New SBJT examines Kingdom of God

Communications Staff — May 8, 2008

The kingdom of God is one of the central themes of the New Testament, yet its meaning has been the subject of no small disagreement in the history of the church.

Essayists in the new edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology examine the Kingdom of God in significant detail, unpacking the subject as it relates to hermeneutics, the New Testament Gospels, the writings of Paul and the church.

Contributors include Southern Seminary scholars Peter J. Gentry Jonathan T. Pennington, Brian Vickers, Russell D. Moore and Robert E. Sagers, as well as noted scholar and author Graeme Goldsworthy.

In his opening editorial, journal editor Stephen J. Wellum defines the Kingdom of God in terms of God’s kingly rule and His saving reign.

“It does not primarily refer to a certain geographical location,” Wellum writes. “Rather the phrase tells us more about God (the fact that he reigns) than anything else. Also, it must be noted that the New Testament understanding of the kingdom is firmly rooted in Old Testament teaching and expectation.

“Scripture begins with the declaration that God, as Creator, is the sovereign ruler of the universe. In this important sense, the entire universe is God’s kingdom. In fact, in creating human beings as his image bearers, God gives us rule over his creation, under his authority, to display the glory of the king.”

Gentry, who serves as professor of Old Testament, looks at “Kingdom Through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image.” Gentry examines Gen. 1:26-28 and gives attention to its cultural and linguistic setting, arguing that the text, along with Gen. 2:8-17, explains the relationship between “likeness” and “image” in the covenant relationship between man and God. The proper understanding of the kingship of God has important implications for Christian living, he asserts.

“Only when the father-son relationship is nurtured through worship, fellowship, and obedient love will humankind appropriately and properly reflect and represent to the world the kind of kingship and rule intrinsic to God himself,” Gentry writes.

Pennington, who serves as assistant professor of New Testament, analyzes the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven is one of the main themes of the first New Testament Gospel and is synonymous with the Kingdom of God, Pennington asserts. But there are some important differences in the two terms, he writes.

“While the expression ‘kingdom of heaven’ denotes the same thing as the ‘kingdom of God,’ it connotes many other things,” he writes.

“Particularly, we sense that God’s (heavenly) ordering of life and society is radically different than the ways of sinful earth. Now that the new creation or new genesis (see Matt 19:28) has dawned through Jesus Christ, those who follow Jesus must align themselves with this coming radical heavenly kingdom. And was we do so, we stand to inherit the greatest reward, God’s presence through Christ.”

Vickers, who serves as assistant professor of New Testament interpretation, looks at the Kingdom of God in Paul’s writings, arguing that the apostle’s conception of the Kingdom is built upon God’s redeeming work in the cross of Christ.

“Without suggesting another ‘center’ of Paul’s theology, it is safe to say that the reality of the reigning Christ is a key component of Paul’s theology,” Vickers writes. “Paul’s soteriology and his concept of the kingdom are inseparable.”

Moore, who serves as dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration, contributes an essay on the kingdom and the church which was co-authored by Sagers, a Ph.D. student at Southern. Sagers also serves as special assistant to Moore.

Moore and Sagers argue that the Kingdom of God is a unifying theme of Scripture and that the present vehicle of the spread of that Kingdom is the church.

“Jesus told his disciples to `seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt 6:33),’ they conclude.

“He also told them that the keys to that Kingdom were with the church he was building (Matt 16:18-19). The evangelical turn to the Kingdom is a turn toward the Bible itself, a turn indeed toward Jesus. A true evangelical commitment to the Kingdom of God as the unifying theme of Scripture will mean giving attention to the present vehicle of the Kingdom, the church.”

This issue also includes an essay by Goldsworthy on the Kingdom of God as a hermeneutic grid and another by Todd Miles assessing the Kingdom ethics of the emerging church. Miles is a graduate of Southern Seminary who serves as assistant professor of theology and hermeneutics at Western Seminary in Portland, Ore. The journal concludes with the SBJT Forum and a number of book reviews.

To subscribe to the journal or for more information, please call 502-897-4413 or write

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