Spring 2019 · Vol. 48 No. 1 · pp. 2–3 

From the Editor: The Kingdom of God

Jerry Pauls

Few would deny that the kingdom of God is a foundational theme in the Bible. Kingdom language and kingdom imagery carry the biblical story. From the “great nation” promise to Abraham in Genesis to the “new Jerusalem” vision of John in Revelation, kingdom imagery pervades the Bible, surfacing explicitly in the teachings of Jesus where we are instructed to give up everything for the kingdom and to pray for the kingdom’s coming. Yet despite the persistent witness of Jesus and the Bible, kingdom proclamation has not always been central in our theological and liturgical witness. This is especially true in the evangelical community where the political and social connotations of kingdom do not rest easily with a preeminent focus on personal salvation. Thankfully, this is changing.

The importance of the Bible’s kingdom theme is now being made clear in the work of many biblical scholars, including such influential figures as N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight. Both Wright, in How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of The Gospels, and McKnight, in The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, have argued persuasively that the kingdom announcement is the central proclamation of the gospel. Others, such as James K.A. Smith in Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation and Matthew Bates in Salvation through Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King, have been busy drawing out the implications of king and kingdom for all areas of Christian thought and life.

While kingdom continues to be an elusive theme that we appropriately struggle to rein in and pin down, it is clearly a radical and central promise in the Bible that must continue to capture our hearts and minds in our readings of Scripture, visions for the church, and lives as disciples. The essays in this issue of Direction are an effort yet again to be confronted and captured by the Bible’s persistent kingdom proclamation.

Ken Esau’s essay explores how a robust understanding of the kingdom of God is necessary for our proclamation of the gospel and for the mission of the church. Any gospel proclamation that is not built around Jesus’s kingdom proclamation, Ken argues, is inadequate for fully capturing the good news of Jesus.

The critical and problematic relationship between the church and the kingdom is addressed in Tim Geddert’s essay. Tim rejects both Scot McKnight’s effort to conflate the two as essentially the same and N.T. Wright’s desire to separate the two and keep them at arm’s length. Tim, in a very Anabaptist move, seeks to walk a middle path in which the {3} church lives under God’s kingly rule while giving witness to its ongoing reality and coming consummation.

Andrew Krause takes a close look at 1 John, arguing that while John does not use kingdom language explicitly, his dualistic imagery of light versus darkness and warring spirits is evident in Second Temple Jewish literature, where it is used to identify insiders and outsiders to the community. Andrew suggests that John employs the language in a similar way to mark the boundaries and ethics of the community, the difference being that the community space of the Johannine community is marked by love.

Kimberley Morrison shares some of her extensive work on displaced persons and migrant communities. Kimberley’s paper works to connect Jesus’s kingdom vision with the timely issue of forced migration, arguing that this kingdom vision construes a vision of flourishing that is vitally important for the displaced as they journey through disorientation.

Tim Dickau shares how the kingdom of God has been the foundational vision for his pastoral work at Grandview Church, shaping and inspiring creative engagement with their East Vancouver community for the past twenty-nine years.

Finally, Bryan Born offers a personal tribute to Walter Unger, President Emeritus of Columbia Bible College. Wally passed away on May 9, 2018 after a long life of faithful kingdom service.

The Recommended Reading column is a bibliography of older classics and newer works on the kingdom of God, assembled by Jessica McKitrick, a third-year biblical studies student at Columbia Bible College. Book reviews and the annual Faculty Publications bibliography are in their usual places.

Jerry Pauls
Biblical Studies Program Director
Columbia Bible College