by Anthony F. Buzzard
It is an unarguable fact that Jesus was the bearer of the Gospel or Good News about the Kingdom of God/Heaven (the two phrases are identical in meaning). “Kingdom of God” is the master-term in Jesus’ presentation of the Christian faith. It is his constant slogan, the concept around which all of his discourse revolves. “Kingdom of God” is the phrase in which the genius of the faith is concentrated. Jesus bared his mind and the fundamental intention of his whole career as prophet, rabbi and Son of God with these precious words, which should be indelibly written on the hearts of his followers:
“I am bound to preach the Gospel about the Kingdom of God to the other cities also: That is the reason why God sent me” (Luke 4:43). Logically, then, the same driving purpose should animate all Christian evangelism.
Yet, strangely, the phrase “Gospel of the Kingdom of God” is absent from the lips of nearly all contemporary attempts to “preach salvation.” Something is seriously amiss. This discrepancy was noted also by a leading church planter: “I cannot help wondering why I have not heard more about the Kingdom of God in the thirty years I have been a Christian. I certainly have read about it enough in the Bible…. 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?”
No one, therefore, should be faulted for calling attention to this amazing phenomenon: Jesus’ central concern in evangelism is blatantly absent from the vocabulary of those whose job it is to represent him.
Our language as exponents and teachers of the Christian faith had better be the language of Jesus. Language reflects mind. And Christians claim to have, by virtue of the holy spirit, “the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16).
If we grant then that the Kingdom of God is the heart of the saving Message (Mark 1:14, 15; cp. Matt. 13:19; Luke 8:12), the reasonable and necessary question is: “What is the Kingdom?”
A good place to examine the question is at the beginning of the New Testament, though an approach from the Old Testament would be equally valid and valuable. For the moment, let us start with Matthew. When, what and where is the Kingdom? A cloud of fog and confusion has settled over many Bible students in regard to defining the Kingdom. But this need not be: In the Lord’s prayer, we are invited to approach God with the words “May Your Kingdom come.” This point of reference is familiar to the least instructed, and its force should not be missed. You do not pray for something to come, if it has already come! The petition is positively not, “May Your Kingdom grow,” nor “May Your Kingdom spread.” The request is for the future arrival of the Kingdom, meaning of course, that in the sense indicated by Jesus in the “Lord’s prayer,” the Kingdom had not yet come.
An excellent Old Testament base for just such a future coming of the Kingdom is found in Micah 4:7, 8. In that passage the prophet announces that the Kingdom will yet come to Mount Zion, and it will be a return to a former, lost condition, a restoration of dominion which has been taken away from Jerusalem: “The Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion and henceforth forever. And you, tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, to you it is going to come, namely the former dominion: the KINGDOM will come to the daughter of Jerusalem.”
A clear basis indeed for the request: “Thy Kingdom come”! And the Kingdom is a concrete empire based on a geographical location — Jerusalem, which Jesus called “the city of the Great King” (Matt. 5:35).
Again, in Matthew, the Kingdom is the great and decisive event of the future: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘lord, lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven/God; but only he who does my Heavenly Father’s will. Many will say to me in that day…” (Matt. 7:21, 22). The linkage is clear. Jesus’ words rivet together the concept of Kingdom and “in that (future) day.” The Kingdom belongs in the mind of Christ to the day of God’s future intervention and judgment on the world. The Kingdom is the magnificent, decisive and (for the wicked) catastrophic interposition of divine authority to right the wrongs of our present rebel world. The Kingdom comes (in this passage) with the future coming of Jesus and not before.
Now for a third testimony: Matthew 8:11, 12: “Many will come [note the verb in the future tense] from the East and West and will sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven/God, but the children of the Kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness: there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”
Once again the setting and the timing of the Kingdom are unmistakable. The Kingdom belongs to the future as an event which will divide the good from the bad, and their destinies will be fixed. “The children of the Kingdom” are here those who by virtue of their privileged position as members of the Israelite race should have been candidates for successful entry into the Kingdom when it comes. But tragically, they will not have accepted the Messiah and his Gospel-of-the-Kingdom Message. They will not have believed the Gospel of the Kingdom from the lips of the Messiah, nor spread the fire of its saving message to others. And they will be barred entrance into the Kingdom “in that day.”
These three passages found early in the Gospel of Matthew are sufficient to set the pattern of Kingdom teaching which pervades Jesus’ preaching career. The Kingdom is yet to come. It will be the momentous event of the future for which all are invited to prepare now with utmost urgency — in terms equally of proper, Bible-informed, belief system and proper conduct.
The Gospel of salvation, as it fell from the lips of Jesus, is to the Kingdom as an invitation is to a banquet. The Gospel is to the Kingdom as the sowing of seed is to the harvest. And it leads only to confusion, if we muddle these simple facts. An invitation is not the banquet itself, and the sowing of seed is not the harvest. The primary and dominant meaning of the Kingdom in the Gospel teaching of Jesus is the Kingdom of God to be manifested in the future when Jesus returns to administer it on earth in company with the saints of all the ages. These will function with him as under-sovereigns in a world reborn, restored and reconstituted. Present conditions tell of our world plight and the desperate need for a better human society. This will eventually materialize as the Kingdom of God to be inaugurated on earth as all the prophets foresaw. The Gospel of the Kingdom invites all to become caught up in this thrilling, divine scheme, to share the passion of God Himself and His unique agent the Lord Jesus Messiah (Luke 4:43; cp. 2:49, “God’s agenda”).
The Bible from cover to cover looks forward to the time when God’s people will be in God’s place, with God’s Prince established in the Kingdom which is his by divine Promise. Blessed indeed are the meek, because they will inherit the earth/the Kingdom/the Life of the Age to come (immortality gained in the resurrection) (see Matt. 5:5; 25:34; 19:29; I Cor 15:23).²
 Peter Wagner, in Church Growth and the Whole Gospel, p. 2.