What Is The Kingdom of God?

John K. Stoner (February 3, 2015)

On page 246 is this question for Reflection and Discussion:  Do you agree that Jesus intended "the kingdom of God" to describe a new understanding of power, new use of power, and a new way to run the world?

The phrase "a new way to run the world" occurs a number of times in the book, and "way to run the world"  is used as a virtual translation of the word "kingdom."

Why?

Jesus, for some reason, used the phrase "kingdom of God" probably more than any other language to describe his message and mission.  What did he mean by this?

Surely he was starting with what his listeners understood "kingdom," or "basilea" in Greek, to mean.  Kingdom described the way human life was managed and organized.  Kingdoms were the largest units of the way people organized their life on earth.  Kingdoms  (or empires) were the way people organized to run the world which they inhabited.  Kingdom was a term which in our day we would call "political." 

Viewing kingdom in this light, it is possible, indeed probably necessary, to read the story of Jesus as a running debate between conflicting ideas of how to run the world.  Jesus claims to be introducing a new kind of kingdom, or empire, which he calls "of God."  This turns out to be in conflict with existing ways of thinking about power and organizing religion and politics, church and state, to run the world.

So we suggest reading the story of Jesus in this light.  In IF NOT EMPIRE, WHAT? the story of Jesus is basically told  in chapters 19 and 20.