Problem of the Kingdom of God

A Systems Analysis Solution

Harold R. Booher, Ph.D.

Copyright 2013 - Harold R. Booher

Appendix A: Books on the Kingdom of God

The following is a list of twenty books with the “kingdom of God” in their titles. These books are representative of the various views presented on the kingdom of God. A synopsis of each book is provided under the citation.

1. Beasley-Murray, George R., Jesus and the Kingdom of God, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.  This is a comprehensive scholarly survey work on the teaching of Jesus on the kingdom of God.  The publisher describes it as providing “detailed analyses of the relevant New Testament passages, background information on the development of the concept of the kingdom in the Old Testament and intertestamental literature, and thorough discussions of the individual sayings of Jesus on the kingdom, including the parables, the Beatitudes, and the Lord’s Prayer.” As a conservative Baptist Beasley-Murray believed in a real second coming of Jesus which would introduce the kingdom on earth during the millennium. 

2. Bright, John, The Kingdom of God: The Biblical Concept and its Meaning for the Church, Nashville:Abingdon, 1953. Bright considers the kingdom to consist of two complementary kingdoms (similar to Pentecost). Bright treats the visible church as a martyr church, a kingdom of Christ as opposed to the kingdom of God. He says, “There is no tendency in the New Testament to identify the visible church with the Kingdom of God.  ...The Church is indeed the people of the Kingdom of Christ, but the visible church is not that Kingdom. … It must remain the Church of the Suffering Servant, a martyr church” (p.236). Consequently, he concludes “the Kingdom of God in the New Testament must be understood in a two-fold aspect: it has come and even now is in the world; it is also yet to come. …If it be asked, then, whether the New Testament looked upon the Kingdom as present fact or future hope, the only answer is both” (p. 237-8).

3. Fuellenbach, John  The Kingdom of God: The Message of Jesus Today, Orbis Books, 1995.  Fuellenbach’s book is difficult to find. However his views on the kingdom of God are also found at Two of his papers, ”Kingdom of God as principle of action in the church and “The mission of the church within the context of religious pluralism” fully describe his ideas of the kingdom and the church. The abstract and quotes below come from these papers. As a Catholic priest, Father Fuellenbach does not see the Kingdom and the Church as identical, but rather views the Kingdom as integrally connected to the Church.  “The Kingdom can … never be separated from the Church, which, after all is God’s chosen instrument for his Kingdom here on earth.” According to Fuellenbach some common presuppositions for Catholic theologians are the kingdom of God belongs “to this world as well as the world to come;” is “concretely present in the midst of this world;” and is “a gift and a task to be accomplished through human cooperation.”  He sees the biblical phrase “Kingdom of God” as “the most comprehensive symbol for God’s plan with creation.” According to Fuellenbach, the kingdom is never really defined either by Jesus or “the documents of Vatican II,” but is accepted as a “multifaceted reality.”

4. Glasser, Arthur .F. et. al., Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of Gods Mission in the Bible, Baker Books, 2003.  Glasser et. al. use the kingdom of God as a thread to hold all of Scripture together on the theology of missions.  The approach from the calling of Abraham to God’s mission through Jesus Christ is one of understanding God’s sovereignty over Heaven and Earth being communicated through the kingdom of God. For these authors, the kingdom is not something that can be tied down to time or location. It is a method for holding all scripture together with the idea of God through Jesus holding rule over Heaven and Earth from Abraham through the present and into the future.

5 Graham, Stephen A., Totalitarian Kingdom of God, University Press of America, 1998. This book provides an examination of the political philosophy of Methodist missionary Stanley Jones and argues that Jones’ activities were carried out consistent with a political philosophy drawn from the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke.  Jones is considered a leader in twentieth century American political thought; was a close friend of Gandhi and Nehru; and was a major influence on the thinking of Martin Luther King. Essentially Jones provided a philosophical argument that the kingdom of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ offers the believer not only personal salvation but also economic and political salvation in the present. 

