As we have just completed the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a time of reflection on our lives and also a time of specific focus on the Kingship of God. This post, based on a paper I wrote at Grand Canyon University, will examine the Kingdom of God and the Messianic Community in the teachings of Yeshua and Paul.
The Kingdom of God is initiated by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Yeshua and the reality and gospel of the Kingdom of God is made known in the world by the Messianic Community.
Yeshua, the Kingdom of God and the Messianic Community
““The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”” (Luke 4:18–19, 21, ESV)
In this passage that comes from Luke’s gospel we see Yeshua at the beginning of his ministry in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth reading from the haftarah or Prophetic reading from the Old Testament that follows the weekly reading from the Torah. Yeshua takes this passage from Isaiah that prophetically looked toward the coming of God’s Kingdom to make His hearers aware that the dawning of the Kingdom of God had begun. With Yeshua’ life and ministry the good news was preached, liberty for captives was proclaimed, sight for the blind was realized and the breakout of God’s favor had begun. The promise of God’s Kingdom was initiated and Yeshua was the one to initiate it.
Commenting on Yeshua and the Kingdom as seen in the Gospel of Matthew, McKnight (1992) wrote:
“Messiah Yeshua inaugurates the kingdom of heaven, apparently in three moments or phases: in his public ministry, in his passion and in his vindicating resurrection. Each of these moments is important to the story line of Matthew and each is associated with the inauguration of the kingdom” (p. 534).
Though the Kingdom of God was initiated it was a yet to be a completed reality and in this we see Yeshua teaching His disciples to pray for the Kingdom to come (Matt 6:9-13), commonly known as the “Lord’s Prayer”. Tied to the Kingdom coming is God’s will to be done in the Earth which can be seen as a call for Godly living and for the disciples to seek to live their live in line with God’s commands. “Yeshua in the Lord’s Prayer first calls His disciples to the recognition of the Kingship of God and then to a life of seeking the Kingdom, dependence on God, repentance and forgiving of others and then returns to God’s Kingship”. (Emslie, 2014. p. 6-7).
In instructing the disciples to pray for the Kingdom to come, it can be seen that Yeshua is teaching that:
“the kingdom is a process which cannot be imposed upon others through political activism. The kingdom comes by God alone. It is a divine force in the world that brings healing to suffering humanity. Hence, Yeshua did not define the kingdom in terms of the future. He viewed the reign of God from his experience in the present” (Young, 2011, p. 80).
The connection of the affirmation of God as King as the basis for living as a “Kingdom Person” can be seen in Yeshua asking his disciples:
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Yeshua, the Son of the living God.” And Yeshua answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Messianic Community, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:15–18, ESV)
It was Peter’s assertion that Yeshua was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God that was to be the foundation of the Messianic Community, (ἐκκλησίαν), a bilateral ekklesia of a Messianic Community of Jews (Messianic Judaism) and Messianic Community of Gentiles (Christianity) that included those like Peter that affirmed Yeshua as the Messiah and Son of God. The foundation for the Messianic Community and those who were members of it was defined by the belief and affirmation of these two values: the Messiahship and Lordship of Yeshua.
So then we can see that the Messianic Community was to be the community of those who seek the Kingdom and follow the initiator of the Kingdom. Those who were in this community were sent out to proclaim,
“The Kingdom of Heaven is near,’ heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those afflicted with leprosy, expel demons.” (Matthew 10:7, CJB).
The proclamation of the Kingdom was also accompanied by physical and spiritual healing as God’s power was demonstrated as His Kingdom message spread.
In Matthew 28:18-20, known as the Great Commission, Yeshua makes His final Kingdom command to His disciples to:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”” (Matt 28:19–20, ESV).
It is the work of the Messianic Community that began with these disciples that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God would be proclaimed to the world and with the making of disciples from all the nations of the world, God’s Kingdom first proclaimed in Israel would reach to all the corners of the Earth. The making of disciples from all the Nations will be a fulfillment of God’s plan to bring all of humanity into connection with Himself through Yeshua and in connection with His Messianic Community, the collection of the faithful that follow the God of Israel.
