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we may take the former as the best exposition of the latter. The kingdom of God is where the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven, that is, where it is done ideally. According to this, the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God would be the perfect original order of things which has its home in heaven, in order to come down from thence and realise itself on earth,—that ideal condition which humanity and history are to reach, that God may in His inmost essence, as eternal Spirit and holy love, fill all and condition all that is in the world.


But a well-based understanding of the phrase can only be gained by an examination of history. The watchword chosen by Jesus strikes us to-day perhaps as strange, but was at once understood by His countrymen and contemporaries. The kingdom of heaven, or kingdom of God, was manifestly at that time a current expression in Israel, and one that could be used without need of further explanation. That is already presupposed in the terse preaching of the Baptist about the kingdom of heaven as at hand. It is said of Joseph of Arimathea that he waited for the kingdom of God (Mark xv. 43). The Pharisees asked Jesus (Luke xvii. 20) when the kingdom of God should come. A scribe who sat at meat with Jesus piously exclaims (Luke xiv. 15): “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” In all these passages the kingdom of God is unmistakably the tersest expression for the object of Israel's highest expectation, for that very thing which the people in the loud rejoicings at our Lord's entrance into Jerusalem called the coming kingdom of our father David (Mark xi. 10), that which was in the mind of the disciples when they asked (Acts i. 6): Wilt Thou not at this time restore the kingdom unto Israel ?”-in a word, the Messianic kingdom. This Messianic sense is not, indeed, usual in the language of the later Rabbis. They preferred to speak in the abstract religious sense of the Malechut Jahve, and Malechut Schamajim, rather than of the kingship of Jehovah, the heavenly Majesty before which men must bow. But these post-Christian and rabbinical applications

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are best explained as intentional perversions of the original Messianic sense, adaptations by the later Pharisaism which had become unfriendly to the Messianic idea, though they are confronted by other passages in the pre-Christian as well as post-Christian Jewish literature, in which the Messianic sense of both expressions is unquestionable.? The whole inner history of Israel could not fail to secure to this phrase a Messianic character. For government by God—theocracy, as Josephus expressed the idea in Greek-was the ideal constitution of the nation from the earliest times. the fundamental idea of Mosaism that Israel should be God's peculiar people above all nations, a kingdom of priests in which Jehovah should rule (Ex. xix. 5, 6). But this lofty idea was only outwardly and imperfectly realised in the land of promise, and even its shadowy realisation was broken up with the fall of the old Israelitish State. It lived, however, all the more vividly in the view of the prophets as the ideal picture of the future; for the true God must at length obtain the victory on earth, and celebrate His triumph in the setting up of a commonwealth on which He would pour out all blessings, and from which He would remove all defects, —a commonweath in which would be fully realised the promise, Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” This ideal picture of a glorious and blessed kingdom of God in Israel, and extending from Israel over all the world, was really the fundamental idea of the Messianic hope. The so-called Messianic idea in the narrower sense, the hope (picture) of a personal Messiah, was quite subordinate to this fundamental idea- -a fact which cannot be too much attended to. That might waver and fade, the ideal form of the servant of God, or the mere Theophany, might take its place and produce a confusion of contradictory Messianic notions in the nation, but the kingdom of God remained the unchangeable expectation of all pious men. And as the hope of realising it on earth sank lower, as Israel, instead of being politically exalted, was more and more scattered and brought under the oppression of successive worldly powers

It was

1 Cf. Cremer, Bibl.-theol. Lexicon of N. T. Greek, p. 189, Aufl. 5. In the very old Jewish prayer, Kaddish, e.g., it is said : “May He shortly cause His kingdom to come

the more were their eyes raised to heaven in the hope of seeing what they longed for coming down from thence sustained by heavenly strength, an imperishable kingdom of heaven opposed to the kingdoms of the heathen which spring from beneath. That is the standpoint of the Book of Daniel, which arose out of the hardships of the Maccabean age, and in which it is said (ii. 44): “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed : and His kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and destroy all those kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” The special conception of the kingdom of heaven, alongside of the general conception of the kingdom of God, was unquestionably developed out of these visions. But even the latter, which, to judge from the usage of the rest of the New Testament, appears to have been the more current, was understood by every one in the same sense. When, therefore, the Baptist first, and after him One greater than he, appeared with the watchword, “ The kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, is at hand,” no one could be in doubt about the meaning of this watchword. It announced in the clearest, tersest, most comprehensive way the final fulfilment of what for ages had been longed and hoped for.

