SENSE OF THE WORDS "KINGDOM OF GOD"
By Father William Most
1. Eschatological Sense:
1 Cor 6.9-10:"The unjust... will not inherit the kingdom of
God"--reach final salvation.
Gal. 5.21: "They who do such things cannot inherit the kingdom of God."
Eph 5.5:"No fornicator etc... has an inheritance in the kingdom of
Christ and of God." COMMENT:Seems to identify kingdom of God and of
Christ- and definitely means final salvation.
Mt 5.10:"Blessed are they who suffer persecution for the sake of
justice, the kingdom of God is theirs." Church has always understood
this to refer to final salvation- as in martyrs.
2. Church in this world:
Mt 21.43:"the kingdom... will be taken away from you and given to a
nation that will yield a rich harvest." COMMENT:Cannot mean reign-
for all are subject to that. It means favored status as People of
God. It does not mean that God's call to be such is cancelled- but
that they are at present out of the People of God- cf. Romans 11.
Mt. 13.47-50 (Parable of the net):The kingdom means the present
Church- and adds that at the end, the wicked will be thrown out of
the Church or kingdom, then, the eschatological kingdom. If it meant
reign- there would be wicked persons included, for they do not
subject selves to the reign of God.
Mt. 25.1-13 (parable of wise and foolish virgins). The virgins are
waiting in the present Church for return of Christ. So it refers to
both present and final kingdom. If it meant reign, would include no
wicked persons, for they do not subject selves to reign of God.
Mt. 13.24-30 (parable of weeds in the wheat). Cannot mean reign, for
reasons given for Mt. 12.47-40 and Mt 25.1-13. It refers to the
Church in this world, and adds on the final harvest, the final
Mt. 13.31 (mustard seed). Clearly means Church at present, pictures
its great rapid growth.
Mt. 21.31: "The publicans and harlots are going into the kingdom of
God ahead of you." = They are joining the Messianic kingdom- but
since that kingdom, the Church, includes both good and wicked, this
need not mean that they are morally good.
Mt. 13:41: Angels will collect all evidoers out of His kingdom - so
it cannot be reign, they never were part of His reign.
3. Unclear texts
Rom 14.17:"The kingdom of God is not food and drink." Probably means,
membership in Church does not depend on food etc. l Cor 4.20:"The
kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but on power." Probably
means the establishment of the Church did not depend on mere words,
but on showing of God's power in miracles.
Col 1.13: "He rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred
us into the kingdom of his beloved Son." Probably means led us into
Daniel 2.37-45 and 7.13. See VT Prophecies file, on Daniel.
a)Those who identify Church with Kingdom:
, in JBC II, p. 64:"The reign of God in Mt is
clearly identified with the community of the disciples."
idem, in Dictionary of the Bible, p. 480:"In an even larger number of
passages the eschatological character of the kingdom is not
apparent... . The kingdom here is practically identical with the
Church... . This is the kingdom formed by the saving act accomplished
by the Father through Jesus... ." p. 481:"
The identification of the kingdom with Jesus and the imposition of
faith and moral regeneration by the inbreaking of the reign of God in
the mission of Jesus lead naturally to an identification of the
kingdom with the group formed by Jesus Himself, the Church. This
identification is particularly clear in Mt, but it is not limited to
this Gospel. The kingdom which contains both good and bad is most
easily understood as the Church." [continues at length in same vein]
, JBC II, p. 783:"the next instance of the phrase
occurs in a very difficult passage [Mk 9.1] which refers to the
establishment of the Church as a consequence of Jesus' death and
exaltation... . Matthew distinguishes between the 'Kingdom of the
Father' (13:43; 26:29) and the 'Kingdom of the Son of Man' (13:41;
16:26; 20:21) which is the Church."