6. Harkness, Georgia, Understanding the Kingdom of God, Nashville:Abingdon Press, 2005. Georgia Harkness (1891-1974) was a pioneering theologian in the Methodist Church. Harkness was the first woman to teach theology in a Protestant seminary (Garrett Seminary).  As an ordained deacon in The Methodist Episcopal Church
her work (almost forty books) was largely responsible for breaking down the barriers preventing the ordination of women in the Methodist Church. The publisher states the “In Understanding the Kingdom of God Harkness addresses the ‘spiritual hunger … beneath the spiritual chaos and lack of compelling purpose’ she perceived in society.  Her claim is that understanding the kingdom of God gives hope, calls for repentance, offers renewal, demands obedience to the will of God, and calls us to love one another.”  The book is comprehensive covering “the dilemma of determining the nature of the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus,” a survey of “four twentieth-century streams of thought regarding the kingdom,” and “Harkness’s own understanding of the kingdom.” She explains her understanding based on “its grounds in the Old Testament, the early church, and Jesus’ parables.” Finally the book “examines the implications of this understanding for the church and for the future of every person.”

Harkness defines the kingdom of God as having three major meanings. 1. “the kingdom of God means the eternal , ultimate sovereignty of God.”  2. It “is the rule of God among men insofar as this sovereignty is accepted and God’s will is done….  The kingdom is present wherever God’s will is accepted and obeyed, and we may enter the kingdom wherever we are by giving him our loyalty.”  3. “ A third meaning of the kingdom is the complete and final establishment of God’s rule in the age to come, a final consummation in which God’s will is fully done.” (pp. 62-63) Although preferring to leave any future kingdom vague, and does not deal with it being in heaven or earth, and preferring a social gospel for how we act in the here and now, ultimately Harkness fits into the dual kingdom category as she ends her book with “we can believe in the kingdom of God as both present and future; we can work for it as we wait for it; and we can know that our times and our lives are in God’s hands.” (p. 159). In several occurrences of Jesus’ hard statements, like those on hell or “this generation shall not pass until these things come to pass” she concludes Jesus did not make these statements.  The former is too harsh for Jesus and the latter didn’t happen, so we would have to conclude Jesus was in error.

7. Horsley, Richard A., Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, Augsburg Fortress: Minneapolis, 2003. The publisher describes this book as follows: “Building on his earlier studies of Jesus, Galilee, and the social upheavals in Roman Palestine, Horsley focuses his attention on how Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God relates to Roman and Herodian power politics.”  Horsley’s major thesis is that social, economic, political, military and religious conditions for the ancient Palestinians under Roman imperialism can be compared with U.S. imperialism in the current era.  He draws a number of parallels between Rome and the U.S. taking the view that Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God should be seen as a prophet who was working toward political and societal change. The central message of this book relevant to the question of “What is the kingdom of God?” is that the kingdom of God preached by Jesus was then and is now a call to his followers to make a difference here on earth.

8. Kainz, Howard P., Democracy and the “Kingdom of God”, Marquette University Press, 1995.  Kainz speculates that the kingdom of God is a Judaic symbol for democracy.  The description of his book reads “There is a consensus among Christian theologians that the symbol of the kingdom of God', inherited from the Judaic tradition, is the key to understanding Christianity. But theologians have for millennia differed among themselves as to the interpretation of this symbol. Political ramifications of, or reactions to, this Judeo-Christian idea have included the Holy Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Third Rome', American Manifest Destiny, Zionism, the Third Reich, and Liberation Theology. This book focuses on the question of whether the kingdom of God is necessarily related to certain political implications, and its possible implications for democracy and democratic theory. It examines the development of the symbol in the Old and New Testaments, the diversity of related theological interpretations and political concomitants, and the significance of the kingdom of God' in the development of present and future political formations and political theory.

