Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Keys of the Kingdom 20

Matthew 12:26 is yet one more non-Jesus kingdom. “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” So we move to Matthew 12:28, one of the most popularly quoted statements of Jesus: 25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ?Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you..
Luke’s version varies only slightly: But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you..
1. Here the kingdom of God is present. The verb ephthasen/has come upon refers to a present experience in the here and now.
2. The indicator of the kingdom’s presence is exorcism; better yet, liberation as a result of exorcism.
3. It is Jesus who brings this liberation; kingdom’s liberation comes through Jesus.
4. Does this mean that wherever there is liberation there is kingdom? No. Wherever there is liberation as a result of Jesus’ liberating power there is kingdom.
5. Are the exorcisms tokens of the final? eschatological signs that kingdom is coming? manifestations of what things will be like?

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Scott M

posted February 1, 2008 at 7:36 am

I think I’m beginning to put my finger on something about the way the question of timing is approached as we work our way through the series. Perhaps we are working too hard to force a linear, causal, step-by-step perspective of time on the passages and make them cohere within that framework? And that’s the wrong framework?
On the one hand, Jesus is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the one in whom all things subsist. I don’t think this is simply saying that he was around at the start and will be here throughout the entire progression of time. Rather, all is summed up. In at least some sense, creation and the eschaton were and are present in Jesus. Although we experience time as a mostly linear progression from our experience, I think we might need to look a little differently. Instead of a line starting at Creation and moving forward to the eventual eschaton, what if we looked at all creation, all existence, and all time as a circle centered on Jesus and the whole of the Incarnation?
Sorry, still working through my thought so it’s only partially formed here. But it seems that Jesus is clearly saying he’s the King and thus where he is and acts, the Kingdom is present. And so he speaks of the Kingdom being near them, for the Kingdom is centered on the King. And he also speaks of judgments which flow from the King and renewal and redemption of all things which flow from the King. I think Christian teaching is that it was through the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection that Jesus came into his glory or his power. If so, is that not the center of all things? And are not all judgments and new creations centered on and flowing from that King?

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Bob Brague

posted February 1, 2008 at 9:12 am

I don’t know what damnable heresies someone may find in Scott M.’s writing (above), but I like it. Jesus=King=Kingdom. This cuts to the chase, the crux, the heart of the matter, in my opinion. And Jesus also said, “…that where I am, you may be also,” in another context, of course, but very interesting in this light and from this perspective as well. It’s not all our strugglings to bring in the kingdom; it’s already wherever the King is enthroned. Oh, and we must be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Don’t forget that.

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posted February 1, 2008 at 9:13 am

Scott M,
Good thoughts. Jesus may not be saying he is the king – but that God is king and that the kingdom is intimately connected with the work of God through his (Jesus’) ministry. That is, he sees the action of God centered in himself – the coming of the kingdom is centered in the events surrounding his life and teaching.

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Scot McKnight

posted February 1, 2008 at 10:06 am

Scott M,
There is a sense of this trans-temporarility to good theology, but… but … but Jesus himself gives off time clues. We are chasing down implications Jesus himself created — “after eight days” … “this generation will not pass away” … “you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before”. This sort of stuff shows that linear thinking is present.
Jesus can be present, as one finds in Luke 17:20-21, and still talk of something in the future.

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Scott M

posted February 1, 2008 at 10:19 am

RJS, it’s pretty evident to me that Jesus repeatedly makes messianic claims. And Messiah is the word for the promised, anointed, liberating Davidic King. So Jesus is assertion his Kingship, but it looks different than expected and the manner in which he comes into his power and glory is utterly unanticipated. I’m also the last to picture Jesus as some sort of avatar or demigod walking around in a casing of human flesh. Nevertheless, he did things (and also said things) that embodied what Yahweh had said Yahweh would do.
Of course, from a Christian perspective, we must really speak of everything as the work of the Triune God. So we should, for example, more properly discuss the emptying (kenosis) work of Father, Son, and Spirit on the Cross for the forgiveness of sins and redemption of all creation. And the same would be true in texts like these on Kingdom. Yes, Jesus is the liberating King taking his throne. But he gives way immediately to the Father so that only the Father’s will is done. And he gives way to the Spirit so that it is through the Spirit that it is accomplished. And the same is true of the other two persons of the Trinity. Every time they move into the center, they give way to the other persons. This is the image of perichoresis which a Christian believes is the center of all reality and being.
But in practice, we cannot really keep everything in our limited minds at all times. And we know God through the physicality of the Incarnation through the Son. It is in human flesh that God makes himself known to us. And so I speak of Jesus being Messiah (King) or Jesus coming into his glory or Jesus being the summation of everything at once without always speaking of each person of the Trinity.
It is through the Incarnation that God establishes his Kingdom in the earth with great power. And if we view that as the center, what do find closest to the center, in the OT, at that time, and now? Those who form the society of the people of God. It’s something to consider.

