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Jesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus online

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ment or two later perhaps, of the Vegetable or the Mineral
Kingdom. Is the sense of the word the same in both expres-
sions? Manifestly, it is not; and we recognize the difference
at once. The word may be used, indeed, to define the territory
or the country that is subject to a king; when it is used in this
sense, the foreign possessions of the country are not commonly
included in the idea. We speak, for instance, of the Kingdom
of England without including Canada or Australia. So in this
way the word has a definite, concrete, territorial sense: it is
synonymous with "realm." But there is another sense almost
as popular as this territorial one, in which the word is used.
We refer to the inhabitants of a country, or to the popula-

^ See Appendix B, "The Phrases, 'Kingdom of Heaven' and
'Kingdom of God.' "

The Kingdom of God 19

tion subject to a king, as the "Kingdom." We say that the
kingdom was disturbed, or that the entire kingdom was alarmed.
Here^ of course, the population of the country is referred to, and
here "kingdom" is identical with the subjects of the realm. But
there is another interesting sense to be considered. This word
is also used in a more indefinite and abstract sense; at times it
possesses a larger, wider, and apparently a more intangible
meaning. For intance, men speak of the Animal, the Vegetable
and the Mineral Kingdoms; by these they mean those divisions
or spheres in which a certain law prevails and holds sway; as
in the Animal Kingdom, the law of sentient life. Or again, in
referring to the Kingdom of George V, we may mean, not
merely the limited territorial Kingdom of England, but rather,
wherever the authority of the King is acknowledged and obeyed,
whether in Canada, Australia, India, or the distant Islands of
the Sea. Here "kingdom" is synonymous with, and equivalent
to "sovereignty" or "rule." Thus we find that we have quite
different, yet not wholly unrelated, senses of the word "king-
dom" in our English tongue. It becomes therefore, a question
of prime importance to determine which of these interpreta-
tions shall be applied to the Biblical expression — "The King-
dom of God." Are we to interpret the watchword of Jesus in
terms of the abstract or of the concrete? Is it to be under-
stood of a definite organization, an ecclesiastical "realm," or
shall wt understand it as applying to the people, or persons,
who are subject to Heaven or to God? Or, lastly. Is it to be
understood of that division, sphere or domain — whatever and
wherever it may be — in which the authority of God and the
Law of Heaven prevail and are supreme? Is it a rule or sov-
ereignty? Surely these are important and imperative ques-
tions; they ought to be answered by every intelligent Christian;
and they are of the gravest importance to every minister of
Christ, who would understand his Master's aim and teaching.
In the Talmud, and in later Jewish literature, the expres-
sion is more commonly used in the latter sense — that of sov-
ereignty or "rule." The Old Testament itself, no less than
subsequent Jewish literature, bears testimony to this usage,
as we shall find later on. Yet it would be very unwise in our
interpretation of "The Kingdom of God," to reject wholly any
of the senses or interpretations of the word "kingdom" which

20 Jesus' Idea

have been given above; for in so doing, we w^ould seriously cur-
tail a term, which is at once most expressive and most elusive.
Indeed, it ought to be borne in mind constantly that it is ex-
tremely difficult to define adequately — i. e., in any succinct or
concise way, — the meaning of this phrase: not because the sense
is hazy, and the term inconclusive, and meaning nothing in real-
it)^ but because the expression is so pregnant with meaning.
However, in defining "The Kingdom of God," usually one of
the interpretations mentioned above is adopted, and often to the
exclusion of all others, the most common, and apparently the
simplest, being to identify the Kingdom of Heaven with the
Christian Church. This too common and superficial view is
the bane of much of our Christianity, and the effectual means
by which many are deterred from gaining any true and adequate
insight into the august conception of Jesus of Nazareth. Noth-
ing has been more harmful throughout the centuries; nothing
is more harmful to-day. While this interpretation should not
be rigorously excluded from the possible and allowable inter-
pretations of the phrase, it should be rigorously placed in, and
be made to abide in, a secondary and subordinate position; for
it teems with error. Yet withal there is one sense of the ex-
pression which indicates its basic and fundamental idea; of this
one must be the possessor and the ever-conscious possessor, if
he would wend his way successfully and satisfactorily through
the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. "The Kingdom of God"
suggests and denotes the ''sovereignty" or ''rule" of God, or of
Heaven. Whether this rule be over a realm, or a people, or an
individual, is a secondary and a subsidiary matter. "The sov-
ereignty of God" is the fundamental conception of the phrase:
all else is, indeed, secondary.

