The kingdom of God. I’ve always wondered what the term “kingdom of God” meant. What I’ve learned is that it’s complicated. The term kingdom of God (βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦo) occurs 162 times in the New Testament. It’s important because it concerns our relationship with God. Is the kingdom coming for us? Do we make it ourselves through the work of our hearts and hands? Is God’s rule now or sometime in the future? Or both?
There seems to be no difference between the terms kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew uses the latter because Jews, who were his primary audience, would have been uneasy with frequent references to the sacred name of God (Turner, p 41). Mark and Luke refer to the kingdom of God, and so shall I.
The kingdom of God can refer to the second coming of Christ, when the world would be become God’s kingdom (Weiss, Schweitzer). Or, the kingdom of God can refer to the new world already begun by Christ, the first advent. We must work to make it happen, but at the same time it is already here, in the work of those who would bring it about. This is called realized eschatology, or a variant, inaugurated eschatology, depending on the degree to which you think the kingdom is already present. But using the right term is not so important. Important is the idea that the kingdom of God has, in some measure, already begun with the life and death of Christ (Perrin, pp 1-2).
If the kingdom of God has begun with the life of Christ, what are we to do? How does it happen? One answer is that it happens because individuals have made the kingdom of God their own. Inspired by their own experience of the kingdom of God, some men and women work to make the world in its image. A variant of this view (it seems like all there are is variants) is that the kingdom of God is unfolding in the course of history, and best realized in utopian communities and the like. Personalism is associated with this view in Catholic theology (Alford, pp 59-63). As for me, it seems as if history is headed in the wrong direction, at least in the terrible twentieth-century.