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Scott M

posted February 1, 2008 at 10:23 am

Scot, part of the role Jesus fulfilled was prophet to the people of God. And in that role, I have no problem with seeing specific and timely prophecies uttered to the people as warnings. That’s what prophets do. The problem I sense is in trying to take that lens and apply it everywhere. I don’t think that’s all that Jesus said or did. And I don’t get the sense that we can fit it all into a linear temporal grid. I might also have a problem with limiting prophecies which did have a clear event in mind (probably the destruction of Jerusalem) to nothing but that event. I suppose I’m OK with something being specific and non-specific at the same time.

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Michael W. Kruse

posted February 1, 2008 at 11:17 am

“3. It is Jesus who brings this liberation; kingdom?s liberation comes through Jesus.
4. Does this mean that wherever there is liberation there is kingdom? No. Wherever there is liberation as a result of Jesus? liberating power there is kingdom.”
And how do we discern which liberations are from Jesus and which are not?

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tim atwater

posted February 1, 2008 at 11:36 am

isn’t it always a good idea to cross-correlate… ? (pun not intentional but maybe relevant?)
are the fruits of any given “liberation” or “salvation” or “sanctification” or “kingdom sign” consistent with the heart of Jesus’s life and teachings?
I go to the beatitudes and the love commandments (aka Jesus Creed) and the gifts of the Spirit (Gal 5) as quick checks and all the gospels and letters as longer checks.
There is usually plenty of room for confusion with only one cross checking… less and less the more we look at other Jesus patterns that correlate or fail to correlate.
isn’t it true that the more correlation there is with the consistent patterns of Jesus the more nearly we can be convinced this (liberation) is or is not of Jesus and of the kingdom that he proclaims, demonstrates, embodies, incarnates and invites into…?
grace and peace,

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posted February 1, 2008 at 11:47 am

I am not able to keep all of these passages straight – so what I am about to say may not be quite accurate. But… unlike most of the other passages dealt with so far – this passage exudes warning and rebuke. Jesus warns that if he comes from God with power (and he does) that judgment is at hand. I don’t see liberation, exorcism as key in understanding kingdom here. God?s judgment is upon them.
Another burning question: Why is this post filed as “Miscellaneous” and all the others in the series to date are filed as “Kingdom of God”?

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Mark Eb.

posted February 1, 2008 at 11:52 am

I have read (John P. Meier for one) about the strong historicity of the Lukan version. Often strong historicity is given more weight in understanding other passages. For me, this passage serves as a framework for understanding other passages that indicate the Kingdom to be so immanent that is being felt. Because Jesus sees the Kingdom as already being in existence then those passages the indicate a Kingdom being “not far” or “at hand” may have more to do with the response of the listener’s future rather than the future of the Kingdom. In other words, the Kingdom “at hand” is present but the listener has not yet gotten it (you’re almost there). This seems to be the perspective of so many writers that emphasize that the Kingdom “at hand” means that it “has come.” (Dallas Willard being just one example).
It would be like driving on a trip and the kids asking, “Are we there yet?” Our destination is on the horizon. It is “at hand.” The destination exist (in time it is in the present). We just haven’t gone through the gates yet. Our future has not met the present reality. (Maybe this the idea behind Moltmann’s present future, present present, present-past in God in Creation? – I’m not sure because I got lost in that section of the book).
It is a matter of perspective. Here, Jesus at least considers the Kingdom to have arrived at least in some sense. But in others there is a definite latter time. Still others it seems future but from the perspective of the hearer who is just hearing and almost has it.
In Christ,
Mark Eb.

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posted February 1, 2008 at 1:59 pm

At the risk of being too simple, this passage seems to say some important things about “kingdom” relatively directly.
– Satan also has a kingdom, and it is in some sense “present”. (It may be helpful to think about ways in which Satan’s kingdom is also ‘past, present & future’ by way of contrast).
– Demons are clearly extensions, or agents, of Satan’s kingdom.
– Removal of demonic influence (through the Spirit of God) is closely associated with the presence of God’s kingdom.
There are certain actions that cannot be separated from the kingdom announcement (the good news), whether it’s Jesus or his followers doing the announcing and acting. Namely, healing and exorcism are somehow intimately connected to what the good news about the kingdom is, what the ‘authority’ of God’s kingdom is geared toward accomplishing.

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