The most concise and the most explicit indication of the
phrase's meaning is that given by Jesus Himself in the Lord's
Prayer, in the words "Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done
in earth, as it is in heaven" (St. Matthew 6:io). Or again,
the meaning of the expression may be gathered from Our Lord's
emphatic declaration: "Not every one that saith unto me. Lord,
Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth
the will of My Father which is in Heaven." The inherent and
essentially inward and spiritual character of the Kingdom may
also be seen from such a passage as St. Luke 17:20, 21. Jesus

The Kingdom of God 21

is replying to the Pharisees, who were inquiring anxiously as
to the time when the Kingdom of God should come. His
words are: "The Kingdom of God cometh not with observa-
tion; neither shall they say, Lo here, lo there! for, behold, the
Kingdom of God is within you." The words "within you"
may also be translated "in the midst of you"; but whichever
translation is accepted, the emphasis is placed upon the inward
and spiritual aspect of the Kingdom. Many additional pas-
sages might be cited in substantiation of our contention ; in fact,
as the reader proceeds through these pages, numerous quota-
tions from both the New Testament and the Old Testament
will be met with, all of which will be found to bear upon this

Enough has now been said, however, to indicate that the
essential thought of the phrase, "The Kingdom of God," is the
sovereignty of God; or, if we choose to view it from its man-
ward side, it is obedience to God's will. The phrase may be
defined, therefore, as "the domain in which God's Holy Will
is done in and among men."

Valuable testimony to the validity of this interpretation is
furnished by Professor Dalman in his "Words of Jesus," when
he says, — "No doubt can be entertained that both in the Old
Testament and in Jewish literature malekoth (kingdom), when
applied to God, means always the 'kingly rule,' never the
'kingdom' as if it were meant to suggest the territory gov-
erned by Him. For the Old Testament see Psalms 103:19;
145:11, 12, 13, cf. Obad. 21, Ps. 29:29. For the Jewish lit-
erature, the instances to be cited later on. To-day, as in
antiquity, an Oriental 'kingdom' is not a body politic in our
sense, a people or land under some form of constitution, but
merely a 'sovereignty' which embraces a particular territory.
We shall be justified, therefore, in starting from this significa-
tion of malekoth as employed by Jesus" (p. 94). Passages from
later Jewish writings might be cited here, but, inasmuch as
several of the most important of these will be quoted in a later

^The fundamental thought and idea of "The Kingdom of God"
is clearly, if somewhat indirectly, indicated also in two of the most
suggestive passages in the New Testament. In these, the poles of
Jesus' thought are found to be the Kingdom of God and the King-
dom of Satan (St. Luke 10:17, 18, 21, 22; 11:15, 17-22).

22 Jesus* Idea

chapter, they are not now brought before the reader; when
adduced, they will be found to support the assertion of Pro-
fessor Dalman.

The significance of the descriptive phrase "of Heaven,"
or "of God," now remains to be considered: for the expression
is not merely "the Kingdom," but the Kingdom which is "of
God" or "of Heaven."

The genitive denotes the origin and source, and also, we
think, the character of the Kingdom. The idea is: In contra-
distinction to the kingdoms "in" and "of" this world, this
"kingdom" is to be "from" and "of" heaven.^

While the kingdoms of the world are of this sphere, the
result of human effort and development, reared by men, and the
product of their labor, it is not so with the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of Heaven is not developed from below, it is
introduced from above; born, not of earth, but of heaven; not
the product of man's labor, but "of the creative activity of
God." Yet it is profoundly true that men have their part in
the upbuilding of the Kingdom, and that a most essential part;
but, because the initiative lies with God, and the whole, in its
conception and development, would prove abortive, without
the ever-present care and supervision of Deity, it is rightly
denominated "The Kingdom of God."

