The title drew me to this book written by Ben Witherington, Professor of New Testament, Asbury seminary, and faculty in the doctoral program at st. Andrews university in scotland. Being less than 100 pages, I thought this would be an easy read. I found that while it was easy to read, it required some thinking, checking scripture references, and playing around with some of the end questions. Consequently, I underlined a lot.
I was humbled in the very preface of the book. Witherington mentioned “kingdomtide.” I had never heard of that. He explained that it is part of the Christian church calendar many churches, including his Methodist church, use to mark a period from August 31 through the next 12 to 13 weeks culminating with the feast of Christ the King. I was comforted a bit by my lack of knowledge when I read that because we do not always observe those things in our church. As I read, I felt that maybe it would not be a bad idea, though from January 1 to December 31, because it is evident that people do not understand the kingdom of God.
The little book of six studies has two parts: first dealing with the presence of the kingdom and then the future of the kingdom, an exposition from the Lord’s Prayer, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” He is correct that people do not understand the Kingdom of God, what it is, how it differs from the church, or Israel, and whether it is now or not yet.
Because the word kingdom today suggests a geographical location, and because the now part of the kingdom does not, Witherington suggests for clarity that we should call it the “dominion of God,” depicting activity rather than location, at least now. The kingdom refers to the rule and reign in the hearts and lives of God’s people wherever they are now. In the not yet final appearing of the kingdom it will have a location, namely the new heavens and new earth. It will be a activity and place combined.
Witherington makes an interesting point, “It is never adequate theology to say, “this world is not my home, I’m just passing through” as if heaven were all that really mattered. To the contrary, the New Testament suggests just the opposite. Heaven is simply a place through which believers pass between the time they die and when they are raised from the dead.” At that point they will be in the new heavens and new earth.
Witherington makes clear that while the church is not synonymous with the kingdom, it is through the church that the world presently sees the kingdom. As Christ rules and reigns in peoples’ hearts, the church gives evidence to the kingdom through the worship, in their daily lives as they demonstrate the beatitudes and fruit of the spirit, as they obey God’s word in all things, and demonstrate works of charity, righteousness, and a love in opposition to the powers of darkness. As Christ redeems his people and sets up his rule and reign in their hearts and minds such transformation will lead to redemptive actions and will change others as well as the fabric and structure of society. When that happens then God’s will is being done he says.
He asks “What would the church look like if it really took seriously the Great Commission? ” His answer, “It would look like a lot more like the dominion of God coming to earth.” There would be no place for racism, sexism, rivalry, greed but more of a place of love, justice, and mercy and servant leadership.
Each chapter ends with penetrating questions. While it does not say everything about the kingdom such as a world and life view, though the implications are there, you will benefit from reading, studying, and teaching this little book. Don’t pass it by.