Yeshua taught that the Messianic Community was built on the affirmation of His Messiahship and Lordship (Matt 16:15–18, ESV) and was expanded by the proclamation of the Gospel (Matt 28:19–20, ESV). The Messianic Community is the body that is to be the force in the world to proclaim the Kingdom and live now as Kingdom People, awaiting the glorious return of Messiah to bring fully the promise and reality of the Kingdom of God.
Paul, the Kingdom of God and the Messianic Community
In line with Yeshua’s teaching on the Kingdom being tied to seeing God’s will be done by living under God’s authority and obeying His commands, it can be seen that much of Paul’s teaching on the Kingdom of God are exhortations to avoid sin and to live lives of holiness for example,
““For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17, ESV).
Other verses that speak of those excluded from the Kingdom of God for their sinful lives including 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:21 and Eph. 5:5. According to Paul, the Kingdom of God is a reality that is coming for those who live lives that honor God and are not marred by sin as a way of life.
Paul saw the Messianic Community as the Body of Messiah united by faith in Yeshua as the Messiah and as Lord as we read:
“And he is the head of the body, the Messianic Community. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:18–20, ESV).
The Messianic Community is the body, the community that is built up around Yeshua and those who have been brought near to God by His death and resurrection. As Yeshua is the firstborn among the dead to Paul the Messianic Community is the community of the firstborn that should be seeking the coming Kingdom of God. The Messianic Community and the individuals congregations are gathering places for the redeemed to worship God and also to be a source through their outreach to extend the work of the Kingdom and to add members to the Messianic Community, the Kingdom community. This work of the Messianic Community in the world will involve at times persecution of which Paul commended the Messianic Community at Thessalonica for standing firm and showing their worthiness for the Kingdom of God by standing strong for Messiah and their faith under suffering (2 Thess. 1:4-5).
Paul not only taught that the Messianic Community and the members of the Messianic Community should proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, he demonstrated throughout his life following Messiah, even to the end of his life:
“Paul remained two whole years in a place he rented for himself; and he continued receiving all who came to see him, openly and without hindrance proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.” (Acts 28:30–31, CJB).
“From the above closing words of the Acts of the Apostles we can see that the Kingdom of God was the message that Paul and the other Apostles preached, a message of God’s Kingship in the person and work of Yeshua Messiah. The Messianic Community to Paul, is the body of believers who had accepted the message of the Kingdom of God and were to be the proclaimers of the coming of the Kingdom of God” (Emslie, 2014, p. 8).
A Summary of the New Testament on the Kingdom and the Messianic Community
George Eldon Ladd (1959), summed up the New Testament’s view of the relation of the Kingdom of God and the Messianic Community when he wrote:
‘In the same way, the Kingdom of God, the redemptive activity and power of God, is working in the world today through the Messianic Community of Messiah Yeshua. The Messianic Community is the fellowship of disciples of Yeshua who have received the life of the Kingdom and are dedicated to the task of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom in the world. Philip went to Samaria preaching “good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Yeshua the Messiah” (Acts 8: 12). Paul went to Rome and preached first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, the Kingdom of God (Acts 28: 23, 31)” (p. 115).
“It is in the Messianic Community’s proclamation of the Gospel that the work of the Kingdom spreads and more members are added to the Messianic Community and become members of the Kingdom community. Both Yeshua and Paul showed that living Godly lives in acknowledgment of the Kingship of God and the proclaiming of the Gospel of the Kingdom were important factors in seeing the final coming of the Kingdom of God and His reign over all Creation where the words Paul wrote will be fulfilled” (Emslie, 2014, p. 10-11) that stated:
“Therefore God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name; that in honor of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow— in heaven, on earth and under the earth— and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is LORD— to the glory of God the Father.” (Php 2:9–11, CJB).
Emslie, R. (2014). The kingdom of God and the Messianic Hope (Unpublished paper). Grand Canyon University, Phoenix.
Ladd, G. E. (1959). The gospel of the kingdom: Scriptural studies in the kingdom of God. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans.
McKnight, S. (1992). Matthew, Gospel of. In (J. B. Green & S. McKnight, Eds.) Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Young, B. H. (2011). Jesus the Jewish theologian. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.