The Kingdom of God

Much has been written about the Kingdom of God, ranging from ridicule to the ‘Hollywood spectacular’ of chariots and trumpets.

I can’t claim to be familiar with all interpretations and criticisms, but I am unconvinced by those I have encountered. And the reason is simple – I can’t find much Scriptural support for them.

Jesus was a Jew, and he was teaching Jews. He was clearly well versed in Jewish Scripture.[1] And he made his stand firmly on the Law: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”[2]

In determining what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven (which are used interchangeably in the Gospels), I would expect to find confirmation in the Old Testament – in the Law and the prophets. I would expect the Kingdom of God to be a description of a fundamental tenet of Jewish Scripture that had been lost to “the house of Israel.”[3]

But let’s start with what Jesus said about it.

First, Jesus said that there were people alive at the time who would “see” the Kingdom of God coming in their lifetimes.[4] Jesus also told the twelve disciples that they would not have visited all the cities of Israel before “the son of man be come” (ie the Kingdom of God).

The Kingdom of God was something that people could expect to “see” in their lifetimes. And Jesus specifically urges them to do so: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to thee.”[5] The things that would “be added” are those things necessary for life. So the Kingdom of God is something to discover during our lifetimes. It is not eschatological (relating to the end times), except as it relates to our individual lives after death.[6]

To find the Kingdom of God, Jesus tells us to “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.[7] This is an important verse. I shall return to it.

But how and where do we “seek … the Kingdom of God”?

Well, Jesus is clear on that: “The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the Kingdom of God is WITHIN YOU.”[8]

Here, then, we find the first reference that ties up the Kingdom of God to the Old Testament.

 “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the WORD is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.[9]

The “word” is the Law, the Ten Commandments – “These words the Lord spake … and He added no more. And He wrote them in two tables of stone.”[10]

It is abundantly clear, therefore, that the Kingdom of God that Jesus says is “within” us is precisely the same thing as the “word” which, according to Deuteronomy, is also within us, in our heart and in our mouth, that we may do it.

But when Jesus describes the Kingdom of God, we find it starts as something tiny.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”[11]

Also, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”[12]

So the Kingdom of God grows from something resembling a tiny seed into a mighty kingdom; a kingdom governed by the Law, the word of God.

That suggests that the Law, the Ten Commandments, started from something tiny before it ‘grew’ into the Kingdom of God. And that is indeed the message of the Scriptures.

Not only was Jesus said to preach the word, he is said to have been the Word, which was “in the beginning with God,” and through whom all things were created.[13]

That is identical to the description of Wisdom in Proverbs: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.[14]

So to understand how the Kingdom of God came about, and how it came to be “within us”, the Scriptures point us to The Beginning. And we find that in the first book of the Bible – Genesis.

The best starting point in considering the first chapter of Genesis is the literal interpretation. And that interpretation is itself quite remarkable.

It is the view adopted by the Jewish scholar Nahmanides (1194 – 1270 AD). His Commentary on Genesis chapter 1 says this: – “And now, listen to a correct and clear explanation of the text according to its simple understanding (peshuto). … Behold, with this creation, which was like a small [and] fine dot, and without substance, were created all of the creations in the heavens and the earth.”[15]

Now that sounds very much like the “grain of mustard seed” or “leaven” referred to by Jesus, and happens to be precisely the current understanding of science regarding the origin of the universe. I’ll be addressing this further in my forthcoming video presentation of A Legal Proof for the Existence of God (Part III).

But Nahmanides takes this interpretation further. In relation to the creation of human beings, his Commentary on Genesis 1: 24 says this: “the correct simple meaning of the word, ‘let us make,’ is that which you have already been shown, … that God created something from nothing on the first day alone, and afterwards He formed and made [everything] from the fundamental elements.”

So human beings are descended from the same “small [and] fine dot”, or “grain of mustard seed,” just like everything else in the universe.

The universe is an integrated system governed by law, just like a mustard tree. Everything is related and connected to everything else. And that includes the human brain.

The great Jewish philosopher, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, who lived at about the same time as Jesus, says this about the connection between the human brain and the integrated system that is the universe: “the resemblance [between God and man] is spoken of with reference to the most important part of the soul, namely, the mind: for the mind which exists in each individual has been created after the likeness of that one mind which is in the universe as its primitive model.[16]

Human beings are then a manifestation of the laws that govern the universe. But not only are we a manifestation of those laws, they are also imprinted into the human brain, which has the necessary mechanisms to convert them into words, images and concepts. One of those mechanisms converts the universal laws into moral principles. The British IVF pioneer calls this mechanism a “morality module,” which he says is activated at an early stage; I call it a neurological moral network. It is this mechanism that gives us the capacity for moral judgment.

