Vocabulary: Reign or Kingdom?

This blog series follows my “Teachings of Jesus Class” where we looked at just the words of Jesus and not the interpretations his followers presented in the rest of the New Testament.

The one subject that the gospels record Jesus talking about most was the “Reign of God.” However, the word reign is usually translated kingdom. And that is a big problem!

Throughout history when people have heard the phrase “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” they have thought that Jesus wanted to set up a geographically and historically located kingdom. You know, the kind with towers, bow loops, embattlements, drawbridges, and (please don’t forget) the moat. Sometimes — and this is very common today — people have thought that Jesus was telling them to set up a Christian nation on his behalf.

Because of this, I don’t like using the word kingdom to describe the vision that Jesus had for humanity. I like the word reign much better and it is true to the original Greek.  It opens up the mind to the spiritual “Reign of God” that spans across eternity. This spiritual reign was Jesus’s vision for humanity where our Creator’s love would reign not only in the hearts and minds of individuals, but across cultures and communities.

This reign is not about political or earthly kingdoms. It isn’t about nationalistic power. It isn’t about laws. It isn’t even about land. It is about welcoming the love of God into our lives and culture, letting it transform us, turning us away from self-interest to working for the well-being of others.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy reign come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

More blog posts to come on the Teachings of Jesus.  Check out April’s Books, Disorderly Bible Studies, for groups and individuals!

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