Jesus Focused on the Kingdom of God, Not Church
Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, but we made a church instead. What if he never intended us to form a church? After all, Jesus did tell his followers to “seek first the kingdom of God,” (Matthew 6:33, ESV).
Let’s look at where else the Bible talks about the kingdom of God/kingdom of heaven and where it talks about church. (Mark and Luke write the kingdom of God, whereas Matthew prefers kingdom of heaven. The phrases are synonymous.)
Kingdom of God, kingdom of Heaven, and church are New Testament concepts. These terms don’t occur anywhere in the Old Testament. Jesus talks much about the kingdom of God/heaven and little about church: eighty-five times versus three (and then only in Matthew).
Clearly Jesus focuses his teaching on the kingdom of God. Since Jesus comes to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17), the kingdom of God must be how he intends to do so. If the call to seek first the kingdom of God is so important to Jesus, it should be important to us too.
Jesus’s Parables about His Kingdom
Today’s church should push aside her traditions and practices to replace them with what Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God. Jesus explains the Kingdom of God through parables:
- The parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30)
- The parable of scattering seed (Mark 4:26-27)
- The parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32; Mark 4:31-32, and Luke 13:18-19)
- The parable of yeast (Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20-21)
- The parable of the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44)
- The parable of the pearl (Matthew 13:45)
- The parable of the net (Matthew 13:47-48)
- The parable of settling accounts (Matthew 18:23-35)
- The parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
- The parable of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22:2-14)
- The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
We should use these parables to inform our view of God and grow our relationship with him and others.
The Kingdom Is Here
In addition, when Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, he mentions how close it is, saying that it’s near (Luke 10:9 and others). It’s within his disciple’s lifetimes (Mark 9:1), even present (Luke 17:21).
How do we understand this immediacy of the kingdom of God? Isn’t kingdom of God a euphemism for heaven? Doesn’t it mean eternal life? If so, how could it have been near 2,000 years ago but now something we anticipate in our future?
Though an aspect of the kingdom of God looks forward to our eternity with Jesus in heaven, there’s more to it. We must view the kingdom of God as both a present reality and a future promise.
Yes, the kingdom of God is about our hope for heaven when we die, but it’s also about our time on earth now. The kingdom of God is about Jesus and his salvation, along with the life we lead in response to his gift to us. The kingdom of God is about eternal life and that eternal life begins today.
Heaven is just phase two. We’re living in phase one—at least we should be.
We’ll do well to embrace Jesus’s teaching about the Kingdom of God to how we should act today. We should seek first the kingdom of God.
Check out the next post in this series addressing seminary.
Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.