8 Very Different Ways to View the Kingdom of God

8 Very Different Ways to View the Kingdom of God August 31, 2015

First in a series on the Connections Between the Kingdom of God, Missional Ministry, and Vocation.

crown02The confession that “Jesus is Lord” is the most basic foundation for the entirety of the gospel. This was the “good news” that Jesus himself preached. When we confess this, we acknowledge that all of life is placed under Christ’s lordship. The leaders of the missional church movement agree. Darrel Guder wrote, “Before the church is called to do or say anything, it is called and sent to be the unique community of those who live under the reign of God.” (in Missional Church) But one thing seems to be clear about the kingdom of God: In Christianity, it is not very clear what the kingdom of God actually is.

Considering the Various Traditions on the Kingdom of God

Various Christian traditions have held to different perceptions of the “kingdom of God.” Howard Snyder, in his book Models of the Kingdom (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1991). delineates eight models of the kingdom of God held by these various traditions:

  1. The kingdom as future hope: the future kingdom.
  2. The kingdom as inner spiritual experience: the interior kingdom.
  3. The kingdom as mystical communion: the heavenly kingdom.
  4. The kingdom as institutional church: the ecclesiastical kingdom.
  5. The kingdom as countersystem: the subversive kingdom.
  6. The kingdom as political state: the theocratic kingdom.
  7. The kingdom as Christianized culture: the transforming kingdom.
  8. The kingdom as earthly utopia: the utopian kingdom.

When you think of “kingdom of God,” which of these eight (or maybe a combination of these) do you think of? Why do you think of the kingdom of God in that way? Who taught you that? Have you ever considered any of the others?

The kingdom of God is a very important concept in the Bible. We had better know what we are saying when we banter about phrases like, “We’re doing kingdom work!”

Trying to Resolve Theological Tensions

Snyder makes the point that “biblical teachings present us with six fundamental tension points or polarities that are central to the mystery of God’s reign.” According to Snyder, each of the eight models are attempts to deal with these six polarities found in Scripture. For the sake of our study on the mission of God’s people as it relates to their vocations, three of the major tensions that need to resolved are these:

  1.  Is the kingdom present of future?
  2. Is the kingdom individual or social? and
  3. Is the kingdom particular for those under the reign of God (that is, Christians) or is it universal for the entirety of the cosmos (including the transformation of human culture for the common good)?

What do you think? We will be exploring these tensions in the posts to come.

Image by jason train. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

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