9. Keating, Thomas, The Kingdom of God is Like …. New York: Crossroad, 1993. Father Keating presents 22 sermons on the kingdom, classified into three categories: The Parables of the Kingdom. Christ the King, and The Coming of the Kingdom.  Keating does not attempt to define the kingdom, but it is clear his concept comes closest to something within us that brings us into the collective Christian church. We can gather from some of his statements that he sees Jesus as presenting entirely new ideas about the kingdom that have to do with changed social attitudes away from the inclusiveness of Israel, and toward ordinary aspects of life which replace the old grandiose ideas of the kingdom.  In Keating’s interpretation of the parable of the mustard seed, for example, he concludes: “The kingdom is manifested in ordinary daily life and how we live it. Can we accept the God of everyday life? If we can, then we can enjoy the kingdom in the here and now, without having to wait for an apocalypse or someone to deliver us from our difficulties” (p. 41). Discussing the parable of the good Samaritan, Keating concludes: “the kingdom of God has no fixed social, ethnic, racial, nationalistic, economic, or religious boundaries. There are no insiders or outsiders, no elite, or non-elite. The abba whom Jesus reveals is the God of the human race as a family“ (p. 20-21). Speaking on the parable of the lost coin he stresses the action of the kingdom on the ordinary aspects of our lives. “The kingdom of God is active in failure, ordinariness, everydayness…The kingdom is not only present and active in failure and in ordinariness, but is at work in the unclean, in the prostitutes and tax collectors to whom Jesus extends table fellowship” (p.64-5).

10. Ladd, George Eldon, The Gospel of the Kingdom: Scriptural Studies on the Kingdom of God, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959.  Ladd holds a vision of the kingdom both different and similar to Bright and Pentecost. Since he does not take a dispensationalist approach he tends to show a continuous but changing kingdom throughout history and projected into the future. Nevertheless, like Bright and Pentecost he must account for the completely different manifest displays of the kingdom during the church era and that expected in the future.  His major contribution is in projecting backwards from the future kingdom on earth into the present church on earth. Rather than two totally distinct kingdoms, he believes the kingdom has started with some effects now but which will eventually blossom into the full kingdom in the future. 

The Kingdom of God belongs to the Age to Come. Yet The Age to Come has overlapped with This Age.  We may taste its powers and thereby be delivered from This Age and no longer live in conformity to it. This new transforming power is the power of the Age to Come; it is indeed the power of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is future but it is not only future. Like the powers of the Age to Come, the Kingdom of God has invaded this evil Age that men may know something of its blessings even while the evil Age goes on (p. 42).

Ladd is credited with describing the kingdom in the present era as “ the already and the not yet.”  The “already” portion of the kingdom is present in the responsibilities of the church such as spreading the gospel of the kingdom throughout the world.  The “not yet” is looking ahead to the Age to Come after the word is spread to all the nations.  “The Good News of the Kingdom of God must be preached … by the Church in all the world for a witness to all nations.   … When the Church has finished its task of evangelizing the world, Christ will come again” (p. 134-5).

Ladd provides a cohesive argument for the differences between Jesus’ standards presented in the beatitudes and our ability to meet these standards. He points out that the kingdom standards can be met only with a full infusion of the kingdom.  Until then these expectations of Jesus can only be a standard for us to strive for, not to fully achieve in the current Age.

11. Lloyd-Jones, Martyn, The Kingdom of God, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1992. The central theme of Lloyd-Jones’ book The Kingdom of God is that the kingdom comes to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ himself. Jesus, the Person was the kingdom when he was on earth. Although Lloyd-Jones postulates three forms of the kingdom: the person of Christ when he was here; that which is present now when people subject themselves to God and to Jesus; and the future when Jesus returns (p.58), his theme is that Jesus, himself was the kingdom then and now. Two of Lloyd Jones typical arguments for Jesus, the person being the kingdom are:
1. With the king comes the kingdom. “It is in the coming of this Person that the kingdom of God has come” (p.23). Lloyd-Jones cites the event where Jesus reads from Isaiah in the Nazareth synagogue and concludes with “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:18-21). Lloyd-Jones sees this to be the same thing as Jesus saying “The Kingdom of God has arrived; God’s favour has come. The day of release, the day of pardon, ….the day of grace has drawn near, it has arrived” (p. 22-3).
2. The kingdom of God is within us.  Lloyd-Jones uses the answer Jesus gave to the Pharisees about when the kingdom would come (“it is within you”) to help develop his thesis about the kingdom being Jesus.
How do I enter the kingdom?  Oh, He says, “the kingdom of God is within you.” But how can the kingdom of God be in me; how can it be amongst us? Well it comes to this—this is His teaching—the kingdom of God is only in me when I recognize who He is. …The kingdom of God only enters into me when I realize He is the Son of God incarnate” (p. 62-3).