§ 3. JESUS' IDEA OF THE KINGDOM Still, it is anything but superfluous to ask about Jesus' own idea of the kingdom. Though the way in which He takes that phrase from the lips of His people—at first without further explanation—leaves no doubt that He was conscious of meaning the same thing as His hearers, yet the more definite notions about the kingdom of God differed widely in the nation itself, according as people's thoughts were deep or superficial, spiritual or worldly, and even to the most earnest and spiritual it was only a picture of fancy, which, as all prophecy, and still more all interpretation of prophecy, is imperfect, was far from corresponding to the fulfilment desired by God. But the question with Jesus was this divine fulfilment, first the pure and perfect truth of the idea, and then the way in which it might be realised. And so we cannot wonder that although at the beginning He did not find any need for a closer exposition, He should afterwards enter largely into discussions with His disciples about the kingdom of heaven, and speak to them about its mysteries (Mark iv. 11; Matt. xiii. 11). The supposition is not excluded that the idea of the kingdom developed in His hands. He could scarcely begin otherwise than with that notion of it which was furnished by the Old Testament prophets, and which was cherished even by John the Baptist. But when His idea of the kingdom, which at first seemed to be simply the ordinary idea, became more and more unintelligible to the people, and even to the disciples, the most devout of the people, we must suppose that in the work of fulfilling there were revealed to Him aspects and depths of the idea formerly unsuspected. But we would go far astray if we supposed that the development which the idea of the kingdom took in the mind and spirit of Jesus was a development into something abstract, in some such way as we nowadays, divesting the concept of its specific Messianic character, speak of a kingdom of God already in the old covenant. There are two passages in His discourses which may certainly give this an appearance of probability. When we read (Matt. viii. 12, xxi. 43) that the children of the kingdom are to be cast out while strangers are received, or that the kingdom is to be taken from them and given to others, it appears as though the Israelities as such were thought of as in possession of the kingdom—that is, of a kingdom already existing under the old covenant. But both passages permit another interpretation: the Israelites are "children of the kingdom," and their magistrates are pillars of the kingdom in virtue of their hereditary claim upon it; but the kingdom is not theirs in possession, it is intended and promised to them, and may be lost. We are therefore compelled to expound both passages in the Messianic sense which unmistakably prevails in all the other sayings of Jesus about the kingdom. When, in the Lord's Prayer, He teaches us to pray for the coming of the kingdom, when He makes it replace the law and the prophets on earth (Matt. xi. 11-13; Luke xvi. 16), when He regards it as having come near and become accessible only in His own day and since the days of John the Baptist, He cannot possibly have extended the concept to the Old Testament preparatory stage, but must have used it to describe the Messianic fulfilment. But even that is a very awkward view of the matter, making it appear as if Jesus had transformed the Messianic meaning from the sensuous and secular conception which had come down to His contemporaries from the time of the prophets, into something purely spiritual. There certainly existed between what His contemporaries, in virtue of the prophetic delineations of the kingdom of God, above all expected, and what Jesus offered them as a commencement and foundation of its fulfilment, a contrast of such force that Jesus on account of it was not recognised as the promised Deliverer, but was rejected as a false Messiah. The prophets, "seeing in a glass darkly, and not face to face" (1 Cor. xiii. 12), had portrayed the kingdom of God, above all, as a kingdom of power which would outshine and overpower the kingdoms of the heathen, and this side of the prophecy, as is well known, was most powerfully re-echoed among the Jewish people in the days of Jesus. The hopes of the nation were directed to nothing more passionately than the breaking up of the Roman Empire and the establishment of a Jewish supremacy. Jesus refused on principle to have any hand in realising this side of the Messianic hope,—for that is the meaning and content of the narrative of the temptation,and this refusal set up between Him and the mass of the people, from the very first, that barrier which proved itself more and more impenetrable as time went on. This does not mean, however, that He could have regarded those national expectations as a mere perishable husk of prophecy, without at the same time conceiving their fulfilment as a blessing to come from heaven with the conversion of Israel. Still less does it follow from this that He had conceived the entire sensuous form in which the idea of the kingdom appeared in the prophets as mere symbol and parable, and had looked for its fulfilment in the setting up of a purely spiritual kingdom of God on earth—with the prospect, perhaps, of a heavenly perfection of it in another world. The nature of the kingdom of God is not conceived by the prophets as altogether sensuous and worldly, but spiritual;

1 Cf, my Leben Jesu, i. p. 231.

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