Further, the Kingdom is "of Heaven" or "of God" not

^ Many New Testament passages corroborate this idea and set
forward this aspect of the Kingdom. The "Kingdom" is repre-
sented as "coming" in St. Matthew 6:io: "Thy Kingdom come";
as given to those who are worthy of it, thus emphasizing God's
ownership of it : St. Matthew 21 :43, "The Kingdom of God shall
be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits
thereof"; the Kingdom is "received," St. Mark 10:15: "Whosoever
shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not
enter therein" ; it is "prepared" by God from the foundation of
the world (St. Matthew 25:34); and it is "inherited" by men:
"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world"; mankind "enter" the
Kingdom through compliance with God's demands: "Except your
righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and
Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven"
(St. Matthew 5:20); finally, the Kingdom must be sought after:
"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (St.
Matthew 6:33). These, and similar passages, are clearly confirma-
tory of the heavenly source and origin of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God 23

only in its source, but also in its character. God and the World,
Heaven and Earth, are often contrasted in the pages of the
Sacred Scriptures; the terms, indeed, represent different princi-
ples, widely separated, always opposed and waging an eternal
warfare. The kingdoms of the earth, save as they have been
leavened with spiritual principles, are the embodiment of
"worldly" ideas; they have been formed, they are maintained,
and their boundaries are extended through ''worldly" princi-
ples and methods. These kingdoms are the incarnation of
man's conceptions and ambitions; they reveal man's character
as divorced from God. Not so, however, is it with the King-
dom of God. Unlike the kingdoms of the world, the Kingdom
of God is founded, maintained and extended through heavenly
principles and by Godly means; it is the embodiment of God's
ideas, conceptions and ambitions; it reveals man's true char-
acter and the possibilities inherent in human nature. The
Kingdom of God is also governed by divine laws; not by laws
of human enactment. Such, in brief, is the significance of the
descriptive clause *'of God" or ''of Heaven."

It is most noteworthy, however, that Jesus never defined the
Kingdom of God; His method was not that of definition, but
of suggestion, comparison, and illustration: He always told
what the Kingdom of God was like. Jesus, in fact, was pecu-
liarly and happily free from the theological license of affirma-
tion. Why He failed to define the Kingdom of God is a fruit-
ful source of conjecture. Perhaps the expression was already
suffering from an excess of definition; perhaps He simply
adopted the free Oriental and figurative manner of speech,
or He may have sought to stimulate — not to satisfy — the minds
of men ; or again — and this is the most probable reason for His
wholly admirable self-restraint, — He well knew that to define
the conception is to curtail, perhaps to seriously misrepresent it.
The phrase itself, "The Kingdom of Heaven," in the magnitude
of its suggested totality indicates the inability of the finite mind
to fully comprehend an infinite conception. An infinite con-
ception, indeed, defies finite definition; infinite realities defy
human comprehension. For this cause, the method of the
Master was suggestive and fragmentary, not systematic and
exhaustive. There is, indeed, an exquisite touch of pathos in
the kindliness of Jesus, who, Himself, supremely the Master of

24 Jesiis^ Idea

the idea, j^et accommodates His teaching to the limitations and
the finiteness of man. An idea, so complex, so vast and so all-
inclusive, forever hovers in a mist of elusiveness ; we catch a
glimpse now and again of the reality, — we reach for it, and
lo, it is gone; we seek to define, and the illimitable conception
baffles our most strenuous endeavors. The utmost that human-
ity can do is to throw out words at the august object, in the
hope that they may be measurably adequate; an approximation
of the truth is all that we can hope for.

We hesitate, then, to define the ''Kingdom of God," but
should the rash attempt be made, our approximate definition
would be this: The Kingdom of God is the absolute sov-
ereignty of the Universe, the absolute rule of the World and of
each individual by the Will of the Omnipotent and Righteous
God; exemplified and made possible to humanity in the Person
of Jesus Christ; it is the full realization of the mind and char-
acter of God. The great difficulty, however, encountered in
any attempt to define the Kingdom of God, renders more im-
perative the duty of determining what is the basic and funda-
mental idea of the phrase. Hence, we learn that the expres-
sion means, in the last analj^sis, a rule or sovereignty, having its
source and seat of authority in God, and in character, illus-
trating the principles which obtain and prevail in Heaven.^

It is now our privilege to inquire: What is the Origin and
Development of the Idea expressed by the words, "The King-
dom of God" or "The Kingdom of Heaven"?