Lloyd-Jones is in the same company with C.H. Dodd, who “conceives of the Kingdom as the absolute, the ‘wholly other’ which has entered time and space in the person of Jesus of Nazareth” (Ladd, p. 15). 

12. Palmer, Donald S., The Kingdom of God, Evangelical Press, 1994.  The publisher describes Palmer’s approach to the kingdom of God as follows:

This book is essentially eschatological, yet its primary focus is on the present! Donald Palmer argues that biblical eschatology is grounded in what God has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus and looks forward to the time of consummation at his return. An understanding of this will provide the Christian with a “view of history, the assurance of its final conclusion, and assure him of his ultimate destiny.”  This surely provides the balanced Christian perspective on the events and purpose of eschatology, not as sensational and dramatic speculations about the end of the world, but rather as the completion of our salvation begun in this life.

13. Pentecost, J. Dwight, Thy Kingdom Come: Tracing God’s Kingdom Program and Covenant Promises throughout History. Grand Rapids: Kregel (1995). Pentecost postulates two forms of the kingdom; that present within us in the current era; and the future kingdom on earth involving the nation Israel, which occurs during the millennium. There is a short pre-millennium period at the end of this era, which accounts for those prophecies that do not fit the millennium and are not occurring today. To Pentecost and other classical dispensationalists, the church is important to God’s kingdom purposes since the cross, but there is still a need to fulfill Old Testament covenant promises with the nation Israel.  Christ did come bringing the offer of the Messianic kingdom to the nation Israel, but because of the rejection by the leaders of Israel, the kingdom was postponed. “…because the kingdom is based on an eternal, unilateral, and unconditional covenant, it cannot be nullified, or abrogated; instead, it has been postponed to some indeterminate future time” (p. 235, my emphasis).  Pentecost explains:
Following the rejection of Christ’s offer of Himself as the Messiah by the leaders of the nation, Christ revealed a new form in which the theocratic kingdom would be administered in the age falling between Israel’s rejection of Christ as Messiah, the Son of God, and the nation’s future acceptance of Him as Messiah at His second advent. (p. 228)

14. Schweitzer, Albert, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God: The Secret of Jesus’ Messiahship and Passion, WIPF & Stock, 2004.  Schweitzer is a good example of a purely heavenly approach to the kingdom of God. He does not attempt to make the current church display a type of kingdom within us. 

[There] are those who, like Albert Schweitzer, define Jesus’ message of the kingdom as an apocalyptic realm to be inaugurated by a supernatural act of God when history will be broken off and a new heavenly order of existence begun. The kingdom of God in no sense of the word is a present or spiritual reality; it is altogether future and supernatural. (Ladd, p. 15) 

15. Shri Adi Shakti, The Kingdom of God, This website summarizes some of the thoughts to be provided in a 2200 page book to be published by Shri Adi Shakti under the title The Kingdom of God.   This eastern religion concept uses the kingdom of God to stand for all religious views of a future intervention by God, not just the Christian view. The website states:

[The book] deals with the Divine Message to humanity delivered by the incarnation of the Sacred Feminine HH Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi.  This Divine Message to humanity is the heart and soul of every religion, holy scripture and messenger. It embraces all and excludes none, a collective and harmonious triumph unlike anything humanity have (sic) known or experienced through organized religions.  It is an eschatological message of divine intervention, renewed faith, boundless hope, great joy, and a long-awaited fulfillment by God Almighty as pledged over millennia to all humankind—the promised Age of the Last Judgment and Resurrect (sic) to evolve from the temporary physical body to the eternal spiritual self and everlasting life.

