Problem of the Kingdom of God

A Systems Analysis Solution

Harold R. Booher, Ph.D.

Copyright 2013 - Harold R. Booher




The purpose of this book is to identify and describe the “kingdom of God.” The book follows in the tradition of N.T. Wright, Anglican Bishop of Durham, England (especially his book The Last Word)1 with his understanding of the numerous “misreadings” of scripture from both the “Right” and the “Left.”  On the right wing, for example can be found such misreadings as “The openly dualistic ‘rapture’ reading of 1 Thessalonians 4 (as the right wing Left Behind series); the explicitly materialistic “prosperity gospel” understanding of biblical promises; the arbitrary pick-and-mix selection of canon-within-the canon (for example, the rejection of animal sacrifice and eating pork; being tough on sexual offenses, but not on anger, violence, or usury); the attempted biblical support for the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy; and an overall failure to pay attention to context and hermeneutics.

On the left wing can be found such misreadings as “The claim to ‘objectivity’ or to a ‘neutral’ reading of the text; the claim that modern history or science has ‘disproved’ the Bible; the cultural relativity argument that the Bible is an old book from a different culture, so can’t be taken seriously in the modern culture; discovery of political meanings as opposed to theological ones; discrediting the canon while giving privilege to such writings as “Thomas” which articulate a different world view; and as the right wing an overall failure to give more than skin-deep attention to context and hermeneutics.

Because the right and left types of readers come to the Bible with such disparate views, the goals of this book for each are quite different. For my liberal friends it is hoped they might be encouraged to see the value of a higher view of the scriptures. Without a strong appreciation for the authority of God’s inspired word, the Christian is essentially rudderless, with no hope of ever understanding God’s expectations and plans for human kind, with the kingdom being a prime example.  Whereas the Bible seems to depict a real kingdom on earth, a more liberal view is that the kingdom is some kind of spiritual entity perhaps within us in the here and now. Perhaps when seeing that a more literal view of the authority of God as presented in the scriptures can reveal a God who prefers to show favor to all people regardless of their good or evil behaviors, and who exercises salvation justice only after a lengthy and universal education program, they will better appreciate what God has to say about His character and program of salvation. 

For conservative readers the goal is somewhat different.  For them, understanding Christianity already depends on the high value placed on the authority of scriptures. For them there is confusion because they do see a future kingdom on earth as revealed in the Bible, but it will not come until Jesus’ second coming. Many also see the need for some kind of kingdom now for the church so they often propose a dual kingdom, a spiritual kingdom now, an earthly kingdom later. I believe they are too ready for God to pour out his wrath on the unsaved.  The kingdom found here reveals a more patient and gracious God ready to instruct his followers after so many years of silence.

Kingdom Confusion

The kingdom of God is such a dominant topic of both the Old and New Testaments that Robert Saucy concludes “the kingdom of God is one of the grand themes, if not the theme, of Scripture.”2 Yet it is safe to say there is greater conversation on political differences among Christians today then there is on God’s kingdom.  For all the emphasis that Jesus placed on the kingdom, one seldom hears a sermon based on the kingdom of God.  Scholarly works abound on the kingdom of God, but my review of 20 books with “The Kingdom of God” in the title found the kingdom still a mystery.3 There is no consensus among scholars that resolves the most basic questions about the kingdom.  What is it? Where, when and how will it occur?  Has it occurred already?  Is it going on now?

Approach to Problem

The chapters that follow build on the extensive studies and principles developed from over 70 years of research and teaching by Otis Q. Sellers. He exerted much effort in presenting a concept of the Kingdom of God that differs from conventional views of the kingdom. He argued convincingly for his view, but so do many others for their view. It is my observation that no one has tried in a more scientific way (as with systems analysis) to demonstrate how any view of the kingdom is the “best” view. I believed that Mr. Sellers’ view had much merit, but how would one prove it any better than other views?  I see a problem with determining whether the Bible consistently teaches a view of the kingdom that can be considered better than others. Or does it really matter? There seem to be verses that support almost any view, when considered in isolation. Can any view of the kingdom then be as justified biblically as just as good as any other view?  This effort approaches the problem of the kingdom with the confidence that the Bible itself provides the clues to answering these questions.

Therefore, I have applied my background in systems analysis to the problem of the kingdom of God. I use the dispensational method of dividing time periods where God deals differently with people and from this logically conclude that the scriptures written during these different periods tend to reflect such differences. In its simplest form most dispensationalists understand the method to distinguish the Old Covenant (with Israel and the Law of Moses) from the New Covenant (the New Testament and Christianity which operates by faith rather than law). The term dispensation (which means administration) and the recognition of different dispensations is introduced by Paul (Eph.1:10;3:2; Col.1:25). Paul also indicates a principle “for rightly dividing the word of truth”(II Tim.2:15) that is useful in study of the word. Systematic theologians accept dispensationalism as meeting the spirit of this principle. Not all aspects of God’s word have the same application for all situations, times, or people.  The Word has inherent meaning that God uses to communicate with people, but it is next to impossible to understand much of God’s word if the context is not considered. Ultimately the communication of any word or phrase is most clearly achieved when the context of the entire Bible is taken into consideration. I will try to make the case that properly applied the dispensational method coupled with other proven biblical study methods allows the most rigorous systematic (closest to being scientific) approach we currently have for interpreting Bible messages communicated from God to us through human authors.

