To talk kingdom is to talk king, the king’s rule, the king’s people, the king’s law/ethics and the king’s land. Nicholas Perrin discusses the king of the kingdom and the kingdom people in his new book: The Kingdom of God: A Biblical Theology.
Who are the kingdom people?
To answer this question, Perrin examines the “I Am” statements in John, and it leads to a wide-ranging and exegetically-responsible set of two chapters.
Each I Am statement sheds light on who the kingdom people are. There is an issue here: many people don’t even think about the people of the kingdom but turn kingdom exclusively into a dynamic or soteriological reality. But there is no such thing as a kingdom without a people. A kingdom is a people.
Who are they? Again, another issue. The way many talk today about kingdom turns kingdom into God as creator and the whole of creation as God’s kingdom. In some sense, OK, but this view is in tension with the common kingdom-dynamic and kingdom-as-soteriological-reality view. Furthermore, this kingdom-as-creation theory ends up deleting the necessity of redemption as it also flat out contradicts how kingdom was used in the Jewish world: it always refers to a socio-political reality with a territory (see Dale Allison’s work).
So, now, what about Perrin?
In answering our “who?” question, we find that Jesus’s sevenfold kingdom role also has direct implications for the identity of the kingdom’s people. These implications may be set out in a series of causal statements:
1. Because Jesus is the good shepherd, the kingdom community is protected.
2. Because Jesus is the gate, the kingdom community is unified.
3. Because Jesus is the light of the world, the kingdom community is illuminated.
4. Because Jesus is the true bread, the kingdom community is vested.
5. Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, the kingdom community is forgiven.
6. Because Jesus is the true vine, the kingdom community is revitalized.
7. Because Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, the kingdom community is delivered.
Now the question: Is this the church? Or is this bigger than the church?