16. Stewart III, William G., The Lost Kingdom of God, Xlibris Corporation, 2003
Stewart supports “the kingdom is within” view.  He believes Jesus taught the “way” to draw people close to God so that they might find the highest spiritual state attainable in this life. The kingdom of God is “forgotten knowledge, found in the sacred texts and in the lives and teachings of the holy.”  This lost knowledge or lost “way” is symbolized by the term “kingdom of God” but once found is “the key to life and the pathway to true healing and freedom.”
17. Tolstoy, Leo, The Kingdom of God is Within You, University of Nebraska Press, 1985. First published in 1893, Tolstoy introduced 20th century figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King to the concept of non-violent resistance.  His book is recognized as one of the most powerful explorations of the preaching of Jesus from a pacifistic perspective.  The publisher introduces the book with:

The essence of the social conception of life consists in the transference of the meaning of our personal lives into the life of the aggregate of personalities, -the tribe, the family, the race, the state. This transference has taken place easily and naturally in its first forms, in the transference of meaning from the personality of the tribe, the family. But the transference to the race or the nation demands a special education for it … from The Kingdom of God is within you.

18. Vasholz, Robert I., Pillars of the Kingdom: Five Features of the Kingdom of God Progressively Revealed in the Old Testament, University Press of America, 2002. The publisher describes this book as a “historical-theoretical treatment of five aspects of the kingdom of God in the Old Testament.”  These aspects are 1. “kingdom politics” which pertains to how the kingdom was administered; 2. “kingdom pilgrims” and how they are identified and characterized as citizens of the kingdom; 3. “kingdom presence” as indicated by the way the Deity is revealed; 4. “kingdom profile” as it pertains to kingdom virtues; and 5. “kingdom progress” as expressed through “kingdom triumphs in the face of adversities.”  This book complements other discussions on “Progressive Dispensationalism,” by covering features which help to show the continuity of the Old Testament kingdom theme for features other than the covenant and redemptive themes which dominate most works on Old Testament dispensationalism.  Since this book is a study on the Old Testament, its concept of the kingdom is primarily of a messianic Israel and does not cover the Christian view of kingdom within us as part of the typical dual kingdoms view for progressive dispensationalism.

19. Vos, Geerhardus The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church, Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1999.  Geerhardus published his book in 1903.  His view was that the Kingdom of God is both the central concept of the current church (a within you view) and a future kingdom (undoubtedly something like the millennium). Many others have developed a similar view of dual kingdoms (within and future) in later works.

20. Young Jr., W.A., What on Earth is the Kingdom of God?  Xulon Press, 2002. Young is strongly influenced by both Ladd (No. 10) and Lloyd-Jones (No.11) in presenting a continuous kingdom beginning in the Garden of Eden carrying through the Old Testament, now found through the Church with ultimate manifestation in the future with Christ’s second coming. He uses Ladd’s concept of “already and not yet” as an outline for his answer to what is the kingdom of God. “But while there is real evidence of the Kingdom’s power at work in individual lives and in the creation of a community embodying such goals and values, the Kingdom’s coming remains incomplete.” (p29)

For Young Jr., the kingdom has many definitions. He tends to accept a very broad understanding of the kingdom such that it can stand for most anything.  First it is a mystery that reveals itself over time.  When he gets more specific, he defines it as a “reign” or “rule” of God.  Yet it also seems to be the Holy Spirit working within us and the community. But other times, like Lloyd-Jones he can define it as Christ the Person. “The Kingdom is Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is the Kingdom. In Jesus Christ we have both seen and heard the Kingdom of God!” p.69. Young Jr. opposes any dispensational approach to the kingdom of God, seeing no need for a kingdom for Israel in the future. According to his reformed view, ”The church today is the fulfillment of Israel of the Old Testament.“ p. 87. 



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