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The Active “Kinging” of God

From Jeff Gibbs’ article in the Fall Lutheran Forum.

What, Where, and When is the Basileia of God?

Why transliterate basileia?  The standard English translations all render it with “kingdom,” and the standard Greek-English lexica give this as an acceptable translation.  The standard translation, however, brings with it an inherent tendency to confuse or even conceal what Jesus (and Matthew) are saying.  In English, a “kingdom” is primarily a place and not an activity, for there is no corresponding cognate verb like “to king” that would be defined as “to act or function in a kingly way.”  I suspect that the person in the pew hears “kingdom of heaven” and thinks of a place, probably the blessed rest of the dead in Christ.  In Greek, however, (and in Hebrew as well), basileia is a verbally-based noun, and it is one of the standard conclusions of New Testament scholarship to say that the basileia of God, in terms of which Matthew confesses the significance of Jesus, is the reigning of God, the active ruling deeds of God.  Thus, when Jesus or John announces that the basileia has come near, they are saying that the God of Israel is showing up in a new way, to do kingly deeds that the prophets longed to see him do.  As a layman said to me some years ago after a presentation of this idea, “What you’re saying is that the kingdom is a verb.”   That’s right.  And the verbing happens in Jesus and through Jesus.  Matthew’s dominant proclamation of Jesus of Nazareth is this: in Jesus and his ministry, the God of Israel has begun to reign in a new way.

 

And later…

Jesus’ announcement and his proclamation of the reign of God in himself reveal his claim that the reign of God has come into the world that is already created and owned by God.

This teaches us about the major significance of the miracles of Jesus.  One commonly hears that Jesus’ miracles are proofs of his divinity, and there may be truth in this.  More persuasively, however, the miracles of Jesus are manifestations of his primary message and claim—manifestations of God’s renewing His claim on His world.  Jesus’ miracles are examples, foretastes of what it will be like on the day when God finally repairs and restores His people and His world.  Legs are supposed to walk, and so Jesus, bringer of the reign of God, restores that power.  Eyes are designed by God to see, and Jesus restores that sight.  The world is to be abundant, producing food for the hungry—and in the desert, Jesus provides food for crowds of thousands.  One day, Satan will have no power to torment and possess human creatures, so in Jesus’ ministry he cast out demons and taught, “But if I in the Spirit of God am casting out the demons, then the reign of God has come upon you” (Mt 12:28).

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