Excerpts from: Kingdom, Church, and World: Biblical Themes for Today
The Bible is full of teaching on the kingdom of God, and the church has largely missed it. But in the providence of God we may now have reached a time when the good news of the kingdom can be heard and understood as never before. This is due not to any one person, not to any human wisdom or insight, but to God’s own working in our day, bringing a new kingdom consciousness.
Thus the theme of this book: The kingdom of God in Scripture and its meaning for us today.
The kingdom of God is a key thread in Scripture, tying the whole Bible together. It is not the only unifying theme, nor should it replace other themes which are clearly biblical. Yet it is a critically important theme, especially today. And its recent resurgence in the church is, I believe, one of the most significant developments of this century. Page 12
Many Old Testament passages focus on God’s kingdom, especially in the Psalms and the Prophets. Daniel, for example, sees in a vision the “son of man” appearing before the “Ancient of Days” where he is “given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language [worship] him. His dominion is an everlasting domain that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed“ (Dan 7:13-14). This vision clearly refers to Jesus Christ and lies behind several of the New Testament passages which speak of Christ’s work, including some which do not use the word kingdom.
The significance of such passages is sharpened when we note several related Old Testament themes. I find that seven themes, in particular, shed light on God’s kingdom. These are peace, land, house, city, justice, Sabbath and Jubilee. We will explore each of these briefly. In each case we will look first at the Old Testament background and then the New Testament development of the theme. … pp. 17-18
The Kingdom as Shalom
Shalom, usually translated “peace,” is one of the great words of the Old Testament. It occurs some 350 times and clearly underlies the concept of peace found in the New Testament, as we shall see.
Shalom is so woven into the fabric of the Old Testament that to touch virtually any strand of Bible history or theology is to meet it. As Douglas Harris notes, “’The root meaning is ‘to be whole, sound, safe. The fundamental idea is totality. God is the source and ground for shalom. Anything that contributes to this wholeness makes for shalom. Anything that stands in the way disrupts shalom.” In Bishop John Taylor’s words, the biblical vision of shalom” meant a dancing kind of inter-relationship, seeking something more free than equality, more generous than equit, the ever-shifting equipoise of a life-system.’”
The Old Testament teaches that God’s plan is to bring a universal peace (shalom) to his creation. This means more than the absence of conflict and immensely more than “inner peace” or “peace of mind. “In the Old testament sense, shalom might be called an ecological concept. It carries the sense of harmony, right relationship and the proper functions of all elements in the environment. “At root it means ‘well-being,’ with a strong emphasis on the material side,” and it is closely connected in the Old Testament with covenant. The Garden of Eden before the Fall provides a good model. This shalom is “every man sitting under his own vine and under his own fig tree,” with none to make them afraid. (Compare 1 Kings 4:25 and Micah 4:4 – an image of the eschatological fulfillment of the peace enjoyed under King Solomon.).
Shalom is, of course, directly tied to the kingly rule of the Messiah in passages such as Isaiah 9:6-7. The Messiah is the “Prince of Peace,” and “of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” The clear link in the Old Testament of shalom with God’s reign suggest that the dozens of references to the word and ideal should be studies thoroughly for their kingdom content.
I have called shalom an ecological reality. In the Old Testament peace is a this-worldly concept, grounded in the very physical nature of God’s creation. It is harmony and wholeness. In bringing peace, God brings healing: “I will bring health and healing to [the city]; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security” (Jer 33:6).
The New Testament builds on the shalom promises of the Old Testament when it speaks of the gospel of peace. The apostle Paul, for instance, tells us that the kingdom of God is “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). Peace is at the heart of God’s reign.
The New Testament theme of peace ties the kingdom directly to Jesus Christ. To know Jesus is to be in the kingdom. At Jesus’ birth the angels announced “peace on earth” as the meaning of Jesus’ coming (Lk 2:14). Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6); like Melchizedek he is “King of Peace” (Heb 7.2). God reigns through Jesus Christ, and the meaning of that reign is peace pp. 18-20
Reposted by permission of Howard Snyder visit Howard’s site
Note from Howard: I deal with some of these themes (particularly shalom) also in my book Salvation Means Creation Healed.