But if the human brain as a “primitive model” of the universal mind has a moral dimension, then the universal mind must also have a moral dimension. The laws that govern the universe must be moral laws.

It is this remarkable aspect of the brain that speaks to us of God as our Creator, and reveals to us His Law and His Will. It is like an ‘instruction manual’ installed in the human brain that identifies its manufacturer and the proper use of its abilities to realise the purpose of its creation, should we choose to consult it. Jesus called it the Kingdom of God.

That can be the only reasonable understanding of the Kingdom of God being “within us”. [see A Legal Proof for the Existence of God (Part I) and (Part X)].

If we seek it, says Jesus, we can find it. But there is a complication. As I show in A Legal Proof for the Existence of God (Part VII), Genesis tells us that the human brain is also programmed with instinct and reason. These faculties are required to ensure the survival of the species. But when reason falls into bondage to our primitive instincts we are blinded to the Kingdom of God “within us.”

That is the meaning of the other parables of the Kingdom of God in which the “seed” of the word of the Kingdom of God does not take root, or is choked: “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”[17] We chase after the allure of the pleasures to be had by indulging our primitive instincts, and the human capacity for reason will devise many a justification for doing so, not least our insatiable appetite for vanity. Jesus himself had to resist the temptation to service his instincts as reason sought to persuade him of the personal benefits of doing so.[18]

The brain is like a search engine. It is ‘programmed’ with the ‘knowledge’ of the universe. But it is up to us what we search for. Search for information that will enlighten us and we can find it, rare as it may be on the internet. Search for those things that appeal to our primitive instincts, and we are inundated with advice on getting rich, on obscenities, violence, celebrities, and every other useless piece of information that can be devised by the human mind in service of its primitive instincts. But Jesus tells us that the only important thing is to search for the Kingdom of God, and that if we search with resolution and faith, if we ask the right questions, we will find what we are looking for. And the seed of the Kingdom of God “within us” will begin to grow into a mighty mustard tree.

Make the right search, and we will get the right results, and it will be worthwhile: “For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.  But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.[19]

The things to search for are those things that constitute the fundamental principles of the Kingdom of God, the Ten Commandments: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”[20]

But that search demands that we resist the temptations to indulge our primitive instincts: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?[21]

However, the Kingdom of God is not something relevant only to each person individually. It was not God’s purpose to simply set a test to see who could get across the line to everlasting life, and to fry the losers.

His purpose was to establish His Kingdom among the human species as a whole. It was to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth. That is the objective of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”[22]

It was the mission of Jesus to spread the Kingdom of God to all the world, just as God covenanted to Abraham: “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”[23]

But that can only happen when there is an awakening of the human spirit to its true moral purpose and its true moral destiny. And that requires that we recognize that we are there to fulfil the purpose of God; God is not there to fulfil whatever purpose we may choose for our own lives. As Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”[24]

Only when we begin to do the same will the Kingdom of God be established on Earth.

Regrettably, it seems that is unlikely to happen any time soon. And we may just commit collective suicide before we even get a chance to try.

So although the Kingdom of God will not be ushered in at the end of the world, failure to live by its principles may just have the effect of causing the end of the world. That is the message of the Law and the prophets.

Joseph BH McMillan – http://josephbhmcmillan.com

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved

A Final Theory of God

This article is based on the theme of the book A ‘Final Theory’ of God by Joseph BH McMillan.

Notes:

[1] Luke 2: 47.

[2] Mat 5: 17 & 18.

[3] Mat 10: 6.

[4] Luke 9: 27; Mat 16: 28; Mark 9: 1.

[5] Mat 6: 33; Luke 12: 31.

[6] Mat 7:13 & 14; 13: 39.

[7] Mat 7: 7; Luke 11: 9.

[8] Luke 17: 20 & 21 (my emphasis).

[9] Deuteronomy 30: 11 – 14 (my emphasis).

[10] Deuteronomy 5: 22.

[11] Mat 13: 31, 32; Mark 4: 30; Luke 13: 18.

[12] Mat 13: 33; Luke 13: 20.

[13] John 1: 1 & 2.

[14] Proverbs 8: 22 & 23; and see 3: 19 ff.

[15] Nahmanides Commentary on Genesis 1:1 paras 3 & 4 – http://www.sefaria.org/Ramban_on_Genesis.1.1.3-4?lang=en&layout=lines&sidebarLang=all .

[16] Philo, On the Creation XXIII. (69).

[17] Mat 13:22.

[18] Mat 4:1 – 11.

[19] Proverbs 8: 35 & 36.

[20] Revelations 22: 14.

[21] Mat 16: 26.

[22] Mat 6: 10.

[23] Genesis 22: 18.

[24] John 6: 30.

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