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The Neglected Kingdom of God

Anthony Buzzard

Excerpted from The Coming Kingdom of the Messiah, pp. 14-17.

Many Scholars agree that the Kingdom of God -as preached by Jesus – is widely missing from today’s Christian preaching.

Tom Sine & Michael Green

Other commentators sense that something is seriously amiss when the phrase which Jesus used constantly — in fact his own Gospel — is seldom, if ever, heard in Christian circles. Tom Sine points out that “the victory of the future of God was the central theme of the ministry of Jesus.” Then he adds: “Michael Green asked during the Lausanne International Conference on World Evangelization in 1974, ‘How much have you heard here about the Kingdom of God? Not much. It is not our language. But it was Jesus’ prime concern.’”[1]

Peter Wagner & George Eldon Ladd

The frank admission of Peter Wagner ought to be disturbing. It is immensely instructive. He confesses that Christians are not using the language of Jesus! In his book, Church Growth and the Whole Gospel, he cites George Eldon Ladd as saying that “modern scholarship is quite unanimous in the opinion that the Kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus.” Wagner then comments:

If this is true, and I know of no reason to dispute it, I cannot help wondering out loud why I haven’t heard more about it in the thirty years I have been a Christian. I certainly have read about it enough in the Bible. Matthew mentions the Kingdom 52 times, Mark 19 times, Luke 44 times and John 4. But I honestly cannot remember any pastor whose ministry I have been under actually preaching a sermon on the Kingdom of God. As I rummage through my own sermon barrel, I now realize that I myself have never preached a sermon on it. Where has the Kingdom been?[2]

Arthur Glasser & Richard Rothe

Arthur Glasser, expert on Christian missions, asked:

When is the last time you heard a sermon on the Kingdom of God? Frankly, I’d be hard put to recall ever having heard a solid exposition of this theme. How do we square this silence with the widely accepted fact that the Kingdom of God dominated our Lord’s thought and ministry? My experience is not uncommon. I’ve checked this out with my colleagues. Of course, they readily agree they’ve often heard sermons on bits and pieces of Jesus’ parables. But as for a solid sermon on the nature of the Kingdom of God as Jesus taught it — upon reflection, they too began to express surprise that is the rare pastor who tackles the subject.[3]

These scholars have put their fingers on a fundamental problem of Christianity as we know it. Contemporary evangelism and
indeed preaching in general, though supposedly based on the Bible, do not sound like the teaching of Jesus. While they continue to use his name, they do not reflect his central theme — the Kingdom of God. This remarkable discrepancy was recognized also by the 19th-century German theologian, Richard Rothe, who expressed his uneasiness about received methods of expounding the Bible:

Our key does not open — the right key is lost and until we are put in possession of it again our exposition will never succeed. The system of biblical ideas is not that of our schools and so long as we attempt exegesis without it, the Bible will remain a half-closed book. We must enter upon it with other conceptions than those we have been accustomed to think the only possible ones.[4]

Burton Scott Easton & B. T. Viviano

This reformation of the Gospel might well take its cue from the excellent observation of Professor Burton Scott Easton in his article on “Salvation” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1939):

Jesus’ statement “the Kingdom of God is at hand” had the inseparable connotation “Judgment is at hand,” and in this context, “Repent” (Mark 1:14, 15) must mean “lest you be judged.” Hence our Lord’s teaching about salvation had primarily a future content: positively, admission into the Kingdom of God, and negatively, deliverance from the preceding judgment.

At present Jesus’ saving Gospel message remains unclear in the minds of churchgoers. Those who heard the historical Jesus’ call to salvation would have been exposed to a clear, vital message about the coming Kingdom of God on earth. Today invitations to salvation contain little or none of this information. A message confined to Jesus’ death for sins has replaced Jesus’ comprehensive Kingdom Gospel. It appears that the original Christian proclamation has suffered an alarming eclipse. Such a situation threatens the life of Christianity itself, since Jesus always made faith or belief in his Message the condition of salvation. The amazing absence of the Kingdom of God from current presentations of the Gospel was noted by the Roman Catholic scholar B.T. Viviano:

As a teacher of New Testament literature…it early became obvious to me that the central theme of the preaching of the historical Jesus of Nazareth was the near approach of the Kingdom of God. Yet, to my amazement, this theme played hardly any role in the systematic theology I had been taught in the seminary. Upon further investigation I realized that this theme had in many ways been largely ignored in the theology and spirituality and liturgy of the church in the past two thousand years, and when not ignored, often distorted beyond recognition. How could this be?[5]


[1] The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, Waco, TX: Word Books, 1981, pp. 102-3, emphasis added.

[2] The centrality of the Kingdom of God in Jesus’ teaching is emphasized in many contemporary sources, for example in Christian Religious Education by the Roman Catholic writer, Thomas Groome (Harper & Row, 1980), pp. 35-55. In footnote 16 to chapter 5, he cites a number of leading contemporary scholars who agree that the Kingdom of God dominates everything that Jesus taught.

[3] Missiology, April 1980, p. 13.

[4] Quoted by G.N.H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, rep. Kregel, 1952, p.21, emphasis added.

[5] The Kingdom of God in History, Michael Glazier, 1988, p. 9.

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