There are 85/eighty-five distinguishable references to “kingdom” in the Synoptic Gospels. There are more references, but there are overlaps between Matthew, Mark and Luke that permit us to narrow the references to 85. We’ll look at each one. Here is my breakdown if you’d like it:
Matthew (cutting out Mark and Q references): 32
Luke (cutting out Mark and Q references): 22.
We begin with Mark 1:14-15, with Mark’s summary description of Jesus’ ministry: “14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ???The time has come,??? he said. ???The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!??? (See also Matthew 4:17, the parallel.)
1. Mark assumes that his readers know what “kingdom of God” means. We can assume that he means the kingdom as expected in the Old Testament and Judaism.
2. The kingdom message is the gospel message (v. 14 ties to v. 15).
3. When Jesus says “is near” he means “on the horizon.” This word does not mean “already arrived” but on the verge of arriving. There is a subtle difference here but we should maintain it. There is an eschatological expectation here: the Big Day is about to arrive!
4. One enters into this kingdom/gospel message of Jesus by “repenting and believing the gospel.” This is not said in so many terms; it seems, however, the only expectation. Jesus announces the near-arrival of the kingdom; he calls those who want to enter it to repent and believe his gospel message.
5. The implication of this summary is that there will be a set of followers around Jesus who can be called Jesus’ kingdom community. It is true that there is a “dynamic” at work; but that dynamic is society-forming and not just a dynamic at work in individuals.
Now a point I want to make that I’ve made on this blog before: Jesus rarely uses “church”. Twice, to be exact. What are we to make of this?
1. Did Jesus announce the kingdom but it was the church that formed in its wake?
2. Did Jesus preach a bigger vision (kingdom) that the Church narrowed (church)?
3. Did Jesus use one term (kingdom) for God’s society and NT writers used another term (church) for God’s society?
I think #3 deserves serious consideration. #1 is in some sense true; #2 deserves to be challenged. (Could it be that we have not defined “church” big enough?)
See GR Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Kingdom of God.