Systems Analysis Steps

This study uses the systems analysis approach to solve the problem of defining the kingdom of God as it is presented in the Bible. This will be done in a number of steps that attempt to apply rational features of Bible study in gradually reducing the vast number of kingdom interpretations to as few as possible that meet critical criteria. Assuming the Bible is speaking of one kingdom, not a multitude of them, then the more criteria met by a kingdom view, the more likely that view is the one meant by the Bible.

The systems analysis steps are:

Step 1. Determine the theme of the Bible. It is hypothesized that the kingdom of God is the theme of the Bible. Other contenders for the theme are considered. If the kingdom of God is the theme of the Bible then it is very important to find out as many specifics about the Kingdom as we can. How can we possibly appreciate the Bible in its entirety if we cannot have a clear understanding of its theme?

Step 2. Use a method of Bible study which allows for a systematically analysis of data which divides the Word into different administrations of God that are clearly identified in the bible. This method is identified as dispensationalism.

Step 3. From the literature specify a wide variety of views that represent the majority of views held about what, where, and when is the kingdom of god.
Step 4. Reduce the total number of views of the kingdom into a relatively few that can be classified as representing all the major views.

Step 5. Identify and describe as many critical, discrete facts pertaining to the kingdom as can be found throughout the Bible.

Step 6. Use a matrix analysis to compare kingdom facts to kingdom views (from step 4) and eliminate any views that do not meet all or most of the kingdom facts.

Step 7. Evaluate all the New Testament verses (135) that mention the kingdom of God for specific information that applies to certain features of the kingdom, such as type of kingdom (spiritual or earthly) or when the kingdom is to appear.

Step 8. Establish critical characteristics of the kingdom as predicted by prophecy. This Step along with Step 7 provide an extensive biblical database for further examination of the views remaining from Step 6

Step 9. Using the biblical database evaluate the views remaining from Step 6 for deciding the best view(s)

Step10. Using dispensational boundaries and characteristics, determine the process, order, and characteristics of the best kingdom view(s).

Outline of Book

The book includes seven chapters that follow a systems analysis procedure. Chapter one is designed to show that the kingdom of God is the theme of the entire Bible.  Scripture shows that the kingdom of God was a concept well understood through the “law and the prophets” of the Old Testament, by the Jews at the time of Jesus, and by Jesus and the apostles themselves. Jesus did nothing during his ministry to change the view that already existed with Jews that is, of a kingdom on earth ruled by the Messiah. In fact through his miraculous healings, driving out devils and teaching of the kingdom Jesus demonstrated a foretaste of the kingdom on earth to replace the existing kingdom of Satan. Other contenders, like Christian church doctrine and morality, the history of God's relationship with people, individual salvation, and Jesus Christ, himself; although critical features of the Bible, are not the overarching theme or purpose of the Bible. This is an important first step in answering the question about what, when, or where is the kingdom of God.

Chapter two identifies seven candidate views of the kingdom of God drawn from the literature. Although many Christian scholars agree that the kingdom of God is the integrating theme of the Bible none agrees on any of the central parameters that would give us a clear understanding of the kingdom. What are its distinguishing characteristics; when will it come; has it come already; who will be in it; where will it be - on earth; within us; in heaven?

Chapter three conducts a matrix analysis of the seven views using ten historical-grammatical facts fundamental to any view regarding the kingdom of God. This exercise easily eliminates three of the views. The four remaining views were sufficiently strong based on their correlation with Biblical facts to warrant further consideration, so were candidates for examination at a much deeper level of analysis.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 show the results of the more rigorous kingdom analysis which comprised comparative analysis of the views through: a.) Interpretation of the 135 occurrences of the “kingdom of God” in the New Testament, and b.) Evaluation of “possible” fulfillment for eighteen key prophecies on the kingdom of God.  Only one view survived the critical comparative analysis fully meeting all the facts and prophecies.

The final chapter describes the boundaries and characteristics of the kingdom of God.  This kingdom is not “within us” and does not make its first appearance with the millennium. The kingdom of God will be on earth, is the next major dispensation to be revealed by God and it is a pre-advent (prior to the second coming of Christ) dispensation.  Some of the unique features of the kingdom dispensation that differ from the current era and will appear before the millennium include the following:

a. God communicates with everyone
b. All people learn righteousness
c. Wars cease
d. Nature is controlled
e. All individuals experience good health
f. Israel is restored to its land and plays central role in world government.
g. God administers justice to nations and to individuals throughout the world


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