Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral during Lent 2008, with boots and dogtags of fallen soldiers Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco during Lent 2008, with boots and dogtags of fallen soldiers walking, searching for eternal truth

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Where is the Kingdom of God and when do I get to see it?

So I was posed this question on a Facebook message...

Here's a question I'd like to bounce off you. In the AM I've been reading through Mark. This morning I was reading Mark 14:25 in The Message and the NIV. In this passage, Jesus seems to imply that he is not yet in the Kingdom of God.

However, for the past year or so I've been thinking that the "Kingdom of Heaven" doesn't necessarily refer to a place in the afterlife and that we can be in the Kingdom of Heaven now if we understand Christ and live by Christ. All other references in Mark (up to 14:25, so far) fit with this (4:11, 4:26, 4:30, 9:1, 10:14-15, 10:23, 10:27, 12:34).

Your thoughts? Is the Kingdom of Heaven an afterlife-only thing? If not, how does 14:25 get reconciled?

For a common discussion, I have Mark 14:24-25 in the NIV :
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. "I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God."

Matthew's reference to that fateful Passover dinner was similar at 26:29. It was stated during the Passover dinner.

Seems like my friend's basic question was : When was the Kingdom of Heaven supposed to occur?

First, I just want to make sure I understand the phrase Kingdom of Heaven. I have to assume that it's in reference to the Kingdom of God. Mark and Luke prefer using the phrase Kingdom of God and it's Matthew that uses the phrases Kingdom of Heaven.

As such, it depends on your translation and reading of that phrase. I concur with many scholars who believe that the Greek words translate better as "Reign of God" or "Dominion of God" rather than an actual nation with a monarchal God in a Palace. It's a phrase that's pretty much New Testament jargon, since there are hardly any references to a coming kingdom in the Old Testament.

Second, where is this domain or reign? To some it's in Heaven, and to others it's on Earth. It's a tormenting question that I think affects many folks and is one of the basic ones used by people to figure out which church they find comfort and compatibility.

To me, Heaven is Earth fully realized. Just as Man redeemed is Man fully realized as he was originally made by God, so is the Earth. I tend to environmentalism because I see much of the New Testament asking us to be shepherds to the world and the needy and that the original covenants demanded we take care of and sanctify the earth.

When Jesus said he wouldn't drink wine, it's even more relevant when compared to John 9:1-5 (where he says he's the vine, God's the gardener and we are the fruit or wine). John's verses make Mark sound like we the fruit are not to be united with Christ the vine until He is in the Kingdom of God.

But that's where the aftermath of Mark 14 matters to me. Christ died. The Pentacost drop shipped the Holy Spirit into our lives. A new promise was established during Mark 14 at the Last Supper. The Crucifixion sealed the deal and Pentacost brought God, Christ and Man together.

So Christ did enter the domain of God. And he walked on it among his disciples here.

This, to me, means that Jesus did usher in a new era, a new reign. The point of Mark 14:25 was that Jesus would not touch the fruit until He saw the Kingdom. It wasn't about us seeing the Kingdom. And since He did, He the vine can touch us the fruit once more.

I believe we are supposed to be realizing the promise of this era but we are not. I think we're called out to love another and the world, all as Jesus outlined, to do our part of the promise.

Our failure to do so keeps us of realizing Heaven here on earth.

So is it an afterlife only thing, as asked? To me, unfortunately, yes, but only for now. I think it's an afterlife only thing because we continue to not fulfill the two commandments that Jesus identified (Love God, Love one another). I think Jesus brought the dominion here to Man on Earth because of His death and Pentacost (He did reach the kingdom). But we don't benefit from it because we haven't shown ourselves to be proper stewards of this kingdom.

Our Kingdom can be here, but we must first prove ourselves to be model citizens.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Mel. I agree - our failure to love one another keeps us from realizing Heaven on earth. Very frustrating to be a sinner and keep failing at this.

    I think my stumbling over Mark 14:25 is rooted in the Message paraphrase. I like the Message for some things, but it confuses things too at times. Your blog posting helps explain out that Christ is referring to the Kingdom as an era, or reign that is forthcoming, and is not a personal "state".