Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. When he was 30, he went to the Jordan River where he was baptized by John the Baptist. He next retreated to the wilderness where he resisted temptations from Satan. Then:
Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, saying, “Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news” (Mark 1:14-15).
In his hometown synagogue in Nazareth Jesus offered a glimpse of God’s kingdom when he read from the prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to prisoners,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
The “year of the Lord’s favor” refers to a form of property redistribution specified in Leviticus 25.
Jesus made his headquarters in Capernaum where he healed the sick and continued preaching. The people wanted him to stay, but he told them:
I must preach the good news of God’s kingdom in other cities, too, for this was why I was sent (Luke 4:43).
And preach he did. Those who count words indicate that in the synoptic gospels the phrases of “kingdom of God” in Mark and Luke and Matthew’s alternative “kingdom of heaven” appear over 100 times. (In this website we generally use the term “God’s kingdom.)
After Jesus had formed his band of disciples, he took them apart for instruction. He taught them to pray, including a petition to “Our Father who is in heaven” to
Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
Jesus didn’t lay out a detailed blueprint for God’s kingdom. But as we examine the Gospels, it becomes clear that God’s kingdom on earth isn’t a political domain ruled by an earthly monarch.
- Jesus made this clear in the wilderness when he rejected the devil’s offer to rule over all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8-10).
- For his disciples he contrasted Gentile rulers who exercise authority by ordering people around with a different approach: “Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant” (Mark 10:42-45).
- Jesus informed Pilate, “My kingdom doesn’t originate in this world….I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth” (John 18:36-38).
Rather Jesus used parables and other teachings to show his listeners how to understand and carry out the will of God. We’ll go into details in other pages of this website as we study Jesus’ teachings on the Two Great Commandments, prayer life, love of enemy, acceptance of all persons, forgiveness, mercy, justice, and peacemaking.
But Jesus did show the value of God’s kingdom through metaphors, saying that the kingdom of heaven is like:
- The seed planted in good soil, yielding an abundant crop.
- The grain standing after the weeds are destroyed.
- The tiny mustard seed that grows into a large plant and provides a nesting place for birds.
- The yeast that leavens the loaf.
- A treasure hidden in a field, purchased at great price.
- A very precious pearl, acquired by selling all other possessions to be able to buy it.
- Good fish in net separated from the bad ones (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-50).
When Is God’s Kingdom Coming?
Because Jesus preached about God’s kingdom everywhere he went, it is no wonder that on his way to Jerusalem some Pharisees wanted to know when it was coming. He told them:
God’s kingdom isn’t coming with signs that are easily noticed. Nor will people say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” Don’t you see? God’s kingdom is already among you (Luke 17:20-21).
That’s a remarkable answer! The good news is that God’s kingdom on earth exists here and now for all who want to live in it. For those who do, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
At the personal level living in God’s kingdom is a way of life devoted to seeking to understand and carry out God’s will. It is experiencing God’s presence in daily life and having a loving relationship with other persons. We can live in this manner even though society around us doesn’t fully reflect God’s will
At the societal level God’s kingdom is built upon justice for all. This concern arises first in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and continues in the New Testament. In today’s world it gains expression in social, political, and economic institutions. To the extent that justice is incomplete we have opportunities to broaden its scope and advance God’s kingdom.