idem, p. 784:"Luke understands the Kingdom to refer to the Church
when he speaks of the necessity of perseverance (9:62) and of the
motivation for Christian renunciation (18:29)... .idem, p. 784:"Luke
normally thinks of the Kingdom of God as a contemporary reality,
which the Father committed into the hands of Jesus as Savior and
which he in the Church confided to the stewardship of the
, , , p. lxxxvi:"Matthew--and here he
would appear to agree with Luke, who uses the term 'disciples' for
those who committed themselves to the infant community -- identifies,
'the Kingdom' which Jesus proclaimed with the community... . . There
is in Matthew no facile identification of the Church with the elect."
page lxxxix:"The Man is taken to mean a sovereignty which is true
even when the Son's Kingdom is understood as a temporary institution
awaiting the Kingdom of the Father." page c:"... in Matthew there
will be two judgments in the End- time: that which the Man will
execute upon the continuing community, the Church, which is properly
The Man's Kingdom, and in Matthew is conceived of as temporary, and
the judgment which the Father will execute upon all men, accepting
The Man's judgment upon his own Kingdom."
(Bornkamm did pp. 1-57), Westminster, Phila, 1963, p. 44:"The
existing Church is thus according to Matthew, as 13.36ff. says, the
of the Son of man, but it is not identical with the
company who enter into the kingdom of God... . . It presupposes,
which is self-evident for him [Matthew] especially, the equation of
the earthly Jesus with the Son of man(The Sower=the Son of man), it
speaks of the Church as his earthly (13.41)... . p. 45:"I
also hold that the saying [Mt. 16.18] belongs to the period after
Easter, ... for the genuineness of the saying, there weighs, in my
opinion, the fact that the of Matt 16. 18 cannot be
comprised within the traditional thought of the Jewish people of God,
but bears throughout an institutional character, characterized by the
authority in doctrine and discipline of a particular apostle.
Although it is an eschatological entity... . yet it is an earthly
future, to be distinguished from the future of the coming
and of the future judgment... . Peter as the rock of the Church, thus
receives the office of the keys for the time after the resurrection,
but before the parousia. This is the time of the Church, which Jesus
calls 'my Church" and to which he give the promise that it will stand
against the powers of death. Thus the Church is earthly not heavenly,
to be differentiated from the , but associated
most closely with it, because its decisions about doctrine [p. 46]and
discipline, its binding and loosing, will be confirmed in the coming
, will be 'ratified'."
, pp. 51-52:"...
one must not overlook the fact that in some of the later sections of
the NT has been reified and localized, so that 'kingdom'
is the only appropriate translation. One enters it, and there are
keys to it. Also the kingdom and the church have begun to be
partially identified. Important in this regard is Matthew's
explanation of the parable about the weeds planted and allowed to
grow among the wheat (13:36-43). The good seed are the sons of the
kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one; when the harvest
comes 'the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather , all the causes of sin and all evildoers... . Then
the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
' Thus there is a kingdom of the Son of Man on earth with good and
bad - seemingly the church - but only after the judgment will the
just enter the kingdom of their Father. Colossians may be even more
radical in equating the church with a form of the kingdom: the Father
'has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into
the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption and the
forgiveness of sins'(1:13-14). COMMENT: This book is from 1984. In
1981 in Critical Meaning of the Bible Brown wrote, p. 116, note:"The
Kingdom of God is a divine monarchy, but the Church cannot simply be
identified with the Kingdom of God."
,"The original New Testament part of the
translation, however, was seriously defective, in part (especially
for the Gospels) because it had been heavily rephrased after it left
the hands of the original translators. Some bad choices were made, e.
g, to render 'the kingdom of God' by 'the reign of God. '"
b) Those who reject this identification:
M. Boucher, , CBQM 6, p. 55:"Likewise the
early Christians, including Mark, certainly understood the Church as
the body of the elect who would inhabit the kingdom in the near
future. The community of Jesus' followers, and later the community of
Christians, thus constituted the vestibule of the kingdom."
COMMENT:Identifies Church with the body of the elect- contrary to
parables of net, weeds, wise and foolish virgins. Cites Bultmann,
, p. 200 for view that the kingdom was not a
human society- a Protestant notion. -- Also supposes error in Mark,
that the end was to come soon.