* See Appendix C, "Various Definitions of The Kingdom."



Of all the solutions of the problem of human existence, that
ofFered in the Bible has seized most forcibly upon the minds
and hearts of men. The Bible, indeed, offers the highest
philosophy of life: it is the truest philosophy of history, and
the noblest history of philosophy.

The Bible, however, is an entire library in itself; and al-
though it is the production of many ages, of many pens, and
of many minds of varying degrees of intellectuality and spiritual
insight, written for different peoples, called into being by mani-
fold circumstances, and aimed to meet diverse needs and exi-
gencies, there is a substantial unity underlying the whole. There
is, as it were, a silken cord running throughout the entire litera-
ture, binding together the various parts, and differentiating this
from all other literature: that cord is The Kingdom of God.
However the authors of the various books may treat their sub-
ject, when their writings are analyzed, their theme is found to
be "The Kingdom of Heaven." The careful historian, the far-
seeing statesman, the ecstatic seer, the quiet philosopher, the
powerful preacher, the sweet-spirited poet, the thoughtful
scholar, the practical man of affairs — all contribute their share
to the Sacred Literature, and vie with each other in setting forth
the Kingdom of God. The Hebrews, in fact, were essentially
a people of one idea, and their literature reflects their life.

The Bible, indeed, is the history of the revelation, the evolu-
tion and the realization of an idea — ^The Kingdom of God; a
revelation not complete and final in its beginning, but gradual
and progressive, ever adapted and accommodated to the recep-
tivity of man, and following the law of development that is
written everywhere in the Universe, "first the blade, then the
ear, then the full corn in the ear." Let us trace this develop-


26 . Jesus' Idea

ment in bold, brief outline, with just enough attention to detail
to mark the various steps in the progress and their significance.

In introducing the problem of the world and of life, the
Scriptures begin with the declaration: "In the beginning God
created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis i :i). The writer
also informs us of the satisfaction felt by the Deity with the
work of His hands: ''God saw everything that he had made,
and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). At once, how-
ever, the question arises — What is meant by the expression
'Very good" ? What is the standard of comparison that is to
determine the "goodness"? The world, or creation, was "very
good," but "very good" as related to whom, or to what? Mani-
festly, the standpoint of God is intended. That creation was
"very good" means that, in its relation to God and to all other
creatures, everything created luas as it ought to be. This, in-
deed, is the true standard of goodness in every age. There was
a condition of perfect harmony between the Creator and the
created. There was no antagonism, but perfect obedience;
Creator and creature w'ere at peace. On every side the mind
of God was revealed; His laws w^re admitted and obeyed;
God w^as King, the w^orld of Creation w^as His Kingdom.

This relation of God to the physical world is throughout
the Old Testament emphasized by prophet and by psalmist.
Psalm 47:7 reads: — "God is the king of all the earth." In the
Psalms generally, and in many passages of the Old Testament,
this Kingship of God is represented as extending over angels
and men, the nations and kingdoms of the earth; in fact, this
sovereignty is co-extensive w^ith creation, even the forces of
nature are regarded as His ministers, while all things serve
Him (Isa. i; Chron. 29:11).

But instantly the question arises: "Have not men rebelled
against God; do they not oppose His will?" If so, how can
God be their King, and the world of men constitute His King-
dom? This question is a natural and a logical one, and while
it is apparently unanswerable, it was both raised and answered
of old. The true and adequate answer lies in Shakespeare's
famous dictum:

"There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will."

Origin and Pre-Christian Development 27

Indeed, this well-known and seemingly w^eighty objection to
the Supremacy of God, as apparent in an early age as in this,
did not cause the Biblical writers to minimize for an instant
God's full and entire sovereignty over man. Again and again
the Old Testament teaches God's providence over all, nations
and individuals, heaven and earth alike. One of the most ex-
plicit and interesting of the passages is Daniel 4:34, 35. Jere-
miah, too, represents men as clay in the hands of God, who
moulds them even as the potter moulds his clay. He tells us
that if nations w^ill not be moulded into vessels of honorable
use m serving the divine ends, they will be moulded to other
uses as vessels of dishonor. Again Psalm 76:10 declares that
even the wrath of man is made to praise God, while the residue
of wrath is restrained.

