey, and God is able to work through all people, without them necessarily acknowledging Him or accepting Christ Jesus as Lord. Thus transformation can occur without there being salvation: such occasions are part of the kingdom story, as people seek faith, healing and a desire for forgiveness. And the journey will be complete when it leads to salvation in Jesus Christ, with the eternal significance that God desires for all.
The church has a central role in working for the kingdom, the church is sent by Christ Jesus to continue in His mission and to participate in the reconciling work of the Spirit (Goheen 2001, p 117). Thus working for the extension of the kingdom is the activity for all Christians, including Christian relief and development agencies. Working for the kingdom is an invitation to take part in the transforming of human relationships, an invitation to proclaim in word and deed the message of liberation and salvation that Christ Jesus embodied in his public ministry and death on the Cross and His resurrection.
The Church needs to recover this vision of the Kingdom and offer this hope to the nations. The world without the Gospel of the Kingdom is just a world. It has not awareness of purpose. But once confronted by the Kingdom or faced with the presence of the church, it becomes aware of its purpose. (Vencer 2002, p50)
The value of Kingdom Work: As citizens of God’s kingdom, we may not just write off the present earth as a total loss, or rejoice in its deterioration. We must indeed be working for a better world now. Our efforts to bring the kingdom of Christ into fuller manifestation are of eternal significance. Our Christian life today, our work, our struggles against sin – both individually and institutional – our mission work, our attempt to develop and promote distinctive Christian culture, have value not only for this world but even for the world to come. (Hoekema 1979, p287)
... For now, however, they are trying to build the Kingdom of God one person at a time. (Miller & Yamamori 2007, p5)
The Kingdom of God then is the redemptive activity of God in history through the person of Jesus Christ. It does not arrive by human achievement. Humans are, however, invited to repentance and faith by which they enter the Kingdom, and are invited to both the responsible participation in the Kingdom-already-arrived, and to the watchful expectation of the Kingdom-still-to-come. (Samuel & Sugden 1999, p154)
...these individuals were praying for their families, their neighbours, and their government. They wanted to bring the kingdom of God to earth, and the starting point for this transformation was cleansing the sin in their own lives. Only then would they be equipped to work on the corruption around them. (Miller & Yamamori 2007, p13)
Jesus’ Lordship is the content of the Kingdom, not Kingdom ethics. Kingdom ethics arise from the acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord of everything. They are not about behaviour in a Kingdom society, nor a blueprint to be imposed legalistically, but are about how people behave who live out Jesus’ teaching of the rule of God. They are a response of love to Jesus’ Lordship. (Sugden & Barclay 1990, p14)
Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical letter on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate, Redemptoris Missio, (Paulus 1990, sections 14 & 15) wrote:
Jesus gradually reveals the characteristics and demands of the kingdom through his words, his actions and his own person.
The kingdom of God is meant for all mankind, and all people are called to become members of it. To emphasize this fact, Jesus drew especially near to those on the margins of society, and showed them special favor in announcing the Good News. At the beginning of his ministry he proclaimed that he was "anointed...to preach good news to the poor" (Lk 4:18). To all who are victims of rejection and contempt Jesus declares: "Blessed are you poor" (Lk 6:20). What is more, he enables such individuals to experience liberation even now, by being close to them, going to eat in their homes (cf. Lk 5:30; 15:2), treating them as equals and friends (cf. Lk 7:34), and making them feel loved by God, thus revealing his tender care for the needy and for sinners (cf. Lk 15:1-32).
The liberation and salvation brought by the kingdom of God come to the human person both in his physical and spiritual dimensions. Two gestures are characteristic of Jesus' mission: healing and forgiving. Jesus' many healings clearly show his great compassion in the face of human distress, but they also signify that in the kingdom there will no longer be sickness or suffering, and that his mission, from the very beginning, is meant to free people from these evils. In Jesus' eyes, healings are also a sign of spiritual salvation, namely liberation from sin. By performing acts of healing, he invites people to faith, conversion and the desire for forgiveness (cf. Lk 5:24). Once there is faith, healing is an encouragement to go further: it leads to salvation (cf. Lk 18:42-43). The acts of liberation from demonic possession-the supreme evil and symbol of sin and rebellion against God-are signs that indeed "the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mt 12:28).
The kingdom aims at transforming human relationships; it grows gradually as people slowly learn to love, forgive and serve one another. Jesus sums up the whole Law, focusing it on the commandment of love (cf. Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28). Before leaving his disciples, he gives them a "new commandment": "Love one another; even as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34; cf. 15:12). Jesus' love for the world finds its highest expression in the gift of his life for mankind (cf. Jn 15:13), which manifests the love which the Father has for the world (cf. Jn 3:16). The kingdom's nature, therefore, is one of communion among all human beings-with one another and with God.
The kingdom is the concern of everyone: individuals, society, and the world. Working for the kingdom means acknowledging and promoting God's activity, which is present in human history and transforms it. Building the kingdom means working for liberation from evil in all its forms. In a word, the kingdom of God is the manifestation and the realization of God's plan of salvation in all its fullness (Paulus 1990, sections 14 & 15).