J. Jeremias, , p. 102:"... is
always and everywhere understood in eschatological terms; it denotes
the time of salvation, the consummation of the world, the restoration
of disrupted communion between God and man." COMMENT: Notice this
supposes an error by Jesus. J. Fitzmyer, , pp. 28-29:"Finally, in some places of the New Testament
there is reference to Jesus' own kingdom (e.g., Luke 23:42; John
l8:36-37; Col l:13). It is not easy to say to what extent this notion
of Jesus' own kingdom is primitive, derived from his teaching; it
seems rather to have been born of a more developed christology (cf. 1
Cor l5:24-28) or of a reflection about the relationship of the Church
(the kingdom of the son) to the kingdom of God."COMMENT. Position
hard to be certain of. Probably did not think Jesus identified the
kingdom with the Church. On p. 27 thinks there are later
ecclesiastical accretions in parables of the kingdom.
Gregory Baum, commentary on , p. 24:"... the section
on the kingdom of God... carefully avoids... identifying God's
kingdom on earth with the Catholic Church."
uses reign, but
changes to kingdom: Mt 5.3 & 10. Lk 14.18 and l4.20. NAB itself uses
kingdom in Mt 21.43.
LG 8: "Haec Ecclesia, in hoc mundo ut societas constituta et
ordinata, subsistit in Ecclesia catholica, a successore Petri et
Episcopis in eius communions gubernata, licet extra eius compaginem
elementa plura sanctificationis et veritatis inveniantur, quae ut
dona Ecclesiae Christi propria, ad unitatem catholicam impellunt."
COMMENTS: We note the mention of structure and government, which
seems to refer only to visible Catholic Church.
LG 3: " Christus ideo, ut voluntatem Patris impleret, regnum coelorum
in terris inauguravit nobisque Eius mysterium revelavit, atque
oboedientia sua redemptionem effecit. Ecclesia, seu regnum Christi
iam praesens in mysterio, ex virtute Dei in mundo visibiliter
identification between the Church and the Kingdom goes against a
great deal of post-Conciliar theology both Catholic and Protestant...
. the paragraphs numbered 1684 to 1690 [in new catechism]
convey the impression that the Church of Christ is simply identical
with Roman Catholicism. Whereas the Council affirmed that the Church
of Christ 'subsists'... in the Roman Catholic church - a term chosen
to make room for the ecclesial reality of other Churches and Chistian
communities - the present text gives misleading translations stating
that the Church of Christ 'has its existence' (1687) and 'exists' in
the Catholic Church."
The Relatio in the Acta of Vatican II: " Now the intention is to show
that the Church, whose deep and hidden nature is described, and which
is perpetually united with Christ and his work is concretely found
here on earth in the Catholic Church. The visible Church reveals a
mystery - not without shadows until it is brought to full light, just
as the Lord Himself through His 'emptying' came to glory... . The
mystery of the Church is present and manifested in a concrete
society." (cited from James T. O'Connor,"The Church of Christ and
the Catholic Church" in HPR Jan. 1984, p. 14. Cf. also On Ecumenism
#22 and LG 9 and LG 14 and on Ecumenism #3.
In DV 17: "Christus Regnum Dei in terris instauravit." Now God always
reigns, Jesus did not cause that reign to start. Nor did most people
accept Him in His earthly life. So the Kingdom of God he established
was His Church.
A note on John Paul II, Redemptoris missio, Dec 7, 1990
(17):"Likewise, one may not separate the Kingdom from the Church. It
is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is
ordered toward the Kingdom of God of which she is the seed, sign, and
instrument. Yet while remaining distinct from Christ and the Kingdom,
the Church is indissolubly united to both."
COMMENTS: This need not deny the equation we have made of the Kingdom
in the Gospels being the same as the Church. Really, the Kingdom is
broader, it includes the Mystical Body in Heaven. So the Church "is
ordered toward the Kingdom of God, of which she is the seed". The
Church is ordered toward the Kingdom in heaven, since it is to lead
to there, and is the seed, which will open up and become the final
Kingdom. Just as a seed contains and opens up to become the final
organism, so too the Church on earth will open up into the kingdom in
the next life.