Thus the Biblical conception is, that despite the opposition
of nations and of individuals, God's providence rules over all;
that so great and superb is God's plan, so august is His Om-
niscience, so invincible and far-reaching His Omnipotence, that
due-account of human self-will and human opposition was taken
ab initio, without detracting from the fact that God is King
and that the world of nature and the world of men constitute
His Kingdom. Hence, when looking toward the ultimate out-
come of creation, we may believe with entire freedom of faith,
with England's late laureate:

''That there is
One God, one law, one element
And one far-ofif divine event
To which the whole creation moves.

We may believe this fully and freely, because "There is a
divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will."
Such a faith, indeed, is essential to rational existence; life,
without it, is unintelligible. God began as Monarch and He
reigns as Sovereign.

While this view is eminently comforting to those who are
concerned about the denouement of Creation, it is eminently
unsatisfactor}^ from the standpoint of Heaven, and even from
the standpoint of those men who have a keen sense of the ''fit-
ness of things" and are alive to the deep problems of life. Can

2 8 Jesus' Idea

God, In view of His very nature, be satisfied with such a King-
dom or Sovereignty? God, in the essence of His Being, ac-
cording to the Bible, is Free-will and Love, no less than Power.
If God is Liberty and Love, we cannot expect Him (humanly
speaking) to be satisfied with a sovereignty over men, which is
non-moral in character and the product or force, rather than
loving co-operation. Hence there is, in the very nature of God,
the potentiality of a far-higher and nobler Kingdom than one
founded upon mere authority. An earthly parent desires the
free and loving obedience of his children, not an obedience ren-
dered to his authority alone. .So it is with God. He desires
and seeks the submission of men to His authority, their obedi-
ence to His rule, but an obedience which is both intelligent and
willing, conscious and affectionate.

The world of nature, let us remember, obeys the will of
God, because His laws are inherent in its very constitution;
there is no freedom of the will, no power of choice, no self-
consciousness; it jnust proceed in its God-appointed channel.
In the world of men, however, there is freedom of the will, a
power of choice, self-consciousness. Man is not a machine,
made, wound up and designed to run. Man is a personality;
he is alone capable of entering into the closest relationship with
his Creator; tTian can love and consciously obey. Therefore,
the great world-problem is not what it is often supposed to be:
Will God's end in Creation be attained? Rather is it: Will
man co-operate with God in the realization and attainment of
that end? Thus, as in the inherent nature of God, there lies
is the essential nature of man, the possibility of, the foundation
for, and the prophecy of a Kingdom of God, far higher and
nobler, because moral and spiritual, than that which exists in
the world of nature. The Kingdom of God in the physical
world, indeed, is one thing; the Kingdom of God in humanity
is another.

Now this idea of a Kingdom of God in humanity vv^as God's
object in Creation, if the Biblical standpoint be accepted. Upon
the Kingdom of God in the physical world, God would rear a
Kingdom of God in humanity; the one representing an uncon-
scious obedience; the other, a conscious and willing obedience
to His will. But it must be noted that in man's ability to do
good there lies also the possibility of his doing evil. The very

Origin mid Pre-Christian Development 29

freedom of man's will renders the Kingdom of God in humanity
open to a temporary defeat, at least; man might choose not to
obey God.

You may divide the Universe v^ith God,
Keeping your will unbent, and hold a world
Where He is not supreme."

Such freedom of choice, indeed, marked out, apparently,
two distinct paths along which the Kingdom of God could be
realized — the pathway of obedience, — the pathw^ay of disobedi-
ence. What the course of the world-development would have
been had humanity seen fit to obey God, we do not and cannot
know; what the tortuous path, trodden by humanity for cen-
turies in view of its self-will and disobedience is, history, — lit
up by the interpretative touch of the Sacred Scriptures, — reveals.

In fact, in Genesis, immediately after the account ot the
Creation, we have the far-famed story of the Fall. Whether
this narrative is history or myth, whether it represents fact or
fancy, does not now concern us ; for whichever view be accepted,

Online LibraryFordyce Hubbard ArgoJesus' idea; a study of the real Jesus → online text (page 2 of 27)