“The Kingdom of God is near!”
This is probably one my favorite statement that is said of Jesus in the Bible. Mark opens up with Jesus’ baptism and this declaration of the embodiment of the Kingdom. Following this statement we see several narratives, interactions and transactions of the Kingdom. Jesus forgives (and heals) a paralyzed man. He eats with tax collectors and sinners, he heals a blind man. Each of these occasions are laced with a paradox– Jesus is subversively putting himself up against the Pharisees and Sadducees not by breaking the law, but by fulfilling it.
Woven into his parables and riddles is a theology that is easy to miss–mostly because it’s so obvious. Yet, it’s through this profound way of speaking Jesus establishes himself as a master teacher, an embodied illustration of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is near. It’s easy to look for the Kingdom in the things Jesus does—healing, feeding masses and casting out of demons. We must not miss that the declaration of the Kingdom of God in who Jesus is. Jesus states “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2). Jesus is simultaneously deconstructing by reconstructing a view of rest —by being the fullness of the Sabbath in restoration and healing. The Incarnation is our covenant, both our fulfillment and promise of what heaven will be.
The Incarnation as the “Now & the Not Yet”
The Kingdom of God is like…
a mustard seed,
a lamp on a stand,
a field that is hidden.
“The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’” (Mark 4)
And yet he gave us the code to the cypher in his presence. He was forgiveness and yet pointed towards more. His incarnation was fulfillment of the “now” and his miracles pointed to “the not yet”. And this is the tension is riddled throughout his parables.
Yes, we scatter seed. Yes, we light lamps. Yes, we abandon what we have.
We receive salvation. We are forgiven. This is the Kingdom now.
But we still live in brokenness. In Jesus’ miracles, healing, curing of possession and righting of minds there is a promise of a kingdom coming to earth. It is an echo of Eden and an anticipation of holiness. It simultaneously points to what is “not yet” fulfilled.
The Incarnation as the Promise of the Kingdom of God
It is important to note, too, that Jesus came down to earth. Jesus mentions several that he was sent (John 6) to do the will of his Father. This act of coming down is a prophetic allusion to the way the Kingdom will come down to earth in Revelation. Heaven is God’s establishment of his presence and glory being once again over the world, as its original state. Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, was a foretaste of this.
Revelation 21 states:
“And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
In the book God Dwells Among Us Beale and Kim elaborate this connection of the incarnation and eschatology:
“The new creation and Jerusalem are interpreted in Revelation 21 to be God’s tabernacle, the true temple of God’s presence. God’s presence was formerly limited to Israel’s temple but then began to expand throughout the church and eventually fill the entire new heavens and new earth” (p.138).
As the new covenant, Jesus tore the curtain of the temple, expanding the presence of God on the earth. When Jesus prayed “Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven“ it was a deep prophetic cry as much as it was a prayer. Jesus was the Kingdom come. God’s will was done on earth through Jesus’ death and resurrection. So that one day the fullness of God’s presence, heaven, would be on earth.
We look to the Incarnation as a promise of what it is to be #TrulyHuman—to be in God’s uninhibited presence forever.
Beale, G. K., & Kim, M. (2014). God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth. InterVarsity Press.
Photo courtesy of: year27.com