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What the Kingdom is Not, Part 1

Before truly understanding what the kingdom of God is and what it will be like when it fully comes, it is helpful to first clarify what we are not talking about. Over the course of three short posts, I will outline three major faulty understandings of the kingdom…

Pharisaical Understanding of the Kingdom

At the time of Jesus’ birth, there were several different Jewish sects. Each had their own interpretation of Scripture and understanding of the kingdom. For example, the Essenes believed the biblical promises were being fulfilled in their group alone. But let’s focus primarily on the kingdom perspectives of the Pharisees, as they were the most influential then and the most well known now of the Jewish sects. There are two primary (and inter-related) issues that a 1st century Jew would have heard when they went to temple.

Law Fulfillment: The kingdom is primarily about fulfillment of the Old Testament law. And not just the 10 Commandments. The Mishnah (a book of law) and the Talmud (a commentary on the Mishnah) contained a combined 613 commands – 365 negative commands (don’t do this) and 248 positive commands (do this).The kingdom hope was primarily about the coming of Messiah to free Israel from Roman control so that they would be free to carry out the law.

Davidic Kingship: God promised David that from him would come the Great King who would reign forever. “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16). That was the hope. Messiah would come, defeat all of Israel’s enemies (primarily Rome) and restore the throne of David. What they missed was that this same conquering king (Psalm 2:6,9; 110:2) is also the suffering servant of Isaiah. Some of the Pharisees even began to look for 2 Messiahs – one a suffering servant and one a mighty king. Regardless, what none of them saw was a helpless babe born in a stable.

Summary: The Pharisees were looking for the throne of David to be restored with the Messiah and the defeat of all Israel’s enemies. They were looking for a king enthroned in Jerusalem, not a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.

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