Thursday, August 15, 2013

Jesus and the Beautiful Kingdom

Lake Erie sunset, on Kelleys Island, Ohio

When I was attending Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Manfred Brauch’s required text for his New Testament Theology class was George Ladd’s A Theology of the New Testament. Ladd’s work focused on Jesus’s teachings on the kingdom of God as the heart of the Real Jesus and the gospel. I am so thankful Dr. Brauch chose this text. Years later, when I was teaching at Palmer Theological Seminary where Dr. Brauch was Dean, I was having lunch with him. I told him I wore out Ladd’s book until the cover began to fall off.

Ladd’s focus on Jesus and the kingdom was revolutionary at the time among evangelical Christians. Now many of us understand that the hermeneutical key to the Real Jesus is the kingdom of God, which is defined as the rule, or reign, of God. Richard Stearns, in his new book Unfinished, has got this right. Stearns writes:

“The arrival of the kingdom of God in Jesus was like that of a government in exile breaking through to establish its rightful authority, to overthrow the established regimes and liberate the people living in bondage. God undertook a rescue mission that would offer his children a final chance to be reconciled. The rescue mission would leave nothing to chance. God would lead it by taking on human form; he would send his own Son to accomplish it. And it would be costly.” (Stearns, Unfinished, p. 63)

Like Moses before him, Jesus came to deliver us out of oppression and into the freedom of his beautiful kingdom.